Friday, March 5, 2010

Withdrawal...and a note on Validity (or something like that)

Five days have passed since I left Mcleod...but it feels like a lifetime.

And now I am starting to have "weird" physical symptoms. Weird to me, anyway, because I'm not sure what's going on.
It could be as simple as coming from the Himalayan foothills down to the coast in Mumbai (altitude change).
Or because all the food and water is different.
Or because the psychic energies which swirl around Mcleod are absent, here...
The symptoms? General achiness and malaise, and lately bad stomach pains.
 I don't feel like doing anything. I just want to sit or lie around. I am tired in my body and my soul.
I want to be on familiar ground with familiar routines and comforts. When I say familiar, I mean one of two things...the familiarity of my place in the US, or the familiarity of my place in Mcleod.
I am missing my friends, I am missing the comforts of seeing the same sights and hearing the same sounds and being welcome.

I also feel a bit over-whelmed at all the work I want to do over the coming months. I have websites to build regarding the issues which are most important to me. I have so much reading/research to do regarding Tibetan  Buddhism...more in depth study of the situation of the Tibetans, in general.

Just a note, for anyone who has been reading the heated comments left by "spirit" on my previous posts:
There is clearly a lot of controversy over the issue of the Tibetan exiles. I am not an expert on the legal or political situation. In fact, I freely admit that I did not get involved in those aspects at all.
My personal experience was learning life lessons from the most beautiful people I have ever met.
Yes, clearly there are those who are taking advantage of the system, abusing their privileges. But that happens everywhere. In the US, many families live "high off the hog" on welfare and do not really need it, while others who are desperately in need can barely get the necessary aide.
I know what is true for me, I know what is true for the people I worked with.
I am NOT responsible for those who are abusing the system, nor do I condone their behavior.
I DO know that there are many who need help, and not just of the financial sort. They deserve to receive an education, to be given the chance to find employment (there are so few opportunities for this is Mcleod).
They need to know that they are not forgotten, that their beautiful culture is valued and worth saving.
Not everyone can help every cause.
I know only what is important to ME.

I breathe in, I breathe out. I let it go. I will not try to convince those who cannot be convinced, nor will I argue  with those who are angry. They have their own causes, equally important, and I pray they will make a difference.

I will be back in the US on Wednesday.
The next phase of this journey is already forming, though I do not know where the road will take me or exactly when.
But this most sacred sojourn has only just begun.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mumbai...Integrating the Experince

I arrived back in Mumbai on the night of 2 March. Arriving at the airport, a phone call from my friend notified me he was not coming to the airport to meet me as expected.
I was disappointed, but not bent out of shape or terrified as I would have been had this happened 4 months ago.
So I collected my bags and decided to check out a pre-paid taxi.
300 rupees later, I clutched my receipt and navigated the queue out front without a lot of difficulty. It took what felt like forever to get out of the airport car park but at last we were whipping through the Mumbai night.

What struck me most as we rolled at a decent speed through the city was did not seem as strange or crazy or frightening as it all had when I landed at the airport the first time, arriving from the USA in late October 2009.
In fact, it seemed pretty average. I can't believe I just wrote that!
I kept track of location by reading bank branch signs... Had my friend called to ask, I wanted to say, in my twisted humor, "I'm at the corner of Amitab Baichan and Shah Rukh Khan" (two Bollywood megastars whose faces are EVERYWHERE on billboards as well as tv and film). HAHAHA
Shops and temples sailed by...
Then I saw the Breach Candy bank branch and knew we were getting close. As we veered off to the right, I suddenly actually recognized the neighborhood.
I was able to give the taxi driver exact directions from there...although it was more gesturing as my Hindi and his English were pretty much equal at...virtually none.

India India India.

Hard to explain the mindset I've been in ever since getting back. The apartment here is posh, in India terms. I took the longest hot shower I'd had since I could remember. I slept with a sheet under a ceiling fan instead of two blankets and a space heater. I ate Domino's pizza and drank white wine and laughed over how much I've changed.
I do not feel threatened by the curious stares, anymore. In fact, there don't even seem to BE any curious stares. Maybe I have just learned to look past them?
Today we went to the grocery...the same grocery which seemed dangerous and complicated during my first week here. It was...routine. Absolutely normal.
I have said it before and I will say it again.
My life will never be the same.

I have cried, but not a lot. Mainly when I get an email or a facebook chat or a phone call from someone in Mcleod. I miss them more than anything but I am somehow applying the lessons of acceptance and letting go that I learned there.
Life is good. Everything is as it should be.

