Saturday, August 2, 2008


It's a strange feeling to start talking again after ten days of silence! The meditation course is the best thing that I have done for myself in awhile, and I am excited to share some of the things I learned with all of you when I return! Rene and you think that you can remain silent for 15 minutes? I promise to provide plenty of opportunities for practice when we return to school! I am looking forward to seeing you all in a few weeks...where did the time go? Until then, make sure that you are doing your summer reading, and contact me if you need to borrow a copy of one of the books. I will be back in NYC on the 3rd and will probably stop by school to say hi and maybe help move a few boxes? Hugs to all.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bhutan, Nepal and India

Bhutan was a beautiful and welcome break from the craziness of Calcutta. It also marked a change in the format of the tour because our itinerary was so closely controlled. Bhutan has strict guidelines surrounding tourism, and we were assigned a local guide for the duration of our stay, ate all of our meals in the hotel restaurants and stuck to a prearranged schedule. The highlight of the trip for me was our trek up the the Tigers Nest monastery, and the beautiful scenery along the way. At the close of the trip we flew to Nepal on a flight with the Queen of Bhutan. It's not everyday that your pilot announces, "good morning your royal highness and ladies and gentlemen". In addition to flying with royalty we were also treated to some amazing views of Mt. Everest as we made our way to Kathmandu! Upon arrival in Nepal we scheduled another flight to view the mountains closer up, but it was cancelled mid-air because clouds made viewing the peaks impossible. We spent the next three days soaking up the sights, sounds and flavors of Kathmandu. This is one of my favorite cities thus far, and I could have spent many more days exploring the hundreds of sites and side streets. From Kathmandu we descended into Lumbini and began our world wind tour of Buddhist sites. Lumbini is home to the birthplace of Buddha, and we spent the evening exploring the ruins and multiple monasteries in the area. From there we travelled on to Kushinagar, Varanassi and Bodghaya, the locations of Buddha's death, enlightenment and where he preached his first sermon. We were also treated to a delicious lunch at the home of our tour guide, and got to cook and relax with his family. All of this has left me exhausted but so excited to share all that I have learned when I return. Unfortunately the internet cafe does not allow me to post photos, but I will do so as soon as possible. I am now off to five days of silence and meditation in the mountains of Darmasala. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 25, 2008


Time truly does fly when you are having fun! I'm sorry that I have been out of touch for so long. India has proven to be a very busy section of the trip, and internet access is not available as frequently. I will post updates for Bhutan, Nepal and India when I arrive in Delhi on the 28th. Tonight is my last evening with the group before I depart tomorrow afternoon for my meditation course. I could not have asked for a nicer group of people to travel with, and I will certainly miss their company in the coming days. However, I am also looking forward to some time on my own to explore this overwhelming country and to reflect on everything that I have experienced over the past month. Namaste.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Little Something Extra...

Thai Buddhists believe that the day of the week you were born on relates to a specific color and Buddha image. I have included a list below because it is a bit interesting. FYI...I am a Tuesday! Enjoy.

Sunday (วันอาทิตย์ — wan athi) is the Day of Restraint with red being the color of those born on this day of the week.
The image shows Buddha standing with the right hand covering the left and represents the period when he had reached enlightenment spent days of sufferings. He sat under the Bho tree when he accomplished his enlightenment.
A person born on a Sunday is respectable, wise, loved by friends and family. He is likely to be in a professional occupation. His lucky day is Wednesday and lucky color is green while the unlucky day is Friday and unlucky color is blue.

Monday (วันจันทร์ — wan chan) is called the Day of Making Peace. The day’s color is cream or yellow.
This image represents the Buddha standing with his right arm raised in a pacifying gesture. The Buddha stops the relatives from fighting or pacifying his relatives. When the Buddha came back from Heaven, he found that his relatives were quarreling about the right to use water from a river for their rice fields. The Buddha encouraged them to compromise and said that human life is much more valuable than water and it was not worth killing men for water. Then, his relatives stopped fighting.
A person born on a Monday is serious with a good memory and a love of travel. This person is likely to be in a skilled occupation whose lucky day is Saturday and lucky color is black. His unlucky day is Sunday and unlucky color is orange.

Tuesday (วันอังคาร — wan angkhan), with the daily color of pink, is the Sleeping Day.
This image of the Buddha lying on his right side signifies his passage into Nirvana and the death of his physical body. The gesture represents complete peace and detachment from the world. It was believed that the Buddha entered Nirvana on this day of the week.
This person is serious, brave and active most probably in the services. His lucky day is Thursday and lucky color is yellow. The unlucky day is Monday and the unlucky color is white.

Wednesday (วันพุธ — wan phut) is divided into day and night according to Thai astrology. The color for those born on Wednesdays is green.
The Morning is for Receiving.
This image shows Buddha holding an alms bowl. The Buddha visited his family after four years in the monastery. His father was not content when he saw the Buddha “begged” for food holding an alms bowl. Buddha explained to his father that performing pindabat, or holding an alms bow are the lineage of Buddha. Thus, the disciples can devote their food. The virtue of giving amongst Buddhists is strong until today.
The person born on Wednesday morning is polite, artistic and emotional. He is most likely working creatively. Wednesday night is their lucky time and the lucky color is green. His unlucky day is Tuesday and the unlucky color is pink.
The Evening is for the Blessed One.
This image shows Buddha seated to receive gifts from a monkey and an elephant. As Buddhism teaches respect for everything living this posture shows the respect of all living things for the Buddha.
This person is hard working and honest. He is likely to be employed in a profession with the lucky day of Monday and the color white. The unlucky day is Thursday and the unlucky color is yellow.

