Category Archives: travel

Contributing to the Community

I saw a doco about a man who paints on walls.. he painted in Vanuatu and there he contributed to the community. He painted a wall in a very obscure place – far from the tourist walks. He paints big walls in big cities, but this small contribution warmed his heart and here he understood the value of small.

I know a lady her name is Barb – she lives in South Freo.. she is the Queen of her street and she contributes to her community. She welcomes all the newcomers and corrects the spelling on the street signs. She makes a difference.

Sometimes we think we have to do great things – but in fact it is the ‘small things’ that add up to all the community faces joined together in a kaleidoscope of connection.
The street gardens, the soup kitchens, the one who simply refuses the plastic bag and so awakens the check out person to the possibility of a sustainable land. Making a difference.

People say to me.. ‘Oh you are so amazing.. you give up so much to go to India to do your work there.’ And me.. I shrug my shoulders and I am grateful that I am recognised for what I do.. for if I was not .. I would be not telling the truth.. but I know that what I do is no more than what you also do in your own way as you walk in beauty in this world.

For this is what the game is.. what the aim is ..
what the purpose is..
simply to walk in beauty as we do our daily life.

So India.. what is that about for me?
How can I tell you the joys it brings, the difficulty it is to be there sometimes, the special moments – the smile of the old lady where I buy my evening banana – the stares of those who wonder what on earth this old lady is doing in their land.

I often ask myself:  “What am I doing here?”
And the answer is that here is my heart. A split heart I have. One heart – part of it… is embedded deep in my family and my lover and my friends in Fremantle Australia.. but the other part .. somehow an older part – is in India.

I board the plane – leaving from Perth – stop over usually in Kuala Lumpur.. not there yet.. but when the next flight comes – and we are heading to Bangalore – at least half of the passengers are Indian.. and suddenly I am feeling almost home. Home to this place where I don’t even speak the language.. home to this place where I need to change my dress entirely to fit – home to this place – this place of simplicity and complexity and a culture far from my own.

Touch down.. I am back – the smells wash over me, the sound, the chaos, and the knowing that I am home. I haggle with the taxi driver, and I get ripped off anyway because that is par for the course on your first night in India. Ah the over night hotel… fortunately I know this one and it is reasonably clean.. I sleep – I wake to Indian breakfast – spicy dosa and milky tea. And the journey begins.

I will spend the day with my friend in Bangalore -she will feed me delicious food, thinking as she does I must be half starved after being away from proper Indian food for so long.. and tonight board the overnight bus to Hubli.. my place of choice. A dusty and noisy three tier town as they call it.. meaning simply .. ‘not too developed!’ Here are the ‘boys’ I work with .. a very male oriented office.. the NGO .. not for profit – working with farmers .. helping them harvest rainwater to ensure they can remain on their land for another season provided there is some monsoonal rains this year.

It is uncertain times – those who talk of global warming being a myth do not live in rural India. There is no question of it here. Where changing weather patterns are bringing disaster to families – to whole villages left without any water to drink in the long hot dry season. Creating a migration equivalent to those of war torn lands.. a migration to the city in search of elusive jobs.

But that is another story – and yes it is the story I follow with my work – but the day to day of my life in Hubli is that of connection with the young men who are dedicated to this work. The work of the water.

We joke, we laugh, we chatter and we drink chai and in between we write budgets and discuss heatedly how things should or could be done. I try to step back out of my bossy western ways and listen and fit my thoughts together with those of the Indian way.

Sometimes it works, sometimes I help, sometimes the western way tempered with some patience – adds some value and sometimes I have to step right back and re- look at the way I am .. at my impatience and sense of ego! For sometimes that is really what it is.. “I am the one who is working here.. I am the one who can focus and get things done.. you lot simply mess around and don’t really know what you are doing .. and read the paper and talk endlessly on the phone.. but I am the one who is working” … ha ha ha ha…

Yes Shazar .. and they are the ones who started all this.. who know because they are the ones who lived in the village .. who understand what it is to have no water.. who know how it is to be unable to send their children to school for lack of the money for a notebook and pencil. They are the ones who understand the value of community ..
not you..

