s calm and cozy. Beautiful and allows one to forget they are in Mumbai.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
s calm and cozy. Beautiful and allows one to forget they are in Mumbai.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Diwali was this past week and with it the end of the festival season in India, as well as a week off for Greg. We finally made it to Ladakh, India’s most northern state, located in the rugged Himalayas. Our time there marked the end of the tourist season, so we were greeted with calm and quiet as there were not many tourists and many of the guesthouses, shops and restaurants were already shut down.
In order to get to Leh, there are two routes, by air or road. The road route can take about four days from Dehli, so we flew, starting from sea level and landing at 11,500 feet. Luckily, Greg and I did fine acclimatizing. Only some small headaches that didn’t last long and huffing and puffing up the steep stuff. We spent the first two days in Leh, exploring the town, walking up to the two palaces, over to Shanti Stupa and around the main bazaar. There are many narrow walk ways, lined with irrigation canals that were covered with bright yellow leaves in many areas that crunched under our feet. Both of us were so thankful to experience late fall weather since we missed it last year. The walk ways were also for human, dogs, and cows only, so it made for a peaceful way to get around.
Day three we decided to test our lungs and headed to Hemis, a monastery about an hour and a half drive from Leh. Hemis was located in a tucked-away valley, so we winded up through grasslands and farmlands until the monastery appeared around a corner. After exploring, we found a path that headed into the mountains, which was well maintained. Again, the fall colors along the valley were breathtaking, with huge, rugged peaks in the background. The pathway headed up a steep mountainside to another monastery built around a cave, Gotsang Cave, where a Buddhist monk first came to the area to meditate. When we arrived, we were greeted by a monk who spoke fairly good English. After sitting in the cave for a bit (amazing energy inside), we were invited for tea to warm up. We enjoyed chatting with the young monk and learning a little about his life. We decided to keep climbing up since we were both feeling okay, and hiked another hour until we reached the top of a pass. We were greeted by three Bharal or blue sheep. They scooted to the side, but didn’t seem too disturbed by our presence. The views of Leh and the surrounding valleys were spectacular. We found out later that we were up at about 13,500 feet. It was also very cold and windy, so we had a quick snack and then headed down. The monk had invited us to his room for more tea and some snacks, which we welcomed for warmth and energy before heading back to the monastery. The building where the monks lived, was also built around caves and very cozy. When we reached back to Leh in the late afternoon, we warmed our bodies with yummy Thukpa, a Tibetan noodle soup. Our diet for most of the trip revolved around Thukpa , Momos and Tibetan Herbal Tea. Both very comforting food.
The fourth day, we headed to another monastery, Likir, that housed a 30-plus foot Buddha statue as well as a school for young monks. We had a nice cup of tea and conversation with one of the teachers. They heated the water with a solar-powered stove, very cool. We then headed to the trail-head of a two day trek along the valley and we hiked for a couple of hours. This trail reminded us of Western Colorado and Utah, with the sandstone rock formations and arid climate. We started with a steep downhill and then rolled along until we hit a small village, then turned around and, surprisingly, despite the uphill, made it back the same time it took to hike out. Maybe getting acclimated…?
Day five, we headed out on a river valley at the start of the Stok Kangal trek, a four day trek to the top of the highest peak near Leh at 20,082 feet. We didn’t get far enough to glimpse the mountain from our hike, but had a great view of it each day from the guesthouse. We were lucky enough to see another heard of Bharal and a lone Urial, with amazing horns. The latter was quite skittish and ran expertly up the mountainside to get away from us. The rock formations back in the valley were amazing. Rows and rows of sharp fins, rising high. In two areas, there were remains of brick buildings that were built, balancing precariously on the top of these fins. We hiked about six hours out and back and both of us were pretty tired and ready for a rest. It’s amazing the energy it takes out of you at that altitude. Answer…nope, not quite acclimated, but getting there.
