Friday, June 19, 2009
My last Indian entry… written in India.
So, that’s it! My trip to India is done! I get on a plane to Paris this evening! Let’s see if I can remember everything that has happened since the last time I wrote on this blog… the past few weeks have been inexplicable in a way that makes me want to get up on a table and flap my arms around and explain every detail of what I saw and experienced so that you could understand! Again, I hope that you are reading this with another window open on your screen on which you are looking up flights to India so that you can schedule your trip to Ladakh…
Ladakh! After I wrote last, my friends and I spent some time getting to know Leh (basically the capital) we walked around as much as we could, visited local gompas (temples) and monasteries… all of the buildings are built into the mountains. Not ON the mountains that would be too simple… INTO the mountains.. it looks as though the stone houses, temples, and monasteries are just extensions of the mountain- ancient and beautiful designs… this is how it was done in ancient Tibet… this seems to be the design that those who built the Tibetan refugee district in Dharamsala looked to but… for some reason it just doesn’t work in Dharamsala… the buildings and the designs and the neutrality of it all really just fits in Ladakh and I am sure in Tibet… it just works up there.
We did a little road trip to Lake Tsomoriri…ohhh myyy goddd!! Lake Tsomoriri. I’ll give you a minute to google image it… it is JUST incredible. It is at about 15,000 feet high… a beautiful turquoise lake surrounded by NOTHING but mountains… not ONE tree. That might be because 15,000 feet is above the tree line… or… I just made that up I’m not sure… either way, it is incredible. We had a great road trip there… we stopped on a field with nomadic tents on it and we had tea with nomads. I was wearing every layer of clothes I own it was absolutely freezing but for the nomads, and Ladakhis in general, it is summer! So, the children were walking around without their shoes on. Nomads make me laugh. They are SO efficient and live off of nothing. The fire is fed with dried goat shit, they eat what their animals provide or trade for vegetables with products from their animals. They drink Tibetan tea… did I ever talk about that? Sorry if I am being repetitive but I MUST write about it because it would be a shame if I did not explain the craziness of this tea. Tibetan tea is melted dri butter (dri is a female yak) and salt. C’est tout! Butter and salt. I have been trying a lot of things here that I would never eat back in the US… I have had to for cultural reasons and also not to offend anyone… but I can flat out say that I would rather offend a person a day than drink butter tea. I can’t do it. I’ve tried and I just cannot do it. So yes, the nomads offered butter tea. I declined. Sorry. Then after tea the husbands came home… think “Honey! I’m home!” and the husband comes back with hundreds of goats… but not just regular goats.. pashmina goats!
Fun fact: Pashmina/cashmere does NOT come from Kashmir! It comes from the state Kashmir/Jammu, but it does not actually come from the Kashmir region. Pashmina goats cannot survive that heat. Cashmere comes from the Ladakh region. If you are interested in buying real 100% cashmere from those who raise the goats… go to www.nomadicwool.com. My friend Nawang owns the company and he works with nomads in the Changtang region- he gets their wool and then nomadic women who moved to the city hand make the shawls and hats that his website offers. Very cool.
So… the goats came home and my friends and I attacked (with love) all of the baby goats and just hugged them until we had to go. We befriended the son of the family- he is 21 and is in northern India studying computer science. Could you imagine being raised in a traveling tent following a grazing schedule for your animals and then going to a city to learn computer science? That fascinates me. He comes home to a tent but knows everything about IT and computers… that would be like me coming to India to study for a semester and my parents not knowing where India is in the world and not knowing anything about India. Really interesting- a perfect example of modernity and the change that comes with time.
All in all, going to Tsomoriri was a brilliant experience. It is so close to the Chinese border that we had to obtain permits before we were allowed to go… there were areas along the way that had huge signs up that said “no photography”- really interesting. A reminder of the times… a reminder of what is happening over that border. While the trip was incredible- apparently it was too much of a shock to our bodies… we went from 11,000 feet up to 15,000 feet and back in about 40 hours. When we got back we all had colds and felt a bit off. My friends then left back to Delhi and within minutes of saying goodbye I started vomiting for 36 hours straight (anyone who knows me well knows that I simply never throw up)… I knew that it must be the altitude so I thought that I would wait it out… there wasn’t much I could do anyways because I literally could not get out of bed. Then one morning I woke up with chest pains and in my head the alert alarm went on and I thought “fuck- I need oxygen” I crawled my way to the road to get a taxi to the hospital when I walked into the hospital I was taken to the FRONT of the line to see the doctor. Even if my heart fell out of my chest and was dormant on the floor I would STILL be the healthiest person in the room. I felt like such an ass hole cutting the line- that was not fair at all. I don’t realize how unfair the world is and how lucky I am until moments like that come around. In my head I told myself “they are putting you at the front of the line because you can pay for this… it’s because you have insurance… it’s because you’re a foreigner” but when all was said and done I didn’t have to pay for my treatment- THAT attests to how great the government CAN be in India… the government is by NO means great but it simply CAN be great.
An embarrassing story from the hospital… so they had to give me a shot to prevent swelling of the brain so I lifted up my sleeve and stuck my arm out to the nurse. She used this offered arm to turn me over… pulled my pants down and gave me the shot in my bum! I know that that is how things are done in Europe but what am I three years old? I just laughed.
So, I have taken a liking to hitchhiking. Probably not a good idea in placed I do not know… but I only do it in Dharamsala and…. Leh when I cannot walk because my heart is 90 years old. So, my last night I hitched a ride into town with this Ladakhi boy who ended up being a total sweetheart and drove me around where he lives, took me to Shanti Stupa (a stupa built for world peace in ’87 by a Japanese monk… this stupa is one of my favorite corners of the world. The view from the stupa commands serenity and a peaceful state of mind. Just lovely). He not only took me there, but he took me to buy gifts for the family I was on my way to visit. This family is the family of my friend LG from Dharamsala and I promised that I would visit their home. It was the most wonderful and misunderstood dinner of my life.
I tried calling the family the entire time I was in the hospital… but my phone nor their phone was working. Why would it? Why would a phone that you are paying to work… actually work? So the phones were not working until 6pm-ish. I called the sister and told her I would love to meet the fam’- so I go, I got there and they all said “we waited for you all day” SHIT, I’m so sorry. Then they served me butter tea… SHIT, I literally cannot drink that… but fine I will try… for every half a sip I took I ate a cookie (see, the weight gain is not my fault ;)… ) Then… we ate dinner… I think it was the altitude but I literally did not have an appetite (again, anyone who knows me knows that I like to/CAN eat a lot… so this was out of character) anyways, I ate as much as I could but I couldn’t finish my plate and they said “oh, you don’t like our food” SHIT! No, I swear I like it but I cannot eat, I’m sorry. Anyways, the family was incredible- really beautiful people… all 16 of them! Mom, dad, and fourteen children! What!? And the mom is only 58… I had a field day on that one- every family photo they showed me I would make a joke about the mom producing a football team.. yeah, apparently I’m not funny anymore.
