Wednesday, 14 July 2010
I left my monastery on the 18th of June. This was rather emotional. I didn't cry. They gave me blessing scarves and wall hangings and tea and Dressed me up as a monk and took pictures of me in the Temple. Genuinely, I was sad to leave. The monks are great folks. I've spoken of my opinion of the idea of being a monk before, and it probably came accross as negative, but thats nothing to do with the monks. They're great lads. I shall show you pictures when we get back.
Trains are good fun, we use them to get all over india. Weird bunchof people the indians though. They love a good stare. On one train, an officer in the indian army came and sat next to me, rifle and all, and had a wee gander at us. I was listening to my iPod and after a while, he asked for an ear (an earphone you understand, not an ACTUAL ear. That would be weird, even for a man with a rifle) so I passed him one. I happened to be listening to McFly. I wont apologise. Anyway, he loved it. Imagine the tableau: me nervously eyeing up a badass rifle, while the owner bobs his head to Mcfly, blissfully unaware that this is WEIRD.
We first went to Bohsgaya, which is the location of the Bhodi tree, under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. Very interesting. There is a Japanese Temple there where a monk taught us how to meditate. THAT was cool. Next up, Varanasi. Varanasi is the holiest city in the world, built next to the Ganges. It smells. We got to our hotel, and decided to visit the Ghats. These are all along the banks of the Ganges. The best way to find them is to follow the procession of dead bodies. Most of them are buned at the side of the river, but pure ones (pregnant women, children, leppers, victims of a cobra bite, and holy men) are thrown into the river with a rock tied to them. Some times the rock comes loose. We took a boat ride and saw a dead lepper floating past. Mixed feelings about that one...
Next up Kajuraho. Sex temples...too many elephants involved for my tastes...
Then Agra, Taj Mahal is awesome, So was Fatepur Sikri, an abandoned Moghul city.
We've been too so many places that i really can't do them justice in one blog. I will of COURSE be happy to talk to you at great length about it ALL when I get home. In fact its not really optional. A big fat load of one on one blogging is coming you're way people!
We're heading to Jaipur tonight, check out some forts etc etc etc. Then Udaipur, then Mumbai t get ourselves in a Bollywood film, then Kolakata, then home.
Oh, something I cant leave out: I rode a camel accross the desert. It was AMAZING. Did you know that they are more than 8 feet tall?! And some of them have serious issues with authority. And I have two words for you: Sandy, and Crack. Put them together and you have one UNPLEASANT experience!
Well, I wish I could stay and chat longer, but the bill for this internet is going to be as long as my arm, so I will bid you adieu (there's a german guy next to me. I think adieu is german. Or maybe austrian...)
Farewell and I am looking forward to seeing you all very much!
PS All of you buy cheese. I've missed cheese.
Thursday, 3 June 2010
So anyway, I'll slowly bring you up to date. When I last wrote, I was in Sikkim. I'm not anymore. We stayed with Andrew, and then moved off to Pelling, which is a wee village about 5 hours west of Gangtok. We stayed there for 2 days. It was great fun, and kind of like a mystery novel (not because we killed anyone) because you start off not knowing anyone, but because there's so few places in Pelling for tourists to go, by the end of our stay there we knew everyone. We had a particularly interesting afternoon spent in the company of the ultimate Austrian stereotype. Claus the Austrian Prison Guard. He was a great guy. We went for tomba with him which it turns out is a hard drink to find in Pelling, even though everywhere else in Sikkim its higher up the menu than water. We eventually found this shack of a cafe and asked for it, whereupon they shut the curtains, and they brought the drink up from the basement. We chatted to Claus for ages. Turns out he's head of the couch surfing movement in Vienna.
There's not actually a whole lot to do in Pelling, but we visited a monastery, and a holy lake which, because I can feel the question on your collective lips, is just like any other lake. Except it has prayer flags every where. And it smells a bit.
After Pelling, we had to get a jeep BACK to Gangtok, to go on our trek, which I will write about tomorrow. Right now, I have to go and pick up my laundry, and see a lady about a cake. That's not even a euphemism people, I'm actually going to pick up some brownies. The woman's a genius. I may have to marry her.
Woops, before I go, i'll just shock you with a political tidbit. A leader of one of the political parties here was hacked to death the other week. Scary stuff, but it's all died down now. The army are beginning to leave. I'd tell you more, but it's quite a complicated story, and it would be easier to explain it when I get home. It's really very interesting.
Monday, 10 May 2010
Okay so my last entry ended with an ominous ‘TO BE CONTINUED’. That was a lie. I got better. More or less. It’s now over 3 weeks since I got ill, and I have done, to quote Police Academy, ‘many, many things Mahoney’ (If anyone reading this is actually called Mahoney, this is your lucky day – you have just been immortalised’). So, while I was in hospital, the four girls who were working in Varanasi came up to visit. They brought me several magazines which, though I didn’t admit it at the time, I definitely read. Ashley Cole’s promising Cheryl a baby?! Fortunately I got out a day later, and we showed the Varanasi lot around, in the process of which I bought a corn on the cob (it’s very popular around here) and had it stolen by a monkey. Those little buggers are vicious, and have been added to the list of animals that I have no problem eating. This list is pretty extensive, and the only animals not on it tend to be those that don’t taste good, such as the common garden mole, which i’m told is disgusting. So anyway, on the Saturday after I was discharged, we went to the open mic afternoon at Glenary’s, and James (coerced by a very annoying Indian called Annup, who accompanied him inadequately on guitar) sang Under the Bridge by the Chillies. Good stuff.
