Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reflections...

This is an ongoing list of thoughts I've had since returning to the States. Some of them are just things I've come to realize, and some are things I realized were left out and should have been included...

STP/IPC/PCO
This was the name of the phone and internet booths that are sprinkled throughout India. They are used regularly by both travelers and natives. Of course, seeing "STD" everywhere is pretty amusing to Americans. "It's spreading across the nation," I said at one point.

TNP
This was the term we affectionately ascribed to our frequent stoped while traveling to "tea and pee."

Dynamic pluralism
India is host to many Major World Religious. Even Hinduism isn't really one conglomerated belief system, as there are many divergent and conflicting views and Gods. Hindus are "hendotheistic," meaning that while they support a particular God, they are aware of the existence of other, and that others worship them, and this is not problematic. This general sentiment can be said of most of the people of India. There are so many varied beliefs, and people are not oppresive or condemning of others simply for acknowledging a different belief system. This was one of my biggest takeaways from my travels in India
Of course, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the Hindutva militants, one can see the teachings of Gandhiji slipping away...

Symbols as visual theology
Every temple and mosque is intricately carved and decorated, just as is much of everything in India. What at first glance simply looks beautiful and impressive can upon further inspection tell you so much about the time and culture when it was created. It can offer stories of the opeople who visited it. It can open your eyes to things you hadn't previously consider. This visual theology is everywhere, and one need only a brief introduction to start seeing it.

Mr. Subramaniam, Nikky Singh, Cathy Asher
These were the guides that accompanied us on our trip. They were invaluable as leaders, translators, teachers, and friends. They made the trip the huge success that it was, and I feel forever indebted to each of them.

CNG
Compressed Natural Gas. The autorickshaws are run on this, and some newer ambassadors use the new fuel type as well. As the world approaches peak production of oil, and gasoline becomes much more expensive, I think this is the next option. Of course, it is no answer to the world energy crises...but to see smaller, lighter vehicles provided for mass transit within the city and running on this is very symbolic of India's awareness and commitment to environmental friendliness. Rickshaws, for the record, seem like the perfect blend of public transportation and convenience. I think they'd go over well in most large cities and college towns, if it weren't for all the (explitive deleted) SUVs.

Nikky and the Prime minister
The day before ManMohan Singh traveled to America to meet with President Bush, he met with Nikky. She informed him of her concerns for women's rights, and also transferred an idea Mary had to employ the homeless in trash collection. She and he are both Sikh, and it was sort of exciting to talk with someone right after they had met with the Prime Minister.

Sitting by river - productivity vs. purpose
While sitting on the side of the Ganga in Haridwar (the night I couldn't stay alseep), I sat thinking about the primary difference I see in Indian and American culture. Americans seem to be searching for productivity and efficiency in all that they do, whereas Indians are looking for purpose and meaning. As the two nations start to merge, I see that our productivity is rubbing off on them. I really, sincerely hope this can be a two-way street, because the function of our life is not to produce and grow an economy. Without searching for purpose and meaning in life, I worry about the willingness of Americans to become corporate drones, working 10 hour days and purchasing things they don't need, only to achieve a fleeting sense of happiness and a feeling of purpose that will not endure. While you can't spend forever deciding what you believe and what your purpose in life should be, I see that as infinitely enviable to simply working and making, with no purpose past that of your corporate master.

Shigella
I returned to the US with a new friend! Shigella, a foodborne illness similar to E. Coli and Salmonella, has gone everywhere with me - through 22 hours of plane rides to Amsterdam and Detroit, for a 3 day trip to Columbia to move things up to my third-floor apartment, and to the Emergency room, for a get-to-know-you session.

