My Modification of the Golden Rule

We’ve all heard the golden rule before:

But what ever happened to the way we treat ourselves? My kindergarten teacher left that out.

Throughout my life, I was always taught to be kind, respectful, considerate, and understanding of others. I learned that in order to succeed, I had to abide by a certain code of conduct. Ideally, if I learned to behave in an acceptable manner towards others, they would do the same for me. In reality, that doesn’t always happen – but I digress. That’s not the point of this blog post…

In the past 2 years, I have had sufficient amount of time to really get to know me and exactly how I function. I’ve learned a lot about myself, both professionally and personally, in a relatively short amount of time. And I would consider myself lucky to have had the time to identify my strengths and weakness. The one thing I’ve witnessed time and time again is my inability to treat myself the way I treat others (but I know I’m not alone here, many people I’ve talked to tend to agree with this statement).

I have endless amounts of patience with others… but I become easily frustrated with myself.

I offer to help others whenever possible… but I rarely offer myself the same solutions.

I dish out my optimism when people feel down… but I am quick to feel bad about my own situations.

I support the dreams of others… but feel discouraged about my own.

I quickly accept and forgive flaws I find in other people… but I dwell upon my own.

And the list goes on.

SO, with all these things considered, I’ve decided I need to make a conscious effort to change my mental patterns and behavior. My golden rule has GOT to change.

What’s my modification of the golden rule?

goldenrule

Simple enough.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but learning to treat ourselves well isn’t something that comes naturally. I am slowly learning to take better care of myself, accept the progress I’ve made, and give myself the patience I so freely give to others.

Who’s with me?

xxx, tmv

Play Date at the Holy Ganges River

Last week, we had the opportunity to go on a class outing for play date to remember: meditating in Vasishta Guha (a cave), bathing in the holy Ganges river, and visiting Neer waterfall. We were all very excited to have the chance to take a break from the strenuous classes and demanding schedule we’ve been following. Our whole class headed out after breakfast to start our adventure…

1-leaving schoolWe drove on some crazy roads through the mountains, with some very steep drop offs, before arriving at our final destination. All was well as long as you didn’t look down :o) Here is the beautiful view of the Ganges River once we arrived!

DSC00481Upon arrival, we went into a cave to meditate and I was very surprised by how cool it was inside! The temperatures have been high the whole time we’ve been here, so it was a welcomed relief to lean up against the cool rocks inside the cave and sit quietly. I immediately understood why people go to the caves to find some peace and quiet! Chanting “OM” inside of the cave was an experience to remember – the vibrations and acoustics were just phenomenal. We were asked not to take any photographs, so I will just have to rely upon my own memories.

IMG_0055After thoroughly enjoying our time in the cave, we all wandered out into the light to go to the river.

2- pre bathThe holy Ganges river is incredibly powerful. It is very cold and the current is very fast – – which is why it’s not recommended for us to swim in the river by our school. The location they took us to was a bit more calm, but we were still advised not to go beyond a certain point. It’s a huge shock to your system to go from the intensely hot sun to the frigid cold water, but we had a wonderful time, nonetheless!

bath timeAnd of course, we are all yoga nerds, so we took loads of yoga and meditation pictures by the river. We just couldn’t help ourselves!

4-yoga time

IMG_0168After playing by the river for a sufficient amount of time, we took off for the waterfall. “It’s only a 20 minute hike”, they said. Although that was true, it was a very intense hike! Dripping in sweat and panting like dogs, we were all overjoyed to jump in the water and enjoy the waterfall.

6-waterfallIt was the perfect play date, yoga and nature. A day I won’t forget!

xxx, tmv

Namaste! Welcome to Shiva Yoga Peeth

Namaste!

namaste

After enjoying our time in Haridwar, we made our way to our final destination: Rishikesh. We hired the same taxi driver to take us to Rishikesh, so travel was relatively easy. He dropped us off at our school, Shiva Yoga Peeth. Upon arrival, we discovered that they had a separate location where our classes were going to be held. So, the next adventure began. We left our large checked bags in the office where we arrived, and one by one, we jumped on the back of a motorcycle to zoom off to our new class location. Mignon went first, while I patiently waited where we first arrived. About twenty minutes later, I received a text from Mignon saying, “Bring your camera on your wrist, crazy ride!”

