Sunday, March 11, 2012

High in the mountains at McLeod Ganj

A soft morning rain comes down high in the mountains of Northern India. The gentle drops and
the cawing of some crows seem to be the only sound I hear on my balcony in McLeod Ganj. Seems quite fitting given this is the center of Tibetan Buddhism. So peaceful, fresh air to clear the moind and reenergize for the next part of camp. A dog scampers down to a neighboring hotel annex to eat from the scraps off a tray that someone has left outside their door. He finds some bones to chew on, knocks over and breaks a glass, pees on a rose bush and is gone. My teaching crew and I have left our brood of Afghans and hectic pace of camp for 2 days up here in Mcleod Ganj. We were supposed to be meeting with the Dalai Lama but embassies and politics got in the way of that. I suppose the Buddhist idea of everything in its own time will help calm me down about
missing out on this unique opportunity. Next camp. I consider this time here to be reflective, relaxing, and reconnaissance for the next time I come up here with 40 Afghans in tow.
We arrived yesterday afternoon after making the zig zagging trip up the narrow roads to McLeod Ganj, the high altitude giving us a spinning sensation in our heads. After checking in to the Spring Valley Resort and eating some lunch, we walked down to town, looking in all the shops, stopping at a Buddhist temple to spin the prayer wheels, making our way down to the main
Buddhist temple. As the sun set, we walked clockwise around the main temple with all the monks in their crimson robes. Daniel and I went into one of the temples and I showed him how the Buddhists pray. His little hands clasped together and bowing his head in front of the altar—
very sweet. On the way back up the hill, we stopped for food at the Kailash Roof Beer Bar and Restaurant where we snacked on all sorts of food: Chinese, Italian, Tibetan and Indian, all downed by some cold
Kingfisher beer. After some dessert in the main square of town, very happening at 9pm, we grabbed osme rickshaws and sped up the hill to our hotel. Another beer and some more laughs together and we were off to bed. A peaceful sleep in a soft bed with thick warm blankets to keep out the cold of the night. I slept like a baby.

Claire and I were up first on this quiet Sunday morning in Mcleod Ganj. We had some breakfast downstairs and then went to explore up the hill, while the others slept. Up the road was a hotel with a spa offering massages and other treatments. We were keen on having a colon cleansing treatment but that needs more than one day, so I made an appointment for a massage in
the afternoon and Claire decided to look elsewhere.
After the others awoke and were ready to start the day, we headed up the hill to a Hindu temple and a waterfall high up the hill behind it. Daniel was too tired to make it the whole way, so I got the pleasure of carrying him on my shoulders most of the way up the winding path to the waterfall. After our hike up to the waterfall, we mingled in the shops near our hotel
and had a very slowly served lunch at the German Bakery restaurant. After lunch we had some down time, I went for my massage, which was made even more relaxing by a heavy rain storm that passed over for most of it.
Dinner was across the street at Vikas’s restaurant. Vikas is a local hotleier/restraunteur who organizes stays for people wanting to volunteer up here. We met him the night before as we were buying some chips and other snacks in his shop. He had some Brits and an Italian arriving and
invited us to dinner with all of them. He will probably be a good contact for me if I can come up here again with my students in September, by putting some volunteer activities together for us.
By Monday morning, we were enjoying our time off from camp so much we didn’t want to go back.
But all good things must come to an end and away we went down the hill back to our Afghan students who were eagerly awaiting our return. Before leaving I bought one of the crimson shawls the monks wear, which seemed to have disappeared between the car and my room upon our arrival back at camp. I’ve searched everywhere for it and haven’t found it anywhere, much to my dismay. It was a $4 shawl
but I loved it so much and am baffled at how it could just disappear in such a short space of time. I continue to have faith that it will turn up, probably at the end of camp. Like a future visit with the Dalai Lama, I hold on to the tassles of that red shawl, not ready to let go of it, keeping hopeful that it will turn up, just as I am hopeful that I will get that private audience again with HHDL.

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