Reverse culture shock
Upon my return to the US, I had to overcome the reverse culture shock, which was almost as difficult as the Shigella. Things seem slower, and I feel more calm and in control. I find it difficult to feel overwhelmed (though Master's school is giving me a run for my money). I also am amazed that such a smart and powerful nation can be inhabited predominantly by people who have no zest for knowledge, no want of civic involvement, and no worries regarding the state of the world. On a number of occasions, people said to me that "travel abroad should be compulsory for American students." Having now traveled abroad, I agree completely - for this and so many other reasons.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Last Day in Delhi (Day 24)

When we woke up, we had arrived in Delhi. We bargained for a rickshaw ride home. One guy said he couldn't do it for any less than 200 rupees, so I said "well, I guess we'll just ask anybody else, because we don't have that much money." And we didn't. But the bluff worked, and we got a ride to Defence colony (about the entire extent of Delhi away from where we were), for the equivalent of $3.

When we got back, we immediately passed out on couches. We didn't get far, however, because the Jaipur Inn next store claimed that we had made reservations with them again. Unlike last time, I strongly objected this time. I tried to explain how silly it was to imply that we would have booked BOTH an overnight sleeper cab AND a hotel room for one night. They didn't seem to like it, but I was too grumpy to care in the least. When we finally did wake up, we spoke with Purnima (who is amazing), and she hooked us up with a key to one of the bedrooms, where we went and took showers. After this, I packed up my stuff, and divied up the Ganga water I had into separate bottles. I then distributed them to Prunima and a student who was in her office, to Ashok, the cook who had raved about the water, and to Purdeep. I then gave the rest of a water-bottle full of the holy water to Purnima, and asked her to distribute it on our behalf. Everyone seemed elated by this. Maniji was going to leave shortly, so Lee and I said goodbye to the guy who is perhaps the coolest guy I've ever met.

Then we headed out. We went first to the Defence Colony market, hoping to get some street food. I had been saying that I would do so the entire trip, and the mutton fritter, as it turned out, just turned me on to eating more. It was really hot, so we bought a bottle of water for Rs 12. We searched for a streetside food stand, but Defence COlony is a little too posh for that. Across the street and down the road from the market, however, we found what we were looking for. In retrospect, we must not have been looking very hard at all. There were about 300 flies circling the food prep area, and a bunch of Indian men with grease on their shirts and hands. We paid Rs 12 for our entire plate of food, which we ate standing. It wasn't particularly good, but it wasn't awful. I would come to think otherwise.

From there, we caught a rickshaw to the Gandhi museum (we were very scrutinizing in picking a driver this time). We arrived, and spent another 5 hours at the Birla house, where Gandiji was asassinated. This time we went upstairs to all of the multimedia, and though they usually rush people through, we insisted on being shown every video and audio clip. It was all humbling, just as it had been before. Once we had finished viewing multimedia, we went out again to the back lawn, and to the exact site where Gandhi was shot. We paused and took it all in for a minute, then departed, knowing that everything from here out was in an attempt to exit. But right outside the museum, another streetside vendor was selling pakoras and aloo bread, so we got some of that really quick, first.

We caught a rickshaw back to the AIIS guest house, and gathered up our things. We went and ate masala dosas and stuffed ourselves, then packed up and said our goodbyes. Soon after, we were headed to the airport. Our plane left at 12:30 am, and we made it. We had left at 9:30, so we actually had quite a bit of time. Lee find a humongous bottle of whisky and considered purchasing it, only to find out that customs would make him pay duties on it because, at 4.5 Liters, it was 3.5 Liters over the limit. Eventually, we boarded our plane, and were on our way.

The plane ride got worse for me as we went. I believe the Rs 12 rupee plate of food was the cause of what would later be diagnosed as a Shigella infection. I spent the majority of the 22-hour trip back home in the bathroom. I had hot and cold streaks, and tried to sleep as much as I could. Eventually, when I was assuredly completely empty, and feeling completely miserable, I was able to drift off to sleep. When we got to Amsterdam, I was able to make it through the overlay and run through customs with no problems. On the next plane, I tried eating again, and thus spent most of that trip in the bathroom as well. When we got to Detroit, even though I had just gone to the bathroom before deboaring, I went to the bathroom again. Lee did as well, but that lucky punk did not end up getting sick. Finally, when arrival at my gate, we said our goodbyes. It was kind of sad to depart, but he goes to KSU, and I figure I will see him again. Maria goes to MU, so I knew I'd see her soon enough. And Tony has promised to make a trip across country all the way to Maine, where Nikky Singh lives. We'll see (especially with the cost of gas now...)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hiking, the long drive to Amritsar, and a disaster barely averted (Day 23)

