Sunday, January 27, 2008

A hot ashram minute...

Here is catch up of what the last couple weeks in the ashram has been like. I am adopting a form of writing from friend Benjamin (or Friendjamin), calls memory logging, which is bulleting points that you want to remember without excessive ellaboration. Here it goes:

0. Came home to bitter cold, much more bitter than before we left. The other day it was -6 degrees. It actually snowed a little bit the other day and I joined the kids in catching snowflakes on my tongue.
0. My friends Rose and Ben, have really taken to the Ashram. I had rarely seen Rose who spent most of her time with the teachers and children. When she left she that she really wanted to come back and enjoyed her experience.
0. Two of the teachers left! Without even a goodbye. Minnie went back to Kerala, which is a shame. Also, Sanjay left for good, I think he was getting some pressure from his friends and family to leave. In an extremely patriarchal area like the Indian countryside, men are only men if they have good jobs and a family, which isn't the life one leads while teaching in an ashram school and meditating most of the day. We all loved the guy, but it was apparent that his heart wasn't completely into it.
0. But Sanjay sister, Sangeeta, who is teacher and probably the cutest thing on earth, has stayed, thank god. We taught her a call and response line from a rap song from Plastic Little: B and C: "yo sangeeta, what time you think it is.' S: 'I think it is rap o'clock.' B and C: 'rap o'clock on the dot.' Oh, the precious moments that we cherish.
0. Sanya, on of our beautiful dogs got eaten by a leopard! Actually the day I left, there was a lot of blood on the playground, but we usually lock up our dogs at night, so I thought she might of been spared. I really loved that dog and almost cried when I heard the children devoid of any emotion, say, 'oh yeah, sanya got eaten.' This is especially sad, because undoubtedly she was pregnant having gone through her first season in heat. I think we all earned playing with those puppies from having to endure all of the gross feral dogs milling around moaning hysterically for that terrible terrible month. But we miss you Sanya, rest in peace. (note: we still have her hyper happy brother Lara to keep us company)
0. To add to the danger, Shanti didi told me that five goats in the village directly under the ashram were eaten by tigers! I am pretty sure that there are no tigers in the mountains, but the is an ongoing debate in the ashram about the differences between the leopard that ate sanya and the tiger that ate the goats. In all honesty, I think tiger means bigger leopard. But lots of things are getting eaten these days, I am trying my best not to be one of them.
0. Oh and another indicator of the daily danger that I live in: I got hit by lightening the other day...I think. There was this beautiful thunder/lightening storm where these clouds descended over the mountains covering us and turning the sky this bright yellow. Then the clouds started to sour, bringing forth some of the most brilliant lightening and most powerful thunder that I have ever experienced. Ben and I were sitting in my room chatting and listening to the thunder when we saw a flash of light with a crackle of thunder simultaneously. My body seized up, leaving a nasty headache and we lost power. We immediately and inexplicably burst into hysterics, then went to the roof to watch the carnage. It was pretty neat.
0. All of the girls in the ashram are making hats, meaning ben and I will be the recipients of at least 6 hats each. There have been weird politics around the hats and who makes it. I wish I could get inside the gaggle of giggling girls heads, but it appears that if a girl has a crush on the boy than they will make them a hat. This terrifies ben and I, so we have devised a schedule where we will wear each of the hats only once a week as to not lead anybody on.
0. Ben and I have introduced basketball to the kids, there had been a hoop in the back of school that no one used, but we urged them to move it onto the concrete patch in the front of the school. There had been a basketball explosion it is all that the kids wanted to do. They played so much that within the week, the basketball hoop had fallen off the backboard. And some of these kids have such amazing textbook shooting form without any instruction it is quite amazing. As an added benefit, the basketball court provides a forum for our extreme packing of kids shots and basketball domination, which in turn makes us feel more like men.
0. One goal of mine has been that by the time I leave, I better be able to make chapatis (north indian flat bread, essentially their fork) like a 75 year old grandma. I am well on my way, I can now roll the perfect chapati. The problem now is making the chapatis puff in our wood stove, my mostly burn instead of puff, but I got five more months to hone my craft. Ben has become chapati ball rolling king.
0. I discovered that there is a baker in town! He is a really kind man and his biscuits are amazing. I wish that I couldn't say that I have eaten a whole bag of those delicious morsels in one sitting, but if I did it would be a filthy lie. We also asked him to make a chocolate cake for the other fellow megan's birthday, and the results were much more than we expected. The cake was actually much better than most of the cakes that I have had in the US. The bakery has become a necessary stop whenever I go back to town.

The mentioning of Ben transcends bulleting lists. Ben is in the middle of his month stay and it has been great. At the request of my mentor, he has brought some great recording equipment which we will be using to recording the children's songs for a cd project that we are working on. He has been at working on trying to familiarize the teachers with the equipment recently. Ben has also brought his creativity, song writing abilities, and positive attitude which has been greatly appreciated. Ben has been writing songs for the kids that are mindwarpingly catchy, and immediately are adored by the children. For a recent program that we put on for the children's parents, the kids sang his song and created a dance for it. Equally adored is ben, the man, by the children, they affectionately call him Edge ji after their favorite WWE wrestler. Also Tall boy + blonde hair+ sense of humor +musician = heart throb for Indian women. I think the girls in the ashram have internalized this formula, elevating ben to dreamboat status.

Having a good friend like ben around has been really great for me personally. His creativity is contagious and he definitely brings out a good side of me and the comfort of having a good friend around reflects on my other relationships in the ashram. Although this is not to say that there was a distance between me and the others in the ashram and the children previously, To a certain extent, I feel like I develop friendships dependent of the person I am interacting with, and from the lens of these various friendships I might appear slightly different. Obviously, in developing relationships with the Indians I have encountered a few boundaries due to language and differences of cultural experience, but nevertheless, I feel very close to them. But having Ben around, I feel like I have been able to act a bit more like good old friends know me as, more of what I perceived myself as, more relaxed and a bit more humorous, which I feel that I haven't been able to adequately convey. I feel that having ben around has definitely help to deepen my relationships with those in the ashram as well with the children.

Anyways its good to be back.


Katie said...

"His creativity is contagious and he definitely brings out a good side of me..."

love it. love this post. you are so awesome, chad. enjoy your many hats!

jimmy jimmy said...

this is the best, chad.