Thursday, 18 February 2010

Sri Lanka aint so bad after all!!

And so I must begin with an apology to Sri Lanka. In my last installment I think I was probably a little unfairly harsh about this so-called ‘Emerald Isle’. Sri Lanka is indeed quite lovely and for it’s size, incredibly diverse. In a comparatively small landmass it manages to cram in beautiful beaches, lush jungle and forest and fertile hill country with impressive mountain peaks that reach to over 2500M in altitude, only a few short kms from the coast. It is indeed, as its nickname implies, a gem. It is also the land of tea: formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is a country that supplies the globe with some of the greatest tea available the world over. With a landscape perfectly suited to tea cultivation, and a climate to match it is almost impossible to hike out in the hill country without coming across one of the many verdant tea plantation to be found. Many of the estates offer guided tours of their facilities, followed by a cupping…..which is apparently the correct terminology for a tea tasting… opposed to a tea bagging – which is something entirely different. But if you just want to pop in for quick cuppa – you may find it difficult! But I’m getting ahead of myself…..we’ve been here 2 weeks already now and so I should really press rewind and start at the beginning.

We arrived on an early morning plane from Trivandrum in Southern India with plenty of time to make it to Kandy by the afternoon a la public bus! Kandy is one of those destinations that everybody mentions fondly. It’s a town with not much going on – but plenty of recommendations as a great place to stay so we had high hopes for it. However, on arrival we decided that either the reason for these multiple recommendations was simply eluding us – or more likely the case (as many fellow travelers seemed to share our sentiments)…..things have changed. After Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy is one of the larger towns in Sri Lanka and somewhat of a ‘hub’ located centrally on the island and to the north of the hill country. It may have been a ‘cool and trendy’ hang out spot once upon a time – but for us it seemed to be just a slightly more pleasant place than a big stinky city like Colombo to hang out in and apply for our second Indian visa (since there is a smaller and less busy Indian Consulate here than in Colombo) – but besides that there really wasn’t much reason to stay.

Now applying for the visa was something we had originally planned to do more towards the end of our Sri Lanka stint (as it is only supposed to take 5 working days to process), but since the lovely India government have decided, just recently, to introduce a new ‘2 months out’ clause to their visa requirements and we weren’t sure whether we would qualify for exemption to this new rule we figured it would be prudent to get on and apply sooner rather than later……welcome to the joys of Indian bureaucracy once again!!! Our application was readily accepted, so we are hoping that this means it will be approved (still waiting to hear) but once this had been done we decided there was no compelling reason to stick around in the town of ‘not much going on’ (…….seriously – there’s a vaguely pretty, man made lake that you can stroll around in less than an hour and a temple that supposedly holds the tooth of Buddha – aptly named ‘The temple of the tooth relic’, which costs a small fortune to enter so that you can maybe get a glimpse of the casing in which they have hidden the tooth away……we decided to give it a miss……..and besides that there’s not much else to see or do) and we’d best be on our way.

So – off we went to explore some of the rest of Sri Lanka with the knowledge that we would be back in a few days to pick up our visa. First stop: Dambulla (which is actually where I penned my previous little rant). The town of Dambulla is rather a non-descript settlement built around a busy highway, with only a couple of ‘traveler friendly’ places to stay – all conveniently right on the highway – which doesn’t exactly make for a great night’s rest (even with my ear plugs). The whole purpose of stopping at this town was to explore a series of Buddhist Cave Temples at the top of a rocky outcrop that just kind of rises out of nowhere in the landscape, just off the highway. Now while some people may feel that the price of entry is justified here, I personally was not impressed.

And this was our introduction to the ‘Cultural Triangle’ of Sri Lanka. An area to the north of the hill country that is so called due to the high density of ancient ruins and religious sites of significance sort of in the shape of a triangle. There are 3 main sites that can be visited on one $50 ticket (a great sum of money for us to fork out on our extremely limited backpacker budget) and Dambulla wasn’t one of them – so that meant shelling out even more. We were seriously hoping that the other sites would impress us a little more – or we’d be getting in line to demand a refund!

Well, it turned out that our next stop (thank goodness) was delightful. The sleepy village of Sigiriya is little more than a hamlet really, with only a handful of homes and lodgings, as well as one or 2 ‘dining options’ in the form of cute little curry shacks. But it’s location in the middle of fertile paddy fields and tropical plantations on a very quiet road, with only occasional passing traffic allowed us to breath a huge sigh of relief on arrival. This proved to be a nice place to spend a day, unwinding and exploring the first of the 3 ‘cultural highlights’. The main attraction of Sigiriya is an incredible ‘chunk’ of rock that rises from the flat earth around it, out of nowhere to an altitude of several hundred meters. Around and upon this rock an ancient civilization carved out its living quarters and sites of worship.

