day seventeen: ayurveda(y)

before i traveled to india, i was in puerto rico for a week. in chowara, i was transported back there as the rooster crowed at 5am. in puerto rico, i would roll over and pray for them to shut up. in india, i wake up and walk to the beach to see sunrise.

standing on boulders, we breathe in the morning air as crabs and ants scurry quickly over my feet before i have any time to freak out. the beach is still flooded, but the stagnant water creates an amazing reflection pool for the sunrise. a crucifix standing tall amidst the oranges and blues.

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there is a large population of christians in kerala. i think maybe the largest concentration in india. there are no pews in the churches we have seen, and the hymns are of course in the local language. but their names are biblical, and the crucifix stands tall. an adaptation of the christianity i know.

today is ayurvedic treatment day. designed from two words: ayur, meaning life, and veda, meaning knowledge; ayurveda, meaning the knowledge of life. it is considered the oldest natural healing system and branch of medicine in the world. i’m sure you have heard the word because it has become very much a part of the western world. it is perhaps more prominent now in western cultures than in indian cultures.

but with prices so low, there is no way this girl could pass up a traditional ayurvedic massage plus whatever else they had in store.

so i visited the doctor. you have to see him to get your prescription for treatment. it went something like this:

doc: name?
me: sara
doc: age?
me: 26
doc: any problems?
me: not really. migraines sometimes.
(he then takes my pulse and blood pressure.)
doc: okay, general massage and siro dhara.
me: can i do a facial too?
doc: okay, and face pack.

he then wrote these things on a slip of paper and sent me out the door. normally, people (foreigners) go to these ayurvedic hotels and spend a week there getting treatments daily for a week. i would just do one day. so, i headed to the main office and booked my treatment. noon.

i didn’t know what to expect from this treatment, but it awakened every sense. i enter a room and the woman tells me to take it all off. every last bit. while she is standing right in front of me. that’s cool, i am not shy about nudity. and she informed me that she is a mom and has seen it all.

and then the journey begins. i sit on a stool while she rubs oils and powders into my scalp vigorously. she pours oil over by head, and it drips down my whole body. the smells conquer my every inhale. it smells like gingerbread. i have no clue what it actually was, but it left a clay red color in my hair.

after awhile it is time to move to the table. face down. warm oil again covers my body as she energetically rubs every inch of my body. again with very high energy. lots of slapping and rubbing. wake up those muscles!

i roll over and the warm oil again covers every inch. an awakening of my tired body. a new refresher after so many days of travel. and my prescribed “general massage” is over.

onto the “face pack.” she applies a creamy face mask that smells of bananas and cucumbers, but it is a dark redbrown color. she places cucumbers over my eyes. the cooling effect brings me back to reality. calm. cool. collected. i lay for what feels like eternity and drift in and out of sleep. my feet twitching me awake every so often.

she comes back and wipes my face clean. i go pee finally and get wrapped up in a cloth. she lays me on a different table with the oil drum set up ready to flow over my forehead. and the siro dhara begins. for 30 minutes, she fills a big pot that has a small hole in the center of it with specially prepared medicinal oils and butter milk. it sways from left to right funneling oil on my head. i feel like i am being hypnotized. back and forth. back and forth. occasionally it stops and circles the middle of my forehead, my third eye.

after about 20 minutes, i was ready to be done. my mind started wandering. it finally came to an end. she squeezed the oil from my hair and drew a line down my forehead with the gingerbread powder.

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wow.

i walked back to my room barefoot, hair and body covered in oil, and mind like ooze. don’t shower for one hour. okay. i’ll just sit. because i cannot actually think.

three hours worth of pampering for $50.

wow. i spend the rest of the day blissed out. showered. wrote. slept. dreamed. enjoyed the relaxation. but one day was enough. and fifty bucks is still fifty bucks. and three hours is still three hours.

we ate dinner by the pool. and i drank a watermelon juice. fresh squeezed watermelon juice. followed by a plate of watermelon. mom, they even chopped it up for me just like you. although it was just a plateful, not a huge bowl of the entire watermelon. yum!

night set upon the hotel, and we all felt as if we were in an agatha christie novel. thunder and lightning in the distance. bats flying overhead. at any moment, i thought we would hear a scream and someone would fall from the roof into the pool.

but no one did.

but the thunder and lightning did move in closer. at midnight, i awoke from my sweaty slumber to cool air and a downpouring of rain! ahhh. i love thunderstorms. especially in hot jungle climates. it continued throughout the night and into the morning.

what a way to end this day.

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