Our faithful driver came back to pick me up and I was ready to document the madness. We zoomed in and out of people, honked our way through packed streets, and of course, pushed our way through the pedestrian bridge on the bike. I was just amazed at how calm our driver was! Transportation is just crazy here.

The school provided lunch and got us all checked in. Our school is set in a beautiful location- check it out for yourself! We are right on the bank of the Ganga River and have a delightful rooftop view as well. Check it out!

rishikesh

TOP: around rishikesh, pedestrian foot bridge, cows hanging out by the temple; BOTTOM: view from rooftop of our school

Our first day of class was Monday, July 16. We started the day with a fire ceremony. It was a really beautiful ceremony, complete with ritualistic chanting. Everyone introduced themselves and we started learning more about the diversity of our group. Students have come from all over the world to participate in this Yoga Teacher Training Course… some of those countries include: Australia, Germany, Canada, France, Greece, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Sweden, Ireland, Thailand, and of course, the USA. We’re quite a diverse group and at various levels of our yoga practice.

TOP: Group photo after the fire ceremony; BOTTOM: views from our school and part of the fire ceremony

TOP: Group photo after the fire ceremony; BOTTOM: views from our school and part of the fire ceremony

Mignon & I out on the balcony after the fire ceremony

Mignon & I out on the balcony after the fire ceremony

The program is very intense and exhaustive… but very wonderful. Here is what our daily schedule looks like:


 

5:30 AM – 6:00 AM : Kriyas & Mantras (M,W,F), Silent Meditation in own room (T,R,S)

6:00 AM – 7:00 AM: Pranayama & Meditation

7:00 AM – 7:15 AM: Tea

7:15 AM – 8:45 AM: Ashtanga Yoga

8:45 AM – 9:30 AM: Breakfast

9:30 AM – 10:30 AM: Philosophy

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM: Self Study

12:00 PM – 12:30 PM: Lunch

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM: Self Group Practice

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Free Time

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM: Anatomy

4:30 PM – 6:00 PM: Hatha Yoga, Alignment & Adjustment

6:00 PM – 6:30 PM: Tea

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM: Pranayama & Meditation

7:30 PM – 8:00 PM: Dinner

8:30 PM – 9:30 PM: Group Discussion & Yoga Movies (Optional)


Our days are VERY FULL. But surprisingly rewarding and (depending on the day) even rejuvenating :O) We’re learning a lot. And sometimes, if we’re lucky, we even get visitors who come into our yoga hall to join class. Thanks to Mignon for capturing these photos…

an extra classmate

an extra classmate

We are staying plenty busy with our training, attempting to process our transition away from Botswana, and preparing for our lives in America when we return. We laugh quite frequently, as we have found it’s the best way to get through it all. I couldn’t ask for more at this point!

xxx, tmv

 

 

 

I Get By With A Little Help From Mignon

India got the best of me. Despite trying to take extra precautions to avoid getting sick, I still wound up in the hospital. Here’s a brief account of what happened…

On Wednesday of my first week at Shiva Yoga Peeth, I developed a really bad headache. I wasn’t too concerned, since it has been very hot and I could have easily been dehydrated. But later that afternoon/evening, the diarrhea set in.

For the first 24 hours, I had what I’ll call “normal” diarrhea. But between 24-48 hours, I had constant, watery stools 1-3 times an hour. Needless to say, I did not have the strength to go to class on Thursday. As I lay in bed feeling miserable, my dear friend Mignon, ran back and forth between class and our room to check on me. Luckily, sharing a room made it a lot easier for us, but she still came during each break to bring me tea, oral rehydration salts, and some bland food to try to keep down.

On Thursday evening, we decided I really needed to get to a doctor, so the school made arrangements to take us the next morning. After a several hour delay, we headed out to a government hospital, strapped onto the back of a motorcycle.

