Part 2: Incredible India

Taj Mahal

Last Spring my husband and I set out on a journey to India. It was our first time and we were gung ho on experiencing as much as we could in as many places in under a month. We had no idea the lasting impression it would leave with us.

After traveling there is always a sense of longing to return to that place as the memories are so fresh and your every day at home may seem mundane. But what happened after India was unexpected. It was almost a sense of mourning, like not only did I take a piece of India with me, I left a piece of myself behind. Let’s not get that confused with “finding myself” or becoming spiritually enlightened, as I feel I was on sturdy ground when I arrived. But my eyes and my heart are a little more open now, I can’t deny that. Perhaps it was the generosity of the people, who would quite literally give you the clothes off their back to help you or maybe it’s the ancient history, traditions and religions that I fell in love with.

The moment we walked off the plane we were in Aww, captivated by a land so different from our own. The people, the noises, the colours, the smells; India is Alive!

Arriving in Delhi is somewhat of an overwhelming experience. I remember the moment before we exited the airport doors; I could hear the horns, feel the warm subtropical humid air on my skin, smell the spices (along with sewer and possibly burning garbage), see the colours; Charlie and I looked at each other and I knew we were thinking the same thing, now or never, and we were off. A decision that has continued to shape us, for the better.

Outside millions of people intersect in the streets with mopeds, rickshaws, buses, cars, bicycles, cows, ox carts, stray dogs and goats with little regard to street signs and lane dividers. Somehow, with the help of a horn, this works. After a day or so, you really can’t see it working any other way. It is a well-oiled machine of organized chaos.

You’ll never forget the first time you negotiate your way across 14 lanes of traffic on foot. We learned quickly we were better off to separate and tag along with a group of locals, the whole time I heard my Mother’s voice screaming “Look both ways!”. It’s a scene that seems chaotic to a westerner, but in India it is life, and I can say every day in India I lived my life to the fullest, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow.

Nothing in India happens linearly, I could tell you I went here and did this, but you really wouldn’t see or feel what I felt. Until you stand barefoot on the Taj Mahal at sunset, drink hot chai watching the sunrise from an open air train, be chased by local children on a moped, rush through thousands of people to catch and jam yourself on the train,  and be invited to eat Dahl cross legged on a locals floor you won’t know India.

We spent close to a month traveling 4 states of India by moped, rickshaw, car, bus, train, plane and foot with backpacks in tow. A great part about traveling India was the meetings with strangers who quickly became friends; Whether with fellow Western travelers, impromptu acquaintances on trains and buses, or other tourists at India’s famed landmarks, there was always an opportunity for interaction. We were lucky enough to meet a couple new Canadian, British, and Indian friends. We chatted with local farmers, rickshaw drivers, chai vendors, teachers, Engineers and students; they were all kind compassionate people who were very interested in us and wanted to make sure we enjoyed our trip. I learned quickly not to hold up a map, as you could have to fend off the people trying to help you. They truly are accommodating people. Day to day I witnessed the hard work of all classes in some cases working side by side.

Sometimes, India was challenging. Space, cleanliness, language barriers, cultural differences made every day a learning experience. Each day a new challenge presented itself and each day we conquered those challenges. Whether it was the drought in central India with temperatures in the mid 40’s; hallucinating with heat stroke during power outages and lack of water; a small hole in our mosquito net resulting in Charlie being eaten alive by mosquitos; jumping on a moving train only to realize the man behind me wasn’t my husband- “OH SHIT- Where is Charlie?!” ; and experiencing the first onset of Delhi belly while visiting ancient ruins with no bathroom in site. Moments like these certainly made our trip interesting and often made us laugh. But it was nothing Imodium, hand sanitizer, and a couple deep breathes couldn’t cure. Plus, we tried to follow a “It’s not bad, it’s just different” travel mantra.

Our lessons learned:

  • Never eat steamed spinach under candlelight, you might accidentally eat larvae
  • Never request the top bunk on train travel unless you’re looking for a Turkish bath
  • Brings lots of cash on the train, you’ll buy your breakfast, lunch, dinner and water from vendors
  • When exiting train stations, airports, bus depots don’t make eye contact and keep walking
  • When you leave all technology behind, wear a watch
  • Importance of a Lassi (yoghurt smoothie) daily for digestive health
  • Bring a bandana as a mask on rickshaws
  • The Horn is your best friend

Arriving back in Canada was more shocking than arriving in India; the quiet was deafening and the space felt restrictive. The sound of a horn in traffic instantly brought me back to the streets of Mumbai. It’s amazing how you quickly adapt and things you have been around your whole life can quickly become foreign.

