My India – overall

It is official – Suzana Indiana is over! On Monday 18th of September at 12:35 local time I flew out of Cochi International Airport, leaving the Indian land.

No more Indiana, but always Suzana! I won’t change the name of the blog and surely will keep writing. It is too good for my self-control and development to stop it. It will be more lifestyle now. And traveling, of course – I will never stop!

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Gorgeous Ola Nowak by (c) Bence Fejes

My major issues about India? I became a different person.

Usually when your character changes, it happens so slowly that just your friends or relatives are able to notice it and inform you. The thing which makes me very worried is that I see how much I changed myself! And it was just confirmed by Hriday who has seen me on my first and last day in India.

I am not such a sweet and cheerful person. Yes, I am still pure heart for my friends, but India taught me how to be hard with strangers – work under pressure, oppose to my laws being violated, do not let people treat you differently, fight for what you want and need. I do not think it is bad – I just became a stronger, more independent and mature person. The only issue which worries me is that I might have become a tough b**ch. Hopefully I soften back in Europe again, I don’t want other people to be afraid of me.

There are as many good as bad things about India and I can both praise and criticize it as country, society, culture for long hours.

Traffic – horrible. No basic rules, being selfish, risky, sometimes brainless. I did not feel safe crossing the street. Having crazy drivers, add bikes, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws, cows, pigs, chickens and dogs. You just cannot exist there as a pedestrian safely.

 

Good thing about it? Now I know that I will be able to drive in any conditions and any machine if I just practice a bit. This year I have drove snow mobile, dog sledge, scooter in India, left-handed car in left-sided Indian traffic… It’s all about staying calm and surviving whatever comes. Driving is like skiing or bicycle, you just never forget it and can adjust to the conditions.

Next thing – food. I cannot bear anything spicy, so I basically hate all the Indian food. It is all about masala! You cannot really taste what you really eat because they prepare it with so many spices that you can just imagine that it is chickpeas or beans… Other thing is that most of the dishes just tastes the same – strong and intense.

On the other hand, as Hinduism is the majoring religion, there are many vegetarians and huuuge variety of veg options in the restaurants, which for me as a Polish was new. Polish cuisine is all about meat, fat, onion and potatoes. In Sweden I was positively surprised that there are so many vegetarian, vegan, gluten-, lactose-, nuts-free options!

The most terrible thing is probably the lack of safety. For this three months I have never felt comfortable while I was alone! Manipal is one of the most secure places I have seen in India, I knew I have many friends there, there are many students and foreigners and that I have my knife and pepper spray in my bag, but I still felt unsafe.

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(c) Bence Fejes

White woman in India is screwed up. Nothing really bad ever happened to me or my friends… But everyone stares at you! No matter if you are wearing shorts or are fully dressed up. Some of the people smile, ask about your origin, but majority treats you like a monkey in a zoo. I know I am something new and exotic. I know that some of them never left their village and I may be the first white person they see – that is why they want to take a selfie with me (yea, smartphones already arrived to the village), but what do they actually do with those photos – I have no idea. Not to mention the crowds which gather around us when as the couple of people we go to the beach in bikini… Yes, I know I am different – I look and dress differently, maybe I am interesting, but shouldn’t we all just treat each other like humans? With respect to our own space, privacy and comfort. As simple as that.

That was a lot of critics, so now – positive thing.

Religious situation in India is something I have found the most interesting and charming. Unlike anywhere else I have been, there is such a mixture of various beliefs! Muslims, Hindu, Christians and Buddhists mixed all together, all the mosques, temples, churches built one near another, wide variety of shops with food and clothes appropriate for these groups. And there is a lot of conflicts, but not so many of religious background nowadays!

As I wrote some time ago, I found Hinduism a correct path of living. Peaceful way to happiness, enjoying life, respect to other people, nature, animals, getting and giving the most you can, sharing, smiling… It is also so broad! There are so many gods I haven’t heard about yet, so many symbols and customs, traditions… It is so exciting that I will never no EVERYTHING!

