I woke up on my second full day looking forward to my first lesson again with Yogeshji. Lessons always have a way of putting things back into perspective, and they definitely did. Now I am halfway through the first leg of my stay in Mumbai, and it’s been really, really nice. Once I got over the feelings and the jet lag, I’ve fallen into a peaceful routine of solitary study, reflection, and practice. I’ve been focused on working through my lesson material and transcribing my lessons, and reading.
I think one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable parts of travel is getting into the sticky situations. Traveling already plants us outside of our comfort zone, but it also often puts us into situations where we have to use our own creativity and ingenuity to figure things out in the moment, and then to be able to tell a great story about it later. Usually, a little time and distance from the chaos of a plan gone wrong help give some perspective, but then it ends up being a great memory - something overcome.
This morning, I entered the cafe where I used to sit every afternoon last time I was here to use the internet. I don't know why I hadn't come here earlier, I pass it almost every day since it is so close. I came in and ordered a coffee and asked for the wifi password. The manager came to take some ID (they are pretty secure around here), and he asked me if I was here 4 or 5 years ago! I said, "Yeah, wow! Good memory!" He said, "I thought it was you, and I saw the name on your ID and I knew it!" I was pretty amazed.
I've picked up a few words since coming to Mumbai, and not just in Hindi. In Australia, "Mozzies" are mosquitos, a "brickie" lays bricks, and a "rick" is a rickshaw. In Hindi ,"Hauh" means yes. "Naihe" means no. An "Indian head bob" means everything. And most things are game for adding in an Indian head bob, to which I have dutifully submitted. I have discovered that if I speak in English with an "Indian accent," cab drivers will better understand what I am asking them, which feels ridiculous at times, but really works well.
India is an intense juxtapositions of extremes. The most expensive house in the world is located in Mumbai, and I've driven past it a few times. You have to slump down and crank your head up to see it while in a cab from about a block away. Three people live there. This is in the same city as one of the earth's biggest slums - Dharavi slum, where almost 1 million people live. The dirt and dust and exhaust and pollution is everywhere, but then you see people of all classes and backgrounds wearing the most vibrant, beautiful colors and fabrics, next to massive fruit and goods stands. Crumbling buildings and hole-in-the-wall shops are wedged next to massive, ornate architectural monoliths.
Mat and I love This American Life. It is our go-to in the long road trips between Minneapolis and Chicago when we are driving back to visit my family a few times a year, and we always look forward to it. We'll get in the car, get settled down, and once we have been on the road for maybe an hour or two, we will turn on an episode. A few hours later, we are magically in Illinois, and it feels like not much time has passed. I also love Ira Glass. I love his curiosity, I love his presentation - he's really great at what he does.
I want soup. I had been tossing this thought around in my mind all night on Sunday. I am not talking about the soup from dinner here - which was an oddly thick broth of salt. I am talking about some good old American Progresso canned chicken noodle soup. With all the junk in it, and with well over ten times of your daily sodium allowance. And some ritz crackers - buttery and also probably too salty and filled with a delicious carby fatness. I was homesick, but it's mostly because I was sick Sunday morning. It wasn't terrible, but it did take my day away, which is unfortunate.
Brown plants, dirt, musky green trees, and garbage whirred past me through the bars of the window on the train. Each time a train going the opposite direction passed, I would hear the loud, "WHAAAAAOOOOOOWWWWwwwww," and feel the gust of warm air nudge me. Night took over, and the train gently rocked as it rushed through Maharashtra. Once night had fallen, the moon revealed itself as a smile. I had never seen the sliver of the moon sideways like that. It reminded me of the cheshire cat's smile from Alice in Wonderland, and I felt like it was challenging me.
When I am in India, in a way things are much more simple than home. In the morning I wake up with the sun. I shower, I eat, and what I do with my day is entirely up to me, but it really comes down to two options: I can say yes or I can say no. Each day is a challenge to say yes to breaking out of the comfort zone. If I go outside at all, the chaos of the city will absolutely challenge me, whether I decide to walk down the street for a few quick errands, or travel to a new part of the city. I recently spoke to a few long-time Mumbaikars (as they are called), and this phenomenon of not being able to handle the sheer volume of city-ness of Mumbai is very common. Many people hwo have lived here struggle with either leaving or coming back - not wanting to bear the insanity of the insanely dense city, but still having feelings of home attached.
This morning I woke up to a dull roar of people. For a groggy moment, I thought that maybe everyone was at breakfast without me, and that the sound was coming from the hotel being full of people in the dining hall. Then I realized the crowd was not from the hotel. I popped my window open to reveal through the trees a dirt soccer field crowded with teenage boys playing a soccer game. I layed there for awhile, taking a moment to let where I was sink in again, and then got ready to go down to breakfast.
So every once in awhile, when I am feeling... less than motivated, I try to focus in and think about things that I've seen that really make me feel inspired. Catching myself and reading these things before my motivation sinks too low is an absolute life-saver - I can feel better, get in more practice time, and spend more time creating instead of feeling overwhelmed/stressed/low.
Recently found this article and I love it. I spend a lot of time getting ramped up during lessons about ingenious practice techniques, or about how to best work practicing into the busy, expectation-filled lives of my students. It's something that generally consumes a few minutes of every lesson I teach, and this article sums up my feelings on the matter so perfectly.