Friday, June 18, 2010

Amritsar to Dharamsala, June 2 2010

Actually all wasn’t golden at the temple. I lost my phone on June 1st…I still don’t know and will never know how exactly. The most likely thing happening is that it fell out of my pocket on my way to or from the bathroom…anyway, the response of the guards and the other pilgrims was overwhelming. The temple has dozens (could be hundreds) of guards, most of whom are wearing deep blue turbans and white robes – and a good portion of them carry around huge spears, or giant swords worn at the waist. Most speak broken English but are somehow hilarious and their kindness transcends language barriers. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to say thank you (Shukriya) in Punjabi. Anyway, I communicated about my phone being lost, they frantically called the number, and we set out in a search party of about 10 people for the 100 meters between the dorm and the bathroom. To no avail, but they kept on asking me and calling my number with me over the next 12 hours.

I woke up the next morning, dazed, still worried about the phone…it was my birthday!

And then Thomas appeared. And everything changed. I was already in a beautiful head and heartspace, and then what I really understand as Bhava Spandana, BSP, happened with him. Basically, the concept of BSP is that when two things in nature are vibrating at exactly the same frequency, it’s not 1+1=2, but it’s an exponential explosion. And that’s what this lanky, absurdly gorgeous Brasilian man and I experienced this past 4 days together.

It’s difficult to put into words…I woke up, was sitting on the bed when he comes in, asks me if I know about buses to Dharamsala, and I tell him that I am taking the bus at 12:20 and I have a rickshaw getting me at 11:30, and that he is welcome to join me. Then I ask him where he’s from, he says Brasil, and we pretty much leave it at that. We go our separate ways and meet back. When I came back to pack and shower, he was speaking with an English guy and went to buy bandages for his sprained ankle. Turns out they’re complete strangers but he was helping this guy out. This seems to be an insignificant but huge detail to me…I don’t know how to write about Thomas because there is no way I can do justice to the essence of his being…we get on the bus to Dharamsala, he’s got sparkles (ahh as purpurinas) all over his hair and face that he has no clue how they got there…and so this 7 hour bus ride through insane traffic jams on country roads, bumpy butts, and dry heat as we started the ascent into the pine forests that is Dharamsala, somehow transformed into a dissolving of myself.

Litchis in the bus, sticky hands, pouring water onto a napkin – peeling litchis for me so I didn’t have to get sticky…the cheesiest jokes – Urublue, jacared, yellowphant…buying coconut cookies, complaining that they’re artificial and eating the whole pack…trying to figure out whether the estimated 7 hours travel time already accounted for the major traffic jams on tiny country roads…the whole day I kept talking about mangoes and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find mangoes in Dharamsala…at the end of the day I brought up star signs and he is a Scorpio, and I told him I’m Gemini, actually it was my birthday that day.

We arrived in Mcleod Ganj, Krishnan came to find us, and we made our way to Hunted Hill Hotel. A lovely birthday dinner and birthday dessert, and that was that. The next day we had made plans to go on a hike to a waterfall that everyone talks about, but it rained like crazy in the early morning so that got cancelled. The next 2.5 days passed in a haze, where we seemed to be doing so much but really nothing at all. Just being, and enjoying each other’s company. But really intensely. As S puts it, “intense but relaxed, one hundred percent involvement...” We covered every topic imaginable from vegetarianism and raw food to ethnic genocide in Botswana to tofu types in Japan to dental procedures…

The day after we arrived, we moved to Bhagsu, which is somewhat of a nightmare for me (at the time I didn’t know it would be that way)…a hippie traveler/Israeli enclave…it’s a fine (or not so fine) line between a chilled-out, laid-back place that is welcoming to travelers, and then there is way over the top, no resemblance whatsoever to the original culture(s) that exist there, and a rambling, thoughtless development that is simply put, garish. This area isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen no doubt, but it really wasn’t the Shangri-La I was expecting. But put the negativity aside because as I was swept off my feet in Tibet in 2004, I have learned that anywhere where anything Tibetan by association exists, has indescribable beauty and bliss.

Anyway, on the 3rd we were looking for the Dalai Lama’s temple, got completely lost, and were helped by this American woman nun who has been in Dharamsala for 9 years now. A hilarious personal tour as she grumbled about the false information that the Indian guides give, she told Thomas not to point at deities and offerings, and then he captured her on camera pointing at a cat (but so sweet, she stopped to chat with every single animal we encountered on the way to the temple…)

More meandering in the afternoon and finally around sunset we arrived in Bhagsu, looking for the nameless guesthouse where Manuela’s friend/boyfriend was staying. That proved to be a humorous endeavor, and finally we were all settled in.

