Anand ji: “John bhai, my suggestion is to gargle a small cup of cow urine.”
Anand ji: “Yes, cow urine, and even more so–your own urine, contains incredible medicinal properties.”
Me: “Hmm…interesting. I’ll consider it.”
Urine gargling was the recommended remedy for my first bout of mountain sickness—a sore throat, mucus-ejecting cough, and sinus infection. While I did briefly consider the local Garhwali treatment, I ultimately decided to go with a combination of Exiplon cough syrup, Tylenol, and Ayurvedic “Pain Relief Oil” (containing Karpoora Powder and Bhustrina, whatever that is). This union of Western and Eastern medicine proved quite effective. Out of curiosity, I browsed the Internet to see what I could find on the medicinal uses of urine. I found very little, other then a statement from Madonna claiming that she pees on her feet to cure athlete’s foot.
With the exception of my 1-week illness, I’ve never felt healthier, happier, or more energized. I started going to morning meditation 15 minutes earlier (3:45am) and instead of going back to sleep afterward, I now stay awake to read and study Hindi. In the culinary realm, I’ve progressed from dishwasher to assistant chef. I’m learning the art of spice mixing, roti making, and vegetable combination-ology. Additionally, I’ve introduced some of my Latin American influences and added a little “zing” to our meal repertoire. I also introduced the celebration of Halloween by carving a green Kaddu–that was a big hit (although one boy commented that I just wasted food for 4 days. A fair point). For exercise (in addition to the daily 100+stone-step climb), I play volleyball in the evening and am honing my wood gathering and axeman skills during the weekly forest outing.
In terms of my project, work is progressing at a positive pace. My focus for the year will be to help design and assemble a “Teacher’s Activity Book” for grades 1-5. This activity book will be a key feature of APV School’s “Link Syllabus” (LS). The LS aims to “link” the core concepts from the government syllabus to activities that embrace a more holistic approach to education—incorporating meditation, music, drama and dance. The second aim of LS is to link the external journey (the pursuit of worldly knowledge) with the inner journey (self knowledge). Rumi has a beautiful poem describing these two ways of knowing: “Two Kinds of Intelligence”. In addition to the Activity Book, I’ll be helping with the website revamp, fundraising projects, and coordinating the quarterly newsletter and monthly updates.
Half my day is spent working on projects and the other half is spent in the classroom teaching English, Dance, and Music. I meet with grades K-9 once a week (twice a week with grades 3 and 9). Most evenings I conduct an English/Computer class for the APV teachers and on Thursday night I teach dance to the hostel girls that live in the Top Ashram. I find that this schedule provides a wonderful balance.
Grade 3 in particular has stolen my heart. In part because they immediately took a liking to my songs, but mainly because they’re so damn cute. Below is a link to a video of the Grade 3 kids singing a song I recently composed called “Sing, Dance, Praise, Thanks” during morning assembly. As another AIF fellow aptly put it in a recent message: “Sometimes I think this is really where the ‘work’ is – spreading and sharing joy. So simple and clear.”