You who come from the land of more is better – the land where often people will walk past you on the street with their noses down – not a glance for the ‘stranger’. And so once again I step back into my ‘box’ breathe – and thank the forces who have brought me to this land again – for I have been here many lives – but this life it is the time to learn again what is humility – what is gratitude, what is giving, what is true generosity, for this is what India has to share with me.

And finally to understand the value of the small things that are scattered throughout the day stitching this life together to make a difference.

 

The Way It Is

I’m not going to say ‘only in India’.. but sometimes that phrase does feel appropriate and today.. well – I had interesting experiences at the carpentry shop!

We are in a big town called Nizamabad – staying at a lodge right in the middle of the market area.  The Deshpande Foundation conference is happening day after tomorrow .. and we have come for that.  I am happy – we have found a lodge which is not only cheap but also clean.  Joy.

So today after lunch downstairs – which got invaded by 12 Indian Ladies having a ‘kitty party’ and making an incredible racket while playing some sort of bingo type numbers game – we headed off through the street markets.  We were on our way to  supervise the building of a wooden model of the bore well recharge process.

The carpenter shop was a small structure filled up with bits of wood, and rough sawdusty chunks of shavings.  Out the front partially on the street lay the beginning of our ‘model’.

I asked Sikandar – ‘Do you have a drawing’ – he looked at me and grinned and said “Yes” but I immediatley knew the drawing was in his head!  He said pointing to the young man who was busy chiselling out a chunk from a board – “I transferred it to his head”.   And so he had.. and the model continued to grow.

I was given a chair and perched there between the shop and the fairly potent drain – played on my phone and watched proceedings.  The ubiquitous chai came – delivered by a small man who when I smiled and thanked him, broke open into a beautiful reply smile.

I caught that one in my head.. not on my camera!

But now its getting too hot.. the sun is sinking and the rays are full into the shop now – so .. the head guy picks up two of the hand made chairs – carts them across the road to a space – plonks them down and invites me and Sikandar to sit there.. across the street in the shade.

The perfect spot to view proceedings.  We sit there watching the passing parade who by the way are also watching us.  The weird foreign lady and her companion – sitting as though in their living room by the side of the busy road.

And the model grew and a couple of hours later it was declared complete and  a success.  Drawings or no drawings – it turned out the way it was planned.  Sikandar and I headed off to find me a new pair of sandals… another story.. for another day.

 

Been Wandering

I’ve been around and back again – doing my annual wander with my Soul Journey friends – this year the journey was called Ancient Masters – Modern Prosperity and we went to Italy and Greece.

But first we did an incredible cooking class in a Tuscan Villa – what a gift that was and especially for me as I had the opportunity to revisit my ability with Italian – talking to the chef! That was fun and very surprising for me that I recalled as much as I did.  But the brain is strange as once I got into the groove of it suddenly I could understand so much more.. and when I first entered the kitchen in the morning – there was nothing there! Go figure how do our brains really work?

img_0490-smallAfter those days we met with the rest of the group and started the adventure – Rome – Vatican – Pompeii – Amalfi Coast – but it wasn’t until we reached Athens and visited the Poseiden Temple perched high up on the cliffs that I really entered the Soul of the Journey.

poseiden-templeBeing in Greece we were immensely fortunate to have a guide who had a real understanding of the difficulty that the people there are facing in this time.  She clearly enunciated a saga of attack on their economy and their way of life – orchestrated by those in power who would create a One World Order and chip away at our rights and lives.  It distressed me greatly to hear the depth to which this has gone in Greece – and to see as she was telling her story – that this was a plan that encompassed all of us, not just the Greek people but also those of us living in the so-called Lucky Country of Australia.

But I have to say that as the journey progressed and we were shown the glories of the past of Greece that it seems to me that this spirit that the Greek people have shown so many times in the past can rise again. Seeing their triumphs and their glorious acheivements only serves to show the resilience of our Spirit and the possiblity that we have to be strong in the face of any and all adversity.