Although this journey was a short one and we were only able to see a slice of the country, we look forward to returning and building more memories; Northern India is calling us.

 

Itinerary:

Delhi, New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmadabad, Panaji, North Goa, Hampi, South Goa, Mumbai

Car rental Service (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur):  Icon India Tours  http://www.iconindiatours.com

 

Elephant- India

All modes of Transportation, Highway Delhi to Agra

 

Sisters

A moment between friends at the Taj Mahal, Agra.

 

CharlieWhistle

Charlie, an eager student.

 

Sabu Dinner

Dinner at Sabu’s- Icon India Tours.

 

Jai Ho

Dance group practicing on the beaches of Goa.

 

River-Hampi

Hampi, India.

 

Vittali Temple-Hampi

Vittala Temple, Hampi.

 

Goats

Goats, Hampi

 

Elephant India

Rajasthan decorated Elephant, Jaipur

 

Monkey

Monkey, Elephant Caves, Mumbai

 

VijayanagarTemple- Hampi

Vijayanagar Temple- Hampi

 

Cow

A new sacred friend, Hampi

 

CandC Goa

Charlie and I, Goa, India

imagesCAUHTFKH

Five reasons to stay off Facebook

My Facebook account was activated in early 2007. I was in my early twenties and Social Networking was the new thing to do. With my Hi5 account virtually dead and my Myspace constantly being ambushed with new bad music from artists, Facebook seemed like a fresh start.

In the first couple years it felt like a mad rush to gather as many friends on your account as possible, including: people you disliked in high school, people who disliked you in high school, family members you never liked, ones you never knew,  child-hood friends you hadn’t seen since just that child-hood and that random friend of a friend you met once and never saw again.

Before I knew it I had well over 500 ‘friends’. How did that happen? I certainly didn’t actually have 500 friends. I think the most I could ever get to come to my birthday was 25 people, so who were the rest of these people? Nevertheless, it was nice to touch base with old friends, keep in touch with family and friends living in distant lands, and even nice to see that B!#CH from High school end up sad and alone. Just kidding, well sort of.

Over time Facebook has changed its banner and a couple other functionalities but generally it is still the same beast with a few less pokes. It’s a place where the world, or ’x’ amount of acquaintances (depending on your privacy settings), get to see your Leave It to Beaver life. You can see someone’s perfect life live out through  Facebook. But generally nothing bad is revealed and no pictures of your bad side are ever posted. It’s a little too idyllic.

So what reality is this? The fact is, although almost 700 million people are using it worldwide, Facebook isn’t for everyone, and people who have put off joining the social network for this long deserve some credit! More power to them.  Because in many ways, they’re actually lucking out over the rest of us Facebook fiends.

Five reasons to get off Facebook:

  1. Someone is always trying to sell you something

We all have that friend or family member that uses Facebook as their marketing platform. Unfortunately, it’s usually for that skin care line or diet plan that you could care less about. It’s like everyone jumped back into Ponzi schemes or multi-level marketing selling (whatever we’re calling it these days) the minute they realized they can advertise to 500 of their closest whatever’s. Of course, some people are interested in a new skincare line or a miracle diet shake made from entirely man-made ingredients, but for the most part we’re all looking at these daily posts and event invites and silently begging for them to stop.

  1. Facebook has  given a voice to that crazy relative  that otherwise you would never hear from

Every so often that crazy relative that perhaps you haven’t seen since you were a child, pops out of nowhere and ambushes your Facebook with comments. Perhaps they’re nice or maybe not, but they usually look like they’ve arrived in the wee hours of the night and perhaps under the influence of a bottle or two.

It may not even be a relative, but I’m sure we all know of that person who is far to bold and quick to comment or share information that is entirely ignorant. Before social networking these people would be kept silent in their lairs. For every one that is deleted, another is born.

  1. In the past week you have taken and posted a picture of:   a) yourself b) your food c) a Starbucks Christmas cup d) yourself holding a Christmas cup e) all of the above.

I have mentioned this phenomena before and most people agree with me. People: stop with the ‘selfies’! Half the time it includes a portion of your arm and a silly duck face, or my personal favourite the look away like you’re not paying attention to the fact that you are clearly taking a picture of yourself.

I am all for confidence and sometimes the pictures are actually quite beautiful, in moderation that is. If they are taken daily because you want us to see that you are hot, well, frankly I’m done telling you you’re beautiful. In fact more than likely I hid your updates a long time ago. Sorry, but look up the word Humble and then we’ll talk. There is nothing attractive about vanity.

