Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

The Five Senses – Sight

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

I thought I would write some of my general impressions of India through the lens of the senses. There are so many differences between this country and mine. I think what I see shows me some of the major differences.

There are people everywhere. India is the seventh largest country by area, second most populous county and the most populous democracy in the world. The population is over 1.3 billion. People walking, biking, riding what they call two wheelers (scooters or motorcycles), pushing carts, or just sitting around.

The women in particular are beautifully dressed. The dresses and saris they wear are bold and loud with all sorts of color combinations that burst right off the fabric. Most men are dressed in Western clothes, but some, like some of the rickshaw drivers, wear all white. Some wear a white hat that looks like something the deli counter workers at home might wear.

The rickshaws in the north were green, but here in Pune they are black and yellow, like little bumble bees buzzing from one part of the city to the next.

There is garbage everywhere. Squalor down every tiny street. Posh homes behind nice walls. And temples, large and small, on every street, corner, and, in fact, in every Hindu home. When we stop to look in we find them spotless, usually unoccupied, save for the statue of whichever god the temple is dedicated to. Many of the statutes are almost cartoonish in nature, brightly painted, plump and well lit.

As we walk to the store we often go single file, since there are trees growing in the middle of the sidewalk (there is some law about not cutting down trees) or the sidewalk is narrow, uneven, or non-existent. Lots of times we walk with eyes to the ground because of these obstacles. We pass fruit and veggie carts along the street and buy bananas, papaya, carrots, potatos, and eggplant, to name a few. There are strange and unknown veggies and fruits I have never seen elsewhere.

Sometimes the vendors will meet my gaze. Other times not. I don’t know if it is their way of being polite, if it is a language barrier, the fact I am a foreigner or that I am white. Other times, while walking, we are stared at. We are in the minority and they are perhaps curious and look. I have never felt unsafe here. I ignore the guidebook’s advice to avoid eye contact with the men (wear sunglasses!) and meet their gaze, keep walking and go about my business. The women look also and I smile. They almost always smile back.

The Five Senses – Touch

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

I thought I would write some of my general impressions of India through the lens of the senses. There are so many differences between this country and mine. Here are some of the things I have felt.

First, the heat. I know I am not very heat tolerant so I knew being in India where the low might get to 70 degrees F would be a challenge. There have been times I have been just dripping in sweat (which I am not a fan of) and other times so warm I just have had to sit. I’ve taken good care of myself during those times; listening to my body, hydrating like crazy, resting when necessary. It’s been good practice for many things besides self care. The whole trip has. But, I will save that for later.

Some ways I have gotten cool is to swim in the pools at the hotels on the tour. In the apartment each room has a ceiling fan and I use them regularly, as well as taking comfort from the cool floor. The cool water and air on my skin give some relief.

There have been a couple of times we have been out in the rain. One Friday night walking back from the restaurant it was sprinkling. That was a nice feeling on my skin. The time we got caught in a downpour in the auto rickshaw I ended up cold from being so wet. That was a nice (rare) feeling also.

This country is hard. The floors are hard, the yoga floors are hard, the sidewalks are hard and uneven, the beds in the flat are planklike. At least since we have moved out of hotel stays, it feels like every surface is rock hard. The local people seem to not mind. I don’t know if I could get accustom to that.

Another battle is with the mosquitos. Stories of yoga students who have come before us contracting some mosquito borne illness makes us on guard with repellent that is 50% DEET. It is oily and smelly and not always effective. There are also little electric mosquito repellent things plugged into the outlets in the bedrooms that we turn on at night. The first week in the flat I had at least a dozen bites and took Claritin to help the allergic reaction and put on anti itch cream to help my urge to scratch. I have figured out the window in my bedroom so it is less likely for them to enter at night. Still, I spotted one flying around in the bathroom this morning.

Since being here I have had two massages. The first was in the hotel in Varanasi at the beginning of the trip. It was just what I needed to help work out the kinks, help reduce some of the post flight swelling in my legs, and relax. The second was here in Pune at the apartment. I had never before had an Ayurvedic massage and the pressure was intense. During I thought The result would be a million thumb print bruises all over my body but, alas, I felt just fine. Like yoga, sometimes the best part is when it is over.

The Five Senses – Sound

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

I thought I would write some of my general impressions of India through the lens of the senses. There are so many differences between this country and mine. Here are some of the things I have heard.

The most prominent sound in India is the traffic. Not just the roar of the engines, but the honking. Loud long beeps from trucks, short toots from two wheelers, and the “hey are you looking to hire a rickshaw” horns as they slow while passing. During the day, a minute does not go by without a honk or more. After dark, it gets a bit quieter. After many days, there is a desensitization to all of it.