As soon as we were all awake, we headed to breakfast at the hotel. It had a reputation for serving great food; it was decent. When we came back to Maria's room, we were surprised to see a monkey reaching his hand inside and trying to get at her food through the gate! Unlike the grey monkeys, which were passive but defensive, this was a red monkey, which we'd heard was aggressive. That indeed appeared to be the case. He hissed at us, he shook the wire grating holding him from entering the room, etc. We fed him some banana chips, and Lee even gave him some pudding he had brought back to the room. Then Lee put some of the pudding on his finger, and the monkey licked it off. Then, we all did it. But that didn't make the monkey go away. We were headed out to go on a hike and see the Bhagsu Devi temple, so we left with him still there. However, Tony (whose room it was also), unlocked the door to go back and get something, and found the monkey had gotten inside the room! Luckily, it crawled back out as soon as Tony came in, so he closed and locked the window, and we left.

We walked out of town and up the hill, with Yovindar telling us about how we were his friends and he was a good driver. He insisted that we go to the Bhagsu Devi temple, and I was interested anyway, so we headed that way. After about 3 km, we arrived. It sits up higher in the hill range than McLeod Ganj, and has a waterfall that flows into a man-made pool. All of this sits right in the temple, but we chose to skip it for now. Instead, we walked up into the hillside to take pictures. The view was amazing, as we were very high up and could see many smaller peaks around us, and the mountain range in front of us. We decided to hike through tall grass on the side of this large hill, which was very dangerous. Eventually, we made it down to a path (that we could have just stayed on from the temple, and saved about half an hour), and followed it onward. We walked up, up, up, with Tony saying he was going to bathe in the Ganjes when we got there. Eventually, we passed a small stream, and everyone washed their hands and feet (if they were wearing sandals). Soon enough, Yovindar made us aware of a leech that was on his foot, which he removed with a stick. We all assumed it was from the water, but we didn't see any on ourselves, so we moved on. Soon, we came to a little covered tea shop. Runoff water was being used to ice a bunch of sodas sitting into a chiseled-out hold in the rock. A tarp had been pulled over a small area that had been cut out, which made for a small dining area. We ordered some tea, and sat watching as it began to rain. Suddenly, Maria screamed as though she had been attacked by an animal. I turned to see what was going on, and found that there was a leech on her foot. When she took off her sandals, she found five more. There were none on me or anyone else, but after Maria's had been removed Lee put one on his skin (because he is slightly insane). The attendant informed us that the leeches were not in the water, but in the grass of the hill we crossed. He put them on a piece of paper and tossed them into the river. Then he brought us our chai, which really hit the spot. It was now pouring rain, and just as it began a Japanese guy came under the tarp with us. We talked to him for a bit and then, realizing it was 11:45, Lee and I began hustling back to the hotel we needed to check out of by noon.

We rushed back, with Lee taking time to shop and me taking time to check out the Bhagsu Devi temple (so, not much hustling). We ended up getting a rickshaw most of the way, since we had come a long distance and it was still raining. When we got back I took my last hot shower, packed up all my wet clothes, and gave away those belongings I would no longer be needing. Then came the goodbyes. Lee and I were headed out, so we took time to dwell on our travels and properly send each other off - Maria and Tony headed to Shimla and on, and Lee and I headed back to Amritsar, then Delhi, then the US.

So we got in the car with Yovindar, and Lee and I both chose to sit in the back. At this point, we both thoroughly disenjoyed Yovindar's company, and also his conversation. We had also become aware, especially when I stated it aloud and heard no rebuttal from him, that "He doesn't really know a lick of English past basic conversation." From that point on, we would regularly direct comments to him in accents, telling him that the music was absolutely terrible, and that we hated him. WWhat did it matter? He didn't understand us. We spent most of the trip reading "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's way of Life" (which I just finished - enlightening, yet confusing) and a book on Guru Nanak and Sikhism. I held my laundry out the window for a bit just to get it dry (not clean). We listened to the iPod over the blaring of the same 8 Bongra songs he had played all the way up. We stopped at the same restaurant to pee. Lee threw Walnuts at water buffalo. In short, we bided our time, hoping we would make it back to Amritsar for our 9:30 train.

