Posts Tagged ‘temple’

what i miss about India

May 22, 2009

Well this was meant to be a post entitled “What I will miss about India” but I never got round to writing it while I was still there. So now that I’ve been back in South Africa for 2.5 weeks, I’m no longer predicting what I think I will miss but can report on what it is that I actually miss, and I’m limiting myself to five things…

1. Autos (as in auto rickshaws). They are loud, dangerous and the most convenient thing ever for getting to wherever you want to go whenever you want to go (as long as you have a fairly good sense of humour about having to argue for a fair fee often which is fun in and of itself). Some of my best memories of India are in autos. Staring out quietly from a speeding auto with the wind gushing though one open end to other. Late night rides in pimped out autos with blingy disco lights, piled four people in a three-man auto laughing our heads off and mimicking the honking of all the cars around us. Surprisingly coherent conversations yelled from one person to another through the engine din and swirling hair. And of drivers, some stoic, some downright sneaky buggers and other ready to show you pictures of their family kept under seats.

2. Flowers everywhere: garlanded every day fresh as offerings. Used as decor, floating in bowls of water and strung up in ladies’ hair. The smell of jasmin and the deep pinks and yellows. Watching people riding around motorcycles delivering flowers and garlands.

3. Temples everywhere: I don’t buy Hinduism but I respect how many temples there were and how many opportunities there are for worship in everyday life. I walked past a temple everyday on the way to work and found it had a calming influence and reminded me that starting out the day with a fleeting prayer was pretty good.

4. Food: Dosas made from a batter of fermented lentils and rice, gluten-free and delicious with coconut chutney. Fresh green coconuts with their tops hacked off with a machete and with straw dunked inside for drinking. Crazy sweet sweets made from nuts, ghee and milk, hello Mysore Gold! Fresh fruit juice made entirely of fruit especially the litchi juice from Cool Joint in JP Nagar and Malleswaram’s mango and sugar cane juice. Outdoor food markets which their piles weird never-before-seen-by-me fruits and veg and pyramids of eye-searingly colourful spices.

5. People: What lovely folks I was lucky enough to get to hang out with. I miss the many dinners, chats, charts (snacks) and enlightenments. People in India are friendly and lovely – even though, at first glance, there’s an unfriendly demeanour they are super welcoming.

Delivery

Delivery

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my first week in India

March 20, 2009

I am, again, going to rely on e-mail conversations I’ve had for a blog post. Cara mailed me asked me this:

How are you? What is India and where you are living like? How are the people and what are they making you do? to which I responded:

I am fine. India is loud and crowded and colourful, the place where I’m living is sparse and spacious. The people at first glance seem kind of unfriendly in their mannerisms but in actuality turn out to be extremely friendly. The are making me sit in an air conditioned office with free coffee and read lots of papers while I come up with a research project to do.

In general I have had an up and down time settling here and at first was feeling pathetic and lonely. When I arrived I had a weird impression of the place I’m staying as being not that nice. In actuality it is pretty fancy in that it is clean and spacious and has hot water and is also in what is considered a swanky area which is quite boring quiet but just a short walk down the street and you start to reach very alive over crowed streets teaming with auto rickshaws, shops, people, cars and motorbikes. It turns out that someone extended their stay in the place I was supposed to be in so I got put somewhere that is bigger and slightly closer to the office – its a big apartment with three rooms and I’m in one of the rooms. It has its oddities like peeling paint and weird plugs and switches that don’t seem to do anything. For my first two nights there was one other guy staying in one of the other rooms who helped me to order dinner walked me to the office on my first day since I had no idea where it was. But then he moved out and I’ve had the place to myself which has been a bit lonely. At the same time work has been a matter of “Here are all these people doing cool work with access to such and such under-privileged community, read up on their work and come up with project”. The food is *all* spicy *all* the time and I, at first, I was eating that much because there was only so much I could handle. But now I’m getting really into it and, actually, eating vegetarian here is awesome because vegetarian is the rule rather than the exception and they have a huge variety of veggie dishes.

lonely apartment

lonely apartment

Towards the end of the week things got better, the other interns (who have all been here for a while already) are actually very friendly despite seeming a bit unapproachable at first. So where I was holed up alone in my huge apartment in the evenings at first (because I’ve been advised not to walk around along after dark), the latter part of the week was way more social. I was invited to watch the cricket (where I had to shamefully fess up to not following cricket much to the horror, and I do mean horror, of the MSR director) and then I went out to explore a nearby Malleswaram complete with open air market and temples and noise with two new friends from the office. Today I went out with my mentor, Ed, and his wife, Page, who recenly arrived here, we explored the streets some more and got most excellent food. And finally over the weekend I discovered that I had a new roommate. Also I went out to meet with an NGO I might work with and afterward went to CTR (Central Tiffin Room) which is reputed to have the best butter dosa in Bangalore.