Then there are the barking dogs. Barking together, barking at one another and an occasional yip, like maybe one got clipped by the traffic they seem so oblivious to.

There is almost always someone sweeping. As I write this I hear the rhythmic swish, swish, swish of the broom somewhere outside of someone gathering up what has fallen from the tress overnight.

There are a few birds. Occasionally I hear one that sounds more like a monkey (maybe it is, but I haven’t seen any monkeys in Pune) but I don’t hear songbirds like we have in the morning at home. It is more like a flock of loud birds just before dawn that lands in a tree nearby. They cackle for a while and move on. And there are no crickets or frogs chirping at night.

In the predawn hours there is chanting. I don’t know where it is coming from and I can’t hear the words. It is faint but consistent for some time, I would guess for an hour or more ending with the sunrise.

My bathroom has a window and is somehow connected to the building in such a way that I can hear a neighbor either above or below me washing, and, on many mornings coughing and retching. Before I figured out it was a neighbor I thought it was one of my flat mates sick from the food or water. Thankfully, we have all stayed healthy in that respect, knock on wood.

The ceiling fan on high speed makes a nice white noise to block out a good portion of these noises at night.

People coming to our flat ring the doorbell if they have a code to the security door to the building. It’s a mechanical sort of sound, old and tired. Even though I have given Aneeta the security code for the door to the building, she doesn’t use it. Instead she stands in the parking lot and hollers “Mom-gi”! One of us goes down and let’s her in. Other vendors have used this same technique. We bought fruit and veggies from a guy who pushed his cart into the parking lot and started yelling … something. Other residents of the building also went out to make purchases.

And then, there is an occasional BANG, like a gunshot (which I am sure it is not), which I do not investigate. Sometimes it is better to not know everything.

Swimming with the Turtles

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

During our walks on the beach we occasionally see a turtle poke his head up out of the water. There are organized tours that will take you “swimming with the turtles”.

Today, I swam with turtles on my own! I was floating out in the salty water of the Caribbean and all of a sudden, a turtle was in front of me. So, I followed it, swimming just behind and above. At a couple of points I thought I was close enough to touch it but it was hard to judge how deep in the water it was. He poked his head out once and at that point I was about five feet away from him. I didn’t really pay attention to where in the water I was and found myself quite a distance from shore. Then I saw the speed boat and the jet ski, one on my left, one on my right, zooming by. So I headed to the shore. Then, almost to the shore – another turtle (or maybe it was the same one)!! I followed it far a minute but had to quit. I was out of gas.

If you hold your arms out in front of you and make a circle, they were at least as big as that. Another fun encounter with wildlife under the water.



Random Thoughts

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Like Costa Rica, there is a sense of formal dress in service workers. The gas stations are full service and the attendants look snappy in their uniforms. In fact, all of the uniforms (servers, tour guides, parks) are nice looking. This isn’t 100%across the board. The “guide” at the sea-cave was just dressed in a t-shirt.

Virginia, our guide at St. Nicholas Abbey

Virginia, our guide at St. Nicholas Abbey

Don, our guide at the sea-cave, mon.

Don, our guide at the sea-cave, mon.

The homes in Barbados are, for the most part, tiny. Some are brightly colored, some have flowers or a small patch of lawn that gets cut with a weed whipper. Some have antennas and others have huge satellite dishes (that make me think of Mumbai or soccer, and I don’t really know why).

Typical Home

Typical Home

Lots of men have long hair, either braided or in dread locks. Some wear a hat, almost like a tall Dr. Suess hat, with (I’m guessing) their hair tucked inside.

Man wearing a hat

Man wearing a hat

The school children wear uniforms to school. School gets out around 3 PM and there are hordes of kids, all ages, swarming around the little markets and along the road either walking or waiting to catch the bus.

School girl in her uniform sipping on an after school drink.

School girl in her uniform sipping on an after school drink.

The buses go screaming fast. The “national” buses are big blue buses or big yellow buses. The small yellow buses are some other company owned bus. The national bus is $1 per ride and is quiet. The unofficial bus is $2 a ride and the play terrible music loudly.

Big blue buses

Big blue buses

Minimalist Game -February

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

After reading “Everything That Remains” I became inspired to reduce the number of items in my house. “Everything That Remains” chronicles the journey the authors, Joshua and Ryan, made to becoming minimalists. It’s not a “how to” book but more of a “why” to book.

