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In our blog, you’ll find information about metaphysics and spirituality from Lazaris and Jach, excerpts from Lazaris recordings and interviews, and travelogues from Jach’s adventures around the world.

Trees That I Have Known

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Blog: Trees That I Have Known

I continue to learn Spanish, and I am getting better at saying what I want to say. Though it goes slowly, I can communicate one to one fairly well. But it’s still amazingly difficult to actively participate in a lively conversation with a group of Colombians. They talk so fast and with great vitality. The emotional intensity is both beautiful and frightening. What sounds like an alarming conversation could well be about how to properly prepare empanadas or how to make the sauce to accompany them. Adding to the mystery, they speak with their own traditional and personal idioms. Well, I could go on, but suffice it say, it’s difficult and I’m learning.

When Enrique and I go to one of the frequent gatherings of family or friends, I begin by welcoming and being welcomed and by following through with basic, somewhat elementary, conversations, and then I slip into watching mode. I surprise myself with how much I learn from gestures and tones and facial expressions.

I am interacting more and more; I am part of the gatherings now rather than just an outside observer. Even so, I still spend a lot of time listening and watching. I spend a lot of time only being, being in the moment.

At these events, I have discovered something else. I have become enchanted with trees. Now trees are everywhere, but here in Colombia, in the countryside and in the mountains and in the flatlands, they are not only abundant, they are gracious. There are trees that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. I marvel at the stately beauty of Carbonero trees. They lift to the sky and open there delicate branches to create an expansive canopy as if offering to embrace the heavens. The gracious Ceiba trees have a more substantial trunk and sturdier branches but they offer a no less massive and expansive canopy. I stop. I scare. I marvel at their beauty and the sense of tranquility and peace that they inspire.

At a party, once I’ve exhausted my range of conversation, and once others have returned to their natural rhythm of talking, I watch, I listen, and then I turn to listen and to talk to the trees.

Here are a few of the trees I’ve known.

Photo #1

There is such an elegance to this beauty. She is wild and wonderful and yet so willing to just be. Out of balance, twisted in a chaotic way, and yet at peace as she stands in a peculiarly perfect balance of self-acceptance and grace. She asked me to pause and to be still.

We had just returned from a 4 hour horse ride called a Cabalgata. This was the traditional Christmas Cabalgata organized by two of Enrique’s cousins. Part of the tradition: drink plenty of Aguardente and share plenty of it with others. Part of the tradition: celebrate the joy of life, joke with each other, laugh and shout a lot. Part of the tradition: after the ride gather at the finca (farm) for a hearty meal and more talk. I was sitting among the chatter of maybe 80 people, young and old, mostly young. Excited. Laughing. Not at all exhausted, stories were flying: While riding in the river, Julian’s saddle had come loose and it and he had fallen into water. His horse, spooked, had run off. That’s one of the stories I heard.

New mothers among the group were dealing with their tired first borns, and the new grandmothers were busy overseeing and trying not to interfere.

I turned to this tree and got lost in the sunset and the reverie of the moment. I am living a life so different from anything I might have imagined. I’ve held it that all this is a result of a huge change in my life with Peny’s and Michaell’s deaths and with my decision to love again, and there is merit there. But as I sat with this tree I realized that those big events opened the door and created the space, but all this is a result of a whole bunch of little choices and decisions that began before those pivotal changes and continued long after them. Twists and turns. Out of balance and in chaos and reaching in this direct and that, I kept coming back to accepting myself in the moments. In the moment, such a simple phrase, almost a cliche, but oh so mystical and powerful. As I sat and listened, life is plump and juicy, and it’s plump and rich in Colombia.

