If you want to get a sense of the Indian sensibility for western eating, go to the Shiva Rooftop restaurant in Assi Ghat, Varanasi. Order muesli with fruit and curd and you will receive a fork and a spoon. Order a cheese veggie burger and you will receive a fork and a spoon. Apparently Indians have no idea what us crazy westerners are doing with these wacky eating utensils.
Well, there's lots to update so let's bring you up to speed in this bizarro world of Indian culture. Rewind back to my birthday and Diwali for the Gods' celebration which coincided on the same day in Varanasi. Nori and the family she stayed with last year threw me a surprise birthday party. Nori let me in on it in the morning so I could have a choice between receiving a surprise party in the evening or going for an evening boat ride to view the festival of lights from the water.
After some deliberation I decided an evening boat ride would be more interesting than a surprise birthday party. Nori asked me if I could secure a boat for the evening and when I bungled that up, failing to secure a boat, we decided to go out to dinner at a favorite Chinese restaurant instead. After dinner I arrived back at Nori's family's house and was totally surprised by the surprise party they had thrown for me (no, really), not needing to act surprised, forgetting Nori had told me about it earlier in the day.
Haven't you always wanted someone to celebrate your coming one year wiser in this way? Can't say I have either but I didn't feel I had much choice in the matter when people started shoving cake down my throat. Was all in good fun though. Thanks again Nori for the memorable birthday. :)
Afterwards the sun fell on my head and burned me bad. I mean, the next day I got a ride to the wrong train station to take me to Bodghaya for the retreat. How am I to know there were two train stations? After nearly blowing a gasget, the help personnel saw my exaggerated aggravated frustration which I wasn't at all trying to hide and told me there was a jeep for 20 rupees leaving now to the correct train station and that I might still be able to make the train. Not bothering to try to understand how the good fortune might be possible, I find the jeep and cram inside with 20 other Indians (this is becoming quite ordinary). 50 minutes later in typical Root fashion I'm stepping board the train in the wrong compartment after it's already started moving because I can't for the life of me understand which compartment is the general class. Point is, I got my train in time and arrived at the retreat in time to register.
All the beautiful happy people I spent ten days with mostly in silence. The man standing next to me, from Germany, was a particularly good counter argument to Venerable Rita's (center) ceaceless dissertations on suffering. He brought a very much needed good naturedness and light and easy going energy to the retreat. Thanks Georg.
There is no height to which one can show their appreciation for the Buddha Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha).
The Stupa where Buddha attained enlightenment 2500 years ago after 3 1/2 countless eons.
Mucalinda Lake (The Abode of Snake King)
Lord Buddha spent the sixth week in meditation here. While he was meditating severe thunderstorms broke out. To protect him from the violent wind and rain even the creators came out for his saftey. (So a sign reads by the lake.)
Free tea being given out near a cave where Buddha spent 6 years meditating before coming back down to Bodhgaya where, three days later, he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
Beggars line up to receive money. You can buy a bag of 90 rupees for 100 ruppees and the guy you buy it from then lines up the beggars and disseminates the money. Otherwise they all crowd around you making it very difficult.
Marcus rides an elephant just before we go back to Varanasi. I was feeling ill so I opted out. But I had no attachment or desire to. Was happy enough to see Marcus up there.
I have yet to have a seat on a train in India. I think the next train I take will have a seat as Nori is not keen on general class. Marcus seemed to tolerate it quite well.
In what other country will you find a cow in the railway station?
A dog eats from the trash
A cow eats from the trash ten feet away
Upon arriving outside the train station to get a rickshaw into the city of Varansi we are "approached" (nice way of putting it) by about 20 Indians offering us a ride, hopeful we are 'fresh off the boat' and have no idea how much to pay for a rickshaw. As the offers from all directions start to come down I start yelling out like an auctioneer "We have 100 rupees! Do I hear 80? 60?" We ended up paying 20 rupees for an hour rickshaw ride squished among nine other Indians to arrive safely in Varanasi.
Stay tuned for some nice pics of Varanasi taken from the water.