Our final day, we couldn’t resist the drive to the top of the highest (actually second highest) motorable road in the world at 18.380 feet. The drive was up a long, windy, mostly dirt road that is constantly being worked on to keep drivable. Greg did well and did not get carsick, though we had to ask our driver to slow down several times as he liked to take the corners fast. At the top, we did the requisite photo-op and then hiked the short staircase to the small monastery, having to pause to catch our breath several times. It was a great view of both sides, the snow capped mountains dominating. It was also very cold, so after a quick cup of tea, we jumped back in the car and headed down. We’ve now been over 18,000 feet! (by car J).
We walked back up to the Shanti Stuppa in Leh to watch the sunset and to mark the end of a great week. We are both so grateful for getting to have such a great week in an amazing place and hope to get one more chance to do some multi-day treks before our time ends in this part of the world. Jullay! (hello, goodbye, thank you in Ladakhi).
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Over the three day weekend for Gandhi’s birthday, a friend and I headed to the Kaas Plateau in southern Maharatra in the Satara District. Our significant others were going to join, but one had too much work and the other was not feeling well. Luckily, we were both encouraged to still go.
The Kaas Plateau is not found in any of the typical guidebooks. It is a local Indian tourist spot during the monsoon, as the plateau becomes a canvas of changing colors with the rains growing a large variety of wildflowers from August-early October. When we were told about this beautiful sight at a meditation retreat in July, I couldn’t wait for this three day weekend.
We took an overnight “ish” train to Satara, arriving at 2am. We had hired Rajesh to meet us and take us to our hotel. It all worked out without a hitch. I think we were some of the first foreigners to stay at our three star hotel and we were the only “whitees” in the area for the weekend. Our first day, after a decent southern Indian breakfast of idlis and sheera, we jumped in the hired car and enjoyed the hour and a half ride up, up, up the steep hillside towards the plateau. It was green and lush around us as we breathed in the fresh air. The driver reported that “1 lakh” people visited the plateau last weekend. Wow! When we reached the plateau, we were not allowed to stop. The government had set up a bus system to transfer people from a parking area to the plateau. Amazing!! They were actually trying to conserve the area. I was very pleased about this. Our driver did his best to explain that we foreigners should be accommodated with the car, but they would not budge.
We spent awhile exploring around Kaas Lake, just below the plateau and there was evidence of the previous crowds from the trash laying around. Despite that, we didn’t have to wander far to get away from the trash and start seeing evidence of the flowers we would be seeing on the plateau. The lake was peaceful and we had our first snack while gazing at a patch of lily pads.
When we got to the plateau, looking out, one could see swaths of white and pink. Upon closer inspection, there were many varieties of flowers in white, pink, purple, yellow and blue. There were many large cameras with huge lens being toted around by others. I had my small point and shoot, which worked just fine at capturing the beauty. We spent several hours wandering around, having lunch and walking back to the parking lot. We opted out of having the bus drive us back. That evening at the hotel, we had an amazing Guajarati Thali for 110Rs and watched Dandia dancing for Navatri.
After a lazy morning, we set out the next afternoon for some nearby temples. The temples were of the Shiva variety, with one being filled with lingums. The hike up the ridge and exploration took about an hour. At the top of the ridge, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the valley below us. We started to hear what sounded like rain falling, but could not see rain anywhere. I guessed there might be a waterfall close by. Ha, I was very wrong. Just as we started back down, there was a light sprinkle. Then it became a light rain, so we pulled out rain jackets. Finally, it was a steady rain. By the time we reached the car, we were both soaked. But, by the time we reached the Kaas Plateau for some evening photos, we were both dry, except for our shoes. We found a beautiful meadow to explore as fine clouds settled in over the plateau. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the sun set from that vantage point, as was our goal. But, on the drive back down, the billowing clouds were a spectacular show as the sun faded away. After another fantastic thali dinner, we headed to the train station to return back to Mumbai.
