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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at www.kymwilson.com.au. You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Friday, 30 September 2011

Catching stars

Tonight I stood on a deserted beach, alone. My feet sank into the cool, soft sand, connecting me deeper to the earth. Before me, the sea, jet black except for the white foamy tops of its breaking waves, rushed in towards me with a roar then bubbled softly as it slinked back towards its mass. Occasionally the breeze flicked at my loose clothing and tousled my hair as it passed by me, leaving me enveloped by the warm night air. I turned my head up towards the cloudless sky, star-gazing. Slowly, I spun around, eyes locked to the heavens, absorbing the magnificence of it all. These tiny twinkling dots, radiating brightly in the felt black sky, seemingly just for me, so close that if I stood on tippy toes I could reach up and catch one between my cupped hands and bring its magic closer to me on earth.

Tonight, I stood on this beautiful deserted beach, alone but a tiny part of this beautiful world.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Leaving India behind (that voice, not quite mine)

I left Pondicherry, my home of almost two months, only two days ago. Now, I find myself in a completely different world. A world where there are no crowds, no dirt, little rubbish and no man-made noise, only the breeze rustling the fronds of the coconut trees, some squawking crows and the surf pounding the beach, just 30 metres from my cabana, before surging across the sand in a foamy roar. I am alone except for the sometimes too friendly staff and a handful of other guests content to maintain their own distance. I have fallen asleep listening to the rumble of the sea. I have walked miles along the golden sandy beach, alone and sometimes with a friendly local for company pointing out where a turtle has dragged herself ashore to lay her eggs. I have laid beneath coconut trees partly shaded from the Sri Lankan sun watching the sea whilst listening to my favourite music. I am in yet another paradise and if I could stay in this moment it would be perfect. But for all its peace, beauty and serenity, my heart is not content here. It longs to be back in another crazy world, the complete opposite of where I am.

My ever wandering mind, rewinds, thinking back over the last two months. Memory after memory pops up like tiny brightly coloured fireworks. The display is so spectacular, I whisper to myself, “Was it all a dream?” I revisit photos, solid proof of what occurred before. No it wasn’t a dream. It was all so very, very real. My eyes linger over each picture and I remember the sounds, the flavours, the people, the action, the emotion. I ride the roller coaster once more feeling each different moment in time, the joy, the frustration, the happiness, the sadness, the tiredness, the connection, the disparity and the contentment. I deposit each memory into my heart, allowing it to be gently enclosed, trapped, immortalised within my own life, forever.

For more than 3 years, I thought India called my name but it was my own heart that cried out for my return. In the moments I was quiet and still, I heard it spoken softly and slowly over and over again in a voice that was not quite mine, “In-di-a. In-di-a. In-di-a.” And in the moments I was distracted and not wanting to listen, it called out fervently over and over again with more urgency, “India, India, India!” I heard it in the morning in the blinking moments after I awoke. I heard it in the middle of a meeting, sometimes turning to see from where the voice had called. And I heard it in my daydreams blending in with the background noise until in a quiet moment it jumped out, loud, shaking me out of my reverie. The voice called time and time again until finally I answered.

I came back to India hoping without expectation to reconnect to the joy I felt last time I was here. I was not disappointed. Amongst the frustrations, hardships, dirt and poverty, joy lurks here too, waiting to be stumbled upon in unanticipated ways. I found joy when I was driving in the dirty, crowded streets, dodging buses and trucks, just another tiny spoke in the wheel of life. I found it in absurd moments so foreign from my Australian life that I couldn’t help but laugh. A cow interrupting a conversation with a loud moo as it passed by our gate. Parking my scooter next to a cow on the only dry piece of in my flooded street and then wading home to a porch full of floating shoes. Watching a family of buffaloes create peak hour chaos as they moved slowly down the middle of MG Road oblivious to the mayhem around them. And I experienced it in a trip down the street to purchase a sewing needle and black cotton that unexpectedly turned into a scavenger hunt, each clue provided by a helpful stranger.

Joy appeared in the moments I sat with little Anita, listening to her read, spell, and answer my questions testing her school work, caught up in her enthusiasm to learn and interact with me. I found it in the service of my favourite waiters eager to show me kindness and make sure my needs were met. It was ever-present in the laughter and friendly waves of children I passed on the streets or maybe it was more in the laughter and the waves that I gave back. Joy was there watching my orphan boys get soaked  by waves splashing up over the rocks at Pondy beach whilst dressed in jeans and t-shirts as they hunted for crabs. I found joy in the eyes, hugs and kisses of a little street puppy and as I watched her heal, grow, and then be adopted by a loving family. And there was joy too, in the quiet and not so quiet moments spent laughing with new friends.

Joy was always in the dancing. It was there, watching the orphan boys freely and unselfconsciously singing and dancing their hearts out Tamil style and then laughing with them at my poorly replicated dance moves. It was in the singing and dancing performances of the slum school children eager to welcome me to their school and then embracing me in their arms as we sang and danced until near exhaustion I wanted to collapse. And joy rained down upon me at an outdoor dance party where I danced with friends and strangers, moving freely, uninhibited to our individual rhythms but as one pulsing mass whist the rain tumbled down upon us washing away our sweat but not our enthusiasm.

