Returning to Mcleod Ganj at long last...

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June 21st 2011
Published: June 21st 2011
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I've returned home, or at least that is how it feels. My second home, one that I hold so close to my heart, and miss almost every day that I am away. I had felt a little anxious that maybe I would return and everything would feel different, and I would feel a little lost here, but that has not been the case at all. Of course, some shops have closed or opened, some people have moved away, to be replaced by new faces, but the most important people are still here, the beautiful mountain still hangs overhead and the school is just as I left it. It is as if I never left. In fact, it feels even better this year than it did last year. The relationships feel stronger somehow, I appreciate them much more.

The looks of surprise on many peoples faces as they recognize me have been entertaining. Some didn't know I was returning and it's funny to see the second glance they give me, then the realization and broadened smile. If I ever thought I would be forgotten, they have shown me that I wasn't just another 'ingi pomo' that blends into all the others and isn't remembered. Even the toilet minder remembered me. I can't say that was the highlight of my week though...

So the last week I have just been catching up with old friends and slipping back into my routine. I arrived during the week of Saka Dawa, a Tibetan Buddhist holiday. I cannot say for sure, but my understanding is that it is the time of the enlightenment of the Buddha and a bizarre ritual that comes along with it, is the giving to beggars. I say it is bizarre because hundreds of local villagers (not beggars) have cottoned on to the fact that Tibetans are giving, especially on this day, so they all travel in from neighbouring regions, to line the path of the kora, all with their hands out begging for money. Many even mutilate themselves in order to get the most donations. It was a very uncomfortable experience for me, but also moving at the same time. Yet another example of the beauty of the Buddhist traditions here. The religion that makes these people so special.

All in all, I have had a wonderful week so far, chatting away with monks in conversation class, forcing naughty students to sing for the class, wrapping up many a momo and washing clothes in the river under a waterfall. Life doesn't get much better than this.

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