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Published: September 29th 2009
We took a minute to rest on our way up to the caves/prayer flag flinging...I mean hanging.
Me, Tsering, Carol, Keri, Rebecca and Julie
Quickly, now...not much time left!
The last week in India was a valiant attempt to cram in all we could before the trip ended. I still think we barely scratched the surface. We left Dharamsala in the "Jeeps" (a mini-van SUV crossbreed) and wound through the mountains towards Tso Pema. The drive, as is always the case in India, was a harrowing experience. High speed, frequent honking, recent rock slides, cows, goats, people and buses, all on a one lane road. We somehow managed to safely arrive in Tso Pema in the early evening. Once settled in our hotel, we met for a briefing on where we were, why it was significant and what we should do here.
Tso Pema, in English "Lotus Lake," is the mecca for most Tibetan Buddhists and many Hindus. There is a story of a man (sorry, the names didn't stick) who was said to have inappropriate relations with his sister and was burned alive for this offense. The fire burned hot, high and long, but in the mans place, the lake formed and on it was a young boy on a giant lotus. Hence, the name. The boy became one of
the most revered gods and draws thousands to this place each year. This is the readers digest version and, as I am told, it varies. We walked the pathway around the lake, always clockwise to honor the Buddhist tradition. Hindus, however, walk counter-clockwise.
The next day we hiked up the mountainside to participate in a Tibetan Prayer Flag hanging ceremony. There was a Buddhist nun's monestary at the top and they served us quite the spread; An eggplant dish, dahl, rice, chipati, ginger-tomato soup, bitter gourds (ew...), and other dishes I never got around to. The ceremony was much more elaborate than the one Mandy and I participated in on Mount Triune. There was burning of incense, chanting, and throwing of barley flour as an offering. After, we walked around scoping out the "caves" several nuns and monks have vowed to live in. By the time this all had taken place, my ankle had begun bothering me and I was uncomfortable in the heat. I rode back with a couple others to the hotel. We laid low that evening catching a movie, The Ruins (they choose the worst American movies over there!), and nibbling on our new favorite snack
Not A Star Wars Poster
The Dean and I in our Indian Garb. *Note the dot (bindi) on my forehead, Ali!
"Potato Honey Crispy"; french fries with honey. Yum!
I Think I've Had Enough
The next day we hopped back in the jeeps and headed to Mandi, a less touristy town between Tso Pema and Dharamsala. This stop is a Tulane tradition. We stayed at the Raj Mahal or "Kings Palace." And wouldn't you know it, the king was there! Though he holds no governmental power, he is long revered and respected by the town. In his mid-eighties, the king of Mandi enjoys ice cream and riddles. We wined and dined with the king both nights, busting into a traditional New Orleans second-line in the middle of dinner. I was devestated mid-meal, however, to learn that my beloved girl-hood heartthrob had finally succumb to his battle with cancer: Patrick Swayze. We had a short memorial after dinner with drinks and an homage to his life; a re-enactment of the final dance in Dirty Dancing. It was touching. Rest in peace, Patrick (I owe it all to you).
The following day we spent getting tailored outfits from local shops. Most of us opted for the popular form of dress called a Salwar-Kameez. This is a tunic,
pants and a scarf. A couple others purchased saris and/or a more western looking outfit. This experience was pretty overwhelming for me. The tailors were unfairly bombarded by our demands, in my opinion. I don't believe they were realistic in the amount of work they said they'd be able to do in our time frame, but I doubt they would turn down any business no matter the amount or demand. After walking to the tailors' shop in the hot sun for the third time, I hit my first real low of the trip. Annoyed, tired...no...exhausted and frustrated by the time and energy I felt I was wasting, I sat disgruntled outside the shop waiting for them to finish. A local man pulled up a stool beside me and began asking where I was from, what is your information, what's your name, I want to show you, my house... Increasingly annoyed as I persistently evaded his questions, I ignored him. A young man in a shop across from me catches my eye and smiles sympathetically. The man demanding my attention becomes infuriated; "you don't want to talk to me?!" My reply, "NO!" I didn't think I was the least bit subtle
Julie Salamone's pic...I was always behind the camcorder
about that fact. Stumbling over his english as he tries to berate me, he switches to Hindi. Drawing a bit of a crowd, people come out of their shops into their doorways to see who he is yelling at. Finally, he leaves. The woman behind me mutters "nonsense." Exactly, I think. I'm about done with this experience.
I got my salwar-kameez and wore it just long enough to take some pictures, eat dinner and stumble to bed. I have nothing left to give. The next day we're back on the road. Our destination is, once again, Dharamsala. We stop on the way in Bir, a small town with a Buddhist monastary. One of our guides, Tsering, was a monk at this particular monastary for about 18 years before leaving to care for his sister and her children. We toured the monastary and met with the Lama for a quick Q&A session. I think, like me, everyone was pretty much spent at this point. Tired, saturated and counting down the days 'til we go home, there were few questions or attempts to squeeze in more activities.
We were all happy to get back to the guest house in Dharamsala.
Karmala gets braided
I was in high demand as everyone wanted french braids.
We met with our learning partners one final time before leaving for Delhi the next day. We ate dinner together, exchanged gifts and agreed to stay in contact.
We Didn't Miss Delhi
Back to the dusty streets of Delhi, it was difficult to summon the energy to walk to dinner let alone shop or sight see. Most of our group did manage one last event; the Gandhi Museum. I however, missed that opportunity. Lined up an ready to go, I went into a full blown sinus-meltdown. I can only liken it to having to red-hot rods shoved up my nose. I have no idea what brought it on, but I retreated to my room and appreciated the relief of a significant amount of benedryl. I remained well-drugged until it was time to board the bus to our last stop...the airport hotel. Everyone swam, remenisced, played cards and had our last indian dishes before boarding the red-eye out of Delhi. We bid farewell to our wonderful guides Neil, Karma and Tsering. Excitement about going back home was evident, but there was also a sadness in realizing this adventure is ending. Friendships based on travel and excitement
My new favorite card game! We played it poolside until it was time to go to the airport.
will likely dissipate back to the norm. Things will be quiet and clean again, but what then will we bond over?
The 14 hour flight went quickly, as I slept for 7 hours solid and watched several movies in flight. When we reached the Chicago airport at 5 am, we beelined for Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's, savoring the things we missed like meat and ice and sanitary service.
The house is quiet as my roommate, Mandy, is still in India. She met up with her boyfriend to do some additional sight seeing. It's hot in New Orleans, though I've been indoors for the most part. I went out yesterday to get some groceries. I nearly cried in the Whole Foods where I shop when the smells hit me. Knowing I can have anything I want, pre-made, fresh, and in one place. I am so very fortunate. No better, just fortunate. There was no honking of horns on my drive to the store. No children or fingerless people on make-shift carts pushing their way toward me for rupees. No foul smells or cow pies to dodge. Just advertisements everywhere, telling me what I need, who is coming to town, what the next event is and how easily I can obtain all I ever want. I was just in India. It's not that far away. Just next door.
I feel like I just jumped off a cliff into the water and from where I swim, I look at that cliff and think "did I really just do that?!" I did. Hmm. Now what?
If you know, let me know. Back to school today, field tomorrow, work the next day and so on. December is right around the corner and I will graduate. Twenty years of school and soon I'll be done. No more teachers, no more books...no idea whats next. I'm just glad you all will be part of it, as you always have been.
Love you and miss you!
Until my next adventure...
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