Throughout the day he had been going in and out of little food shops and I had no idea what he was buying – I asked a few times and he said “vou fazer um experimento” – I’m going to do an experiment…so we go to dinner, and then – agh! My teeth fell out! Eating pizza…why am I not surprised? ; ) so anyway, I’m mortified, realize that the support on my left side of the bridge has totally broken off, am panicking thinking maybe I have to go to Delhi to get this taken care of, and we decide to go home. At which point Thomas comes out from behind the restaurant counter, candle lit on a cake! I was so shocked. I had zero concept whatsoever that this was happening – from his ingredient shopping I thought he might be making something but the last thing I was expecting was a raw coconut mango birthday cake! I melted. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

The next day was spent running around to and from the dentist for me, and for Thomas much of it was occupied helping an elderly man. Well, let me recount about the dentist. India is so funny; going into Dr. Tandon’s Dental Clinic you don’t really expect anything horrible or true Indian fashion, the walls are cracked, paint is chipped, bad lighting...the usual. But then he opens up the cupboards and there are these shiny brand new boxes of dental tools and equipment, the majority of which I deduce are made in Germany…so that was that. A few x-rays and a quick procedure (interrupted by an electricity cut, yup, we’re in India) and my teeth were fully restored! For 1850 Rupees! (Roughly 40USD) While I was dealing with my oral drama, Thomas was stopped in the street by an elderly American man who had great trouble just walking. What a heart of gold. He spent over 2 hours while I was running back and forth speaking to this man, about healing and healers all over the world, helping him into a café and literally spoon-feeding him. It was heavy for him in many ways and I hate to sound shallow but my dental stuff was quite draining for me, so after our Thai green curry and somewhat Enchilada-y lunch I headed back alone to Bhagsu to decompress. Thomas was going to go shopping – side note – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a shopper as indecisive and meticulous as this boy…he was looking for Tibetan singing bowls, it was a good practice for me to accompany him and it was also a nice way for me to interact with shopkeepers without any pressure of buying anything.

So I made it back to Bhagsu, and almost immediately after I got back and got ready to head out to a Classical Indian Music concert, this enormous thunderstorm started, with purple lightning lighting up the whole sky, illuminating the mountains. So I stayed in, and wondered how on earth Thomas was going to make it back in one piece. He came in a few hours later, positively dripping on the floor, and after he got in dry clothes we decided to go eat despite the fact that neither of us were hungry.

Hello to the King. Apparently Hello to the Queen is a common and hugely popular dessert in India – I’d never heard of it! Sliced bananas, Bhagsu cake (OH MY GOD! A thick buttery shortbready crust, a layer of thick caramel just like dulce de leche in Argentina, and dark chocolate on top…insanity), vanilla ice cream, and all sorts of other delectable delights…mmm. Afterwards, we poked around to find a tool to play the Tibetan singing bowls, and back we went. These instruments are so powerful. The vibration they create goes so deep within you, reverberating and unquestionably healing you. Sort of reminds me of the electric charge tools that acupuncturists use. So off I went into bliss-land, and next thing I knew it was sunrise.

Thomas’s last day in Bhagsu. It felt like we had just met, but spent lifetimes together. We finally sucked it up and made it out to the waterfall – totally worth the effort. The trail there is forested, winding in and out of views of the surrounding hills, and when you reach the destination, you are rewarded with stunning green water backed by high limestone cliffs. Lovely. We laid around on rocks, each made painfully shocked faces as we jumped into the instantly numbing water, ate mangoes…bliss. We made it back and headed for lunch at the vegetarian Japanese restaurant which supports Gu Chu Sum, a NGO that supports former political prisoners from Tibet. Our lovely Tibetan waitress used the menu to copy lemon soda onto her pad of paper, adorably self-conscious as she realized I was watching her do it. The focus, intensity, and love with which she wrote out those simple letters was so moving. Stomachs full of agedashi tofu and Japanese style potato salad, warm from miso soup (first Japanese meal since I left Japan 1 month ago), we headed slowly through shops back up towards Bhagsu. How to describe the feeling as we parted ways at the bus terminal? First and foremost, it was an extremely settled, stable, firm grounding. It’s difficult to explain – but it felt like it was time and the time that we had been blessed to share was so auspicious and I had no doubt that each of us was so grateful for the past days together. As is always the case when we part ways, we never really know if we will see each other again. But in this case, I had this certainty that we would meet again, or rather, that we weren’t even separating because we will carry each other within us forever.

Obrigada por tudo querido, desde o fundo do coracao…

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