Trip to the Beach

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Trip to "Tibet" . . . .

About a month ago, Justin, Eric, Nick, and I took a long weekend and headed to the mountains! It was Nick and my first real adventure out of the neighborhood. The place we picked to visit was Dharmasala/McLoedganj, which, for those of you who don't know, is the place where the Tibetan government has been in exile since the 1960s. The Chinese kicked them out of their country, now called Lhasa. So if you are paying attention, you will know that with the government goes His Holiness The Dalai Lama!

A shrine in a resturant. We found this to be a common occurance.

We set out from Delhi on a Thursday evening. The bus was the mode of transportation that we had picked to take us there. Actually, it was the only direct route to take. However, we soon discovered that the bus we had purchased tickets for was not air conditioned and didn't have very much room. Oh, and we were traveling 14 hours overnight! When we first stepped foot on the bus in Delhi, we thought we were going to suffocate, it was so hot! But we were relieved to find that once the bus started moving, the air started to move. However, it didn't matter how cool it got in the bus, the seats were still painfully close together. Poor Nick, with his long legs, was miserable most of the night. Sleep was possible, but not the kind that you get comfortably tucked into your bed at night.

After a long and torturous ride, we arrived in McLoedganj. The bus dropped us off in a small congested town square, and we were immediate targets. Every taxi service and hotel solicited us for business. As overwhelming and annoying as it was, we were able to find a man who offered us a room at his guesthouse. Nick was able to haggle with him and get a better rate. As it turned out, we built a rapport with this guesthouse and we were able to get an even better rate a couple of nights later.

The town of McLoedganj was a bustling community, with a very diverse mixture of people. While walking down any street, you could pass Tibetans, Buddhist monks, Indians, and Westerners from any number of countries. Needless to say, it is a huge tourist destination. People flock there in droves in hopes of catching a glimpse of His Holiness! In addition, they come there hoping to find that inner peace they think Buddhism will impart to them. The irony that I discovered was that Buddhism is to some degree about leaving material things behind and yet, the entire town depended on the capital generated by the tourists. And also, the westerners who were coming here to escape the materialistic west, spent their time going from stall to stall buying little trinkets and clothes.

The day before we left, we found out that the Dalai Lama was going to be having a public teaching that anyone could attend. So, as soon as we got to town, we went in search of the office where we had to register for the teachings. The teachings were held on Monday, so bright and early Monday morning, we headed to the main monostary to find a spot on the concrete floor. Nick and I were only able to last through half the day. The teaching was interesting, but we didn't really understand what was being said. Yes, we were able to listen to an English translation, but the ideas that he was teaching on didn't make sense. However, it was awesome that we got to see him and listen to him in person. A chance of a lifetime.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay in the mountains. The weather was cooler. The scenery was incredible. The food was great too. We did some hiking and some shopping. We met nice people. And we would definitely go back. And we took a sleeper bus back. The price was a little more, but it was worth it because we were able to lay down the whole trip back!

Here are just some of the pictures that we took. There are so many more and I am willing to share them. If there is interest, let me know.

An attempt to portray the beauty of the area.

A typical McLoedganj street

Studying the rules for registering for the Dalai Lama teaching . . .

A view of the valley from McLoedganj

Amber & Nick with the valley . . .

Auto rickshaws . . . .

A statue of the Hindu god Ganesha . . .

Amber & Nick with a beautiful waterfall in the background . . . .

A closer view of the beautiful waterfall, with the whole crew!

Nick's attempt at creative photography! Pretty good, I think!

Tibetan monks living life . . ..

Tibetan prayer wheels. The Buddhists believe that everytime they spin one of these wheels, it is the same as saying the prayer one time. They must be spun in a clockwise motion.

A Tibetan woman reading . . .

A monkey . . . .

A worker at a building site. And yes, that is a woman, and yes, she is carrying bricks on her head!

Tibetan prayer flags . . . .

Amber trying to get some sleep after a long day of hiking!

Amber & Nick sharing another great photo opt.

Justin racing the clouds for a photograph

A little meditation by Eric. Definitely one of the coolest pics we took that weekend.

Nick using his creative photographic powers again!

Resting after a long climb! My favorite pic from the trip.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Day in Delhi . . . .

When the weekend comes around here, we find ourselves to be at a loss for things to do. Of course, we spend the Sabbath resting, but on Sunday, we find ourselves itching to explore. But there is only so far a person can go on foot.

Several Sundays back, a group of us (Nick, Amber, Justin, and Eric) decided that we would venture into Delhi for the day. Nick and I had never been there, so naturally we were excited to do some siteseeing. Justin called to hire a taxi for the day, and they said that we would be picked up at 11:30 am. Well, we all gathered and waited for the taxi. After thirty minutes, the taxi still hadn't arrived. Justin called to inquire after the driver. He told the man on the phone that he had ordered a taxi and it had not arrived yet. The man replied, "What is the problem?" Justin said emphatically, "The taxi has not arrived yet." The man again asked, "What is the problem?" Finally, Justin was able to get across that we were still waiting for the taxi. The man said that one was on the way. Well, after an hour and a half, the taxi finally arrived. We piled in and tried to explain to our Hindi speaking friend where we wanted to go. As we turned toward Delhi, we thought we had been successful, until the driver turned around and headed back towards home. "What was happening?" we asked. The driver just kept saying, "one minute, sir." He then turned onto a dirt road that took us to a place none of us had been to before. He stopped in front of a shop, and went inside. Soon another guy came out and got in the car. We had switched drivers to one that could speak English. And when I say could speak English, I mean a few words of English!

And so we were off, careening haphazardly through the crowded streets. Nick somehow was able to explain to this guy where we wanted to go. We went first to the Lotus Temple. It is a place for people of all religions to gather for prayer and meditation. It was built in the shape of a lotus flower. The architecture was amazing.

The Lotus Temple . . . .

From here, our zealous driver took us to the Red Fort and then the Friday Mosque, which is rumored to be the largest mosque in India. It was an interesting experience to go in a mosque, and to watch Muslims pray. It was very methodical.

The Friday Mosque . . . .

The Red Fort can be seen throught the arch behind the trees!

Finally, we went to Raj Ghat. This is the place where Ghandi was cremated and a memorial has been erected in his honor. Basically, it is a large park. But we went only to honor Ghandi. When we arrived at Raj Ghat, we found our first snake charmer. Of course we had to give him some rupees so that he would work his magic. However, after watching for a while, we decided that it is all a scam. The snake was clearly abused and was not into being charmed!

The Raj Ghat. . . The black slab in the center is where Ghandi was cremated. And there is an eternal flame burning.

After paying our respects to the great Ghandi, we decided we should head home. It had been a long, hot day, and since we couldn't really communicate with our driver, it was easier to just go home.

All in all, it was an enjoyable day. We learned that Delhi isn't that exciting. It is a very dirty city and very over crowded. There are still a few things that we would like to see while we are here, but we figure we have plenty of time.

At the Raj Ghat. . . .

The whole crew. Eric is in the yellow, he works for ADRA, and is from Argentina, and Justin is in the green. He works with us and is from Tennessee. And yes, we are barefoot. Any place deemed a holy place requires you to leave your shoes at a shoe check.

Another ruin that we saw beside the road on the way home.