FIRST DAY OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE & GATHERING OF THE ELDERS – “Nourishing the Balance of the Universe”
March 3-7, 2012 at Haridwar, India
I arrived early on Saturday to find a Native American medicine woman conducting a pipe ceremony in the “acu-torture” (as opposed to acupressure) garden. Felt like I was in the opening ceremony for the Olympics when I marched in the parade of delegates with two Lithuanians and the WCER/Romuva banner all around the campus.
The rest of the conference held many workshops and presentations. The water was filtered, and all-you-could-eat (which wasn’t much for me) vegetarian meals provided three times a day. (I lost ten pounds in India.) Each night after dinner there was amazing entertainment by many of the participants. One night I missed the entertainment when we went back to the hotel in 90+ degree heat to take a nap before dinner, and wound up sleeping the night through.
On Saturday night (3/3), Radhey Shyam took me for a walk off campus to three different ATMs. The last one ate my card, but Radhey Shyam (pronounced Ravashim) was kind enough to lend me 4000 rupees ($80) which amazingly covered all my expenses in India. That evening we transferred to the Grand Basant, and I owe our survival to the Maori tribeswomen who turned me on to the spring rolls!
My paper on the topic of “Worshipping the Ground We Walk on” was well received, and I found my co-speakers’ topics interesting as well. I was interviewed by local media twice that day. There were many excellent presentations, and while I was sewing during one of them, an Indian woman taught me their “star” stitch. The students were in awe of all the foreigners, and followed a lot of us around asking for their photos to be taken with us. There were over 400 delegates from all over the world, and an unknown number of students and locals at the gathering. I arrived at my lecture site over an hour early so I painted a watercolor of the Goddess of Wisdom sculpture they had in the atrium of the building.
On the last day of the conference, there were at least seven different fire ritual presentations. The Lithuanians were asked to go first, and the night before Vytautas had asked me to participate in the rite in Inija’s place. We had lots of amber dust to perk up the fire and plenty of gira (a fermented bread drink which is non-alcoholic but which tastes like beer) to share. One of the Latvian elder women stood by me to make sure I didn’t mess it up. (I didn't - I've participated in this rite at least a dozen times.) That evening we went with others to the Godwin hotel 1½ blocks away for “real” coffee and food, and were delighted to learn from the menu that many of the dishes were served with a “polite sprig of mint.” Can’t have impolite sprigs at a fine hotel!