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Where We Journal

A series of our inner thoughts, emotions, experiences, encounters, & observations, as we interact with the people of the world


Minimal Living

Jenny & Adam

MANANG, Nepal // There was a silver dollar size piece of soggy wet bar soap sitting on a dirty cinderblock in the bathroom. “Yes! Soap!” I was so happy I grabbed it and washed my dirty hands from trekking the last 3 hours. If I saw a ‘bar' of soap in a bathroom at a restaurant in NYC, or at a shopping mall growing up, I probably would have never touched it. It’s dirty right? It’s soap though. There were many times along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal I felt so grateful for such simple things that in the end I surprised myself with how easy it would be to live simpler lives.

Once we got onto the Annapurna Circuit in Jagat, simple amenities that we are so used to suddenly became obsolete. Our accommodation in the teahouses was minimal at best. It was 2 cots in a room with 4 walls and a roof. That was pretty much it, unless we were higher altitude we got a dirty and used down comforter for warmth. Day by day I compiled things in my head that I was grateful for. Toilets were reduced to holes in the ground that you had to squat at. There were no towels that we are so used to having at hotels either. I used a tank top to dry myself throughout the week. There was hot water at a handful of the places and those turned into a blessing. Soap and toilet paper turned into luxuries. We were surprised to find that most teahouses below 4000 meters did in fact have wifi, that actually worked. What also amused me was the price drinking water as we went up in altitude. In Kathmandu you can buy a liter of bottled water for 20 Nepali rupees (about 20 cents in USD). When we were in the teahouses in high altitude it averaged 150 rupees (about $1.50 USD) and at high camp 4900 meters it peaked at 230 rupees (2.30 USD). Economics in Nepal at work. 

The food was really delicious and we had yak meat, noodles, and a Nepali dish Dhal Bhat. Most menus are the same. It’s crazy to think that I have the choice to go back to a civilized world where we can buy anything we want at a local store in town 10 minutes away. I have access to drinking water out of a tap. I can take multiple hot water showers a day. I can have a heater in the winter and air conditioner in the summer. 

My bag I realized had about twice as much as I needed. Our guide Baal had a tiny backpack but only wore the same 2 shirts and one pair of pants the entire trip. The rest of his bags was full of pomegranates and apples that he brought for his tourist group / (us). I think I never really realized how much I had and how much excess people in the USA or the western world live with and how much is necessary. 

India Summarized

Jenny & Adam

MCLEOD GANJ, India // After 30 days in India our visa has run out and we fly to Nepal. India has been the biggest mix of emotions for us so far as it has seen some of the best and worst parts of our trip. It can be defined for me as a place where at first I questioned why we had come here, to a place where I didn’t want to leave and still wanted to explore. Despite the fact we were here 30 days, we didn’t even visit Kerala in the south, Calcutta and Varanasi in the east, or Mumbai and Goa in the west. 

India was a place where I 'felt' more than I 'saw'. I had lots of experiences where I felt certain emotions that were absent from other parts of our trip due to the strange circumstances we found ourselves in. Each situation involved spending extra energy to seek out special things. We have noticed a big difference in entertainment when it comes to travel. This was more evident in India than I have felt anywhere else in the world. There is the concept of showing up in a destination and paying money to be entertained: (Hi, I’m here now, show me something that will impress me!) …and there is the concept of showing up to a place and seeking out fun things that are of distinct interest to you, that may not be fun to anyone else except you. This was multiplied exponentially in India. 

The first 10 days were spent mostly in Rajasthan. When we were in Delhi planning our trip to Jaipur we decided on a homestay. After a long train trip we wanted to just lay on a hotel bed and put our feet up. Instead we got picked up by a local guy Sadik and brought to a house and spent the next 4 days in a bedroom in their home. We did yoga every morning with the mother and and her neighbors, we had home cooked meals from their housekeeper, and the father and son invited us to watch a cricket match with them in their living room as they explained the rules to us. Initially it felt uncomfortable to be picked up from the train station by a random guy and driven to a residential neighborhood, instead of being picked up by a taxi and driven to a popular hotel, but in the end it was totally worth the experience. 

