We've now spent 3 weeks in Mcleod ganj/Dharamsala, and are quite acclimatised to the tea drinking, cake eating, cafe lurking, reading, early bed times and altitude- its been a rough ride. There are 15 pieces of cake / 3 dogs / 0.2 cows, 1 Buddhist monk, 0.4 monkeys, and 10kg of sugar for every traveller/citizen here.
Our english classes have been a lot of fun, and has given us a nice routine to each day (see above activities). Its great to get to know the students better now, and the lessons seem productive enough for 2 unqualified teachers (whats a gerund??). Many have their stories of fleeing Chinese occupied Tibet by walking accross the himalayas and Nepal and into India, and are just incredible survival stories and very humbling.
There are plenty of courses to get involved in, from various types of yoga to cookery and wood work. I took myself on a cookery 'Momo' class (a tibetan steamed dumpling) in 'Mamas Kitchen', which have quickly become my favourite street food/snack/main meal/supper :)
I was sat at our desk in our hotel room last week when quite a large monkey come in through the window. It is so very true how human their faces are (though with bigger teeth). I have watched a lot of nature programmes in my time (its impossible not to isn't it) and so knew what to do. I stood up slowly and put my arms in the air like a pantomime monster, which sent him quite casually back out of the window. He didnt wink or anything, but he would have done if it were in a film.
Diwali came and went with quite a bang. The picture at the top of this post shows our route home across the 'main square' blocked by a spontaneous unregulated and totally frightening fireworks 'session' with drums and dancing. I watched a man on a motorbike ride through the launching area at one point (the roads through it were not even closed and i guess he needed to get somewhere) as rockets and bangers were blasting up from coke bottles and bean tins and excited childrens hands. It was insane, and forged a new dimensions to the 'get on with it' / 'itll be fine' mentality here. Heres some photos, but they dont convey anywhere near the full picture or atmosphere. It was amazing - in the 'oh jesus' sense of the word.
Here comes a cop car to turn a blind eye...
Every so often, the Dalai Lama is requested to do some teachings here, this time by a Korean group, and so we had the opportunity to go and listen to him read some Buddhist teachings and explanations. It was in Tibetan, but all foreigners (in 6 languages maybe) had a live radio translation from an unseen man, struggling to keep up. Together with the celebrations at the Sikh Golden Temple, it was another huge privilege to be a part of. We were sat cross legged in amongst a huge number of smiling and friendly monks and nuns, listening and tucking into Butter Tea (it has salt, butter and milk in it, and laura got saddled with a huge bowl full, "this is disgusting"- my fault, sorry laura) and bread and dahl and rice (much nicer), brought out to the people by a troop of monks with the biggest pots and kettles i have ever seen. There were 3 days of teachings, a lot of it hard to understand, but being here we've learned a lot about Buddhism. Dont worry mum, it is NOt a cult or anything like, and we are still same old us :) Richard Gere even showed up on the last day.. they are good pals apparently, Who knew. Security was ever so tight - pity they got everyone's names wrong...
The food continues to be a big part of our time here, and eating out 2 or 3 times a day is a new experience for us and is very lovely. Its the first time in a long time that every meal we eat is made by someone else, which is quite a thing. This has meant i inadvertently end up eating ghee/milk/egg sometimes, which does no good for my eczema, but i think ive got the clamps on it now. Although english is widely spoken in india, the concept of no eggs or dairy is not always understood. We've moved guest houses to a very nice place, at the bottom of a big set of stairs, below the town. Its the same price (£3 ish), but has a huge balcony, nice bathroom and what looks like an alsation crossed with a dalmation - it looks very sci-fi.
We've found the best internet connection in town, which is a lot more reliable i think. They also advertise 'Paragliding & Lamination' - wouldnt want to get those two mixed up.
Once again we've added some photos to flickr which you can check out here!
That's all for now!