Photo #2

I stood with humility and respect before this grand Ancient One. I didn’t speak; I didn’t dare.There is such majesty, something almost regal that feels like wisdom and that demands respect without demanding it. This is a silent sentinel of remembering. It calls you to remember who you are. I heard its call. I listened. Remembering is a powerful, often forgotten, way of encountering and embracing the future. Remembering is not about recalling the past, it’s not about reminiscing about things that were. Though these may be steps that get you there. Remembering is about uncovering truths tucked in the creases of the past, and honoring them. It’s about awakening the secrets of your traditions and your myths that lie dormant in the recesses of your past. Remembering unlocks resonance that is fodder and fuel of Resonance Magic, the fulcrum of all magics. As we branch out and reach for what will be, remembering who we are can lift us and guide us. It’s magic. Remember that.

I just wanted to be in the presence of this amazing consciousness. I didn’t want to sit. I just wanted to stand there and listen to its voice that spoke to me without words.

Behold: There are energies and forces in this Universe that are mightier than I can comprehend. I was learning to embrace that as I stood with this master.

Photo #3

This is the first of the trees that I’ve known. I sat with it, mesmerized, for a little more than an hour. I couldn’t look away. It held me. It wouldn’t let go. I didn’t want it to let go.

I was at a family gathering on December 7. It was the annual celebration of Velitas (little candles). It is the celebration honoring the day of conception — the day Mary conceived the Son of God. Maybe it’s a religious celebration to some, but to most, it’s a time to light hundreds of little candles and to have a party, large or small. This one was large. There were 70 people ranging in age from 4 months to 80 years. Around 2:00 that afternoon, the preparations began to create a huge Paella. Big enough to feed 70 people. A huge Paella pan, an open fire, and the preparation dance — a dance of love — began with various types of rice. At the appropriate times the initial preparations of chicken and beef and then of shrimp and clams and muscles would become a part of the dance. Vegetables would be prepared and set aside for later. Lobster and octopus and squid would join the dance. The precision was impeccable. The artisans were part of the dance, as important as the ingredients. Finally the Paella would be covered and the final steps to this dance happened beyond conscious view. Mystery. Magic.

People began arriving just after dark. It was nearly 10:00 when the Paella was served. The waiting was also part of the dance and a part of the magic. During that interim, conversations flourished and the volume continually rose, crescendoed, and fell back only to rise again. After my range of conversation was complete, I closed my eyes and just listened to the cacophony that became symphony. Timeless. Vibrant. Beautiful.

After the Paella the party and the conversations gained volume and intensity, and I slipped away to revel in the joy and love of family. The beauty of their love and enthusiasm touched my soul, and my soul called me to be still. Watch. Listen. I stepped away. The toddlers were herded by their young mothers and cradled by their grandmothers. The oldest among the group sat together in rockers watching and creating their own music. Worlds flowed together and found a harmony and everyone danced into the evening. The dance of love.

I looked at this Ancient One and goose bumps rippled across my entire body. The small hairs stood. This photograph doesn’t capture its elegance and grace. It doesn’t capture the massive expand of its branches. There is a bounty here that defies description. There really aren’t words. For me it was a transcendent moment. That’s all I can say and that’s all that I care to say about it.

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Carnaval of Barranquilla

Friday, April 12, 2019
Blog: Carnaval of Barranquilla

March 7, 2019. A river of color flowing down the street. Hot sun. Gentle breeze. The smells of chorizo grilling. Drums beating, and people everywhere clapping, singing, dancing, and cheering. I sat so still in the chaos and cacophony caught up and lifted by the symphony of mystery and wonder and compassion and beauty. I sat there amazed and knowing I was in the right place and it was the right time. It was one enchanting moment among many such moments during the Carnaval of Barranquilla. 

Enrique and I had arrived late Friday evening, March 1, for the four day festival that is akin to the Carnaval of Rio and to Mardi Gras of New Orleans. Each culminates on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. However, this Carnaval is different than the others. It is a people’s Carnaval. Yes, there are corporate floats and groups of participants from companies and stores and banks and investment firms, but mostly there are neighborhood groups that get together to create their costumes and to make their own simple floats, and to coordinate a small group of neighborhood musicians: mostly drummers, a trumpet, a clarinet, maybe a flute. They create their own banners and they come to march in the parades. To march in the heat, under the sun, and to march for four to five hours singing and dancing and laughing and playing all the while. Miles of walking and dancing and being alive.