The next 10 days were spent in Rishikesh and mostly at a yoga ashram. The more we ended up talking to the other people, the more enjoyable our stay became. This was another situation where just like we felt on arriving in India, we questioned why we planned to stay here so long. As time progressed, it become more enjoyable and fun, which peaked the final day when we made friends with another couple traveling and one of the other guests had her boyfriend in town who played in a band. He was playing on the other side of town that night and she invited us to come and watch. It was already late when we decided to go and was raining. We were tempted to use this an excuse to stay in and go to sleep. We walked 20 minutes, the rain stopped, and the band was awesome. Before we knew it, the time was midnight and Jenny and I were singing and playing drums, and laughing with the friends we made. Once again, the energy to meet people and accept invitations proved to be a great choice, that could have alternatively been us pouting in the room for being bored or not having fun. Although at times we felt India was dirty and uncivilized, we had a choice to accept it, or to just be upset. The same happens with many bad situations in life, you have the choice to dwell in it, or the choice to make it better. 

Day 20 through 30 was essentially spent in Mcleod Ganj in northern India, home of the Dalai Lama, the Tibet government in exile, as well as hundreds or thousands of Tibetan refugees. Here we opted for a nice hotel after the simple ashram which was welcomed by both of us. However, we spent a great deal of time everyday as volunteers teaching English. For the Tibetan refugees learning English is what the Dalai Lama told them to do in order to communicate with the rest of the world. Working or volunteering doesn’t always sound so fun on a trip or vacation, but deciding to allocate our time here could not have been a better choice. After a morning of researching and figuring out the best and most fun way to learn English, me and 3 monks: Sonam, Gilek, and Nawa sat in a circle and showed each other photos from our phones and explained in English as much as we could about the photo before we moved on to another. Afterwards I realized this was no different than me and friends in NYC sitting and showing each other our favorite photos, conversing and laughing. This daily project involved us brainstorming ways to teach English to these people, an hour of small group, and then Jenny and I talking about our experience having a chai tea on the neighboring rooftop. This once again took a great deal of energy, while the alternative could have been relaxing or enjoying ourselves in the city. 

Looking back I’m grateful things turned out the way they did, and we made the choices we did. There is a quote from a backpacker novel / movie that has always stayed with me throughout all of my travels that I noticed was applicable to many distinct moments and choices that we were presented with in India.

“Never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite, and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts? You know what? It’s probably worth it.” 

Free Tibet // A History Lesson in English

Jenny & Adam

MCLEOD GANJ, India // Have you ever had a bad day? The train is late. You sit in bumper to bumper traffic for hours on the interstate and are late for an important meeting at work. It's raining and you don’t have an umbrella.  You go to the grocery store and forget a bag at the checkout and have to go back. You know how it ruins your mood? Hold onto that thought and those emotions for one minute.

I met a man who walked from Tibet to India over a span of 10 years. 896 miles as the crow flies. Do you know what is between Lhasa, Tibet and McLeod Ganj, India? It’s the tallest mountain range in the world called the Himalayan Mountains, making this a most difficult journey. He traveled mostly at night near the borders to avoid Chinese patrols. This man left with just the clothes on his back and left behind his parents and siblings in hopes of a better life. A life away from the cultural genocide that is happening within China. Tibetans are not allowed to display images of the Dalai Lama or the old Tibetan flag since 1959 when China coerced Tibet into surrendering its independence over to China. Tibetans are mainly Buddhist and became such peaceful people that the idea of war was not a solution, even now when monasteries are being demolished. Monks are imprisoned and tortured for protesting in silent peaceful sit ins or by lighting themselves on fire. News is censored and people are held without a cause and are sentenced in closed door trials. They are still looking for a peaceful solution. They no longer even use the “Free Tibet” slogan. Now they are willing to live autonomously under China as a compromise, but China will not budge. But those Tibetans who live in constant fear of China try to escape and live in exile, Nepal or McLeod Ganj, India where the Dalai Lama now calls home along with thousands of Tibetan refugees. 

