Amritsar

Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Ram Das, it is home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Spectacular Golden Temple.

The Holy City of Amritsar….

The train ride to Amritsar was on time at least. My train into Agra managed to be 4hours late. I don’t understand, but apparently this is a normal thing in India. I was in a top bunk this time in 3AC which was nice in a way because people didn’t bump into you and you were more or less succeeded in your own little space. However you need to be an acrobat to get into and out of your bed. Nevertheless, I had a great sleep, and woke up ready to face Amritsar. My recommendation for anyone is 1AC, its roomy, cleaner, and usually quieter.

Train station was less crowded then the other ones Ive been too, and it was relatively easy to get a taxi, and thank goodness he spoke english and knew exactly where my hotel was. Along the way he tried to get me to change hotels, cause the one I was at was very far away, and not for tourists. I explained I had people waiting for me there so continue on. Im sure he was mad he wasn’t getting a commission but that is not my problem.

Big thanks to my Sister and her friend Harvi, who got me in touch with his parents who where in Amritsar. We had a lovely time and shared two great evenings.

My first night in Amritsar I checked out that border crossing ceremony, which was the strangest thing I have every seen. We were separated by genders and I guess I was supposed sit in a VIP/Foriengers section but I guess I missed that sign. Anyway, it was like a bollywood Flashdance, with a Dj, and loud music and tones of people dancing and running around with the India Flag.

The next day i toured the Golden Temple which was spectacular. It was magnificent to see in person and see all the devout people participating in prayer and ceremony. The Temple itself is of Hindu and Islamic styles of architecture, and the golden dome represented and inverted lotus flower, a symbol of Sikh devotees aim to live a pure life. Also in the square is a tree that id completely dead, however it continues to produce leaves and fruit, the tree is supported by steal cables and beams.

Also checked out the Jallianwala Bagh site where a massacre occurred on April 13, 1919. 5000 Indians were holding a peaceful demonstration and Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer returned to the city and with 150 troops opened fire on the crowd killing more than 400 people and another 1500 wounded. This area is surrounded with high walls, and only one exit, there was no where out for these people during the shooting. The site is nicely kept, and has some nice memorials for the people that died. This site left me with a heavy heard as we left, I kept imagining what it would of been like to be trapped like rats within the high walls, and panic and mayhem all around you…..

Amritsar was a nice place and although busy (like most of India) it was a lovely way to spend the remainder of my time in India . Mr. &Mrs. Mahli were amazing and were terrific to spend some time with chatting and sharing a meal. Thank you!

Well that is India in a nutshell, I will sum out the whole trip when I am completely finished my journey. But I have to say I loved India and am so happy I went and experienced all that I have. India is not for everyone that is for sure, and you need to be able to step out of your comfort zone and just be in the moment, because India will eat people alive and spit them out if they allow it to.

Off to Ireland (well I am actually in Ireland now, and writing this a bit late).

Peace and Love

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Varanasi & Agra in a blink of an eye…

The Holy City of Varanasi…

As I continue on my journey through India, I am reminded once again of the good and not so good India has to offer. Several times I was refused a taxi ride to the train station. The security guard at my residence tried with all his might to get me a taxi and then finely he found me one although he wanted to charge me 500INR. At that point I didn’t care if he wanteoou ps 500 or 5000 I needed to be on that train. So with a covered meter we were literally off like a bat out of hell, I truly wish I recorded it because I can not even describe what rush hour traffic looks like let alone trying to get through it on a very very minimal time line… but we made it… literally sat in my seat and three minutes later the train departed… Good Bye Kolkata.

On the train I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am in a berth, with three beds, A/C blowing as always, and a good amount of people. As people come by offering different things I ask a nice young lady in front of me what is being offered (I assume she speaks english cause the book she is reading appears to be in english… this makes me happy). We get chatting and she is such a happy person and we appear to have a lot in common, and talk and laugh for the two hour journey until she departs. I giver her my FaceBook details and I am excited to keep in touch…

My berth is all set up for my journey, and I even took a selfie in the bathroom (that ones for you Jacob… I had to cover my mouth cause it was STANKY) ugh…. (on a side note India hasnt stunk as bad as everyone says… in some spots here and there ya but over all not to bad…

Good-Night

Varanasi has actually been one of my favourite places, it much calmer than Kolkata, and although there is no lack of touts and stares… the history in this city goes back to a time before Christ. It is amazing to see that some buildings are still standing from the early 16th century and earlier.

I stayed in a Homestay and although it was slightly pricy (on an Indian standard) it was totally worth it. Mr.Harish managed everything for me from the tours to even getting my train ticket organized, he even organized my quick tour of Agra, before hoping on my train to Amritsar. He was located only a short walk to the Main Ghat (Assi Ghat) where we enjoyed the evening fire festival.

