October 4 – all finished. (Ok, I know it’s now the 5th. But go with it).

Mate, it’s astounding. Both in the sense that the past six weeks have passed so quickly, and also in the insane amount of knowledge I have taken on and actually retained.

300 Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training course completed. And no signs of that feeble female who a mere four-to-five-weeks ago was on the verge of telling Martinet she didn’t want to teach and would complete the course purely to deepen her own practice. (Or alternatively, praying for some kind of stomach bug that would put her in hospital for a day or two and give a good excuse so as to not have to lead the class). (Me, not Martinet. Let me clarify that).

I did my final teaching on the last night, a prenatal class for the “pregnant” girls of the course (I.e., all the 18 with t-shirts shoved down their fronts to act as baby bellies). I felt knowing and confident and excited in my ability, and afterwards lots of people commented on how well I did. Olga (a Russian student living in Seattle), said to me, “You can really teach”. Tatiana (the pre natal teacher) came up to tell me I did amazingly well. Priyanka told me numerous times how incredibly I took it and how much I have improved. (Not that hard from the quivering wreck I was the morning I first did). Philippa said she thinks I was top of the class and that I’ll be so great when I get back to NZ. Martinet didn’t say anything – but believe me, that’s high praise.

Ego is real right now.

We had our final bit of theory (I must admit, my mind did wander off for the duration of it. I had been watching episodes of Coro the night before, and I suddenly had a moment of confusion about the Toyah-Leanne-Eva sibling sitch; is Eva actually related to Toyah? I started drawing up a Battersby branched family tree, and I must’ve had a look of perplexed puzzlement on my face – is Janice Toyah’s birth mum or her step? – because Martinet clocked my expression and furthered on her explanation of lactation). And then it was done. (The course, not the Coro confusion).

I waved off the three of the quartet (catching a bus to Delhi – I was meant to go with, but with all my baggage and my family being here – !!!! – I decided I would stay on in Rishikesh a few extra days and taxi to Delhi instead. $75 NZ for the six hour trip, would you believe it? And in air conditioned comfort. Ideal) and then have my last night in the hotel.

The group of Chinese girls were leaving at 6am, so I arose to wave them off. I was so touched when they all begged me to come stay in Shanghai and Singapore, then when one burst into tears and clutched me close (she didn’t speak a word of English so we never had an actual convo, but we would smile and give each others’ shoulders a squeeze every so often).

It’s funny – I never realised how much I sort of grew to mean to these people. But as Priyanka said on leaving, “Everyone loves you here. You’re friends with everyone. Even Martinet loves you, you can see it.”

Martinet told me she was leaving at 8.30, so I took one of the Indian boys for a private class (yoga, nothing untoward) then headed down to farewell her. But I was two minutes too late – her door was ajar, room vacated.

A relief really, if I’m to be honest. I have an email in my draft folder ready to go to her instead.

I’m going to miss her. No way about it, she was a brutal battle axe with no warmth whatsoever, but as time went on I really began to understand and respect her. Plus, the material she taught me is absolutely immeasurable – no doubt, she knows her shit and is an expert.

Am I sad? No. I’m ready to head on. I’m ready to relieve myself of Rishikesh, drive onto Delhi then journey to Jaipur. But I have to say, my last few days here have been made all the more magic by the arrival of my family.

The following may get a little confusing, so bear with me. Mummy Deb’s younger brother Jamie is a pilot for Air India, working eight weeks on based in Jaipur and heading home to Aus for three. He remarried a couple of years ago to my new Aunty Jess (though she’s more like a sister-cousin) and has two additions to his clan – Eli, three, and little Lucas, one-and-a-half.

It just so happened that the last fortnight, Jess and the kids have been over in India with her parents, Janet and Keith (keeping up?). They have done the Taj and such, then a few days ago Jess messaged and said they were headed to Rishikesh. And would you know it; their hotel was a mere 300m from my own.

