Saturday, December 31, 2011

McLeod Ganj, day 3; New Year's Eve

December 31st, 2007

After all the walking I'd done over the last few days, I decided to stay in bed for a while, reading, watching some TV, and waiting for it to be warm enough to come out from the blankets. There are frequent power cuts here, but while the power is on, I've been enjoying seeing a bit of Indian TV, though the power did go out last night right before the end of a movie! There's a commercial that comes on every break that really makes me laugh, but seriously annoys me at the same time. It's a dentist doing PR for Orbit White chewing gum, while a yellow-toothed cow keeps having the grass she's about to eat fly away because of her teeth. After the dentist gives her a couple of pieces of gum, her teeth instantly become white and as rays of white light burst from her teeth, the grass willingly goes flying into her mouth. The part that really gets me is the end when the dentist exclaims, "Yellow, yellow, dirty fellow. White, white, Orbit White. doesn't rhyme but it is a true." That's just it, it doesn't rhyme! And each time I'm waiting for him to make it rhyme, but he never does!

Once I'd recovered from shivering beneath a trickling shower, that alternated between scalding hot and just plain cold, I put on four layers of shirts and headed out for more walking. I decided to take the road that headed north to another little town further up the mountain.

As I headed up towards the woods, I looked back to see the perfect view of all the colorful little block buildings clinging to the slopes and poking of from the trees. Heading up into the forest, I was surprised to find a family of monkeys hanging out in the ditch and above in one of the trees.

I was a little nervous to go into the woods, I'd read it wasn't safe to go trekking alone in the area, so I headed back to the center and found a restaurant with a pizza oven and tables over looking the temple.

After eating, I decided to follow the road my guesthouse was on, past where I'd been the first day, and see where it goes. After a couple kilometers, the road turned down the ridge, but a small path continued into the woods. I noticed an old monk a ways down it, so I decided to follow him.

The sun was sinking on the opposite side of the ridge and the dimming light gave the walk a soft, mystical feel, as I kept following the monk through the lush growth, past large stones carved with the Dalai Lama's mantra and painted white. I was surprised but very pleased when i found that the trail had lead me back to the prayer flags I'd found yesterday.

I sat on the hill and watched as the sinking sun slowly turned the mountain range yellow and orange. Even the White Mountain slipped into the sun's evening hue.

A young monk spotted me sitting and came to join me. He was from Ladakh and was staying at the dormitory at the edge of the ridge. He said he'd been coming every night to see the sunset, but this was the first time he'd met anyone else there. We chatted for a while, then I headed back before it got too dark to find my way through the woods.

I went back to my room, dropped of my camera bag, had some delicious Korean food at the restaurant next door, then walked around looking to see if there was much going on for New Year's Eve. I'd never been alone on New Year's Eve before, and I was feeling it. I did find a party on the roof of one of the restaurants nearby, but there was something strange about it. It was a mix of Indians, Tibetans, and young western travelers, but the mix wasn't mixing very well. At first, everything was fine, a guitar was being passed around and people were singing, enjoying themselves, then some of the Indian men began aggressively pursuing the western girls, who were really not interested. The guys looked like they were ready to go to a night club and the girls looked more like they were on their way to Lilith Fair, or something similar.

Eventually, one of the men went a little too far, and all the foreigners decided to go to another party, and I was invited along. I wasn't really bonding with any of them, but it was nice to have the company. We walked back up to where I'd come earlier in the day, then continued into the woods a little ways until we arrived at a few houses in a small clearing on the hill.

It was mostly Tibetans at this party and things seemed much calmer. A young Tibetan man introduced himself to me and we sat and chatted. He was quite drunk, and his breath sunk of booze pretty bad, but I did my best to tolerate it. There was sadness in him, that I felt, as he spoke about Tibet, the home he'd become exiled from, and his life here in India. When he offered me some beer, and I politely declined, saying I don't drink, he told me that he admired that. He said he has been a very bad Buddhist, drinking, smoking pot, hanging out at the pool hall. He said his father often cries, begging him to turn his life around. I hadn't really considered the deep rooted pain suffered the Tibetan refugees when they come here and how it tears apart the fabric of their being. McLeod Ganj is nicknamed "Little Lhasa" but I doubt anyone forgets for a minute that they are not actually in Tibet. I realized the importance of this community, and the efforts of the Tibetan Government in Exile for maintain Tibetan culture in this tiny small but great village.

About the time my friend excused himself for a moment to go to the toilet, the Indian men from earlier found the party and the girls they'd been after. I thought this was as good a time as any to slip out, so I walked quickly through the dark path, back to the guesthouse, found an old kung-fu movie on the television, and chilled out by myself. By now, I was just as content to be alone.

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