I told you about the epic drive we endured to get to Ladakh… so you can understand why my friend Brad and I said opted to fly out of Leh. We could either fly to Delhi (no.. too hott), Srinegar (Kashmir… apparently dangerous… but so is Israel so why not?) or Jammu (I would have to wait a week for this flight and my body was begging me for oxygen so I said no). Thus, Sir Bradley and I bought tickets to Srinegar. Some people said “ehh… well, this probably isn’t the time to go, it’s unsafe…” and for some reason they just didn’t convince me. I spoke to quickly. I was in a shop and the shop owner, from Srinegar, said “Don’t go. My parents have not left their house in a week because of the riots and curfew.” Sorry.. WHAT!?! Indian newspapers did not keep me up to date on the situation in Kashmir and I learned from this shop owner about the rape and killing of two women in Srinegar.. ohh… lovely. The two women were raped and killed by soldiers who have still not been identified and so, have not been punished. I thought “shit, riots, strikes, curfew… not a good idea,” so I ran to the closest travel agent and booked a flight out of Srinegar a day later to Jammu… Elinor, you only have to survive 24 hours in Srinegar. And guess what? Not only did I survive but I have to admit that Srinegar was one of THE most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Before I went I got in touch with the US Embassy’s representative in Srinegar who put me in touch with her friend who owns a house-boat (Dal Lake, the holiest lake in India is about 24km by 24km and is covered with 1400 house boats) so we stayed on a beautiful boat and had an extremely relaxing 24 hours in the city that I MUST go back to. After I went there I started to think about the curfew and the strikes and guess what I realized? That that is the most endearing thing in the world- how many unjust things happen in New York City and how many times do we strike? I know that there was a protest for Sean.. (I’m not remembering his last name right now) and that is great but how many New Yorkers would shut down their shops because they were unsatisfied with the way their authorities were working. While I do respect the NYPD, some of its members have done some pretty messed up shit in the past and while I can recognize that I cannot say that I would stop shopping until they apologized. I think we have a lot to learn from the people in Srinegar and I think that we need to stop fearing places because our untrustworthy government says that we should and I think that we need to travel to these corners of the world to show the people our support and make connections with them so that they stop hating America. I realized that the US Embassy sends me emails all the time telling me that India is dangerous and that I should be careful with the outbreak of the swine flew (thank you, that is good advice) but they are so quick to say “don’t go here or there because the place is dangerous”… it seems a bit funny hearing those things now that I am in India and now that I have been to Srinegar.
The only shock that hit me when I went to Srinegar was that I realized Srinegar was the first Muslim city I have ever been to. It was really nice. Salaam Alechum.
Jammu! So… then we flew to Jammu. Oh! Before I forget, I have to say that the flight from Leh to Srinegar was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life… FLYING THROUGH THE HIMALAYAS! Breathtaking and humbling. We are so small! This world is huge!
In the Jammu airport my friend Brad was taken to fill out foreigner forms… no one said a word to me (woo hoo! They thought I was Kashmiri! If that means I look anything like Kashmiri men, it was officially the best compliment in the world.) Anyways, Brad was filling out forms as I collected our luggage and tried to figure out how we were going to get back to Dharamsala. My head was all over the place trying to figure out when we were leaving and then I decided we had to eat before anything could be done- I asked Brad and he pointed to this woman behind a desk and said “ask her where to go, she is really nice.” Ok! So, I spoke to this alleged sweetheart and she said “ahh, madame ji you cannot come to Jammu without going to XYZ temple….” Ok- sweet, Brad and I will go to this temple and then go eat lunch and then get on a bus. “But oh… madame ji, you cannot come to Jammu without going to Katra”. What’s Katra? One of the holiest pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Ok! Brad, do you have some time to spare? Want to go to Katra? Why not? So, Brad and I buy the little “Katra manual” from our nice friend Rita… we hop in a cab and make our way to Katra. We get to the pilgrimage house in Katra and lie down (literally the heat prevented us from doing ANYTHING)… so we rested and read our Katra book…. WHICH WAS PUBLISHED BY THE SHRI MATA VAISHNO DEVI SHRINE BOARD! THE SHRINE BOARD THAT MISS RITA WORKS FOR! I was completely ignorant of this fact when I was taking advice from Rita, SO… Brad and I found ourselves in a tiny town FILLED with pilgrims from ALL over India. We were the ONLY white people there… but hey, a pilgrimage? Why not… our book said that the pilgrimage was 12km to a cave in which one would find three rocks which would give them blessings from Devi, the compassionate mother goddess. (I apologize for not being more formal about describing this holy pilgrimage, I just don’t have the manual with me and cannot give really accurate information- I’m sorry if I am being disrespectful.)
12km. No problem. I was closer to sea-level than I had been in a few weeks. I can handle it…. or so I thought.
Our lovely manual did not tell us that it was 12km up a mountain! We started at 7pm because it was just too hot to start earlier. We walked about 2km… ‘jai mata di’… (the mantra everyone repeats as they make their way up)… and after 2km we could not handle the dust storm so we decided to hop on a pony. You can either walk up the mountain, which I would say most people did, OR you can take a pony, OR you can have people carry you. You think I’m kidding. Think of ancient Egypt- four men walking with a beam balanced on their shoulders... the beam holding a chair. It cost 400IRS or… 8.60USD at today’s rate to have four men CARRY YOU 12KM UP A MOUNTAIN. I’m sorry, where I am from that is slavery. Most people walk- I guess you collect more merit that way… it takes about 24 hours to complete the pilgrimage by walking. People are resting and sleeping on the side of the walk way and its just an INCREDIBLE thing to witness… I would have taken pictures but the manual said no cameras allowed so I didn’t bring my camera. I would say that I would take pictures next time but I promise I will not be doing it again. Brad and I got up to 7km on our ponies and we had to turn back. I know, I know, if any Hindu reads this they are probably shaking their heads because I committed the ultimate no-no… I probably shouldn’t be writing about this on the internet… ok then..
Well, the most incredible thing about our attempted pilgrimage was seeing thousands of people so faithful to their religion in a harmless way and seeing all of them doing it together. While I am not religious and not really a believer in the power of the blessing from a goddess (I find personal growth and questioning and learning to be more effective in life, but that is me).. it was really cool to see the pilgrimage culture. On my pony ride down I thought about WHAT I would climb 12km to see… I thought long and hard about Johny Depp and decided that I wouldn’t… I concluded that I would ONLY go up to the cave if my aunt Elissia, aunt Elisheva, grandfathers, and grandma were in there chilling- I would go to talk to them about the things I wish I had time to talk to them about. But seriously that is it… even if you told me that the recognized God was up there I wouldn’t go through with the climb.
