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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Real-Life Yoga

Today, Ben and I got up bright and early at 5:30 am, ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant where I had the best Chai I have ever tasted in my life, and went out to see some of the sights of Jaipur. Our new buddy/autorickshaw driver, Saleem, chauffeured us around the city to the City Palace, the observatory and the Rambagh palace in his rickety, care-bear upholstered vehicle. After our sightseeing adventures, we did some more shopping, got a few presents for friends at home and I purchased a Sari! (I apologize to Suresh, owner of the Sari shop, for sweating on pretty much everything I came into contact with, and also for not finishing the hot Chai he so nicely gave me while I tried on Saris. It's 110 degrees outside)

Upon returning to the hotel, we relaxed for a bit, did some reading, and then went down to the lobby for a yoga class with Hotel Arya Niwas' resident yoga instructor. I don't remember his name so we'll just call him Little Mustache Dude. Little Mustache Dude was a good six inches shorter than me and old enough to be my grandfather. He didn't say much of anything by way of greeting, but instead led us down the hallway to a sort of lounge, where he rolled out two yoga mats and instructed us to sit down while he turned on the huge fan in the corner.

As soon as we began our yoga practice, I realized this was unlike anything I was used to. "Stand", he commanded rather than coaxed. "Spread feet apart. Now. Slowly slowly, raise hands up." There was no flow to the instruction, he told us where to move instead of using names of poses, and with his broken english it was sometimes difficult to tell exactly what he was asking me to do. "Bring hand up. Here. Now other arm over head and touch ear." Huh? He instructed modifications for every single pose, and when I tried to move in to the full expression of crescent lunge, a strict "NO! KEEP KNEE ON GROUND!" put me solidly in my place.

The yogi in me was confused. I practice yoga partly for the relaxation aspect and for my spiritual side - but I also practice yoga to challenge and stretch myself, to push myself to my edge...and really, this for me is where the self-discovery of yoga comes into play: by staying calm and focused through challenging situations, and by finding our edge and knowing what we are capable of, we come to understand ourselves better. This is what I have always loved about yoga, but here in this hot room with the giant fan blaring in my ear and Little Mustache Dude barking drill-sargent-like instructions that I barely understood, I was having trouble seeing what exactly I was getting out of this experience.

As I was moving into a series of seated twists, something occurred to me. The purpose of yoga isn't to make your thighs burn and your triceps sore every time you practice; the purpose of yoga is to give you the resilience to see the positive in every situation and to make the best of what is in front of you. This class certainly wasn't testing the strength of my body, but it was testing the strength of my patience. If I truly wanted to practice yoga tonight, I realized, I would have to make the best of a less than ideal situation and immerse myself fully in each pose, letting go of the need to be challenged physically.

As one of my teachers in uptown mentioned in last week's class, "Yoga isn't just something you do on your mat - it's something you take with you every day, to help you live a better life, treat people with love and be the best version of yourself." The real-life yoga is the most meaningful - learning to be OK with Little Mustache Dude even when he asked us to do ridiculous things like laugh uproriously for no reason to create a "shower of love," but most of all to be patient with myself, even when I let frustration get the best of me. And even when it's 110 degrees outside.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Not so fab at FabIndia

Just came home from the most intimidating shopping experience of my life.
Ben and I are currently in Jaipur, India, where it is about a billion degrees and you can't drink the water. In case you weren't aware, Ben lived in India for two years, in a small town in the Himalayas where he taught English and Drama at Woodstock International School. We're here partly on vacation, and partly to see his former advisees graduation on the 29th. Ben, having lived here, fits in pretty well - he speaks a bit of hindi and owns at least five Kurtas, so when he goes out on the street he doesn't look or sound completely clueless. He's also pretty good at negotiating with autorickshaw drivers, which is an impressive talent.

I, on the other hand, have never been to India, speak no hindi whatsoever, and strolled out of the hotel this morning wearing cargo-style Be Present yoga pants and a t-shirt from Target. I felt like maybe it was time to up my game. This, of course, meant shopping, so we hopped in an autorickshaw and zoomed over to FabIndia. The sun was beating down, I was sweating and thirsty (the water in our hotel room hadn't finished Iodizing yet), but dammit I was going to find some Indian clothes.

This is the thing about me and shopping - I like it a lot, and I'm awfully efficient at it. I think I have pretty decent style, and I know what looks good on me and what doesn't. I know my size in every brand of jeans at Nordstrom and can by clothes for work at Express pretty much without trying them on. In the US, I am a shopping machine - not so at FabIndia. All of the beautifully dressed Indian women shopping alongside me seemed to know precisely what they were looking for. I tried to pretend I knew EXACTLY what I was doing, picking discreetly through piles of long tunics and strangely shaped pants like I was looking for a different color when really my brain was pretty much exploding. Which are long sleeve and which are short sleeve? What's my size?? Does it even matter when every one of these is basically a glorified shapeless flour sack? Am I supposed to pick pants that are the same color, or a contrasting color???? HELP.

I ended up in the fitting room with a few Kurtas and two pairs of pants. First, I tried on the pants which may have been a poor life choice. Not even Heidi Klum could pull off these babies, which fit like skinny jeans around the ankles but have a wasitline big enough for three pregnant women. WTF. Fortunately, there is a drawstring, which I pulled as tight as it could go. Unfortuantely, the drawstring could not make up for the huge quantity of fabric that was now bunched around my hips. Fortunately, the genius in the design of the Kurta is that it covers all sins, including mountains of fabric. Hooray! Success. I honestly have no idea if they fit properly or not, but seriously, who could even tell the difference?

