Tibetan hospitality during a personal meltdown!

Trip Start Nov 20, 2012
Trip End Dec 19, 2012

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Flag of India  , Karnātaka,
Thursday, November 29, 2012

After four days of beach/yoga/relaxing bliss, it was time to head east toward the Tibetan resettlement of Mundgod in Goa's neighboring state Karnataka. I found out that the train ride between Goa and Hubli was one of the most beautiful ones in India and I met some amazing people along the way. Tim and Sue were a sweet British couple that came to India to do a yoga retreat, and Arpan and Pooja, a super cool young Indian couple that were on a little get-a-way in Goa. Aarpan, a webmaster for Target (yes, THE Target) told us in perfect English all about Indian history as well as about the new ban on plastic bags in the major city of Bangalore and the pros and cons of the changes that India is facing during this time of technology. The six hour train ride flew by and as I get off at my destination Hubli, I was greeted by several Holy Cows right in the middle of the chaos in the busy train station. Crazy!

Not many people stop in Hubli as it mostly serves as a train connection between bigger and more important cities. I check into Ajanta Hotel, where I spot several monks. As I later discover, there are pretty much 100’s of monks milling about. Feeling a bit lost in a sea of men I am lucky to be approached by a volunteer from the Tibetan resettlement that is helping the 1000’s of visitors passing trough Hubli on their way out to Mundgod to see the Dalai Lama.

His name is Kunga, a young 20-something, upbeat hairdresser that has taken a few days off work in the city of Bangalore to help the community of Mundgod out during this big event. Kunga looks at me with a very serious look and says –"it is my honor to help you out mam, you look so worried and lost". Yeah, I sure don’t have much of a poker face he he. The next day, Kunga and I head out to Mundgod on the public bus and a few bumpy hours later we arrive in the little dusty town. It pretty much looks like any Indian village on the countryside, but with a ton of monks floating around in their saffron red robes. It is quite amusing to see monks banking, chatting in the internet café, talking on their cell phones…. I would say they are pretty high-tec! My lack of Tibetan is saved by Kunga that swiftly books a room at a guest house for me as well as gets us the locals rate on transportation out to the actual Monasteries where he helps me get my security pass for the teachings.

Kunga manages to talk us into one of the biggest Temples where everyone is preparing for His Holiness departure. It was an amazing experience to get to bring my camera in and snap some pictures as well as there is a strict no camera/cell phone rule during the teachings. A very productive day I think as I pass out on my back-breaking bed to the sounds of never ending honking, yelling and barking on the street outside my hotel back in Hubli.

Now things just never turns out the way to think they will and that is especially true here in India. As I return to the guest house I booked the day before, the price just went up 1000% and no, there isn’t much I can do. I start to panic a bit as there is pretty much no accommodation left and people are poring in by the 1000’s as the start date for the teachings is just around the corner.The heat along with my inner frustration makes me want to curse every Indian person in the world but I take that back immediately.But I do feel very sorry for myself and tears start to well up.... traveling certainly dives deep into your core on so many levels, both good and bad, and right then and there I felt like the loneliest person in the world. After a minor meltdown I manage to get a hold of Kunga who with two other Tibetan volunteers manage to get a room for me and a British woman named Didi on the temple grounds. This sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I could barley contain myself of excitement until we got to see the room!

Ok, I have stayed in some pretty gnarly places around the world, I can take some dirt and a squat toilet no problem but this was like a scene out of a horror movie. Turns out that it is an abandoned old folks home where nobody has set a foot since 1985. There are about six rooms along a dirty, dingy corridor and the room where we could stay had nothing but two mattresses on the floor that was covered in dirt. Bed bugs are bleak in comparison to whatever animals that were living in these mattresses; it looked like there was a complete ecosystem of living creatures that were working away on the fabric, half of it eaten away. I believe it might just grow legs and walk away any minute. I almost threw up as I saw the toilet, again not cleaned since the 80’s. I would rather sleep on the street to tell you the truth.

A bit in a chock we head next door to the nunnery, we ask if they by a chance have a room to spare. No luck there, but one of the ladies in the nunnery overheard that we needed a place to stay and we get invited to her modest but clean and beautiful home just about 2km (one mile) from Camp 3 where most the action will be for the teachings. And just like that, in the midst of what might look like an impossible situation, the Universe delivered the best solution possible; a clean room on the Temple grounds. Incredible! To have this opportunity during such a busy time in Mundgod (attendance numbers between 20-25.000 people) and I have the honor to stay in the midst of it all.

The Lovely Tsering Paldon made our day with her humble and giving heart. Tsering has two children and her husband is a security guard for well, guess who? Yep the one and only, His Holiness! She speaks some English and has the most beautiful smile. Later on that evening, I learn that not only Didi and I will be sharing her home, but four monks that just arrived from Tibet will be joining us as well. Wow, pretty cool and well, a bit tight. No privacy what so ever. And I really mean it. No doors in the house (squat toilet is outside and yes, it does have a door :) but people are coming into my room just as they feel like and the youngest boy loves touch all my stuff, but at this point I don't care. I am planning to start with one a week stay and then we'll see. Tomorrow it all begins and I feel like a child at Christmas! Let the teachings begin!

Peace, Love and clean bed sheets

Yours truly


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