I met a man who overcame all odds and 10 years of travel and ended up in my English conversation group. With a smile on his face, love in his heart, and a contagious laughter, he forms sentences in English. He talks of wanting world peace, he speaks of the environment, and wants His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be allowed to return to Tibet.  

We volunteered at LHA in McLeod Ganj, India which helps Tibetan refugees learn languages and practical skills needed to find jobs. Every weekday from 4-5 PM is English conversation practice. Anywhere from 30-40 adult students cram into two small classrooms on cushions and 5-10 volunteers like us end up sitting with a group of students in a small circle of the room. I had between 3-4 students each time we went, and I had the privilege of having the same set of students all three days we volunteered. They think they are getting English conversation, but I’m getting a historical and cultural education. I don'y think they realize I get way more out of our sessions then they do.

First, I have no teacher training. So the first day was rather elementary because even though I know English I am in charge of coming up with topics and keeping the conversation going. What is your name? Where are you from? What part of Tibet is that in? How long have you been here? Tell me about your family. What do you have in your home? What do you eat for lunch? What do you watch on TV? My group was all Tibetan refugees from an area near Lhasa, Tibet. Google it, the large building that pops up is where the Dalai Lama used to live. They are full time students at LHA and come from large families. One is a twin, one has 7 brothers and sisters. All of them have lost a sibling. All of them have met His Holiness the Dalai Lama. None of their parents are here. They miss their families and parents in Tibet. They live in group living conditions and share rooms. I realize only 15 minutes has passed and they are just answering my questions, but I’m not sparking a discussion. 

These are not children and so I decide to ask real questions. If you could tell the world one thing what would you say? One girl says, “Im sorry for hurting you.” Even with all her hardships she is concerned with mother nature. Deforestation, water pollution, abusing the natural resources. Another boy who is probably in his early twenties says, “We are one. I would tell the world we are one. One people. One peace. One Earth. No matter our religion or our cultures we are the same" Profound. This guy with a black NY Yankees hat turned backwards and a puma t-shirt. 

Do you watch the news? They knew about the elections in America and wanted to know who I was voting for? Trump or Clinton? No one likes Trump. If you aren’t registered to vote do it. Its important. It's important to Tibetan refugees half a world away so it should be important to you in the US. They are worried if Trump wins, Tibet in exile and the Dalai Lama will lose an advocate in the US. They ask about the discrimination of black people in the US as they have been reading about the police and black lives matter movement. They get little news from Tibet and everything they send home is monitored and censored by China.

Why do you want to learn English? So I can become an English teacher and go back to Tibet and help others. I want to become a nurse so I can help people. One buddhist monk who has been here in McLeod Ganj for 23 years says, “English is the language of science and science is the key to religion.” We discuss 5 year plans and dreams; obstacles they face in accomplishing their dreams and steps they can take now to reach their goals.

One girl says her dream is to have world peace and to “not fat”. I repeat, “You don’t want to get fat?” and make a gesture of global scale while puffing out my cheeks. They all laugh and roll on the ground. “No! No! I don’t want fight!”. Oh the joys of translating broken English is a game in itself. One guy said his favorite movie was, “Spodcast”. I wrote it down and looked it up later. I couldn’t find it. The next day I ask for the name again. He spells out “Sparcas” and says its the guys name. I still can’t find it. Then, this weekend Im drinking my ginger, honey, lemon tea and it hits me, “Spartacus”. I can’t wait to discuss with him Monday in class. 

