20 January 2016

Dharmashala (or, I never wanted to leave)

I've always wanted to go to Dharamsala (or, as the locals typically spell it, Dharamshala). It's where the Tibetan government-in-exile's home is, along with the Dalai Lama's home. As someone who has been interested in Buddhism and studying it a long time (but mostly on my own, thus, I tend to not call myself a Buddhist), going here has been a longtime dream.

I wasn't in love with Amritsar (big city India overwhelms me) and hurried to Dharamshala with mere minutes to spare. The bus drive was long and rather miserable (the engine began smoking for a while, so we were stuck while they figured it out in Panthantakott....also where I went to use the bathroom at the bus station and saw a mother having her small child (maybe 2 or 3 years old) urinating in the middle of the bathroom floor, just next to the sinks. (There were open stalls.) Horrifying...).

When I arrived in Dharamshala, it was cold. Colder than I expected. I shivered in my walk to Tibet World, where I was staying.

When I got there, it was very quiet and empty; only 2 other people were staying there. I felt very lonely.

My room was frigid. I rented a space heater for 100 rupees a night, which only heated you if you sat directly in front of it (and not even all of you; just the part of your body where the small space heater was directly adjacent to) and a club was blasting bad American music. I wandered out in the cold to get food and felt alone; I saw almost no one. I decided to move rooms in the morning.

I woke up freezing cold. I headed over to Kunga House, which became my home-away-from-home. After looking at a few rooms, I settled on the Richard Gere Suite, where he stayed. It was nice, had a comfy sitting area, a private balcony, private bathroom, mountain view. It was wonderful for writing; at nights, I'd sit in my sitting area or at my bed and write on my laptop, or curl up under the blankets, talking to Wayne or my mom, watching the sunrise from my windows. Monkeys ran across the balcony. It was peaceful.

The town itself is quite small, with lots of restaurants, shops, cafes. Perfect to kind of while your days away.

I visited the Tibetan monastery. It was pretty incredible. Monks rushed around in between tourists. The Dalai Lama was in his private residence, but on retreat so he couldn't hang out.

I wandered. I wrote in my journal. I ate delicious Tibetan food. I bought some jewelry. I read. I made travel plans. I chatted with other backpackers.

I visited Om Yoga Center and Ashram. They told me I could do a 100 hour training program, but they didn't give me a lot of information, and were REALLY pushy about asking for money. My gut said no, it wasn't right, not for me. Something about it....you have to trust your instincts in life, but it was neat to see the ashram and talk to some interesting yogis.

I began talking with a random guy, who became my Dharamshala BFF. He was a writer and a photojournalist, and we began talking about writing, traveling, travel lifestyle, how our lives don't fit in at home, proper life paths, our life paths, what we really want....you know, the kind of thing you instantly share when you meet a travel BFF. 

We spent the rest of our time together, getting meals, talking.

Finally - it was time to leave. I didn't want to, but as I came to India to practice yoga, I should head to Rishikesh to figure out my yoga future. So I needed to go.

Julian and I hung out and wrote and talked. And then he took the taxi w me to Lower Dharamshala. (Upper Dharamshala, aka where me and the Dalai Lama were, is actually called McLeod.) We got there....

...and the bus was cancelled.

We hopped back in a cab, went out to dinner at a restaurant managed by a monastery, went to The Green Hotel for some lemon ginger honey tea and cake, a chat, and then went to our respective rooms to write our respective writing.

In the morning, I went to yoga at Om Yoga Center. It was very different than the yoga I've done in the U.S., though interesting. After, I tried to sort out my minibus for the next night, then got tea with Jules, then lunch. We were befriended by a loud American, and we all went to see an old English church. Jules, who was English, said, "Leave it to the English to be in India and build something like THIS." Ha.

Then Jules and I went back to his room, nicknamed The Palace because it's so huge. I had stored my stuff there, and we just hung out until my bus.

And then I had a total breakdown. I began crying, "What did I do with my life? Why am I here? This is so hard, it's so lonely much of the time. I miss Wayne so terribly, and just the comforts of my home. I don't think this is really what I want. Why am I here? Was I running away to make sense of things?"

Jules got me some toilet paper (knowing how much I prize toilet paper here in this country where it's usually lacking!) and listened to me and offered me some advice. He told me that I'm running away but looking for something else, and that we are not like other people, that we have wanderlust. "Think about all the friends you haven't met," he told me.

I think things were really bad when I left. Wayne and I were stressed, and I think this break, difficult as it is, will really help us. And my job was destroying me....this break will allow me to get back to my passions and heal my health, which was falling apart. Step by step....

I dried my tears. I said goodbye to Jules. And I sat crammed in a horrible freezing overnight minibus to Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world.

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