It’s not the Rose Bowl or the Macy’s Christmas Parade. There are no brass bands. There are people, everyday people, some very young (3 and 4 years old all dressed up in costumes and made up. Adorable) and some very old (ageless old men and women bent by the gravity of age and by the rigors and pains of a hard life) and there are all those in between. They march. Celebrating life. Proud. The very young move haltingly, the very old slowly, not always sure of their step or balance, and the rest move with zeal. They all move with celebratory grace.

We sat in our bleacher section along with family and friends and a whole bunch of strangers. The parade was supposed to begin at 1:00 but in true Colombia style, at 2:00 we were craning our necks looking for the first signs of an actual parade. But it really didn’t matter, we were all engaged in our rituals: drinking Rum disguised as soft drinks, eating grilled chorizo or chicken or pork with a certain type of yucca that looked and tasted like potato, and of course talking and laughing. Suddenly from somewhere behind the bleachers among the charcoal and wood burning grills, music would pound its way out of gigantic speakers and just as suddenly people were on their feet dancing, swaying arms, gyrating hips. The bleachers rocked.

When the parade final began passing by all our attentions turned to the street. With each neighborhood group we’d stand, applaud, and shout. When a group of old women passed by dancing wildly, the crowd went wild. When a group of children with Downs Syndrome marched by sort of dancing yet not quite remembering all the steps and moves, everyone leapt to their feet and the crowd roared. Tears flowed.

We spent three days at the parades. Each day was a gift of beauty, a gift reflecting the undaunted human spirit, and a gift expressing the richness, the compassion, and the love of soul. I came away in gratitude and in humility. I came away with a new and a renewed sense of enchantment and what it means to seek an enchanted life. I was touched in ways I cannot yet describe and in ways that I suspect I won’t want to describe. Ineffable. I thought I was going to a colorful carnival. It was so much more.


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Trekking in Nepal

Monday, April 8, 2019
Blog: Trekking in Nepal

October 5, 2018. Three incredible days. No internet. No television. No telephone. Only raw Nature and unabashed beauty that lifts from the valleys of lush shades of green to the majesty of rugged snow capped Himalaya Mountains. Stunning. Unbelievable. Beyond my imagination and beyond anything I could capture in photographs. Yet there I stood surrounded by it all.

I can’t find the right words yet. I stepped far outside my safe places of habits and routines and beyond the safe places of my beliefs about myself. Nepal held great mystery for me and it has become surprisingly revealing as well. I had life changing experiences during these three days that were somewhere in the Between in the folds of Nepal’s mystery, and I am not ready to say how or why. So for now, this is what I can say.

Sunday morning, October 1:

Up at 6:00 a.m., we flew from Rishikesh to Delhi and then on to Kathmandu. Applying and paying for our Nepal Visas and getting through immigration was time consuming but easy enough. We arrived at the Yak & Yeti Hotel around 5:00 p.m.

Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city and the first tourist location in Nepal. In 1972 the population was approximately 350,000 and now, 46 years later, the population is over 6 million people. Traffic is more than crazy, it’s insane. This city is the hub of economic activity in Nepal. It is also a center of sprawling poverty. The paradox is painful as well as shocking and yet the city is vibrant and alive. It’s confusing. It’s intriguing.

Monday morning, October 2:

Another early morning to the airport for a 30 minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the second major tourist city of Nepal. Immediately I felt a different kind of aliveness in Pokhara. There was an eagerness and a rush of excitement along with a rush of young people from all over the world, each ladened with over sized and over weight duffle bags and back packs. This is a jump off point for trekking in Nepal, the home of the Himalaya Mountains and Mount Everest. Seven of the fifteen highest peaks in the world are in Nepal. We picked our way through the maze of trekkers and made our way the trekking company where we would begin our three day adventure.

