More Mountains!

View from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

Another view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

Dharamsala, Day 2

The view from self’s room in the Snow Crest Inn, Nadi Village, Dharamsala

A knock came on the door, about 10 minutes ago.  It was self’s all-faithful guide, Max, who is 25 years old, who just got married to Gita, who earns $75/ month working for the Snow Crest Inn, whose father taught English in a private school …  Wait, where is self going with this?

Self chose the Snow Crest Inn precisely because her internet research led her to believe they had great wi-fi.  But all day yesterday, and most of today, there was nothing.  This morning, Max led her to an internet café (next to a “Sacred Lake”, called Dal), and she was able to blog.  She couldn’t do anything else, because Max was peering over her shoulder at everything self typed, and even though self trusts him, she didn’t want him see her passwords.  So she stuck to just her blog.

Then Max and self walked all around the town, and visited the Buddhist temple, and looked at a very old cemetery under the pine trees, and bought old stuff from the vendors in the market, and had ample time to observe how trash spilled helter skelter down the mountainsides, and how very well-fed the monks looked (much more well-fed than Max, or any of his fellow hotel employees —  if self lived in Dharamsala, she would definitely have to consider joining a temple a smart career move.  If one wanted to eat well, that is).

An old English cemetery in Dharamsala

As soon as they arrived back at the Snow Crest Inn, Max called a “mechanic,” and a short while ago, he knocked on her door.  “Madame,” (reserved for old ladies, ha ha ha haaa!) quoth Max, “the internet is working now.  You try.”

She tried and — gadzooks! —  it is super-fast!  Heaven!

Max also, by the way, helped self to get a cell phone.  In Bir, a store tried to sell self a “cheap” phone for 2,800 rupees.  In Dharamsala, the “best” phone in the store was 1,300 rupees.  Perhaps the store owner was a bit taken aback by the alacrity with which self fetched the rupees out of her wallet.

So here is a picture of the wonderful Max:

Max, outside the old Anglican Church (St. John’s, built 1852) in Dharamsala

For some reason, it seems really important to him that self is “happy.”  This morning, the first thing he asked self, after knocking on her door was:  “Madame, everything all right?  You are happy?”  And today again, after we had circled the market, and self had bought something called a “vajra” (Symbol of power, the young man selling it to self assured her.  “You hold a vajra in your hand, you become powerful,  like a god!”), Max asked, “Are you happy?”

Of course self is happy!  She is in Dharamsala, she just bought a cell phone that cost half what she would have paid in Bir, and she has for a companion an honest young man who keeps asking her, “Are you happy?”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading ONE STORY in Dharamsala

Self ditched her group in Bir.  All she could tell Mrinalini was:  I just realized, I want to be alone!

Mrinalini said, “You only found out TODAY?”

Yes!

Self got a driver to take her to Dharamsala.  She kept making the driver stop at cell phone stores they passed along the way, so she could buy a phone.  But no one would take dollars.  So, she arrived in Dharamsala, all by her lonesome, with nothing but crap Verizon phone (on which she has already placed two expensive phone calls to the husband, who is completely unconcerned, who figures she will just show up back in Redwood City one of these days)

Last night was cold.  As in, FREEZING HER BUTT OFF cold!  The hotel people were nice, but could do nothing about self’s extreme sensitivity.  So self slept in three pairs of pants, five sweaters, and two pairs of socks.  Never mind showering.

This morning, she awoke at 4 a.m.  The sun did not come over the lip of the mountains until almost three hours later.  But when self looked out the window, oh what a sight!  Her hotel, Snow Crest Inn, is just down the road from a school.  And, after the school, the road ends. And after that, mountains.  Snowy peaks.  Great, mighty mountains!

Unfortunately, the hotel has no internet.  Self is at an internet cafe next to a sacred lake.  A family of  French tourists passed her as she was meandering (She asked for a taxi, but there were apparently none forthcoming, perhaps all taken by richer — Japanese or American — tourists).  She doesn’t have a way to transfer the pictures from her camera.  Those will have to wait until she gets back to a more wired place.

Here there are monks (Surprisingly tall monks, even an American woman who was dressed in monk’s clothes and had a shaved head).  Also, dogs.  Also, Japanese and Korean tourists.  Also, Chinese restaurants.  And mountains of trash.  And snow drifts.  And self’s mind is going in all directions at once.  This morning, she began writing a story and got to five pages (She’ll call it “Searching” for now — BWAH HA HA!).

She also began reading a story by Benjamin Solomon in ONE STORY, Issue Number 154:  “Who Cycles Into Our Valley.”  A grown son is visiting his father, who he is apparently not close to.  Here’s an excerpt from p. 3:

“The son, who is visiting his father for a week before flying to the States, is an English teacher in India.  He chose India because it was the furthest place from home that he could imagine, although having been there now for two years and settled into a life with a woman, he understands that actually he is closer to home in India than he ever was in the States, and that in fact home becomes inevitable when you arrive in a place lonely and decide to stay there.  He tries now to construct his girlfriend’s face in his memory but it refuses to assemble, and he can only think that she was unhealthily skinny when he left, and that she was angry at his leaving, and her anger made her look wasted and ill …

Then, father and son think of a trip they took “long ago”:

“…  of the hostel they stayed at in Madrid where the son got nosebleeds on the pillowcases both nights, and how worried and attentive the proprietress was, bringing cold washcloths and suggesting herbal remedies that the father didn’t trust.  The hotel doubled as a hospice for the very old, and at dinner the father and son would listen to the sound of an ancient woman at the table next to them breathing as if repeatedly answering in the affirmative — mm-hmm! — “

And now self must stop, for her tour guide/companion is sitting right behind her, and she fears he has something better to do than hang around with her in an internet cafe all afternoon!

Another thing self has learned from this trip?  That it is absolutely essential for a woman in her position — traveling alone, not knowing the language — to have a really, really top-notch driver.

Self, why do you always end up doing the craziest, most foolhardy things?

Because she is a writer.  A writer.

Stay tuned for more adventures, dear blog readers.

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