Then there is the food and the cup. Really? What is going on or not going on in your life that you saw a cup and thought “OMG, everyone needs to see this?” Again, I don’t want to offend anyone here, but something’s are better left unsaid, and the fact that you had a peppermint mocha at Starbucks yesterday or had the ribs at Montana’s are just that.

  1. You don’t know everyone on your Facebook

You passed someone on the street and thought they look familiar, then you realized you’re ‘friends’ on Facebook. We’ve all had those awkward introductions and immediately added each other to Facebook even though you never plan on hanging out and actually don’t really have anything in common. Like clockwork the friend request pops up and you accept.

Perhaps it’s a case of being too nice but at the time it seems like the right thing to do. The problem is 5 years go by and you’ve never seen them again, but you read their daily posts and wish this stranger a happy birthday every year.

Often people join Facebook to stay in touch, but email and telephone were working just fine. In fact, I actually find I talk to my friends less than before Facebook, as too many people fall back on Facebook  for knowing what I’m up. In my opinion, it creates a false sense of friendship. Let’s get back to those real face to face or face to phone chats.

  1. Facebook causes unnecessary stress

More often than not, Facebook actually makes me angry. If it was just pictures of puppies, babies and funny videos it would be great, unfortunately, a lot of people bring their baggage and ignorance with them. Comments get misinterpreted and before you know it your entire day is back and forth debates and insults which eventually lead to a ‘defriending’. If you haven’t been in one of these, you’ve more than likely seen them go down. Often funny from afar, but never pretty for parties involved.

 

So, am I going to delete my Facebook? Probably not. Where else would I post this link to my blog and my daily plea’s to sign important petitions? Facebook is great for some. For me it is a place where I get to watch my friends and family near and far have babies, puppies, get married and grow. It is also a place where I ask for advice and my wise friends come to my rescue with travel advice, flu remedies, and vegetarian recipes. Where else can you watch the adventures of the Bendall’s!

 

So how do we coexist with Facebook and not drive ourselves crazy? The solution is definitely to spend less time on it and perhaps more cowbell. No definitely, more cowbell!

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1: Why India?

India1

It’s a typical Friday night amongst friends; wine and good conversation.  I announce “Charlie and I are going to India for a month”, the pin drops- cue crickets.

“Why?” someone says.

We will proceed to hear that from friends, family, coworkers and even strangers for the months leading up to and following our trip. Most of our close family and friends were excited for us and those that had been before were envious.  But still there was always that polite bemused expression, suggesting India was not a good place to travel.

I knew India was quit a distance from Canada and not on the Caribbean cruise route, but why such a strong reaction to a place none of them had been?

For the most part, the response to us going to India was “It’s very dangerous there”, I wasn’t surprised, as I have gotten that remark every time I’ve left for trips to Mexico as well. It usually comes from people who spend too much time reading negative stories than listening to positive ones.

I agree that with the recent events regarding the rape in Delhi, that there is a certain amount of caution that one must have; however, I operate myself that way even when I’m walking through a parking lot at night here in Canada.

My Father enrolled me in karate at a young age so I not only knew how to protect myself but also so I was aware that there is a certain level of threat everywhere. If I was that frightened of a threat to my well-being, I shouldn’t leave my house every day.

But the most surprising response was, “Why would you want to see India?” I never knew how to answer that question, as it seemed very ignorant, but I figured there is really no point in trying to explain it to someone who has probably made up their mind about the country anyways. All I can do for those people is share our journey and hope that they will one day want to experience more, there is a big world out there that goes beyond North America.

My fascination with India began in Junior high in Geography class. We were learning about the region and my teacher told me how many people lived in Calcutta (now Kolkata), it was somewhere around 10 million people at the time (now closer to 15 million). I thought to myself- Wow! I instantly wanted to see it, to be in that city and walk amongst the crowds- ironically, I’m a little bit claustrophobic and will usually opt for the stairs over the elevator. But I was fascinated and hoped to see India one day.

Today India is the second most populous country with 1.27 billion people, and research suggests by 2030 they will be the most populous country in the world.

Unlike Canada, which for decades has been majority middle class, India’s middle class is non-existent. Like many developing countries, there is the rich and there is the poor. A country that has everything going for it in terms of culture, religion, traditions, and hospitality has more than 90 million people making under $1 US a day and 78 million homeless.  Obviously India has a lot of obstacles to overcome; non sustainability, social services, infrastructure and corruption to name a few, but what country in the world doesn’t?

Naturally, like any country you weren’t raised in, it takes time to assimilate and acclimatize. But I believe with an open mind everyone will find what they are looking for in India. Explore your spirituality, awaken your taste buds, explore ruins dating back centuries, shop in the local bazaars, sleep in a hammock under the palm trees overlooking the Arabian sea, get invited into a local families home for dinner; the possibilities are endless, why wouldn’t I want to go?