For fresh air, getting outside, and wildflower viewing, it was a great trip. To find out more about the Kaas plateau, just plug the name into google and the sites available are endless. It’s a fun adventure to get off the Lonely Planet’s beaten path.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, September 3, 2011
- Moong dal (small yellow)
- Ural dal (white)
- Toor dal (larger yellow)
- Masoor da (orange)
- 1 bay leaf
- Few peppercorns
- Few cloves
- Three small pieces of cinnamon stick
- Tsp cumin seeds
- ¾ c- 1c finley chopped onions
- 1 inch ginger ground into a paste or grate
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1tsp Dhansak Masala
- Pinch of aseophida
- Two tomatoes chopped small
- Three cups of water plus 1 TBS
- Two pinches of salt
1) Combine all the dals with equal mixture of all except Ural dal, use 1-2 TBS, soak for a few minutes.
2) Heat a TBS of Ghee in a pressure cooker.
3) Combine the bay leaf, pepper corn, cloves, cinnamon, and cumin seeds together and add to ghee. Heat until the cumin seeds sputter and don’t let them turn black.
4) Add onions and cook until soft.
5) Add Ginger, let cook briefly and then add turmeric, Dhansak Masala, and aseophida, stir together.
6) Add tomatoes and 1 TBS of water. Cook for several minutes until there is a shine on the tomatoes from the oil. Mash.
7) Add two pinches of salt, stir.
8) Add the dal mix and twice as much water as dal. Ex: 1 and a half cups of dal and three cups of water. Cover and cook.
9) After five whistles, turn the heat down slightly and let cook for another 10 minutes. Turn up heat until there is another whistle. Turn off heat and let cool. Serve with coriander leaves as garnish and limes.
Ingredients: (Serves 10)
- 3 cups of rice and six cups of water
- 3 cups of mixed vegetables
- 2 TBS Ghee
- 3 bay leaves
- Several pieces of cinnamon stick
- Few cloves
- Few peppercorns
- 1 Tbs cumin seeds
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- Ginger and garlic paste, 1 TBS
- Salt to taste
1) Soak rice for several minutes and drain.
2) Heat Ghee in a large pot.
3) Add bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, cumin seeds and onion. Stir and let cook until cumin sputters.
4) Add Vegetables, ginger and garlic, salt and cook for several minutes.
5) Add rice, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
6) Add water, stir and cover.
7) stir occasionally as vegetables rise to top.
8) When rice is half way cooked, add coriander.
9) When water is gone, rice is cooked. Serve.
- 1-2 cabbages chopped
- 2 green chilis slit length wise
- Curry leaves
- 1 TBS mustard seed
- 1 TBS cumin seed
- Pinch of aseophida
1) Heat oil in a pan. Oil needs to be very hot.
2) Add mustard seed and cook until mustard seed sputters.
3) Add cumin seed, stir
4) Add aseophida powder, chilis, curry leaves, and cabbage. Stir it all together.
5) Add a pinch of turmeric and TBS of salt, Stir.
6) Cook , stirring often, until cabbage reduces 1/3 to a half. 10-15 minutes.
7) Serve with coriander as a garnish.
BRIJAL COCONUT CURRY
- 8 small brinjals or round eggplants, cut in quarters, but still attached to stem.
- 1 cup onions
- 2-3 potatoes chopped
- 2 tomatoes
- Coriander leaves
- Coconut powder mixed with water (about 2 cups)
- 1 tsp Chili powder, 1 TBS coriander powder, pinch of turmeric powder
1) Heat oil in a pan
2) Add onions and sauté
3)Add brinjal and potatoes, stirp and cover to cook. 10 min
4) Add tomatoes, coriander leaves and salt to taste, stir and continue to cook until veggies are soft.
5) Add coconut water and stir.
6) Add chili powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Stir.
Friday, August 5, 2011
When we arrived in Mumbai we had four days to recuperate from jet lag and I had developed a cold. For those of you who don't know, I've been struggling with allergies and colds consistently since January. The sickness was a reminder of what I was returning to...and I had yet to see a doctor for any of it due to my denial that it would last this long. So, on the day we were suppose to board an overnight train, I was having breathing issues and finally decided to see a doctor. I went to a respiratory specialist ($12), got some meds and a blessing to go on the meditation course. It was at this point that I finally committed to going. My brain: "Alright, I'm doing this. I know I can do it and it will be a growing experience. Plus, I want to see how Greg does."
