Category Archives: India

India-logue (2005)

(From my 2005 trip to India)

Arrival (July 16)

Dear all,

Just a quick note to let you know I’ve arrived in Delhi safely. I’m staying in Manju Katilla, which is a Tibetan settlement — really nothing more than a transit station for refugees who are on their way to Dharamsala. The bus departs tonight, and I’ll be riding along with them for the 12-hour journey through the night.

I got to Delhi last night, and met my driver who brought me here. It was midnight, and walking out of the airport was like walking into a steam bath. The temperature was about 95 degrees, and there literally was STEAM in the air (the pilot had called it haze, but I know steam when I see it). I could physically feel my pores opening. The traffic here at midnight was as crowded as I’ve seen in any city, any time of day. There were people everywhere.

This is a very peaceful place I’m in today. As I sit here, monks dressed in there bright red and orange pass by. There are market stands lining the footpath, and a fair number of foreign tourists mixed in.

It’s all still very new, and I’m getting oriented. I’ll be happy to have the bus ride behind me, and get settled in McLeod Ganj. The volunteer coordinator is actually here and will be on the bus with me. So I’ll end here so I can go find her.

More from the Himalayas….


The Karma Express (July 17)

Karma ExpressFollow these instructions:

Take a straight-back chair into the bathroom, along with a cup of dirt, a cup of diesel fuel, a cup of urine, a 40 lb barbell, some matches and a stick. Close the door, and turn the hot water in the tub on so the room becomes steamy and suffocating.

Sit down in the chair, cross your arms, and move the chair towards the wall so your knees are pressed against it, and cross your ankles underneath you. Now plop the 40 lbs weight on top of your knees. Do that a number of times until numb.

Pick up the cup of dirt and throw 3/4 of it in your face. Brush yourself off. Once satisfied, throw the remaining 1/4 cup in your face. You’re defeated. Just leave it there.

Drop the 40 lb weight on your knees a couple more times.

Now wave the cup of urine under your nose, managing the 40 lb weight with your other hand.

Using your matches, light the stick on fire (be sure the cup of diesel fuel is a safe distance away). Once it’s burning nice, dowse it with the cup of urine. Relish the aroma.

Wave the cup of diesel under your nose until just prior to blacking out. Do this a few times.

Drop the 40 lb weight again.

Now break the empty urine glass over your head.

Repeat all of the above for 13 hours, and you will come close to experiencing my bus journey from Delhi to McLeod Ganj, dubbed by me as the Karma Express (alternatively, Dante’s fourth level of Hell). You see, the ride is so wrought with discomfort, it serves as something akin to a medieval cleansing. By the time your reach McLeod Ganj, your poor spirit has had every molecule of impurity bashed out of it. You must arrive in McLeod Ganj ready for a new start.

McLeod Ganj is everything that Delhi is not. It’s peaceful, friendly, nurturing, solemn and comfortable. Delhi, on the other hand, is crowded, hot, polluted, chaotic and hard. My one day in Delhi was plenty, as it fit the format of my previous trips where I have encountered an assault on my senses, only to be followed by blissful retreat. There are plenty of unpleasant details I could share about Delhi, but I’m too excited about my new surroundings to dampen things — besides, the Karma Express cleansed me…remember?
HillsideMcLeod Ganj is etched into the side of a hilltop, at the base of the Himalayan range. The mountains are otherworldly…they are grand and immense. They stare back at you. I’m waiting on some of the low laying clouds to clear their faces, so I can have a good staring contest.

My room has a balcony facing the sunrise and the mountains. It’s a beautiful little room…very simple and clean. My hotel is right across from the prayer wheels — you walk passed them and run your hands along them so they spin. As they spin, it’s thought that the sound the wheels make sends prayers to the heavens. I’ve spun them for each of you — hoping their music finds your ears and hearts over the mountains. It’s so beautiful.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep at all during the bus ride, so I’m running on nothing but excitement to be cooled off and comfortable. I ate breakfast on my balcony…porridge with honey and bread…watching the sun come up over the Himalayas, and listening to laundry being hung.

I have a volunteer orientation at lunch time. It’s just before 9 am right now, and I’m hoping to get some postcards off and find a good map beforehand. I’m not sure yet what my assignment will be, but Sonam told me there is an adult school that needs help with fund-raising, and also that the nunnery is planning a film festival that they also need to raise money for. There was one other option I’ve forgotten already. I think it was being told to me just as my head hit the luggage rack in the bus.

Sonam is one of the coordinators at Volunteer Tibet, and happened to be in Delhi traveling back to McLeod Ganj as I was. So she was kind enough to give me a brief tour of Delhi, and make sure I found my way to the bus station — I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive her for that.

Enough bus talk. Enough talk period. I’ll close for now.

No need to worry… I’m right here.


Initiation of a Buddhist (July 20) 

A song rose among them — thousands, both Tibetan families and monks. I don’t know what the words meant, but I imagine they must represent the most beautiful thoughts the heart can conceive all strung into a chorus that wraps around you and tethers you to what’s uniquely sacred inside of you. This calming swell went on for almost an hour. I sat cross-legged among them in the Temple, and they all welcomed me with patience.

candles at temple

A young monk eagerly started a conversation with me to practice his English. He’s only 23, and has been a monk since the age of 14. For whatever my worth was to him as a conversationalist, he graciously led me through the rituals of this initiation that the Dalai Lama was conducting. I shared my cushion with a young Tibetan mother — her family on all sides. She brought me into her family long enough to make sure my legs had enough room, and to carefully brush dirt off of my shoulder. The young monk had told me that family had walked 20 days through the mountains to be here this morning. It is a trek that all Tibetans in exile make. The fact that I was here to not only witness the end of their pilgrimage to see the Dalai Lama, but to also be made their son and brother during this initiation ceremony, is nothing my mind will ever catch up with.

All I could do was sit there, trying to let their song enter into me without filling up with tears, and watch their faces. The old are etched like parched, cracked earth — but their eyes are full of honesty. The young have faces that are smooth and wide — open to the world. And families are, indeed, the same everywhere. The little ones getting barked at while they giggle.

The young monk and the family continued watching over me — making sure my cup received tea as the offering came around. Giving me bread. Showing me when to kneel, and how to pose my hands while cradling a small lotus. One part of the ceremony offered lengths of red string with knots. The string is tied around the wrist, and some wear it just over their elbow. The monk tied mine on my wrist with great intent and offered his to me for me to place on his. I did so, trying to honor the simple act of tying a loop with the same charity he did. When I finished, he nodded his approval, and I felt — although never implied — that just like teenage boys might, we had just become blood brothers.