We arrived in Amritsar with about an hour to spare. Lee and I decided, on Yovindar's sugestion, that we would go and get some beer. Yovindar wanted to go to a sit-down establishment, but Lee very explicitly stated he wanted to go to a Godfather (a streetside liquor store). After we passed two of them, Lee said, in a wild voice, "You better go to the next one, I'M WARNING YOU!" It was hilarious, because we both knew he didn't understand. Eventually, we pointed frantically and he pulled over. He of course expected us to buy him a beer, but we refused. At this point, he had asked us "You like my driving" (No, he was terrible) about 67 times. We realized that appeasing him by saying yes throughout the course of the trip made him feel a tip was warranted. We told him we'd pay and tip him once we made it to the train station. We still had 40 minutes to spare, but we told him to head to the train station because we still had to find our particular train, and didn't want to risk it. On the way, we saw a Ferris wheel. Yovindar kept driving, and soon pulled into a sit-down drinking establishment. Instead of acquiescing, I started LOUDLY SCREAMING, from the back seat, "Ferris Wheel! Ferris Wheel!" Lee joined in on the chanting, and soon enough Yovindar gave up and turned around. Lee started to laugh in this high-pitched, insane style of laughter, and I just busted up. We were slap-happy, it was late, and we figured out that we had the time (the station was close by).

We arrived near the fairgrounds, and rushed in. We found a bunch of kids playing on playground equipment, a bunch of junky, unsafe carnival equipment, and the Ferris wheel, which was somewhat different from the ones I'm used to. For starters, the booths seat passengers toward each other, not next to each other. Instead of sitting facing outward along the track of the wheel, you sit perpendicular to it. Last and most important, it goes way faster and the booths swing way more. Before we got on, however, Lee had an idea. We pooled our money, and then went and got every kid in the entire park. We told them we were going to pay for a Ferris wheel ride for everyone - that it was completely on us. After getting this across, about 35 kids came with us to the Ferris wheel. We were seated, and the thing started up. Against our wishes, they sat Lee and I together, but we still got to talk to the people in the carts ahead of and behind us a little bit as we circled around. The kids were ecstatic, and audibly pleased. As soon as the ride ended (we were the first ones off), we realized that we had to go immediate. So we left, and the kids never really knew why we had decided to be so charitable. It was the perfect setting though, because it just made us both feel really good.

Then we headed to the train stop. We arrived with about 15 minutes left and found, much to our dismay, that our train had been CANCELLED. There was no alternate route. Our only option would be to catch the Golden Temple train on the next day, and that would cause us to miss our flight home. I was in a state of near-panic, and Yovindar wasn't helping. We had already paid him, but he lingered on (presumably because he has no friends). By coincidence or fate, I ran into a Punjabi named Nafdeep who was very rational, had full control of the English language, and who was on the same train as us. He was also Sikh, and in that selfless manner that I have come to find characteristic of Sikhs, Nafdeep helped us through the process. He said he was actually glad to have found two white guys, as it would better his chances of getting his own arrangements fixed. I told him I felt like it was fate, because Lee and I had been reading about Guru Nanak the whole ride there. Unfortunately, fate didn't have it in the cards. Nafdeep decided he would just travel another day, and the bus authority refused to exchange our tickets for a train that would be passing through Delhi and leaving in an hour. They would, however, bargain for our tickets, and then go and trade them in on their own time. We didn't have the time for this, so we had to accept. Luckily, Nafdeep made sure we got the price of our tickets. Then Yovindar butted in again. His friend (also his uncle (but who isn't?)) owned the bus line in town, and could get us seats if we hurried, and of course bought him a beer. So we went to a Godfather, and bought him, and when he started whining like a bitch, Rintu beers. Just to trump it up, Lee and I each got two beers for ourselves. We also stopped by a streetside food vendor, and got a fried mutton fritter. It was absolutely delicious. We slammed the first of our two beers while eating it, and then, when Yovindar showed no urgency in making it to the bus, we got out and started walking back. We made it, and Yovindar soon pulled up. Our bags were already packed, so we were just waiting to get on the road. In that bit of time, Yovindar's friend, happy to have gotten his beer, gave us a shot of Indian rum (good!). He also rolled up a hash cigarette, which was worthless, as I found most Indian hash to be. We came to discover, but not be surprised by the fact, that Rintu's "Uncle" had no affiliation with the bus line whatsoever, outside of knowing it existed. But whatever. We got on the bus, trying hard as we might not to have to say bye to Yovindar.