After the obligatory ritual of safety instructions, with a hat, backpack and duffle bag provided by the company, we hopped on a bus with all our luggage, two guides, and five porters who would carry all that luggage for the next three days. We bumped and bounced for two hours switchbacking our way up the open road. “Open Road” means a dirt road with countless potholes and deep crusted mud tire ruts that are impervious to rain. The journey was complicated by all the construction work to widen the road. Finally we arrived at a dusty curve. Amid piles of stone, heavy equipment, and workmen with bandanas covering their mouths and noses, our bus stopped, the door opened, and the 10 of us along with the guides and porters were dropped off. Our luggage was piled into five large straw baskets and loaded on the backs of those porters. Do we call them Sherpas? No, they are porters. Men, some older, mostly younger, from the local villages who know the mountains.

The first mile and a half was all uphill. Oh my god, a mile and a half. I measured it on my iWatch. At first we followed the steep dirt open road and then we left the road for an even steeper narrow dirt path that climbed its way between the lush green undergrowth. I stopped often to drink in the view and to find my breath again. Still up. Around each bend I looked in hopes of seeing a flat stretch but the path kept climbing and I kept climbing with it.

Breathe. Inhale through my nose, exhale through my mouth. Breathe. One of the porters stayed behind me, stopping when I stopped. Even when I motioned for him to go ahead, he wouldn’t. Dripping sweat, the sun was brutal. 90+ degrees, sunny, and clear, I was determined to keep walking. Besides, it was too late to turn back. There was no were to go but forward.

Finally we reached a picturesque village. Flat. Stone houses, slate roofs, running mountain streams. We came upon an old woman with sun baked skin and wrinkle crevices, and bright laughing eyes. Her husband sat -- squatted -- watching as she and her daughter plucked beans from a pile of soy plants. There were two goats in one small shed, a cow in another, and a third small shed where they were distilling the local liquor.

We move along. The second mile and a half was all downhill on stone steps. I usually count steps. Don’t know why I do that, but I do. There were too many steps to count. Down, shallow steps and formidable steep steps down. For a mile and a half, step by step, down. Along the way, we crossed a bridge constructed of two long bamboo logs, and then there were more stone steps down. I thought the down would be easier but there were hundreds of steps. Not sure it was easier.

The final mile was sort of flat but it was also a mile of torrential rain. At first I noticed a few drops and then the mountain sky opened up. The porters moved quickly to unpack plastic and ponchos. Plastic to cover their baskets of luggage and ponchos for us. Already soaked in sweat, did I really need a poncho? The dirt path became slippery. Our lodge wasn’t far. Only another mile. We pressed on. One by one, we crossed a suspension bridge over a raging mountain stream and another half mile along a muddy road.

Finally we reached Sanctuary Lodge. As if on cue, the rain stopped. Nestled in the valley, the rustic lodge waited to give us a safe haven, lively conversations spiced with laughter, a great meal, and a wonderful night’s sleep.

Tuesday, October 3:

Up at sunrise to see the mountain peaks before the clouds covered them. Breakfast at 8:00 and ready for our second trek at 9:00. I was scared about this one. The trek was all uphill. All up stone steps. We would climb about 1400 feet in elevation. No flat. No down. All up. At dinner the guide had said this trek was “Up, steep up. Vertical up.”

Sizzling sun early in the morning. Clouds clinging to the mountain peaks but the rest of the sky. Brilliant blue. The steps came quickly and continued endlessly. Breathing loud. Inhaled through my nose, exhale through my mouth. Climb. Climb. Climb. I never asked how much further. I was afraid to hear the answer. I just kept going. After two hours of climbing, I created a pattern. I would climb 25 steps and stop, rest for 20 to 30 seconds. Check my heart rate, and when it dropped 5 points, I would take another 25 steps. We finally reached our second lodge. It was beautiful with phenomenal views.

However, it was the silence that spoke to me. I have never experienced such deep and sensuous silence.