The best part of having the same students each time is that I never got to ask the same questions, and I got to build on their previous days answers and what I had already learned. The last day I told them we were going to "role play”. They didn’t understand. So I said, “You know, pretend.” They still didn’t understand and we had to use an online translator. They got it but were reluctant at first to play. I decided to make it practical for each of them. I made the nurse take care of the other three members of the group. What questions would you ask a patient? How do you feel? Where does it hurt? How much does it hurt on a scale of 1-10? She says she would check our pulse, but then isn’t sure where to find it. We talk about the heart and blood circulating through the body and how you can find your pulse in your wrist or neck. I make them all find their own pulses. They seem really pleased with this lesson. They make me write down the new vocabulary words: pulse, circulate, wrist. They are excited. She pretend heals us all of the diseases we had. Next, I make the girl who wants to be a teacher teach us a lesson in English. She has trouble but the others help. What would you start teaching first? The alphabet? What words start with letter A? What about numbers? Colors? This gives me the idea of playing a quick game of categories to show this girl a great way to run through vocabulary words that can be grouped together. We play, “Things that can be found in a classroom.” “Words that start with letter P”. This actually works extremely well. 

I find towards the end of class I’m not even talking, and they are talking with each other in English discussing and correcting each other. Im happy and listen to the music. They make me appreciate and be gracious for all that I have and all that I no longer want or need in life. Next time you have a bad day, just remember to always be kind whenever possible. Its always possible. We all have so much to be thankful for.



The Drive

Jenny & Adam

NAHAN, India // There was no other way to do it. We were in Rishikesh and needed to get to Mcleodganj. On a map it doesn’t seem that far, but by car through the mountains of northern India it is said to take 12 - 15 hours. The other option was to fly, but we would have to backtrack to Delhi. We would have to spend the night there too, because there is only one flight to Dharmsala, the closest airport. We could also take a bus that only runs overnight and takes possibly 20 hours. No thank you. We opted in between to take a private car. This turned out to be the best option as we had 2 buddies / drivers, Ramesh and Raju, to essentially road trip with us. They were friendly and accommodative, and we had a chance to control bathroom breaks as well as stopping for chai tea every few hours. We got to see an amazing part of India that seemed incredibly different than Rajasthan, Rishikesh, or Agra. The cities in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh that we passed through; Nahan, Subathu, and Nangal, were all little towns built into the mountains. There were wildflowers all over the sides of the roads, local markets, schools, tea shops, cliffside driving for hours, and narrow alleys once we made it into these towns. Our hearts stopped a few times when we passed the countless cement trucks on the side of the mountains with no guard rails. The journey through India by train and car have been a highlight in itself. 

We left Rishikesh at 6am and arrived in Mcleodganj at 7pm completely exhausted. We were astonished to find that Ramesh and Raju were going to get dinner then actually drive back to Rishikesh tonight! We were happy to go right to bed as we were on the brink of car sick and tired, due to the impossible ability to sleep during the bumpy ride. Our first impression of Mcleodganj was despite it being dark when we arrived, we actually saw other foreign tourists here, which put us at ease. It would turn out to be the city where we felt the safest in India during our month stay. The demographic here is probably half Indian and half Tibetan refugees. Needless to say it felt we were in a different country. This place is known as “little Lhasa / little Tibet.”  Different city, different culture, different people. There are a lot of things to do here and Mcleodganj serves as our last stop in India. It is also located at 2600 meters of altitude which will help us acclimatize for our hike through Nepal in a few weeks. 


Jenny & Adam

RISHIKESH, India // The second week of our trip in Thailand Jenny got food poisoning for 48 hours. We have had good fortune since then and both have been healthy up until midway through India when we simultaneosly got colds while staying in an ashram in Rishikesh. Maybe it was the close quarters and shared yoga mats, maybe it was just the germs of India, we don’t know. What was supposed to be a fun learning experience and experiment in simplicity turned into a struggle for the first few days in the ashram. 

There was intentionally no air conditioning and we probably had one of the most basic rooms on our entire trip. In India, and especially Rishikesh, we noticed that unlike lots of other countries there is a lack of quality pharmacies or health stores. There are no CVS or Walgreens anywhere, or anything comparable. Luckily we had medicine with us, but we exhausted the entire supply of cold medicine in 3 days. 