Charlie and I both turned 30 and wanted to go on a vacation, although beach vacations with loungers and coronas are relaxing, we wanted to go on a different type of trip that we’d remember forever. We instantly chose India; it was finally time to experience what I had been waiting for and step outside our comfort zones. So we booked.

In preparation for our trip, I read a lot of travel blogs. We would be backpacking most of the time and had to be diligent about our packing list for the weight of our bags. I gathered a lot of travel advice and read a lot of information on India; I found the majority of blogs talk about the negatives in India- the smell in Delhi, the garbage in the streets and the children begging for money. I could paint you a bad picture and you probably would never go there.

Instead, I’d like to share the five amazing things we experienced. I hope you will see why I hold India close to my heart.

Please stay tuned for Part 2: Incredible India.

Losing Momentum

Brown Loafers

It was one of those days when everything went wrong. Hoping to clear my head after work, I head right for the gym. I got to the change room, open my bag and instantly realize,  I’ve forgotten my runners and my gym socks; #$@%*!

I looked down at my brown loafers and black dress socks, Should I do it?  After much internal debate, I walked out into the gym; Workout shirt, workout pants, black dress socks and brown leather loafers. When I made the decision to work out in my loafers, much of the internal argument came back to me deciding no one would notice. I was sorely mistaken. Rows of treadmills face the change room and by my second step I had made headlines. People were smiling and laughing to themselves, that couldn’t have been a coincidence.

Chuckling to myself, I continued on to the weights.  Most of the people there were really into their workouts, I on the other hand was falling through the exercises like a dead mouse on a wheel. I could blame my shoes and socks, but deep down I knew I’m getting older and lazy. The thought of calling er a day and heading home to a chocolate bar and a movie was looking pretty good.

For the last 15 years, fitness has been a big part of my life. The solitude I feel when I’m swimming, the strength I feel at yoga and the sense of accomplishment after a run is unmatched by any other activity. Working out had always been a part of the day I enjoyed most. When did that change?

A couple years ago, normal anxieties about aging surfaced. I decided if I could not stop time why not get in the best shape I could while it passed. At least it would enable me to be happy with myself inside and out and healthy moving forward.

I turned 30 and started the process. I started a new nutrition plan and started going to a personal trainer. Wheels were in motion and I was off. I had some great results and most importantly felt stronger. Then life got busier and over time my gym attendance dwindled down to almost nonexistent.

Where did I lose my momentum?  Was it when we got our new pup, when I changed jobs and started working 50-60 hour weeks or was it when my Husband took a job out of province and I became a single pup Mother? I guess I could blame all of those things or I could admit mentally I gave up long before any of those ‘excuses’. Of course  all those reasons do make it difficult to find the time and the energy, but it’s not impossible.

So today I’m starting my plan. It’s time to refocus, reconnect and restart. I will use my site as a place where I’m accountable for my actions. If I don’t follow through, I will have to answer to all five of you. If you are like me and perhaps have lost your momentum, follow my plan.

The Workout Plan: Partake in at least 4-1hour sessions of exercise per week. Make it something you like i.e. Yoga, swimming, spin class, weights, running, or come walk my dog!

Eating plan: Make all your own food.  Try and make everything from scratch from local ingredients. It will taste better and is better for you. On Sunday make a meal plan for the week and make sure you have all the groceries you need. Keep a log of everything you eat. (Lots of Protein and Vegetables. Try and limit your fruit intake, as it just turns to sugar in your body)

Duration: 30 days

Cheat: Allowed one cheat day per week, but everything in moderation.

Measuring success: That is up to you. I have a pair of jeans that just about fit. So my goal is to get into those jeans. Perhaps, you want to lose an inch or be able to run 5km’s. That is up to you. But write it down somewhere. Keep your goals in reach. If you have 50lbs to lose, in the first 30 days concentrate on 5 or 10lbs and then re-evaluate. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

This is very general. I have workouts and a meal plan ready to go. If you are interested in following my plan or would like any advice let me know. I’m in no means a fitness expert, but I can certainly help get you going in the right direction.

I hope this push will get my momentum back and yours too. I’ll let you know how I do. Wish me luck!

A Woman in Waiting

Marilyn Cooper

A woman stands tall in her knee high boots and fur coat. Two small suitcases sit in front of her. Her eyes are searching left to right down the street. I notice she’s not at the bus stop and cabs keep passing, What is she waiting for?