Apparently the rock itself is actually a huge plug of magma that sealed a long extinct volcano. It looked absolutely stunning at all times of the day but appeared especially magnificent in the warm glow of afternoon sunlight when the suns soft radiance seemed to magically bring alive its golden and amber colors and contours.

The views from the summit were incredible and the passage to reach the top, one could easily describe as hair raising…….quite literally it felt like a stairway to heaven (see photo).

But the wobbly knees on the way up were definitely worth it. Not quite sure how they made it up there in times gone by – but I sure am glad they have the metal railings and stairs in place now to assist in the elevation process.

From Sigiriya we progressed to Polonnaruwa (watch that old classic ‘Elephant Walk’ with Elizabeth Taylor to catch a glimpse of it

– we watched it the night before we got there!) to explore more ancient ruins of a great civilization. Again, we were not disappointed. In Polonnaruwa we got to see the remains of some incredible structures – from temples, to palaces, and council chambers to sculptures of Buddha.

The site stretches out over several kms, so we were glad of the method of transit we had opted for (rickshaw) to transport us from place to place: having lost the elevation of the hill country the temperature was a little more than steamy.

Our final destination before returning to Kandy for a visa update was Anuradaphura.

This was basically a larger and less well preserved version of Polonnaruwa, spread out over a greater area and interspersed between present day dwellings, so in many ways less impressive – however its saving grace was the sheer scale of a number of the isolated ‘attractions’ dotted around the site, mainly in the form of ‘supersized’ Dagobas (think big boob with large pointy nipple made out of bricks)

which did give this final location a decent level of ‘impressibility’!! On this occasion we decided not to be so lazy and opted for bicycle as our means of locomotion and so by the end of a very long and hot day we were exhausted. Thankfully the area was in the main quite flat and so the effort involved in getting from A-B was actually not too extreme – but in heat of the day, even a gentle incline felt like the final leg of the Tour de France!!!

So – we arrived back to Kandy with high hopes of procuring a new India visa only to be told 3 days in a row that our application was still in limbo and we should ‘try again tomorrow’. On day 3 we decided that instead of waiting around anymore we would head off for the next leg of our Sri Lanka explorations and try again after the weekend.

This time we headed South, into the heart of the hill country. First stop: Adam’s Peak. One of the tallest mountains in Sri Lanka and a site of great religious significance for pretty much all the major religions represented here. For several months of the year the trail becomes overrun with pilgrims, keen to scale the heights and pay their respects to the mountain. The usual plan of attack for this steep and imposing peak is actually a twilight ascent to reach the summit by sun rise and thus be there in time to watch the amazing light show provided by both the rising of the sun, and immediately after, the specter of the peak’s shadow appearing on the misty clouds and mountains to the west as the sun slowly makes its way up into the sky.
2.30am we headed out into the cold dark night to attack the 4800 steps between us and the summit. By 4:30am we had reached the peak and realized it was going to be a long wait for dawn. Our trusty Lonely Planet Guide Book had told us it would take 2 ½ - 4 hrs for the hike so of course we did it in 2! It was actually quite cold and blustery on the top (@ 2300M) and so we retraced our steps a few short minutes back down the track to the last ‘tea shop’ before the top and ordered up some hot tea, to warm us up and fill the time. As the minutes ticked by and the sunrise approached we were joined by more and more fellow ‘pilgrims’, until we were merrily chatting away and almost missed the main event. Fortunately for us, our friendly Sri Lankan teashop dude was nice enough to break up the little party of foreigners that had gathered in his stall and remind us why we had come all this way. He quietly beckoned us to a tiny rickety wooden door, hidden away in the back corner of his stall which led to a private little ‘back yard’ away from the bright lights of the trail and the concrete steps that made the whole experience seem a little less ‘close to nature’ than we would have liked. The view that greeted us was quite simply magnificent. There was a shroud of low cloud cover over the early morning sky which actually heightened the whole experience; it made the sky appear like a bumpy crumpled quilt that had been torn into pieces – allowing the deep reds and oranges that began to disperse the darkness to break through in shocking splinters of intense pigmentation. In a word: Stunning. After watching the light gradually illuminate the sky and see the world below awakening we joined the rest of the crowds at the top of the peak to watch the final ascent of the sun, where it would break the horizon and hopefully cast it’s magical shadow behind Adam’s Peak. Unfortunately the low clouds meant that there was only a momentary glimpse of the naked sun before she rose further to be masked once more by nature. The magical shadow would not be making an appearance on this particular morning – but the supernatural light show that we had just received preceding the rising of the sun had more than made up for it. Considering the spiritual significance of this ‘holy mountain’ it turned out that the biggest disappointment of the whole experience was actually the decidedly ‘unpilgrimage like’ atmosphere. As we ascended the stairway into the sky we were greeted by a never ending ‘sound-track’ of music and chanting that to us sounded more like a radio four newscast and was of a decidedly unspiritual nature. When we reached the top we were surprised to find the source of most of this noise: a man in every day clothes (it wasn’t even a vicar or a monk), standing behind a ‘donation counter’ on a microphone, apparently announcing the generous bequests of the many arriving pilgrims, or perhaps soliciting more (we couldn’t be sure what he was saying since obviously none of his words were spoken in our mother tongue). His commentary sounded more like the sounds of a cruise ship bingo session in progress than the words of spiritual encouragement that may have been more fitting for this particular location. And then, as the sun made her final ascent we were treated to a musical extravaganza of drums and horn a la snake charmer style that seemed so wholly inappropriate; I almost felt inspired to donate myself (with the request that my donation go towards paying the ‘musicians’ to just shut the hell up for a few minutes so that the capacity to commune with nature could be allowed!). Oh well – the views were stunning: on all sides we witnessed wisps of cloud and mist swirling about the hill tops and peaks below, gradually fading off into the distance – so all in all it was a worth while experience!