We went from being on a second-class AC sleeper cab, which would take 8 hours to get to Delhi, to riding back on an non-AC bus on bad roads that would take 10 hours. This was impetus enough to slam our second 40, in the hopes of passing out. It would have worked well, but that Lee had no urinated for a while. Somehow, almost immediately having pulled out of the station, all the Indian passengers were sound asleep. Lee walked down the entry steps, pissed into his bottle (at the time, I thought he was pissing on the floor), and chucked it out the window. I waited until the first stop, which was just alongside some field. Everyone got out, even women, and urinated in this field. We got back on the bus, and soon after I was finally able to pass out (though I was awaked repeatedly).

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Dharamsala (Day 22)

We woke up early, and went to meet with Mr. Naga. He was a new hire of AIIS, and is working for the library of the Tibetan government (not the gov't itself). His niece was the desk attendant at our hotel (Hotel Tibet), coincidentally enough, so he met us there. We then walked to a coffee shop in the rain to have chai and chat. Mr. Naga, as we would soon learn, spoke English, Hindi, and Tibetan fluently. He was also a historian of sorts. Basically, he was the ultimate tour guide. He told us about the four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingma, Kargyue, Sakya, and Gelugpa. While the original master's were just teachers in the main line, their followers picked up these titles over time. After tea, we headed to the Dalai Lama's temple!

The Dalai Lama arrived in India in 1959, and the Tibetan government settled in McLeod Ganj in the 60s. With Nehru as Prime Minister at the time, the area was ceded to the government in exile because it's cold, hilly terrain was similar to that of Tibet. Travellers from all over the world will come to stay for days, months, or years. If they stay long enough and can convince their home country, they can actually even get the little green book required for Tibetan citizenry.

The Dalai Lama had just left, so we did not see him at any time. We did, however, meet many monks, and visited the rooms of the Lama and the oracle (Tibetan society believes in state and national oracles that can be possessed and used as a conduit when need be). Mr. Naga explained that our presence there, according to a Buddhist, was made to hopic by a karmic connection, and that nothing happens without some Buddhist cause. He also said that Buddhists believe that if you are very intelligent, you rise above all religions, and become a true philosophers.

The first temple looks like what we see on tv. It was red, with lots of ornate decoration, and big bald gold statues (Buddhas) all over. There were big metal wheels that you spun with your hand when you walked by, called "mani," or prayer wheels. Truning them earns the merit equal to recitations of the mantras printed on the wheel. There were a lot of these in and around the complex. Inside, a large gold Buddha sat in a chair at the head of the complex. On a sign next to him, a sign read "Never commit any evil deeds, accumulate a wealth of merits, completely tame one's own mind...this is the teaching of the Buddha." Everywhere in the complex were small butter lamps, which are burned in offering to the Buddha. Some of these lamps have the ligght fan lamps above them, that spin with the rising of the heat. Also in the room were offering trays. People would offer money sometimes, but also packaged food, and other things that seemed odd to me. When I asked Mr. Naga about this, he explained that what one is giving is not of importance. It is the gesture and the personal significance of giving that appeases the Buddha. He told the story of a young boy who once came to make an offering, and dropped a pile of sand at the alter. Although this gift had no practical use, it was all the boy had to give, and he had given it generously and willingly, and thus the Buddha was joyful. The thou8ght mprocess behind that intrigued me.