I liked the orange Kurta - Ben liked the teal I bought both. Dude who worked there helped me pick out pants because apparently my color scheme was all wrong, and the goldish tan pants do not in fact work with the teal Kurta. Sorry random dude - my mistake.

I have visited many countries around the world, but everywhere I've gone, fashion has always felt relatable. Even when styles and trends are different from what you would find in America ( i.e. Norway, Greece, Japan), it still feels like different dialects of the same language. In India, everything just feels completely foreign... and I don't mean this in a bad way. Each new challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow and stretch yourself. Sometimes it's learning a different language or haggling with cabbies, and sometimes it's just learning how to wear Salwaar pants. Baby steps.

Monday, May 10, 2010


So I might have mentioned this before, but my schedule for this semester included 19 credits... not to mention that most of the classes were 2 credit classes that really should have been 3 or 4 credit classes. Compared to the last few weeks, being in finals seems like a break!

I had 2 final presentations last week, both of which went really well, and a final quiz that went OK too. Today I had my Managerial Accounting final, which I was freaking out about but acutally I felt really good about it! My apologies to Ben, who listened to me ranting on about differential costs last night. On the plus side - I explained chapters 2 - 11 to him and he understood what I was talking about! Being able to explain the material in a way that made sense to someone who's never had accounting before made me feel like I was pretty prepared :)

Also on the plus side - I've actually had time to cook again! Here's what I've made in the last 2 weeks:
- Sandiwch cookies with Butter Cookies and lemon curd filling. I originally planned on making the lemon curd from scratch but this was last week, and I didn't have quite THAT much time on my hands...
- Then, on Friday... baked Salmon with mustard sauce! I made the mustard sauce up - it was basically some large-grain mustard, some dijon mustard, a little honey and a little white-wine vinegar. It was delicious :) Not quite like my favorite mustard sauce with heavy cream, but still pretty awesome.
- Grilled asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper - simple yet awesome.
- Quinoa Skillet Bread - BEST EVER... so amazing, thanks 101 Cookbooks!
- and I used some of the leftover quinoa and asparagus to make a delicious lunch by sauteeing the asparagus in sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vineger, sugar and a little conrnstarch, and then pouring it over the quinoa. Definitely tasty and healthier than anything from the food court.

Next on the docket - don't know! Ben did the shopping today so I'll be pleasantly surprised by whatever he picked up. I'm hoping to make a pie soon too, or something...we'll see :) More cookies forthcoming as well, since I donated cookie of the month for my school's annual charity acution (this was the purpose of the lemon cookies as well)

Woooo ....yay for having a life again :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Here's to the misfits...

Last Tuesday at around 6pm, I probably should have been getting work done for school. Instead, I was perusing Facebook and reading all of my friend's status updates in a desperate attempt to avoid doing anything productive at all. The debate among several of my friends seemed to revolve around one of the hardest decisions of all time: LOST, or Glee?

Being a marketing person, I immediately wondered whether the folks at ABC and Fox realized that put two shows that appeal to a lot of the same people in competing time slots? Most likely not - afterall, at first glance, a show about a high-school choir that wears a lot of glitter and a drama about plane-crash survivors and time-travel would seem to have little in common. But, my Facebook status updates would suggest that their audiences have a lot of overlap.

So, do are the same people who are entranced by watching a football team dancing to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" also care deeply about John Locke's quest for meaning and an epic battle for survival against a creepy Smoke Monster?

While their subject matter is vastly different, both of these show speak to the same part of the human soul - the part of us that will always feel like we're alone, and like we don't quite fit in with the world around us. "Other" in Glee means wanting to dance and sing onstage in a community that values football and cheerleading. It also apparently means having slushies thrown in your face every day (this never happened to me...even though I was in five choirs in High School...go figure...). "Other" in LOST means alienation of a different sort - what does it mean to do the right thing? What parts of ourselves can we share with others?

Every character on LOST has a secret - even though they are together in survival, they are often spiritually alone. Furthermore, the survivors as a whole are alienated by their shared past - they have endured something the rest of the world cannot understand and would never believe.

The concept of the "other" is a recurring theme in LOST - black vs. white in backgammon, Losties vs. others, good vs. evil, John vs. Jack, Jack vs. himself, Jacob vs. MIB... Glee explores otherness in the search for success and acceptance, whereas LOST explores the search for understanding and meaning.

One curious thing that Ben, my boyfriend, pointed out is that while LOST has the more unbelievable premise, Glee is the more unbelievable show. While Glee is set in the "real world", no teacher in a school could ever behave the way Sue Sylvester does and not get fired. Furthermore, her motivations are unclear - she seems to be cruel for the sake of being cruel. In LOST, even though the situation is fantastic, the characters and their motivations come from a very real place. The way the show explores human nature and free will is fascinating.

I'm getting off topic.

Point being - we can all relate to a time when we've felt left out or isolated - whether you are a high school nerd, an experienced time-traveler or just a former music major trying to survive MBA 6241 - Corporate Financial Decisions. We might not get a slushie thrown in our faces literally, but sometimes the metaphorical slushie of life is hard to avoid. We all have secrets we are afraid to share, even with those closest to us - our parents, friends and loved ones.

Feeling alone is an all too familiar part of life, so it is not too surprising that these are two of the most popular shows on television. Fortunately, we're all in it together, and we are all connected by the amazing and beautiful world around us. And also, the Twins won today. Life is great :)
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