flower emporium

flower emporium

saturday garlanding

saturday garlanding

All in all an interesting week!

pilgrimage day 9.0 – destination, Jerusalem

January 15, 2009

It’s a well known adage that life is not about the destination, but the journey. This pilgrimage was about Jesus’ journey, but the destination, where Jesus fulfilled his mission, had equal gravity. Even though we had been in Jerusalem a few days already, day 9 we ‘arrived’, everything after this day felt like a winding down of the pilgrimage. Day 9 was also, fittingly, the harshest single day of the whole trip, but, somehow, I felt full of energy and verve. The day was so ridiculously long that I’m splitting it into two posts (which is saying something becuase the posts so far have been way-too-long-for-blog). Anyways, we woke at 5am and left for a 6am Mass at the Holy Sepulcher. We got our Mass in early at the overbooked Christian epicentre, during its Catholic time-slice. We walked a windy, complicated path through the Old City during a grey pre-dawn to get there. The streets were weirdly quiet compared to their regular buzz and clutter. Once we got inside the empty, echoey church we gathered at it’s focus: the enclosure built around Jesus’ tomb. After a while we entered through a narrow entry to a teeny room, the size of a large elevator, for a Mass which contemplated Jesus’ resurrection from the very spot where we were standing. At the end of Mass, one at a time, we walk-crawled through a low arch into an even teenier room at the middle of the enclosure where there was only a large altar built over the rocks of the tomb. Here we knelt and reached into a hole to touch those scared rocks. By the time we emerged from the enclosure, there were already more pilgrims starting to gather.

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

After a quick breakfast nip back to the hotel, we drove off to the Western Wall (a.k.a. Wailing Wall or Kotel), that site of contentiousness between the Jewish and Muslim. The wall’s history is obviously interesting and the fact that Jews are able to pray there freely is a big deal as it is the only part of the Temple that remains. At the commission in which the Jewish sought free worship at the wall, the following argument was made which I think sums up the wall’s meaning and the Jews desperation to hold onto it:

“Being judged before you today stands a nation that has been deprived of everything that is dear and sacred to it from its emergence in its own land – the graves of its patriarchs, the graves of its great kings, the graves of its holy prophets and, above all, the site of its glorious Temple. Everything has been taken from it and of all the witnesses to its sanctity, only one vestige remains – one side of a tiny portion of a wall, which, on one side, borders the place of its former Temple. In front of this bare stone wall, that nation stands under the open sky, in the heat of summer and in the rains of winter, and pours out its heart to its God in heaven.”

There are seperate queues for men and women to enter the site of the wall and very strict rules around maintaining its sanctity. There’s also a seperation at the wall such that there is a part for the tourists  and another for devout (I think Hasidic) Jews. Something else you notice is that, since the wall is so sacred, people do not turn their back on is, so as you leave you walk backwards facing the wall at all times.We got 5 minuts to walk around, and I didn’t walk all the way up and touch wall becuase I thought there wouldn’t be enough time. As we left I instantly regretted it, but Angie, who did touch the wall, did something which really moved me; she saw I was upset, picked up my hand and rubbed it against hers saying ‘Now we both touched the wall’.

rules of sanctity

rules of sanctity

the holiest place

the holiest place

Next we moved onto an even more contested site, the same space is, for Jews, the Temple Mount, where the Temple once stood and, for Muslims, it is where Mohammed ascended into heaven and where he will again appear at final judgement. It is the most holy place for Jews and the third most holy place for Muslims. One thing both agree on is that it is where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. The space is occupied by two important Islamic places of worship the  Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, (as in the rock on which Abraham prepared Isaac for sacrifice). We walked through a make-shift tunnel with heavily armed soldiers posted along it to get to the Temple Mount.