On their website there are some examples of the things they tried when making the transition, like canceling the internet at home and NOT buying anything for a period of time. At the beginning of February I noticed the Minimalist Game, in which one item gets purged on the first of the month, two things get purged on the second of the month, and so on, until the last day of the month when, in the case of February, 28 things go. It adds up to over 400 by the end of the month.

I’m keeping a journal as I go, noting the things that get tossed in the bin for a garage sale (planned for June 6 and 7) or that I toss or recycle. From the journal it’s easy to tell where I was targeting. For example,
“February 7: Seven wooden spoons”
“February 12: Twelve vases”
“February 15: Fifteen articles of clothing, mostly scarves”
“February 17: Seventeen cords (USB to something!)”
“February 22: Slips, bras, thigh highs, nylons, camisoles, bathing suits”
“February 23: rain jackets, fleece, mittens, winter hats, scarves, headbands, rain poncho (still in a packet)”

Although February is soon coming to an end, I’ll carry on the game in March. Stay tuned for a progress update!

Shaker box that was full of nylons.

Shaker box that was full of nylons.

Old hot metal type

How many dull knives does a kitchen really need?

I got this at a garage sale and never used it.

I got this at a garage sale and never used it.


Thursday, February 28th, 2013

As we age and experience more in life it is harder and harder to have new experiences. This trip was full of delightful firsts. Here is a list:

First cup of coffee
First hanging bridges walk
First guided tour
First hummingbird sitting on my finger
First Tucan in the wild
First time seeing monkeys in the wild
First night hike on a beach to see a turtle come oy of the sea to lay her eggs

Costa Rica and Ecuador -compare and contrast

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Some of you have asked me about the way people live here compared to Ecuador, the prices of things, and the amount of English spoken. So, here are some of my thoughts.

Ecuador and Costa Rica have some major similarities. Both countries have a “back in time” feel. There is a disregard for safety, although, there is more safety protocol in Costa Rica. In Ecuador people routinely ride in the bed of a pick up truck. I haven’t seen that in Costa Rica. There are a lot of small engine motorcycles in both countries. In Costa Rica the drivers wear helmets, although not all passengers do. They do, however wear a reflective “X” on their back, some sort of vest to call attention to themselves. On the coast I have seen quite a number of women driving ATVs with kids on the front and back and none of them are wearing helmets. The tourists on ATVs wear helmets, some wear goggles and others wear masks over their noses and mouths.

Other things that give that back in time feel are the architecture and fixtures. The buildings in the city have that old fashioned look with big display windows. Buildings (sometimes you might use the word shack) in the smaller towns are tiny places with old counter tops and not very modern appliances. The sinks and toilets decades old.

Neither country has a great infrastructure of roads. I think the roads are worse here in Costa Rica. There are a great number of dirt roads and it is slow going, many seem unpassable without a four wheel drive vehicle. Almost all the bridges are a single car width. Drivers just work it out.

There are no addresses in Costa Rica. If I remember correctly, there was an effort in Ecuador to establish a numbering system, at least in Quito. Although I have seen a few small mailboxes to to drop outgoing mail, I haven’t seen mail delivery in Costa Rica and saw neither in Ecuador.

Costa Rica has a fabulous system of tours guides, tour companies, activities, and fleets of vans in various sizes to accommodate the tourism industry. They really have the “movement of people to and fro” down pat. There are taxis, too, although fewer in smaller towns and about a bazillion of them in San Jose. Note of interest, the taxis in San Jose are fire engine red. The taxis I have seen in the small town of Brasilito are orange and green. I haven’t seen a yellow taxi yet. Ecuador hasn’t seemed to grasp the true nature of customer service and tourism, yet. Last year when I was there didn’t feel like a valued customer, just a single opportunity to sell something to. They told me what I wanted to hear, regardless of what there was to offer. And I don’t recall any guided tours, other than the boat trip I took (and that was 100% in Spanish). The Costa Ricans have a different culture. Proud of their country, they try hard to please. Their standard phrase when someone says “gracias” is not the standard “da nada”. It is “con mucho gusto” which translates to “with much pleasure”. It’s the difference between a server saying “no problem” (which personally irritates me) and “It’s my pleasure” or even “you’re welcome”. All of the tours I have been on in Costa Rica have been with bilingual guides. The drivers don’t always speak English, but the guides have a large vocabulary.

Beyond the guides and the front desk staff at the hotels, most people know a little bit of English, usually phrases they use in their jobs. There are more English speakers who speak Spanish in Costa Rica. More often I have overheard two people speaking English to each other and then switching to Spanish when the wait staff comes to the table. And, there are still people who don’t even try to use even the simple Spanish phrases.

