Since I last wrote, we’ve taken a few excursions. Most of our days are spent practicing yoga, learning teaching techniques and philosophy. But, there is space on our “day of integration” to get out a little bit.
On the afternoon before a full moon, a group of us took a bus ride down to the southernmost tip of the country, to Kanyakumari. The Indian boardwalk was not all too different from the ones I’ve been to in the US: a cluster of stands selling things and people strolling around. Except, this ocean side business district looked out onto a huge shrine. There was also a temple for Ghandi and another small god. (I have photos from this trip on my “real” camera, so will be sharing those later.)
We were some of the few white tourists, though I think there were others who were not local to the area. Many stared at us, some smiled, while some stayed serious. Even with covered legs and shoulders, I think our western dress is a bit of a shock to people. Though the men and children dress in western clothing for the most part (some men wear a longhi), the women above age 17 wear saris. The clothing is so beautiful. Many have gold and sparkling adornments, all for a visit to the shore.
People asked us to take our photo. One group, a family I think, asked us for a photo. The grandmother was adorably shy about it and an older gentleman asked that the photo be sent to him. When asked for his email address, a younger woman wrote a mailing address and giggled when she said she had no idea how to actually get the photo to him. She suggested calling him on the phone. It was a pretty hilarious situation and there were laughs all around.
As the sun began to set a group of people began to form at the lookout. It was powerful to be gazing over this great big body of water (technically the convergence of three water bodies: the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. What a wonder to have a mass of humans in awe of something that happens every day!
The scene was beautiful. But, I found most of the beauty in the gathering of people and the interactions had with them. One young guy came up to us to practice his English, which was quite good. I snapped his photo. I’ve noticed that Indian people do not generally smile for photos. He got a very serious look on his face, which was not at all the attitude he conveyed in conversation.
On the way home, it was dark. We passed though small towns. Some had LED lights strung across the road in arches and it was like driving through a video game. There is so much color here (I can’t say that enough). Even the temples are lit like Christmas. I’m not sure if it is because of Easter, or it that’s how it always is.
One afternoon, we walked up the beach to visit a Siva temple. The temple experience was another step outside my comfort zone. We dressed in traditional Indian clothing and made the hike up the cliff to the temple.
I felt a bit out of place in this space, since I did not know all the traditions that seemed to be so second nature to the Indians. I took it all in with wonder, staring up at the iconography and brightly colored symbolism represented within the walls.
A few rituals were performed while we were there. A priest chanted and then shared the offering with the congregation, an offering of smoke, water and a red pigment to adorn the forehead. I did not take any of the offerings, mostly because I felt that they did not fully resonate with me just yet and I was more into observing the action from a distance.
We will be going to another temple or two, so if the mood strikes, I may participate a bit more.
The most impressive part of the temple trip, to me, was the way the temple overlooked the ocean. There was a beautiful view of the sunset from the temple. I feel most connected to the Universe in nature, so the juxtaposition between the man-made temple and natural phenomenon of the sun burning into the ocean was moving for me.
There are more opportunities to get out and explore, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to be here. As much as I try to stay present in this place, I am still anxious to be back home with people I love and to put into action and share all the learning and growing I’m doing here.
For now, I’m enjoying each day since I know I will miss this experience when it is over.