900 100s

28 Jan – The currency situation remains restrained here. There are new 500 rupee bills in addition to a new 2000 at the airport in Mumbai but they haven’t gotten out to the provinces. When you get money at the ATMs here, you get 100 rupee notes. On top of that there is a 4500 rupee limit per transaction. That’s about $66. For our day-to-day operations we usually get twice or three times that to avoid excessive visits to ATMs; we do a simple second transaction at the ATM we go to get around the restriction and it works. But in the end we have ninety 500 rupee notes to carry us through the next few days. That’s a big stack of notes worth only $1.50 each.

Back in early November India began to withdraw all 1000 and 500 rupee notes from circulation. To “combat the black market;” they were to be replaced with new bills. Everyone was to take their 1000s and 500s to the bank and exchange them. Beyond a certain amount they also had to pay tax. The logic being that half of India’s economy is black market and if you had more than a certain amount you must have earned it on the black market and the government wanted its tax share. Once you turned in your money, you could get only 2000 rupees a day—in 100 rupee notes.

By now, you can officially get 4500 rupees a day. It seems that some ATMs (like the one I go to here in Benalim) do not keep from transaction to transaction so you can simply execute a number of transactions to get more than the official amount for the day. No one told me; I just tried and it worked. When this gets all straightened out is anyone’s guess; but it is a lot of hassle for the small business places. We brought backup dollars and euros in cash in case we couldn’t get rupees as it was rumored. Dollars and Euros always work.
Later in the day – So now they made a liar out of me. I went to an ATM in Benalim and got two 2000 notes from one and four 500s from another. But one would only give me that 4,000 and the other only 2,000 rupees. So limits are still varied and not at all consistent.

Someone said on the 29th that India says all will be ok by April first. I didn’t have the heart to tell that Indian what that day is in the US. Me thinks it will take longer.

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Republic Day

28 Jan – The 26th was Republic Day, the day India got their independence from Britain in 1947, 70 years ago after a couple centuries of subjugation and exploitation. It was a surprisingly quite celebration. Though there were a lot of people taking the day and long weekend off, there were very few fireworks which noisily celebrate so many other Indian holidays

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Eight peacocks

28 Jan – As we came down for breakfast yesterday, a flock of eight peacocks were grazing around the rice paddy next to the guest house. Beautiful birds. The peacock is the national bird of India. Its image graces all manner of official papers and buildings.

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Eight peacocks

As we came down for breakfast yesterday, a flock of eight peacocks were grazing around the rice paddy next to the guest house. The peacock is the national bird of India. Its image graces all manner of official papers and buildings.

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Arriving with the help of angels

Our trip to India last week began normally: up too early, breakfast, taxi to the train station, and leave the station on time. But half an hour down the tracks, the conductor announced, “Everyone must get out at Neubeckum. The track ahead is blocked by a train that ran into someone.” Nothing more. In Germany this usually results in a two to three hour stop of everything.

Our train stopped at the next station. We all got out. There was no one to help anyone.

We had a flight to catch in Frankfurt and a lot of kilometers to go yet to get there. Our schedule called for this regional train to take us to Essen where we would catch a fast Inter City Express (ICE) to take us the rest of the way. That would get us to Frankfort at 12:49 giving us 2 hours and ten minutes before our flight. It was already 9:35 or so.

But now we walked through an abandoned and boarded-up station in a small town asking each other, “What now? Is someone going to help us? How are we going to continue?” We went outside. Petra and I wandered around through the crowd.

Petra spotted a woman in a black Mercedes across the street. Their eyes met. Petra walked across to her and asked her, “Do you know where I can get a taxi?”

The woman answered, “They are usually over there.” There were none.

Petra explained our situation and that someone had killed himself. “So we were all left off here so the train could go back to where it came from.”

The Woman said, “I am here to pick up my sister. Now I know why so many people are getting off the train?”

Petra asked, “Has your sister called you? Do you know where she is?”

“No, I have no phone. I left it at home. I have to go there to get it.”

Petra said, “You can use our phone. Do you have the number?”

“No. I still have to go home to get the number. Maybe I can take you to the next station along the way. You can probably get a taxi there.” We got into her car.

As we drove, the woman remembered something and began to fiddle with the knobs of her radio, Soon a list of phone numbers came up on her screen. She selected her sister’s number from the list and called it out to Petra.
Petra called. Our phone was almost out of money, but Vodaphone let us put the call on credit. The sister answered.
The woman spoke with her sister a bit and handed the phone back to Petra saying, “You are lucky. She is stuck in Hamm so you now have a ride all the way to Hamm.”

