It’s Friday and to be honest, I am exhausted from preparing for my impending recital and dealing with more responsibilities at work. Today I am going to write a little bit about something fun and exciting: my trip to India! I figure it’s about time since I’ve been back in the US for a month now.
This is the plane that took me from Delhi to Dharamsala. Cute, right?
So after about two days of travelling, I arrived in New Delhi. Immigration gave me a really difficult time (probably because I look like a hobo) so I didn’t get through until about 3.30 AM. The car to take me to my hotel was long gone, so I camped out in the airport for about eight hours (nothing compared to my fifteen hours in Lisbon last summer) until my flight to Dharamsala. While I was in the airport, several people came and struck up conversations with me with very polite English- one lady even plopped her (adorable) toddler in my lap while she went off to the ladies’ room without even saying a word. On the plane to Kangra, I sat next to a monk who was one of the Dalai Lama’s closest followers. Definitely a great start to my adventure!
Those cars are about four inches from the side of a cliff with no guardrail. Everyone folds in their side mirrors and squeezes by with about 2 cm of space.Not kidding.
I arrived in the tiny Kangra airport in Dharamsala (one plane lands at a time and there are no gates- you just walk on the runway) and saw a cab driver who spoke no English, but he had a paper with my name on it so I figured it was as good an idea as any to just let him take me wherever I was supposed to be- at this point, it was still not clear where my volunteering position was. So I hopped in his cab and braced myself for a ridiculous ride- not only are roads in India rarely maintained, but the idea of staying in one lane is fairly foreign to them.
So after about half an hour in the taxi, I got out and blindly followed some very friendly people into a house (dodging monkeys, water being splashed from balconies, and a cow on the way). I had no clue where I was and there was no one who knew what to do with me, so I figured taking a nap was as good an idea as any, since I hadn’t had any sleep in three days other than a bit of wine-induced dozing on the flight over.
Spinning Tibetan prayer wheels in the Dalai Lama's monastery
I woke up to a well-dressed Tibetan man coming into the room- finally, someone who knew what was going on! He walked me around Dharamsala- he took me to the Dalai Lama’s monastery and out for a traditional Tibetan dinner. He asked what I wanted to do in the evening- I was still exhausted, but I figured I’d be damned if I went to bed early on New Year’s and told him I would absolutely be going out.
New Year's in town- just like Times Square, right?
So, I slept for about an hour before we went out again. We sat in a tea-house for awhile, and when we left it was getting late. The streets were mobbed, but only with men- women don’t really go out in the evenings in small towns like this. Some other girls who had already been volunteering later told me that they had to go home long before midnight because the men were just too raucous. Luckily, the coordinator had a few of his friends visiting, and I wasn’t bothered much since I was surrounded by them. We went to a restaurant and drank lots of Kingfisher and listened to drunk guys singing folk songs, then we walked around town and met up with his friends. Around midnight, we went to the roof of the restaurant and counted down, kissing everyone when the clock struck- apparently, some traditions are the same in many different cultures. To be honest, the rest of the evening is a bit hazy from the combination of alcohol twice as strong as I expected, very high altitude, and sleep deprivation- but I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to go!
View from the house that I stayed in my first night
…That’s a lie. I woke up with a splitting headache wearing jeans that were drenched (apparently we went to a lake), with a (fully clothed, don’t worry) new friend in my bed who seemed to think we were married, and having entirely forgotten where I was. So I ate some curry, brushed my teeth, went back to sleep, and woke up an hour later- THEN I was refreshed and ready to go.
Construction on the main street
We left for Bir, the Tibetan settlement where I ended up spending most of my time, later that day. The rest of the trip was (for the most part) much more of a spiritual life-changing experience than this first rather wild and irresponsible evening that I will write about later.
Was this part of my adventure entirely irresponsible, wild, and potentially dangerous? Yes. Yes it was. But you’re only young once, and sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind!
For lots more photos of Dharamsala, check out my facebook photo album!