So… here I sit waiting to go to the airport and I have to say that while I have had QUITE the past five months seeing, thinking, eating, experiencing, and meeting the most intriguing people, places and things… I have to admit that I am just so freakin excited to leave. I am already planning my trip back to India but it is time to go. It is really tiring being a tourist 24/7. I know Dharamsala like the back of my hand by now but it doesn’t matter- I will always be a tourist in India. And I even LOOK Indian! So you can imagine… its just tiring. I don’t like the feeling of always being a bank to the people I meet. It is possible to make real friendships here but it is so hard to make friendships that are 100% not tainted by money because the gap between our incomes are just too big. 21,000 USD is one million rupees which is more than most people make in a lifetime. They know that 100 rupees isn’t a lot of money for us (a little bit more than 2$ at this point) but for some Indians that makes all of the difference… so why wouldn’t they charge us more? I actually do think that they should have tourist prices… why not? But what kills me is the cheating… the manipulation that occurs sometimes… the lying. I am not saying that this is all the time but I will say that most of the time this corruption happens. While I know that I will miss the bargaining, I am excited to walk into a store and see a price tag. Here, I can walk into a store and shop owner will look at me up and down and then make a price. That’s annoying.
I’m also excited to not be the tourist because I am excited to sit in a circle of people and KNOW the language that they are speaking. I want to sit around with people who understand my culture and think on the same page as me… a really stupid example but I bought a bootleg version of “Bride Wars” which is such a stupid, hilarious, chick flick and I loved it. I saw it with my Tibetan friend and had to explain parts of it to her but she just kept on saying “why can’t they just get married on the same day?” and yes, while I spent the entire movie thinking why one couldn’t have a morning wedding and the other an evening wedding… my friend just didn’t understand why a wedding is such a big deal and I had to explain to her that in America girls in their youth dream of their weddings… of course the movie is an exaggerated version of this dream… but it’s still a dream and we consider weddings to be pretty big deals in our lives. My friend’s sister had an arranged marriage when she was 21 and lavish weddings are just not in their culture. (Weddings for Indians are HUGE and lavish and 7 day affairs but I’m talking Tibetans…)
Anyways, I am so excited to be back in what I find to be a familiar world. I’m excited for my body to start loving me again (no more force fed butter, sugar, chapatti, curry), I’m excited to be one of the crowd- all I want to do is blend in, no more sign on my head that says “hi, I’m a tourist, please take advantage of me”, I’m excited to eat whatever I want without thinking I might end up in the hospital from it, I’m excited to show my legs without feeling like I am horrendously promiscuous, and I am excited to be in a clean environment. I just forget that cleanliness, warmth, and comfort are all privileges, and not only are their privileges they are also privileged expectations. It’s not that the average Indian cannot be clean- they are surrounded by rivers, anyone can bathe, its that the level of cleanliness that we expect of people is just not at the top of the list here. So, clean sheets when you go to a hotel in India… not necessarily going to happen. Not because the people are lazy, but it is almost wasteful to clean sheets every day or every new guest. Weird right? They aren’t cleaning enough but we are being a bit too wasteful… I think an Indierica or Amerindia would be best.
So, that’s it! My first trip to India is over! I have to already plan my next trip back because I have not seen even 1/10th of the country… I have barely even seen Northern India. But I came to the conclusion today that you do not decide to see India… India will show it self when it wants to be seen… for instance, you can buy a bus ticket to go to any city, but its not up to you when you get there.. it may take 4 hours it may take 12 hours… it all depends on the driver and how many times he wants to stop for chai, the bus and if it decides to break down which it so frequently does, and the roads.. they might collapse- I’ve seen it happen, the animals- they may choose to follow their friends and walk on the road instead of the grass, the weather- if monsoon season wants to start early it will et cetera… so we just have to be open and without any plans and voila India will be seen. Eventually.
I was told that the biggest learning experience from going to India for the first time comes with the reverse culture shock. I’m not sure that that is going to be something I will totally want to share with the world- I find that a lot of the feelings are personal and would be better kept to myself, but if anything brilliant comes up I will definitely write about it.
Thank you for reading my thoughts and stories! For anyone who has not yet come to this glorious country, I look forward to reading your blog about your first experience! Keep me updated!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
SO... my semester is over! I had to say bye to most of the kids in the group and my teachers, and Dharamsala, and the shop owners and my homestay family et cetera and it was really nice. Only a sad goodbye with the group because we all really did share an incredible semester together and we really did go through it all together and while most of us will be back in Dharamsala one day I really think that the "first time" experience of anything is beautiful and priceless and i am lucky to have gone through it will my group. As for Dharamsala and my school and my roommate and the tea stall owners... I will be back soon and I'm not sad..
Our semester ended with a private audience with HHDL!! It was quite the experience... meeting a world leader! He is really nice. It was extremely emotional for some of my friends... and then when they cried i started to cry because my friends were just SO happy... It is weird to explain but I guess i look at him as a nice guy who has really stepped up in the world as a promoter for nonviolence... i admire him like i admire Ghandi, and MLK jr... Dennis Dalton... but some of my friends and teachers and many many Tibetans view him as not only a world leader but as a spiritual leader, a Buddhist scholar (which i would agree with), and possibly as an enlightened being which would make him omniscient... so you could only imagine the emotional rush that came before our meeting...
We asked him five questions... i dont have them on me right now but when i do i will post them... most of them were philosophy based and his answers were fantastic... we also asked him one question about international relations... we asked ( and i cant write the question verbatim but i will sum it up... basically she asked...) if all individuals come to a situation with their own cultural and personal understanding of the world and of how situations should be fixed... how are we supposed to resolve conflict in the international arena when each actor is coming to the table with his own understanding of what life is, ethics are, and problems are??... my friend's question was better but i honestly dont remember how she worded it...
anyways.... HHDL responded by saying that we have to find the commonalities between the actors and to do so we have to go down to the simplest level... for example, we are all human- so we need to work for humanity... he then went on to talk about the importance of introducing such a concept to individuals at a young age and how we have to train the youth with compassion and care for humanity... then he said education is important..
DING DING DING... um Dalton anyone? John Lennon said the same thing too! This made me so happy! I was so scared that i was going to sit in this audience and have some sort of worldly experience and have a physical reaction... because that would mean there is something more to him on a level i cannot experience yet and if i figured out that that was true i would just have to shave my head and become a nun and figure it out... but guess what?? i dont have to! why? because he spoke a truth that i absolutely admire and respect and i can confidently say that it is a TRUTH because other compassionate and wise people have said the same thing! I walked out smiling.. it was a great experience... and i dont have to shave my head ;)
So voila! Program over! Hang out with HHDL! Bye bye Dharamsala! Who would have guess that THIS is the time my mind would actually be blown??