Hamm is a larger city with many train connections. There were no expressways to take us the 40 kilometers (24 miles) to Hamm. But she was up to the task. Out on the regional roads, she gunned it. I glanced at the speedometer. It was sitting at 140 kph (87 mph). We went the distance slowing down for slower trucks, cars, and villages only to speed up again when she had passed them.

At one point as she sped down the road, I said, “You are our Angel today.”

She answered. “You have to tell my husband that.”

In Hamm there was a parking place right by the station where her sister was waiting. We got out, said hello to the sister, thanked the woman, headed into the station, asked our options at the information desk, and were on a departing regional train is less that ten minutes.

We were on our way to Cologne where we caught a fast ICE train to Frankfort airport 20 minutes after arriving. The train sped down the tracks at 280 kph (160 mph) most of the way. One time it was up to 299 kph (185 mph). We arrived at 13:30 only 40 minutes later than we had originally planned.

This was a day of angels. Without the woman (angel 1), nothing would have happened on time. Without Vodaphone (angel 2) advancing us a couple minutes, we would have been much later as the woman went home to call. Without the open parking space (angel 3), we would have missed our ride to Cologne to catch the ICE. And from the other side, we were angels (angels 4 &5) to the woman: without our phone, she would have spent a lot more time finding out what had happened and calling her sister. Thank you, Universe, for lining that all up. And finally, thanks to Petra for following her intuition and contacting and going with the woman in the Mercedes. The German Railroad would have taken care of us in time. But we chose a different path and made our flight on time. Of course, you are free to see these as serendipities or even just as coincidences. We see them as the intervention of angels.
The rest of the way was basically routine flights, first to London, then Mumbai, and finally Goa.

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Discoverers to snow birds

22 Jan – Now we feel we have in a way transformed from discovers to snow birds. In several different visits (six?) to India we were discovering different places around the country. We have discovered how to live in them—where to eat, where to stay, where the stores are, where to relax, and the general culture and goings-on of the people. This time here in Goa, we already know Villa Malibu and Anne, the owner-operator, we already know Anty’s restaurant and lounge on the Arabian Sea and its food and waiters, and we already know where to get groceries, water, and money. We know this place in Malapalam, Goa.

The same is true for Kaivalyadhama in Lonavla where we will go next month and Sadhana Mandir in Rishikesh where we will be for the rest of our time here this year.

We are truly no longer discoverers. We are visitors returning to familiar places. One could say with a fair amount of truth that we are visiting as “snow birds” retreating for the snow and cold of the northern climates. But at the same time we remain internal pilgrims because we are here on an internal pilgrimage, for meditation and spiritual growth.

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Our newsletter

Other than the trip to Panjim, the first week here has been have been quite routine and relaxing as I reported in our first newsletter from India. If you have not seen the newsletter you can do so on our newsletter page.

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21 Jan – Yesterday we visited Petra’s friend, who lives in Panjim (Panaji), Goa with his wife, son, and daughter. He and Petra studied environmental engineering together in Berlin several years ago. He has been here ten years or so working in the textile industry. Petra found him there in 2015 when we were in town. Before that she had not seen him in many years. We had a great day and stayed over to come back today.

An express bus took us back and forth from nearby Margao to Panjim 35 miles for only 48 rupees. That’s just $0.68. That’s amazing. The local bus would have been considerably less, though also considerably longer. Bus and train transportation in India is so inexpensive. They are plenty of trains and busses and everyone uses them. They are always crowded.

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We’re back in India

15 Jan 2017 – We are back in India. We arrived three days ago in Goa from Germany where we spent the Christmas season with Petra’s mother and cousin and her family. We had a great time. As normal the German winter weather was little better than Santa Fe’s. We saw the sun only four or five days in more than a month. Cold overcast and light rain ruled the days. It was time to move on.

We will try to keep you more updated here than we have in the past. Soon to come, the angles who helped get us here.

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Back in Santa Fe

We are back in Santa Fe. We have made a full circle. It took us two and a half years to do so. Plans are to stay put for at least six months. Sometime during those months we will decide what comes next. It may involve a return to India; it may be staying here; or it may involve something entirely different. India is a great place. Its pull is significant.

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