From Adam’s Peak we made a quick stop off in a dusty little hill town named Haputale, to explore a little of the tea plantation heartland and make an early morning trip to ‘Lipton’s Seat’ (as in the famous Mr Lipton of Lipton’s Tea). We arrived in Haputale via train, which took us through some spectacular scenery and gave us a taster of what we would be hiking through the following morning. And so again we awoke at the crack of dawn to jump on the first bus of the day at 6:30am, with the plantation workers to the Dambatenne Tea Estate.

From there we hiked to ‘the Seat’ and enjoyed a spectacular vista from the edge of the hill country, where it kind of feels like the end of the earth (as the landscape seems to just slide away to the South Coast below).

On retracing our steps the 7kms back to the tea estate we agreed that nothing would top off our morning like a lovely hot cuppa, brewed fresh from the bushes we were currently strolling through.

And so we arrived at the tea factory with a simple request: “tea for two please”. Only to be told that there was no tea. We were horrified to discover that there was no café or tea serving facilities…….unless we would like to take a tour of the factory for 250rps per person and then there would be a ‘cupping’ to follow! And so – a word of warning (and to explain my earlier remarks): you know that saying ‘water water everywhere and not a drop to drink’? Well – replace the word water with tea and that’s pretty much how things stand in Sri Lanka!!

But at least the tea pickers here are friendly and LOVE to have their pictures taken

……so overall – even though it’s not always easy to track down a tasty brew - as far as the tea situation goes this place is much more highly rated than Darjeeling in our humble opinions!

So now we find ourselves in Ella, a sleepy little town on the Eastern edge of the Hill Country with some marvelous hiking through tea plantations and the striking formation of the Ella Gap – a break in the hills that forms an almost canyon like structure opening the plateau of the hill country out on to the low lands beneath. Today we had yet another early start – this time to beat the heat. We hiked along the train tracks and through yet more tea plantations to reach the summit of Ella Rock. Just one more spectacular view point - from here, on a clear day you can watch the horizon slide away almost to the sea.

And so - here I am, sipping on tea (in a café and not a tea estate) and typing away on Valentine’s Day, keeping my fingers crossed that when we call (yet again) tomorrow, our visa will be ready for pick up and we will once more be certain of the final stages of our journey that eagerly await us. If we can just make it back to India, we will be one step closer to our final destination and can spend our final days in Sri Lanka relaxing on the South Coast at the Beach town of Mirissa, where the aqua marine ocean will lap at our feet and we can top up our tans for a couple of days to allow us to recharge for the final assault. Rajastan here we come……

