Wednesday 29 Nov
McLeod Ganj, India
Dalai Lama, cooking, shopping and chilling out
***McLeod Ganj photo link***
We are truly blessed, as we arrived here to find that the Dalai Lama was not only in residence, but teaching. This meant that we got to see him (twice!). Unfortunately this was not exactly in the 'let's have a cup of tea Shandrew' format, but rather we saw him from a few metres away as he went into the teaching hall and back. Having been lucky enough to have met Nelson Mandela a few years back I can only liken this old soul with him. Both exude love, kindness, humility and the never ending capacity to forgive from every pore.
McLeod Ganj, along with Dharamsala are the areas the Indian Government have asigned to the Tibetan government in exile and the whole area is populated by Tibetan refugees, mostly monks who have in many cases escaped the persecution of the Chinese government in Tibet. In fact we personally met 2 monks who had been imprisoned for 3 years and tortured for seeking the freedom of Tibet and who escaped by walking, yes walking! to India. This can take up to 2 months and 3500-4500 Tibetans make this perilous journey every year. Not to turn this into a political rant but you may be aware of the recent incident where a Romanian climber managed to capture Chinese soldiers shooting at and killing several such escapees (including shooting a nun in the back) - see Chinese shooting escaping Tibetans . As a concession, the Dalai Lama is seeking only autonomy, not full independance, from the Chinese - the ability for the 6 million Tibetans to keep their culture and language alive, to have a say in Tibet's governance and for the area to become a demilitarised zone. Okay rant over - but if you are at all moved by Tibet's position, educate yourself and don't keep silent about it. Read more at Dalai Lama's official website .
McLeod Ganj is a beautiful and peaceful place and my mother and I can say with clear consciences that we have economically supported the local economy with great generosity! You know you have 'done' the shops when you are greeted by each and every shop keeper (on both sides of the street and all over town!). Andrew is very pleased that I didn't get the full shopping gene from my mother and he fully appreciates my little stunted shopping gene now that he has had a peek at the full one in all its glory.
My mother and I also took the opportunity to go to a cooking class to learn how to make momos (Tibetan dumplings). I must say though that once we were told we would have to kneed the dough 100 times we lost our enthusiasm and decided that realistically momos were unlikely to be produced in either of our households. We spent a fair time discussing the virtues of frozen puff pastry as a viable alternative and the rest of the time looking forward to eating our beautiful little morsels (we took home the teachers ones for the boys pretending they were ours of course!). Hmm what else... Andrew and I went for a walk through the surrounding forests, Andrew having a close encounter of the violent kind when he got a bit too personal with a rather large tempramental male monkey. Just picture the amusing scene - Andrew screaming like a girl and hot tailing it out of there with the monkey hot in pursuit. Of course I was in hysterics.
And so, as all good things that have to come to an end, we had to say goodbye to my folks. It was so wonderful spending time with them especially now that we are all grown up and we can discuss tales of my evil youth without me landing up grounded! We all had about a 48 hour journey from McLeod Ganj - them to Cape Town and us to Bangkok.
As much as we have loved India we are SO looking forward to the next chapter of our journey - I'll admit that Thai green curry has quite a bit to do with it from my side...