 

As still the biggest percentage of Indians are Hindu, it is almost impossible to find beef for example, as cow is sacred and believed to be a symbol of life and prosperity. Well… I am a vegetarian since years (with a break), but do you remember lion Alex from Madagascar movies, when he was out of zoo, hungry for meat and all of his friends looked like steaks in his eyes? I imagine that most of my friends feel like that right now when they see all those cows on the street. I also used to call them burgers while driving, when they were crashing in front of my vehicle 😀

What I will miss the most about India are people! First of all – native Indians. So peaceful and happy! So hospitable and willing to help! Nevertheless, most of the Indians I got along with were, as I used to call it, westernized, as they have been to Europe themselves, or at least have dealt with interns for some time already. It can also influence it, but I think it doesn’t change them as people, it just helps them understand how we feel about India. If it wasn’t for Hriday, for example, who has seen some part of world, is very considerate and understanding, I would get crazy and kill someone or get killed. He was my mediator with the rest of the world. ‘Yes Zuza, I totally understand your point, I know how you feel and I am very upset that I cannot change it, but this is India and…’ was part of our conversation every time!

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(c) Bence Fejes

Other group I will miss even more are the other interns. Our Masala Family grew a lot, and changed a lot in the meantime. During this three months I have seen so many people coming and leaving! And I got really attached to almost all of them, that is why I am so happy to be a traveler! Other Polish cities, Serbia, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Austria… I will be everywhere visiting my old friends!

I think the main reason why we got so close are the hard conditions – we very often had to support each other in some Indian-Western disputes, provide all the kinds of support from 10 rupees for tuk tuk to western, reliable antibiotics. We spent a lot of time together – eating, working, partying, chilling, traveling, shopping… That is why I have been living with most of these people just like with brothers and sisters! It was lovely to knock on each other’s doors and just spend evenings together.

The greatest thing about India is obvious for the people who talked to me about it and know how much passion and enthusiasm I have for… yoga! It is not a sport, it is a lifestyle. Lifestyle I just started exploring.

I have been doing yoga in Poland for a couple of months, but at that time it was just physical activity. Yes, I felt fresher and chilled going out of classes, but it didn’t really change my mindset. After three months with Pradeepa, while for last few weeks I was going for classes both morning and afternoon, I finally understood that most of yoga is in your mind – fighting the pain, pushing the borders, being able to focus and relax, or just push all the thoughts out of the brain. You have to get to know yourself, observe your body and breath, sometimes listen to the proper music or just calming voice of your guru. At first I was surprised that there is so much chatting in the class, but then I realized that it does not disturb me in focusing – it just makes me even more relaxed as I can just be myself and talk as much as I usually do :D.

Pradeepa is the most non-Indian adult person I have ever met (yes, she is Sri Lankan, but culture-wise it does not matter) – you can talk to her about ANYTHING and you will be listened and understood. She helped me realize many things, she always knows what I need. She also feels people and is able to help them with what some people would call magical powers. I did not believe it at first, but she really took back pains and headaches from me a couple of times…

I have been talking to her a lot about my problems until she told me about hers. Then I felt stupid and childish, as there is so much more to life than what I face… She didn’t let me feel that way at all. And she is one of the strongest women I have ever met.

I was quite convinced that I cannot have children – destroying my body with lack of sleep, irregular lifestyle, alcohol, contraceptives, medical history of my Mother, I would not be surprised. Pradeepa couldn’t believe me and checked it using her ‘power’. I will have one son on my own when I will be between 30 to 40 years old. That is something new for me. And you know what is the weirdest? When she told me that I literally cried out of happiness. I surprised myself with the fact that no matter how much I was pushing it in my mind and time, one day maybe I will be really happy and convinced to be a mother.

