Here we are, in India!!! We had to travel for a long long time, very tiring. Thursday morning the 15th of October we got up early to catch the bus to Füssen, from there we took the train to the airport of Munich. In our first flight I (Maaike) found a surprise in the compartment in front of my chair from Brad… A beautiful ring!!! No, no proposal involved, but simply a wonderful ring. It is silver Moebiusring, which stands for inner and outer beauty and everlasting love…. sigh… 🙂 Anyway, we had a long trip to go after that. It was about 6.5 hours to fly to Dubai, and the service of Emirates was very good. Good food and a good choice of movies. The movie The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is very good (better than the book!). In Dubai we had to wait for about 4.5 hours and fortunately we found great lounging chairs to relax in. But yes, we could not go to sleep, cause we didn’t want to miss our flight! Very tired we got onto the next plane at 04.00 that would take us to New Delhi. Upon arrival in India we had to go through an influenza control gate (you just had to declare that you do not feel sick and where you have been the previous 6 days. They also had an infra-red scanner so that they could see if you maybe had a fever). Then we went with a bus of the international airport to the national airport. We waited 5 hours for our next flight and we arrived at 16.00 in Gaggal airport. Then 45 minutes more with the taxi and finally we were in MacLeod Ganj, the place of residence of Dalai Lama in exile. Unfortunately we were just too late to register for the teachings, but we would be able to follow it anyway, only just outside instead of in the temple. Well, that did not matter, we would see the Dalai Lama as well, via the tv screen and also in person if he walks along before and after the teachings. After all that travelling and arranging we wanted a good hotelroom, but in the guesthouse we wanted to stay everything was occupied that night, except for a room without own bathroom. Well no, for this first night here after 2 days of no sleep we really want a room with our own bathroom! Therefore we decided to stay for one night in a little more expensive hotel which had a good room for us. After a little walk in the area and dinner we went to bed early and didn’t wake up before 9.30 the next morning.
After moving to the other guesthouse (Kunga) we spend a few days days with shopping (very cheap t-shirts and so. We had almost nothing with us, only the clothes we were wearing!), go see movies (in a restaurant next to us they showed Kundun), reading (The Four Noble Truths, where the teachings are about. Then at least we know what they are talking about) and trying not to get sick! Well we succeeded quite well in that last bit, so far still no Delhi-Belly for us, only from time to time a little bit of runs, but that is normal. On the streets we were mainly walking around with our fingers in our ears. Firstly because of all the hooting on the street (we still don’t get how the cars can pass each other through those little narrow streets filled with people, but apparently the hooting is working very well!), but also because of Diwali. This the festival of light, and apparently it has to be celebrated with lots and lots of fire work… And then not just the beautiful high fountains of light, but mainly extremely annoying loud bangs. If we would go to India again in the future, then definitely not during Diwali!
On October 20th the teachings started. Every morning we woke up early to be at the temple in time. Luckily it was not too busy and we went in not too much time through the security gates. Everybody was being searched, because you ‘re not allowed to bring in photo- and videocamera’s, and of course also no weapons. Afterwards we found a fine place to sit in the shade and from the temple they were already singing the Mantra of Compassion (of the current Dalai Lama): Om Ma Ni Padme Hum. This means: Hail to the jewel in the lotus, and is a metaphor for the compassion that exists in each sentient being. Around an hour or half ten the complete crowd (not already too tightly sit fortunately) started moving around and we saw the Dalai Lama walking past. What a wonderful moment. He is such an impressive, wonderful man, and we have seen him in real life!!! Wow!!! The teachings (in the poor English of His Holiness, he joked about that himself) were a great experience, but not all parts were easy to understand for us. For those things you really have to be a Buddhist. But it was nevertheless very very interesting. Besides the Four Noble Truths (the base of Buddhism) he also talked about science and Buddhism, and how he finds that everyone must find his or her own belief, whether it is Christianity, Islam or Buddhism. During the teachings we received tea offered by monks and nuns. Finally we tasted the real Tibetan buttertea! Well, it is really tea with butter. Probably very useful in minus 30 degrees and high up in the mountains, but not if you sitting in the sun, covered all around with trees. On the second day there was a Q and A section. The funniest question which we heard: What should you do when you start to feel sleepy during the teachings?? (laughter everywhere) Answer of the Dalai Lama: Enjoy it! If you feel yourself getting sleepy, please go to sleep. Just as long as you don’t snore!!! (lots of more laughter around of course!!). Really magnificent of the Dalai Lama to just give an honest, funny answer to this question and that he was not annoyed by it or ignored the question. All in all it was a very successful experience to attend the teachings and especially to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
During our stay in Macleod Ganj we also met two monks who had escaped from Tibet, Sitoun and Sangye. It is one thing to read a book of someone who has escaped (the book: Child of Tibet, Soname Yangchen), but to hear the story live from somebody who has really experienced it. Goosebumps all over… 25 days of walking in the snow in the dark with little food and no water (they had to ‘drink’ the freezing cold snow) and hope that you will not be discovered (if they are, the Chinese shoot to kill…). Also seeing the documentary film Murder in the snow (concerning the dreadful border regime of the Chinese) was impressive. We must never forget how lucky we are to be born and live in a free country. There was also a gratitude day at the Tibetan Children’ s Village, free for everybody to go and see. The children of Tibet, who live here as refugees, did a performance, danced and thanked India.
After Macleod Ganj we went to Bir, what a horrible drive… The driver was a complete a**-hole… Up to 2 times we found ourselves on the other side of the road, straight towards a rushing bus!!! Whaaaah!!! Anyway, still alive we reached Bir. The plan for Bir was for Brad to go paragliding. Unfortunately he couldn’t go flying. When we arrived we heard about several accidents that happened in the weeks before and even on that day there was somebody who had broken his back. The following day there was somebody with a broken leg and we also heard about paragliders gone missing on cross country flights. Brad was not planning to make any cross country, but still… The flying was completely banned by the police while we were still around in Bir, due to a death… One of the rescue team slipped down and died… Time to leave!!
We stayed a few more days in Bir because we had a good guesthouse (newly named by us: Peaceful Garden Cafe. And they, Tibetan monks, liked the name) with a wonderful host, Tenzing, and also a good restaurant (we still didn’t get sick!). Tenzing took us to his monastery where we were lucky to see a real Mandala being made. This is a sand drawing which is made in this monastery 5 times per year. (more info on Mandala’s: http://www.mysticalartsoftibet.org/Mandala.htm) At the end of the day the Mandala was finished and we were able to take exactly one photo, before they sent us away, because they were about to start a ceremony.
Right now we’re back in MacLeod Ganj, waiting for our flight to Nepal on the 2nd of November. The next step in our travel, looking forward to it!!!
Warm regards, Maaike and Brad