When You Bleed, You Think About Life

Hospital bed

Facing Truths

“How long has this been going on?”

I couldn’t see the doctor from my position, on my back, as light pierced my eyes.  The only visible shape was the outline of her body, a white aura bleeding around her face.  Just a disembodied voice tinged with disapproval.

“Six days.”

I lied.  Maybe I just didn’t want to face the truth myself.  It had really been seven days of spotting on and off.

I knew it was stupid to leave the problem so long.  You prolong knowing. I drank too much in my early thirties, smoked a heap of cigarettes.  My age is a factor.  Even my sexual choices cast a shadow.

Somewhere in the recesses of my memories, I kept wondering if this was happening well before my last intimate encounter, and I chose to ignore it.

I had just got in from Udaipur that morning, threw my bags at Mystique Moments, and rushed out again for this dreaded appointment.

The rickshaw driver had no idea where Fortis La Femme was; I was late, then barreled in sweating and exhausted.

With barely time to breathe in the stifling 40-degree weather, she uttered something that woke me from any travel anxiety.

“We need to do some tests, probably an ultrasound to see what might be going on.”

I gulped.

Everything Flashes

As she prepared me for the ultrasound, instructing me to lie down, placing a towel across my stomach, everything rushed at me.

Staph definitely rattled me.  Yet, that can be annihilated with strong antibiotics.

This could be much worse.  I knew it, could not ask her out loud.

This could be the big C.

The specter of my past and future slid in full view.

Have I done everything I’ve wanted to?  Absolutely not. Am I happy?  I’m starting to be.

Then, I thought about all the people I regretted. The lovers I was never fully honest with.  Faces of friends or family appeared to me, how I forgot to express how much I love them. Or forgive those who slighted me.

Buddhists believe that death is always present.  That you should live everyday on the basis that you could die.  Sounds morbid, but what that signifies is opening your world to risk, spontaneity and an untethered existence.  Feeling free, essentially.

Make the most of your earthly time.

Now, Hindus staunchly stick to reincarnation.  There’s a difference between the inner soul and the outer body.   The outer body is viewed as the ‘container’, so upon death, the inner soul will inhabit another body.  After a few reincarnations, and that last container are ashes in a funeral pyre, the soul will rest or join the ultimate soul, known as Para-Athma.

This nudged me into questioning how we live our lives.  Would you squander it if you knew next time you’ll be a whole new human being?

I was a douchebag in this life, body number two I’ll get right.  Plenty of containers for me.

The technician rubbed gel on my abdomen, and then worked the applicator in a circular motion to generate a visual on the screen.

I saw my insides.  It was actually kind of fascinating.  Grainy, grey pixels were fed back to me.  Maybe it was my breathing, but my internal self vibrated off the screen.

“Okay, looks normal here.”

One sigh of relief.

“Hmmm.. there are some fibroids though, will have to examine those under 3-D view.”

I gripped the sides of the examination table, spooked by what that could mean.

Throw the Dice of Life

She told me to relax.  I tried.

The technician captured several more close-ups in 3-D.  Two doctors consulted each other in Hindi, leaving me out of the conversation, this only served to make me panic more; they promised to explain in English.

I waited for the news, surprised at my calmness.

She said not to worry.  They found four fibroids, none of them potentially cancerous, none that were blocking anything significant.

“I’ve sourced the bleeding.  Will give you something to stop that and hopefully the irritation clears up.  I will know more once the rest of the results come in.”

I’m not overly religious, never have been.  Except a fevered reading bout of the bible at age ten.  Big words are hard at age ten.  You try saying Deuteronomy.

If I had to choose, I embrace the Buddha way.

Is everything finite and precious?  I honestly don’t know.  What I do know is the rest of my life, however long that will be, must be lived at full tilt.

That includes joy or pain, encompasses sickness and blushing health.  When I have those scary moments of traveling solo, processing the events I’ve been through.

It does seem like India is killing me.

Sarah MacDonald wrote a searingly funny memoir of her time in India.  I always remember the acknowledgments.  She thanks her husband, Jonathan, for taking her.  Normal enough.  It’s the second sentence that use to strike me as strange.

“And to India, for making me.”

I swim in emotions that were dormant from my former life.  I see so much, excited to discover more.  I understand things against my will.

I like to believe India is putting me back together again.

Photo: 28 misguided souls

I’m in Love… With My Guesthouse

I didn’t know what to expect when the rickshaw dropped me off in the old town of Udaipur.  Reviews said Mewargarh Palace is decent and boast fair and accommodating owners.  See, after so many couches, Murphy Beds, and unwashed sheets I’ve become cynical.

As though nothing could possibly please me now.  I stood outside the dull brown latched door, pressed the doorbell, and walked in bracing myself.