What made the situation worse was that we were trying to meditate and learn pranayama. Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques used for relaxing the body. When I can’t breath out of either nostril due to my cold, how am I supposed to breath through one nostril? To make matters worse, the yoga in the afternoon was considered “power yoga” which focused on really difficult poses and holding them for longer periods. Instead of pushing myself the first few days to improve, I just tried to make it through class. It reminded me of football practice in high school where we had to do pushups and people would try to do as little amount possible depending on where the coach was looking. This was where my mind was wondering to as I tried to make it through the yoga class in India doing just enough to get by. We couldn’t enjoy learning or participating which made me really upset. I was constantly trying to get well again. 

During our few free hours in the afternoon we would walk 20 minutes to this new western cafe named Pure Soul and get fresh squeezed orange juices. After a few days the colds subsided and we were able to participate and learn again, but it made me grateful for the times in my life when I am healthy and able bodied to do things that I enjoy in life. It made realize how lucky I am to be able to learn things, participate in fun activities, and have energy to accomplish goals.

In the end, I think this experience made me stronger to realize the power we have in life when we are healthy. There are a lot of distractions in life, and this reminded me to not waste time on things that don’t matter or things with little meaning that will not affect my happiness or help me grow. 

Bali Retreat vs. India Ashram

Jenny & Adam


RISHIKESH, India // Well if I had to choose between a Bali Retreat and an Ashram stay in India, at first I would have said Bali hands down, no competition but as I step away from the Ashram I am starting to appreciate it more and more for its imperfections. 

Bali was taught by 2 girls from North America // Canada and California. I loved them both. They were soft spoken and provided a relaxing retreat environment. It was easy and peaceful and everything I imagined a yoga retreat would be but it was Western in nature which is why I probably felt so comfortable there. The information was easy to digest and well organized.

The Ashram was much harsher and uncomfortable for me. There was no AC. There were no screens in the windows but it was so hot you were forced to open them and hope for the best as far as bugs and mosquitos were concerned. The bathroom drain didn’t work and one evening there was no water. This was very different from our private villa cut into the mountainside in Bali. At first the local male instructors, Vickay and Rajish, at the Ashram seemed harsh and monotone. But after 14, 90 minute yoga classes and 14 pranayama and meditation 60 minute classes, in one week, I can honestly say I feel the differences in my body. My heels almost touch the ground in downward dog and mountain pose. The sternness of the instructors really pushed me to go beyond my normal comfort level of pain like a good coach who pushes your limits. They were skilled too with the details they described as we flowed through poses and by the end we considered them to be good friends. I found myself in some very deep meditations after pranayama breathing. The organic vegetarian meals each day were simple but flavorful. 

Meeting the other guests of the Ashram was our favorite part. One guy asked so many tough deep questions and I found I was able to open up and express my thoughts on “What do I believe in?”, “What questions are you most afraid your kid will ask you one day?” or “What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?”. We met a couple from Venezuela and Sweden who are doing Work Away for the Ashram who were fascinating people who are huge proponents of Vipassana which is a free 10 day silent meditation retreat that they hold around the world. Tough but supposedly life changing. Adam and I are looking into it. We also met an Indian family on vacation at the Ashram who taught us about the local culture. Her daughter was 25 and had a near death experience recently and we were discussing my fear of death or loss of body and she had some interesting things to say about how fear is conditioned into us by society and that while she was in the in-between space there was nothing to fear and all she felt was unconditional love. It was very beautiful. We also got to go listen to her boyfriends band play at a local cafe tree house. We joined a drum circle while the couple sang and played guitar. It was our best night in India. 

The Ayurvedic doctor however was the only downfall of the Ashram. He was disingenuous at times. His message was good // be positive, see positive, hug the sky, be grateful, but the package was all wrong. Ill give you a few examples to illustrate my point. 

The doctor insisted we attend a concert that would be "good for us" where this lady played the harmonium and chanted single names or phrases in Sanskrit and then you sang them back to her. The band also included a tabla drum player. It was quite moving and not as weird as I thought it would be. The doctors uncle showed up and the doctor not only didn’t participate but talked with his uncle in loud voices for almost half the concert. If this was so important for us why did he disrespect it by talking? 

