Tuesday, December 1, 2009

McLeodGanj...Peace in the Himalayas

After a nightmarish 18 hour journey from Jaipur to Dharamsala via
Delhi, including an over-sized drunk male seatmate who passed out
on me for a few hours overnite after Chandigarh, I arrived, tired but
in decent spirits, to lower Dharamsala at 8am.
A brother and sister couple, Mumbai born but he residing in Texas
with a very US accent, helped me get on a local bus to McLeodGanj
(upper D'shala).
After another brief unpleasant encounter with a cheating guesthouse
proprietor, I got a fellow named Sergei from St Petersburg Russia to
help me carry my bags back up a steep stair to the main street and
found myself a new home at Mount View Guesthouse on Jogibara Road.
I rested about an hour, took a hot shower, and set out to explore my
new environment.

McLeodGanj (pronounced Mik-Klee-owed-Ganj), is best known as the
home of HH the 14th Dalai Lama, affectionately known locally as Kundun
(literally, "presence"...and you can truly feel his presence here), and the
seat of the exiled Tibetan government.
The place is full of red robed Buddhist monks and nuns, often, incongruously,
talking on mobile phones.
People here actually SMILE, and most of the local shops were very low
pressure, totally unlike those I visited in Rajasthan.
I encountered a few beggars, but even they were not over-bearing like the
ones in Rajasthan (who would crawl and claw at car windows at stop lights).

From my hotel room, I can see Triund Peak in the Dhauludar Range of the
Himalayas, plus three other snow capped peaks. It is technically the foothills,
but totally impressive, nonetheless, and I still cannot believe I am here.
The chest cough and sinus infection which plagued me the past month is
almost totally gone, though in the morning I still have a cough until after
my hot shower.

Since arriving, I have started smiling again, sometimes maybe too much.
I like to start the day by turning the prayer wheels at the stupa in the middle
of town, after having tea on the rooftop terrace at my guesthouse.
I have begun reading a daily inspirational guide by the Dalai Lama, as well as
his short introduction to Buddhism text, purchased at the Tibet Museum
I have visited the main temple once, but it is confusing as I know nothing
about the dieties depicted there or the appropriate protocol.

There is amazing shopping here for traditional prayer box pendants (ghau),
prayer wheels, clothing at very reasonable costs, and so much more.

Feeling bolder by the minute, I had my hair cut by a local barber. He did a
great job for only 50 INR about $1 USD), but I had to repeatedly refuse his
offers of a head and shoulder massage!

In the evening, I met a guy who has been voluntering at L.I.T,
Learning and Ideas for Tibet, and he took me to their offices, where I met
Lauren and Mary, western volunteer coordinators.
After a short discussion, Lauren recruited me to come to the weekly Tuesday
Tibetans Talk, where refugees and former political prisoners tell their stories
with an international audience, to take notes and begin writing articles for the
organization's website.
I am also considering an introductory Tibetan language class and also basic
Tibetan cooking (momos!)
fyi Tibetan food is really yummy!
This MAY be my life purpose!
woo HOO

This morning, tired of being stared at and perceived as a young blond, I dyed
my hair back to its natural dark brown color.
I will now let the grey grow out naturally and stop denying my age.
I think this will also gain me greater respect here. Older women are treated
with much more respect than solo young western ladies.

I am now at my new favorite hangout, MoonPeak cafe, a WiFi cafe on Temple
Road, and have finished my pot of lemongrass herbal tea.

Dharamsala is feeling like home. I have random repeated thoughts of
staying on indefinitely, returning annually.
I will be here until at least the end of January, barring any more unforseen
negative experiences.
I will read and write here and walk in nature and do my best to make some small
difference in my own life and that of others (as HH the Dalai Lama advises).


  1. Good idea about going back to natural hair color while you're there.
    I would love a buddhist class & Tibetan cooking class...glad you found a place that you like.

  2. So glad to hear you arrived safey! The fact that you really like it there is amazing and wonderful! I wish you peace and happiness the rest of your time there.

  3. It was so nice to read your post... it sounds wonderful there... I am so glad things are going so well. I cant wait to read more :) hugs

  4. I am really pleased to read this. Finding a place where you feel comfortable MAKES the travel experience. Enjoy. I'll try and keep up with your postings here.

  5. Good to see you are finally enjoying it on your own in Dharamshala. Nice to read your experiences here, keep 'em coming!!!