Would You Rather…?

21 May

A Guest Contribution 

Writing my blog detailing my world travels over the past 4+ months has been an amazing experience for me and one of my favourite things about writing has been hearing suggestions from those of you that read about our adventures.

A recent suggestion I received was to feature guest contributions. I believe the request was rooted with interest in hearing J.J.’s P.O.V. but he hasn’t gotten around to it just yet.

In the interest of taking suggestions to heart and delivering sooner rather than later (those of you that know J.J. know it’s likely going to be MUCH later by the time he sends me something to publish), I’ve decided to include an email my sister, Shelagh, wrote home to her friends in the form of one of our favourite childhood games: ‘Would you rather’.

Note: Each of the “would you rather” scenarios listed below are based on real events, and we weren’t able to choose one or the other. Instead, we experienced them all.

Varanasi to Rishikesh
Contributed By Shelagh Haynes  

From Varanasi, we made our way to the northwest corner of India to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and watch the nightly border closing ceremony at the India-Pakistan border. Then, we continued by train to a small village called Rishikesh at the “gateway to the Himalayas” in northern India.

This little hippie town is purely vegetarian and is where the Beatles hung out for a few months in 1968 to practice yoga and write songs. We spent 2 weeks here living in an ashram on the banks of the Ganges and doing yoga twice a day – my favourite part of India so far!

To give you an idea of some of the experiences that were had during this portion of the trip, my sister and I came up with some “would you rather…?” scenarios:

Would you rather…?:

  • Kick yourself in the face while performing high kicks as a border guard at the border closing ceremony (that’s literally how high they kick!), OR pull a hamstring during your high kicks?
  • Spend 15-20 minutes each morning as a Sikh man putting on your turban, OR get loads of attention as a white Canadian guy walking around northern India with a turban on?
  •  Take a “First Class” overnight train ride in a filthy compartment with no sheets provided for sleeping, OR have your picture taken with every single family member (individually) of many, many families, several times a day?
  • Hang out on a train platform in your clean, nicely pressed dress shirt and underpants (exhibiting otherwise normal behaviour), OR be a hobo passing through the train station with a walking stick, hobo bag, dreads, scraggly beard, and what can only be described as the smallest banana hammock I have ever seen?
  • Have to chase a squealing piglet off the train tracks as part of your job of keeping the tracks clear, OR have it be your job to sweep the train tracks when the train bathrooms are clearly just a hole that leads down to the tracks?
  • Cross a narrow, swinging suspension bridge (about 245m long x 2m wide) across a river that is an obstacle course of dodging cows, dogs, monkeys swinging overhead and motorcycles warming your ankles from behind, OR get caught in the crossfire of a dog vs. monkey fight on the side of the road?
  • Slip in a pile of steaming cow shit, OR have your yoga teacher touch your face with his left hand (the left hand in India is the equivalent to toilet paper in North America)?
  • Have explosive diarrhea every day for a month at 6am sharp, OR have to vomit in a squatting toilet while facing backwards on a moving train in a washroom that reeks of hot, humid pee?
  • Have a monkey steal your breakfast bananas right out of your hand, OR have a monkey hiss at you from your balcony as he tries to break into your room
  • Have knarly cancker sores and have to steal salt from restaurants to gargle with, OR use Muskol bug spray (30% deet) as your daily perfume?
  • Listen to your travel roomie puke/poop all night long for a night, OR – consistently be the winner of who will have “an emergency evacuation” (of their insides) the soonest after finishing a meal?
  • Be allergic to the sun (read: wake up in the morning with hives all over your face and neck), OR have an allergic reaction from your new necklace that the vendor assured you was nickel-free?
  • Have your yoga teacher consistently call you out on your sweat mustache, OR inadvertently let a stinky fart go while in downward dog?
  • Be knicknamed “Sita and Gita” after characters who are sisters in a Bollywood movie by your yoga teacher, OR be called “gymnastics man” after your girlfriend inadvertantly lets slip that you used to coach gymnastics 15 years ago?
  • Sit beside a man with the worst B.O. and man camel toe combo on a 5 hour train ride, OR be told by locals to take your black scarf off your head/face (which you are using to try to mask the aroma wafting from the man beside you) because you look like you’re wearing a burqa?
  • Have your train neighbour’s dirty handkerchief fall out of his pocket onto your leg, OR bear witness to a crazy man summon a cow with his flute skills wearing nothing but his wet tighty whitey undies?

As it turns out, I had my own, more serious “would you rather?” question to answer throughout this portion of the trip: Would you rather work in a hospital in Adelaide for 2 months (which would be a good working experience, but limit opportunities for travel and visits with friends/family in Australia based on location), OR go home early and try to set up a more permanent life (which would mean being close to family and friends)?

A wise friend sent me the following quote: “When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you, but because in that brief moment when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for.” This settled it for me.

In the end, I chose to come home. Besides struggling with stomach issues and bed bugs in India, I decided to choose people over places. I can honestly say that I am happy to be home and that I don’t regret my decision. As my Mum says, she is glad that I am no longer her gypsy child.

While I loved all the adventures I had on this trip, and on all my previous trips, I look at life kind of like a “choose your own adventure book”. After all the privileges and experiences and challenges and joys of traveling over the past 5 years, I have chosen to end this chapter of the book where I know I belong – at home.

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