I dropped my backpacks and lightening struck. Love. At first sight. Does that even happen anymore?  My insides told me –  yes! Amore.

The charming courtyard:

Intricate window design:

My enchanting little room.  He only charged me 400 RS for a 500 RS room!

Biggest bathroom I’ve had in India:

Cannot get over the adorable sunflower pillow:

Window and pale blue wooden shutters overlooking the courtyard:

Rooftop restaurant:

View from roof:

Chill out area:

My breakfast.  Apple pancakes with fruit and sweet chai masala tea:

How I greet him everyday:

I love that it’s family owned.  I love that the owner, Rizwan, told me it was his dream to open his own place after working in hotels for years.  He said when you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.

No, it’s not a five star hotel or anything, but it’s mine.  Besides, is any relationship actually perfect?

Mewargarh Palace did not sponsor this post, this is my personal review.  The owners are helpful, honest and never pushed me to buy a tour.  And they just installed a new A/C unit in my room, which means I love them even more.  Why?  He said I’m the first customer to use it, pay what you like!  They are located 10 minutes (walking distance) from the major sites in Udaipur and can arrange decently priced rickshaw tours to the new part of town.  Book them through Hostel World or read reviews on Trip Advisor.  When arriving by bus, a rickshaw should cost 60 to 70 RS .  Only one train a day comes to Udaipur from Jaipur, you’re better off with the bus.  Enjoy!  I did.

By |April 27th, 2011 |Categories: Travel Tips, Udaipur |36 Comments

Rajasthan – Jewel of India

When the train lurches, propelling itself from the platform in Delhi, leaving behind the dense, smoggy air and the concrete monoliths that are brimming with families, that familiar tug of motion bubbles.  A nugget of knowledge that you are onwards somewhere new, saddling uncharted waters.

The volume of traffic and decibels of honking is a faraway din to your ears, as is the lonely, howling dogs. All is drowned out by the pre-recorded train boardings warbling from the loudspeakers at the station. Your berth and seat number afford some insulation as sprawling Delhi begins to fade.

Maybe it’s the twinkle of morning or the dregs of night.  Indian trains always seem the same whatever departure time, a crawling snake the shade of what a depressed sky might look like, a pale blue tinged with grey.  The snake moves faster, changing the landscape from city to country.

You take out the crumpled ticket in your pocket and stare at it.  Jaipur.  Sort of a mystery, yet to be unfolded.

You might snooze for a spate; tinkle around with a novel you’re reading, until finally the mystery unravels.

The window beckons.

Pink jewel mountainous ranges kissing the indigo sky.  Acres of wheat fields where bushels wait to be claimed.  Dust covered, anorexic trees. Camels as work animals or show pieces for foreigners.

The train window reflects light and shadow.  Images shoot through your mind.

Cities planned on mandalas, structured around symmetry.  The dusky hues that sweep across the buildings incite wisps of a not so distant past, one of bustling spice markets and exotic women covered in sequins and silks, their kohl eyes holding mystery.

Ardent whispers of mighty kingdoms that end with the death of the last Maharaja, his funeral pyre is set ablaze on hallowed ground where the divine and grace meet.

Romantic, unblemished views that make your heart rush and think of Venice where you shared a delicious kiss.

Empty, stunningly constructed palaces that convey a time when princes created out of ego, and to the highest ideal of beauty.

You reach the outerland of the desert, staring across the openness, the sand dunes rippling with ancient riddles.  What answers back is your explorer’s heart.  There isn’t nothingness after all.  But, life.

In this land the guidebooks describe as rich in stones, textiles and camel treks, you fall under its spell.

Mostly though, it’s inexplicable, wondrous.  A sweet, unmentionable taste in your mouth that you chase and chase.

This is when you know you’ve arrived in Rajasthan.

To access Rajasthan, the best point is Delhi.  Most travelers start at Jaipur, and then use that as a launching pad for Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jasilmar, among other popular stops.  From Dehli to Jaipur the train is only four hours.  It’s always best to book in advance.  Try Clear Trip to book a train online.

By |April 25th, 2011 |Categories: Culture, Rajasthan |21 Comments

Inception and Being Awake

This is how I feel today:

  • Stressed.  So much of my time was shot in India because of that staph monkey on my back.  How do I maximize the rest in two weeks?!
  • Scared.  About the future.  I absolutely do not want to return to my old life.  Next steps are returning to Canada for TBEX in my hometown, work on some projects over the summer and ponder Latin America for the fall. If none of these pan out, not sure what’s in store.  Pondering such nightmarish thoughts, stress me out!
  • A failure. I really get swayed by what others receive or what they’re doing.  You lose sight when the majority of time is burned worrying about popularity contests, or whether your message makes an impact.