Like many others in St. John’s, I only knew Marilyn Young, aka Trixie, to see her on the street. Unfortunately, most of the stories I heard about her were negative. But every so often, I’d hear a story about her that would melt my heart. One Saturday afternoon, I got to meet her.

It was a typical Saturday, myself and my four month old Golden retriever pup Tully were on a walk down Duckworth St. Our walks usually go quite slow, as who doesn’t want to say hello to a tiny golden pup. As we pushed through a crowd of excited children, we came upon Trixie. A true attention seeking golden,  Tully ran right for her. At first I was hesitant, as I was unsure if she liked dogs. She looked right at Tully, a smile came across her face. She was a kid in a candy store. Her face lit up and her and Tully had a moment. In all the years that I’ve seen her around, I had never seen this smile. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I met Marilyn that day, a beautiful happy woman.

It is the simple things in life, like playing with a puppy that make us all the same. I do not know her story and I can’t pretend to understand what her life was like, but these are the things I know for sure about Marilyn:

  • She loved colours, patterns, and prints and strived to be stylish
  • She loved boots
  • She had a way with words
  • She left a lasting impression
  • She had family and friends who loved her
  • She loved Walmart
  • She loved my puppy Tully

Whether she knew it or not, she was a St. John’s legend. Downtown will not be the same without her colourful language and eccentric attire. I hope she has found whatever she was waiting for.

RIP Marilyn Young

Family

Do you need Turkey to be thankful?

Turkeys are thawing, families are gathering, Facebook is filled with posts about what we’re thankful for, it’s Thanksgiving.

Growing up, it was my favourite day of the year, behind Christmas of course. My family would all gather at my Grandparents house, often over 20 of us. My Grandfather would carve the turkey and my Grandmother would prepare her famous scalloped potatoes. The cousins would play outside in fallen leaves and the Aunts and Uncles would drink too much ‘grape juice’. They’re memories I’ll have forever.

Like most recent years, my family is assembling on the West coast. Unfortunately, we were not able to be there. Today, I have my wonderful husband Charlie and our pup Tully. There will be no turkeys carved at our house, instead we are making our favourite Indian dishes- Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken. See my Recipe box for recipes.

Thanksgiving may have changed since I was a kid, but the things I am thankful for have not. Although we can not be with family or friends this year, we are thankful to have you all. Wishing family and friends, near and far, a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Go easy on the grape juice.

 

Can anyone hear me?

I remember this like it was yesterday:

I was working at a retail store in Vancouver. I was on hour 5 of what felt like the longest day of my life. It was a typical Vancouver fall day, raining and not a person on the street. My co-worker, a bubbly busty blonde, runs in to start her shift. Today she’s extra bubbly, “Why the big smile?” I ask, she pulls her laptop out and shows me her new blog. She awaits my excitement… which never arrives, as one, I have no idea what a blog is, and two,  don’t really care.  After she tells me about all the ‘stuff’ she will write about, I’m sitting there thinking,  “ Why would anyone care?” A bit blunt perhaps; but,  aren’t we all a little too busy to be caring about what this stranger is thinking? In her defence, I read her blog once and laughed out loud. It was witty and she always had an interesting perspective. I’d share her site, but like most things in life, time went by and I lost contact. Perhaps today, she’s a blogging sensation.

Her story is similar to so many, and it really does beg the question, “Why do we care?” Between sleep, traffic, work, pets, kids, a life and more sleep; Is there room for blogs and Sally’s opinion on how you should and shouldn’t wear your little black dress? Perhaps, we are all looking for a place to turn off our minds and just be, or a place to write like you did in high school. When was the last time someone said, write 500 words on anything you want. You might be surprised what you write about. It may even point you in a direction that you’ve been looking for.

So my bubbly friend proved me wrong. 10 years later,  I am a subscriber to at least 10 blogs, whether it be recipes, DIY’s, travel advice, fishing advice, the list goes on. Sometimes it’s nice to be inspired by some likeminded individuals who might just be feeling the same way you are.

So, today is my big day. And like my bubbly busty friend, minus the busty, I’m excited because here it is folks, my Blog! Who knows what direction I’ll take it, it might just be a place for ramblings and juice recipes. But at the very least, I hope it’s a place where my friends and family near and far can read what I’m what up to and what I’m eating.

I’d like to thank Mariska Richters (http://mariskarichters.com/blog/) for inspiring me to get this up and running. Recently, she made a big life decision that I think we can all learn something from. I wish her luck on her upcoming adventures.

 

 

“The questions:  ‘What should I wear?’ and ‘What should I blog about?’ beg the same answer – Nobody cares”  ~A blogger