Monday, July 18, 2011

Lauren and Dennis got married

In April, Greg and I made the decision to make a three week trip to the US so that I could try to obtain a business visa. Other employment opportunities were not happening and being able to set up a private practice seemed to be the best option for me to bring home some bacon while in Mumbai. Once we made that decision, I told Greg that I wanted to make it during Lauren and Dennis’s wedding in Des Moines, IA. We would be flying into Des Moines anyway since Greg’s car was parked at his parent’s house, so I figured it was meant to be. In this day and age, Facebook is both wonderful and a curse. I found Lauren’s mom’s page and sent her an email. A week later, after not hearing from her, I emailed Lauren’s brother, Adam, and he was on it. (I found out later Lauren had set up her mom’s page for her and she really never uses it). The second item on my list was the hotel rooms. Now, maybe I over thought this, but I wanted my bases covered. I was worried if Greg and I made a reservation at the Marriott, where the reception was to be held, Lauren would somehow see that reservation. Plus, it’s more fun to share rooms during these occasions. I thought of Nadine and Nate, but I was worried about telling Nadine. It would be a heavy burden to bear and I knew she would be in contact with Lauren a lot, so back on Facebook, I emailed Nate. He was onboard with the plan. Later we found out he had to remain strong when faced with a questioning Nadine as to why he needed to make the hotel reservation for her friend’s wedding and why they couldn’t share a room with others. He faced her down and the plan was successful.

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.”



Our first excursion outside India in ten months was to Malaysia. Malaysia had never really been on my radar until we started asking other divers where they recommended going SCUBA diving in Southeast Asia. Everyone replied Sipidan. Sipidan is an island located near the town of Semporna in the state of Sabah. The Malaysian government turned the island into a Marine reserve to protect it from being fished and to keep hotels off the island.

We jumped on an overnight plane to Kuala Lampur, then had to wait seven hours to catch a flight to Tawau, where a taxi awaited to deposit us in the small fishing town of Semporna. As we flew into KL, I noticed neat rows of palm trees covering the landscape. I pointed them out to Greg and we both decided that they had to be planted. I couldn’t think why palm trees would be planted in such abundance. I re3ceived my answer from an English traveler who shared our taxi to Semporna. Malaysia has cut down 70% of its forests, most of them rainforests, to plant palm trees for palm oil. This country has such an amazing diversity of flora and fauna that is rapidly disappearing due to deforestation. The state of Sabah is known for its wild orangutans and probiscus monkeys.

In the KL airport, I was stuck by the lack of people. I kept saying this throughout our trip, “there are no people here.” I discovered on our US trip, again, that there are no people. I know that there are a lot of people in Mumbai and in India, but it took leaving the country to really understand this. I have gotten so use to crowds and lines most places that we go, that in order to understand the sheer number of one billion people, I had to spend time in Malaysia (where the total population is less than the 22million that in habit greater Mumbai) and the US (all its students combine is the same number as India’s top 1% of students). The fact that there are such fewer numbers of people made my body slow down when walking around.

The diving on the islands we went to over five days, including one day at Sipidan, was spectacular and amazing. The islands where made of white sand and the water a beautiful turquoise blue. It was overcast most of the time, which saved us from getting sun burned since all the dives we did were boat dives. Greg and I took our Advanced Open Water certifications, so that most of our dives ended up being between 75-100 feet deep. We saw big marine life: white tipped reef shark, a leopard shark, many green turtles that were up to a meter and a half long, a school of huge barracudas, Napolean Wrasse, blue-spotted rays, lots of giant moray eels, several cuttlefish, and hundreds of tropical fish species. W saw small marine life: nudibranchs, frog fish (8 of these), coral pipe fish, cleaner shrimp, scorpion leaf fish, and more nudibranchs. We did not get to see hammerhead, which can be seen at Sipidan and were seen the day after we dove there. And there was the coral. The variety and colors were unbelievable. At Sipidan, the coral was a thick blanket with schools of fish dancing around. I had never experienced such a healthy coral reef and it was breath taking. We dove two days with a couple from the UK who had their Dive Master certifications and took diving trips every year. They both had cameras, so hopefully we will receive a link to their posting so we can share what we saw. All the photos we have are on the surface.