SOOOO... After i tied up all of the loose ends in Dharamsala my friends and i went to Manali... a very cute... VERY touristy (Indian, Israeli, and Westerners alike) area... I would say more but i got sick and ended up spending the entire time in the bathroom reading Dharma Bums... classic right? Well... all i have to say about Manali is that i got to hang out with my cousin Naama more (she is in India from Israel doing her post-army trip) and my friends and i picked up a new friend... an Aussie named Brad... AND I MET A YAK!! I don't expect you to care at all... i dont even think i knew what a yak was before i came on this trip but my god!! I spent this entire semester learning about the Tibetan Plateau and about the flora and fauna that the Tibetans have mostly been living without since 1959... and seeing a yak for the first time was like hearing about the north pole for your entire life and then actually going there and meeting Santa! It was magical! Yaks are weird and HUGE and look like they should be in a science fiction movie..
Not only did i meet a yak but i also met an angora rabbit... PLEASE GOOGLE NOW... remember how i spoke about the Indian camels and elephants putting all that i have known to shame?? well these rabbits are not only the softest animals in the world they are also fucking huge!
We only went to Manali because it is on the way to Leh, Ladakh... you may ask how to get to Ladakh? well... it is a 20 hour drive from Manali... It is only 292.0444 miles away!! WHAT? So why the hell did it take so long? because one has to drive through the Himalayas to get there! That means up and down and around mountains for 20 hours... that is about 15 miles per hour.... sounds slow but it is on "not-so-much" roads and ice everywhere and mountain to our right CLIFF to the left.. scary as shit... I am only writing this now because i am alive and well and will never do it again BUT our driver drove the ENTIRE way without sleep and he was chewing on CAT the entire time and smoking hash... you wont believe me but he really was an amazing driver... he really was...
So... we gathered our belongings and our new friend Brad and we met the 10 seater cab we hired.... we got into the car and realized that there was an empty seat... SWEET!! right? no... because in india that would never happen... a seat would NEVER go unfilled... so... the driver took us to the closest bus stand and just sat there and said "we find one more"... i was sitting there thinking "you must be fucking kidding me... what are the odds that we will find ONE person in this parking lot at 2am who wants to hitch a ride across the himalayas to Leh?" obviously... India smacked elinor across the face and not only did we find ONE person.. we found FIVE Nepalese men... four of which sat on the floor the entire time... the floor... let's talk about the drive so that you understand how insane this is...
The first part of the drive is called the Rhotang Pass... which literally translates into "the pass of piles of dead bodies" I am not kidding... google it if you dont believe me... it is a CRAZY drive! For the first half i was sitting with Brad and we were talking about how we have never ever seen such a sky of stars in our lives! Then Brad said "Wait, I have never looked to my side and seen this many stars!" THAT is how high up we were! So.. this part of the drive was complete ice- literally a wall of ice to the left.. cliff to the right... great... we turned a corner and saw WILD HORSES... NO JOKE this was the most magical thing i have ever seen in my life... again, these horses were bigger than any horse i have ever seen.. and they were just galloping on the ice in the moonlight- ahhh it was incredible..
then i slept... or at least tried to... it was SO COLD and so bumpy and a part of me thought "i refuse to die in my sleep on this road so at least stay up so you can see the view..." in the mean time everyone started to get sick... the altitude sickness started and the car sickness continued... one third of the people in the car puked the entire way... fabulous! small 10 person car with 15 people in it... 5 of which are puking... lovely..
So the drive went on! I HAVE NEVER SEEN SUCH BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAINS AND NATURE IN MY LIFE... IF I CAN OFFER YOU ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR THE FUTURE MAKING THIS TRIP WOULD BE IT (get it?) But i am serious, it was the MOST worth while trip i have ever done.... PLEASE consider doing it... at least consider it!
So altitude sickness... when will it happen? i dont know... i didnt even know it was happening to be honest.. but the first time we had a pee stop i got out and just started to laugh.. i could NOT stop... i felt like i was drunk and then laughed so hard that i almost puked... at the time it was funny because everyone else was out of it and delirious but altitude sickness is definitely scary... we went through the second highest pass in the world... called Taglangla which is 17,582 miles high!! WHAT? Most of my friends stayed in the car but i had to get out... i needed air... turns out there is no air up there... but it is beautiful nonetheless.. really really incredible... pictures will come soon...
Along the drive we then went through extremely lush areas... ice again.... deserts... and ice again... along the way we saw nomads! NOMADS! really? it was so exciting! I am actually going to go try and live with some this weekend... but i shall let you know...
So the drive was over! well... nearly over! We were 30 minutes away from Leh and we stopped in a town... why? because the driver had a doctor's check up... this was at 10pm and we were 30 damn minutes away from Leh... you should have seen the faces of the people in the car.... i just fell asleep.
So we are in Leh! Actually the most beautiful place i have ever been to in my life... number one no question... it is surrounded by mountains on ALL SIDES... desert mountains, snow capped mountains in the distance... there are a few trees here and again... NO AIR! we spent the first day in bed... literally i slept for 30 hours.. because our bodies needed to get used to the change in altitude... i go to the bathroom and am out of breath- it is actually a bit funny... sad... scary... but funny. It is just incredible being on the Tibetan Plateau.. this is the perfect way to end my semester... just incredible- everything is coming together physically.. seeing monasteries build on the sides of the mountains... and seeing the animals.. and the Ladakhis... and now it makes sense that all they eat is dri butter, grains and yak meat.. THERE IS NOTHING ELSE HERE! Vegetables and fruit are SO expensive because they have to bring them in from god knows where... some far off lands... as if you could get further from here... i dont know.
This is where i am and i am having an incredible time.. really really incredible... I want to write more and i will when i have time next but it is now 11pm and this internet shop closes at 10pm... I'm a shmuck... a shmuck sending love from the top of the world!!!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I was on the phone with my mom and I realized that when I sit down to add to this blog only the ridiculous stories of mine come to mind and then I don’t share the subtleties of India with you… and the small things are what make this country what it is.
So, a few small things that I have found that make India India…
Indian Vogue costs 100Rs. (about 2$) which isn’t that much right? Well… for the elite few in Mumbai and Delhi it is probably nothing… but where I am living that is more than I will spend on one meal… a monthly income for the average person in this village is about 4,000Rs. (about $80) and remember that most of the people in this country live in great poverty in shanties… 100 Rs is a lot....