Wednesday, October 4:

I had expected to have a lot of leg pain and body aches, but nothing. I felt great. I felt alive in ways that I’ve never known. It was exhilaration of a different nature. Our third trek was a mix of up, down, and flat. Of the treks, it was the easiest, but no less beautiful. We returned to Pokhara, stayed the night, and then flew back to Kathmandu.

This was an amazing experience. During the September workshops, Lazaris suggested that to truly accept ourself we needed to step beyond our safe place and we needed to step outside our center. To awaken the Magic of Acceptance, we need to step beyond our habits and routines. The Quest in India and Trekking in Nepal have done that and so much more. I have done things I didn’t think I could do. I have discovered things physically, but even more profound, I’ve discovered things emotional and mentally about myself that I never knew and that I suspect I might never have uncovered. My dreams are changing; my visions are shifting.

Nepal and the trekking have changed my life; they have changed me. I can’t say how yet. I can’t find the right words yet. I have to sit with these experiences that have reached far beyond my expectation and my imagination. I have to be still for now.


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The Quest in India #5

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #5

From the Taj Mahal in Agra, we bused our way to Delhi. It’s the capital of India. Eighteen million people. I expected to experience a big city that could be any big city in the world. I was wrong. Delhi, the old Indian city, and New Delhi, the city that the British created, weave together to create an intricate complexity that has a surprising high resonance. I felt an excitement in Delhi; there seemed to be a buoyant pride and an imposing confidence in the potential of India and in the Indian future. And besides, we met a faerie in Delhi. More on that at another time.

We visited a huge mosque -- the largest in India -- but it was the Gandhi Memorial that spoke to my soul. After India’s independence, Ghandi, almost 80 years old, was staying at the residence of a powerful Indian family, the Birla Family. From his bedroom, Ghandhi walked the pathway to the garden to participate in evening prayers. Along the way he was assassinated. We didn’t walk the path, but we walked beside until the steps stopped. I stood there for a very long time. Silent. Still. Blurry eyed and reverent. It was a quiet highlight of this journey.

We traveled by train from Delphi to Haridwar and then by car to Richikesh. People in India drive exactly like they drive in Colombia. Wild and crazy. Insane. I rode in the front seat of the car we were in and I had a grand time. I love driving in Colombia and I love riding in a car in India.

Rishikesh is a city along the Ganges River best noted for the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the home of TM, where the Beatles spent time in 1968 -- 50 years ago. We visited the ashram. It was abandoned in 1971 when the Maharishi left for the Netherlands. It was eery and wonderful.

I could feel the laughter: George and Paul and maybe John. Mia Farrow along with her sister were there. Donovan was there. I could feel the color and the light. The light and the enthusiasm were vibrant. Innocence and eagerness blossomed then. Yet now the loss and the emptiness were almost overwhelming. Abandonment. Forgotten. After there time in the ashram, the Beatles broke up, and each one of them went their own way.. They came to India and the ashram to find themselves. Maybe they did. We didn’t like it, but maybe they did find themselves. Could be.

Once a world famous ashram, now it is Rajiji, a tiger reserve. The buildings are decaying with black algae slowing covering the walls. Broken glass and rotting wood window frames. Weeds growing through the broken concrete. The kitchen, the post office, the printing room, the meditation rooms, the Beatles bungalow, the Maharishi’s bungalow, and the roof top where they all gathered. The memories are all there and the vestiges of that time are also still there. Decaying. Rotting. Yet still clinging to life. It was eery. Depressing and exhilarating.

Rishikesh was our last stop in India. We arrived on September 15. We are leaving on September 30. Only 15 days? No. A lifetime. We are currently in Kathmandu and we are going trekking for the next three days. In the Himalayas, in the quiet villages, and there I will sit with my experiences of India.

It wasn’t what I expected and I suspect it was more.

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The Quest in India #4

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #4

The Taj Mahal at dawn. I had images in my head: A magical moment, a solitary moment with that majestic structure and its grand gardens. I imagined that a full moon would set just as the sun would rise and it would be a memorable moment, maybe even a defining one. In my imagination, I stood alone, just the Taj Mahal and me.