He also had us all (12 guests at the retreat) wake up at 4:30 AM to chant with him. When we got down to the area to chant he was not there. We all waited 30 minutes. At 5 AM I left and went back upstairs to sleep. Was this a test of patience? Adam and a few others waited until 5:15 and then he appeared in his pajamas all disheveled and said, "I overslept." Then he sat down and made them Om 51 times (thats right 51!) and then he sent them back upstairs. There were 2 other occasions were he overslept the 4:30 AM in a one week span. That is disrespectful of our time. Why tell us all to meet him if he wasn’t going to show up? 

We actually had this discussion with him our last day about why we would be unable to write him a "5 out of 5 star" Trip Advisor review which he asked us for. He took it all gracefully but I don’t think he was really listening. I hope he was as I would love for the Ashram to succeed. He kept harping on his worldly experiences as his credentials but he was only a few years older than us. Its not like he was an old wise sage. In all honesty our grandparents, parents, and friends seem more at peace than this Ayurvedic doctor. I would have rather listened to them speak than this man say empty words.

He kept saying I speak from the heart. I care from the heart. I love you from the heart but then on the last day, after being there a full week, all day everyday, and having many discussions with him he asked me what my name was. He says the right words but doesn’t back them with any type of action. 

That is what I learned from the Ashram // People in authoritative positions should not always be followed. I should think for myself and not blindly follow anyone. Above all else I learned being genuine with your actions is even more important than saying the right words. 

High Highs and Low Lows

Jenny & Adam

RISHIKESH, India // India, I don't want to say I don't like you, but I don’t like you. With that said I am glad I came to make my own opinion, and if I'm being honest, it's been tough to live through. Many funny stories have come out of this country mainly due to the fact there have been extremes // the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Also, Adam loves it here. 

Adam loves it because its off the beaten path. Its a true “authentic” experience which means there is no air conditioning, accommodations are dirty, and there are no other "nicer" places, its tough to get around, and no one is friendly. I prefer to be on the path a little more traveled with AC, clean rooms, and a few other foreigners around to make myself feel better. AC is the main difference in our opinions though. I love it and India does not. We'll see how I feel when we get home. The bad tends to fade in my memories as time passes, and the good tends to shine a bit brighter.

Lows // stepping in cow poop, being attacked by a large angry monkey, watching 100s of people pooping on the train tracks, the poop everywhere, getting caught in monsoons, mold in every shower, questionable bed sheets and pillows

Highs // being the most flexible I have ever been due to daily yoga (I can touch my toes!), finding deep meditation, our Tabla drum lesson, our cooking class with Shashi, learning how to play cricket at our homestay, the people we met at our yoga ashram


The Cow's the Holy Mother

Jenny & Adam

RISHIKESH, India // "The cow's the Holy Mother," states our cab driver Salman as we pass through the city of Jaipur. They roam through the streets and roads, and freely defecate as they please. While wandering through Rishikesh, I finally stepped in a hot streaming pile of cow poop. It was inevitable as it's everywhere, but I really sank ankle deep into this fresh green pie. I stepped back into it to dodge a car as it came around the corner, so I missed it once, but got it in reverse. Needless to say this wasn't the high point of my day or week, and we were still a decent walk from the ashram, so I stomped my way back hoping to loosen the poop on the way. No such luck. It was like wet paint and it started drying in the hot India sun. Great. 

Back at the ashram I used an extra toothbrush we picked up at the last hotel, a hose, and some soap to cleanse my shoe. Yuk. I got wet in the process and have drenched my shoes. I walk up to our balcony to put my shoes in the sun to dry and sit in the chair to rest and dry out myself. Not 10 seconds after I sat down did an Indian grey hornbill fly across the sky in front of my face. That's right I said HORNBILL! The illustrious unicorn, my personal white whale, the bird I have been hoping to see our entire trip! Finally, logged // Bird #123 // Isn't the world a funny place. The yin and yang of it. Sometimes you have to step in shit to find joy!

