• Gabriela Torcatoru

First baby steps

Once the big day arrived I was so at peace with the decision and so excited about the possibilities that I couldn't wait to get myself on the plane and get there as soon as possible. I did shed a couple of tears at the airport because my brother got a bit emotional, but as soon as I passed the check in gate a surreal calmness overtook my body and all I could do was smile. I arrived in New Delhi on the 16th March- after a long lay over in Helsinki (where they had snow) and I was blown away by the immensity of it all. First of all, the airport is massive, I think I walked for 30 min to get to passport control and then when I finally got out of the airport I had no idea where to go or what to do. While planning I left myself plenty of time to get from one flight to another so I wandered around the airport for a while until I found my bus to go from one terminal to another. I had to ask for help and even though I thought I might get tricked into getting on the wrong shuttle bus I went ahead. My Lonely Planet guide warned me about how in India you shouldn't believe anyone that walks up to you and tries to help. The people that noticed me probably saw how distracted I was and they initiated conversation and told me where to get off and how to get to the right terminal (again doubt arised about their intentions) and guess what, all of their directions were correct. It didn't take me long to decide that I shouldn't believe everything I read so I began being more friendly and it turned out I was always greeted with a beautiful smile. Smiles are a theme in India, and once I found mine I kept getting more and more beautiful smiles.

After getting to the right terminal instead of going right in, I took my time and just tried to take it all in as I was completely overwhelmed and recorded myself so I could send my family my first impressions. I talked about how big everything seemed, how I didn't understand whether the haze was fog or pollution, how humid and hot it was, how the cows are just sitting in the middle of the roads, how it DIDN'T smell of curry everywhere, how I couldn't go back into the airport after exiting, how I had to walk around for 1 hour to find a toilet, how I tried avoiding asking for directions but in the end gave in and guess what, I was in the right place and the right time and nothing bad happened. Basically I was like an excited kid with a stupid grin on my face looking forward to get on my third flight and finally get to Dehradun. I was exhausted by on my last flight I couldn't help looking around at all the yoga students that were on the plane. How did I know they were yoga students?! Well, they all seemed to know each other, all had yoga mats and everyone was totally blissed out. Few more days and I would be blissed out myself. Once in Dehradun a taxi was waiting to take me to the school in Rishikesh. We drove through mountains and jungle and my mouth could not stay closed because I was blown away by everything I saw. The cows on the street everywhere I found fascinating and when I saw a temple for as we were passing by I felt my stomach tumbling like a washing machine, though I didn't understand, at that time, why it does so. I enjoyed every minute of the taxi ride and when we got to busy Rishikesh again I was awed by the bustle, the honking, the driving lol, the cows, the people, the colours and the simplicity of it all. It felt too much to take in at that time, my skin had goose bumps and my eyes were more open than ever, my stomach was doing flips and my mind was in overload. It was so much to take in that I did feel like I might faint at some point, but I guess the adrenaline kept me going.

Once we arrived at the school I was greeted and showed around and I remember even now how weird I felt, how out of place and how inexplicably hard it was for me to feel comfortable in interacting with other people. I was amazed and excited but afraid and holding back.

As soon as I got my room and closed the door I breathed out heavily and took a few minutes to gather my thoughts, but I couldn't gather anything. It all felt like a big mess, a good mess but I was so confused and everything inside me was so mixed up, and tired that in the end I said, whatever happens, happens. I'm here now and will make the best of it.

Most of the students in my batch were arriving or have arrived that same day so after a delicious lunch what else to do then go and explore?! Our school is tucked away in the jungle but really close to the main touristic area in Rishikesh so the girls and I went to see what Rishikesh is all about and again, awed by everything. The monkeys, the cows, the people, the honking, the crowds...In all honesty I have no idea what we were talking about on that walk because I was too busy observing everything around me. One of my colleagues had already been in Rishikesh for a few days before, so we got tips on where to go for coffee, where to have dessert, where to buy cheaper clothes, went to few libraries to check prices for books in and then we reached Laxman Jhula bridge and I said there is no way I will ever cross that bridge. Just as an FYI, I have been scared of crossing bridges since a child. It's because of the height, gives me vertigo, but mostly what I was afraid of was that I will fall and not die, but rather not be able to ever walk or something similar to this. Now try and imagine this, a very long suspended bridge and a huge height over the rapid flowing Ganges connecting one part of the city to the other. I should add the bridge is about 1 m in width and it was packed with people, cows and scooters. There was no way I would ever cross it until I involuntarily made a few steps and got on it. My mind was saying NO, DANGER ZONE, STEP AWAY FROM THE BRIDGE, but my feet kept walking. The desire to see more, to experience the crossing of this phenomenal bridge kept me going though my mind wanted to take my body back and hide. My stomach was doing flips, my mind was on it's own, my heart was in the right place and my body kept going. The view from up there was breath-taking, and the view made me stop and take it all in. Actually stop and look at those amazing mountains that were surrounding me, the temples on the riverbank, The Holy Ganges with it's rapid flow, the beaches that were full of colours, the monkeys hanging from all sorts of places, the people pushing into me, the cows on the bridge, the slight movement of the bridge (because of suspension) , the feel of the air on my face and that's when the world stopped suddenly and I finally felt at ease, felt peace inside and I was functioning as a whole unit, fully present and shyly smiling at the world. First step in getting out of my comfort zone was ticked, and I was truly comfortable there in that particular moment in the middle of the bridge against my fears and inside turmoil, present in that moment and aware of everything surrounding me and all my feelings inside.

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