Once again on the bus at 5:30 for a 10 minute drive to the bus parking lot and then a golf cart type bus ride to the entrance. The moon was amber and, yes, it was full. However there were hundreds of people already there and bus loads of people were arriving by the minute. Scrap the solitary moment.

We got in the men’s queue and waited for the gate to open. We moved quickly and orderly through security and then through the gate. I stood there alone among hundreds of people who, in that moment, all disappeared. I stood alone suspended in silence being held by beauty. The right side of the dome shown bright. Dazzling, while the left side remained in soft shadow. I thought of the quotation: “Beauty is a demanding lover.” I had understood that at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I understood it again this morning. Majestic is too small a word.

Everyone I had talked to had said that the Taj Mahal was so much more than could be captured in photographs. I took photos, and they were right. Even so, I wanted to record a moment. I wanted to create an iconic symbol of a moment that is eternal.

Finally I moved. I walked slowly forward, then down the steps and along the pathway. A long fountain and then a reflective pool to my left and two of the four gardens to my right. Aware of my surroundings, I kept my eye, my focus, on that shimmering white marble sculpture called the Taj Mahal -- that shimmering light that stood there unobstructed against a clear blue sky. There was a reverence there. Serenity. Peace. Sure, there were kids running about and laughing or talking loud, but even they would fall quiet.

Beauty demands respect. It can also awaken respect, and it did.

We were there for only two hours, but when time stops, that is enough.

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India, September 23, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: India, September 23, 2018
What a day in Jaipur! Riding elephants is a slow way to go, but it's fun.

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On Our Way to India #2 . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: On Our Way to India #2 . . .

The small white building between the two tall buildings is a Hilton Hotel in Abu Dhabi. In 1960 it was the tallest building in that city. Amazing.

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On Our Way to India #1 . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: On Our Way to India #1 . . .

On the way to the restaurant, my thoughts drifted back to the past. 2003, Enrique and I were on our way to dinner. Then we were in Washington D.C. and we walked across the bridge into Georgetown. We stopped at an English Pub. Our waiter was Colombian. What a coincidence, right? And then the bus boy was also Colombian. I joked with Enrique: Colombia claims to have a population of 75 million, but I think there are probably 150 million and half of them are spread all over the world. Who would imagine that at an English Pub in Georgetown would have two Colombians working there? The joke precipitated because we encountered a Colombian vendor on the Santa Monica Pier a month earlier and two Colombians on our way from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.

Tonight we were in our way to a restaurant, “La Hambra” at the “Al Qasr” Hotel in Dubai. We were on our way to meet, wait for it, one of Enrique’s Colombian aunts and one of his many Colombian second cousin and family for a birthday dinner. Really? We stopped off in Dubai for a few days on our way to India and not only do we meet a Colombian, we meet up with Enrique’s family of six Colombians. Enrique’s aunt lives 10 minutes away from us in Colombia and we haven’t seen her in six months, but we meet up with her in Dubai. Well, half the population, and now half of Enrique’s Colombian family, are out there scattered all over the world.

After the workshop in Los Angeles, on Monday afternoon, we boarded our flight for Dubai. We arrived Tuesday evening after adding 11 hours to the 16 hour flight. We will be here for three days to sort of “de-jet lag” before arriving in Trivandrum, India on Saturday morning. For the following 21 days we will be traveling up the west coast of India to Mumbai and eventually to Kathmandu, Nepal. We will be trekking for 3 days in Nepal before returning to Kathmandu to fly home to California.

Dubai is a fascinating city that is teeming with construction — I saw at least 30 construction cranes, really I am not exaggerating. It is also a city that is adding new “firsts” to its already long list of firsts: Tallest building in the world, first indoor real snow ski slopes (in Emirates Mall), largest aquarium (in Dubai Mall), largest Mall (again Dubai Mall with over 1000 stores and a construction cost of close to $65 billion USD), largest water park (again in the Dubai Mall). The list goes on. In 2020 Dubai hosts the World Expo and they expect one 200,000 tourists, and the expected revenues are astounding. This city is excited about the future and eager to create its new world.