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(c) Bence Fejes

Yes, I can talk about my guru infinitely. Some people started to call her ‘Dumbledore of Manipal’ after hearing how much of authority she is to me xD But I trust her a lot and know that she knows what is good for me. That is why when we were talking about my studies, future job and plans, it didn’t take her long to convince me… ‘- Zuza, look, you will graduate next year… Why to rush to adult life? Yes, go and travel in South America, if it is your dream and goal, but maybe than you come back to India for some time? You could stay here, do yoga, explore Hinduism. You would maybe repair the picture you have about India right now…’. And I did not have to think a lot to say yes. I graduate in February, can spend March-May in South America and June-September in India (I have Varanasi, Kolkata and Chennai to see anyway!). If I keep doing yoga in Poland now, maybe I can get certified next year in India? Maybe I could join both Pradeepa and Vijaya (the guru in Udupi I have visited around a month ago and spent weekend with him)? It all just seems so right thing to do!

I don’t want to wait. I will monitor the prices of the tickets, but I guess I will buy my flights by the end of the year… Just to have something settled. At least to start building a scaffold for my plans.

For now – see you India! Change for better, stay awesome.

Hampi 15-17/9

My last weekend in India, not even in Manipal, was one of the bests. All thanks to the Hampi trip!

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After packing all the 30 kg of a little of my belongings and a lots of souvenirs inside my moulded backpacks and far too many little shopping bags, we went for the trip by another party bus. Of course in the meantime I spent lost of time with Pradeepa, Olek and other interns, in Country Inn and Valley Flats , to celebrate my last moments in Manipal in the best way. I arrived to the bus slightly late, didn’t even succeed to give back the key to my hostel room.

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Bus journey was a Polish-vodka-Soplica party, with lots of broken sleep later on. When we arrived in the morning to Hampi, took showers and siestas, we went for sightseeing. Well, tried to. Our bus got broken and we had to rent tuk tuks.

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We were driven to multiple temples from 13th century. We took a rest on the grass, teased the monkeys, petted an elephant, climbed the sunset point with the cows… it was all so peaceful! In the evening we returned to the hostel and kept partying in the rooftop. Some people waited until sunrise, but I was too exhausted to keep it going and went to sleep around 3.

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Next day was full of fun too! Our bus – finally repaired – took us around 30km from Hampi to the place where we rented scooters and could explore on our own. Well, that was funny! Interns – aka Whities – were driving pretty safe, but our guide felt hopeless when he saw crazy Indians falling one by one. He leaded us to the artificial lake with a beautiful view, and than – not paying attention to crocodile warnings – we started to jump into water in underwear. I think we really gave him hard time…

In the afternoon we climbed 575 steps to Hanuman (monkey god) temple, admired the view, played with monkeys and survived heavy rain. Our bus picked us up, we went for a dinner to the nice restaurant where you seat on the floor (so cool for a yogi!).

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Afterwards I needed to say good bye to the crew. I didn’t think I will take it so badly! I was crying a river and really feeling bad. No matter how many problems are faced in Manipal, we all became so close!

I waited for the bus to Bangalore accompanied by our guide, who revealed why he was laughing of me during the whole weekend – masala (the word which I use to describe many Indian phenomenons which originally means mix of root spices) in their region’s dialect is a metaphor for 69 position… as simple as that!

I took the night bus to Bangalore, which was obviously delayed and costed me a lot of nerves, got ripped off by the tuk tuk driver in the morning, finally succeeded to take airport shuttle bus, needed to pay lots of money for extra luggage and boarded the plane as a last person, but yes – NOW I’M FINALLY ON HOLIDAYS!

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My last days in Manipal

My last two weeks in Manipal were finally just perfect!

Due to my professor’s absence I did not work in September at all, so had plenty of time to sleep, party, travel, do yoga and take care of myself.

I have done a couple of trips: Kapu beach nearby – the one which I haven’t visited before – on scooter. I really liked the lighthouse situated on the top of rocky island. The only problem was that I got kicked out of the empty public beach by the FEMALE police officer for wearing bikini… Indian girls, why are you doing it to yourself?