Looking through Indian Vogue while in Dharamkot is hilarious. I would guess that maybe 0.5% of the population in the USA can afford the $27,000 Balenciaga cocktail dress that is advertised in Vogue… but could you imagine if the average American didn’t even make $27,000 in a lifetime? Isn’t that just absurd? The last issue of Indian Vogue I read had an article about the ridiculously competitive and stressful application process one must go through to get their kids into the best private preschools in the big cities… I spend most of my day surrounded by kids who are not in school and by people who are illiterate because they never went to school.
It is actually even funnier to read American magazines while here… my friend gave me an old copy of American Elle and on the cover it said something like “how to get thin, be happy, and make money in 2 weeks!” I forget that I am from a world where everything must be accomplished quickly. Pay attention to what advertisements are thrown in your face… how stupid of us to believe that we can change our body’s metabolism, figure out what “happiness” is and accomplish it, and make money in two weeks? I would not say that Indians are happier than Americans… that would be silly, but I can say that the more relaxed state of mind that a lot of these mountain people have just makes life easier. Fewer disappointments. There have definitely been times in my life when I thought “If you lose 10 pounds you will be happy. Period. Full stop.” How stupid is that? I could continue to mock myself but let’s think about why I thought that… I was raised in a society that flat out said, the more money you have and the thinner you are the happier you will be… What I am starting to realize is that that happiness that the promoters of slim-ness and riches promise me is not that happiness that I want. Also, how is it that I was trained to believe that “happiness” was something that could be achieved/attained/secured in 10 days with the advice from a magazine? I don’t think I ever actually believed in any of that crap- to be honest, I don’t actually read magazines… I just look at the pictures… but anyways- I think it is unhealthy to grow up surrounded by that mentality. I don’t think that the answer is to move to a remote village on the other side of the world but there must be an “opt out” button that Americans can press to get away from that mind clutter and garbage.
There is a boy who lives in Mcleod Ganj who cannot be over the age of 14 and is forced to drag himself around town because from his waist down his body is completely deformed. So, his lame body lies on top of a flattened cardboard box and he uses his forearms to drag himself around. Every pull he has to stop to grab his tin money basket. I am assuming that he has polio… polio…a disease that comes to mind when I think of the great depression… 1920s! Its 2009 and people in this country are suffering and dying form things that we got vaccinated against within the first week after we were born. How is that possible? Remember Shigella? Well… Shigella doesn’t kill people… it’s the dehydration from Shigella that kills most infants in this country. When I went to the clinic in Delhi I paid $4 for each liter of hydration liquid. I am 21 years old, 5”5 and probably weigh as much as 4-5 infants? If I needed about 20$ worth of hydration liquids to make me walk out of the clinic alive… how much do you think a little baby would need? Isn’t there a moral responsibility shared by all of us to fix this? It seems stupid actually… it just doesn’t make sense to me. It is like saying “Thousands of children die every day in Mongolia from paper cuts.” Hmm… something isn’t right. I know that Paul Farmer has done and continues to do A LOT for such causes and I admire him greatly for it and I am also slightly embarrassed for not doing anything myself to help the issue.
So I came to India thinking that there is a chance that I would get an amoeba or worm or something from the food… but did you know that you can get hepatitis from the water here? There is literally shit in the water… Shit. In. The. Water. If it weren’t so serious I would have to laugh.
If a salesman doesn’t have change he will say “come back tomorrow” or “here, take 10 pieces of gum to make up the difference” or “next time you pay less.” If one of the customers doesn’t have change or enough money the salesman will say “don’t worry take it and come back tomorrow to pay me.” The amount of trust that goes into what I would call quotidian transactions is inspiring. Even in a country that is spoiled by so much corruption, I see more confidence and faith between people here than I have seen anywhere else in the world.
Women do not have easy lives here. Full stop. I have had many Indian women tell me that “being a woman in India is hard.” Spousal abuse here is horrifically common and while I am sure there are a lot of women’s rights movements or organizations around India, there is no outlet for the women in these remote parts of the country. Some of the stories just make me want to scream, I took a cooking class with this beautiful girl, Ritya, and she was telling me that her nephew has been crying for days and that her sister is scared because they are leaving soon. I looked at her with this confused look on my face because first of all, have you taken the baby to the doctor? Why do you think he is crying? Why does your sister have to leave now? Where is she going? Can’t she just wait till the baby was ok?
Ritya said that they took him to the hospital but the doctor doesn’t know what is going on, they are all scared because the baby is still under 1 year old and a lot of children die within their first year, and her sister has to go back to her mother-in-law’s house because as a married woman you move in with your husband’s family and she is scared because she knows that her mother-in-law will blame her for the baby’s sickness and she doesn’t know what the mother-in-law will do. What what what what what what what?? I forget how lucky I am to have been raised in a country that has at least had women’s rights on the menu for the past 40-50 years… there are so many feminist groups in the US that say that we have so much farther to go, and yes, I think it will be a LONG time before women and men are completely equal but my god, we have gone so far! I don’t want to settle but I am definitely impressed with where women stand in the West.
Travel time in India makes me laugh. All one needs to travel in India is money, some sort of stomach medicine, and PATIENCE. My flight from JFK to Delhi was 14 hours… now I am 14 hours away from Delhi by car. It will take me as long to get home as it does to get to the closest legitimate city or airport. I am planning my trip to Leh, Ladakh and I can either drive there from here which would take three days OR I can drive 14 hours to Delhi and hop on a 1 hour flight to Leh. WHAT? I actually don’t understand how that works.. I haven’t done much traveling in India at all but the few trips that I did do felt like epic journeys.. now, look a map… I live in Dharamsala, went to Amritsar for the weekend and then went to Varanasi for a week.. WHAT? I am used to driving to Pittsburgh in 6 hours or to LA in less than a week! India makes me laugh.
Also, he tickets for the first class on the train are ALWAYS sold out… how is that possible? There are trains running all day around this entire massive country… so how can the tickets be sold out? Oh, I forgot that there are over one BILLION people living in this country… that is insane! India is a world.
Also.. patience.. there is one ATM in Mcleod Ganj… one!!… you need money? Have fun!… go wait on line and hope that you get money before the machine breaks. You need the post office? You will have to walk by it every day for a week before you catch it when it is open. You hop into a rickshaw and PAY the driver to take you to YOUR destination? That’s nice… you will probably have to stop with him to pick up his laundry, stop and talk to a friend on the street, and maybe pick up some potatoes for dinner…. All of this becomes quite funny over time… I just have to laugh… one just has to laugh.