Monday, 8 February 2010

Insanity Imminent

It would seem that travel and I have finally reached breaking point. I’ve known it for a while – but what is it they say? Denial is a river in Egypt! Well – then I’m in a boat floating down that river without a paddle – and I can see the shore – but I can’t quite reach it. The realizations are all in place now – they have been for some time, but I’ve been burying them in the hope that I can once again find my adventurer’s spirit and somehow be in the moment – enjoy the here and now – and just bloody well relax in this time that I’ve earned – For God’s sake, I paid my dues – I lived in a metal box for 5 years against my free spirited will and I thought that a year on the road would be payback – but it appears that a year on the road is just a twist of the knife. I JUST CAN’T WAIT TO STAY PUT.
Originally we had planned to be ‘home’ by spring – but then a few things panned out a little differently and we ended up extending our trip a few months longer and those few months have been the straws that have broken the camels back. I just want it to be over. But as is always the way – with those Catch 22 situations – since we decided to save the best until last I simply can’t quit now – just before it gets good again! – I mean it would just feel like having sex without the orgasm – but no – that comparison is not a good one – since having sex generally feels good, with or without the orgasm. No – it would be like sweating a lot at the gym and not getting to take a lovely shower and feel fresh and clean after all that effort. Oh – I don’t know – I’m all analogied out. I just need a place to call home – and I need a purpose. Looking at cool stuff and feeling kinda dirty and sweaty all day just isn’t fun anymore – especially when the cool stuff isn’t that cool and the sound of HGV’s passing my hotel window reminds me that my hotel room is right beside the main highway and isn’t exactly the Marriott!
So – we arrived in Sri Lanka 3 days ago in the hopes of getting a new visa for India and also exploring a new place that would be calmer and ‘nicer’ than India. Now, it’s true that most of the regular Sri Lankan’s we’ve met so far seem a little more ‘modern’ and laid back than their Indian counterparts and there is a little less garbage strewn about the place – but besides that– the rickshaw drivers are exactly the same (they hassle you to jump in when you are only strolling down the street and overcharge you when you do actually need a ride), the commission touts are just as pushy and aggressive as the ones in India – if not worse - and the tourist attractions are far more overpriced and still barely worth the price of entry.
And while I do acknowledge that perhaps I’m just a little jaded and over-worked in the sightseeing department, I’m not entirely sure that anyone would feel happy that they parted with $10 (a tidy sum in this part of the world) to explore the Rock Caves at Dambulla. If you are keen to see a plethora of sitting Buddha’s all in a row, in a dingy room and the occasional reclining one that has apparently been reclining for a couple thousand years – then this spot will be right up your alley. But if you really want to be wowed by the historical wonders of Sri Lanka – then perhaps you’ll want to give this one a miss.
Oh, I don’t know – maybe I’m just being a whiny old baby and my nervousness about the uncertainties ahead for us when we do finally reach our ‘final destination’ is getting the better of me and making me want to hit the fast forward button on the next few months so I can alleviate the anxiety of the ‘unknown’ – but right now I’m having a really hard time feeling like this is where I am supposed to be.
On a more positive note – it does seem that we will actually be able to get back into India as originally planned in 3 weeks time (since the Indian high commission accepted our new visa application today) – so then we will finally get to see the best of India that we came to see and I will then continue on with my quest for self discovery by attending a Vipassana (10 day silent meditation retreat) and taking a 6 week intensive yoga teacher training course. So – it’s not all bad – I think I just needed to vent a little – and well – if I can’t vent publicly to all and sundry on my blog entitled ‘crash course to insanity’ where can I vent? I mean, with a title like that I suppose I pretty much called it right from the start. The question now is – will I make it back to civilization with all my faculties intact? Will the venting be enough? Or will they really need to lock me up and throw away the key when I return. Or……will this precipice I am perching on take me into new unchartered territory where I can find the peace that I am searching for?

Monday, 1 February 2010 'bout that hug?