I am focusing on life NOW. On working on projects both online and off which will help get me back to my heart's home in the Himalayas quickly.
My goal is to be back and teaching English conversation to the Tibetan refugees again before October...hopefully by late August.

Please check out the links below to see what I am working on:
Tibet in Exile
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheels
Support for Tibet

As all my work in McleodGanj is self-funded and completely voluntary, I appreciate anyone who would like to make a donation to contact me for my PayPal information!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

State of Shock

Quite frankly, I have gone numb.
I am sitting in the Delhi Airport waiting for a flight back to Mumbai which is still nearly 6 hours from boarding.
I am exhausted.
The bus ride down from McleodGanj was not horrible, but I cannot say it was "comfortable", and I may have had 4 hours of intermittent light sleep (dozing is more accurate) while sitting partially erect, head occasionally flopping off to the left.

I do have to say, the full moon over the Himalayan foothills and the soft pink glow of the peaks made my heart swell. 
And the line of lights that is McleodGanj, strung out along the hillside as we descended towards Lower Dharamsala...even remembering it now brings on a feeling I cannot describe (and you know how I love to describe).

So the full moon sailed over India and the bus chanted mantras all the way to Chandigarh...gears exactly the same timbre as the low monks' chanting emanating from temples and monasteries... 

Two Bollywood films played at the beginning of the journey, and then we stopped for dinner. I ordered one stinkin NAAN (a simple tortilla like bread)...and of about 40 people present, I was served dead last, and almost missed my bus! 
I think this was the universe reminding me of the lessons I learned (started to learn, apparently) in McleodGanj.
Either that, or it was "farewell Dhasa (Little Tibet)" and welcome back to India.
Back on the road, "Law Abiding Citizen" was popped in the DVD and played til after midnight.

There were then a few hours of quiet. On the plains, moonlight pierced a thin veil of smog, silhouetting tall leafless trees rising against a flat blue backdrop.

We stopped at a seedy Indian bus stand where the toilet watchman wasn't letting me get away with not paying the 2 rupee fee (I don't even think there is a US equivilent for 2 rupees, it's so low) I had to run back to the bus across the dirt through a crowd of leering Indian Well, perhaps an American woman wearing a salwar, a khata, and Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads running with toilet roll in her hand was simply too much for them to comprehend!

At 4am, like clockwork, the bus drivers decided it was morning and Hindi music pervaded the coach, along with groaning from numerous seats.
My seat-mate, 70 year old Australian adventurer Pammy, disembarked along with most of the Tibetan passengers at Manju ka Tilla (the Tibetan colony in Delhi). I stayed on with maybe 5 other passengers bound for ISBT.

ISBT...the thought of it made me shudder. My only other experience with it was arriving from Jaipur after dark way back in late November. I remembered a huge, bustling, crowded, incomprehensible terminal with no signs in English and no English speaking help.
This stop? We were unceremoniously put out on the side of the road amidst a swirl of auto-rickshaws, drivers virtually grabbing luggage from travelers, shouting "Rikshaw? Auto rikshaw? Hotel? Airport?" My attempts at speaking full English sentences with them failed...again. "Airport? Domestic? Ek sau pachas?!  (150)" 
Oh hahahaha madam.
Ok fine I'll pay you the freaking 300 rupees just get me out of here! Two young local girls piled in with me and my bags and we careened off into the Delhi sunrise.

I could not see much out the "window", especially covered as it was by a whipping tarp which reeked of urine. I remember seeing the Air Force base and, as we neared the airport, a huge expanse of what looked like really nice apartments...until I realized that the entire expanse was abandoned. Pink and golden light filtered over the scene, softly high-lighting empty windows and what were once streets now filling in with weeds and dust. A bit surreal. 

So now I sit in the waiting area of terminal 1D, having stuffed myself on KFC (yes, that's right, KFC) and black currant ice cream, having bought an Elle Decor India magazine which I'm saving for the flight...people watching, uploading pics, killing time...

And mostly fighting off feeling. I cannot allow myself to really think about the past 48 hours, yet. About all the beautiful, kind, loving souls who came with me to the bus station to send me off, even ones who were going through emotional trauma much greater than my own...
I am incredibly blessed.

I am loved. I belong. I have a home in the Himalayas, and people eagerly awaiting my return.

THAT is what I came to find, halfway around the world from where I started. I never dreamed I would find it in INDIA, in a Himalayan hillside community where many of the people can only speak to one another with their EYES for lack of words in one another's languages...and where EYES speak far louder and more clearly than words...