...and more incredible stuff

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Jan 06, 2008

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Saturday, December 22
I know that the pics I took won't win prizes, but hopefully it gave you a bit of the flavor of this place.  Just to clarify, Tibet is in China and when I refer to it here in India, I mean Upper Dharamsala, also known as McleodGanj, which is where the Tibetan community in exile is now located.  I believe India provided it to the Dalai Lama and his followers as a safe refuge from China.  Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that to be the general story of McleodGanj and the Tibetan community in India.
We worked at our placements today even tho it was Saturday and since Mithu  is visiting his grandmother for several days, I had little to do.  Yesterday we had just 2 kids at the special school and 3 volunteers.  The 2 kids are a 7 y.o girl and a 17 y.o boy, both very much in their own world.  I found it particularly difficult in that it seems whatever I or Ed or Jessica did, there was little if any response or acknowledgement.  But we did hit upon something that touched the little girl and that was Ring Around the Rosie, which brought laughter to her.  I guess the key is to try to find another RA the R.   In any case, even tho the successes may be miniscule, it at least gives the parents a break for a couple of hours.
So for today, I requested from Anil, our director, if I could work at the day care until Mithu returns and he agreed.   So I went with Catherine to the day care, which had 10 kids and a 'teacher' all fitting into a 12' x 12' hut for a school.  No chairs, no tables.  All they had were 8 small personal chalkboards on which the kid's copied the ABC's & numbers that we would put on the top.  Also, Catherine had brought xeroxs of pages to color that she made at the CCS house.
The kids are 2 and 3 year olds and they don't get much more adorable.  And all my goofy and dopey tricks worked like a charm.  It was so much more satisfying to see smiles and laughter on the faces and I felt particularly effective.  They asked if I wished to switch from the special school to the day care and it was a difficult decision, but I felt I had developed a repoire(sp) with Mithu and knew he'd be disappointed to find me no longer there...and with him I genuinely enjoy working.  Tho the young kids in day care don't get any cuter.  Also, I have to constantly remind myself that the work here isn't primarily about my pleasure but helping the kids and the program.
This afternoon we had off so we went up to McleodGanj and finally was able to upload the photos on a relatively high speed internet connection.  Also, it was great to be able to IM with Beth and Chuck back home...and also quite amazing considering where I am.  After, I spent perhaps the best $10 I've spent here for a Tibetan massage.  A very hard knuckle type massage with oil that borders on the painful but at the end you know nearly every part of the body has been worked.  And since I have done a lot of hiking and walking, the body is aching.
For later this week, I found a place where I can get a 1 hr. Ayurvedic massage for 500 rupees or about $12.  And this massage is a two person massage...BUT, unfortunately the two people's names are Bob & Jim instead of Bubbles and Kittin.  Yeah, this being a modest country, most often women massage women and men massage men.  But, I suppose as long as they steer clear of  'Ole Wally and my 2 boys' I'm sure I can enjoy it.
Since I was up at Mcleod all afternoon, I decided to catch up with Karen and we ate up there instead of the home base.  The food has been exceptional at nearly every place I've gone and most often we eat on a rooftop or balcony overlooking the street below.  The food is spicy but Montezuma has yet to visit me...tho if textile goods are India's primary export, natural gas is a close second!
Sunday, December 23
Today was neat.  Most of us went up to attend the Dalai Lama's teachings at the temple.  Not hearing English well, not understanding Hindi or Tibetan, I was pretty much lost and so Karen & I left after an hour.  We hiked about 45 minutes along narrow paths in some breathtaking scenery to the waterfall and the views were mind blowing.  Goats eating on the sides of the cliffs near us at the most precarious of positions without a seeming care in the world.  Unfortunately, since we weren't allowed to bring cameras or cell phones etc. into the Dalai Lama teachings, we didn't have a camera when we visited the falls and will have to return at some time before we leave.
Since I wear a long kurta often, I look kind of ridiculous wearing my Nike baseball cap and fanny pak around the outside of the kurta.  So I purchased a local traditional cap, much like the one worn by Hop Sing, the cook in Bonanza, but made of wool.  I also bought a colorful side carry bag.  Very functional and kind of neat looking but if I wore this back home, I'd be ushered off to Guantanamo to be Khalid Sheik Mohammed's roommate.  Pictures to follow soon.
Finally, I just can't get over the kindness and docile nature of the people in this region.  This truly is a special place!
Love to all.
Monday, December 24
This morning at about 4am I got a knock on my door.  It was Karen and she seemed somewhat rattled.  I asked what happened and she said she was just getting back from McLeodGanj, obviously much later than our 9:30 curfew.  She had met this fellow earlier in the week named Raj and as my grandmother used to say, became somewhat 'smitten' tho she would never admit it.  Understand that Karen is a somewhat shy, introverted 20 year old who is very idealistic, if not realistic.  Also a philosophy & literature major in college, she does have a rebellious side to her.  Funny, but while I now find myself just wanting to live simply without need to 'figure things out' in my mind, she is just the opposite and reads the philosophers to find out what they have seen to be true from them.  Perhaps it was this that allowed a kinship to develop between us as I was just the same way at age 20.
Anyway, seems last night, she went back up to McLeodGanj to meet the charismatic Raj.  He didn't want her to leave and she was too frightened, or more accurately felt too weak, to leave.  While she was not sexually attacked, he was aggressive and inappropriate in many ways, besides being a liar about many things.  Since I have the 2nd bedroom, I told her she could stay with me, but in the morning, if I were her, I'd seek out Anil the director and just be truthful about what happened and why she missed curfew.  I was standing on the roof this morning just looking out at this incredible panoramic view, when a person with CCS came up to me wanting to know if I knew where Karen was.  I briefly told him that she was in my place and that she had a rough experience last night and was seeking out Anil to tell him before he found out.  Too late.  He called Anil on his cell phone, Karen spoke with him, and she left.  So it is at this time that I am writing, not knowing how it will be dealt with.
Monday afternoon.
As part of the cultural immersion for the volunteers, they flew up a professor from New Delhi to talk about Indian society and history.  He talked with us for about 2 hrs today and will talk again tomorrow.  He was so interesting and since I have the 2nd bedroom he will be staying in my flat tonight before going back tomorrow.  If ever there was a dead ringer for an Indian Al Roker, he is it.
Also caught up with Karen as to how it went with her talk with Anil.  She had an excellent conversation with him and he was compassionate and understanding and she just opened up to him as she had done with me and had a good cry.  This fellow Raj was a real creep and she needed to talk it thru both by journaling and by conversation.  Since I have a 2nd bedroom and she feels most comfortable with me, Anil and she decided it may be best to move into my flat and I said I was fine with that.  So, I guess for the duration, I'll be having a roommate.
Two other things I keep forgetting to mention...first the weather here has been exceptional...each day it seems to get into the mid 50's and nites are cool but never cold.  Also, they have an interesting recycling program where paper goods go into 1 bin, vegetable waste into a 2nd to be given to farmers for their livestock and a 3rd bin for non-veggy waste to be given to the dogs and local animals..
Anyway, Merry Christmas to everyone and I'm not sure I've ever experienced such a non-Christmas flavor to this time of year...perhaps Chuck, my green Santa t-shirt will change all that.  Special hi and love to Ben and Deborah...miss you guys a lot!
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