Tag Archives: sleep

Remember the Benefit

I have signed up for daily 6:00 am yoga. Really, I have signed up for 5:45 yoga, because it takes some time to bike to the university yoga center, and when you break it down I have mostly committed to 5:30 am yoga because leggings present certain coordination and balance obstacles when you are attempting to put them on int a state not unlike a blind baby mouse, and I can say with confidence that I’m certainly signed on for 5:15 yoga, because the incubuses of my morning motivation need some time to bicker amongst themselves as the best way to get my body out of sweet, sweet repose so early.

I should mention that I hate yoga. I have tried it multiple times in multiple locations, all the while fuming slowly like the positions I am supposed to be mastering because I am failing at stretching. My whole life I have participated in sports involving quick spurts of activity that let you convince yourself that you aren’t really exercising: gymnastic, softball, racquetball. By nature I am not a very still or calculated person. These are traits I have always been determined to change about myself but easily forfeit to defeat. My dedication to yoga probably generates from some deep, vain desire to edify this self-loathing, to wallow in my own umlimber soul. Clearly a straight path to nirvana.

The yoga center is a large but unassuming building a mile away from our hostel. The mint green walls and yellow window frames distract it from considering itself a warehouse. Bright woven wool blankets and crayon-colored yoga mats enliven the metal roof and the concrete floor. Every morning when I retrieve mine from the dark room where they are kept, I am reminded of the musty, wooden smell of then nearly abandoned treehouse at my grandparent’s house in Michigan.

Our regular instructor is just as you might imagine – a short, compact bald man of indistinguishable age. He even speaks in compact sentences. No excessive words. A short, “You…hello, you!” to correct someone’s pose, usually mine. Then, “Get back” to indicate the end of a pose. Without fail every time, I time my breaths to the rhythm of the Beatles song by the same name.

When he learns my name, he pronounces it “Kather-reen.” I think he prefers using “Hello…You.”

The first week he asked me where all my other friends were, the ones who signed up eagerly the first day during our campus tour. Knowing that no one else in the group has any intention of getting up this early or coming to yoga, I make light of our lack of commitment. “We are doing a graded exposure system,” I quip. “Bringing one per day!” Okay, he just nods his head. I haven’t made the joke again. I leave the sarcasm with my shoes at the door, and attempt to get into the meditative state, but mostly swat at flies secretly.

One day a new instructor took over the exercise. I was relaxing in meditation already and was starting to feel as I always do – like I had truncated my sleep in bed just to come sleep in more uncomfortable position among strangers – when I heard a booming voice echo throughout the hall. In my enlightened state, I honestly thought the voice of God had descended to tell me, “Stretch! Higher! Yes! Lift your buttocks!”

When I opened my eyes, I saw the voice belonged to a rotund thick man white white hair pacing through the still bodies, his eyes closed too. We go through the opening ommmms and prayer. I know none of the words I repeat, but I have adopted them to mean “Please for the love of whatever God do not let me pull muscles I don’t know I have.”

The man continued to speak in stern yet encouraging phrases. “Very good!” he says genuinely when I somehow managed to reach my head to my feet while arching my back. “Dream on!” Right when we bigan holding the maximum stretchs in excruciating pain, he launches into long, detailed narratives about what part of the body should be hurting, what physical ailment it will alleviate, and what the medical etiology of its good name means.

“Remember the benefit!” he says when he can tell we are failing at a pose, which is most. So I try. I think about Thanatopsis. I think of the particles of my body dispering up and outwards, becoming a part of the world around it. I think of my mortality, my stiff bones popping as I move, my calves shaking just from standing on my tip-toes, the small energy capsule that is my body. Then, I know the benefit is for the person next to me, who is surely laughing internally at my red, grimacing, inverted face.

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Since the train station, Anne and I come to expect a certain level difficulty when getting from place to place. Today we depart our Kanpur haven for Hyderabad, a sort of benchmark because it is our longest stop. “When we get to Hyderabad…” or “We just need to get to Hyderabad…” we have prefaced our sentences. You would think this place springs chocolate rivers the way we talk.

On our last day here we woke to see the peacocks. Our walk started at 5:30 am, but it was as if the sun never set; the heat was in its crescendo already. They are the national bird and they infiltrate the campus. They symbolize peace, I learned from a Delhi shop keeper during my rebuffs in buying his marble carvings of the creature.

Rahna, Dr. Harish’s wife, told us the birds shed their reticence in the morning. If you rise early enough, she said, you can catch the shy creatures with their guards down and their fans up.

“Why do they congregate here?” I asked.

“I think it must be spiritual.”

They forget their piety when they call to each other, however. As we were sitting in Dr. Harish’s backyard the first night in Kanpur, we heard a sound like a crow-themed car alarm. This one memo activated the rest of the peacocks in the neighborhood and soon we had a serenade of passionate whoops.

“And they eat everything, anything,” Dr. Harish said. The ornithological version of a goat, I added. Whoever consecrated the peacock must have only seen one from afar.

On our walk we saw plenty in their usual state. Their feathers constricted as they cautiously and tiptoed, for they do really tiptoe, in fear at every foreign movement. We started home a bit disappointed, but we had only walked a block and a nap sounded too promising.

I turned my head right for no real purpose. On the roof of the nearest building, a peacock turned in circles with his alluvial wings outspread.

“Oh, look,” I stated to Anne, as if we were always expecting it there. A good blessing for the long, long coming hours.

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The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near, the lands to be welded together

This is just to say that Anne, Annette, and I have arrived in Delhi, without much cause for concern, about 24 hours ago. The flight was a nonstop, 14 hr trek, but between the 230 in-flight movie choices, reading a Cosmo, and listening to Old Crow Medicine Show on my iPod, time passed quickly and I had little concept that at any moment we were 37,000 feet about the Atlantic, Russia, Afghanistan.