Thursday (วันพฤหัสบดี — wan pharuehat) uses the colors of orange or brown. It is the Day of Meditation.
This image depicts the classic meditation position with both the soles of the feet and palms of the hand visible. This is the perfect mental discipline. The gesture is the ultimate balance of tranquility and thoughts. It is believed that the body in the position is receptive to power or energy to enter the body from the top of the head and the opening palms.
This person is peaceful, calm and honest –likely to be a teacher or in the legal profession. His lucky day is Sunday and the lucky color is orange. The unlucky day is Saturday and the unlucky color is black.

Friday (วันศุกร์ — wan suk) is the Day of Contemplation. The day’s color is blue.
The Friday Buddha image shows the Buddha thinking about how he can teach the doctrine to others. The hands rest across his chest with the right hand covering the left. This implies meditation and a spiritual transformation based on personal experience.
This person is fun loving, friendly and ambitious, probably an entertainer or public figure. Their lucky day is Tuesday and the lucky color is pink. The unlucky time is Wednesday night and the unlucky color is light green.

Saturday (วันเสาร์ — wan sao) is the Day of Protection and uses the colors of black or purple.
The image shows the Buddha in meditation and protected from tempest by the King of the Naga, Mucalinda, a coiled snake. The Naga appears since ancient Egypt as a force of good and is even used today as a symbol of medicine amongst other things. The image is related to the moment when a Naga spread its hood to protect the Buddha from a rainstorm while he was in profound meditation.
This person is calm, logical and a bit of a recluse. He is very likely engaged in manual work of a skilled nature. The lucky day is Friday and the lucky color is blue. The unlucky day is Wednesday during the daytime with the unlucky color of green.

Kalimpong and the Himalayas

Greetings from the Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong, Indian. We boarded an overnight train from Calcutta to Jalpaiguri late last night, and upon arrival this morning we drove 3 hours to Kalimpong. The Indian railway experience was unlike anything I have ever done before. The sheer number of people on the train was overwhelming, and the toilet facilities were a humorous challenge. I was able to get a few hours of sleep amidst the noise and commotion, but I am looking forward to a more restful and quiet sleep this evening. Kalimpong is a small town located in the Himalayan mountains and is approximately 4000 feet above sea level. The area used to function as a major trade route between Llhasa, Tibet and India but that ended when Tibet lost their independence. Today the area is a mix of Nepalese, Tibetan and native people and still has many of the English style homes built by the British East India Company. The guest house that we are staying at was formerly a vacation home owned by the MacDonald family who were good friends with the 13th Dali Llama. In fact the room that I will be sleeping in this evening has also housed the 13th and 14th Dalai Llama’s as well as Richard Gere! I was lucky enough to draw #5 when we were choosing rooms, and am enjoying sitting at the same desk as so many distinguished individuals (and also sleeping in the same bed!).

Calcutta (Kolkata)

Calcutta is a city that forces you to readjust your scale of what constitutes poverty. I have witnessed poverty in both South Africa and New York City, but Calcutta possesses some of the most extreme examples that I have ever seen. You can’t walk anywhere without being approached by children and adults alike begging for food or money. There are over 13 million people living in the city, and many of them live right on the streets. I now understand how Mother Theresa could have spent her whole life working to care for the destitute and dying in this city. During our short stay we visited the morning flower market, joined a group of bathers at the gahts along the Ganges and washed our feet, crossed the Howrah Bridge, walked through St.Paul’s Cathedral, enjoyed a walk through the Victoria Museum gardens, and wandered around the night markets. However, one of the highlights of the trip was when I got to go back into the hotel kitchen and help prepare our lunch. It was a great way to learn about Indian spices and also preparation methods for their delicious curries! I can’t wait to experiment a bit when I return home.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane

It was with a mix of both sadness and excitement that we left behind both Laos and Thailand in the past 24 hours and embarked on a flight to India. I thoroughly enjoyed the kindness of both the Thai and Laos people, the beauty of the natural surroundings and the many new flavors, sights and sounds. I should start by saying that the elephant riding was amazing! My elephant was a bit “cheeky” and would swat at me with branches, but I think we achieved a truce at the end and parted on good terms. The visit to Vang Vieng was a bit surreal because of all the western influences. We spent the greater portion of an afternoon floating down the Mekong River in tire tubes while listening to Bob Marley and visiting the bars that dotted the shores. After much peer pressure I was coerced into swinging from trapeze over the river and plummeting into the water below. It was all a bit kitschy and reminiscent of spring break excursions in college, but was also a welcome change of pace and a respite from the more serious and historical travel sites. In the evening most of the tipsy and damp travelers head off to restaurants throughout the town where you can lounge on elevated platforms and watch “Friends” and an assortment of other DVD’s on offer. So surreal! Our next stop was in Vientiane, the capital of Laos and home of the Laotian Arch de Triumph. I ventured out in the rain to visit the National Museum and was intrigued by the varied history of the region. I am anxious to read up on all of it when I return home, and pick Marie’s brain about some of the things I’ve seen and heard. We are about to land in Kolkata (Calcutta), the temperature is a warm 92 degrees with about 90 percent humidity! Wish me luck.