This was my second attendance at the Temple. Yesterday afternoon I met a young man from the Czech Republic at lunch, and we went together to what was the last teaching the Dalai Lama was doing this week. The teaching lasted about 3 hours. Although the translation was hard to make sense of much of the time, it was a very special feeling to be there knowing how rare it is that the Dalai Lama teaches here.

It’s now the middle of the day on Wednesday, and this afternoon I’ll meet the monk who I’ll be tutoring. I’m also trying to connect with the organization here that serves ex political prisoners hoping to tutor there as well. The last few days have just been spent resting and getting oriented.

On Monday, I got my orientation from Tsyeng who gave me a tour around town. We stopped at the Tibetan orphanage and handed out the toothbrushes and baseballs that my sister sent with me (thank you Joanne!). They were so excited and grateful. Chasing me out the door yelling “Thank You! Thank You!” while pretending to brush their teeth.
Yesterday morning I went on a brisk 45 minute walk up and down the hills of town. This was after a much needed 14 hours of sleep. It felt so good to get my body moving again after spending so much time on planes and buses. I’ve spent so much time just listening. There’s so much to nourish yourself with here.

Over breakfast, I overheard a conversation between a monk and an older woman with a thick German accent. At one point in their conversation, he said “Each morning, I do not check the newspaper. Rather, I check myself. That is the only thing I can change.” That simple statement was the kind of thing that completely affirms a trip for me.

The rain here is incredible. Over the course of any day, the clouds move in and cover the streets. This isn’t fog — this is being IN the clouds, where the weather occurs. When it rains, there is no long trip from the clouds to the ground. So it’s heavy, and immediate. It’s as though it stands still — you could reach up and pluck a raindrop from the cloud you’re in, like picking tiny fruit from a silver tree. And when the “fog” forms, it’s like a damp breath slowly exhaling from the pine…just moving…moving…

Each morning, I hear the waking of the people living in the small shacks right behind my hotel and below my balcony. I hear mother’s singing to their babies. Children making up rhymes. There are a million little memories already in my head from just two days. A beautiful little Tibetan girl in her black and white dress. A monk petting the hair on my forearm. A young monk accepting tea in the Temple in a cup shaped like a bunny rabbit.

Besides tutoring, I’m hoping to take some sitar lessons while I’m here. There are tons of things to do — Tibetan language classes, cooking classes, massage classes, Buddhism classes, and art classes. I’m looking forward to getting started with tutoring tonight. I’m well rested now, and have a clearer head — finally feeling like I can be of service.

It’s a blessing to be here…amid the many blessings I already have. A Tibetan family traveled for 20 days across the mountains to be here on this same day. It’s hard to feel deserving of this place when you hear stories like that. The nerve, after all, to complain about a bus ride. Thus commenced my much-needed initiation…


The Monk, the Barber, and the Refugee (July 23)  

In red robe with gold, his name is Lobsangshereb, and for twenty years he has lived here at the main temple monastery where the Dalai Lama resides. At the age of 42, he is one of the Dalai Lama’s attendants — meaning he is nearly always with him. We greeted warmly, and sat together for a little more than an hour, conversing on topics that were simple and universal — such as home, family, and the heat and stench of Delhi.

His English is self-taught, and amazingly advanced given that fact. This is fortunate for his tutor. Any who know will tell you that English is the hardest language to learn. And as a tutor, I can tell you this must certainly be true – because it is very difficult to teach.

There’s a great deal of nonsense about our language — idiosyncrasies that you cannot be aware of until asked to explain them. My student is patient with me, and forgiving. He encourages me as much as I encourage him — especially when something clicks with him. When he grasps something, he leans back and laughs out loud. Then he leans forward, squeezes my arm, and laughs some more.

We enjoy each other a great deal. Twice now, we’ve had our lessons over cake and tea. He’s shy towards others, and is somewhat self-conscience about being a student. So we tutor in my room, where it’s quiet — except for when he laughs…

His shop is upstairs — above the hub-bub of the market, the cows, and the tiny Indian women carrying loads of gravel atop their heads to help with the road project. The room is big enough only for two, and its orientation keeps breezes out and the scent of various tonics inside. Almost too snugly, he tucks a wrap around my neck and into my collar.
Rooftop to rooftopHe brushes clean the sheers before planting his hand atop my head with authority and beginning to shave. He’s very intent — like a craftsman — and he takes great care to navigate over every corner of my scalp, every hair, every curve and bump. He slows down atop my head, where there are scrapes and bruises from my bus ride and repeated beatings against 6-foot doorways. When he finishes, he sprinkles talc behind my ears and across the back of my neck. The talc flies in my face as he brushes it away, sending a tiny cloud of powder towards the mirror.

Satisfied with the job, feeling better, and happy to be on my way, I braced my hands on the arms of the chair to leave. He placed his hands on my shoulders and pressed me back down in the chair. I thought he was probably going to shave my neck, and I was prepared to kindly request a new razor. Instead, he began massaging my scalp. He went from massaging to rubbing to tamping to something just short of slapping. He rubbed my head so vigorously, it felt like he was pulling the skin away from my scalp — like a kitten being grabbed by its scruff.


This went on for longer than the haircut took, and when it was over I felt too sedate to move from the chair.

There are few times in a man’s life when there is ever occasion to be grateful for having an empty scalp — among them are backpacking trips, hurried mornings, and the rare encounter with a pretty woman who says your head is beautiful. I place this experience among the greatest indulgences I’ve ever had. The price, with a 100% tip: one dollar…

I saw her just as I descended the stairs. It was dark, damp and mossy — like a cavern awash. Her face like a fragile antique doll — bright and peaceful. She smiled at me, and we found ourselves walking in the same direction. I stopped at the classroom door, as did she, and I began to ask her if I was in the right place for the English tutoring. She understood a little, but thought I was there to take the class. We fidgeted verbally for a few more sentences before you left to find the one person in the building who speaks English. I told him I was there to offer to help tutor one of the residents — all of them ex political prisoners or their family who have fled Tibet after being imprisoned – or worse – by the Chinese who arrested them for their religious or political beliefs. He told me that there was just one student that I could help, if it was okay for me to tutor just one person (as opposed to tutoring a group). I assured him that was fine, and he led me upstairs and around the corner to a room shared by three men. When I entered, they rose and greeted me, and then left. The man who runs the program asked if I felt okay about tutoring a girl, and again I said yes. He said he would go get her and return in a moment.