The Gate 1 tour accommodations were quite nice. Along the way we passed home after home about 500 square feet in size, made out of cement or some sort of adobe material. I would call the walls plaster. Almost all have a tin roof, some with those clay tiles. It is obvious that most people just eek out a living judging from their homes. A good number of the yards are tidy, although the roads are dirt so it mush be a constant struggle to keep things clean. My iPad screen is constantly getting covered in a layer of dust. It must be even worse in the wet season. All this dirt must just be one big mud puddle.

Water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. Ricardo, our Gate 1 tour guide, told us that CostanRica has worked on things like education, tourism, and health care. Part of health care is having clean water so infant mortality declines (they have the lowest infant mortality rate in Central America) and part is to be able to support the business of tourism. It is unadvisable to drink the water in Ecuador. I drank only bottled water last year when I was there and still picked up a parasite. In addition, many places in Ecuador lack hot water and decent water pressure (and a few struggle with shower drains). In Costa Rica, the showers have been hot and the water pressure good.

Both countries let there dogs run wild. Some sit in the middle if the road, oblivious to motor vehicles. I have not seen one dog on a lease and only one dog here in Brasilito (named Maxi) seems to have an owner. 

Remember the ads in the 70’s in the US about keeping America clean? Put litter in its place was a country wide campaign. Now American volunteer groups adopt stretches of hiway and pick up trash, Not the case in Costa Rica or Ecuador. 

Baby strollers aren’t popular in Costa Rica. I don’t remember seeing them in Ecuador either (but I may not have noticed). Maybe because there are virtually no sidewalks in small towns and in the city, they are extremely narrow. The going is rough, with large curbs and gutters in the city and rough rocky terrain on the dirt roads in the rural areas. I can see how it would be difficult to push a stroller. So, babies are carried on mother’s hips. No backpack, no front carrier, not even a cloth pappose sort of thing like the indiginous people of Ecuador.

Transitioning to a new place

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Hotel Brasilito is right on the beach on the corner of the main drag to the beach. There is an open air restaurant, a patio with chairs, tables and a couple of hammocks. it is a great place to sit, see the horsecack riders come and go, the ATV riders comes and to, and at about 6 pm watch the sunset.

Across the street there is a bar that must be two different parts. They play loud music in both but different songs. A times, the birds were so loud. I think they are gackles. Between the noise and the fact I didn’t set the a/c quite right (and the bed is hard as a park bench) it was a difficult night’s sleep. And this morning dogs barking, roosters crowing.

It took me a while to get in the groove today. Always a bit of a transition getting to a new place. Once I got a little food in my stomach and some business done (laundry and a boat tour booking for tomorrow) I got in the beach groove, spending more than half my day in my swim suit.

After breakfast I walked through town. It’s all of about eight or ten blocks, most streets dirt. I found a little grocery store where I have bought water three times. Then I went walking on the beach. There is the beach the hotel is on and then another beach just over a small hill. They are different, which seems amazing. My beach is harder packed, probably because there is traffic (car, horse, ATV, motorcycle) on it, with lots of sand in the surf. The next beach is not as hard packed, lots of little shells, and way more people. And the water is clearer. The Westin Resort is there and it seemed like there were a number of people from there swimming, walking, and reclining in the shade. It is hot. I don’t know the temp today but yesterday my weather app said it was 91.

For lunch I had fish at the place next door. The guy there told me his name was Kevin, which I knew couldn’t be true. By the end of the meal he was calling me “mi amour”. And I was calling him Jose’, his real name. It seems awkward that in the first few questions they want to know if I am alone and married. The same thing happened in Ecuador. I never get asked what I do. That is certainly our culture.

Before sunset I set off for the ATM. I don’t have a good sense of 600 meters, I guess, because it was way further than I thought. I asked a younger man (mid 20’s) for directions and he walked me all the way there and all the way back. It was very much the Costa Rican way. We had about as much conversation as two people can who don’t speak each other’s language. His name is Henri (roll those r’s like there are three of them), works in air conditioning (he had a shirt embroidered with the company name as so many people do), and he has a relative who has lived in Atlanta for two years. I practically had to twist his arm to pay for his juice drink in the market.


Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

I can’t say enough good things about Ricardo. He was caring, tuned in, knowledgable, inclusive, kind, never tired, all with a good sense of humor. When we asked him a question he wasn’t sure about, he looked it up. There were so many great things about this week and he tops the list. I wold come back to Costa Rica and when I do I would certainly make sure Ricardo was my guide.