So… I’m sitting here laughing as I wait for a chai I ordered an hour ago ;)
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Bangles and Bindis and Boys... oh my!! (sorry, i had to... have i mentioned that India is making me more lame?? oy)
Dad, remember how I promised that I would never ride a motorcycle? Well, I am sorry because I did. You might be thinking… idiot, why wouldn’t elinor just not say anything and keep that a secret? Well… because your dear idiot daughter didn’t know how to get off of the motorcycle (lack of experience ;)) and ended up hard core burning her leg on the exhaust pipe. Definitely going to leave a mark… so I kind of had to tell you. That sucks. But, to my defense, I was visiting a school in the middle of nowhere and the only way I could get home is if I waited an hour for a taxi to come pick me up… and I was having another Indian sickness day and waiting was not an option.
So, I moved yet again. I am living in Dharamkot now ( I spoke about it earlier as “little Israel”) but now that I am living there I am seeing that it is just so much more! Everything is still in Hebrew and the Israelis are definitely taking over BUT the entire village is related… seriously… everyone is related. Actually the three villages on that mountainside are all related. They speak their own language called Gadi or mountain language, which I have been trying to learn… It is funny though because if these three villages speak this language (and maybe a few more around the area) and all of the people are related…Gadi is like a giant family language right?
So, mountainside… 5 of my friends and I took over a guesthouse owned by this guy Shiva, his wife Kanu, and his mother Krishna. Shiva and Kanu are the most beautifully relaxed couple I have ever met. They wake up at 6ish and spend the morning just sitting together and talking. I don’t think that I will end up living in the mountains when I am older but I hope that I can have a couple hours every day to just talk with the person I love. It is so nice. The two of them are really gorgeous and simple and smart and interested… long story short I am in love with both of them and if I ever disappear you can find me in their guesthouse.
It is absolutely silent at night and the goats and cows just wander around us… the bugs are absolutely insane- I saw a worm with a flashlight butt- his bum is a green light… think permanent fire-fly but a worm…there is a giant centipede hiding in my room which kind of freaks me out but I try not to think about it… I’m scared I’m going to wake up with it in my mouth… anyhow, we have a huge patio where we do work and just sit and joke around. Remember how I was a total negative fool at the beginning of this trip and said that none of the people ‘get me’ well… I have been greatly proven wrong and I am admiringly in love with my group- there is one girl Stacey who I have been living with for the past month and a half and she is just the most wonderfully unpredictable girl in the world- she is absolutely hilarious and is always joking around and then right when you start thinking “what a class clown” BAM her brilliant neuroscience mind smacks you across the face and just stimulates your thinking… Casey is another one that just blows my mind every day- again, a hilarious and brilliant hipster looking boy that invests himself fully in things that interest him and he never lets a question go unanswered… he is determined in life to figure out a way that physics can explain the mind and in 20 years WILL be that quirky professor at Harvard with crazy hair that writes books that just don’t make sense to the average thinker. Casey’s girlfriend’s best friend is a friend of mine at Barnard (small world) and so, all of you will meet him next semester.
Speaking of physics… I was more formally introduced to the String Theory last week and HOLY SHIT! SO COOL! I know that it is still just a theory, and I know that I only understand it on a total basic level, but my god, it totally makes sense to me. I hated my physics class in high school but I have really gotten into the parallels between quantum mechanics and fundamental Buddhist philosophies… again, information that I am just barely scraping the top of but it is pretty fucking cool.
Oh wait, another story as to why I am petarded… SO. I went to this little Indian village with my program director on a mission to buy bangles and bindis (now that I am living in India and not mini-Tibet I can dress like an Indian and not be made fun of by my Tibetan friends) SO… on my mission I found the most beautiful bangles AND was advised by my director and the woman at the store that I have to get the right size because bangles aren’t supposed to fall below your wrist when you hold your arm facing down… so think about it… the bangle is supposed to be semi-fitted on your wrist… so a bangle that is usually made of glass or plastic is supposed to SOMEHOW fit over your hand and be semi-fitted on your wrist… following? Ok… so I started trying on all of the bracelets and kept on saying that they didn’t fit and was looking for bigger ones… the shopkeeper looked at me and ticked her tongue in a “you’re an idiot they do fit you’re just not doing it right kind of way” and she grabbed my hand and literally massaged these bangles onto my wrist… OW!! But ok! Great! Lovely! They are pretty and voila- I am Indian… I wore them that day and then that night I started to smell bad… not going to lie, I have been smelling pretty dandy given the smell standard in this Indian summer but I literally started to smell… nauseatingly so… and then I realized it was the bangles!! I called my director and asked her why they smelled like melted shit and she said “ohh… yeah… sometimes the plastic doesn’t really do well in the heat…” (that is so India… a product MADE here that just doesn’t actually WORK here… fabulous) So… I hung up and actually started to get nauseous and decided- enough is enough I am taking them off…
Taking them off…
Not so easy. I tried and thought my hands were going to fall off, mind you, the sides of my hands were still bruised and red and cut up from getting the bangles on…so I stopped trying and thought I NEED AN INDIAN TO HELP ME… BUT by this time Kanu was sleeping… so I slept that night with tee shirts wrapped around the bangles so that I didn’t die from the smell… gross right? Anyways, I woke up the next morning and Kanu drenched my hands in lotion and ripped them all off of me… OW!! Damn. But miss brilliant elinor thought, WOW, this is a part of the Indian culture that I just didn’t know about- these women go through so much to wear bangles… adoration galore. But then Kanu told me that I shouldn’t have bought such small bangles because they shouldn’t hurt… and at that moment my cultural vision was shattered. I’m an idiot.
Another cultural vision was shattered and put back together a few nights ago when I was walking in Mcleod and this drunk guy was stumbling down the street with his pants undone. He said something to me and my friends and we just walked away and before we knew it these 4 Indian cops with sticks started beating him- They hit him with their sticks and then one of the guys slapped him so hard across the face that the poor guy fell to the floor… you would think that this would make the cops stop? No, why would they? I know that there is a lot of corruption in Indian authority but seriously? If I weren’t so scared of the cops here and the “system” I would have yelled at them… but I have also heard too much about the horrendous abuse that Indian women are subjected to in this area that I didn’t say or do anything. To be honest, I kind of feel like an ass hole for just letting the shmucks abuse their power and exert their repulsive egos… gross.
Oh a happier note… I went on an epic hike lead by my philosophy teacher and her two teachers (monks in their mid 50s) from IBD… the two of them were strolling up the mountain and I was leaving a trail of sweat and tears behind me… they climbed the mountain with such ease, each holding an umbrella to protect themselves from the sun… and I actually couldn’t keep up with them… So what was the purpose of the hike? We actually went to visit a meditator who lives in retreat in this hut on the mountain. He spends most of his time inside of the hut doing his practices and food is brought to him (I gave him a snickers bar… so not appropriate, most people give fruit but I thought the fruit must get boring). Watch the snickers be the fuel that brings him to the direct realization of emptiness… kidding but how funny would that be?