As I sat there waiting, I looked around me at this small room shared by the three men. On the walls hung small pictures of family, the Dalai Lama, and home. Tossed across beds were English study books and others with titles in Tibetan. It was a prisoner’s room. Sheets cover the doors and windows to assure privacy. Photos of the residents are not allowed for fear they could appear someplace the Chinese could identify them and punish their families remaining in Tibet.

While the thoughts whirled in my head, they returned to the room. With him was the pretty young woman I had met on the stairs. We both grinned at the coincidence, and she bounced down excitedly on one of the beds across from me. We set a time to meet and exchanged pieces of paper with each other’s names.

She is Tsering Choedon. She is 22, and she just arrived in McLeod Ganj from Tibet. Our first session was this morning in her room that she shares. On one of the beds is a Winnie the Pooh towel. Her breakfast of bread sat on a crate, covered in newspaper.

She’s been studying English just one month, and is also very proficient. She takes lessons every evening, and last night’s assignment was to read a story in a workbook. So I sat next to her while she read out loud a story about a man’s conversation with a newspaper.

I was so very tempted to tell her how ridiculous the story was, and how insulting it must be to have to labor over it, but instead I helped her with her pronunciation and explained words as she asked. She then showed me a Hardy Boys mystery that she’s reading, and I told her about how I used to read them when I was young. This commonality brought a smile to her face.

After she finished, we chatted about her family. They are farmers in Tibet. She asked if I ate meat, and then told me how she stopped eating meat when she left Tibet because there is no yak meat here. Then she proclaimed, “yak meat is very de-li-ci-ous” followed by a burst of laughter. I told her about my pets, and taught her their names (test on this tomorrow), and she giggled again when I asked if any of the animals on her farm had names.

She loves to sing, and read, and she loves music. From time to time, she’d sing along with the Indian music playing down the hallway. Her singing is high and melodic, and I imagined how beautiful it must be when she sings out loud with the sound bouncing off the high concrete walls of her room.

In addition to tutoring, I traveled to a nunnery about 40 minutes away yesterday to help write a simple case statement for a new building they want for elderly Tibetan nuns. It made for a very productive day, and I certainly felt more competent than I do during my tutoring lessons.

Yirkin, the young man from the Czech Republic, leaves tomorrow. He is a practicing Buddhist, and has been here to study. We’ve shared a meal each day since meeting earlier this week. Thursday, he gave me a small golden rope that had been given to him by his Buddhist teacher, who had received it from the Dalai Lama. “This is your blessing.”

He’s one of the kindest and giving people I’ve ever met. When I told him about my students, he said “I believe that you will be a guru for the people you help.” I couldn’t help but laugh. Then he clarified. “Tibetans are so grateful to be here, and they know how special it is to have a real English teacher. They will remember you always.”

He’s been wonderful company, and we’ve shared stories about our other travels. He, too, is traveling alone, and we’ve had occasion to talk about how solo traveling affords a person interactions and experiences that traveling with a companion simply does not.

That is not to say that I don’t think every day about wanting each of you here with me — as I do miss the people I care about. But I know that some journeys must be made alone, and when I start to feel homesick I simply remind myself about the beautiful people that have made a home for me for two more weeks. And I know that I’ll miss them, too, when I’m gone — as my list of loved ones who occupy a place inside of me will have grown.

There are many many sights to see in India — some of which I planned to travel to when I left home last week. But after six days here, I have decided that there is no place in the world (let alone this country) I’d rather be. The people I’ve met have fed me in a very special way — in a way that seeing a monument or an artifact never could.

I know with absolute certainty that the most important and inspiring place for me to be is right here — tutoring Lobsangshereb and Tsering, and staying close to my favorite barber.


Two Human Truths (July 26)   

It seems to me that there are two (at least) things that are uniquely integral to human joy. Music and humor. I’ve experienced these truths this week through my tutoring of Lobsangshereb and Tsering, as well as my sitar lessons with Kumar.

Kumar is an absolutely stunning looking Indian man. He’s small framed, but his face is extremely powerful — cocoa skin with hazel-green eyes and the most brilliant white teeth. His skin is flawless, and his speech and manner are graceful and elegant. He invited me into his small music room and began to write out some of the music theory related to the sitar. What he told me, and what was immediately apparent, is that Sa-Re-Ga-Ma-Pa-Dha-Ni rings in my ear with the same sensible fluidity as Julie Andrews’ now famous instruction of the musical scale. Holding the sitar is a bit like sitting behind the controls of a spaceship — I recognized the simple things, like frets, strings, body, neck, pegheads.
KumarBut there was just enough about it to make it still alien to me. Anyone who has seen me play my guitar(s) knows that I can be a bit clumsy, reckless, ragged — call it what you will. I ask them to put up with a lot from me (as I do all of you). But the sitar demands a much more civilized embrace and caress.

My left leg stretches straight out in front of me, while my right leg is crossed over it to shape a “4” — with my knee held about 12″ off the ground. The body sits perfectly upright to where I cannot see the “face” or the strings. My heel of my right hand presses down to balance the weight of the neck, and my left hand “floats” across the neck — the weight of the neck is never burdening my left hand.

Within about 30 minutes, I was managing simple, familiar scales and gaining the smiling, nodding approval of my teacher. “Very pleasant indeed.” For fun, I managed to figure out the first notes of “Purple Haze” — a song clearly not written for this noble instrument. But it made Kumar smile, and occupied me while I waited for my legs to wake up.

My tutoring with Lobsangshereb and Tsering continues to provide me with much joy. I’m pleased and humbled each day by new bits and pieces of information about them. My approach with each is different, because they are both choosing to learn in different manners. Tsering is a very devoted student. She is constantly studying. She even reads western news — the other day she even asked me about the drought in the Midwest. Her classroom teacher is even covering words like “circumambulate”. She’s happiest to spend time with me just chatting. Lobsangshereb is completely self-taught — he’s never been in an English class. So his knowledge has come simply from mimicking what he hears, and then attaching meaning to it. With him, it’s more important that I actually try to impart some knowledge. So I have two students at about the same level — but each one needs different things from me.