Dubai was a small fishing village in the 1700s. It was one of seven tribes that eventually became seven Emirates. It was nothing more until after World War II. Oil was discovered in 1962, production began in 1969, and the seven Emirates united. Thus the UAE -- United Arab Emirates. Oil and natural gas are still prevalent in Abu Dhabi , but they are all but exhausted in Dubai. I was surprised to learn that oil production is only 4% of GNP in Dubai. Tourism is first, real estate investment is second followed by financial services. In the 2008 economic collapse, UAE and Dubai took that failure as a springboard for massive innovation: Tourism.

We had a really fun dinner at “La Hambra” a Spanish restaurant with Spanish speaking waiters: Tapas and wine and passionate conversation spiced with laughter. Tomorrow we are off to Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. More to follow.

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The Quest in India #2

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #2

September 21, 2018. Today was delicious. India finally came alive for me and it was hot and sweaty and exhausting and wonderful. I could feel the juice of India and I could inhale the scent of this land and its people.

We had been in Trivandrum for two days. Our tour group of 17 were packed and lining up to board the bus. We would travel most the morning to our day’s destination. I don’t remember the town. That wasn’t significant. Our destination was the canals that had been all man-made centuries ago. We would board a house boat, three couples per boat, and we would cruise the wide canals as we ate a tradition Kerala cuisine lunch. After lunch we would board smaller boats to tour the narrow canals -- the neighborhood canals -- up close and definitely personal. As the sun set we would have dinner on our house boat and eventually retire to spend the night.

The houseboats were converted rice boats: table, dining chairs, and lounge chairs on the front deck under a thatched roof, three bedrooms, each with its own air conditioner and private bath, and then there was the kitchen for the three-man staff and a chef. We had a sweet afternoon with a delicious lunch.

At 4:30 we boarded our small canal boats and headed into the narrow canals. I first noticed a pile of books with swollen pages, books. lots of them, that had gotten wet. They were spread out on the retaining wall which was made of brick and dried black mud. Then I noticed pillows, couch cushions, and mattresses piled on those crusty mud retaining walls. Oh! I remembered, this area had been flooded about two weeks ago. Our boatman said the water had been chest deep. The water had retreated but the scars were still visible and the sadness was almost palpable. Even in the midst of that tragedy, even as much of the beauty had been flooded and washed away, there were telltale signs of recovery. Laughing children. People greeting each other as they walked the pathways lining the canals.

We returned to our houseboat. We traveled a bit further and then they moored the boat. Dinner was at 7:30. We had planned to play Euchre after dinner but everyone retired to their rooms by 9:45. It had been a full day.

After breakfast on Tuesday morning we disembarked, and we were off again on the bus to the Cochin Airport for our flight to Mumbai. 17 of us and our guides, each with luggage to be checked and with carryon, yet it went elegantly. A bit slow but easy.

Mumbaii didn’t speak to me. It’s the financial capital of India. There are 18 million, that 18,000,000 people in the city. Over 7 million of them ride the metro system each day. It’s big, it’s sprawling, and the traffic is insane. As we were inching along in bumper to bumper traffic midday on a Tuesday, I thought this insane traffic is just like the traffic in Colombia. The drivers are crazy wild yet they never collide with each other. There are shockingly few traffic lights or stop signs. It’s a free for all. And then add the swarming motorcycles and motorbikes. Like cockroaches, they scurry in between cars doing everything they can to get to the head of the line of traffic. On a mission to nowhere.

I realized, I am still in my safe place. This crazy traffic is so familiar, so comfortable, and it so at home in Colombia. I also realized that it’s much harder to get outside my safe place than I thought it would be. We stayed at a beautiful hotel in Mumbai -- Taj Land’s End -- even so, I didn’t feel I had touched India yet.

