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"Incredible India"

India living up to it's national slogan

sunny 85 °F

I have to admit, I haven't been very good at bathing in this bucket lately. Our last few weeks in India were emotionally draining as India's in-your-face culture, sights, colors, smells and sounds can be taxing on the senses. The national slogan of "Incredible India" certainly doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately, it's "incredible-ness" resulted in me moping around miserable and on the constant verge of a breakdown. Poor Micah has endured a lot lately!

We have since moved on to Nepal, but India did produce some amazing experiences. Dharamsala, home to the Dali Llama, and Rishikesh, where The Beatles wrote a majority of their "White" album, were spiritual playgrounds. I was in all my glory with fresh mountain air, yoga classes and an Ayurveda cooking and nutrition course.

We visited the magnificent, Golden Sikh temple in Amritsar and experienced eating shoulder to shoulder on the floor with 1,000's of Indians and their families on pilgrimage. The temple provides free meals, 24/7 with a volunteer run kitchen and feeds over 80,000 people a day. Everyone is encouraged to jump in and lend a helping hand washing dishes, peeling potatoes and serving chai. A short taxi ride out of Amritsar to the Indian / Pakistan border allowed us to witness to the spectacle that occurs nightly when the border closes. It's equipped with thousands of spectators sitting in grand stands, a dance party, flag waving, cheering and a showdown by the plume wearing, boot stomping guards on both sides. It felt like a sporting event.

About 2 of our weeks in India were spent traveling through the desert cities, and ancient sandcastle-like forts of Rajasthan. The highlight for me was a 2 day camel safari. To the dismay of our bums, we rode camels for 5 hours each day, breaking mid-afternoon to enjoy chai, chipati and dal cooked over a fire. All the while, our camels munched happily on the trees providing our shade. In the evening, we watched a beautiful sunset, with another chai in hand, over giant sand dunes before turning in for the night to the sounds of our camels chewing, belching and pooping. I made the ironic comparison of it seeming like we were sleeping in a planetarium. There were more stars than I imagined the universe to even hold. We awoke with our blankets surrounded by a complex highway system of footprints that was build by visiting Dung beetles over night. (I hope I kept my mouth closed while I was sleeping.)

Our next stop was the awe inspiring Taj Mahal. India showed us many of the negative effects that tourism can produce and it was most noticeable here. It has created an annoying scene of relentless rickshaw drivers, a two tier pricing system and souvenir sellers. Do people even buy snow globes anymore?! The Taj Mahal was beautiful but this is where dear India started to weigh on me.

My full emotional breakdown occurred in the holy city of Varanasi. The city is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. People come here to die and be cremated at the burning ghats along the polluted Ganga River. Every 20 minutes, another ornately wrapped, deceased body is carried through the people, cow and motorbike crowded streets on it's journey to the burning ghat. Personally, the atmosphere was very unsettling as death is something that is celebrated and not mourned in the Indian culture. It's very different from what we know. Our guesthouse was within 50 yards of the largest cremation ghat that burns 24/7 with multiple fires. I found myself feeling sick, temperamental, emotionally drained and overwhelmed. I tend to be the person in the room that becomes upset when I sense someone is unhappy. I think my body is too tuned into energy to be able to cope with the death, overcrowding and nightly celebration of singing and prayers that occurs in Varanasi. In addition to this, tourism has yet again reared it's ugly head with in your face touts, unofficial guides, boat drivers, drug sellers and children begging you to take their picture in exchange for Rupees. It was all too much and I spent a majority of the time jailed up in our windowless room.

After Varanasi, I couldn't escape India quickly enough. A 12hr government bus ride from India landed us in the quiet, small town of Lumbini, Nepal which archeologists have declared as the birthplace of Buddha. We've since called the more energetic city of Kathmandu our home as we've settled here for Passover. The Chabad House here holds the biggest Passover Seder in the world.

It's hard to believe we only have about 2 weeks of our trip remaining! This weekend we'll be heading north to start 7-days trekking through the Himalayas. I'm hoping to keep my remaining toenails in tact-I lost my 3rd one a few weeks ago with a shrug.

Now that my emotional state is on the mend, I'll try to be a more consistent bucket-bathing blogger! I've got new videos and photos to post as soon as we have faster internet.