Next day we rented the car (and of course took my Indian friend Aakash to handle this traffic) and went for a road trip to Kudremukh and Agumbe National Parks, climbed the abandoned temple, got bitten by leeches (AGAIN), almost destroyed the car, watched the sunset in heavy rain and drove the car. To my surprise, left-sided traffic is easier to handle than the gearbox under the left hand, and swapped wipers and indicators switches… It was a nice adventure though!

As the car was rented for 24h, we also came up with the crazy idea of going to the beach after the karaoke party… Well, never have I ever before swam in the warm Arabian Sea during thunderstorm and heavy rain. It was so cool!

I also had my good bye dinner in Hakuna (I was so grateful for bday that we came back again!) and a good bye party in Valley Flats, which again was absolutely crazy. The surprising miracles of this night – I fell asleep in one bed, woke up in another. And noone knows how did I achieve it!

My last day in Manipal is full of duties. I needed to pack, fill in some papers, collect my salary, give back the things I borrowed. Anyway I mostly spent it with my yoga guru – practicing, eating lunch at Thai place and early birthday cake (Queens are born in September – all the 3 of us!), drove around the city for some more duties and shopping, visited family in Udupi and finally I drove us home. It was great again!

In my last few days I got into a lot of trouble again – with the hostel, work, even IAESTE people… I am just glad that there are also other interns coming to the Hampi trip. It will be so great!

Being 22

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Two days later, after curing hungover and bringing my thoughts back to normal life, I am just able to describe how amazing this day was!

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My 22nd birthday couldn’t have been better, as I spent it with amazing people.

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I came back early in the morning from Bangalore, slept a couple of hours and went to the beach with my new Serbian friends, Kimmy, Cintia and Mark. My yoga teachers joined us too! I was so happy and relaxed, drunk some beers, listened to the music, even swam in the sea.

After a quick shower, putting the saree on and than replacing it with a dress (as I figured out that in saree I will end up naked by the end of the night) I ran into Hakuna Matata – great restaurant and bar who made it so special for me!

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We had a huge table for ourselves, never ending beer-towers were coming and coming, I talked to so many people and danced a lot. I even got amazing cake, who cares that my name was misspelled 🙂

As in India clubs need to close by 11:30pm, thanks to my dear Olek and his new roommate Andreas we kept partying in their apartment in Valley Flats. It was maaaad, it was insane, I had so much fun!

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Worth remembering

I talk a lot, but I am a good listener too. And I love meeting new people… During the last couple of days I was making friends on the beach, in the temple, in a coffee shop… I guess it is just my nature, reveled around the age of 7 when I went to primary school and needed to stop hiding under my mother’s skirt.

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(c) Bence Fejes

Each meeting with other human being – doesn’t matter if an old friend or someone you just met – can (doesn’t have to..) be enlightening, that is why I always take notes!

  • A tidal bore is a large movement of water formed by the funneling of the incoming tide into a river or narrow bay. A tsunami is on the other hand a series of water waves in a body of water caused by the displacement of a large volume water, although this usage of “tidal wave” is not favored by the scientific community because tsunamis are not tidal in nature.
  • A stranger met on the Palolem Beach in Goa while swimming with his son told me an interesting thing. Some hindu men, as a symbol of his faith, wear a tread hanging from his arms to the hip. If it is just single thread, there are not married, while the double-one is a sign of marriage. Married Indian women, on the other hand, wear a lot of rings on their toes and a colourful powder spot, usually from the temple, on the verge of forehead and hairline. It is so easy to know who to hit on in the bar!

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    (c) Bence Fejes
  • Another scene from the beach: little girl came with her parents, put her blanket clumsily on the sand and came to me asking ‘Ma’am, could we please take a selfie?’. My heart melted, I had a little chat with her (‘- What’s your name? – Anaya… – How old are you, sweetie? – E… e… eight.’) and smiled for the picture the best I could. She run back to her parents, they told her something to her ear, then she came back and with a lovely smile and perfect English said ‘Thank you!’. Looooooove.
  • Although I have went through many pictures, I still do not see the difference between langur, macaque and red-face monkeys… Apart from the face color, obviously.
  • Together with my Polish family in India, after making a mistake of checking the news back in Poland, we all together agreed that right-wing politicians should be forced to smoke some weed once in two weeks to relax their muscles and look at the reality from a different perspective. Not that I am promoting any kind of psychoactive substances, it is just common sense and proven science.