After our first few sessions, Tsering and I became like a couple of teenagers trying to think of something to talk about on our first car date. After all of the “where do you live,” “what do you like,” and the like had been covered, we struggled with subject matter. Since I knew she was reading a Hardy Boys book, I thought that perhaps buying her some new, short, simple books might provide us with some new things to talk about.

I figured, I’ll give her the books, ask her to read them, and then have her tell me what the stories are about. I found two books: “I Am a Yak” (a choice inspired by her professed love of yak meat) and another small book with a fable about a mouse. I’ve also been teasing her because she still cannot remember my pets’ names. When I ask her, she smiles, puts her head down, and blushes because she knows I’m going to bug her about this until she can recite their names (great teacher, aren’t I?).

Today, presuming she would not remember their names again, I told her I was going to introduce another name for her to forget: Scrumptrulescent. (Briefly, Scrumptrulescent is the name I gave a little mouse that inhabits the cottage where I work. He’s also been assigned a personality, a life story, and is more than a bit cantankerous. But for now, I just wanted her to know his name.) I wrote it down for her, and told her it was a mouse that I worked with. (I figured if the classroom was covering a word as useless as “circumnavigate” I wouldn’t be doing any harm by teaching imaginary animal character names.)

So I get to the point in our discussion where I’m asking her about the books, and she does her little thing where she looks down, smiles, blushes, and murmurs something that I’m sure is a Tibetan curse for annoying American tutors. I sit patiently — no longer willing to give in.

“Tell me about the yak book. What’s it about?”

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing…. Finally…her head springs up, she smiles, and says “I AM A YAK!!!” Burst of laughter. I see I’ve made her punch drunk on this topic, so I ask her about the mouse book.

“How about the mouse book? What’s it about?”

Smiling. Blushing. CALCULATING… And then…head springs up, big smile, big eyes… “SCRUMPTRULESAH!!!!” If ever I saw a picture of joy and happiness, it was this morning, and she has a young, soft face with round eyes and long black hair, laughing so hard she couldn’t speak and taking special pride in making her silly tutor choke with laughter. Lobsangshereb has turned into my advisor on all things. He loves to tell me when things are “no good.” I asked him about tanka paintings I saw in a shop. “These tankas no good. No good!” I showed him a little Buddha I bought. “This Buddha no good.” I offered him some Tibetan bread I bought from a woman near the prayer wheels. She wraps five warm pieces in newspaper and sells them for twenty-five cents. “This bread in newspaper, no good. Gets ink on bread. This is no good.” A man could get a complex pretty easily around Lobsangshereb were it not for the other 90% of the time when he’s clutching your arm, looking right into your eyes and laughing in delight.

He brings me a gift nearly every day. Yesterday it was a small, simple tanka poster given to him by the Dalai Lama. Today it was three books straight from the Dalai Lama’s office that he “begged” for. Tomorrow, he’s promised me sand from the mandala at the main temple, and yet more books. For my part, I’m just trying to get a handle on all of the things I’m doing that are “no good.”

Today, he was telling me the story about a large chicken farm in Tibet that the Dalai Lama proclaimed was “no good.” The REAL story (I uncovered after quite a bit of clarification) is that the chicken farm was closed, and the property was turned into a facility for elderly men. Lobsangshereb’s broken-English version, however, was that the chicken farm was changed into an “old man chicken society.” After coming off the respirator from laughing so hard, I sorted through the details with him and we both arrived at the accurate version. But the phrase “old man chicken society” is now written in his study book as a useful English phrase.

It’s been a long, but incredible day. I’m sorry for being so verbose. I want so badly to share the beauty of this experience with all of you, and I know as I sit here and labor over these words that they simply do not come close to what I feel inside. So I take great care in trying to shape the stories so you can see – and feel — clearly. But I know I fail, so it winds up being just a bunch of words. That being the case, I hope you’ll indulge me. I’d like to show you a way to come be by my side for something beautiful.

Tsering’s 23rd birthday is August 1st. While she’s celebrated every other birthday, she won’t celebrate this one because she is not at home with her friends and family. I plan on doing something for her, but I thought it would be very special if she got some birthday wishes from my friends and family. In addition to English classes, she’s taking a computer class that has taught her the internet and email.  If you can remember to, send her a short, simple Happy Birthday Sunday afternoon (we’re about 12 hours ahead — so she’ll get it on Monday morning). Then on Monday morning, I’m going to take her to a cyber café where she can read the emails. You’re of course not obligated, but I know it would make her smile.

Thanks for all of your loving messages. They mean a lot to me. I’m sorry if I don’t respond directly to each one, but please know it’s not because your words haven’t found me…

They have, and I hold them close by.


Resident Life (July 29)

My stay here has evolved beyond “what I’m doing on vacation,” and for this brief time has simply been the way of my life. It’s incredible, really, the richness of one grand, prolonged moment in one place. I need only check my watch three times a day – the number of daily obligations I have. I eat when I’m hungry, and sleep when I’m tired.
My room at Pema ThangAmong my discoveries has been the virtue of naps. I am, perhaps, the world’s least productive sleeper. If sleeping was a job, not only would I be fired, I’d be banned, with a revoked license. As such a lousy sleeper, naps have never been my forte. I don’t know if it’s the weather, the mental-stimulation, or the slower pace, but I have become a skilled napper here.

My mornings usually begin around 6:30. I spend time when I first wake up just sitting on my balcony, looking over the valley, writing in my journal or reading. I’m showered and out the door by 8:30. Finished with tutoring Tsering and eating breakfast by 10:30. I go back to my room to read for another hour before beginning my stroll to my sitar lesson, after which I have lunch. Then I run errands on my way back to my room (create lessons for tutoring, drop off laundry, refill my water bottles, etc.). Back at my room, I usually read for another hour or so, and that’s when it happens. I can only describe it as “sleeping hard” – a heavy, pitch-black sleep. When I first wake up (after 60-90 minutes) I feel a bit like I’ve been beaten with a bag of oranges. But as soon as I start moving, my mind and body are as alert and primed as I have ever felt them.

This alertness has translated into a peaceful comfort zone here for me. I find this place incredibly familiar – and I don’t feel like a visitor at all:

> I can tell you that peeing on the side of the road is allowed everywhere but upper Jogibra Road, and upper Temple Road (and, no, I have not).

> I can tell you that the woman who begs on Bhagsu Road always yells “look! look!” while the woman on lower Temple Road yells “ah-lo! ah-lo!” The woman on Bhagsu Road curses me every time I walk by.

