Saturday, February 26, 2011

Exploring Mumbai

The past week, we have had a lot of city exploration and opportunitys to start branching out our social network in Mumbai. Last weekend, we went with several other ASB teachers to see His Holiness, the Dali Lama speak. He has been traveling around India lately and my parents even had a chance to see him Goa of all places. Even the DL needs some beach time. :) Oanh, a HS French teacher at ASB, was once a French translator for His Holiness and was very excited to go and hear him speak. There were six of us who went, so we jumped into two cabs and sped towards Central Mumbai. As we neared the field where the talk was held, we started seeing posters advertising the teachings with his picture on them. (I pictured a very large crowd since the last time I had the opportunity to hear him speak was during a Kalachakra ceremony in Bodhgaya, nine years ago. There were thousands of monks, pilgrims and foreigners there. It was pretty amazing.) We entered the field through metal detectors and had bags checked...I was very surprised of the lack of crowds. (Sweet! Prime viewing)! We walked right up to the area that had chairs to sit on and Oanh talked our way into this seating area. I was so excited. I could see him, up close and personal! Amazing! The first 45 minutes he spoke in Tibetan, while a translator spoke in Hindi. I tried my hardest to pick up what was being said in Hindi, but alas, I am still an infant in the language of Hindi. I think I picked up five words total. But I tried! We were thinking of leaving after an hour since we couldn't understand anything, but then the question and answer portion started in English. It was music to my ears! I enjoyed hearing his answers to people asking about happiness and Buddhism re-establishing in India. Pretty much the message is that it takes a lot of discipline, effort, and studying to maintain happiness, the answers are within us and getting caught up in the dogma of religion is a recipe for disaster. He has such a peaceful presence and a delightful laugh. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

This past week, my dad and Alison returned from their six weeks in southern India. With their arrival, we had two dinner engagements arranged this week. One with a family they had met in Munnar, who lived towards Central Mumbai and the second was with the owners of our flat. Both engagements were enjoyed by all. Greg and I finally got to spend significant time with people outside of ASB. It was a welcomed experience. The only difficult part was that Indians inevitably, at least in Mumbai, are night owls and don't start eating until late. We tried to let both parties know about Greg needing to be up very early since he gets picked up at 7am to go to the school, but when others are involved, things get pushed back. Luckily, Thursday night was a Professional Development day for Greg, so he didn't have to teach that day. I think both nights were past 11pm, which is late for those of us who are in bed by 8:30-9pm. For those of you who think we are ridiculous, do you get up at 5am to workout regularly? Okay, we are ridiculous on that part, but that's how it all gets fit in. (We didn't make it to any workout Thursday or Friday morning either). We hope to continue doing things with both families, as the company was great and the food spectacular. We even got some hints on more restaurants, having ice cream delivered, and learning about the tiffin lunches provided to millions of people in the city every day, which we could be a part of. Mumbai = delivery to your doorstep!

Thursday, I had one of my Mumbai Explorers trips and the two women leading this one had us take the train to CST terminus (a UNESCO World Heritage site), toured us around the station and then wondered to Crawford Market for lunch. I really enjoyed riding the train with all these women who never dreamed of going on the train, while I use it every week. I usually blast through CST train station and it was wonderful slowing down and looking at all the carvings and details of the building. The two women did an excellent job researching and finding out about the significance of the architecture. Loved it. Then, lunch was at a famous Bengali restaurant that was serving us its last meal before turning into a thali restaurant. Very sad because the food was excellent, down to a coconut prawn curry served in the coconut shell. Yummy!

Yesterday, Saturday, after some shopping with Rachel and Elizabeth (friends from ASB), my dad, Alison and I headed to South Mumbai to visit the National Art Gallery. There was an exhibit of the first female photo journalist in India, who was there and is 97 years old. She was even signing some of her prints that were for sale. It was a wonderful exhibit and featured Gandhi, Nehru, and the time of Partition, life in Mumbai and Delhi, and her history. A fascinating look into India's past and the woman involved in capturing it. If anyone is interested, her name is Homai Vyarawalla and I'm sure she is in the depths of Wikipedia.

It's been wonderful to see and experience a little more of this complex and historical city, though we have not left for two months and the traffic is getting to me, as well as the crowds. Yesterday when getting off the train, I had to push my way off as men were punching to get on. I hip checked and elbowed some people with force. It felt good to be aggressive back, letting out a little anger at that part of living here. It was a sign I need a break. We are going to the hills next week for a short reprieve and we bought our plane tickets for Darjeeling, where we will be going over spring break with Greg's mom. The pictures show awesome views of the Himalayas and my eyes feast on them longingly.

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