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    (c) Bence Fejes
  • Old good times are good because with the time passing you just remember good things. True story.
  • I don’t know if I was hilarious or disrespectful in Bangalore… When I was on my way to the High Court, it started to rain VERY heavily. As there is no proper sewer system in India, the streets were RIVERS. My flip-flops were swimming out of my feet and I almost fell a couple of times, so I ended up walking barefoot with my shoes in one hand and pink umbrella in another one (luckily there was no harmful rubbish on the street). And then I got to the High Court building, surrounded by lawyers, politicians and businessmen, looking at me with something between laugh, begrudge and curiosity. Well…
  • On the night Uber ride in the city I noticed, to my surprise, a clinic for the Poor. My happiness and pride about this country did not last long, as my Airbnb host explained me the next morning that you have to bribe even a security guard to get there.

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    Beautiful Ola Nowak by (c) Bence Fejes
  • My Dad will never stop surprising me with how adorable he is. No matter what he supports me in every decision and wants to contribute as much as he can! Lisowscy family dialogues:- Dad, I bought you a traditional Indian lungi! (see the pic below)
    – Oh, that’s great! I will just need a turban and a lamp with a gin!
    – But, but… It is South Indian, while turban is for Sikh religion, and a gin in a lamp belongs to the Arabs…
    – Eh… Ok!

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    South Indian lungi

    Couple of weeks after I announced converting to Hinduism.
    – Baby, I bought something for you in this oriental shop on the main street!
    – What is it?
    – A Buddha statue!!!
    – But Dad… Buddha is a head of buddhist religion and has not much to do with hinduism…
    – Aha. Ok. Well… The statue is nice!

Bangalore 8-9/9

A couple of days ago my friend to whom I met couchsurfing in Amsterdam texted me that he will be back in his home town, Bangalore for a couple of weeks. We really used to get along so I immediately booked my sleeper bus and went for the first trip alone!

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My bus was leaving at 10:30pm and I was lucky to meet my friend in the way to the bus stop cause I was literally scared of staying in this darkness out, even in Manipal. I built a firmly covered fortress in my couchette, did some work for the conference in November and slept surprisingly well, as always in the ‘pleasantly shaking’ Indian bus.

I woke up in the sunshine in Bangalore and had some time for sightseeing by myself. I have never been on the street in such a heavy rain! At some point I was carrying my flip-flops in my hand because they were literally swimming out of my feet.

I’ve visited a Bangalore Palace, a couple of temples and churches, and finally met Ash for lunch. We ate amazing, European standard sushi and I was so happy! We talked for a couple of hours straight and then went to chill with his friend in the lovely rooftop one-room apartment which was supposed to be a storage room. I was joking that he is an Indian Harry Potter…

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The next morning I woke up pretty late in my Airbnb room, which was by far the best one I had, not because of the room itself (very good too), but because of the lovely host lady who immediately treated my like her daughter, worried about me, made me breakfast and talked to me for next couple of hours. Definitely worth recommending and if any of my readers needs a place to stay in Bangalore, just give me a text. Especially that it’s close to the airport!

I left the apartment, promised to get back in a week on my way to Maldives and went to see the famous World Trade Center of Bangalore, with an amazing rooftop bar called Ultra High. As it was already after 12AM, I didn’t refuse myself the right to drink a dry Martini with THIS view.

Afterwards I’ve headed to ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna temple, which slightly disappointed me. The temple itself was great, I spent there almost an hour sitting on the floor and talking to a newly met guy about different aspects of hinduism. It was also impressive logistically and in terms of architecture. But the exit reminded me a shopping mall… I have never seen so many souvenir shops, food and things not even connected to the temple stacked to the visitors..