After checking out the temple, we headed out and started hiking down a small shale path around the side of the hill. As we walked, Lee and I began to sing. "We'll be yelling rade rade when we come. We'll be yelling Bom Bolay when we come. We'll be yelling Namaste, we'll be yelling hari krishna, we'll be yelling Kaje Rade when she comes!" It was hilarious. At one point, someone made the comment that water doesn't flow uphill, to which I responded, "unless you turn the hill over." At the time it was really funny also, but I think it loses something in transcription.

In due time, we arrived at the Tibetan Library where Mr. Naga works. (On the way over, we passed a basketball court!). We went upstairs and took our seats, and soon after a Tibetan Buddhist monk and translator arrived. We were sitting in on a one-hour philosophy lecture. I quickly made count: the ratio was 38 white people to 8 asians, which I found sort of disconcerting. Nonetheless, the lecture was very good. Upon the Monk's entrance, everyone stood up and bowed, then sang a ten minute chant/song. We were attending the third lecture in a series on the third stage of the Bodhisattva, which discussed the "perfection of giving." The monk, in his low, gravelly voice, told us that the Bodhisattva awakens into a Buddha-field, and attempts to awaken other minds so that they all may escape cyclical existence. They approach this noble goal through the perfection of ten stages. The art of giving means to give selflessly of oneself, as there are no such things as personal possessions. The Buddha-to-be is even willing to give of his flesh if it betters the lives of those around him. The lecture was very educational, even though one guy decided to try to argue with the 80-year old monk on basic principles of Buddhism and essentially wasted the last 20 minutes of the period. After that, everyone sang/chanted again, bowed to keep their head below the level of the monk's (I figured this out by the second time around...oops!), and awaited his exit.

We went back downstairs to rejoin Mr. Naga, and he took us back upstairs to a small museum. We saw a miniature version of the Lhasa Tsuglag Khang (the name of the Dalai Lama's temple, both here and in Tibet). We saw many artifacts, and sand art. Our teacher was there as well, along with some other monks. We greeted them, and them us. They took special interest in Lee's belt buckle, which had a large turquoise amulet on it. We would think of it as very country, but the monks have a special affinity for turquoise, I guess. After this, we headed downstairs and into a room for library employees only. Here, we were shown the original writings of the Tibetan Buddhists, along with many writings that had been written since. This is not something most people get to see, and we felt especially honored when they took out one of the original bindings, opened it's cloth cover, and let us touch the paper. There were two types: one that is thick like a card stock, and another that is strong but thin, and doesn't get wrinkles when folded. The symbols on them were illegible to me, but I still felt like I was viewing something of great importance. It was, in short, hecka cool. Mr. Naga informed us that these were holy scriptures, and that there were 108 volumes with block prints on paper (minus the ones from Tibetan, which were hand-scripted). They were wrapped in different colors of cloth, which roughly categorized them to the lineages of Buddhism (but not exactly). Yellow was Gelugpa, red was Nyingma and kkargyue, orange were the sort of scattered, and blue were part of the "bonbo texts." Bonbo refers to the Tibetan (as opposed to Buddhist - these aren't strictly religious texts) writings. The library was thus very colorful, and the scripts were very old and important. I was amazed when they gave Maria the OK to take pictures.

We then headed out, cutting through and around buildings in the complex on our way to the temple donated to the Dalai Lama when he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. As we arrived, we saw the bus taking off, and we had to jump onto the MOVING BUS! We all made it fine, though, and were on our way. Bus rides costs RS5, or roughly 10¢, and the bus travels all the way to a distant town of Manila. AT on stop, I made eye contact with a gorgeous girl sitting in a room on the side of the room. We had that kind of connection that is hard to break, and both looked away only to look back. I notice it because I will never forget her eyes. Sadly, I will never see them again...

Anyway, we shortly arrived at the Gyoto Ramoche temple. The first thing we did was headed to a restaurant where some monks were eating (meat, no less - though it is not looked well upon, Buddhism is not ascetic and strict - but more of a guiding principle). Mr. Naga explained to us that the monks take turns running the tempple, the restaurant, and other enterprises. We sat down to order, and Mr. Naga explained the difference between chow mein (noodles) and tugba (noodles sans soup). I ordered Chow Mein, and also some momos (meat-filled dumplings) for the table as appetizers. While we were waiting, Mr. Naga explained that the original Buddha had a wife and children before becoming a religious leader - but that other monks do not marry. He said anyone can become a monk, as long as they have a sense of pronunciation of earthly rights and ownings, and are willing to dedicate themselves to the teachings of the Buddha. Still, it is awkward for older or already-married men to start training, and thus it is very rare that these things happen.