Much love from Nepal

Posted by bucketbath 09:42 Archived in India Tagged children desert culture temple india fort bus the trekking river golden safari buddha varanasi fire ganga bath llama cooking camel nepal dali tourism motorbikes mahal taj dal experience yoga rajasthan kathmandu pokhara volunteer ghat journey stars cows beatles rupees sikh hindu cremation spiritual rishikesh bucket nutrition dharamsala souvenir ayurveda rickshaw chai lumbini sandcastle beetles incredible passover dung senses planetarium amristar emotional pilgramage chipati touts beggers governement chabbad seder toenails Comments (4)

Sore thumbs

Week four at TMC intensifies

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This week, I completed week 4 of my 5 week Thai massage course at TMC in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was the most challenging week yet! Learning Thai massage is much more involved than I ever imagined.

Every day, we're exposed to new techniques, new information, and new ways of adapting a massage to meet a client's specific needs. I have accumulated 4 textbooks and have a long list of others that I am going to purchase when I get settled back home. In addition to practicing daily, 2 hr massages on one another at the school, we completed an internship at the Piyamal Elderly Service Center.

My thumbs started swelling on Wednesday and I had to muscle through the rest of the week. Thai Massage isn't always done for relaxation. It's about using pressure points to release energy blockages in order to generate a healthy flow through the Sen Sib, or energy lines, in the body. That requires quite a lot of body weight and pressure. There is a different way to sit for every position in order to save your thumbs and have the maximum effect. I haven't yet mastered these techniques and sometimes forget if I should be: sitting up, sitting down, kneeling, working with one leg over the body, pressing with straight arms, keeping my back straight, pressing my weight over the recipients body, or simply just relaxing and focusing calm energy into a gentle massage.

As if the technique alone isn't enough to remember, we spent numerous lecture hours studying anatomy, pathology and learning how to locate and clear blockages within the body. I imagine this is a mini taste of what med school must be like. I had to learn the major Sen Sib lines that flow throughout the body, including their pathways, exit points and the body symptoms that occur when there is a blockage. There are 72,000 lines in all, but they are (thankfully) contained within 10 needed for Thai Massage purposes.

The internship was the highlight of the week and made the near mental breakdown worth it. We offered free massages at the Piyamal Elderly Center. When the clients arrived, they first received a mandatory health screening. In Thai Massage, it's important to know the client's blood pressure, temperature and body ailments or conditions. If someone has high blood pressure, it's necessary to eliminate many of the positions. The temperature is important because receiving, or giving a massage while running a fever can inhibit the body's natural healing process and also disrupt the energy flow. It's also important to know about ailments such as back problems, varicose veins, pregnancy, etc. I can't remember the last time I had a massage and was asked all of these important questions. At TMC, the giver and the receiver both weigh in before and after the massage because there is an ongoing study in the field of Thai massage and weight loss. On average, the receivers consistently lose weight following a Thai massage. I've seen the results, it's incredible!

After the screening was done, we were each given a clip board with an informational sheet written in Thai. We had to wait for our teachers to translate the ailments and precautionary sites of the body and then we were given a few minutes to consult our textbooks and plan for a 2 hr massage.

My first client was 62 and had high blood pressure along with chronic knee and leg pain. I surprised myself by remembering the knee pressure points and sequences for the massage. She spent a majority of the time snoring as the 82 yr old man beside her laughed and imitated her. I took it all as a compliment. Anyone that knows me, knows I have a love for the elderly and very young. I was in all my glory sitting in a room full of 60+'ers as they snored, moaned, farted and burped with sheer pleasure. To think of it, I may just have a soft spot for anyone that will shamelessly fart in public. :) (Don't get any ideas, Micah! This doesn't apply to you.) Upon taking her blood pressure at the end of the massage, she was estaic to discover that it had dropped from 154 down to 123. My healing hands had done their magic!

My second client of the day was only 32 and just wanted a general, relaxing massage. Our teachers informed us that the afternoon crowd would be much younger as the older people stay home in the afternoon to watch the Thai soap operas. While she didn't snore, she was very appreciative and lingered around to pay me numerous thanks afterwards.

After such a busy week, I've been thankful for a lazy weekend. Today, I had breakfast and watched the Chang Mai Flower festival parade with my adopted "grandfather"- a 74 yr old man that rode the bus with me from Cambodia when I arrived a month ago. My roommate, Elyse, returned from a week long stay in Cambodia. I happily awoke to her smiling face this morning. I enjoyed a fun, girls night dinner this evening at a local vegetarian restaurant and also forced myself to pick up a book for pleasure and not touch my Thai Massage textbooks!

It's back to work on Monday to finish off my final week, but for now, my brain and thumbs are on vacation.

To book your discounted Thai Massage click the Pay Pal link below.

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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Posted by bucketbath 07:38 Archived in Thailand Tagged flower vacation bus cambodia thailand school chiang mai opera festival thai relax energy block elderly massage disease pain soap sen lecture anatomy symptoms pathology sib tmc pathways knee ailments Comments (4)

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