So, I think I already mentioned that when we arrived at the ashram, Amma was actually out on the road. The energy around the ashram was calm and peaceful as one might expect – and we assumed that this was the norm. Well I stand corrected! When we awoke on our third morning at the ashram we were greeted by a completely different set of circumstances. The tranquil atmosphere of peaceful serenity had been kicked out by a whole lot of pushing and shoving……. What? Were we still even in the ashram or had the compound been taken over by terrorists masquerading as Amma devotees? Breakfast was a zoo! By now – we had eaten several meals here and realized that our first taster from the kitchen may somehow have been a lucky break. In general the food wasn’t bad – but the 3 meals included in out ‘ticket’ were all pretty much alike – sloppy rice and some kind of potatoeish curry – occasionally spicy but more often than not kind of bland – and I don’t know about you – but for me – no matter how long I spend in India – I still just can’t quite get my head around curry for breakfast. And so – by this point we were paying the few rupees extra at breakfast (and sometimes lunch or dinner) for one of the purchasable options at the ‘western canteen’. Well – Monday morning we were shocked to find that instead of our usual 30 second wait to get served, there was actually a huge line up at the café counter. The tour had returned and there were hundreds of hungry Amma ‘roadies’ to feed. So it turns out that when Amma hits the road, most of the ashram goes with her. We hadn’t even realized that when we showed up the place had actually been almost empty. No wonder it was so peaceful! And while one might expect that since this was an ashram after all, even though the numbers increased the vibe of calm would remain, it sadly didn’t seem the case. Let’s just say that not all who reside seem to abide by the ashram code of conduct. And let’s not forget people – it is still India – where the concept of queues and orderly behavior still seem undiscovered.
Regardless of the fact that our lovely, newly found peace had been disturbed, this new pace of life did at least mean that our chances of meeting the mama had just increased by at least 50%. But we still weren’t certain of an embracing opportunity: apparently Amma was hugging on into the wee hours of Sunday before starting the 2-hour journey back home to the ashram so she was exhausted from the event and it was looking unlikely that we would see her on that first day back (Monday) – but Tuesday we felt sure we would catch a glimpse.
In the mean time, I was still helping out in the kitchen and Darko had started communication with the digital team. Since we were only planning a brief stay at the ashram it wasn’t possible for him to really get involved in any of their long term projects but since they loved his photos (he’d showed them his website of course!) he offered to provide a few hundred stock shots of India for their library should they need any general pictures for a website page etc. And when they found out we were off to Sri Lanka it was also suggested that there were ongoing projects over there that we might be able to seek out and photograph for Amma. The team seemed pretty excited about this prospect so it was discussed between the various relevant parties (including one of the top dog swami’s in the ‘shram) and a plan was hatched for us to have a private audience with Amma……wow! And we thought we’d be lucky to catch a glimpse.
Monday rolled into Tuesday and finally our first chance to get a hug was upon us. Now the normal sequence of events for a Tuesday in the ashram would be a full morning of meditation in the main temple where Amma would preside and offer some guidance as well as a little Q&A before serving lunch to all her devotees (that’s right – Amma would actually slop out the rice and dhal to those present all by herself), and then after a good bowl of grub it would be cuddle time for all the newbie’s and ashramites departing that day (this was the informal darshan session – as opposed to most other days of the week when the ashram is open for public darshan where it is actually necessary to stand in line for hours to obtain a darshan token which then allows you to stand in line for hours to hand over the token in exchange for a hug).
Well - I sat patiently in half lotus for most of Tuesday morning amongst hundreds of other hopefuls, meditating and awaiting the arrival of Amma only to be disappointed when the allotted hour of her arrival came and went without so much as an aum uttered from her being. Amma was ‘in da house’, but not ‘in da temple’. The meditation session broke for lunch (evidently not to be served by Amma) and of course, over lunch came the rumors as to why Amma was a ‘no show’ – she’d broken a rib on tour from an over zealous hugging session, a bladder infection, the flu, exhaustion…..and the list went on.
So – we headed out for some Internet action in the village over the river and decided to return by 5pm, just incase she made an appearance at the evening meditation session on the beach – of course we’d heard a rumor that she might!
At around 5.05pm we casually sauntered back to our digs to discover that the beach in front of our building was indeed a mosh pit of merry meditaters – and there before us, sitting atop the breakwater rocks all in white, with an expression of pure peace and utter tranquility was Amma. I scrambled through the crowd to find a suitable perch just along the rocks from her, facing out to sea and waited. And finally she moved, and the crowd beneath her stirred and we all hung on her every word. She spoke and her translator relayed her words in English – “Amma says you should be still and meditate……….and be careful on the rocks”. “Sit quietly, close your eyes and breath and with each breath in inhale the divine light and with each breath out exhale all negative thought and darkness”. The translators voice was rich and warm and soothing and the presence of Amma was like warm golden sun with a calm summer breeze. And then she talked about her children (us) and asked if we were not afraid of a tsunami. And people answered, telling their stories of faith and readiness to progress to another world if a wave came to take them away.
