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Kovalam Travel Blog

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On the way to Kovalam. Lovely Trains!

1/8/08

 

Train bound from Trivandrum after a, so far, 24 hour journey from Hampi.  First by rickshaw to Hospet, then by train 10 hours to Bangalore, by plane 1 our to Cochin, by delayed train 5 hours to Trivandrum where I hope to catch a 30 minute bus to Kovalam to try and meet up with Emma, who I met on the train on 12/29/07 going to Goa.  I just dropped Melinda and Jen off in Alleppey at the home stay where Dan and I parted company 3 weeks ago and from where I first went to Trivandrum to do Sivananda yoga, and to which I’m now returning.

 

 

It’s been a huge circle.  After giving up on reading “In light of India” I burned through Lawrence Kushner’s “The River of Light” in 5 days.  Kushner discusses the need for us to “die” before we can be reborn; to enter the eternal “Nothingness” to kill the ego.  Not to eradicate it, but to let it become merely a part of something bigger, like a drop of water in the sea. 

 

For the last week, I’ve been going in and out of self-consciousness, self-awareness, insecurity, feeling ignored and isolated.  It’s the same story you’ve read/I’ve written before.  Examples ~ when I was practicing yoga on the mountain the temple in Hampi with Melinda and Jen.

  Out of nowhere this strange Sadhu Ganesh Baba appears, and after we finish, asked me if this was my first time doing yoga, because “I was all wobbly.”  Suddenly, I’m asking myself whether it looks like I’ve never practiced before.  Another huge ego blow.  I ask the universe, “What are you trying to teach me? Why do you put people and events into my life that seem to belittle me?”  Perhaps today I caught a glimpse of the answer.  “So you can lose your ego.” I heard myself answer.  I retorted, “But I try to be so selfless, unimposing, humble, and insecure.”  And then the answer rang back, “It’s because your ego is too fragile.  You try too hard to protect it and have chained yourself by fear of chipping it and letting in crack full away, too afraid to face yourself without it.
Aman, Malu, Carolina
  “So that is it,” I thought – same old fears in different colors, same old issues.

 

As I sat on the rusty train racing over the tracks with my eyes closed, Mata Amritanandanyai singing through the ipod, humid heat, seat rolling over my face, mind still, body vibrating, I again caught a glimpse of it.  I could feel every life I’ve ever lived, sensed that we all lived, and died and were reborn hundreds of times.  I felt part of everything, part of the train, the metal, the Indians playing cricket, the water, the animals; all interconnected from some proto-DNA.  It’s just a glimpse, a moment, then the mind starts thinking, trying to understand and control to be “aware”, and it’s gone. 

 

 

1/15/08

 

Daily journaling, with all the emotional ups and downs, moments of loneliness, moments of contentment, the myriad of daily encounters, is so difficult to catch.

  And when I focus on the details, I lose the “big picture.”  So, even though, I miss much of the details that make this Indian experience as rich and sometimes trying as it is, I am going for the broad brush approach.

 

Kovalam:

 

Kovalam is four beaches linked together by package tourists, overpriced hotels and food, and beautiful sandy beaches.  I arrived late in the night and wandered around the mostly closed stores and spotty internet cafes searching for a hotel. With the Lonely Planet Bible in hand, I cast back those that called out, “Need a room, I have very nice room. Cheap!”  Many hotels were full, but finally I found Hotel Surya ~ it was up a small alley from the beach.  For the most part, Kovalam plays home to package tourists, groups, and couples.

Stephanie playing photographer
 

 

My first mission, after a quick breakfast, was to find my internet home.  I spent 8 hours uploading a few hundred photos.  The owner of the café was very happy with my devotion!  I completed the photo section at around 10:00 p.m., and headed to the Lonely Planet (vegetarian restaurant) ~ no affiliation with the “Bible.”  After dinner, I went back to my little hotel room and slept.  I had a lot of transcribing lined up for the next day.

 

The next morning, I woke up, took a yoga class right across from my hotel, ate at the German Bakery – had real coffee (always a blessing) and a masala dosai.  I love dosais; they are kind of like huge 12 inch crispy crepes, folded over and stuffed with anything from veggies to fish curry.

Christine, Stephanie, and Aman
   I usually stick to the basic masala which is potatoes, some veggies, and good spice.  The yoga class was taught by Vijay Clement.  He was a very nice, sweet, and thoughtful teacher.  He led mostly a Sivananada style class, so I was somewhat familiar with the routine.  Only one other person joined, a woman I later learned was Australian and traveling with her family. Then I dove into another 8 hours in the internet, transcribing over 100 pages from my journal.  Glad I write big! 