Temple Mount arch

Temple Mount arch

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

We left the Temple Mount and walked through the Muslim quarter to see two things: St. Anne’s which is considered the birthplace of Mary and the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus restored a blind man’s vision. Bizarrely and unexpectedly we were shuffled into a choir formation in St. Annes to sing a hymn becuase the acoustics there are really good. It was odd becuase there was an air of rush, we had to do this thing we didn’t know we were going to do *fast* bacuase there were other groups chomping at the bit for their choral moment. So, it seems, that’s what you do at St. Anne’s, you’re expected to sing; if you ever go, be prepared. At the pools there there was lots of talking by Frank (which I didn’t really process since I was still thinking about the Temple Mount) and a very quick looksee before we had to move onto to the Via Dolorosa.

one of many altars in St. Annes

one of many altars in St. Anne's

We got to do something very special and follow the Via Dolorosa, the way Jesus walked after his condemnation to his cruxifiction. We walked this path carrying a large wooden cross in turns and stopping at each station of the cross to read from the Bible and pray. The streets were narrow and filled with nonplussed shopkeepers who looked like they’ve seen thousands of Via Dolorosa processions. Ultimately we reached a little green door which turned out to be a wierd back entrance to the Holy Sepulchre, where we completed the last five stations and wandered around among the throngs of people. This time we also got to go to the altar above the rock of Calvary and touch that rock.

via dolorossa - the stations

via dolorossa - the stations

walking the via dolorosa

walking the via dolorosa

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

After that people got to rest for a while in the plaza outside the church before walking a good while through the shop-filled lanes to get to a Maronite nunnery where Frank had organised a lunch for us. The nuns there knew him well since he had grown up near the nunnery and spent lots of time there as a boy getting up to mischief such as hiding from his parents in their bell tower. We were led up a long flight of stairs which has very hard on the older folk. We ended up on a rooftop where we got an awesome view of rooftops used as backyards, statellites, domes, churches. Frank dissected the view, pointing out the different religious quarters and landmarks. Lunch was simple, homey and delicious and our table was filled with rollicking good table mates like Tia, Mae, Luisa, Fr. Chico, Caroline and Veronica.

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

rooftop backyard

rooftop backyard

look at this ladys apron

look at this lady's apron

Next, what we did after chilling at the Maronite nunnery…

pilgrimage day 5 – there are a lot of churches in Galilee…

December 13, 2008

… I guess that makes sense since that is where Jesus really got going with his teaching and where he dropped his most memorable revelations on God’s kingdom and “How To’s” for Christians – Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes etc. We drove for a long time out of Nazareth, past many green and brown landscapes dotted with black basalt rocks. Eventually we reached the Mount of the Beatitudes – well not *the* mount, the Franciscans own a 3km stretch of the mountains where Jesus preached and in one particular spot built the Church of the Beatitudes:

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In the church you will find eight of lots of things to represent the eight Beatitudes: eight windows, eight pillars etc. It was a really pretty church with lots of airy whites, blues and golds and surrounded by gardens lovingly tended by the Franciscan sisters. You were not allowed into the church if you were not ‘appropriately’ dressed which meant covered shoulders and there was a basket of shawls and watchful sister at the entrance to keep the sacredness in tact. We are given a generous TEN minutes to walk around the gardens, explore the church and get back to the bus.

Church of the Beatitudes

Church of the Beatitudes

Next the bus unloaded us in Tabgha where there are two churches: the Church of the Multiplication and the Chapel of the Primacy of St. Peter. The first church is built where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplication – feeding five thousand men (and an unknown number of women of children) with 2 fish and 5 bread loaves. Here we passed by the church onto a simple basalt altar near the Sea of Galilee shore. We sat on big logs under dried banana leaf shades for Mass, where we read about the multiplication and sat in silence for the first time on the pilgrimage. It was very peaceful being on the land where Jesus taught and feeling God in the silence. At the end of the tour many people would come to describe this place as their favourite in the tour. After this we visited the Church of the Multiplication where the altar is placed over the rock on which Jesus is believed to have performed the multiplication miracle. And sticking with the fish theme, there was a nice Koi pond and animal mosaics.