Reputation or 100 Rupees

Jenny & Adam

UDAIPUR, India // While walking around Udaipur we checked out a music store and decided spontaneously to take a lesson in the tabla. We have heard people playing it all over India as it is a Hindustani staple instrument in all the music here. Your right hand plays the melody with quick taps and the left plays with bass note strums. It takes incredible coordination and concentration. Everytime we messed up our instructor Surish would say, "no worry, I am good only because I play for over 20 yeeeeeeears" He was hilarious and fun as he smoked his hand rolled cigarettes and gave us an hour lesson.

I've thought a lot recently about the people we have met in India so far, and the interactions with them. We've been in India for 10 days and I honestly expected more scams and dishonesty from the people. What I find is that the people (primarily business owners) have come to a good realIzation // it is better for them to get a positive online review and a good reputation than an extra 100 rupees ($1.50 USD) upfront.

I had expected people to trick us or make us pay extra for certain things, such as an extra 10 minutes of music lessons, or a massage with different Ayurvedic oil, or a free bracelet at the end of a cooking class. I had expected and anticipated all of this, but it never happened. I was actually pretty shocked. What the people did ask for instead of extra money was a positive review online for them. It comforts me to know they understand a good reputation in the long run is far more profitable and lucrative than trying to squeeze an extra 100 rupees off of a tourist. If they have good online reviews, then people will continually come and buy their service and they will constantly have good business. It makes me happy to know that JP at the Ayurvedic massages place, Surish at the music store, and Shashi at the cooking class all understand this. All of their services were fun, great quality, and I'd recommend them to a friend. I wish their business the best in the future and hope the honesty keeps up throughout our travels. 


Jenny & Adam

UDAIPUR, India // Every place we have traveled has offered cooking classes but we've been saving ourselves for India, as it is our favorite type of food. We signed up for Shashi's cooking class after reading 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor and being recommended by Lonely Planet, but what we got out of it was so much more than just food.

Shashi is of the highest Brahmin caste in Hinduism which has strict rules and primarily specialize as priests, teachers, and protectors of sacred learnings. She was married but when her husband died 15 years ago she was left with 2 young boys, 5 and 7, and no way of supporting them. Brahmin tradition states she can never remarry; she had to morn for 45 days in the corner of her home not eating with anyone or speaking to anyone, and she was not allowed outside her front door for one year. This is actually a serious epidemic in India. There are many widows who have no way of supporting themselves and are forced to beg. Shashi's parents and in-laws had all passed and she was unable to find work for her high caste. The boys would sneak out and bring laundry from the local hotels to be washed. Washing clothes is considered below her caste and is forbidden, but she had to make money to support the family. She eventually starting helping in the early morning hours to prep food at a hotel, and that's when they eventually came up with the cooking class idea.

Five years ago she spoke no English and taught herself. She did her first cooking class for two Australians in her home and she was so nervous her whole body was shaking. She dropped the hot chai on herself, but the Australians reassured her and they went home and typed up her recipes in English and sent her a digital copy. Then, she had a French couple who spoke no English and they took it home and translated it to French. Germans did the same, and a Dutchman helped her build her website. One day two secret Lonely Planet authors took her class and discovered her, and now she speaks a little bit over 5 languages and is taking out a loan to build a larger kitchen to hold her classes in. It's a beautiful entrepreneurial story, especially for a woman in India to overcome and conquer from such a dark place of mourning. She is direct and hands on, but she lets a joke slide with a straight face then waggles her head and winks at you which lets you know it's all play to her. She loves the kitchen and her recipes, and that is why they taste so good. We learned 12 pages of recipes and it took us 5 hours, but we learned many tricks - like if you peel the skin off the onion then soak them in water for 10 minutes you won't cry when you cut them. Her son helps in the kitchen and is now 29 years old. Her other son is married and she is a proud mother and businesswoman. 

We're having a big Indian food cooking party when we get back to the US and everyone is invited!