So, my classes are over and I have the next few weeks to do research on my topic of choice. I am looking into the New Education Policy of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and want to use this idealistic vision to gage where their education system is right now. I cannot really put my thoughts into words because I don’t really know where my thoughts are right now… It has been quite the journey though, the Tibetan community in exile in Northern India is so small that I literally just walk into the Department of Education and say “hi, can I talk to your director?” and voila.. I have been interviewing really interesting people and am excited to see where all of this goes…
Did I ever talk about how unbelievably beautiful Tibetan men are? Not only will I confidently say that on average they are the most beautiful group of men I have ever seen, but I will also venture out to say that there is an odd magnetism between Tibetan men and American women. It is physically hard to walk down the street or get anything done because my eyes cannot focus. My friends are enjoying themselves but I decided to just enjoy the eye candy… relationships with Tibetans just seem to be too complicated and not worth it… I’m having too much fun for that.
We have our audience with HHDL in a few weeks and then the group goes on a weekend retreat together and c’est tout… semester is over! A few of my friends and I are planning a trip to Ladakh that is to start end of May. I’m really looking forward to it…
Ah, last thing… so I always say that being in India tests my English language skills because I always find myself reading something in English but not understanding it… so… the sign that I saw that said “If Married Divorce to Speed.” What? Well, thanks to India I learned that the word “cum” also means “with” or “combined with”… so one will see signs that say “Internet cum coffee” or “water cum refrigerator” or “sandwich cum salad”… the list goes on… makes me laugh every time… yes, I’m 8 years old… on that note…
back to work! Wishing you all well… x
Monday, April 13, 2009
I have to write a 15 page paper for tomorrow and i am choosing to update this instead. I thought i would leave my last minute homework tendencies at home... apparently not.
So, I am back in Dharamsala and living in a hotel with the rest of the group... it is basically a frat house and i am loving it. It's brilliant. I am saying that "i am back" because i just got back from my spring break. I traveled with my friends Allie, Josh, Stacey, and Becky.. the first two go to Columbia and the latter two are students at Emory. We first went to Agra for 14 hours (which was definitely enough time in that city) to see the Taj Mahal. It is as beautiful and incredible as you think it would be... it is huge, beautifully white, and clean... just lovely. They charge Indians 10Rs. to get in and foreigners must pay 700Rs. isn't that insane? Apparently it cost about 2,000Rs. a few months ago but anyways, I tried to be Indian when i bought the tickets but it didn't work... so yes, i was scammed and paid too much money to see the Taj Mahal. I don't regret it though- it truly was incredible. Agra, on the other hand, not so much. The sections of the city are either 147% filled with tourists and thus annoying and unnecessarily expensive OR they are completely untouched by tourists which is fun but also intense. I saw my first Indian elephant and camel which put all of the Israeli camels and American elephants I have seen to shame. I NEVER KNEW ELEPHANTS AND CAMELS COULD BE THAT BIG!! I was in a rickshaw and turned the corner to see this MASSIVE elephant walking down the street being ridden by this man ON the main road.. the elephant's face was painted pink and yellow and its feet were painted so it looked like it was wearing shoes... it was adorable. Definitely the biggest adorable thing i have ever seen in my life. I saw camel-drawn carriages holding 7 people... THAT attests to how big the camels were... really my understanding of a camel's size drastically changed. We roamed the more untouched streets which was fun... intense... and fun.... and we actually got caught in a parade and all of the Indian men grabbed my friend Josh and pulled him into the center where everyone was dancing... then he grabbed me and the rest of the girls and gave us flower necklaces, food and bandanas and made us dance. I am so glad that I was traveling with a boy because if i was alone that would NEVER happen. Women are never included in the street festivals- one will only see men dancing... but I guess the men felt more comfortable bringing us in because Josh was with us. Speaking of that male-comfort when we went to restaurants or got onto trains or had any questions or walked into shops everyone would only talk to Josh.... "sir, what will you all be ordering?" "sir, the train is coming in ten minutes" "sir, where are you all from?"... it was pretty interesting. I felt like i had a secretary. Thanks Josh.
So, while we were caught up in the little parade i noticed this very flamboyant man getting pushed around and I just watched... he was not getting beaten up, men were pushing him away because he was getting very close to them and touching them. The man was definitely gay and I could tell that he was marginalized in the crowd. It was really sad because i could see that he adopted that place in society and was very loud and pulled his pants down and asked men to spank him and he was kind of just running around like the town's clown. I am not really sure how homosexuality is accepted in India but it is interesting because, and i think i mentioned this earlier, the men walk around holding hands and are really affectionate with one another because PDA with women is strictly forbidden. Something i have to ask about. I'll let you know.
So after Agra we went to Varanasi.
VARANASI... what an incredible city!! Not that i have seen much of India at all... but if i can recommend one place to go, Varanasi is it. I definitely cannot sum up the city on a blog and so i will just say a few things and just hope that you can go there soon... So, first and foremost... the Ganga! The Ganges River! I have to first clarify to all of those who did not believe me... THE GOONCH LIVES! But, in Hindi they call it Rohoo Bakur... so take that all of you nonbelievers. It lives at the bottom of the river and eats the bodies that are tossed into the river... not everyone is allowed to be cremated and so they are thrown into the river with a brick attached to their ankle.... I spent a lot of time sitting at the burning ghat (where they cremate the bodies) and it was surprisingly not as shocking as i believed. A body burning doesn't scare me as much as i thought it would. It's a body that can't be used anymore (again, easy to say when i dont know any of the people getting cremated). I've been more aware of how I have been trained to fear death growing up in the West and I am just feeling less so now that i have recognized the ridiculousness of such a fear. I think it was Shakespeare who said that is is funny that we fear the one thing that is inevitable in life... very true. Thank you Shakespeare. Anyways, the burning ghats were incredible to see- everything is so systematic. 200 bodies are cremated every day and it is open 24/7. When walking through the city one will hear people chanting and turn around to see a group of men walking holding a stretcher made out of bamboo with a body of a family member on it- they chant "Truth is God. God is Truth" in Hindi. Very matter-of-fact. Very natural. Varanasi is such an ancient and beautiful and rich city... not money rich even though it was more modern than most of the places i have been in India, but rich with energy (oh god.... i'm sounding more and more like a philosophy hippy no? .. kidding) but yes, the energy... the colors... the religious energy... the kindness of the people... it's just incredible. So, we stayed for a few days and then planned to leave for Rajasthan. PLANNED. I ended up getting Shigella ... fabulous. My friends went on to Rajasthan and I checked into a really nice hotel (cost $16 a night... and it was super fancy- I LOVE THIS COUNTRY). I ended up finding out that i had to check into a hospital and if you saw the hospital in Varanasi you would understand why i just caught the next flight to Delhi and checked myself in there... so i spent the last few days of my spring break in a clinic room stuck to an IV watching Hindi music videos and Bollywood movies in Hindi... least to say, if my friend Courtney weren't in Delhi and didn't come to visit me i would go crazy... It wasn't that bad though- it is incredible how easily one can adapt. Time passes and then these things that sound so horrific are over and it is a new day.