Simple is good

simple is good

Multiplication altar

Multiplication altar

We got back on the bus for a short hop to the Chapel of the Primacy of St. Peter, where Jesus appeared to the disciples for the third time after he had risen and ate breakfast with them and where he gave Peter the command to “Feed my Sheep” (hence conferring the primacy of his Church to him). In memory of the latter there is a statue of Jesus blessing a genuflected Peter. Here Frank read from his heavily post-it’ed Bible and people took the opportunity to wade in the waters of the Sea of Galilee. There was also a bathroom stop here but you had to pay a couple of shekels. One mama in our tour was not impressed and declared that she was going to go in the bushes. This startled Frank such that he shoved enough shekels for two bathroom trips into her hands and gasped something along the lines of ‘No, no! Please, it’s on me!’.

me + Sea of Galilee

me + Sea of Galilee

Next we were onto church #4 at Capharnaum, where Peter lived and Jesus taught in the synagogue. This place was archaeologically interesting since there were many preserved ruins and one set of ruins used to be Peter’s house. Over these hovers a *whole* church held in place with only three or four metal bars, inside the church has a glass floor at its center so you can look down into the ruins. The other set of ruins is a synagogue that still has whole tall pillars intact. But if you look along the outer edge of it you can see a line of black basalt rock below the khaki coloured rock. The black rock is what’s left of the original temple that Jesus taught in at Capharnaum – rocks that Jesus walked on, wow.

Two layers - black basalt and other whiter rock

Two layers - black basalt and other whiter rock

After Capharnaum we were rushed off to a restaurant where we were going to have a very special lunch called Peter’s Fish. This was special because it consisted of the same kind of fish that Peter caught in the Sea of Galilee. It was so special in fact that it cost $17. In the end the older folk went for the lunch but a few of the younger folks decided to wander around outside. There wasn’t much to see besides a shop and a petrol station, but just beyond these we found a lone food stall where there was a woman making some kind of flat bread for $6.  Isabel, Luisa, A, E, the another young doctor, L, and I ordered one and watched her make it. She started by rolling out a dough, then pulling it out into a circular shape over a big cushion and then frying it on a big dome shaped gas cooker. When it was finished cooking she slathered it with creamy goat’s milk cheese, salt and herbs and then folded it up and cut it into six pieces. This was served with a bowl of olives and we ordered two breads so that was lunch for $2 each! It was a very relaxed lunch, we sat at a table the woman had set out while she played with her baby who was lying on a bed near the back of her stall. She was very shy but friendly and her and A bonded over her baby and she ended up giving us a branch full of fresh dates that she had hanging up.

over a cushion

over a cushion

lunch to share

lunch to share

After lunch we were taken for a ride in a boat which was a replica of the so-called Jesus Boat on the Sea of Galilee. There was a DJ-type set up on the boat and there was much merriment with the hoisting of the South African flag, singing of national anthems and dancing. When we got back to the shore we got to have a bathroom break in a museum where Isabel and I bought ice-cream. By this stage I was still carrying my money in an ever-disintegrating paper envelope inside a traveller’s belt strapped across my tummy. The charming guy behind the counter leaned over to me and said “You know they have this invention, is a wonderful theeng – is called a walleet’. I responded by looking up from my flakey envelope and said “What? A wallleeettt?? I must see if I can find one! What’s it called again a, a?” “-Walleet” he replied, “A- a wallleeeeettt?” I said “Thank you so much!” and then we all had a good nudge-nudge-wink-wink laugh (especially Isabel!).

singing the portuguese anthem on the Jesus Boat

singing the portuguese anthem on the Jesus Boat

in Cana

in Cana

By this stage we were all pretty pooped but we still had *another* stop in small charming and cobbled Cana, . We went to the Wedding Church built over a likely place for the wedding feast where Jesus performed his first miracle and probably a very popular place for weddings. Here people renewed wedding vows, remembered spouses that had passed and prayed over single us folk (which I tried to not to find condescending). There were also more ruins of a Jesus-era house complete with pots that wine would have been stored in. Finally we head back to Nazareth were we had a very early dinner and Luisa and I spoilt ourselves with outrageously expensive cappuccinos. While we were sipping , Frank joined us and we had a long chat. Frank turned out to be an interesting character with some kind of checkered past who is disillusioned with religion and the hypocritical priests in Jerusalem who have rich lifestyles while little money finds its way to poor Christian families. We also discovered that Frank had been mysteriously absent from our Masses because, while he loves the churches he visits deeply, he feels that he defiles them because of his past. We also learn that he is very into academic reading and theology. He also tells us that the mama in our group really shocked him when she declared that she was going to forgo the paid bathrooms at Tabgha and how he had never experienced a group whose schedule was as difficult as ours to maintain and who moved as slowly, mmmm.

Tomorrow we were to leave Nazareth and head to Jerusalem – which was fitting since Jesus left the towns near the Sea of Galilee where things were kind of cushy for him and headed for Jerusalem towards his ultimate destiny…

Tally for the day: 6 churches, 2 sets of ruins, 1 boat ride