In my second-to-last day of my course I went and spent my break with them (leaving after feeling so warm-hearted and happy for having been around family) and then yesterday I trottled down to spend the day with them in Ram Jhula. It was so special; so impromptu and unexpected to have them here, and it really brought a highlight to the end of my time in Rishikesh.

And it was hilarious; Keith (I don’t know what he is to me; step-great-uncle-in-law maybe?) came to me with a serious look on his face and asked if I could possibly do him a favour.

“I know alcohol isn’t allowed here,” he said. “But I could really, really do with a nice, cold beer.”

Challenge accepted.

You see, Rishikesh is a holy city, where alcohol is taboo, as is meat. But as with anywhere, if you ask about you can always find. So I set off on a mission.

I headed to the provision store, to see my main men. I don’t know their names – I go there everyday to hustle coconut h20, and we’re past the point where it would be deemed ok for me to ask as I should know by now – but they are brothers who hook me up with all, from taxis to dates (in the fruit sense; I’m still with The Pedaller) to toothbrushes (onto my 6th in six weeks) to presents for people.

But today, I needed beer. And honestly, the whole process felt like I was hustling the most A class, elicit drugs.

I beckoned one of the boys to the back of the store and in hushed tones told him what I required. “My brother will be able to help you out,” he said. “Wait here.”

The other brother appeared and I repeated my requests. “It’s for an Australian,” I explained. “Ahhhhhh,” he replied. “One or two? Two. Come back in an hour.”

A little concerned that my tee-up might not come to fruition and not wanting to disappoint step-great-uncle-in-law Uncle Keith, I decided to try a back up just in case. I called the yoga school owner and asked if he could help me out: “Swiss Cottage,” he divulged. “You know the fork in the road to go down to the bridge? Instead of going down, go up. You’ll find it.”

So I laced up my hiking boots and headed to the hills.

As I was finding my Google Maps way, who went by but the Brother from the store on his scooter! “Poooooppppppp-eeeeeeeeeee,” he cried, swerving over to the side of the road. “I’m just going to get the” – whisper – “beer. Come with me.”

So I jumped aboard and where did we head, but Swiss Cottage.

It ended up being a standard Indian restaurant that happened to have beer on tap (well, in cans) should you quietly ask for it. As I did. The man delved right into the very depths of the fridge and produced two Tuborgs, which were then wrapped in newspaper so no one would see what they were and handed to me to put in my bag.

Step-uncle-in-law Uncle Keith was right chuffed.

I spent the night having a heart-to-heart with Jess, went back to the yoga school where two of the Indian boys and I had some dinner, and then this morning I went to the yoga class with the new teacher training course students (a 200 hour batch). Ten minutes in, Manoj (remember him? I went to his sister’s pre wedding festivities) told me to take over and teach the class.

So I did.

And was absolutely in my element. After, all of the others in turn came up to tell me how great I was. (Newly fledged ego in full force the last 24 hours, that’s for sure). The Dutch lady said she found me amazingly encouraging and energetic, with the Indian girl telling me I was natural and would do well in my career.

Fab start to the day.

Trot up the mountain, farewell to all my friends around town, and now I am half an hour into a six hour road trip to Delhi.

(Insertation: just pulled over to say goodbye to my main men at the provision store, and I can introduce them as Pankaj and Amit. Got their business card, you see).

The next two nights have me in a hotel with Jamie, Jess and co, then she and the kids and parents go back to Aus while Jamie and I go on to Jaipur.

I had been feeling a little sad that India’s magic had faded for me. Monkeys atop walls eating popcorn no longer enthralled me, the colourful chaos was no longer mesmerising, the big river bridges no longer monumental.

Am I jaded? I wondered. Am I no longer able to be impressed here, instilled with that sense of wonder?

But being with my family the last few days has had it all flood back. Hearing Janet talk about her first moment of walking the bridge over The Ganges, witnessing Eli watching the roaming cows, us all crowding together into a tuk tuk; my awe and amazement and astoundment is in full force through seeing it with and through other people.

Six weeks left of the trip with so much to look forward to.

Feeling complete – both in the sense of the course, and also being with some family.

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