Dharamsala Animal rescue Mobile Clinic

Dharamsala Animal Rescue: How an American Woman Found Her Passion in a Village in India

India changes people. If you don’t believe me, just ask Deb Jarrett. She was an American, turning 40 and needing a change her life. She loved to travel, so she volunteered with a charitable organization called Cross Cultural Solutions and signed up for a few weeks in India.  Fast forward nearly a decade later and she is running her own nonprofit, rescuing animals from the harsh streets of India and an important part of the Dharamsala community. Dharamsala is probably best known for being the town of residence of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

I met Deb while on a trek in the Himalaya Mountains on our way up to Triund. It was hard to miss her big radiant smile and 3-legged dog named Jack. After only a 5-minute conversation we became friends. Her commitment and passion for helping others, whether they be 2-legged or 4-legged beings, inspires me to be a better person.

 

The beginning of Dharamsala Animal rescue

When she first came to India for a few weeks as a volunteer working with women and children, she was astonished at the mistreatment of animals, in particular, dogs. There was a poor little sickly one in the corner of the temple where she was working and no one seemed to care about it. Deb, being a woman of action, contacted a vet for assistance, and well the rest is history.

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A cottage at Dudhsagar Plantation

Dudhsagar Plantation: A Botanical Utopia Hidden in the Jungle of Goa

I had an extraordinary time visiting a real Indian farm in Southeastern Goa. Dudhsagar Plantation is a guesthouse spread on about 50 beautiful acres. They have 5 cottages scattered amongst the agricultural paradise and employ around 14 people. The farm is owned by Doris and Ajit Malkarnekar who started it over 30 years ago. Doris is from Germany and still lives there. Ajit is Goan. Their son, Ashok, was my host. His wife actually lives in Indonesia. I found it fascinating that both couples are international and live apart most of the time. I guess when running a large plantation, you do what you have to in order to keep the place running smoothly. In fact, I’ve met many people in India that live apart from their spouses in order to meet obligations of extended family and work. It’s not terribly uncommon.

Accommodations

Beside the 5 cottages, the grounds also have a fair sized swimming pool and open air common dining room. It has a thatched roof and is situated just outside the main house. The food was delicious and featured many of their farm grown fruits, vegetables and spices.

The tour

Ashok gave me the grand tour and I was captivated by every amazing detail. Their main crop is coconuts and they harvest 3 to 4 times per year. They cook with their own homemade bio gas, which is basically methane made from liquefied cow dung. Cow dung is a popular fuel in India. Traditionally, many homes dry cow dung discs and cook with them year around. Sometimes it takes a little getting used to because the smell of burning cow dung mixes with the aroma of the food and is a little pungent for western senses, but food cooked on biogas does not have this odour.

The view at Olaulim Backyards

I found Paradise in the Backyards of Panjim, Goa, India

Everyone is always talking about Goa like it’s some sort of exotic dream vacation destination, so I had to find out for myself why it’s so popular. I’ve only spent three days here and I never want to leave! Goa is heavenly, and my accommodations are sheer paradise!

What and Where

I’m staying at a charming home stay called Olaulim Backyards, situated on 3 lovely acres located about half an hour outside of Panjim. Panjim is the capital of the state of Goa. Home Stays are popular in India and one of my favorite types of places. They are typically a cheaper alternative to a hotel and provide a “no frills” style of accommodations. However, Olaulim (the name of the village) Backyards is an extraordinary exception.

My Cottage

I arrived after dark, weary from a day of travel. Pirkko Fernandes, co-owner and hostess, met me with a smile at the car and introduced herself. She is originally from Finland but has lived in India for over 20 years. Her hospitality and graciousness were evident from the very beginning. I felt like I had just arrived home. She showed me to my cottage and I was immediately impressed with every beautiful detail. The bed was soft and actually had sheets (unusual for India unless staying in a 4 or 5-star hotel).  The bamboo accents and soft golden lighting instantly helped me relax. The bathroom was an open air style with a 6-foot solid mud wall around it, thatched roof and a concrete floor. It makes you feel like you are part of nature yet still have all the comforts of home.  I really had no idea though what a charming and beautiful place it was until the next morning.

 

I awoke to the sounds of birds singing cheerfully outside of my cottage. I could hear the unmistakable sound of a peacock calling in the distance and wind chimes making soft music in the cool morning breeze. I made myself a cup of coffee and then headed out to the pool area to meditate, do some yoga and watch the sunrise over the bay. It was the perfect start to an incredibly relaxing day. 

My class at Rishikesh Yog Peeth

2 Weeks of Intensive Yoga Training at Rishikesh Yog Peeth: How Do I feel?

Before I came to Rishikesh Yog Peeth I had never done a single yoga class in my life. Now I intend to make yoga an important part of my everyday life. In only 2 weeks I have observed a few major changes in my mind, body and spirit, so much so that I only want to learn more. I know now why it is a lifestyle. Here’s how I’m feeling.

Stronger

I thought the only real way to strengthen my muscles was by lifting weights in a gym. Boy! Was I wrong! I didn’t realize that the best way to build strength is by simply using your own body weight. There are so many yoga poses that once held, build your muscles. A good example is the tree pose. Stand with both feet together. Now lift one leg and press the flat of your foot into the other thigh. (Be careful not to press your foot against your knee). Now lift your arms straight over head so they are next to your ears. Engage your legs and arms and core so they are tight and maintain your balance. Make sure you are standing straight. Tuck in your butt and take 5 long deep breaths. My legs started quivering on the second breath, but I know it’s because it’s improving my strength and balance. I see the tone in my muscles already.