While in the hospital i fell in love with India. I fucking LOVE this country. There are so many people and everything is extreme here... i have smelled the most incredible smells of my life here and then i have smelled the absolute worst/ nose-breaking smells. I have seen the most incredible mountains and the most beautiful cities... i have seen the most lively and rich faces and i have seen dead people.... i have seen animals roaming the streets and then on the plates next to me... i have seen BMWs and one porsche and have seen people living in shacks... I have taken a beautiful 45 minute flight from one city to the next and have spent 20 hours at a time on busy busy claustrophobic trains... I have seen the most corrupt police and the most honest shop owners... I have been scared and utterly calm... I have felt and been absolutely dirty and.... yeah... i guess i haven't actually felt clean yet... oh speaking of... when i checked into the brilliant hotel in Varanasi i took a shower without a bucket and the water was coming down on me from the shower head... that was the first time since january 14th. That makes me laugh. SO... with all of these extremes the one thing that connects all of the people here seems to be their love of this country- I cannot tell you how many locals have said "WELCOME TO INDIA" or "India welcomes you!" "I hope you enjoy my country".... I am only that proud when in New York City but i dont think of the USA as MY country... I am not that overjoyed by it nor do i feel any connection to it.. I am American but don't feel proud of America... weird right? That just doesn't make sense. I know that i take my life in America for granted but anyways, I dont feel part of an "Americanness"...
Oh, something else about Varanasi- EVERY INDIAN IN VARANASI SPEAKS HEBREW!! You know a lot of Israelis travel somewhere when...
It was insane.. i would walk down the street and everyone would say "shalom! ma kore??" my jaw was on the floor the entire time... probably not a good idea because water buffalo roam the streets like squirrel do in new york city... a few of them charged down an alley when my friend Stacey and i were walking and let me just say that I was a fool and just stood there because it was my first time witnessing a large mammal charging and i simply didn't know what to do... a shop owner ended up shoving me and Stacey into a wall which saved us. Dhanyavad/Thank you shop owner.
RANDOM: A little something to think about... so... what makes Elinor Elinor? I would say my mind and my body... right? the two come together to make "me". So why is it that i point to my heart when i talk about myself? Think about it... if someone just said "YOU are the one who stole the money!" Wouldn't you point to your heart and say "ME?"...
another random thing that I have been thinking about... so have you ever been in a situation where someone was just not being themselves or if someone is just not paying attention and caught yourself saying "where did you just go?" or have you ever heard someone say that to you? Isn't that a weird phrase to naturally say given the fact that we said Elinor is her mind and body...i dont know if that made sense but it does in my head... if i dont resolve this by the time i leave here we can talk about it when i get back... sorry for that stream of thought...
So, I left the clinic in Delhi just in time to arrive in Dharamsala and catch the Nechung Oracle go into trance back at Sarah. What does that mean? Well, the oracle is this man through whom Nechung, the spirit, enters and gives advice to the world... or in this case to the reincarnate of Gen Lopsang Gyatso... again, i am not so sure how i feel about all of these ideas of reincarnates and spirits but i must say that it was incredible to see how all of the believers reacted. Actually, even if i do eventually believe in reincarnations i dont think that it is fair to take a boy when he is 8 years old and tell him that he used to be someone else... most children don't have personal agency at that age but i find it to be extremely limiting and unfair to tell a child that he was someone else in his last life and that it is his duty to carry on the life that "he started" in his past life... i dont think it is fair or healthy. So this all must sound so ridiculous right? Reincarnations of people who have passed... worldly spirits entering into a mans body to give information to those residing in this realm... protection mantras... lucky grains of rice... crazy eh?
Well.. I am not sure what i believe in but yeah, I think some of this sounds pretty out of this world. This week was a beautiful week though because I went from having this oracle experience on Monday to going to the Chabad house for the second seder on Thursday night and yeah... religion is pretty out of this world and crazy... the Rabbi let it be known that studying the Torah is THE way to happiness and THE way to figuring out the truth... he mocked me for finding truth in some Buddhist philosophy and I just laughed. Why? Well... because i think it is really funny that some hold their truth to be THE truth... their god to be THE god... their tradition to be THE way... and their texts to be THE texts. I am not condemning religion but i am condemning some peoples' inability to open their eyes and be interested in the different ways people choose to gain knowledge and gain a better understanding of themselves and who they are and why we are all here and what we are all doing.... I have found this intolerance within some of the Buddhist communities i have stepped into and definitely was saddened to see it in the Chabad house. The members of the Chabad house were uninterested in hearing about what i am learning and they were completely incurious about Dharamsala and the exiled Tibetan community living here... and in the Buddhist circle i have been hearing people tell me that i am "just not ready" to become a Buddhist because i told them that i was not interested in taking the refuge vows (taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the buddhist community of realized beings))... there is this weird detachment between believers in a faith (whether it be judaism or buddhism) and the nonbelievers. Its really unfortunate though because we all have a lot to learn from each other... and if our eyes are SO CLOSED that we cannot look past our group of black hat black coat wearers or the red robe wearers... we are going to remain ignorant for a long long long time.
As far as i am concerned, and please tell me if i am wrong, no one REALLY knows what we are doing here and why we are here... some of us have found truth in certain philosophies and answers provided by different religions and some of us have come up with our own answers and reasons and some of us don't even think about it... so, how does one have the right to tell someone else that their reason is wrong? For me... THAT is the craziest of all... crazier than a spirit coming into ones body... crazier than some believing that the Messiah is back. Do you know why? because i can't 100% say that the spirit isn't there and i cannot 100% say that the man with the white beard isn't the Messiah... i just don't know. But what i do know is that if we cannot find space and time to respect all people for their infinite answers and reasons to these inexplicable questions we are fucked.
On that note... i am going to write my paper. Sending Indian love and Shigella to all 5 of you who read this... hi mom and dad!! ;)
ps. remember how i spoke about how the Tibetan language is very in line with the Tibetan mentality and Buddhist philosophy? WELL... they have a word "shemshock" that means finding the truth with the power of the heart... I wonder if there is aWestern language that would have a word for such a concept.