Luckily, the first class compartments had been available when I booked, so we got a door and shared with one other person. He was a businessman in textiles and the area we were headed was known for textiles. Still dealing with jet lag, a cold, and Greg had hurt his back earlier in the day at the gym, we headed to bed pretty early. At 6:30am, we got off at a rural train station at Hatkangale. We had most of the day ahead of us. Our first task was finding breakfast. We negotiated a little with a rickshaw driver to take us to a restaurant (luckily one was open that early) and then onto the meditation center. The ride there was 6km through lots of farmland. It was quite beautiful and peaceful. Registration wasn't until 3pm and it was now close to 8am. No one was at the office, so we ditched our packs and walked over to the huge Jain temple next door. That kept us busy until 9am, when we wandered back and thankfully someone came up to help us. We were given some breakfast and keys to rooms. Pretty much we just relaxed most of the day, met another person who wandered in early, also from Mumbai, and watched people slowly appear in the afternoon. I was wondering if I would be one of the only women, but there ended up being over 30 of us, with one leaving after day two. 70 men started and 65 completed the course. At 5:00pm, we had dinner, a discourse about the next day and at 8pm we were in Noble Silence. The course had begun.
So what the heck is this Vipassana meditation??! The technique was discovered by Buddha, who found his way to enlightenment through this meditation technique. He taught it to five of his friends and then suddenly, everyone wanted to learn. When Buddha started off, his teachings were this technique and encouragement to continue the practice. It was not about a certain dogma or worshiping him. Those things really flourished after he died and his teachings were changed into a religion. This technique expanded in India for 500 years and then faded. Luckily, monks had traveled to other countries and it was practiced in its pure form in Burma for 2500 years. Then S.N. Goenka came to India to teach the technique to his sick mother and others wanted to learn...he did not leave India and Vipassana centers are now located all over the world. That's the history in a nutshell.
The technique is observing sensations in your body and remaining "equanimous" to all sensations. Basically not being attached to positive sensations or attaching hate to negative sensations. Just acknowledging them for what they are and moving on. So simple, yet it takes much practice, young grasshopper. There is this thing called "The Mind," that is like a gerbil in its wheel. It keeps going and going and going, distracting and getting you no where. So practice has a lot with training this wild beast.
The course itself is a great test in determination and discipline. Ten days, no talking, the sexes are separated for everything, no reading or writing or cell phones or internet, two meals and an evening snack, and meditating for ten hours a day. That's sitting for ten hours a day for ten days. It's sooooooo painful at first. Quote from Greg,"I just kept thinking, all these Indians who sit and crouch all the time are struggling, so its got to be hard!" The first three days we learned Anapana, which is observing the natural breath and the sensations between the nose and upper lip. Then, day four, you learn Vipassana and it is announced that three times a day you are to sit for one hour without moving anything. Goenka had a great way of putting this: "First you are thinking this is so wonderful, feels so good. Then 20 minutes you are thinking there is pain, I can deal with this. Then at 30-40 minutes you are thinking there is just too much pain, I can't sit here any longer. One minute feels like an hour. Surely the teacher has lost track of time. Then the chanting starts and you are relieved but you still have five more minutes." I think I made it to one hour about one third of the time. I rolled a few cushions, sat with my legs folded under me and the cushions between my calves and butt. To get out of this position I had to peel out the cushions from under me, flop to one side, slowly get on my butt, and then it took several minutes to get my right ankle to flex. Finally I would manually straighten my legs and shake them out. But I was proud of myself for having the determination to stick it out and then I'd try it again later on in the day. And, yes, by the end I felt pretty happy. Just happy and giggly.
