The first full day in India began with insomnia (too many naps in airplanes yesterday) and a chorus of new noises (dogs and cats, exotic insects and birds, and surprise! A ceremony in a neighboring village that started broadcasting their morning prayer chants around 4h30).  After a breakfast of fresh fruit salad, toast, tea and coffee prepared by our Tibetan Pavilion hostess, Kalsang, we set off for orientation at the International House, learning about safety, practical matters, recycling, upcycling, and off-the-grid sustainable living.  Then, it was off to pick up our scooters and ensure they had enough siphoned gas to last us for the duration of our “discovering Auroville” scavenger hunt. After a few near-miss collisions with bystanders and parked scooters, and one actual collision with a fence, we were successfully cruising down the left side of the road, searching for the destinations assigned to our group.

Although we were met with slight difficulty trying to read the map, every Aurovillian that we stopped to ask for directions was eager to help point us in the right direction, and we eventually found most of the places on our list. This included a lunch of tasty south-Indian cuisine at the Solar Kitchen restaurant, which must be one of the more popular restaurants in town, based on the bustling crowd of hungry diners waiting to make their way through the cafeteria-style line.

Lunch was followed with a history and philosophy lesson about Auroville and India led by Deepti, a woman who has lived here since just after the community was founded. Fascinating and thought-provoking, this talk had us walking away with many questions answered and even more new questions forming in our heads about what is in store for us in the days and weeks to come.

The last visit of this busy day was to our neighbors at the Solitude Farm where Krishna, an Aurovillian since 1989, maintains a perma-culture farm, a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a restaurant, and organizes the yearly Lively Up Your Earth eco music festival.  The philosophy of all of these projects is based on the idea that food is the fundamental reason we have community and culture, and that our relationship with our food has a critical influence on all parts of our life.  Furthermore, in connecting with our food, we are connecting with nature, which is perfect in essence, and something essential is lost when we try to bend its natural processes to our will.  Krishna and his friends kindly provided us with a chance to taste for ourselves at a candle-lit dinner under the stars, and the high quality of this homegrown meal was undeniable.

With light hearts and full tummies, we made our way back to our new temporary home, ready to face the end of the world (tomorrow is December 21, 2012!) with an enthusiastic “Namaste!”

By Jillsa Aringdale

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