So I would call on us all to open our eyes, and look truthfully at what is happening in our own lands, make the stand for freedom in all respects, and be very aware of the insidious means of control that is being perpetrated on us all.   Turn off your tv, cancel the daily newspaper, don’t get sucked in to the fear mongers and the nay sayers.  Let’s live our lives and take a lesson from the wondrous spirit of the ancient culture of Greece and hold the hands of their famous and all powerful Gods as we walk into our future with our heads held high.

 I stand for freedom and for being a Citizen of this incredible Planet Earth – and for building our community at a local level so we may have friends to support our vision.  Will you stand with me?

 

The Gift of Fear

It is said “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

How many times in my life have I had to do that?

It never stops – it doesn’t change, confidence is not a birthright, or something you put on and leave on – it is to be stepped into each time a challenge arises.

The gut butterflies, the unknown possibilities of failure are always there – This morning I want to go to the ISKON temple – but my nervousness is holding me back. The thought of getting on the bus here in Hubli India – and all that entails.

“Will I have the right money on the bus, can I understand the ticket guy when he asks me something? Will I miss the stop? When I get there will there be somewhere for me to sit comfortably?  Will I remember the name of the college stop when I get the bus back?”

I could laugh so loud at myself for these incredibly ridiculous fears that loom so large, but they almost bring tears to my eyes.

How many times in my life, as long as it has already been, have I stopped myself from doing something I set out to do because the butterflies turned into vultures in my stomach?

And how many times have I leapt past the beating of their wings and found the exultation of action?  Such small things sometimes with such profound results.

We may consider that great acts of courage are what builds our character – but what of the small acts – no less significant?  The daily step upon the path which takes us out of our comfort zone and past even the minute but looming mountain in our way – these too build and strengthen us on a daily basis.

Do they become less, do the challenges reduce in size, does the experience of moving beyond change the landscape?  I don’t think so.

But the spirit inside of me knows – “I can do it.”

Once I climbed a rope ladder up the side of a ship in Antarctica.  If I could do that when everything in my being was screaming at me that it was impossible – then today I can step beyond this fear of boarding the local bus in India and being able to arrive safely at my destination.

the bus

So today I tell myself again – feel the fear but do it anyway – the butterflies are my friend – there simply to remind me to tread lightly – to be aware, to know I am in a strange land and it is no time to be on ‘automatic’.

That’s the gift of the fear – it is the gift of staying awake – being present – being in the here and now.  Whether it is climbing a rock face, or boarding a bus to an unknown destination – or bringing your most cherished project to the boss for approval, its all the same thing.

The key is ‘presence’ – being present – given by the gift of fear.

 

Where People Smile from Their Hearts

Landing in India late in the evening – as usual the Passport Control guys were a bit grumpy and authoratative.. but that’s their job.  I didn’t have the exact address of where I was going so that caused a little “humphy-ness”.. but once that was over – all else was easy.

Yes I got ripped off.. or should I say I allowed myself to be ripped off by the taxi tout outside the airport.. and probably paid at least $10 more than I should have for the ride to the hotel.  The driver had an ancient car, had no fuel and we had to queue at the gas station  and he got lost.. ha!  so what.. we drove a little.. and saw the sights .. not that they were so attractive in the industrial messiness of the airport area.. but finally we found the bright lights of the Orange Suites Airport Transit Stay buried in the back tracks and he dropped me off.

I paid him less the toll fees – that had remained unmentioned .. “Oh madam I am a poor man” he said with a smile…. “yes” I said .. “I know .. but I will be a poor woman if I pay you all you ask!!” and off he went laughing.

And into the hotel.. 5 ‘boys’ waiting for the luggage..

The one who escorts me up in the lift wearing a bright blue T shirt that just makes him look like an Adonis .. I compliment him on the colour and his face lights up like a gem..

Oh the place of the easy smiles that come with the heart.. this is India.. I do so love this land of crazy intensity – noise, dirt smells, garbage and people that grab your heart and expand it to encompass the world.

And my hotel.. oh lucky me.. I scored a good one.. its a one star trying hard and succeeding to be a 3 star.. a hairdryer no less!!  and clean .. AC and a fan.. hot water.. what more can a girl want for only $24!

india hotel