When our food arrived, all hell broke loose. Yovindar (who had been bitches about how hot it was, and how he didn't want to walk any more, and just generally crying all day) had been served a meat dish. Not that it matters, but he did order it of his own accord. Still, he felt the need to produce a picture from his wallet of a Hindu image, and decry to all "THIS MY GOD!" Mr. Naga quickly defused the situation by saying that he would eat Yovindar's meal, and that Yovindar could order another. When that plate of food arrived, Yovindar declared that it also had meat in it, and it took the cook and Mr. Naga quick some time to convince him that it was, indeed, a vegetarian meal. Whatever. My chow mein was -awesome.-

After lunch, we headed up into the temple area. Along the path, there were small apartment complexes on each side. They didn't have doors. There were monks sitting and conversing outside. We headed up to the temple, and after removing our shoes, headed in. There were many, many images of Buddhas here, along with offerings and a gigantic image. Mr. Naga and I had bought white scarves, which we wrapped around a pole in front of the image as an offering. Next to the Buddha, there were mean-looking images. Buddha believes in wrathful deities, and includes them to highlight the calm and peacful nature of the Buddha. We viewed them all, and I was again surprised when we got the go-ahead to take pictures. After spending about 15 minutes just taking it all in, we headed out.

We jumped on a return bus, and this time I was sitting behind a cute little boy and his parents. He kept turning around to look at Tony and I, so I said "Op kanam kia hey?," which means what is your name? He answered, and his mom turned around with a huge smile. I made small talk with the young boy until we got off on our stop, and the mother was absolutely riveted. I don't think the dad took well to it, though... It was on this same bus ride that I made a humorous comment to Tony (which he subsequently stole and used as the headline of one of his posts (the bastard!)): An AmerIndian, a Hawaiian, 2 white guys, an Indian and a Tibetan walk into a Buddhist monastery..."

The next stop was at the Norbulingka Institute, where the Tibetan environment has been simulated. There were streams, rock paths, prayer flags, bridges, small pools of water, and tibetan-looking buildings. Inside them was a museum and a small store. It was a very interesting area. Deeper inside, we found large, open prayer area with large image, and a library with scripts similar to those we had been shown before. We were also taken to a back room where monks study and train. The large shelf of books were written in Tibetan (which is, by the way, phonetic), but a smaller shelf had books in English. Here are some of the titles I scribbled down in a hurry:

Putting People First - Governor Bill Clinton and Senator Al Gore
Java 2
Windows 95
Pagemaker 6.5
Schindler's List
Professional Journalism

We left this complex, and started walking back in the direction of the bus. Along the way, Yovindar started whining AGAIN. The next taxi that drove past us, he nabbed. While I was surprised to find a taxi out on this little country road, I wasn't all that opposed to just getting a ride back and not dealing with walking and buses. After all, we had walked a lot that day!

When we got home, I took a short nap. When I awoke, Maria, Lee, Tony and I headed out on the town. We did a little shopping, ran into Mr. Naga at a cafe, and then stepped into the "friends cafe" when it started raining. We ended up having about a 2-hour political discussion while drinking banana lassis, lichi juice, and waiting out the rain. When it finally died down, Lee and I did a bit more shopping, then went back to our place. My laundry was still pretty much soaking, so I adjusted it, wrung it, and did everything I could to aid it in drying (to no avail). I wanted to take a hot shower, but the water heater would not turn on. I got a stafer to come help me, and he revealed that the water heaters were set up on a fuse, and where the control box was. After saying "thorry" numerous times, he went back to working. With a hot shower in my sights, I went about cleaning my room and packing. 20 minutes later, I took a hot shower, then hit the lights and went to bed.