This being my second course, I knew what to expect with the logistics. I did not worry about the lack of food as I had the first time, my mind went on shorter jaunts this time, and I had felt more unpleasant sensations this time around. The environment was much more pleasant this time. We were nestled up against a large hill in a lush, green landscape. There were many flowers and loads of birds. I tried counting the different bird calls, but I lost track. The one that made me laugh the most were the peacocks. They were everywhere along the hillside and loud. Day three I thought of calling this blog, "Distractions of the peacock, a meditation experience." I was the only female to maintain Noble Silence, which was annoying at times (good practice for non-attachment to emotions) and also weird. I'm not sure what was up, but I stayed away from it.
Our time in Marble was spectacular, as usual. I think this is our favorite place in Colorado. Beautiful scenery and great company! There was still quite a lot of snow, so our plans to hike up Treasure Mountain at just under 14,000 feet were not realized. We did get in a hike up to Avalanche Pass (12,000 ft) with Ann, Krissy, and Tikka. We saw a huge herd of Elk make its way up and over the mountains, plus saw the backside of Mt. Daly, which we skied two winters ago. We also hiked to an amazing waterfall and Mount Marble when Amy joined us. Amy was a trouper and had her first experience with glissading. A little bit of the Himalayas made it to Marble with vertical prayer flags that Ann, Mike and I put up. We even had true American culture with ATVs and playing around on Pete's dirt bike. (Krissy loved this soooo much she know has her own). It was wonderful. The two sad pieces to our trip were missing Beatle and Sweet Buns being sick (and being put down the day we left). Both are such big parts of our thoughts and memories and will be in our hearts.
Boston!! Jake!! Need I say more. We had a lot of fun with our nephew, Jake. He's growing so fast, learning new things all the time, and just so darn cute. He really got into growling while we were there, to which we laughed at to no end, all the more encouraging him. We extended our stay and went to Cape Cod to spend more time with Jake, Grady and Laurie, and met Laurie's family. Jake has three older female cousins, who we had lots of fun with. One of the highlights was getting to be with Jake in his first pond experience. He LOVED it. But who wouldn't love to be in their b-day suit, enjoying warm water and having everyone oogle over you? It was also wonderful to watch Grady and Laurie be mom and dad...whew! We left the Cape via ferry. It was the most choppy boat ride I've ever been on. Quite a few sick people.
Here are a few pictures:
Monday, July 18, 2011
The curse of Facebook is the Wall. It’s very hard to coordinate showing up at a wedding unannounced and plan other parts of our stateside trip without having people make wall posts. All in confidence were strictly advised no Facebook wall communication. Before we left for Malaysia, Lauren and Dennis were blocked from viewing “friend” posts since Greg’s brother slipped and wrote he couldn’t wait to see us. Plus, Lauren became increasingly interrogating with our last few contacts. “Tell me EXACTALY what you are doing this summer. I want the details.”
We arrived in Iowa at 8:30pm on the 18th of June. The rehearsal dinner was the following evening. We made it through the morning, but had to take a nap in the afternoon to combat jet lag. Getting a little lost on our way to the winery, we got back on track. Just as we were pulling in I was worried the Cavalier would be recognized, so I had Greg park behind a white van. We got out of the car and my heart was beating and I wondered if Lauren had figured it out. We walked up the walk way to the entrance where people were milling about. I saw Nadine and Julia look at us in a weird way and Nate smiled. Julia let out a scream and she, Nadine, and Corrine came running up to us. They were in disbelief and totally surprised. All the sudden I noticed Lauren standing next to us with her mouth open. “What are you doing here?!” I gave her a hug but she remained stunned. We all agreed she finally left her state of shock by the time food was served and she came over to talk with us. Our mission of surprise was a complete success!! MANY thanks to Judy, Adam, and Nate.
The wedding as the next day, on Father’s day. We pulled through the jet lag, which was becoming painful at times. The ceremony was very nice and the Rabbi’s explanation and humor were wonderful. It was a lot of fun to see and catch up with friends and dance the evening away. Lauren looked stunning and Dennis had a grin on his face most of the night. I’m grateful we were able to attend and support the two of them. Some of Lauren’s parting words, “I don’t know how I’m ever going to top this one.” I told her, “I can’t wait to see what you come up with.”