 

During the 2 café days, I had hoped to connect with the cool musician girl I met while on the train.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard from her, and was feeling a bit…”stood up.”  After 8 hours of internetting, I received an email from Lucy, my friend from the Sivananda Ashram.

  By coincidence, she ended up sitting next to Melinda at Greenpalms near Alleppey.  It took them only minutes to somehow figure out the connection.  She wrote me to tell me from Trivandrum, which was only 30 minutes away.  I thought she was going to be in Varanasi, but she ditched the plan due to lack of available airfare.  So I grabbed a tuk tuk, and raced up to meet her and celebrate her goodbye to mother India with dinner.  Seeing her again was a wonderful experience.  We picked up right where we left off, talking of life, adventure, meditation.  Excitedly we danced through conversations, swirling around the universality of existence, laughing, eating fish curry.
After dinner, we wandered the street till we found a little bakery set back from the busy green and yellow rickshaw racing road.  We filled a small box with ladoos and other Indian candies, and caught a rickshaw back to Hotel Mascot (which was by far the nicest hotel I been in since arriving in India) ordered some coffee, and continued.  Lucy left India, and I waved goodbye as she loaded into the Ambassador (a cool 50s Chevy-looking car) and drove off, heading back to England, away from India, and back to the world that eagerly awaited her.

 

I walked out the front door and found a rickshaw back to Kovalam.  It was dark and I was tired, so it wasn’t until 15 minutes into the drive, that I realized the rickshaw had no headlight.

  To compensate, the driver drove along the side of the road, but when he saw oncoming headlamps, he swerved directly into the middle of the road (ostensibly so the other car saw him) then, at the last second, swerved back to the road’s shoulder.  I sat quietly in the back…and prayed.  Tucking back into bed, I thought of yet another friend I watched leave India as I remain.    

 

On day 3, I awoke and took yoga with Vijay.  The Australian woman was there, as was a “new” classmate Ivana.  We all briefly chatted after class over the cuteness of a semi-mangy but sweet beach dog that lived in the hotel where the yoga studio was located.  That afternoon, while still internetting, I saw that my friend emailed me that morning.

  I was excited to meet up with her, and really tired of sitting in the internet café.  We were supposed to meet on the beach, but as it was pretty packed with people and I had only met her once, I did not recognize/see her.  It was a “let down” for coming all the way to touristy Kovalam, being alone, and feeling “cooped up” inside the café.  I decided to make the best of it though, and grabbed my Krishnamurti book, some rupees, and returned to the all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet at Lonely Planet.  (The irony of the name “Lonely Planet” kind of makes me laugh in retrospect.) 

 

As I walked in, I saw that I was directly behind Ivana.  She turned to around, I said, “HI,” but she didn’t hear or see me, and look past me for her group.  So I sat myself at a corner table with my water and my book, and casually read as I waited for my sweet lime soda.

The whole gang on Day 1.
  Meanwhile, Ivana’s table filled with the 10 or so people she was meeting.  Fortunately, her table was on the way to buffet.  Swallowing my shyness and anxiety, I passed by Ivana on the way to fill my plate and again tried to make conversation.  “Didn’t I see you in yoga class this morning,” I asked.  ~ Yeah – I know, that’s all I got~.  But she recognized me and we chatted for few moment.  She introduced me to her group, which turned out to be a group of 8 Canadian yoga teachers.  (What are the odds?)  “What strange luck,” I thought to myself.  They asked me to join, and I eagerly tucked Krishnamurti away for the night and pulled up a chair. 

 

 

Since receiving a hug from the Hugging Mother near Kollam, Kerala, my heart was buzzing, and now it was sending vibrations throughout, as I instantly fell in love with this group.

  Led by Hali, dynamic and charismatic yogini, the group had just finished traveling around India, seeing the sights, practicing yoga when feasible, and enjoying some purchasing power.  They all planned to take the same yoga class the next morning, so after dinner, we simply planned to reconnect in the morning.

 

Morning came, and we practiced.  Stephanie and Carolina decided to go for a post-yoga ocean swim, and I joined.  Then, I met them for breakfast, and later that afternoon, joined them under their umbrella village on the beach. Then met them for dinner. The next day was the same, and that became my routine for the next 5 days as I got to know this wonderful, hilarious, and warm group.  So many innuendos were born during the 5 days we spent together, that an entire journal could be filled with inside jokes.