Yup, a motorcycle.

Driving a car across to the other side of the river is not an easy feat, and the school just had motorcycles on hand. I sincerely didn’t care and all I wanted was to get there, so Mignon and I shoved ourselves onto the back of the bike and made our way to the hospital with a guy who works for our school.

trip to the hospital via motorcycle

trip to the hospital via motorcycle

Upon arrival, he helped us get checked in and guided us to the proper waiting room. Thank goodness for our friend who helped navigate the hospital, because Mignon and I really wouldn’t have known where to go or who to talk to.

the joys of an Indian government hospital

the joys of an Indian government hospital

My visit with the doctor was very short. He didn’t seem fazed at all about my condition – surely he sees plenty of foreigners with diarrhea, so I wasn’t such an exciting case. I asked for antibiotics, but he refused. He insisted that it was better to take pre & probiotics, so I walked out with doctors’ orders I wasn’t anticipating.

We left the hospital, hopped over to the pharmacy, and picked up my probiotics, paracetamol (for my fever that had been spiking at 102o F), and more oral rehydration salts. Our lovely friend dropped us off safe and sound back at the school and I proceeded to sleep more.

Little by little, I began to feel more like a human and started to attend class again. I sat out in the yoga classes, just observing to learn more about alignment, but I was able to stay alert enough in the lecture style classes.

I am so grateful for everyone’s concern, both here and across the globe, about my recovery. I’ve gained back about 5 pounds that I lost and I am definitely doing much better than before. I wouldn’t say that I quite feel 100% again, but I am certainly happy that the diarrhea has been going away and I am able to return to a normal state of being!

And a big heartfelt THANK YOU to Mignon for keeping me laughing the whole way through this. She knows way too much about my bodily functions, praised me for all my little improvements (while eating a banana when my appetite came back.. “look at you, you’re showing off!”) and nursing me back to health. Mignon, I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m a lucky girl to have a friend like you!

the lovely mign, who was the greatest nurse

the lovely mign, who was the greatest nurse

are you two sisters?

are you two sisters?

Everyone here is convinced that we (a) are sisters or (b) have known each other our whole lives. Neither is true, we are just two good friends, fortunate enough to have met in Botswana!

And of course, no post about life here could be complete without a monkey story. During my course of treatment, Mignon and I were sitting out on our back balcony eating bananas and drinking tea. I had my medicine outside to take with my food. As I was eating, our monkey friend came to join us. I tried to throw him the banana peel, but he went for something else: my pills. He promptly grabbed my medicine, poked out a pill, licked it, and decided it wasn’t tasty. He just sat there, dumbfounded and upset, wishing we had better treats for him. :O)

probiotic monkey

the probiotic primate

Cheers to better health!

xxx, tmv

Full Moon Festival on Friday the 13th

After our adventures in Delhi, we were off to our next spot, Haridwar! We said goodbye, without looking back. Neither of us were thrilled about the big city, the hustle and bustle, and people trying to pull one over on us. Thank you and good riddance, Delhi. We’ll see you again on our way out…

the alley to our hotel, streets in new delhi, the main bazar

the alley to our hotel, streets in new delhi, the main bazar

We hired a private taxi to take us from Delhi to Haridwar, which we were told would take about 5-6 hours. Mignon and I exchanged some confused looks when we saw signs saying it was only a few hundred kilometers away. Shouldn’t it take less time than that? Well, we soon came to discover that everyone was very correct. There didn’t appear to be any kind of “main highway”… the city just continued. On. and on. and on. We have no idea when it changed from Delhi to another town, but what we do know is this: the streets remained narrow, the shops never ended on either side of us, and the traffic never ceased to be a problem. We laughed, took lots of photos on the drive there, and closed our eyes throughout a lot of the driving to avoid the stress of witnessing the crazy drivers. Somehow, we felt safe and sound in our car marked “tourist vehicle”, and we both managed to get some shut-eye while our uniformed driver continued battling the road conditions.