I did a morning boat ride down the Ganges river and watched the sun rise. It was magical, the river, the city, they were so peaceful. People were walking down to the river to preform there morning rituals, meditations and setting up to complete the laundry for the day. Some shops were starting to open and the tea stalls were almost ready with the morning Chai. My tour guide then took me on an alley walk where we negotiated the labyrinth of alleys and streets. Thank goodness I was with someone because there would be no way I could find my way back.

A overnight train ride which by the way I was offered bootlegged beer on the train, and being a good Irish girl I had to accept, although I was totally ripped off it was the thrill. Rolling in 1st class, drinking bootlegged beer in Varanasi…Checked off my bucket list!!

Once in Agra I was only left me with only one day to explore the city so I hired a driver and a tour guide and got to business. He was very knowledgeable about the city and its monuments. Although I know I got “scammed” I was happy he took me to a jewelry place as I got two very beautiful necklaces (one for my mum) 🙂

The Taj Mahal is a spectacular site to see in person and pictures do it no justice. The inlaid marble detail with semi precious and precious stones, the writing from the Koran, the pure size and construction of this monument is breathtaking. It is to bad that you are rushed through the building and given very little time to take it all in. However I am glad I have got to see this wonder of the world, and I do recommend it all.

Agra Fort was another historical site that I visited, built over 100 years, it has a lot of beauty and wonder to it. I always think what it would be like to be back in time when all these beautiful old cities were vibrant and new, when they were full of life (and war). How people acted, what they dressed. India has got my imagination going, and dreaming. So much left to see in the country and I look forward to coming back and exploring some more. Maybe when its not so hot. 🙂 Not that I am complaining lol

Well with the two beautiful cities of Varanasi and Agra under my belt it was another 12+ train ride to the holy city of Amritsar.

Pictures below are of my Varanasi and Agra adventure… (bathroom picture is for you Jacob, up we were correct the toilets empty onto the tracks… there is a sign that says not to use the facilities while the train is stopped at the station… let me tell you it is not easy for a gal to use the toilet while the train is in motion) lol

Oh Jodi, I think I may have found a potential husband, my tour guide in Varanasi? What do you think? lol

Peace and Love.

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Never judge a book by its cover hey??

As the old adage goes… so I shouldn’t judge Kolkata on my first impression.

First impression, please everyone use your imagination since this may be hard for some of you to actually picture…

Day 1…
Hot (its summer time here, ok I can deal with that +40 day and a cool +37 at night… Leaving the airport in some derby style car race (my heart is literally in my throat, and I am trying to just take in the scenery and not watch the driver, well that makes me slightly nauseous. Seriously… the HONKING, the swerving in and out and around… driving on the wrong side, oh and HONKING HONKING HONKING…. the constant HONKING (Ill post a video just to give you a better perspective). We stop only momentarily as I witness a person tie a band around their arm and literally shoot drugs into her arm… they bobs a little and lays down… oh and we are off to the races again…. the windy pot ridden (or no formal road at all in some places)… Rows and rows of family, children, BABIES (naked) all strewn around the sidewalks sleeping… whole families just camped out on the street, and this is there home.

This place makes me sad. Sad that this is the way humanity in this country are treated. Sad that people have to live like this. And have no choice but to do so or die. The governments don’t care, but how do you help a system that has more or less lived like this for centuries? I wouldn’t even know where to start.

Met my roommate Sue, from Korea. She is a nice young women who is volunteering with Mothers house. She has been a great tour guide, and friend. Since her and her friend Josephine have been here a while we ventured out at night for some supper, and check out the night market.

Got another roommate the other day an Ozzie gal named Brenda, we have been out adventuring for coffee shops and such… even enjoyed some Pizza and a Pizza Hut…. (thanks Michelle for the tip it WAS AMAZING!! oh and the AC was an added bonus)

Day 3
Volunteered today at Mothers House, I was working with handicapped children in the morning and then with the toddlers in the afternoon. At first it was very overwhelming as you were not really given direction, you were handed a cup of water and a spoon and said here “aunty you feed” and were directed to spoon feed warm water to a child. After a while play time started and as the kids got used to us “aunties” being there they started to hold your hand, smile and laugh in there own way.

Its cute how all the kids, even the street kids call you Aunty and want to hold your hand and touch you. Its amazing what the Sisters do with such limited resources and help. In the one room there was over 20 handicapped children and in the toddlers there was 38. Many of the children were abandoned or surrendered to Mothers House due to the sever disabilities. I wish there was more one person could do, but as one of the volunteer coordinators stated it is important to take care of yourself too as Kolkata in general is a very taxing on all your senses, and emotions and then you mix in very emotional and sometimes stressful volunteering it can cause a lot of burn out. I only did one day due to travel times/deadlines, but I would like to come back and work a few weeks with either adults and kids and get a real sense of what the Sisters do and really make a connection with some of the clients.