> The best steamed-vegetable momos are at JJI’s. The best chai is at Om. The best brewed black tea and banana honey porridge is at the Snow Lion. The best noodles are at Green. The best pudding cake and rice porridge are at Pema Thang.

> The lone baby cow in town likes to rest every morning on the freshest concrete slab at the new road project on Jogibra Road.

> Walking downhill is more dangerous than walking uphill, because many motorcyclists and drivers don’t run their engines on the way down – so you can’t hear them coming upon you.

> I can tell you within 30 minutes when it’s going to rain; then I can also tell you if it will be a heavy rain, or a light rain.

> I can spot a newly-arrived tourist, and usually guess within a day how long they’ve been here.

> Stray dog nap time is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and then again from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
dogs playing 2> Don’t buy chai from the guy next to the Natraj Hotel. He washes his glasses in mud puddles.

> There is no such thing as dry clothes — only varying degrees of dampness.

> The bookseller down the hill was a Tibetan Freedom Fighter and hates swapping books

> The bookseller upstairs wraps all of his books in plastic wrap so you can’t read them before you buy them.

> Two dogs belonging to the hotel staff guard the door to my room every day, all day long.

> Most important: here, smiles are currency.

I’ve found a rhythm to my days, and that rhythm is soothing and calming everything that was sore or confused when I arrived. My time with my students, and my teachers, continues to be rich, warm, funny, and inspiring.

This week, I spent another day at the nunnery in Sidphur. It’s much hotter down there, and while I appreciate the work I’ve been asked to help with, my trips down there take all of my energy because of the heat.

On Wednesday, Tsering was sick with a headache and I found that I really missed my time with her. Worse, I couldn’t find the words to ask her if I could help her. It was awful to have to close the door behind me, unable to offer any help. She was much better – and even a bit sassy – yesterday. Today she was more herself, being flirty and silly (where she picked up this behavior, I have no idea). She showed me photos of her and her friends in Tibet (she has Snoopy all over her room at home), we went over her homework, and we worked through a simple picture dictionary I created. (Reminder: For all who wish to, please remember that Tsering’s birthday is Monday – so if you want to send her a short, simple birthday wish, you can send her an email Sunday afternoon. She knows we’re going to a café on Monday, and she’s quite suspicious.)

Lobsangshereb and I have created a ritual of tea and cake with our lessons. I don’t know which is happening faster: him learning English, or me gaining weight. He’s such a beautiful man, and asks me every day when I’m leaving. After my response, he just releases a sober “oh.” Today he brought me freshly made Tibetan bread from the Dalai Lama’s kitchen, plus more books. Tomorrow he’s taking me to the market to advise me on some purchases. God forbid I buy something “no good.”

My lessons with Kumar are going well too. He got a little mad at me today when he noticed I wasn’t looking at the notation he’d written out while I was learning a song.

“YOU are not LOOKING at this that I write for you at ALL!” I tried to explain to him my disability of not being able to read music – turns out this disability even crosses cultural boundaries. He finally forgave me with “well, I say you have a very good ear then… continue, but no more I write.” Fair enough, Kumar.

By the time I return home, I think it will be very difficult to refer to this as my vacation or just a trip. I think it will simply be that for three weeks, I lived in a small village in northern India. For me, it is the difference between passing through a place, and letting that place pass through you.


Triple Play (July 30)

It must have been 13 years now since I was in Baltimore writing an article for MERIDIAN. I was there with my colleague at the time, Ron. Ron had previously been a sports writer for the Associated Press, and as such had accumulated quite a wealth of knowledge on sports. He also could really only be described as a “nerd” — he was incredibly analytical, and took pleasure in reciting statistics and numbers. Were it not for Ron’s incredibly dry and sarcastic sense of humor, he would have been intolerable. But we got along well enough to go on this joint assignment together to Baltimore.

Ron was also a bit shifty, able to wiggle his way through life by gaining favors and good fortune from others. He would have been a great hostage negotiator or diplomat, were it not for his otherwise somewhat selfish motives. It was this skill of Ron’s that landed us both in box seats at the then brand new Camden Yard – the first field to start the renaissance of the classic brickyard baseball fields like Coors Field in Denver and others.

The price for this prize was having to be hosted by an annoying representative from the Baltimore Convention & Visitors Bureau, whom Ron had somehow convinced we were writers from a much more prestigious publication.

We sat there on a chilly night, the beautiful lawn of the field shining emerald under the lights, drinking free beer and eating free everything else. Ron and the guy he swindled were chatting about the field and the game, as I just sat there enjoying the evening for its own sake. I was off in la-la land when the crowd burst into deafening cheers and Ron and Mr. Sucker rose from their seats while shouting “whoa!” I had been watching the field, but kind of the way you watch television — my eyes were not really in focus, and I wasn’t really paying attention. I was the only person in that stadium still seated, so I rose and began to look more closely at the field to see if someone had been shot or what exactly had happened. I nudged Ron, and asked. Ron’s reply: “Are you kidding? Patrick, you just saw a triple play! Do you know how rare that is??!!??”

“Oh. Uhm. No”

Ron and Mr. Sucker both threw their heads back and gasped at my response. Ron went on to say, “You mean this is only your second major league baseball game, and you just saw the rarest feat in the entire sport, and you don’t even know how rare or special it is?!?!”

“Uhm. No.”

It was one of those moments in a person’s life when, at the time of its occurrence, you’re not able to appreciate it fully. It’s only upon reflection, and perhaps more information, that you can look back and — in retrospect — marvel at your good fortune. The feeling is sometimes accompanied with regret — regret that you were not at the right place at the time to relish the moment while it was happening.

This afternoon, I traveled about 40 minutes down the hill to the temple and monastery of His Holiness 17th Karmapa. Karmapa is the leader of one of the four schools of Buddhism. His role in his school is akin to the Dalai Lama’s — the exception being that what makes the Dalai Lama so special is that he is well schooled in ALL of the Buddhism teachings. Karmapa, on the other hand, is the leader of the Karma Kagyu tradition. (More info here:

I heard about Karmapa from Jirkin who had tried to convince me to go to the temple with him last Saturday. At the time I was tired, and decided to not go. But Jirkin introduced me to a Taiwanese friend of his here that was planning to go today, should I wish to go another time. Today I decided to go, but missed the bus down the hill.

There was 30 minutes during which I was debating whether or not I really wanted to go. Right now, it scares me a little to think about how close I came to not going, and missing the experience.