transportation on our way to haridwar

transportation on our way to haridwar

roadside viewings

roadside viewings

At a time I can’t remember, we arrived in Haridwar. I believe it was somewhere in the early afternoon, so we had plenty of time to check into our hotel, shower, and explore. Our hotel had a small balcony overlooking the main street, so before we headed out, we spent a fair amount of time creeping from the rooftops. Wouldn’t you? Look how many beautiful things we had to look at!….

creeping from the rooftops

creeping from the rooftops

street shots

street shots

The other thing that just touched our wee-lil’ hearts was that fathers were with their children in public. And they clearly loved their little ones. It’s such a rare thing to see in Botswana, as women are usually the primary care providers and men aren’t seen with their kiddos too often. My heart just melted each time I saw things like this…

love & affection!

love & affection!

After we had enough street creeping, we cleaned ourselves up and we wandered around the marketplace. The streets were chaotic and absolutely filled with people. At one point, a man was having a conversation with his friend, drastically raising his arms up to explain something, and promptly smacked me across the face just as we walked by. Shocking? Yes. Hysterical? Even more so. His face immediately displayed fear of my response, but lucky for him – – he smacked an easy going westerner. We were all laughing about it!

exploring the marketplace

exploring the marketplace

From there, we went down the the Ganga River in hopes of witnessing the Ganga Aarti. The aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering… in the form of a beautiful diya. diya is usually a small candle with flowers that is sent down the river. Also, the Ganga River is holy to many, so people come from all over to have a holy river bath. The kids are exceptionally adorable when they are splashing about :O)

Holy River Bath at Ganga River

Holy River Bath at Ganga River

Here are some photos of what the diyas look like… and then they send them peacefully down the river.

Diyas floating along the Ganga

Diyas floating along the Ganga

People tend to hang around the river as well, just relaxing, enjoying each others company, and taking in the surroundings.

beautiful people relaxing by the river

beautiful people relaxing by the river

more of haridwar

more of haridwar

Oddly enough, we also discovered that we arrived in Haridwar on a lucky day. We came on Friday the 13th and it was a full moon. The last time that happened was in 2000, and the next time it will happen is in 2049. Locals informed us about the full moon festival that was happening that evening, although I couldn’t track down any more specific information about it. The streets were certainly packed and thousands of people came to gather around the river, send diyas on their way, and attend worship ceremonies.

checking out the crowds

checking out the crowds

mign observing the chaos

mign observing the chaos

It was a delightfully wonderful surprise to stumble upon. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Haridwar, taking in the much more relaxed atmosphere than Delhi. Tourists were nowhere to be found and we felt quite comfortable sticking out as the only westerners, since we were more than familiar filling that role in Botswana. Although we didn’t get into the Ganga river, we felt rejuvenated and refreshed by the vibe in Haridwar, the colorful crafts in the marketplace, and the welcoming people filling the streets.

good night, dear haridwar

good night, dear haridwar

xxx, tmv

5,821 miles

A whirlwind.

The only true way to describe the past few weeks. I traveled 5,821 miles in 4 days. From Kang to Gaborone to Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi to Delhi… goodness. And don’t forget everything else I did in addition to covering that distance…

Wrapping up my Peace Corps service was full of people coming and going to say goodbye, tears-a-plenty, and a type of joy I’ve never quite experienced. As difficult as it was to leave, I am so thankful for the meaningful relationships I’ve built that will continue to be a part of my life for many years to come. You can read more about my last thoughts of leaving my life in Botswana here.

After some heartfelt goodbyes, I left my village on Saturday to head to Gaborone, Botswana to finish closing out my service. I ran around to close my bank account, take Kibi to his final vet appointment, and meet with Peace Corps staff to finish all my final administrative paperwork. They had a nice farewell ceremony, complete with speeches and “ringing the bell” to signal the end of our service.