We have comfortable accommodations in the craziest part of the city. Last night we fell asleep to the alternating cattle moos and cartoon honking of rickshaws and bicycles. We’re staying near the heart of the city, in comfortable but certainly budget accommodations. Today we got our fix of local food and bearings, and tonight we will sleep off the rest of our jet lag.

My internet connection is spotty at best, and the power frequently cuts out in the whole building, so my post from here on out may be infrequent and retroactive in their content. What I can say is that India is intimidating , yes, but manageable, and English is available from every mouth, even the mango street vendor, who says “Hello” to show that he, too, knows one little bit of the language. But already it seems like a façade of ease, because lurking behind every phrase is a Hindi turn of the tongue.

I am enjoying the trip immensely, despite the layer of dust and grim already covering my body even after a day. Every particle of my skin is being assimilated, it seems. It’s still difficult to wrap my mind around the distance from home and different in culture, as assaulting as the colors, smells, and noises are at all hours. That I am here to stay and to survive is more definite when written than realized.


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no iPod juice

phone charged to one bar

6:11 a.m

2 hrs sleep

too much stuff

but who thought it was a good idea to not bring a hair dryer?

bye America!

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In Between Spaces

“Why do you always get sick when you come home?” An old friend whom I had arranged to meet a few days ago asked.

I hadn’t realized the pattern until he said it. My times at home are now parentheses scything off moments between stressful semesters or vacations. Home and family have their own obligations too and sometimes the weaving of all these realms suffocates me to the point that I just have to watch six episodes of Flip That House! in a row. My body catches up with my schedule here, and home becomes a junkyard for both my material possessions and physical malfunctions. I had already canceled on Justin twice before to recuperate; TiVo and green tea seemed to be the natural remedy for a speedy recovery.

Wichita always makes for a bizarre platform on which to depart, especially for the other side of the world. Growing up here was directed towards escape. I told myself engaging possibilities were elsewhere.  Success meant leaving the 316.  When my family first moved here, our neighborhood included one subdivision, a 7-11 gas station, a gymnastic center, and miles of countryside. Now, with urban sprawl, one can subsist entirely within a five-mile radius of my house.

Every time I return, even just to visit, I still have a small fear that I won’t ever leave again. The months away seem to erase entirely in lifestyle and memory. I miss my friends and my autonomy, but I regress too easily into my slippered shuffling through the house and eating food in as many pounds as hours I nap. So, I am not entirely surprised that whatever energy that kept me operating at bizarre levels of productively and sleep for the past four months has deflated into complete lassitude over the course of a few hours. I feel fossilized in the amber cast of my house with little motivation to go anywhere. I find forward projection difficult. After a few cloistered days, I wonder, is my default human setting really compulsively eating pudding cups while watching re-runs of America’s Next Top Model? Compared to the 8 am bus rides and ten-minute lunches during the school year, I can’t decide which mode is the bigger façade.

This time, however, planning for departure truncates relaxation. My preparations find an appropriate analog in the Game of Perfection in every sense of the reference. I am scrambling in these last days to find all the finest pieces for my trip: strongest antacids and padlocks, most effective rain cover for my huge backpack, highest-resolution webcam, etc. I do this all the while knowing that none of it exactly matters. As soon as my Keen-clad feet hit the cracked pavements of Delhi, I imagine all of my best-laid plans will come popping up with culture shock and potential scams and beggars and the torrential rains and everything else I know of but cannot begin to internalize.

I am committing mistakes already, the first occurring when I bit into my malaria pills. They looked a lot like a Tylenol tablet, and I failed to swallow them upon first try, so I thought maybe they were chew-friendly and the white color could indicate a “vanilla” flavor. I may as well have poured an entire jar of margarita salt down my throat. Only fifteen more to go.

My search for appropriate clothing repulsed just as well. I need lighter, less restricting t-shirts and blouses than I currently own to combat the inevitable waves of heat and Eve-teasing. Right now, about 0.0005 % of my wardrobe fits this criteria, with my pajamas comprising 0.00025%. The hunt did not lead me far. Near my neighborhood, a Super Walmart sits shoulder to shoulder with a SuperTarget, which is across the street from a Dillons Superstore, which salutes a soon-to-be Jumbo Best Buy. By fitting such huge spaces into such limited geography, the city planners complicate my decision. For multifaceted errands I usually settle for Target, because it abuts an open field that somehow hasn’t been developed into a neighborhood with a throwback name to the pastoral scene its sewer system now roots through. Also, the Starbucks next to the “Fresh Produce” is a big win.

After meandering around the hygiene section for some time, I found my way to women’s clothing. Basic tees: $7. Bullseye.

I grabbed one in every color, and then I came across a flowery, more detailed and embroidered blue top. Thinking it perfect for my needs, I pulled out the tag to find the right size. Small, okay. But I didn’t even get to the price. In slightly larger print: Made in India.

My hand recoiled, and I wasn’t sure why. I owned plenty of products made in India. Shirts. Shoes. Probably some bits of the computer on which I am typing this. But the current convenience in buying a shirt in a chain store with the intention to diminish the future inconveniences of the home country of someone who, probably in derisory conditions, made the shirt was a gross juxtaposition. I was sick, indeed.

The moment electrified me into recognition. My encounters in superstores and street market stalls will supplant what I buy in them. I know my life is about to change with dramatic moments and sweeping actions, but also in the tiniest of observations. How can I even begin to prepare?

Well, I am still taking Pepto-Bismol, just in case.


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