The taxi traveled through lower Dharamsala, which is riddled with buildings going up, or coming down. It’s a crowded, somewhat dirty place. This makes for quite a contrast when you arrive at the Rumtek Monastery. It is grand, gold, and just awe inspiring.

There is a series of steps leading up to the temple, with geraniums and sunflowers lining the path. Monks dressed in their red robes moving about. Quiet.

At the top of the stairs, near the doors leading into the temple, I spotted Jirkin’s friend (sadly, my memory of his name fails me). We chatted for a few moments, and he told me about the protocol/etiquette for entering the temple. The only thing you can bring in is your money and your passport — no packs, umbrellas, cameras, etc. After going through security, I caught up with Jirkin’s friend who had graciously saved me a spot in the front row where I would have a clear (and very close) line of sight to Karmapa during the teachings.

Karmapa is very young — just 20 or a little over. With the Dalai Lama ageing, and with the Panchen Lama under house arrest in China, it is believed that the young Karmapa may prove to play a critical role in the future of Tibetan Buddhism – so he is highly regarded by Tibetan Buddhists as an important manifestation of their beliefs.

His teachings were translated into English, and of a very simple subject. His talk focused on the importance of resting the mind so as to access all of our human capabilities (he used the analogy of distilling water to make it pure and drinkable). He also talked of being non-judgmental, and focusing on the quality of our own lives. At the end of the teaching, I was told by my friend that it is customary to receive a silk cloth around your neck from one of the attendants. This cloth is then to be laid on the Karmapa’s table as an offering.

The attendant motioned for me to come forward — the first of about 1,000 people to approach the Karmapa. I moved forward and the attendant placed the silk cloth around my neck. Then one by one, other attendants grabbed my arms and led me to the Karmapa. I bowed in respect, and motioned to remove my silk to give as an offering — the Karmapa held my hands, and told me to keep the cloth. He then handed me a “blessing string” (Lobsangshereb has told me a hundred times what these are called in Tibetan, but I can’t remember it). These are given as blessings — you may recall I received one at the main temple last week that was tied around my wrist by a young monk. After receiving the string, I was led away towards the door by the other attendants.

As I approached the door to exit the temple, I looked back to see if Jirkin’s friend was following behind. He was right behind me, laughing. Now, I’m used to being laughed at — most of the time deservedly. I gathered I had done something terribly wrong and inadvertently embarrassed myself in front of 1,000 people and one of Buddhism’s most revered living figures.

When we got outside, I asked him if I did something wrong. He continued to laugh and said no. I asked why he was laughing at me. His reply was, “I’m not laughing at you because you did something wrong. I’m laughing because I’m just so happy at the blessing you just received. It is very very rare that the Karmapa refuses an offering — this is a HUGE blessing for you. Plus, you were the first to be blessed, which is also very special.”

I flashed back 13 years ago to Campden Yard in Baltimore. As we walked back to get our taxi back up the hill, I didn’t utter a word. I tried with all of my mental strength to let the experience penetrate me in a way I could accept it as the blessing that my new friend was so excited over.

As an added bonus, I was asked by the forces of nature to put the Karmapa’s teaching to immediate use. Out of charity, I offered to share our taxi with a nun and an elderly, somewhat disabled woman, who claimed they were tired and without much money. I had already paid for the taxi, so I was happy to share it with 3 others in need of a ride.

Well, turns out the elderly woman was an American — the worst kind. The entire way up the hill (30-40 minutes) she was complaining about India, how she hated it, how she’s been discriminated against, how it’s dirty, and on and on and on. She kept barking at the taxi driver that she needed to stop for some throat medicine, and then told him a number of times he was going the wrong way. Plus more “I hate India” speak. Music to the ears of my very warm and friendly Indian taxi driver. Since I was responsible for bringing her into our otherwise friendly and peaceful taxicab environment, I tried to calm her a bit by saying “Well, it’s hard to say you hate an entire country as big as India when you’ve only seen a small part of it.”

“I’ve traveled around India and lived here for 28 years!!! I think I KNOW India!”

Oh my my my….my my my….those who know me well have got to know how hard it was to keep her in that taxi. You’ve got to know how hard it was for me to keep from screaming “Then LEAVE!” to her. You’ve just got to know….

But I was able to muster up the charity I needed to put up with her long enough to get back up the hill.

Once I got back to my hotel, I hurried down here to the cafe to compose this. I wanted to share it with you while it’s still fresh in my mind. And I’m simultaneously hoping that, by doing so, I’ll brand it into my memory in such a way as to avoid under-appreciating another “triple play.”


Simple Parting and Simple Joy (August 1)

I didn’t know it was to be out last evening together. But now, as I think back, all of his gestures told me so — even when his words did not.

Saturday evening, Lobsangshereb accompanied me to the market to help me pick out some items I wanted to buy. One thing that I’ve come to learn from him is that not just any ol’ Buddha will do. The creation of statues, tanka paintings, and other crafts takes great skill and rigid training under the supervision of artists and historians. While there are many shops selling countless trinkets and tokens, just picking up the first Buddha statue you find, or picking a tanka because of its pretty colors, leaves out the most important elements of the symbol.

I took Lobsangshereb to two different shops looking at tankas, and were it not for the long, dejected faces of the shop keepers I would have been laughing the whole time. Lobsangshereb was ruthless in his critiques of tanka after tanka after tanka. He was speaking Tibetan the whole time, and raising his voice here and there as he pointed out to the shop keepers the tiny details in the paintings that were “no good.” No doubt, these poor fellows are used to ignorant tourists who just want to pick up a quick souvenir.

They can’t be used to having one of the Dalai Lama’s attendants showing up at their shop and telling them why everything they have for sale is “no good.” I even heard a few “very bad”s coming from him. After being lead down dark, damp alleys and into the nooks-and-crannies of McLeod Ganj’s secret storage rooms by shopkeepers desperate to win Lobsangshereb’s approval (and obtain some of my money), we wound up with a few very special pieces that to me are now priceless.

We then had dinner at the restaurant near GuChuSum — where Tsering lives. Dinner was quiet, except for his constant checking to make sure my food was good, and to encourage me to eat my salad. “Sah-lahd. S’good.” After dinner, we chatted for about an hour in my room. In retrospect, this was all somewhat out of character for Lobsangshereb, as he is moderately anti-social and doesn’t like being out in public. So the fact that he spent the better part of three hours out on the town, with a Westerner of all things, was not only out of character for him, but also can have some stigma attached to it for a Tibetan (especially a monk).