We dove with Scuba Junkies and stayed three nights with them on Malbul Island in their bungalows. Beautiful place, friendly and fun staff, and we’d go back in a heartbeat. Even if you don’t dive, the snorkeling is spectacular and Sabah has a lot to offer on land as well. We hope to get back to explore both land and sea before we leave this side of the world.

Seven day yoga retreat

Saturday morning, eager and nervous, I left our flat and headed to the train station. Two stops north at Santa Cruz, I got off and headed to the East exit to unexplored territory. Just a short walk through a relatively quiet neighborhood, I found the Yoga Institute. After registering for the seven day course, I waited in a large hall, sitting cross-legged on the hard tiled floor with just a thin mat separating my skin from the cool floor.

As Greg and I were preparing to go to India, both of us were excited about the opportunity to explore yoga more. Over the past year, we both attended class once to twice a week with Prasad ( at the American School. I’ve really enjoyed Prasad’s classes a lot, with his focus on breathing and opening the chest. He’s been doing yoga since age nine and now teaches classes all over the world. I walk out of his classes feeling relaxed and calm. Then I step out into chaotic Mumbai and I struggle to hold onto that calmness.

Some of the ASB mom’s I’ve spent time with have been taking various yoga teacher training courses, which are all about a month long. I enjoyed hearing about the courses but couldn’t fathom finding a month to do something like that. Around April, I realized that I have spent so much of my time focused on finding work and contributing financially while in Mumbai, that I had pushed aside my goal of learning more about yoga and trying to deepen my practice. I thought to myself, “I’m in India! What am I doing, I need to take advantage of this.” So, I went online and found The Yoga Institute (, which is about two neighborhoods north of where I live. Their teacher training courses are 3 months and 7 months, which I was not ready to commit to. Then I found they had a seven day Basics of Yoga course and I decided that I could figure out how to make that work. So, while Greg was finishing up teaching, going to graduation, and attending end of the year parties, I headed to the Yoga Institute at 6:30am and came home at 8pm for one week.

Our day started off with asanas. This is the part of yoga that is practiced in the western world, the physical aspect. The Institute teaches basic poses with the focus on full concentration and presence, and breathing while doing each asana. It was such a wonderful way to begin each morning and I was reminded of my morning class I use to attend in Jackson. Energized and calm, I was ready to face the day.

All meals were provided by the Institute and were vegetarian. Food is an important part of maintaining positive attitude and non-judgment. Food that is fresh, not processed, and flavored with non-spicy spices is called Satthvic. It’s easy to digest and gives the body nutrients it needs. After a week of eating this food, my body felt wonderful and my taste buds were happy. My other classmates, most were Indian, were curious about how I liked the food. I don’t think all of them were as happy with it as I was. Of course I bought a recipe book, so I can try to incorporate some of the yummy food into my diet.

There are eight parts to yoga called the eight fold path. Asanas are one part. The other parts are Yamas (social behavior, how you treat others), Niyamas (Inner discipline and responsibility), Pranayama (control of breath), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (uninterrupted meditation), Samadhi (ultimate goal of bliss). The course focused on the first five parts with daily classes in each. All of the classes and techniques are to help a person lead a life that is filled with positive attitude, non-violence and non-judgment, and help obtain inner peace.

My task now is to continue the practice in daily life. I appreciated being told by each teacher to start with small steps. Choose one or two aspects to start doing each day. What I usually do after courses such as these is try to do it all and then when I can’t I just stop doing any of it all together. Travelling for two months right after this course also presents a challenge since I won’t have a routine. But, so far I’ve been able to do something every day.

Lastly, part of yoga is remembering to have some sort of recreation each day. Our last day, we had to give a performance of some sort. I ended up doing a dance with two other women. I was Krishna and one of the women dressed me up in full costume. It was great. All my other classmates were taking pictures with me and were so excited about my outfit. After my performance, they were impressed that some of my moves matched the lyrics of the song. The song we did was in the movie Laagan, an excellent Hindi film that you can rent from Netflix.