We flew to Udaipur on Thursday morning after two nights in Mumbai. We are staying at The Taj Lake Palace Hotel, and it’s one of the most elegant hotel I’ve encountered. It’s a beautiful hotel in the middle of a manmade lake in a region of manmade lakes. It’s beautiful and elegant, but mostly it is the impeccable service that we are receiving that makes this place special. But no matter who grand the hotel is, it was are very busy day today that has awakened my passion.

We went into the city and headed for a tour of the Palace, the Crystal Palace, and then to the Monsoon Palace that sits perched high above the city. All of that was really wonderful, but for me it was the walk down a street lined in small shops with vendors trying to lure you into their place that was alive and wonderful. Groups of locals standing around talking about their day, beggars quietly asking for money, people just living their daily lives. A boy, five maybe six years old, was struggling to push a rickety wheelchair with an obviously crippled old woman. Shriveled body, crippled crumpled legs, arthritic fingers. He was opening and closing his hand asking for money, screaming at me without uttering a sound. We walked to the Hindu Temple which was alive with music and chanting and dancing. It was enchanting. As we walked up the countless number of very steep steps, there were two very young boys sitting on the side. Their hands were opening and closing. I recognized the language. One had to be only 5 and the other couldn’t have been more than 3. On the other side of the steps an ancient man cradling an infant sat silently quietly blessing anyone who gave him money. The smallest gift -- $10 in India rupee (14 cents USD) was appreciated. It was painful and it was beautiful. I didn’t “love it,” but I thrived on feeling it.

India came alive today. Maybe I came alive today. I definitely stepped outside my safe place.

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The Quest in India #1

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #1

September 18, 2018.If it weren’t for all the electronic equipment, entering the Trivandrum Airport would have been akin to stepping back into a simpler time, a more comfortable time. It was balmy hot but 30 degrees cooler than Dubai. The breeze was soft but yet springtime sweet even though Fall is approaching. We had to stop to finalize our e-visa which we had purchased online months ago. It was fast and simple. Luggage came and we were out the door.

We traveled to Dubai with friends. In India our friends and we joined a small tour of 14 other people. Some from the States, but most are from Canada. By 2:00 p.m. we were checked into the Taj Green Cove Resort in Trivandrum, India. It close to the lower tip of India, on the west coast on the Arabian Sea.

First impression: it felt a bit like Bali and a bit like Colombia to me. Lush green, an abundance of Palm Trees. Hot, muggy yet balmy and delightfully inviting. The multicolored building -- bright pink, turquoise, lime green, and drab white or beige -- were made of concrete block with flat roofs and stucco finishing. Litter -- plastic bottles, scraps of paper, miscellaneous junk -- everywhere. The stucco was stained by age, mold and mildew, or neglect. Ugly and beautiful in the same moment. Yet even the ugliness seemed to have a certain undefinable stature. As we bounced along on the bus from the airport to our hotel, I thought about how my first impressions of India were a mix of Bali and Colombia. It’s a mix of my past, of places I’ve been to and of places with which I am familiar, comfortable, and safe. I am begin this quest for “my safe place,” which is in the mix of the past, even in the seduction of the past, and it’s time to break free. So I will step beyond my safe place, but first I will acclimate here -- here in Trivandrum. From here, I don’t know but I realize that i am seeking a new kind of freedom. Freedom to become other than who I’ve been. Yes, this trip is going to be significant.

We arrived at Taj Green Cove Resort. Off the main road, along a short open road, we quickly came to the gates of an elegant resort. The sweeping wood floors and the lobby without walls, the local juice drinks as we waited to register, and the golf carts eager to escort us to our rooms, yes the resonance of Bali thrives everywhere here.

It’s a unwind and recover from jet lag day. However, having flown in for Dubai, it was just an unwind day in my ‘“safe place.” Down the cobblestone pathway we reached our room, a cozy cabin with a balcony looking out over the lush foliage that crowded the view.

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