Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I found the Light of the Appetite: Dharamsala comma YEAH

What on earth is better than the feeling you get when you lose something and then find it again. Something like, your favorite pair of socks, or the ability to eat –

Somewhere during the bus ride back from Dharamsala, the winding, lurching, jolting journey inside a large metal box careening turn after turn, my stomach decided to REVOLT against me. I thought I would spew out the window for the majority of the 13 hours spent on that bus; somehow I didn’t – I think that my lack of vomiting since fifth grade has given me an intense fear of it ever happening… thus I think that I withstand nauseated discomfort better than most in the sense that I resist the urge to ‘toss my cookies’ and perhaps prolong my inward suffering…
Nevertheless, the bus ride was long. My stomach upset continued through yesterday and part of the day today. The mere thought of food was enough to throw me into an irritated state of discomfort. Sweeping nausea. Fun!

Anyway, I have since regained some of my appetite. Bananas are starting to sound real, real good. As is the mango juice that I am sipping on. (No skins!) I feel like I am tasting for the first time. The sweetness of the juice is embellished on my taste buds. Gah, how beautiful, right? Rediscovering what an appetite is. I swear there is nothing quite as beautiful as exercising your sense of taste after not having done so, not having even desired to do so, for even two days.

Besides this little rough patch in my return to Delhi, my weekend in Dharamsala was nothing short of a beautiful emerald experience. Having the experience of a 13 hour public bus ride in Delhi will only make me a more tolerable person. Tolerable of sitting hour after hour listening to the blossoming rumble of the engine, confined to a seat with no concept of personal space, overlapping shoulders or spooning on a hunt for the most comfortable sleeping position, listening to the coughing man across from you spew his germs from the bottom of his right lung…
It was nothing short of an alternative universe, really. Lights off, people constantly getting boarding and departing at seemingly random locations along the way, making a few short pit stops for chai and snacks along the way – really, it puts you in a different place to be awoken from your something-like-sleep state, totally unaware of your surroundings, and shuffle over to a man selling chai at three in the morning on a dusty roadway. Is this all just part of the dream?

We left Delhi at 7:fourty (my four key is acting up again…) and got into Dharmsala around 9 the next morning. For the last hour of the ride we watched rain pour onto a lush green landscape dappled with thick wandering fog – was that Legolas over there? Over bridges of flushing brown water sky congested with gray… Is the flannel I brought enough to protect me from this abrupt climate change?

Dharamsala, unlike Delhi, is full of traveling foreigners that are explorative and innocently awed by India’s beauty. While there, we were able to talk to people from many different places, people who had been hopping city to city place to place, with a friend, solo mission, easily talking to other journeying souls. In Delhi we really don’t run into people who are just here to see the sites. Delhi is a little too chaotic and messy for someone who just wanted to take a week-long bite out of a place, I realize, as most people were surprised we had actually CHOSEN to live here for six months.

Dharamsala is small; easily traversable by foot, even to neighboring areas such as Baghsu and Dharamkot. Tons of yoga, tons of cooking, tons of Tibetans (oh, and the Dalai Lama?), a good amount of monstrous thunder sifting heavy rain, rolling green hills, black pools of malty water on rooftops, good chai, skin-colored mud pasty paths…
One of my favorite moments there was during a trek back from Dharamkot one evening, when the sun was setting fast. The sky was foggy but not thickly overcast, and somehow the light became an extreme rosy violet hue that colored our entire perceptual field of vision. We became enshrouded in a warmth of dimming light…
Other points of this 2.5 day journey that migrate to the forefront of my immediate memory is the Ashtanga yoga class we took, as well as the Tibetan cooking class where we learned how to make Momo’s.
The yoga class left my joints feeling sore and strong and stretched. Our teacher’s voice was more beautiful than a singing bowl and he wore small blue shorts that easily flashed us his modestly bulging thighs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he slept in a handstand. My mat smelled like mold and each person in the class smelled like some kind of ugly (myself included – the use of a shower didn’t come into play during this adventure. Time we just didn’t have…) but my body appreciated every motion of that two hours.
We ate some of the best Indian food I’ve had here (and just before leaving the restaurant caught a fast glimpse of a scurrying rat), some delicious Japanese food, talked to friendly open travelers, got attacked by a drunken Indian man, got moistened in the mist of a waterfall… this weekend was full of sensory experiences only crammed into 2.5 days how do you see something that fast?

Meeting other travelers was great – to see what other people are doing with their lives. One girl, only twenty-four, already married, decided to take a year off with her spouse to see the world. Another guy from Germany just wandering around him and his thoughts until he studies abroad in Paris. A couple of Jewish friends that just want to meditate for a bit in India. Traveling is serious business, yeah? To not be tied down, to not have to worry about who you are and exactly where you are going, to be concerned only with what to experience next. To see see see. Impermanence. We all have homes; we all have friends that know us well; we all have family; but it feels good to slacken your rope and move elsewhere. Fostering and cultivating. In the back of your mind you always have your rock of your origin.

The day we left the rain was literally streaming down the sides of the mountain in river-like veins. Thunder and lighting sprung above our heads without a second’s gap in between them. Being high up on a mountain, though, all the water just streams down to somewhere else – and the monsoons pass if you give them enough time. Rains are no reason to restrict yourself. Especially when a poncho is involved.

A quote from the Lama, Dalai:
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

What he said.

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