Friday, September 11, 2009

Leaving Dharamsala at last


I spent about 7 weeks total in Dharamsala, during which time I kind of settled in a made myself at home. I stayed out in the quiet nearby village of Dharamkot, moving around between a few guesthouses but ending up staying at Paul House, which was run by my friend Naushad. One of the best parts about my time there was getting to spend so much time hanging out with him - he's really an amazing guy, and very focused and mature for 22 years old. I had visited him earlier in March of this year and he was just beginning to get the guest house and restaurant in shape - he had a lot of ideas for what he wanted to do to make it an inviting place to stay. Coming back it was great to see his vision become a reality.

Fourth of July in Dharamkot

Over course of the weeks I had a lot of different experiences. I took a couple weeks of Iyengar Yoga classes, some Indian cooking classes, and did a lot of hiking in the surrounding mountains. The monsoon was in the process of coming when I was there so it was always a crap shoot whether you were going to get dumped on. But my luck was surprisingly good and I was only caught outside a couple of times during the real deluges. On the Fourth of July there were some cool Americans at Paul House, Josh and Tristan, who happened to have a fireworks fetish, so we enjoyed some crazily powerful $2.50 rockets.

Me and Miss KipaVolunteering at ANEC

Most of the time I was there I found myself kind of unexpectedly working full time. I started volunteering at the ANEC Organization and redoing their website took a lot of time (plus I didn't really know what I was doing for a while). I even had a daily commute down the mountain into Dharamsala proper; it was an amazing walk through the forest and the central Tibetan government-in-exile buildings. The people were wonderful down there and we had a Tibetan cook come in every day to make us these great lunches. They even threw me a going away lunch with homemade momos (including sweet paneer ones).


When I wasn't down at ANEC, I was hurrying off to do a series of interviews with Tibetan refugees for a documentary project. As you may or may not know, in March 2008 there was one of the biggest series of protests in Tibet since 1959. It was brutally cracked down on by the Chinese. The stories of bravery and sacrifice I heard were inspiring and of course very sad.


I met a ton of great people during my stay - Levinia and Ross, Josh and Tristan, the two Ilans, Leighton, Kimberly, Susie, and randomly ran into my friend Christian who I had met at a yoga retreat in Nepal. I stayed longer than pretty much everyone else (except this Australian guy who I think was running from the law - shades of Shantaram!). After my last interviews wrapped up, it was clearly time to go.