Yoga students practicing

5 Incredible Things That I’ve learned About Yoga So Far

I’m finishing my first week of yoga training at Rishikesh Yog Peeth Teacher Training School in India and it’s been an enlightening time for me so far. I’m learning so much that at times I feel like my brain is going to explode. I’m not only learning about yoga, more importantly, I’m learning about myself. The study of yoga is a process, and the process is beautiful. Yoga means awakening, and I see now that that is precisely what is happening to me. I’m awakening from a toxic sleep caused by stress, poor health choices and other environmental factors. Through yoga I am evolving and it feels marvelous. We learn new things every day and I can’t share them all with you, but here are the 5 major things that I’ve learned about yoga so far. If you want to know more, you should come to Rishikesh and experience it for yourself. It’s life changing.

Yoga is a lifestyle

Many of the students here at Rishikesh Yog Peeth have been practicing yoga for 5 to 10 years. They practice every day, not necessarily in a class, but more often in solitude. Some people travel from place to place on “yoga vacations” where they learn from various masters or instructors. They read every book they can get their hands on, starting with something simple like The Art of Joyful Living (a thoughtful new friend just bought me a copy) and ending with Yoga Sutra. Sure, you can choose to do “yoga” by just going to a couple of classes a week at your local gym, but that isn’t real yoga. That is just exercise.

Monkey Playing on Rishikesh Yog Peeth

Feeling Overwhelmed: My Initial Experience at Rishikesh Yog Peeth Ashram in India

I was in the middle of a downward dog pose today when I felt tears filling my eyes. Our instructor was slowly counting to ten, very slowly, and I couldn’t hold the position any longer. I collapsed on my yoga mat, frustrated and feeling like a failure. My whole body ached. We were on our third hour of yoga for the day and I had never done yoga before. A whole host of emotions were overwhelming me; anxiety, fear of failure, feeling homesick, along with emotional and physical exhaustion. I wasn’t sure I could push on and then a sweet young girl holding the pose next to me quietly asked me if I was okay. Those few kind words encouraged me. I somehow managed to dig deep within myself to find the strength to finish the class. It’s the little things like that here that make all the difference. Isn’t that the truth everywhere? There are 60 of us going through this program together, but individually we all have our own personal challenges to overcome.

 

Getting There

Getting here was a trip, quite literally. My driver drove me the 7 long hours from Delhi to Rishikesh. He stopped to ask for directions 6 times, although I had given explicit instructions to his boss on where we were going and who to call for directions on how to get here. Finally, my driver gave up next to a foot bridge that our car obviously couldn’t cross. I called the nice people at Yog Peeth and they sent one of their workers over on a scooter to get me. We managed the impossible by stacking two large suitcases, an overstuffed backpack, me and my handbag all on the back of his little scooter! I wish I had a picture of that, because it was India at its finest.

frusterated

4 Frustrating Things That Created Shipping Nightmares for me in India

Yesterday I shipped a box full of stuff home to the USA. Let me tell you, shipping and receiving in India are exercises of pure frustration. An hour and a half later I left the DHL office feeling ready to punch someone. Here is what to expect if you are trying to ship a box or receive a package in India.

They will repack everything

Whatever you take in to ship will be opened and repacked. So, if you are thinking of shipping home any highly personal items, note that they will be handled roughly and questioned. If it is packed in bubble wrap they will rip it open and you will have to repack it. Furthermore, the people handling your items are laborers. They don’t know how to treat a fragile antique and have never seen an adult toy. You will have to watch them very carefully and be prepared to explain everything. They won’t speak English well either (if at all), so it will just exacerbate the issues. I’m sure the reason they do this is to make sure that the box doesn’t contain some sort of explosives or prohibited items. But I’m an American shipping a box home to America. I hardly think I’m a danger or fit the profile of a terrorist.

ATM line in India

Banking Problems and Government Corruption in India

The Cause

There is a run on cash in India and it is creating huge lines at banks along with growing anxiety and hostility amongst the people. India is primarily a cash based culture. Only the upper classes have credit or debit cards. Foreign cards often don’t work at all. In a bold and unprecedented move, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, announced late on November 8th that Rs 500 notes and Rs 1,000 notes would be illegal. The idea behind the ruling is to curb crime, corruption and the funding of terrorism that runs deep within India. They are giving everyone until December 30th to deposit or exchange their old bills. In the meantime ATMs have been closed for days and people are only able to withdraw a maximum of 10,000 per day or 20,000 in one week, assuming the bank has the cash to dispense.

I have witnessed the corruption here first hand. It is a common practice to bribe a policeman with a 500 rupee note when pulled over for a traffic violation. Once an ATM swallowed my debit card which left me in a world of hurt with no access to cash. The ATM guard told my assistant it was impossible to get my card back. He changed his story when she bribed him with a 500 note. I then got it back instantly. So you can see how common corruption is. Now imagine all these officials, criminals and terrorists with STACKS of cash that have been rendered useless. It may very well help stop corruption, but in the meantime it is causing sheer chaos on the economy and its people. 

View from my apartment in India

Living and Working in India: The Hassle Factor

After living and working in India for 6 months now, I can tell you that much of the time I feel like everything is just a big hassle here. Getting things accomplished in India requires a lot of patience, and those that know me best, know that is not one of my best traits.  Nothing, even the simplest things, are ever easy!  Here are some of many examples.

Buying data for for corporate use

We opened a corporate account with a local telecom carrier so that we could more easily make changes to our plans.  This would give us the option for “post paid”, versus pre paid, meaning they would bill us for our data usage instead of having to pay up front. Initially they asked for about 10 documents, such as articles of incorporation, a letter of explanation on company letterhead, copy of the directors passport, etc.  Each page of every document had to be stamped and signed.  After jumping through all these hoops we finally successfully opened an account. A few days later I went into the store to make some changes to our data plans only to find out that I have to provide originals of all those documents EVERY time we want to make any changes.