Now I am here, alone, in this quiet, tranquil place, I feel like I am coming down off a massive high. Maybe I was a little addicted to the chaotic energy that surrounded me back in India. As I sit and watch the waves roll in, I allow, little by little, a new rhythm to take hold of my life. I accept, little by little, that I have once again moved on from a place and time that I have loved with all my heart. As with the end of any beloved relationship, I feel the pain and the sadness of the forced separation but I have lived the gypsy life long enough to know that there can always be a return.

In the distance, past the sound of squawking crows, the rustling coconut fronds and the thundering waves, I can hear that voice, not quite mine, call out once again, slowly and softly. “In-di-a. In-di-a. In-di-a.”

 Tangalla, Sri Lanka

Sunset @ Tangalla, Sri Lanka

Beautiful little Ivy 

Participants in the Ganesha Vinayaka procession 

Dancing all night long (courtesy Izumi Yamaguchi)

Xaviyer and Rajasekar at the beach with their crab 

Little Anita at remedial school

Thursday, 15 September 2011

These streets


These streets, they once confused me. A riddled grid, with no familiar landmarks to give me a sense of north or south. And although I drove them with a compass attached to my wrist, I was always, always lost. My trusty map, battered, torn and worn from over-use now barely holds together but still holds all the answers. If only I knew where on the map I am. Street signs are hidden or over-rated but if you live here long enough you know the streets like you know all the rooms of your house. No thinking required. Driving whilst honking, dodging, searching and looking, perplexed me. Frustrated, I was convinced I would never be able to find my own way around without getting lost. It is now six weeks since my arrival and I am still learning the streets but I know my way to the places I frequent. I even know a few different routes. Some street names I know but many I do not. I just know that they lead me to where I want to go and where I want to be.

Here, the streets are where life takes place. All day, all night, there are people, animals, activity, life. Air conditioning is a luxury the majority do not have. Concrete and corrugated iron houses are hot even with a ceiling fan. The streets offer a cool but dusty oasis. People sleep here, wash their bodies and clothes here, cook, sit and beg, talk to neighbours and friends, build things, sell fruit, vegetables and fish, urinate, spit and even dump their rubbish here. Goats, cows and street dogs roam freely, sometimes even pigs. This is their terrain. The traffic clogs its width from dawn to dusk, moving or parked stationary but never quiet and never orderly. Road rules rarely apply. Priority is based on size. Don’t argue with oncoming buses and trucks in “your” lane, just get out of their way, pull off the road if you have to. This is not a fight you want to risk.  There is but one goal, and that is to get yourself to your destination any way you can. Leap frog other road users. Get yourself in front. But for all the chaos the dodgem traffic creates, there is surprisingly little speed in the city. The limit of 20 kilometres per hour is more or less abided by if not more liberally interpreted as 30 kilometres per hour.

Driving in morning peak hour, I feel alive, connected, part of the action of this town. This is where the energy is as everyone starts a new day. Bus loads of happy, shiny, children on their way to school create the most chaos. Girls with neatly pigtail plaited hair with big blue bows and boys with oiled hair, almost all of them with decorated foreheads, red spots and white stripes, fill the buses to the brim. Stopping to allow the children to exit, they take up precious space, forcing the traffic to squish together to go around them and sometimes creating a temporary one lane parking lot when there is too much oncoming traffic.

Children, fortunate to have their own bicycles, pedal to their own rhythm, turning out from side streets in front of traffic as if they own the road. Side by side they take up more valuable space on the road, oblivious and careless to the traffic swerving around them. Elderly bicycle rickshaw drivers steadily pedal their heavy loads, passengers or boxes of goods or furniture. Watching them, I feel weary and part of me longs for deep rest, to be free of a heavy load. Cars, scooters and motorbikes dodge the old rickshaws as well as the holy cow often standing in the middle of the road at the most inopportune time.  And every morning there is Laskshmi, the elephant, plodding towards the temple on her way to work.

Women, clad in brightly coloured saris, walk the side of the streets, baskets, pots and other heavy parcels balanced easily, even elegantly on top of their heads. They, too, move steadily, not rushed, more obstacles to dodge.  Along the canal road, dozens more women sit along the side of the road with their small catches of fresh fish laid out for sale on upturned boxes or sheets on the ground. The fishy stench announces their wares for sale long before their small stalls come into sight. Opposite them, other ladies sit on the ground behind bunches of bananas, guava, apples, pomegranate, custard apples and mangoes laid out for sale.

Sometimes I drive these streets, my purple scarf wrapped around my face and neck, in an often futile attempt to prevent the ever-present dirt kicked up by trucks and buses and cars landing on my skin. A flimsy barrier it may be but it doesn't block out life. Every day, I ride these streets with an open heart, grateful for the dirt, the chaos, the colours, the sometimes unusual sights, the people, the cows, the energy and for this period of time to be on these streets and part of this Indian life.