4 April 2011
Countless white butterflies are fluttering up the mountain outside my window right now. They look sort of like big snowflakes moving in the wrong direction. Or like sperm racing to get to the egg first, which is apparently at the top of the mountain. A steady stream of them keeps flying past. I wonder where they all came from and where they are going.
Uh-oh. One of them is lost. He’s going in the wrong direction! Turn around, buddy! You’ll never make it that way! There’s nothing over there!
Oh… oh… sweet. He found his way (at least past my window).
Yesterday I massaged Jittender, the therapist who does Thai massage. It was a wonderful massage. Our energies clicked and he was very happy with the work. After the massage we both sat on his table and drank chai. He was very complimentary and said that I massage from the heart. I liked that. When he found out that I am a biologist he starting calling me “doctor” and asked me to explain why there is pain in the pecs and what to do about too much uric acid in the body, wanting to compare my opinion with that of an actual doctor he’d seen. I could explain the pecs easily enough but had nothing to offer for the uric acid dilemma. Despite my explaining that I’m not a doctor, he insisted on calling me “doctor”.
From there I went straight over to Kamal’s to get my massage. He was totally professional and did a lovely job. Very strong and skillful. He can clearly see with his hands. It was very interesting to experience his style. He did a lot of myofascial work using some completely different techniques than I was trained in which accomplish the same thing. He didn’t know the term “myofascial” and I don’t think he knew the theory or mechanisms behind his techniques, just that they were effective.
As seems to be the case with everyone I’ve met so far, Kamal never received any formal training but picked up an amalgamation of techniques from various people who have come through at different times. Having received a very high quality training myself at Chico Therapy Wellness Center, it is a bit disconcerting having people doing things like chiropractic adjustments after being shown a couple things by a chiropractor once, without being aware of possible damage that one could do. What is also disconcerting is people who have not received any formal bodywork training then going on and dispensing training to others, as is very popular here. It seems every massage therapist, no matter how long they’ve been practicing, also offers a massage training course. Usually two hours a day for five days.
After the massage and the obligatory cup of chai, I climbed the steps out from his office up toward the road. As I looked up the enter the street, a familiar face hovered right in the middle of my view, framed in the doorway, about to walk past.
Katyanna! My friend/yoga instructor from Nicaragua! I’d almost completely forgotten that I was going to see her here. She just happened to be walking past the doorway at the exact moment I was stepping out of it. Crazy. Katyanna is the reason I became interested in India in the first place and the reason I ended up here, now, in this course. She was my favorite yoga instructor in Central America. She went through the same training and now she has returned to be an assistant instructor. We went to a café and talked about yoga, Nica, India, etc for over an hour, even practicing our Spanish a little. It was so crazy, the last time I saw her we were in Nica saying “Okay, see you in India” and there we were again.
I went to have dinner at the Tibet Kitchen again for the third day in a row to break my fast. Yesterday a fast was held to pay respects to a 20-year old monk named Phuntsok Jarutsang who set himself on fire on March 16th to mark the third anniversary of the March 16, 2008 deadly crackdown by the Chinese on Tibetan peaceful protesters in Tibet. I hope everyone who reads this will think about that for a moment; what the Chinese government has done, what it continues to do, how brave one must be to peacefully protest in China (knowing that doing so means relinquishing your right to live), how it must feel to believe that your best chance of bringing attention to the atrocities being committed against your people is to burn yourself alive… and to actually do it…
The least I could do was not eat for eight hours.
When I did eat I had Sonam, my same waiter from the previous two days, help me pick out my next dish to try. I think Sonam is in his twenties and escaped from Tibet four years ago with 82 other people. He said it was very dangerous for them. He’d just finished school three months ago where he studied English, Tibetan and Tibetan history and culture. He explained that it is a school where all the new refugee children go. His accent is very thick and his English isn’t super strong so it took a lot of time for us to converse. There was a lot more I wanted to learn from him but his boss indicated that he needed to stop talking and get back to work. I told him I’d be back the next day and he seemed pleased.
I’m happy to report that I seem to be acclimated to the 9,275ft elevation and that the buhjillion steps up to town are far more manageable now. On my way up today, I was stopped by Kunchok, a young Tibetan man. I really have to make no effort to meet local people here – they just start talking to me. The dialog almost always goes like this:
Person: “Hello! Where are you from?”