At 5:00 AM on Tuesday, I was officially an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). The driver we hired came to pick Mignon and I up at 5:30 AM, along with my kitty, Kibi, and all our belongings. We hit the road, crossed the border into South Africa, and arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa before noon.

leaving

closing ceremony with Peace Corps & crossing the border

All went well on our travels to South Africa. Traveling with a cat posed all kinds of issues, but funny enough – no one could be bothered to give me any customs paperwork for my cat on the Botswana side of the border. No one was working…. so that was that. On the South Africa side, paperwork was painless and easy. Mignon was such a delightful travel companion and so understanding about me bringing my kitty home with me. I couldn’t have asked for better travel buddies!

in transit

traveling with kibi and mignon!

Although we were exhausted when we arrived in Johannesburg, we pushed on. I got Kibi all set up in our room with everything he needed and we headed out for a quick lunch and day trip to the Lion Park. After munching on some delicious bread and SALADS (salads. green vegetables. you guys. we were SO excited), we took off to see some baby lions. I already visited the Lion Park in January with Kate when she came to visit, but I wasn’t about to deprive Mignon of these cute furry friends.

lion park

visiting the lion park in johannesburg

We enjoyed ourselves, as anyone clearly would while playing with lion cubs. Apparently, lion cubs like to bite me, so I had a staff member around to pull playful lion jaws away from my clothing. Check out the photo in the collage! I still argue that they are adorable little puff balls, even if they try to nibble my clothing away :O)

The next morning, we arrived at OR Tambo International airport at 6:00 AM so I could drop off my kitty with the transport company. I was very pleased with their professionalism. I handed over some paperwork, kissed my kitty goodbye, and off he went! I’m happy to report that after a few stressful days, Kibi survived his travel from Botswana to Colorado. He is now safe with Michael and unsure of these creatures known as dogs…. he’s adjusting more each day. I’m looking forward to seeing my furry friend when I’m home again. A big thank you to Michael for running around and dealing with the paperwork at DIA! Kibi and I are both very grateful!

sorting details

sorting out some details & boarding our plane

And so, we finally boarded our plane. A huge relief! Mignon and I first traveled from Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi, UAE. We had a quick layover and one more flight to New Delhi, India. Miraculously enough, we had no problems with our flights or receiving our bags. Delirious and excited to finally be in India, we laughed the whole way from the airport to our first hotel in Delhi. Mignon said it best upon arrival… “This place is bananas.” Even at 4 AM when we arrived, the roads were full of crazy shenanigans. I have never seen such crazy driving, weaving in and out of traffic, and HONKING! Doesn’t it take away the significance of honking if you honk all the time? Who knows…

made it to india

arriving in New Delhi, India

We immediately passed out in our very basic hotel room and got some rest. After a few hours, we convinced ourselves to shower, brave the insanely hot weather, and venture out to see some things in Delhi. Mignon and I used our stellar negotiation skills to hire a tuk-tuk driver to take us around town. Our first stop was the Lotus Temple!

lotus temple

visiting the lotus temple

There are temples EVERYWHERE around here, but this one is really well known. After its construction in 1986, this temple has attracted people from all over. It is open to all  people and religions, which I think is just fabulous. The architecture was absolutely breathtaking and well worth the trip to get there! Check out the view from above!

view of lotus temple from above

Next stop, Qutab Minar! This world heritage site stands at 73 meters and is even more breathtaking in person. This “tower of victory” was constructed in 1193 after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. The first three stories are made of  red sandstone and the fourth and fifth are made of marble and sandstone. Mignon and I were blown away by the detail and the beauty of the surrounding areas.

tower

checking out qutab minar

DSC00305

such intricate detail!

DSC00320

panoramic view of the site

Our tuk-tuk driver took us around Delhi to try to sort out a taxi driver to take us from Delhi to Haridwar, and that proved to be a difficult task. Even the staff members at a government tourism office were trying to get one over on us… but thankfully, Mign and I knew what prices to expect and how to avoid scams. After a long day, several misinterpreted conversations in English, and a delicious free dinner, we effortlessly fell asleep.

IMG_2684

enjoying our first thali dinner

Delhi was crowded, busy, and not quite our cup of tea. One day was more than enough for us… but we’re still overjoyed to be in India after all that travel!

xxx, tmv

The Guest House

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks