Monday, November 8, 2010

पहाड़ (Translation: Mountain)

         Erik, Jeanie, Erin, Allegra and I all ventured up north to Darjeeling during our week off. What a magnificent trip! Tea galore! Tea tea tea tea tea. TEA. We stayed at a lovely hotel with a prime rooftop seating to watch the sunrise over Mount Kanchenjunga (Try saying that three times fast. Heck, just try to remember how to spell it). Mount Kanchenjunga is the third largest mountain in the world and is just a few peaks over from Everest. Needless to say, the mountains made for some beautiful morning views.

Sunrise over the Himalayan mountain range

           While in Darjeeling, we scoped out a 500-year-old monastery. A kindly old monk generously  showed us around the inside. Murals covered every wall with accents in gold paint, and among other neat things sat two large drums. When Erik asked the monk the purpose of these huge drums, the man replied, "Oh those? I hits those and all the peoples of the city come." I suddenly had to squelch the desire to test that little fact out.
          The monk proceeded to give us a private concert with a large wooden wind instrument. He introduced his first serenade as,  "Like bison, ferocious grunts after glorious fight." Have you ever heard a bison grunt before? Given the circumstances, I think we all managed to stay very well composed.

Prayer flags of Tibet, hanging on a wall on the outskirts of Darjeeling
From the monastery adventures, we went on to a two-day hike where we tromped around the edges of Nepal. My "tough-it-out" side was a little embarrassed to be staying in a lodge on the hike. However, when I realized how cold the foothills of the Himalaya get, I swallowed my pride between gulps of the delicious hot tea they gave us. We were quite the happy [indoor] campers.

Kachenjunga (spelled right? You were supposed to remember!)

Hope all is well where you are! Take care!

देखना (Translation: to see)

After we were done with Darjeeling, Erik and I separated from the group to explore more western states. After a three-and-a-half-hour bumpy jeep ride down the mountain side to the train station, I got out of the vehicle with a sigh of relief. I walked around, enjoying my newly rediscovered freedom of leg movement. I began thinking about the long train ride ahead of us, my newly purchased tea, and did I forget to pack my-

WHAM. All of a sudden I was airborne. I was like a cartoon with my gangly legs somehow now above my head, surrounded by a ball of kicked-up dust. The world went quiet as everything turned into slow motion. And, during my new found serenity in flight, all I could think was, "Are those my shoes in the sky?"

A cow had rammed me. Sucker punched, really (I guess you could say it put the "cow" in coward). My old friends, favorite photo-subjects, had betrayed me! And I thought all I had to keep an eye out for was unruly traffic and pick-pocketers. Et tu, Brute? 

Reminiscing from Udaipur: in the initial, shy stages of our short friendship

Luckily, the fantastic city of Varanasi helped me forget the incident in a matter of moments. The phenomenal Ganges river flows like the aorta of the living, breathing India that has enamored me so much. I could bore you with every experience in that crazy city. However,  it would do Varanasi no justice and probably put you to sleep early.

Imagine the smoke of incense rising around your cheeks, filling up your head with intoxicating scents of forgotten flowers.
Imagine the sound that jangling anklets make on the slim feet of shoeless women.
Feel the calloused hands of people, reaching out for work, not for handouts.
See the translucent red cloth waving softly in a cool breeze.

Then you can feel what it's like to be in Varanasi--and that's all that really matters, isn't it?

Boat trip on the Ganges for sunrise
Hope all is well where you are! I miss you, and am eager to hear of the current happenings in your lives. Take care!