Repeat lessons from India

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January 17th 2014
Published: January 17th 2014
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Back home again. But this time not alone. I am sharing my home with Thomas, who claimed it as his home a few years ago as well.

We are in Varkala, Kerala. Enjoying the sun, the ocean and the delicious food. Although we have quite a different idea of what delicious I drag him to my touristy restaurants with a great view of the ocean to eat my orgasmic cheese naan (gooey cheese ozzing out of the fluffy bread...mmmm) and when he's had enough he pulls me in the other direction to the small, dirty, smelly local joints in town for Keralan thali...rice, parotta, vegetables, dal and sometimes a fried banana for dessert. For a third of the price (80 cents). Its a nice balance. We drive to town on our rented scooter and feel a little less like tourists for an hour, eating with the locals instead of surrounded by white people, who don't act or dress like they are in India.

In Varkala, white skin is jumping out of skimpy, tight clothing...unheard of in "real" India. People get away with it here because there are not so many Indians...most of the shop owners and waiters are
Local keralan thaliLocal keralan thaliLocal keralan thali

Eaten on a banana leaf
Nepali, Bangladeshi, Kashmiri or even volunteer tourists. They are familiar with the tourist industry and used to ass cheeks hanging out of Brazilian-style bathing suits. Somewhere else in India your skin would be groped from so many directions you wouldn't even know who was touching you!

So, on occasion we step out of it...dressed appropriately of course...and remind ourselves where we are.

I realized today, that when I'm in Canada and talking about India, I am aware of how much it teaches me. Although the lessons are hard to take, I learn every year to surrender, to accept and not to indulge in this western attitude of entitlement. Not to get caught up in what I see other tourists doing or how they are acting, because I know many of them are here for a 2 weeks vacation and have no idea that the culture begs them to act accordingly. To dress appropriately, to abide by the rules of bargaining and to accept that you will never get what you expected out of the food or hotel. The secret actually, is that you will get so much soon as you get out of your own way and open up to what is here, rather than what you expected from the promises in the embellished tourist website.

Somehow being back in India, I just became aware that I've forgotten all of that.

Being here as a foreigner, certain things are provided for me that not even the locals enjoy...meals cooked for me, entrance into the pool at the resort next to me, a rickshaw waiting outside the hostel door to take me anywhere I want... And I easily forget that I'm not exactly getting the treatment I see coming. it might appear as though i am treated like a queen with all this opportunity ahead of me, but the reality is, I will not get the same treatment here as I would if all those luxuries were coming to me in Canada. So when the meal comes not exactly as I ordered, or the Internet connection freezes even though I just paid (only $4) for 2 months connection, or I don't get the exact room I want in the building, I get cranky. I forget everything India taught me last year and start acting like an entitled princess again. I expect that if I complain to the chef he'll cook what I want next time. I expect that if I throw a mini tantrum my preferred room will magically become free. In the end, I just piss off the chef who continues (maybe purposely) to serve me whatever he feels like cooking and I only build anger inside myself because the people occupying my room will not vacate it just because I'm obnoxious. You might get what you want in the west when you complain enough, but in India customer service just doesn't exist. The answer instead is to drop your expectations, to enjoy everything you get and to surrender rather than need to be in control.

Hhmmm I wonder if this year I'll be able to remember this!

Additional photos below
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A tree hut at Shiva GardenA tree hut at Shiva Garden
A tree hut at Shiva Garden

The most basic accommodation here, for $5 a night

17th January 2014

Great to hear from you
Hope you are still thinking of guiding some of us into a non-princess journey to India. Enjoy each moment and feel well. xo Angi
20th January 2014

Your text brought back many memories of strange habits, rules, and tastes. Although the culture is not quite as exotic in Paris, it is different than at home and when I lived there (now many many years ago) I experienced some of the same feelings you are having in India. Follow local customs, don't expect things to always be the way they are at home or the way you expect, and be open to new things and new ways. Go with the flow, don't teach or (worse) preach. Only by living in and being open to a new place can you learn this and profit from it.

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