A year ago I was living in Paris getting ready for my next professional move across the Atlantic Ocean, 6 months ago I was wondering how to get myself out of that situation and quit the corporate world and now, I'm having lunch on a sunny terrasse of Mc Leod Ganj, on my break from Yoga Teacher Training... Thank God I finally decide to use my right hemisphere - my left one could have never come up with a better plan... Mc Leod Ganj is this sweet village right above Dharamsala, hanging along the Himalaya slopes. Here, the air is light and crisp, the temperature and weather perfect for yoga practice (after the heat and humidity of the south - my energy level is back to full capacity!) and the bells always seemed to ring in the background... It doesn't exactly feel like India here... Mc Leod Ganj is this interesting mix of Tibetan monks, spiritual seekers, conscious tourists, masala chai and chat street vendors, yogis, hikers, vedic astrologers and perhaps the nicest people I've met here so far. Sanjay, who's been working 24/7 at Kunga Guesthouse restaurant for over 12 years, welcomes you with the same warm and humble smile every time you walk in for lunch... The old Sikh who runs the supermarket behind his till and big turban always has a kind word to say on the way out... The internet cafe manager gave me dhoop (incense cone) as a gift when I told him I loved the smell of his shop... And of course, let me not forget my yoga teacher! How could I best describe him? As a Rock-and-Roll-Yogi! Flexible, wise, spiritual yet unconventional, caring, funny and... hairy (see pictures below) - what more could I ask for? We start the day on our own with kryias (cleansing practices) and pranayamas (breathing exercises then meet with Yogi Sivadas at 7am for sanskrit mantra chanting to tune in to our true nature and inner cosmic vibration (oh yeah). We then proceed with 2 hours of Ashtanga Yoga and resume training with our 2pm lecture - topics as diverse as the concept of India, Hindu philosophies, Yogic cleansing and diet, Ayurveda, Patanjali Yoga Sutras.... tout ce que j'aime! Then off to another 2 hours of Hatha Yoga and a whole lot of studying in between! My brain is eating up this new knowledge, my body is happy to move and getting strong, my mind is getting still(er), my ego (who's spoiled brat) takes the whole thing for granted every now and then but when I pinch myself and remember that all this is not a dream, my soul smiles...
PS: Where will I be in 6 months? That is a very good question that I could not care less to answer that right NOW...
... when driving, keeping a hand on the horn is as essential as keeping a foot on the break
... 3 lane highways are really 5 lane highways...
... even buses and trucks are colorful and beautiful
... planes and trains run on time and cab drivers show up as planned - every is so smooth so far (I'm either really lucky or I was lied to about always expecting the unexpected)
... domestic flights are like a big playground for kids - don't plan on catching up with some sleep...
... masala chai is the new nespresso
... orange is the new black
... women wear saris and men wear skirts (called dhoti - so who wear the pants?? Sorry, couldn't help it)
... both doted and solid lines stand for a green light to pass cars.
... cab drivers burn incense in their car.
... market people will find you in the middle of a 10,000 people crowd if you said you'd come back to their booth.
... all colors match.
... one can still discover new tastes past 30 years old: chikoo, jaggery, chats...
...h brighter the house, the better.
I always thought of Goa as a big party/drug scene and was not interested in going there during my Indian journey. But I started hearing good things along the way and after a few weeks, Bombay was getting hot and sticky, so I decided to go for a few days and relax before starting my yoga teacher training in Dharamsala (I know, not very logical in terms of traveling directions, but that's what happen when you let your guts rather than your head leading the way...)
Now the dilemma was to decide whether to go to south or north Goa (north supposedly being more of the party scene while south more of a laid back quiet one). Because I always need to taste a bit of everything, I decided to start with 2 days in a beach hut in Patnem (south) and 2 days in a yoga retreat in the north (Satsanga, between Anjuna and Mapusa). And because all plans are meant to be broken, mine did too. I only ended up staying 1 night in Patnem after coming to the conclusion that India is just not a beach destination, at least not for me. Laying down among stray dogs peeing and pooping all over had nothing appealing to me... Thank God India is so flexible! It only took me the blink of an eye to check out and head to Satsanga day earlier, where I spent 3 blissful days... Beautiful rooms, garden, pool in the middle of nowhere, amazing yoga morning classes with Jodi and Amrita, in a studio high up a few steep steps offering a glorious view over a sea of green... And delicious ayurvedic food, that I got to learn by taking a cooking class with Mani, their beloved-authentic-intuitive cook from Kerala. Outside of Satsanga, I got to experience beautiful sunset at Vagator Beach (sitting on a rock with my clothes on, I didn't mind the dogs so much) but what I loved more than anything were the local markets. I first went to the Mapusa market where locals come for their fruits, veggies, dry fish, spices (there is nothing more vibrant than a spice display in an Indian market...). I then got to go the Arpora Saturday Night Market, an amazing concept of outdoor shops of all kinds, street food and live music! So Goa has not been what I expected but it's been the highlight of my trip in terms of beautiful, colorful and vibrant sceneries. I hope the pictures will convey at least a bit of the magic and leave you as speachless as I was...