Me: “Hello. I’m from California.”
Person: “Oh. How long you stay McLeod Ganj?”
Me: “One month”
Person: “When you get here?”
Me: “X days ago”
Person: “This your first time in India? You like it?”
Same thing (almost) every time.
Kunchok mixed it up by throwing a “You’re hair very different” in there as the follow up to “where are you from”. He seemed fascinated with my appearance, clearly studying my attire as if I was some exotic creature, which I find funny since I’m wearing Tibetan and local clothes and my hair is simply up in a clip like I always have it. Just ahead of me on the stairs was some hippy dude with super long dreadlocks, so I’m not sure what was so unusual about my hair.
The only thing I could think to say was “It’s, uh, messy” thinking how I hadn’t bothered to brush it. FYI: curly hair and clips work together as masters of disguise.
We chatted briefly and he invited me for chai and told me to come visit him at the café he works at. I declined the chai but assured him if I found myself near his café I’d stop in to say hi.
I continued my ascent and a bit further up I stopped to investigate the sound of children singing. I peered through the gate of a preschool and kindergarten for Tibetan children. Across the courtyard in a classroom I could see a group of tiny little round children in uniforms neatly arranged, singing and dancing a simple, choreographed dance. THEY WERE SO CUTE!!! I tried to take video of them but the contrast between the bright outside and the dark inside the classroom meant my camera didn’t pick up any of their adorable, stout little appendages moving around: feet stopping, arms swinging… I want one!
I’ve officially decided Tibetan children are the most adorable children in the world. Their faces are spherical! They look like little variations of
my grandma and my little cousin, Elaina, whose nickname given to her by her older brother is “Cookie” (cuz she’s round like a cookie).
I think I’m going to have to learn to speak Tibetan before I’ll be of much use to the kids. Fortunately, though, there are a lot of opportunities to learn Tibetan and Hindi here. There are many efforts going on to keep tibetan culture alive, so one can also easily find classes on how to cook Tibetan food, how to create the traditional Thanka paintings, not to mention all the lectures going on everyday. So much to do! You see why I have to come back?
While I won’t have time to get involved in pretty much any of that during this trip, but I do hope to make it to the Tibetan Children’s Village. According to my Rough Guide it is “a huge complex providing education and training in traditional handicrafts for around two thoughsand students, many of whom are orphans or have been brought to safety by parent who have returned to Tibet.” If you are interested in reading a little more about them or learning how you can help (such as by sponsoring a child for $40 a month) you can check out their website here.
Once I was in town, I made my way back to Jittender’s office where I received my first Thai massage. It was RAD! I think I need to learn how to do this. Wow. Really, really cool. I’d love to offer this to my clients. It’s so interactive. For those of you who have not experienced it, you lay on a pad on the ground with loose-fitting clothes on while the therapist stretches and massages you. Two thumbs, way up.
Afterward I went for lunch at Tibet Kitchen but was disappointed to see Sonam wasn’t there. I picked a random thing on the menu “Veg Petsel Phing” with two yum-yum-yummy things of Tibetan bread called Tingmo.
The Petsel Phing turned out to basically be a spicy version of the thing I ate last night without the yummy paneer (cheese). I thought to take a picture of it only half-way through my bowl…
Veg Petsel Phing (I think)
After lunch I walked around, found a nice view with my building in it…
If you follow the line of flags on the left edge of the photo, Sidharth House is the first building (orangey/pink) above it.
…bought my next papaya, and made my way home with one more awkward conversation with Kunchok to round things out.
Kunchok: “Hello again!”
Me: “Hello! How are you doing?”
Kunchok: “I’m just reading this magazine here. It’s… really interesting… this magazine.”
Me: (Seeing that the magazine was a worn copy of Better Photography) “Oh, you like taking pictures?”
Kunchok: “You want to read it? It’s really good.”
Me: “No, thank yo-“
Kunchok: “So you are going home then?”
Kunchok: “You, uhh… share a room with someone? Or you by yourself?”
Me: “I am by myself. Okay, nice chatting with you again! I’m sure I’ll see you later. Enjoy your day!”