Then, once in a while, you write a piece that reawakens purpose.  Fear and doubt can be a sucker punch, one that leaves you winded and confused. I don’t wag my tail often, yet I’m proud of this one, a beaming parent encircling her beloved child.  This one sent me back to the beginning.

Guest post for End the Grind:

How Inception Nearly Defined Me.

Today, I actually feel invincible.

Inception photo courtesy of Blame The Analyst

The Perils of the Solo Female Traveler

Lately, people keep drilling me about India.

Is there dysentery, floating ashes, dust or monsoons that could drown a buffalo?

Well, all of the above.

Mostly, though, there are men.  Lots of them.  I liken my luck to three things, which somehow leads me to some interesting situations.

Yesterday I boarded a train from Delhi, landed in Jaipur four hours later and was guaranteed a pick up at the train station.

How nice, I thought.  Zaffa showed up on behalf of the guesthouse that I never even booked.

My Delhi savior, Dr. Malik, arranged a hotel for me in Jaipur due to some credit card snags.  Otherwise, I usually do coordination myself.  It’s funny what happens when you let go.

The only information I had was the name, address and mobile number scrawled on the back of my train confirmation.

Zaffa was a gem, making sure to negotiate a decent taxi price to the guesthouse.  Good thing, because it wasn’t even remotely in Jaipur city, but outside.

I arrived and the room is nice for 700 RS.  Not to mention my own bathroom, with shower.  I felt like a princess.  In the lobby, there was a crew of men, not abnormal for India, because friends usually hang together for hours on end.

Everything seemed hunky dory except the staring is intense this time.  Laser focused on my every twitch or uttered word.  They come in clusters to watch my conversations with the front desk guy, glued to us, like they are witnessing a car crash.

Last night I came back from sight seeing and got aroused into conversation with two cheeky guys who plan to ditch work and escape to Goa for a week.  They showed me the rooftop of the guesthouse where you can see the surrounding hills and elevations of Garh Ganesh Temple.  I could tell they hoped I stayed longer.

Then, today I noticed something.  I rambled in late afternoon and saw my neighbor’s door open.  Three guys were inside.  One was shirtless.  They were all watching a Hindi film channel.  It was obvious they were sharing the room.

Guy number one from last night is reasonably cute, two rebellious earrings jabbed in his lobes, saw me and approached, starting a conversation.  He’s keen to engage me in chatter, always taking the lead over the others.  All the other blokes just watched the show.  Had to be six or seven in the lobby at once.

First, he wants to know if I plan on walking by the water palace at night, it’s supposed to be a “catch in your throat” kind of view.  I begged off.  Then, he asked if I would like a drink on the rooftop this evening.  I told him no beer, but a soda, maybe.  Does ‘maybe’ usually mean ‘no’?

I find it takes Indians a while to spill what they’re really thinking.

“We like to talk to you, because… because no foreigner stay here before.”

Finally, it dawned on me.  I saw a man in a turban coming out of his room last night.  Men do all the cooking.  Only men pin me with their gaze in the lobby.  Oh.  It’s not just my foreignness.  It’s my womaness, too.

Here I am, in one of my situations.  Should I settle for Coca-Cola or Sprite?

And no, I’m not wanted on credit card fraud.  Just a little missed payment.  That’s another peril, remembering to pay your bills.

Photo: Carol Mitchell

By |April 17th, 2011 |Categories: Jaipur |20 Comments

This is Why I Love Travel

Just met an amazing South African woman who is involved in education and community development.  She’s helping disadvantaged women who normally work as domestic help in the townships by jump starting cottage industries in honey producing and crafts that sell in Switzerland.  Her and her husband are buying a property to live in and want to convert the existing one into a homestay for backpacker/budget travelers.

YOU CAN WAKE UP TO THE SOUND OF THE OCEAN.  COME VISIT.

Nah, not interested (lie).

She recounted her dream to travel all the places her deceased mother wanted to go.  Next is Israel and Egypt.  What struck a nerve most is when she talked about her family.

“I’m taking care of my brother.  He’s 38, now brain dead and paralyzed.  It was a motorcycle accident.”

Self-pity just got tossed out the window. Her brother will never be able to travel again or ride his free bird (motorcycle).

She called Buenos Aires a cheeky, sexy city.  And is hankering to see Tanzania and Madagascar someday.  She always, always travels solo, leaving her scientist hubby behind.

Claire

Dorm rooms: not always, what you think.

In our daily lives, we thrive on assumptions.  Hell, I use to.

It’s a choice to dismiss talking to that old, boring person.  Don’t dismiss.  Open yourself.

You, too, might end up staying at a house with a full kitchen, a garden and ocean view in a-effing-a South Africa.

Time to adjust my travel plans for 2012.