Final Day in Kolkata…

Packed and ready to go… my roommate and I went to explore the streets and alleys of Kolkata… we went to the rather poshy area called Park Street where we came across a variety of restaurants and bars, there seemed to be less people living on this street as well and very little if not no stray animals. We ducked in to a few alleys and explored some shops and stalls…

Overall Id say my impression of Kolkata has changed slightly however it is a city that takes a lot of getting used to and about a bottle of aspirin,… after a few days my headache has finally gone away…

I have to catch a 2000 train to Varanasi… Im a little excited and nervous to do this train thing by myself… but hey… people do it all the time and are okay… so wish me luck and Ill get back to you all when I am in Varanasi.

Peace and Love

(Pictures below are from a mall we found, Mothers Tomb & Mother House, A graveyard from the 1700’s)

Attached are a few photos since I did not take that many.
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To Kolkata and Beyond…..

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The week here at SWAN has wrapped up and although I am excited to continue on I am also sad to leave as this place is exactly what I needed, and I feel like another week could be very beneficial. But I must move on and explore, I will return to SWAN sooner than later to take in all the full benefits that this place has to offer.

On a side note (and I am not complaining, just making a point) but who knew someone who you could break a sweat while getting dressed?? lol

(April 9 2014) Just as a note I am grateful for my buddy Preben who gave me a rope and taught me how to tie knots and hang the rope as a clothes line it has been an extremely great asset, since by the time I have gone to bed I may have showered 2-3 times some days…I have been able to wash my undergarments regularly to keep things fresh and just hang my day to day clothes to dry out from the sweat…. a MUST have for any travellers whether to a hot or cold climates you will eventually want to hang some thing… 🙂

I have met some wonderful souls here and had some very meaningful conversations. I have done some thinking and realized more what is and is not truly important. I will continue to surround myself with positive WHY? because that is what makes life much more grand. Life here is hard, and we back home take things for granted. We must be kind to each other, and those we meet in passing. Ive learned about discipline and meditation, Ive learned about my body, and my mind and started to work towards how to connect the two better. This is a place I want to come back to very soon.

April 12, 2013

Thank you SWAN; Swami G, Dyaha and all the staff for making this stay beautiful. Thanks to my new Swedish friend Madeline for taking adventures with me and being such a kind soul. I wish you all the best and I hope one day we reconnect either in Sweden or Canada. And to Rosa, you are such a smart and intelligent woman I hope that your journeys keeps challenging you and giving you what you need to continue to fulfill your life, I look forward to chatting again and maybe sharing a chai, or navigating another foreign city with you one day 🙂 “HARI OM”

On the way to the airport in GOA…

OH MY GOD the driving in this country is INSANE!!! and I know I haven’t even it the busy part…. Close your eyes and picture a single lane highway…. double solid line (no passing right?? WRONG!) picture a motorcycle… a car, and a mini bus (in one lane all trying to pass) then the exact same thing on the other side… its like playing chicken…. I seriously might need some Ativan when I hire a car…. it is heart stopping (and everyone is speeding trying to out race each other… YIKES) Francis my taxi driver got me here safe and sound but I swear my heart stopped a few times.

So… can I just say something…. manners in India… NONE EXISTENT especially when your a women… I have asserted myself here a few times already telling vendors and such that I am not interested and so on… but when checking into SpiceJet to head to Kolkata this Indian man just walks right in front of me and was going to check in a head of me… I literally pushed him out of the way and said “no I was here first” he just moved on like nothing. But COME ON! lol Im excited to see how I react in a busy train station… look out international incident lol (keep posted to BBC and send bail money c/o My sister or Bobbie MacNeil…. they are in charge of busting me out!!!! )

Being a women in this country (a tourist women/single) is TOUGH… you have at any given time 40 pairs of eyes staring at you… looking you up and down… laughing… smiling… or whatever…. In some cases I have just learned to smile back… or just ignore what is happening unless they invade my personal space (again send bail money to Bobbi) lol

FYI (Dan Kay) lol Kingfisher STRONG (beer) tastes like a vodka bomb in my beer… dont think I forgot. :p

Something else I learned in India…. The head-bob… mmm usually means I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about maybe… maybe yes maybe no… NEVER TRUST THE HEAD BOB lol

Peace and Love friends & family I truly love and miss all of you. I hope these “stories” give you a picture of what is happening on this side of the world. Please if you have questions or comments Id love to hear them. Its nice sometimes when traveling and WIFI kicks in for a second to have a few messages.