Yoga in the morning; uhhh - yeah this was not part of the regular class.
  Like childhood summer camp moments, there are so many, so carefree, and so timeless. I cannot find the words to express them, so I apologize to the Canadian Yoginis if they read this, for not doing more to capture our time together!

 

The Canadians totally accepted me as one of their own, and it felt like I had been with them throughout their trip.  We laughed at Indians playing Frisbee wearing ocean soaked underwear.  At the one who kept diving out of the ocean and onto the sand to catch the Frisbee.  We laughed at Christine’s Tilley Hat (which is the only hat I’ve ever seen that came with instructions.  I floated away from the beach with Carolina, past the lighthouse point to see a Mosque across the next beach, while unbeknownst to us, the lifeguards were crazily blowing their safety whistles at us for being WAY too far out.

Neither was this...I'm missing something here...
  I lost a contact diving down to bring up a handful of sand. 

 

For 2 days, Aman, my friend and Vipassana roommate, joined us.  He was working in Trivandrum, and met me on the beach in Kovalam.  Together, all of us did yoga, hung out on the beach, and had dinner.  Aman couldn’t swim, but I coaxed into the ocean and laughed with him as he celebrated life and enjoyed the ocean. 

 

There is too much to say about everyone and everything!!  Too many amusing circumstances, like when the Indian men gave a rub and tug at the waterline to avoid coldwater shrinkage.  Rather than acknowledge the crotch stairs and parade of strutting men, Christine usually just read her book, seemingly unaware of the sex-starved men behind her.

  She was really good at that!  Stacey the man asking her to marry her at the restaurant.  Too many memories, not enough photos!  

 

Mixed in with my time at Kovalam was Alice, the Jewish Ayurvedic Kabalistic dream interpreter, Ali ~ the suave internet guy, and the drum salesman – who just liked to talk even though I wouldn’t buy a drum, and a black eye from a silly boogie board accident on a small close out wave.  It was a colorful week!

 

 The days at Kovalam washed over me and I felt only happiness and contentment.  I plan to visit my Canadian Yoginis again; either in Canada or in Panama.

YUMMY BREAKFASTS at the German Bakery
  Fortunately, if finding a job in San Francisco does not work out, I have a backup plan.  I already have been hired as Christine’s Cabana Boy, and I’m sure she will make a wonderful boss and mother-in-law ~ though I wonder if she told her daughter yet.  Since pictures can tell the story as well as I, I will leave it them to tell the rest…

 

P.S. – After I said goodbye, I went to Vijay, who doubles as a travel agent. I tried to book a direct flight or at least 2 flights in one day, to Varanasi.  It couldn’t happen.  So I had to stop over in Delhi, which ironically is where the Canadians were staying before catching their flight.  So the next evening, I made a surprise appearance at their hotel, the Jyoti Mahal and said goodbye again.

  I just cannot get enough of them!

 

Hali stayed behind to visit her mother’s ashram.  She and I stayed up late that night, sipping tea, and discussing her trip, my trip, meditation, yoga and everything in-between.  The next day we shared a ride to the airport and parted, after swapping ipod favorites in the airport.

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On the way to Kovalam.  Lovely Tra…
On the way to Kovalam. Lovely Tr…
Aman, Malu, Carolina
Aman, Malu, Carolina
Stephanie playing photographer
Stephanie playing photographer
Christine, Stephanie, and Aman
Christine, Stephanie, and Aman
The whole gang on Day 1.
The whole gang on Day 1.
Yoga in the morning; uhhh - yeah t…
Yoga in the morning; uhhh - yeah …
Neither was this...Im missing som…
Neither was this...I'm missing so…
YUMMY BREAKFASTS at the German Bak…
YUMMY BREAKFASTS at the German Ba…
SUP?!
SUP?!
Getting more use out of the turban!
Getting more use out of the turban!
Unwelcomed attention from our drun…
Unwelcomed attention from our dru…
Two very cute sisters!
Two very cute sisters!
Bye Bye, this time from Delhi
Bye Bye, this time from Delhi
Sugar please!
Sugar please!
Hali and I at the airport.
Hali and I at the airport.
Enjoying amazing nights with great…
Enjoying amazing nights with grea…
OOMMMMMM
OOMMMMMM
German Bakery really was the best …
German Bakery really was the best…
So sexy it hurts!
So sexy it hurts!
Making the Tilley Hat look Good!
Making the Tilley Hat look Good!
Kovalam
photo by: lrecht