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How’s this for a holiday: getting up before sunrise, no alcohol, and wearing modest, unremarkable clothing. This is what hundreds come to do at an ashram in the south of India.
Every year, they come, mostly young Western women, to medicate, practice yoga, and follow an acetic lifestyle. I spent 12 days at the Yoga Vacation of the ashram Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari, whose mission is popularize the practice in the West.
Listen to the report.
When we travel, we discover that the way we do things isn’t always the correct one. That our culture is only one among so many. And that human beings, fundamentally, have the same needs no matter their differences.
All this is very lovely. But when I hear an Indian burping loudly on the table beside me, it makes me, like my mother, want to scold him and follow up with a lesson on good manners.
When I see a man collecting audible phlegm in his throat before firing it with gusto on the sidewalk, I’m urged to start a little chat on the basics of hygiene.
Whatever claim you make about India the opposite will also be true.
This makes it a pretty difficult country to write about. But by my own logic, it also makes it a very easy country to write about.
And yes, there is tons to report after a mere few days in the country. The problem is that few of it would go beyond the most cliché.
What they had in common was youth, a simple look about them, an an apparent will to help without asking for anything in return. They were good-hearted Vietnamese, in our opinion, above any suspicion.
Or would you doubt the intentions of a monk inside a Buddhist temple?
When selling bootleg books didn’t work, the boy turned to begging for food. He looked 12 and was still perfecting his pity pitch.
After four days in Siem Reap (and another week in Sihanoukville), I got used to saying no to child sellers and beggars. I read enough articles to know giving them money does more harm than good:
It was while sitting on a riverside restaurant on the Mekong Delta in the Vietnamese town of Chau Doc, which borders Cambodia. The resto floats on metal drums and bobs gently with the wash from passing boats.
You can see slender ladies with conical hats rowing their canoes across the river to visit a friend in a floating home, who might be washing her hair while crouching on her front porch.
That’s when it happened. “Holy crap,” I thought, “I’m really in Asia! Holy crap, I’m really traveling!”
Coming from the country of soccer is wonderful. From Zimbabwe to Vanuatu, you can be sure that your nationality will be instantly recognized – even loved – by the people you talk to. And that admiration will be instantly transferred to you.
Coming from the country of soccer is horrible. Especially if the wounds of defeat are still gushing blood. Or if, like me, you understand piddles about sport.
We’ve been together for month now, and it’s time we had that talk. I don’t know where you see this going, but I could say “the hell with it” to the rest of my year-long trip and stay here with you.
The road had ceased being a road and it was now Mars after a bombing. Even when it was a road it still didn’t deserve being called one. It was as if the local authority had cleared the bush, dumped loads of rocks on it and said, “There, deal with it.”
Whatever holes were there, the morning rain enlarged them so they could, in theory, support a small reservoir for the nearby villages.
We were escorted from the car by an entourage of village children who heard two white people would be spending the night in their community.
Understand that this is like learning that your neighbours would receive a visit from Madonna for a live performance in their living room.