Once the Q&A was over, Amma sang a couple of devotional songs and then moved to the back of the beach where she would give darshan. And that’s when all the piety of the devotees went straight out the window. People clamored over one another to make sure they got their chance to have a hug. I swear there were more handlers there than there would have been had Michael Jackson been present and as we got closer and closer to the moment of truth I felt that little twinge of butterflies in my belly – I realized that I was a wee bit nervous – what if I messed up my hug? What if she didn’t want to cuddle me? It was just the way I felt before my very first kiss. But then I was at the front of the line and it was my turn next and before I knew it, it was all over, and I didn’t really know what had just happened. In fact it had been just like a first kiss – so much anticipated and generally a bit over-rated but at least I could say I’d been there and done that! In the final seconds before the moment of truth I was shoved into place before her by one of the handlers, and then my head was thrust down onto her shoulder by another one. I wasn’t allowed to put my arms out to embrace her – this was strictly a one way hug and what with all the pushing and shoving around me there was no chance for a moment of compassion or a sensation of ‘love’ to reach me. As I backed away from Amma she handed me a little package – which turned out to be a little candy wrapped in a tiny envelope of ash, and I tried to interpret the message she’d muttered into my ear. It sounded a lot like ‘my daughter, my daughter, my daughter’, which made sense, as she feels like a mother to all of her followers – but I couldn’t be sure. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t like my hug – but it certainly wasn’t quite what I had expected. It was all just too rushed and almost a touch on the aggressive side for me. I left the beach feeling slightly deprived by the whole experience – like going to the prom with a date but leaving early because my date ended up ditching me for the prom queen. What more can I say – it was an anti-climax. Having said that I did enjoy the tone of her lovely husky voice in my ear!!!
After the darshan was done she was whisked back to the main hall of the ashram for bharjans (devotional singing) and then she was spirited away, as mysteriously as she had arrived in our midst.
And the mystery of whether or not she would surface the next day was still circulating after dinner that night, as Darko tried to ascertain whether or not we could meet with her regarding his potential photographic assignment in Sri Lanka. We would just have to wait and see.
Next morning the official word on the street was still ‘no word’ but then at 11am she showed up to bless a wedding and the darshan session for the day began. We’d been given the heads-up that 2pm might be our window of opportunity for a quick word – but it didn’t seem likely. I left Darko to finish up some bits and bobs while I headed back to the room to pack and when he still hadn’t showed up half an hour later I started to wonder where he’d got to. All of a sudden a breathless Darko flung open the door, grabbed my arm and pulled me to the stairs – we were about to be presented to Amma. Our ‘private meeting’ was actually going to happen in the midst of her public darshan – so I wasn’t quite sure how it would work but when we arrived in the hall we were fast tracked right to the front where the IT project co-ordinator explained briefly to Amma who we were and what Darko was offering to do. She spoke rapidly in response and then we were on our knees before her for our second chance at a snuggle. Darko got a quick one to himself (being the photographer extraordinaire) and then I joined in for a bit of group hug action. And this time I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t know how to explain what happened because it was still over almost as fast as the hug the day before – but this time – maybe it was because we were down on our knees – maybe there was more of a personal connection – but I really felt her projecting her love on to us both. And as we broke from the hug, I don’t know if we had funny looks on our faces, or she just wanted to give us something more – but she looked at us and laughed. And it was such a free and loving laugh – a laugh that a mother might give to a child that has just said something funny for the first time – or taken it’s first steps – but it was a moment that we shared and it was beautiful. As we walked away, sucking on the tasty piece of chocolate she had hand fed to us we both felt a wonderful glow. I was so happy I’d got a second chance. That first hug had been such an anti-climax. I’d wanted it to be good. I’d wanted to feel more, something, anything. But this hug. Now this hug – was a good hug, and one that definitely left me wanting more. So, I can certainly see why thousands of people choose to stick around for a regular dose of fine mama lovin’ and become permanent residents of the ashram. But for us it was to be our fond farewell.
After our hug the IT coordinator translated for us – Amma was grateful for the offer – but didn’t feel that it would be safe for us to head off into the boonies of Sri Lanka to snap a few shots – she asked that we be careful there and be safe. And so – although we won’t be on assignment for Amma after all, it sure was a great way to get a very public ‘private audience’ with a saint in the making and I sure won’t mind coming back for another one some day, if the opportunity ever arises.
But for the record: I still think I’d beat her in a ‘hug off’. Common – you all know it. My hugs rock!
Coming Soon: Carrie’s darshan tour – Vancouver, July 2010! No tokens required!