I learned yesterday morning from his sister that he was leaving last night for Delhi to obtain a passport so he can return to Tibet to see his parents. He hasn’t been home in more than 20 years, and is going back to see his 88 year old father who is sick. I met him last night at the bus departure area, and we talked a little about his home. He plans on leaving next month, and staying for about eight weeks.

A monk’s return to Tibet is full of risks. He has been urged by the Dalai Lama, himself, to not make the trip. There is a chance (that is not remote) that Lobsangshereb will be arrested at the border and imprisoned simply for being a monk and, therefore, presumably allegiant to the Dalai Lama, the outspoken critic of the Chinese occupation and advocate for Tibetan freedom. Guilt by association. Older monks generally pass without trouble, but younger monks attract more attention. Apparently there’s a trick the monks have learned. They put a southern India address on the passport to put a little distance between them and the Dalai Lama. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. From what I was able to gather from him, he stands about a 50/50 chance of making it in and out of Tibet without incident.

Our good-bye was very simple.

Lobsang Shereb 2

“I okay Pah-tick. You go now. It’s okay.”

With that I handed him a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and a full-page advertisement I created for the “Old Man Chicken Society.” He laughed, and I began to climb the hill…already missing this gentle man who was my student, my teacher, my friend, and my brother.

As you know, today was Tsering’s birthday. Many, many thanks to everyone who emailed her a birthday wish. I was able to spend only one hour with her, since she has classes yet today. I bought her a wool carrying sack with a symbol on the front that means “long life.” In it, I put a silly t-shirt with embroidered yaks, some Post-It notes so she can label things in English, some wild honey, some potala incense, and a copy of “The Little Prince.” Lobsangshereb also asked me to give her his Tibetan-English dictionary, as her’s is very tattered and old.

Turned out that the little booger checked her email on Saturday without my knowing, so she received some early from those who sent your messages last week. She was very excited and giddy over finding her email box so full! We had headsets, so we could hear the electronic cards that played music and she loved all the cartoons. All of your messages for her were very sweet. She carefully read each word, and although she may not have understood every nuance, she knew that people were sending her blessings and happiness.

She was a little speechless, just sitting in front of the computer smiling and, as she read, her eyes were intent on the screen as she traced each word with the mouse. The printer at the cafe wasn’t working, so we were not able to print them all out. But she told me she’s going to save them so she can read them whenever she wants.

I told her that now her family is everywhere — Tibet, America, India, England, Australia, South America. As we walked back to her room, she was smiling and mumbling (she does this right before she talks to me as she tries to develop a sentence in English).

She turned to me just as her steps took the form of skips and said:

“I am very happy.”

My wish is that the joy (minus the tears) that passed through me when she said that will also pass through all of you for making Tsering’s birthday a happy one. You may not fully realize it, but trust me as your witness — it was one of the most generous and loving acts of a lifetime.


Leaving The Boots (August 3)

Last June, on our last night camping on the Okavango Delta, Rebecca and I were laying in our tent chatting. We were talking about what a special experience it had been — there on the delta, listening to songs in Setswana, bathing amid elephant grass, and seeing nature’s treasures. We had with us only what we needed for two nights, with our primary packs stowed in the truck. Rebecca and I chatted that night about wanting so badly to give something to those among the bushmen who had been especially kind and generous to us. But with such small packs, we really didn’t have much.

As I lay there, what occurred to me first were my boots. I bought them new for the trip, and they were a bit pricey. I mentioned to Rebecca my idea to leave my boots, as there were a few gentlemen I’m sure they would have fit. Rebecca (understandably) discouraged this, ensuring me I’d be wishing I had those boots during our last few days camping. I agreed, but with this parting remark: “We will be here, now, only once. Whatever it is that we mean to give, we should give it now.”

It’s true, I did need my boots the following days. But when I got back home, and unpacked everything, I stared at those boots and calculated how I could have gone without them if I had really wanted to. I stared at those damned boots for a good 30 minutes, and wished and wished I had left them with the bushmen… I wished and I wished I had left the boots……….

There is a young Tibetan man, perhaps 24, who works fourteen-hour days at my McLeod Ganj hotel. He always served me my food when I ate at the hotel cafe, and always greeted me warmly with a big smile whenever he saw me on my way somewhere. Often, he’d ask where I had been, or where I was going. He was interested that I was helping tutor other Tibetans. His English is quite good, having studied it for nearly three years.

One afternoon, I stepped out of my room during a particularly strong downpour. There he stood, next to the railing, looking up to the sky with me as we just stood and listened. I remarked on the thick deluge, and he told me that the rain makes him miss his family.

He went on to tell me his story of crossing over the mountains with 23 other people for 20+ days to make it out of Tibet. He told me about one of his friends that tried to go back, and is now in prison. Another friend made it to Germany, and is now at a university. I’ve gotten the impression that these two examples reflect both sides of the continuum for Tibetans who flee — their hope, of course, being opportunities that allow them to support their families at home, but for many they wind up stuck or frustrated so they risk arrest to go back home. And then there are those in the middle — like this young man at the hotel.

Tibetans crossing into India are required to first register in Delhi. After registering, they make their way to McLeod Ganj to see the Dalai Lama. To leave McLeod Ganj, and move to another Indian city or move outside of the country, refugees are required to get a “Refugee Certificate.” Obtaining this certificate opens the door to getting a passport, and so on and so on. Getting an RC can be difficult, and expensive. But it is the key to everything that Tibetans in exile are hoping for when they walk for 20 days across the Himalayas.

I don’t know why he asked me, and I don’t know why he picked me. But now I believe his reason was simple — he asked me because, somehow, he knew he could.

He makes 1,000 rupies a month (about $25) and he spends 800 of it for his room. An RC will cost him 3,000 Rs (about $75). You can see how many Tibetans wind up “stuck.”

A few days later, I rolled the money up tight and wrapped it in a blessing string. I attached my name, address, and email. As I sat there in the cafe, with the rain coming down again, I passed it across the table to him.

“I want to do this for you. And I ask just two things. First, that someday, when someone asks for your help, you give it. And second, only that you keep in touch.” He accepted the gift with thanks, and made his promise

At that time, I didn’t even know his name. It was the next day that he wrote it in my journal.

His name… is Karma.