Either leave them here on the blog or email me (keelaghan@gmail.com). for you Iphone users and that have my number feel free to text… FREE 🙂 Thank you Setve Jobs for Imessage.

“HARIO OM”

Lindsay K
xoxooxxoxox

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First Stop… yoga & meditation in paradise

20140408-205040.jpgBIG thanks to my sister, Vicki, and Zann for getting me to the airport, safe and sound :o) Love you guys to the moon and back.

Well the 39 hour journey went faster then i expected and i am glad because when i logged in to the ipad i noticed that the movies i wanted didnt download but the books did. I was not feeling the reading and the movies on the plane were uninteresting. I did noticed that while flying UNITED you did not get complimentary drinks while flying overseas like i have on other airlines… thats okay cause i paid the extra and relaxed in the united airline lounge and had free booze and snacks… oh and the best was a shower. nothing better then feeling refreshed.

I arrived in Mumbai after a gruelling 15.5 hour flight… went through security a bunch of times and then was required to wait several hours before a really short flight to GOA. An hour taxi ride and I arrived at SWAN YOGA RETREAT. First impression, it is a paradise, and I am happy to have arrived and be in this place for the first part of my journey.

Goa: pop 1.5million
area: 3701sqft
It is green, glistening and gorgeous!!!

My room is a cute little thatched hut, with two beds covered in a mosquito net. I have a little gecko that appears to live behind the mirror, I am not to concerned as he will be eating any pesky bugs that come in 🙂

The retreat is quiet this time of year as it is the off season so at the moment there is only three of us here along with some staff member’s. The weather is getting HOTTTTT! average temp. is 34 Celsius with 66% humidity, making it feel more like 44 or so… I understand now why in hot countries nothing much gets accomplished between the hours of 1200noon and 1500 hours… I am defiantly not complaining about it though as I am getting acclimatized to it and am learning the art of doing nothing… very easy when it is hot…

The retreat centre is exactly what I was looking for in doing a yoga retreat.
Schedule: (Fire ceremony every sat/sun)
0600-0625 meditation
0715-0830 asana practice (poses)
0830-0930 breakfast
1200-1300 A specific yoga technique (see below)
(*Yogic techniques:
Antar-Mauna (Inner Silence)
Yoga-Nidra (Psychic Sleep)
SMS (Self-Management of Stress)
PET (Pranic Energization Technique)
Chidakasha Dharna (Concentration on the Inner Space)
Trataka (Concentrated Gazing)
1300-1400 lunch
1900-2000 dinner

The food is delicious and caters to a Ayurveda lifestyle. A holistic ancient Indian science which deals with the body, mind, and soul. It teats man as a whole. Most of the vegetables and fruit are grown right on the grounds, outside my room I have vines of passion fruits growing and a palm tree with a bundle of bananas growing. All I can say is the room is so amazing and the bananas are like nothing I have ever had before.

This place is a sanctuary, and I recommend it to anyone that does not want to spend a fortune on a yoga retreat in India and may not be totally ready for an ashram experience. SWAN YOGA RETREAT

So Ive checked out a few markets while being here, GOA is a very touristy place. And let me tell you Indian storekeepers are RELENTLESS!!! in there selling techniques. I think I am becoming pretty good at bargaining and I really think being in my profession has helped me in my approach in dealing with them. I managed to haggle with this women over a blanket. Its absolutely stunning and will look amazing on my bed however she wanted 2000INR (*$33CDN) I managed to talk her down to 700INR (*$12). She was not letting me walk away from her without me taking that blanket. At some markets I have had sellers follow me around the market continually dropping there price. Basically I just always offer to pay 200INR for stuff and go from there.

Its amazing how hard these people need to work to make a living. And it has made me think and appreciate what we have in Canada. The job I have, even when it sucks sometimes, it is not as bad as selling goods in +44 day after day to make a living. The rights that I am granted as a citizen of Canada and the access to clean drinking water, I am grateful and I am sure my journey across India further enforce that.

My journey will continue on Saturday April 12 where I will be headed to Kolkata. Ill be spending a few days there volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity which was established by Mother Teresa in 1950 to care for people who are in need ranging from refugees, lepers, sick/dying, abandoned and forgotten. I am going here mainly to pay tribute to Mother Teresa and to pay homage to my Grandparents who contributed to her cause.

Enjoy the few pictures. Some are of the retreat centre, markets, the sea side in Goa, and the delicious food I have been enjoying.

Peace and Love my friends and family, I think of you often and send intentions for you during practice.

Next Stop…. Kolkata, India

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