Wednesday, June 06, 2007

three weeks in a day

I am testing out my Japanese language skills now, since blogspot has been reset to Japanese on this computer. I'm sure I could change it, if I could read Japanese, but as it is, I can't figure out where the language options are, since they are in Japanese.

A few days ago I came to the realization that while I've been in Dharamsala for almost three weeks, and am itching to get back on the road, there are so many things I still want to do here. But alas, my trip to India is not so long, and there are still so many other places I want to visit. So tomorrow, I'm off to Parvati Valley to play in Kasol and its surrounding villages.

A few days ago, that same day I came to the realization that I may have been slacking off here on my holiday, I decided to walk up to the Baghsu waterfalls. I'd already been to the falls above Dharamkot, which was an hour and a half walk through beautiful forested hills and felt a little like heaven must feel. The Baghsu waterfalls are a 10 minute walk from the village, and are always densely populated, but still beautiful. I walked to the upper falls and watched Indian boys playing games in the pools, Buddhist monks chatting on rocks and a family of Sikhs splashing their feet.

On the trail up to the falls, I fell in step with an interesting family. There were the obviously western mom and dad, a blond girl and a Tibetan girl, who walked holding the woman's hand, speaking accented English. When we reached the pools, I photographed the girls playing and then introduced myself to the parents, Matthew and Theresa, offering to send them the photos. He is a philosophy teacher at Wesleyan, in India with the family for a year to research the influence of Buddhism on Wittgenstein. Theresa is home-schooling their daughter, Ruby. The Tibetan girl, Zompa, is a friend of the family, and a student at the Tibetan Children's Village school.

We ended up talking about how I had missed out seeing the Dalai Lama (he has indeed gone to Australia), and they told me that if I was interested, I could still go meet the Karmapa, a high Tibetan Buddhist teacher who heads the Karma Kagyu school. He greets the public every Wednesday and Saturday, they told me. It sounded great. They told me I could grab a cab for 400 rupees to the monastery, and that there may or may not be a lecture. That sounded less great. I asked them if they were planning to go. They said yes, so I said, great, maybe we could share a cab? We arranged to meet Wednesday at 1:30 by the Dalai Lama's temple.

So today I waited, at 1:30, at 1:45, at 2. No family. I had almost decided to give up (no way was I going to spend 400 rupees on a cab myself - that's a lot of money here) when I saw Matt running past the temple. "Sorry we're late," he said. Theresa was right behind him. "Difficult day in home-schooling," she apologized.

We climbed into a cab and rode through Mcleod Ganj, past Dharamsala, and to the Gyuto monastery on the outskirts of town. We left our shoes by the door, and I tried slyly to bring my bag inside, even though I could see everyone had left theirs outdoor. I just wasn't ready to leave behind my camera. "Either the camera stays out here or you stay out here," the security woman said sweetly. She was much tougher than she looked. Theresa and Matt told me they come here every week, and have never heard of anything being stolen. So I took out my passport and wallet, assured my camera I would be back soon, and went inside to join the dozens of people sitting and waiting. The Karmapa came out after about 15 minutes, and we walked toward him in a line with hands extended, each of holding a white scarf. One of his assistants put the outstreched scarf around my neck (traditional Tibetan form of greeting) and the Karmapa handed me a red string. That was it. No lecture, which made 8-year-old Ruby happy. My camera was safe. I made some joke about attachments to Theresa, but I was really relieved no-one had taken it.

The monastery was a beautiful building set in front of snow-capped mountains, surrounded by the monk's dormatories. We sat around and talked a bit with Isabel, a French nun with a quirky sense of humor who had just moved to Dharamsala after spending 20 years in Nepal. Ruby got antsy, and in her excitement to leave took a running leap down the stairs, tumbling gracefully like some sort of martial arts superhero. Except then she started to cry. So we told her how graceful she was, which made her laugh, though she still used her scraped knee as an excuse to get out of Tai Chi practice.

Back in Mcleod, I decided to check out Vijay's yoga class, considering that yoga in India is a traveler's addiction and most of my practice has been alone on the roofs of my guest houses. It was an incredible class. Vijay is about 40 years old and slim, and wears the shortest white shorts I have ever seen. (My friend Tamar later told me that she caught a glimpse of his wardrobe in the storage room after class one day - and indeed, he is the owner of at least 10 pairs of cleanly-pressed short white shorts). He is very flexible, and wasted no time showing that to us, while we laughed at his shorts. The class was Hatha, which mixes exercise with relaxation. Through the two hour class, his assistants came by to each of us to stretch our bodies into the correct position, something which noone has done for me before and which I really appreciated.

After the class I went with my friend Tiferet to check out the Dalai Lama's temple at sunset, and then to pick up the clothes Rais the tailor had made for me. He invited me to sit for chai, which I did, taking my first sip just as all the electricity in the city went out. Rais is 23, a Muslim from a small village near Pushkar. He came to Dharamsala last year and makes really beautiful clothing. "One year before I know no English," he confided. Now he is learning Hebrew, and knows quite a bit already.

I'm really going to miss Dharamsala. It's a place where people come to spend a long time, to make a home for themselves in India. I've played a lot of music here, met some great people, and have been working on a new story, writing by hand for the first time in years.

I'm off now, will try to post more photos as soon as possible...


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Anonymous said...


i hope you're having a stupendous walk, and a nice post-walk rest...i really want to see more pictures.

when are you coming back??? we miss you here. thinking of going to amerika soon, but would love to see you first.