On Tuesday night, I had my “farewell” dinner with the two young women who work at VolunteerTibet, and Tsering. It was a simple dinner, and a nice opportunity for Tsering and I to have the assistance of interpreters. We cleared a few points of confusion up, and I learned more about her family.

The next morning, during our last tutoring session, I quizzed her on the topics of a test she would take later that day. This test would keep her from meeting me in the afternoon as I departed. The quizzing took only about 15 minutes, and her score was perfect. We sat there awkwardly, and I asked what she wanted to do — talk, read, more quizzing…

She said she wanted to talk, but she really didn’t. She was quiet.

For another 30 minutes we sat there, me trying to get her to talk. At about 9:30, I motioned that maybe I would leave so she could get ready for class. At this, she began talking more than I’ve ever heard her. I took it as her indication that she didn’t want me to leave yet. So I stayed — thankful to have more time with her. The minutes clicked away, and before long it was nearly 10 — the time of her class.

She handed me a brown paper bag. Inside was a book — the autobiography of the Dalai Lama. I asked her to inscribe it for me, in Tibetan. She wrote in it, and then tried to translate what she wrote. She said, “this, for you, is anywhere where you are…much happiness.” She handed me the copy of “The Little Prince” I gave her on her birthday, and asked me to return the favor.

Along with the book, she handed me an envelope that contained a letter. She asked that I read it later, giggly and bashful for me to read it in front of her. I rose to leave, and she walked right into my chest. We hugged, and she removed a silk cloth from another bag on her desk. The silk cloths are offered to teachers — hence why they are offered to people like the Dalai Lama and Karmapa. It is a show of respect, and a very special gift to receive. She placed it around my neck, and again leaned against me. We hugged once more, and I turned to leave. As I climbed the mossy steps up to the street, I turned to see her again. And just like the first time I saw her from that very place, she was smiling. Still.

I walked back down to the Snow Lion, where I stayed for my first few nights. I ordered the same breakfast I had when I first arrived — banana honey porridge, Tibetan bread, and tea. I sat there keeping one eye on the monkeys that looked to be up to no good, and opened the envelope she gave me. Her letter read (her exact words):

Tsering with yaks

“Dearest conversation teacher,

I am very glad or nice to meet you and I am very lucky to have such a kind conversation partner also you are a very open or frank person. Oh!” {I interject here to tell you to stop laughing.}

“My heartily thanks goes to you, Carmin and Paolo, your relatives and friends those who wishes for my birthday with lot’s of fun and exciting one thanks once again for all of you dear. In this year’s birthday, I am not with my family but you and your friends all of wishes me very well as same as my family those who were in Tibet so thanks once gain all of you specially for you thanks for your gift.

“I really want to keep our relation forever through e-mail. Whenever you go, what ever you do my best wishes are always with you.

“Here, I have a small gift it’s a book and may you really like this book. Now I will stop here and my best wishes, prayed loves are always with you.

Your student

Tsering Choedon”

Prayed loves to you too, Tsering.

At 2:30, Tseyang (one of the coordinators at VolunteerTibet) came to send me off. We sat together and talked about her brother’s trip to Tibet, and also about Tsering. She promised she’d keep me informed on Lobsangshereb and his trip. She also promised to look in on Tsering, and serve as a go-between for me. I gave her an envelope to pass on to Tsering, with my goodbye letter, and some money that hopefully she can send home to her family, or fill needs of her own.

As 3 approached, with my taxi waiting to take me to the train station, Karma appeared. The three of us walked together to my taxi. I put my bags in the trunk, and when I turned around, both Tseyang and Karma were holding silk cloths. Tseyang placed her’s around my neck, and hugged me. Then Karma did the same, and whispered in my ear “thanks you.” My throat was too full to speak, and my eyes too full to see. The taxi rolled away.

I am writing to you now from Delhi. Last night, I traveled by train and arrived early this morning. The contrast is remarkable, and everything I hated about Delhi is still here. I am, however, at a very nice hotel that will be my refuge until my flight home 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

On my train ride, an Indian woman dressed all in white sat across from me. She immediately offered me bread and potatoes that she had made for the trip. We had tea, and laughed, and slept in relative peace to the muffled “bippity-bap…bippity-bap” of our 11 hour train ride. This morning, as we were stalled waiting for another train to leave the platform in Delhi, the scene out the window was full of suffering and strife. It broke my heart, and my traveling companion tapped me tell me it was time to leave the train. I grabbed her hand as she stepped off the train, and she led me out of the station, through the crowds, and directly to a taxi. She spoke to the driver firmly, and left me with a driver with a simple wave goodbye. I know I have a pretty colorful imagination sometimes, but as I sat in the hot, steamy, smelly taxi I imagined that woman to be an angel of some sort. She made my entrance into this filthy city so much gentler.  So I sit here in the air conditioned comfort of my hotel, trying to spill out the last experiences of my trip. It is — as it has been all along — very difficult. I’m surprisingly awake and alert, with no feelings of fatigue or wear.

I’ve been thinking about this place — McLeod Ganj, that is. And I’ve thought about where I might go next, and also about where I have already been. In my heart, my life — it seems — is marked by senses of place. I forget names, birthdays, deadlines, faces, instructions… But the places that have touched me never, ever leave.

…Walking with bare feet against the stones of ruins in an ancient Andalusian city
…Gazing at Mt. Etna from the amphitheatre in Taormina
…Waking to the sound of monkeys jumping on my roof at Cockscomb
…Smelling a wild fire sunset at San Simeon
…Tracing the path of a sea turtle during a midnight thunderstorm at Tortuguero
…Enjoying a breeze with my dog in the high grasses of The Meadows
…Collecting tiny shells on Captiva
…Hearing whispers from opium dens in Chinatown
…Staring at a far off tree in an Iowa cornfield
…Playing guitar for bushmen on a clear black delta

They are all here with me…all these tiny moments from all these places…them, and a thousand thousand more.

Last year, when I returned home from Africa, I was heartsick. I was homesick for Africa for months, and couldn’t quite get my legs under me for some time.

Today, just a day plus some hours before returning home from India, I feel right with this place. I feel right with me.

I have a new brother — his name is Lobsangshereb. I have a new sister — her name is Tsering. They are now part of this fabric made up of places inside of me.

For three weeks, I tutored two beautiful souls, received blessing upon blessing, ate and slept better than I ever have, learned from wise teachers, sat in the clouds, and was asked to help a man named Karma.

All is right with me. I think because – this time – I left my boots.

See you soon…