I've arrived! (Well, in Mysore, at least!)
Got here late last night, must have been over 26 hour journey (note to self: never skimp on non-direct flights again!). Got to sleep OK but woke up very tired.... The host family are lovely and very welcoming. There was a Russian guy who stayed here before me who came and met me this morning to show me around the place. The city is a lot more spread out than the maps suggest so I am currently pondering on whether to a) go with rickshaws, b) hire a bicycle or c) learn how to ride a scooter. Unfortunately Alex the Russian Guy has to leave today, a shame as he seemed cool and interesting... Nevertheless, he pointed out loads of stuff I would probably have not have found on my own easily and gave me some good advice, seemingly the No.1 being not to study at KPJAYI!
Alex had been in Mysore for 2 months and had just gone and tried a few classes here and there, he had settled on a young guy called Vijay Kumar (www.ashtangasaadhana.com) and showed me his place. Alex was adamant that he "couldn't deal with piles of shit outside the door of his shala" (!), which I kind of respected him for and that Vijay's assists were excellent and the class sizes were 6-8, but also that they start at 7am, which he advised would be better for me as I'd probably not be able to cope with the early morning starts of other teachers! I respected Alex's honesty and 'keeping it real' attitude!!
So, as I kind of trusted him and thought rather highly of him as he had specifically asked my host to ask me if he could show me around before he left, I have decided to do a couple of 'drop ins' with Vijay and start Friday as tomorrow is a moon day tomorrow :( Nevertheless, that gives me a little time to acclimatise and get over any jet lag and maybe even do a practice in my room!? But hey, who am I kidding, I'm gonna try and find the massage guy he told me about, oh, and order some "Amrith Moolika Paniyam", an ayurvedic herbal drink designed to cool the body :) and have along walk around and get my bearings.
Yesterday I had a 7 hour layover at Chennai so took a cab ride around the city, dear god it was horrible! Although I did go into this one temple where a giant statue of Hanuman lived and which was very beautiful. There were lots of people doing puja(?) giving gifts and receiving blessings and I was walking around enjoying the sights and trying to appear inconspicuous. After a while I asked an attendant where the exit was as I had been round once and couldn't find it. He pointed me down to where I had already been and there seemed to be a few people leaving so I quickly headed out with them. The queue of people began to climb some steps and I asked a young guy in a "Facebook" T-shirt where the exit was, he said "Don't worry I will show you", so, as I had no other choice I followed him. We then got embroiled in a queue and ushered into a huge dining hall with tables laid with large green leaves with bits of food on them. I was getting a free lunch! I told "Sam" that I was only looking for the exit and that I felt bad, he just looked at me and we both laughed. The meal was lovely, however before I realised I had downed a gulp of the water they had served and immediately began to panic - having flashbacks of the past 2 India trips! Howeever, the damage was done! As we left I looked for somewhere to leave a donation but unfortunately I couldn't get back in as the shrine had closed, so said goodbye to Sam and sheepishly hobbled back in bare feet to the taxi man, who must've been wondering where the hell I'd been! God knows what Hanuman thought of me?!
The apartment is fine, although a bit far away from Vijay's. It's quiet here though (so no need for earplugs at night) and cleanish...there was one cockroach scurrying around last night but I haven't seen him since thank god. There was also one mozzie but I turned on my vaporiser and think it died in the night, nevertheless, I slept under the net in fear of any more unseen creatures! There was no toilet paper upon arrival which I was concerned about. In the afternoon after Alex had dropped me back, I thought I'd go and ask my hosts for some loo roll and a key for the wardrobe. In answer to my question, I was asked whether it was urgent! (I'd only been there 12 hours already!) and was told no to the key for the wardrobe which I thought really strange. The lady just did the little Indian shakey head thing at me and I thought f*** it, I can live without a wardrobe for a while. She must've felt a bit rude as later she came and explained that the person who rented the room last year had left with the key and she wasn't coming back with the key until next year. Weird! However, she didn't come back with any toilet paper.
I spent the afternoon drinking coffee from my new coffee maker I was forced into buying from Cafe Coffee Days, Indian's equivalent of Starbucks and designing an excel spreadsheet to help me keep track of my money. I wasn't just hiding in my room, I was actually waiting for a taxi driver to come and talk to me about arranging lifts to and from the shala for the next few weeks...apparently taxi drivers don't really like getting up early, so a little chat about my requirements is, well, required. After waiting for 3 hours I began to get hungry. The host then came to tell me the taxi guy wasn't coming until tomorrow so I got ready and went out to find a restaurant. Mysore in the dark looks nothing like Mysore in the day. So after not having a clue where I was going I hailed a cab.... Who didn't know where he was going either! (Note to self: always take the address on a piece of paper) After stopping approximately 5 times to ask for directions I finally saw the restaurant I had been thinking of and shouted for him to stop. He charged me 50p. I couldn't be annoyed!! :)
The Green Leaf restaurant is large and a bit like a canteen. Although it says self service I was allowed to order from the table. The waiters were lovely and the food delicious! I had buttered roti, spinach and paneer and alloo gobi. OK, so it's exactly what I would have in the UK but hey, I had to compare it! However, I did have the nicest ginger and lime juice, completely fresh and a bottle of water to cool my mouth down from the gobi and ginger. One thing about Mysore, the fresh juices are to die for. I can carry on the juice cleanse Natasha! The whole meal plus drinks came to 2.50. So today in total I spent 6.57. And 2.40 of that was on bloody toilet roll!! (Which, I may add, was hidden away in the corner of the Loyal Supermarket, like no-one in Mysore ever buys it...!?) On the way back from the Loyal I decided to get another cab and write down the route home. It's not actually that far and literally 4 blocks from Gokulam central bit. I'll head back tomorrow!!