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Amritsar and more monks...

So our third week here is already over and it's just crazy how fast the time went by. I feel like the longer I've been here the longer I'd like to stay... McLeod Ganj (the official name of upper Dharamsala) is just amazing. There's always something going on but at the same time the people are just so friendly and the whole town is so chilled out that one cannot help feeling at home.

We went to Amritsar over the weekend which, great as it was, definitely brought home how lucky we are here. The journey in itself was an experience. The two town aren't even 200km apart but still the direct journey takes at least 6h by road. There's a bus, but Kart, the Indian guy volunteering with us organised a taxi to take us there (for about 15 Euros return per person). At the time we thought the plan was fantastic but we kind of changed our mind when we saw the actual taxi... Not only was the windscreen cracked and it didn't have any external mirrors - (doubtlessly lost squeezing past some bus on a far too tight mountain road) but was it tiny (and there were three of us squashed in the back). This became especially fun when we got down from our mountain and actually had to face Indian late-summery temperatures... But still it was worth it- Amritsar has with the Golden Temple the holiest site of Sikhism (that's the ones with the turbans). The whole complex is truly stunning with a white marble surrounding framing the (actually golden) central piece which is placed in the middle of a lake of holy water. Also, due to Sikhism's inclusive philosophy the temple offers free accommodation to everyone (non-Indians in a separate area). Other than the temple the main attraction of Amritsar is the Pakistani border crossing some 30 km away. Every evening both sides perform a border closing ceremony. The only way to describe it is hilarious... First of all there's the crowds on both sides. Don't ask me where they all come from (considering its performed every day), but the stands on both sides of the border are packed with nationals of both countries trying to outdo each other shouting patriotic slogans. (or at least that's generally the case- when we were there the Pakistani side was pretty quite as it's Ramadan at the moment). But the Indian side was definitely a big party with children dancing Bollywood choreographies on the street... As foreigners we were again led through a separate entrance (with the VIPs) and got to sit in the front row. Unfortunately as it was so full the front row turned out to be right on the street and we were too low down to see a lot of what was going on... But still it was really good fun and definitely an experience to watch. The soldiers were all dressed up with red fans attached to their hats (watch out for the pictures on facebook sometime soon). In this attire they paraded up and down in front of the audience and the gate to the border. Only their form of parading involved a considerable amount of jumping, nearly-running, as well as throwing their legs into the air over their heads... All of this would have doubtlessly been even more fun if I hadn't gotten food poisoning from my lunch when we arrived in Amritsar. Luckily we all had different food so it was only me and not all of us- but the ceremony, and especially the ride back to the temple, the following night and the ride back home weren't the most pleasant time of my life... But I'm all better now-and am even able to eat and walk again- so nothing to worry about!!

 So yeah-all of us are so thankful to be back in McLeod Ganj-Pleasant temperatures (never complaining about the rain again!) and you can walk down the streets without ten guys trying to shove scarves into your face at every step you take even if you've got to be looking like your going to throw up any moment...

 But besides all that the people here are just incredible. All of the Tibetans here are obviously in political exile- having left Tibet because China left them virtually no freedoms- be it of religion or otherwise. Some of the people here are second or third generation, but many (including some of our students) came here from Tibet themselves a couple of years ago. The journey they undertake to get here is simply unbelievable. They walk through the Himalayas for several weeks- in most cases with completely inadequate food supplies, not to mention warm clothing... And once they're here they often have very limited contact to their families back home, in some cases even endangering those who stayed behind because they left... And yet you wouldn't meet a single one who sounds bitter about it and who won't tell you their story with a big smile- just stressing how lucky they are to have made it here in one piece and to have the opportunity to learn English...

So yeah... I really wish I could stay here for longer... Before leaving McLeod Ganj next Sunday we're going to see the Dalai Lama on the Saturday. As a normal mortal being you don't generally get to see him unless he's teaching- which is happening next weekend. If we arrive early enough we'll be able to sit in the temple where he'll be (it's bring your own radio to listen to the simultaneous translation) - otherwise we'll watch from a screen outside the main temple. We had to register today (if you ever come to India- bring a staple of passport pictures- you'll need them from everything from getting a sim card to seeing the Dalai Lama...) And after that it will be goodbye and off into the 'real' India for a bit. One very positive thing is that Kart, the Indian guy volunteering with us (and who's studying law at the LSE in London), is from Mumbai. we've been planning to go there so this way we'll be able to meet up with him there and he'll show us around... (he and a couple of his friends happen to be coming to Berlin in a couple of weeks so we'll be able to return the favour)

Ok- back to the monastery before they look the gates at 10pm for the night (though we do have a key we can take so it's not as bad as it sounds). As always looking forward to hearing from you!

 

23.8.10 17:55
 


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bisher 1 Kommentar(e)     TrackBack-URL


Sophie (24.8.10 19:10)
I though you liked scarves ;P

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