On my way out I – totally surprised – have seen the guy tattooing his customer literally on the street, with multiple-use equipment, with the cars passing by and lots of blood flowing. I was lucky in Goa!

Finally I settled down in the Orion shopping mall, in the safe sanctuary of very European Starbucks with not much masala involved, other white people, where no one stared at me, and kept working until it was time to catch my bus back.

I liked Bangalore much more than Mangalore, and it was not as exhausting as Mumbai or New Delhi. Pretty good place to travel alone in India, but just after some time of preparation 🙂 And it is crazy in MANY MANY aspects, too… But that is more private topic 😉

Lord Vishnu’s Birthday Celebration 5/9

There are many gods in Hinduism and yesterday there was a birthday of Lord Vishnu – the world’s operator. I am so glad that I could celebrate it, for the first time as a Hindu, with a real Indian family!

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The soul mate of my yoga guru invited me and my friend Ola for a lunch with her family and it was far more extensive than I expected. Honestly, it looked like a 50-people Polish wedding!

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It was a very important day. As I borrowed Ola my blue-golden saree to which I have matching blouse, I needed to immediately find a black blouse for my other black-red-silver saree. It was so stressful! In the morning I was running around the lab asking all the girls if they have one to borrow me (no), to a tailor if he can do anything with the piece of material I got (not in one hour) and finally ended up in a very nice shop where I bought beautiful blouses (which I can actually wear as a naked-belly top – YES, I am comfortable enough with my body to finally do it!). Ladies in the shop helped me also to put my saree on, decorate hair with a diadem and stick the bindi (forehead dot) on.

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I caught Ola on the way and run into Pradeepa’s place, just to crush into her mid-day classes. The students all agree that I look like shit and wrapped my saree again and again. When we were all 3 finally ready, we took a tuk tuk to the outskirts of Udupi.

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All the celebration was just amazing! Loud puja filled with gong and shell horn music, water, flowers, beautifully dressed people, women and kids singing. I enjoyed it so much, although I didn’t understand enough. Luckily I am meeting one family member in Bangalore, maybe he will be able to answer my questions.

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And then there was time for lunch – OMG, I haven’t eaten such good food in India yet! Served on the banana leaf, delicious, full of flavours and not spicy! I was so full. But during the whole meal I was just observing and copying other people not to make any behavioural mistake. So stressful!

 

After the lunch, and the second round of lunch (I WAS SO FULL) we tried to introduce ourselves to this 50-people family, did some small talk, asked many question and smiled a lot. It was so nice! I also played with a 4-months-old Drutee (cousin of cousin of cousin…). To my terror, I realized that I really look good with a baby on my hands…

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We also met a couple whose older son is married to a Slovakian woman, so they invited us for a tea to exchange some experiences. They are so cool! In their middle 60ies, so energetic, travelling the world and making this multi-culti-international family work across all the continents.

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In the late afternoon we came back home, unwrapped sarees and continued celebration like proper western gringos – drinking beer in Hakuna, saying good-bye to people going for a trip to Himalayas in Egg Factory and FINALLY, after two months, eating sushi in the Country Inn rooftop restaurant. For European standards it was like 5/10, but still delicious as I missed it so much.

 

I am also learning business here in India: yesterday I was negotiating the conditions of organizing my birthday in the Country Inn Bar…

I am living 300% of my life here again, as I feel that this Indian adventure is coming to an end. That is why I am not really active in writing recently, it is more like a daily report. I guess I just prefer to experience and take notes, with which I will deal later like a couple of posts ago.

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Indiana will be done soon, but Suzana will still remain active. I don’t wanna stop writing, I still have many ideas and constantly inflowing thoughts to share. And I also promised my doctor not to stop writing even if I feel bad again (I don’t think so). So… Maybe Suzana – more life than style ? 😉