Wedding Cake, and Insights from Hyderabad Airport

Upon learning that it was our honeymoon, the servantile waiters at Vivanta Hotel in Aurangabad had one of the least delicious pineapple cakes we’ve ever tasted sent to our room. It was very sweet – they even lit a candle – and we mushed the fork around in it so it looked like we appreciated the culinary flop. Everything else at the hotel was delicious, though, and since we did not have a cake at our wedding, Josh took this first opportunity to smear the icing on my face.

pineapple cake

After a couple of days at the impressive 1500 year old caves of Aurangabad (one of which is is double the size of the Parthenian in Athens and involved scooping out an estimated 400,000 tons of rocks from a mountain side)

IMG_0643 IMG_0647 Photo Apr 09, 12 08 36 AM


… and a lovely stay at the Vivanta hotel, we boarded the plane for Hyderabad.

The airport toilets contained sage advice in every stall:

Hyderabad Toilet Wisdom

Hyderabad Toilet Wisdom

P1010613 P1010503

On a more frustrating note, the perils of being white (and even worse, American) in India are increasingly apparent. In the security line in Mumbai the personnel assisted no less than 5 women to elbow their way in front of me (I am interested in purchasing spiked shoulder pads should anyone know how to procure such things). And they would not sell a pack of gum to us for less than 150 rupees ($3).

But we have arrived to Vivek’s welcoming family, serendipitously on the Hindu New Year, and have been treated to our first warm taste of family life and cooking in India. And some normally priced gum 🙂

Aloha from Hyderabad.


Tushita Bound: 10 Days of Silent Meditation

We are off for a 10-day Introduction to Buddhism at the Tushita Institute, where we will learn about the mind and emotions, karma, love and compassion and the nature of reality.

No phones, no iPads, no kindles, no blogging. Below is a description of our activities for the coming days, and photos can be found on their website gallery.

The Gompa



Typical Introduction to Buddhism Course Schedule

This is the approximate schedule for 10-Day residential Introduction to Buddhism courses.

Please note that the schedule may vary slightly from course to course, and may change at short notice. Check-In always begins at 1pm and we will post printed versions of the specific schedule around the centre during your course.

Schedule for Shorter Residential Courses: Sometimes our Introduction courses are shorter than 10-days in duration; in which case, the schedule below will remain the same on the check-in and check-out days, and for the body of the course (Teaching and Meditation program) but will not have the 2 days of Intensive Meditation at the end.

Day 1 – Check-In Day

1:00pm Check-in/Registration (in the Dining Hall)
4:30pm Welcome and Introductory talk
6:15pm Dinner
8:00pm Course Introduction

Days 2 to 7 – The Body of the Course (Teaching & Meditation Program)

6:00am Wake up
6.45 – 7.30am Mindfulness Meditation
7:30am Breakfast
9:00 – 11:00am Teaching
11:15 – 12:00pm Stretching (if teacher available) or Walking Meditation
12:00 – 2:00pm Lunch & Karma Yoga Jobs
2:00 – 3:00pm Discussion Groups
3pm Tea Break
3:30 – 5:00pm Teaching
5:30 – 6:15pm Guided Meditation
6:15pm Dinner
7:30pm Guided Meditation

Days 8 & 9 – 2-days of Intensive Meditation

6:00am  Wake up
6:45 – 7:30am Mindfulness Meditation
7:30am Breakfast
9:00 – 9:45am Guided Meditation
10:10 – 10:55am Guided Meditation
11:20 – 12:05pm Guided Meditation
12:00 – 2:15pm Lunch & Karma Yoga Jobs
2:15 – 3:00pm Guided Meditation
3pm Tea Break
3:45 – 4:30pm Guided Meditation
5:00 – 6:15pm Dharma Video
6:15pm Dinner
7:30pm Guided Meditation

Day 10 – Check-Out Day

6:00am Wake up
6:45 – 7:30am Mindfulness Meditation
7:30am Breakfast
9:00am Final Talk & Feedback Round
12:00pm Picnic Lunch
1:00 – 3:00pm Check out
All participants must be punctual and attend all sessions of the course.


Until April 4th, namaste.


Trip to the Krishna Temple and sad Update: Amarillo is a Scam

The morning after meeting Amarillo we woke at 7am to feed the cows before morning temple, for luck. After sufficient difficulty finding the temple we gave up on the cows and decided to follow the throngs of people entering the Hindu service.

India is impressively efficient with security: they scan the millions of people riding the metro, entering the monuments and museums each day with much more grace than the American TSA musters within the states each day. The same is true of the temple: you must walk through a metal detector, and if you have a mac air or iPhone in your bag you are easily shuffled to the bag check (if as few Americans carried such devices as Indian Hindus attending morning temple, TSA bag check would surely be more efficient too).

The service was much like most religious ones: people sang traditional songs, congregated, greeted one another, bowed their heads and gave each other a sugary food, bringing good karma. They marched circles around the statue of Krishna or Shiva (7, 11, 21, 31 to 101 times; even numbers are bad!). They raised their hands and sang, their volume increasing as the curtains finally lifted to reveal the Hindu god Shiva; Josh said it was like witnessing some very old tribal mystic ceremony. As quickly as it began, it was over, and the worshipers began their exodus, save those last few with more rounds to make around the shrine, depending on the gravity of their wish or blessing.

On our way from temple to market we saw a merchant with food very similar to that we saw being distributed and eaten at the temple (a doughnut-hole looking food). Through broken English he finally understood that we were asking if this was the food of the temple, and he gave us some, explaining that sharing it was good luck.  A few meters later we entered a shop that had a quilt we had been wanting. Less than 60 seconds after we entered the man who had bestowed the temple doughnut upon us entered. He, like Amarillo, was a charming multi-lingual, also offering us tea and seamlessly engaging us in compelling philosophical and cultural discussions. We left 40 minutes later with the quilt.

Within 10 minutes of picking us up later that afternoon our driver told us that people like Amarillo and doughnut-man and a handful of others that we had met over the days – charming multi-linguals working the markets – are a known part of the system. These men charm up the foreigners with tea and fulfilling conversations in their native tongue, telling the foreigners how glad he is that they have come to visit India, of the important things across cultures like family, the whole time building trust and rapport and then delivers the unwitting dupe to the next shop (always his brother’s or father’s shop), where he overpays 50-200% and the charming multi-lingual tourist bait takes his commission (could be up to 40% like the tour guides) and moves on to the next fish.

We have spent 9 days taking turns with optimism and pessimism; knowing we were traveling to a totally foreign land and tolerating the misuse that begets, and then being beyond toleration. Josh tonight is the more sanguine between us; I’m slightly reeling at the realization that every conversation that we’ve had that we thought was a “cultural experience” was someone trying to scam us. And I’m definitely done bending over backwards to make sure I don’t offend the locals.