My taxi was scheduled to leave Amritapuri at 5 a.m. on January 9th. Around 9 p.m. on the 8th I was informed that it had been moved to 4:30 a.m. There would be no time for being idle that morning!
In the past, my itinerary has been to take a 11 p.m. taxi to Trivandrum for a 4:30 a.m. flight to Dubai. That flight is 4 ½ hours. The Dubai layover is two hours and then the flight to Seattle is another 14 ½ hours. Traveling that way means I miss a night’s sleep before I even leave India, and another night’s sleep on the flights (I do not sleep much on airplanes.) As I get older, I have had increasing trouble with jet lag. India is 13 1/2 hours ahead of Seattle so their day is our night and vice versa. The last few years it has been weeks before I adjusted.
I decided to significantly change my itinerary this year. With the new plan, I would leave the ashram at 4:30 a.m. after getting a reasonable amount of sleep. The flight left Trivandrum at 10 in the morning. Once in Dubai, I had a 21 hour layover. Even though it was expensive I had reserved a room at the airport hotel so spent the time resting or sleeping. I hoped it would make my adjustment to Seattle easier, and even if it didn’t it felt a lot better to get significant amount of rest before the long flight. The flight to Seattle was scheduled for 9 a.m. so I missed no night’s sleep before taking the final leg of my journey.
The bottom floor of the Dubai airport consists of miles of duty free shops. It is loud and has very bright light. The second floor seems to be primarily a business travelers facilities although I only looked down into it so don’t know for sure. The hotel was on the third floor and was absolutely silent. What a respite from the over-stimulation below!
I had an experience there that will probably amuse some of you and make others shake your head wondering what is wrong with me.
When I entered my hotel room, I found this in the bathroom!
What in the world was that in on the left? I had never seen anything like it. Was it some kind of men’s urinal? It was a mystery to me. I kept looking at it and soon realized it had no flush so it couldn’t be a urinal. Still later, I realized it had a spout and handle that released cold and hot water, as well as a stopper and drain like a sink. A sink like that in the bathroom? I didn’t get it.
I took this picture and sent it to some other Americans and they didn’t know what it was either. I had fantasies of what people who didn’t know what it was for would do with it, and some of those fantasies were pretty gross.
Later in the day I decided to write a friend who is a world traveler. She immediately responded that it was a bidet. A bidet? I knew what that was and have even used them. But they have always been hoses and/or spray. There was no hose and no spray. It was just like a sink. Sitting in something like that after using the toilet still seemed really gross so I didn’t go near it!
When I returned to Seattle, I searched on the internet until I found a Wikipedia article about bidets. The picture on the article was this same type of bidet.
Bidets can be found in some countries in the Americas, especially in South America, and are a standard feature of homes in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. They are common in Arabic countries in the Middle East, such as Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and in the Maghreb, especially Egypt and Morocco. Much of East Asia, particularly Japan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea, use bidets as well.
I also learned that you use toilet paper before you sit in this kind of bidet. I am still left with the question “Why?” but at least it all makes sense, and was a pretty funny experience. What can I say, I’m an American!
I had other interesting experiences during my layover. There was an information station that had a cut out of a man. When he answered questions, his mouth moved. It looked like it was a real man who was actually talking. And stranger yet, when you walked by it looked like his head and eyes follow you as he talked. How did they do that? Was it some kind of hologram? I never really investigated it but I watched it every time I passed by.
After twenty-five years of going to India I am used to being in large groups of women wearing colorful saris and men wearing dhotis. There is a large Muslim population in the part of Seattle where I live so I am also used to seeing women dressed in long black robes (abaya) and/or the Muslim headscarves (hijab). There are even many Muslim women in Seattle who wear the burqa, a cloak that reveals only the women’s eyes.
It, of course, was no surprise to me that there were many more people in this kind of attire at the Dubai airport. Some of the women’s burqa had slits that were smaller than I was used to seeing, but there were considerable numbers of women who wore less restrictive clothing as well. Many of the men wore full length white robes (thobe) and a headress (keffiyeh).
At one point, I saw what I believed to be a Muslim mother and her teenaged daughter. The mother was in the black abaya although I don’t think she wore a headscarf. The teenager was wearing the kind of western blue jeans that contain more holes than cloth. I sure would love to know their story!
As some of you will remember, on the way to India I had been given an upgrade to business class. What a boon that turned out to be. I had hoped some miracle would happen and I would be give that opportunity again but it was not to be. The plane left at 9:30 a.m. and arrived in Seattle 14 hours later. Staying the night in Dubai made it easier, but it was still an exhausting trip.
Many years ago I read a book titled Of Water and the Spirit by an African shaman named Malidoma. He lived in the United States but returned to Africa each year “to learn from his elders and detox from Western civilization.” I resonated with that statement and have never forgotten it.
I have the same feeling when I am in India. Sweating from the heat even feels like detoxification. Sometimes it seems like all of my cells are being cleaned out and restructured…. or maybe a better word would be renewed. I rest at a level in India that happens nowhere else. I sense even my soul is at rest. One morning on this trip I awoke to find my earplugs in my hands and my covers off. I realized I had fallen asleep before I even covered myself (normally I have a sheet, a light blanket and a shawl over me since I use a fan at night.)
When I return to Seattle I find I have more respect and appreciation for my life in the U.S. as well as increased respect and appreciation for my life in India. I am better able to be content anywhere. While Amma’s body is not in the U.S. except when she comes here for the North American tours, I feel her presence no matter where I am.
Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile or who know me from Seattle, know that a very strange thing happened to me last year. When Seattle went crazy for our Seahawks football team I went crazy along with everyone else! I have never had the slightest interest in football, but something inside of me changed. I know in part it is because of the incredible sense of community that has developed in the city because of this team. (Opportunity for Community May Come When You Least Expect It)
When I read about their coach’s values and the way he treats his players and expects them to treat each other, I received another level of understanding about why I felt drawn to them. He even had them meditating and doing yoga! Last year after they won the SuperBowl there was a victory parade. 700,000 people stood for hours in 20 degree weather to participate. I was one of them!
While I was in India I still followed the games. It seemed no accident that the first playoff game started only a few hours after I returned to Seattle. Knowing I would be able to watch the playoffs made it easier for me to leave India and come back to my Seattle home! I still shake my head incredulously when I hear myself talking this way about football. You never know where life’s journey will take you!
As I end this year’s trip to Amritapuri:
I know I will miss:
- Being with Sreejit, Chaitanya and Akshay
- Being with Amma
- Being with my other Amritapuri friends
- Evening bhajans
- Living in community
- The warm weather (but not the hot)
- The simplicity of living in one room with minimal belongings
- The beautiful views of nature
- The deep sense of rest and deep sleep
- The accelerated level of synchronicities, blissful moments and lessons
In Seattle I am looking forward to:
- Being and working with the colleagues and clients in my therapy community
- Being with my friends in the Pacific Northwest Amma community
- Leading bhajans at satsang
- The potentially mild winter (it is 50 F this week!)
- Watching the Seahawks play and being part of that Seattle community
- Being in my comfortable house
- Warm showers
- Watching my worms
- Sleeping in my bed
- Working in my garden
- Getting beyond the jet lag and being able to sleep
With this post, my report of this year’s journey to Amritapuri is complete. I appreciate those of you who have been interested enough to take part or all of the journey with me. I feel abundantly blessed