Then followed a pretty average week of teaching, on the Thursday of which, Thupten came into one of my lessons and asked me if I would like to go to Sandakhphu with some of the Monks to perform a Puja. It sounded like a plan, so is said yes. This weekend was one of extremes, some good some bad, to the point where my overall reaction to it when I think back is ‘Meh’. The 8 our jeep ride there was something else. The jeep is one of those classis ‘engine, wheels and gearbox jobs, where comfort is not only absent, but actively opposed. I was unfortunately placed in the ‘bitch seat’. This is the seat where you have your legs either side of the gear stick. What’s that Mr driver? You want to go into second gear? Well i’m afraid that particular spot is occupied by my left testi...oh you did it anyway.
The ‘road’ points straight up the mountain, and doesn’t let up till you arrive at Sandakphu, at 13,000ft. You have to stop off in Nepal, which was cool. (That’s right visa people, if you’re reading this, screw you guys, I went anyway). Sandakhpu is, for want of a better word, a hole. Basically it’s a bunch of sheds on top of a mountain. The first evening, Thupten thought he would order himself and me a beer. He came to my room with them and locked the door so the other monks didn’t see him drinking. Sadly, and bizarrely, the good people of Sandakhphu think that because its cold, they should boil the beer before serving it. This is bad. Very bad. In fact it’s disgusting.
On my first full day there, I went on a hike into the foothills of the Himalayas, which was awesome. It was a fantastic day, and the scenery is breathtaking. At the end, however, I found a really nice grassy hummock, and fell asleep. I woke up having been turned a nice crispy red by the sun. Gooood. On the second evening I started to feel a bit ill, which was not helped by the fact that the guys in the room next to me were getting blindingly drunk from about 5 o’clock till 3am. Bad times. The next day, the taxi home was supposed to arrive at 10am. It got there at 1pm. That’s 3 hours late for those of you who are arithmetically impaired. So that was my trip to Sandakhphu.
I had one more week of teaching to do, before the two weeks off that I had taken at the start of May. At this point, the monks had begun to seriously annoy me. For no particular reason than that it was almost the halfway point, and the culture difference were trying my patience. My lessons had been moved to 9.30 every morning, and the small monks had taken to coming to my room at 9.15 and telling me to teach them. It got to the point where I had to literally throw them out. And then there’s this one mini monk who is unfortunately the smartest in his class, who likes to tell me what he wants to teach every day. He’s honestly such a knob. Pardon my French, Needless to say if he wants to learn English, he gets taught maths,
So anyway, that’s us pretty much up to date. We (James, Mike and I) left for Sikkim on Monday, and are currently staying in Gangtok with an American journalist whom we met. Gangtok is great. So clean, and it’s literally years ahead of anywhere else in India in terms of development. We’re going off to Pelling soon, and then we’re coming back to Gangtok for next Tuesday to do a trek for the rest of the second week.
Before I leave you all, I have a comment to make: toilets are supposed to be contemplative; you don’t just go there to partake in its obvious function, you go there to think. This is impossible while using a long-drop. Crouching over a hole in the ground is not conducive to epiphanies of any order. This annoys me significantly. The balance alone requires too much concentration. I am unhappy about this. And the fact that my monastery hasn’t ad water for two months and even during those brief hours where it comes back on, the monks still don’t feel the need to JUST FLUSH FOR ONCE IN THERE LIVES.
More will follow.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
Sunday, 4 April 2010
Well this weekend was fun. We met a guy from Kilmarnock which was awesome, and we went to a pub which waas open to the skies, where you sit round a wee bonfire. It was great. On Saturday, it seened like a good idea for me and Mike to see how many places we could eat beans on toast in. Our count is 5 so far. I also managed to polish off 6 eggs, some grilled tomatoes and ...stop, Love Story by Taylor Swift just came on in the cafe and I must mention it... a packet of biscuits. Tell you what, the fibre certainly gets the bowels miving. I'm sorry. You didn't need to know that. But seriously.
On Sunday, we went to church, which was really good. It's a catholic church, and the minister there is a lad. He wore blue fluffy slippers while delivering his sermon. The sermon was very good actually. And we had communion there too. Because of health scares in India, communion consists of a tiny cracker dipped in wine that the minister puts in your mouth while he blesses you. His reason for the health precaution was 'its because of 'HN1...or L1...or whatever'. Funny guy. After the service everyone went outside for tea and cakes. The church is on a hill and it was a nice day so the view was incredible. Its was pretty awesome just standing chatting to the rest of the congregation. We met another Scottish person. She lives in India with her husband now, but incredibly, her dad went to GWC. Small world eh?
We went for high-tea at the Elgan, which was quite nice, but not as good as the Mayfair.
I'm now back in Ghoom for another weeks teaching (already done my fist lesson). Got up this morning in Darjeeling to get a taxi back. There were no taxis. Its a looooong uphill, 8km walk back to my monastery. In the sweltering heat. (Had to throw that in there as I know you guys have snow)
I will leave you with the advice that I keep getting given over here: Always be wary of the three W's: Water, Weather, and Women. May they serve you well.
Oh yeah, off to Pedong next weekend to visit some of the other volunteers at their placement there.
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Sunday, 21 March 2010
On Friday night I met up with the rest of the teachers and we went for a meal in an Indian restaurant. I needed a pee, and had to literally go through a buildingsite to get to the toilet. And behind the toilet was the kitchen. Which means our food had to g0 past the toilet and through a buildingsite to get to us. Good times.
On Saturday we took a trip to the Tibetan Refugee Centre. That was possible one of the best things I've done yet. These people are all old enough to have actually fled Tibet during the exile, and when you look at them they just look like they want to be, and should be somewhere else Me and Mike met this guy who talked to us all about what was going on, and eventually sort of ended up giving us his views on life, the universe and everything. It was amazing. Sort of conversation that you remember for a loooong time.
Saturday night we went to the live music at glenary's, and then out for a meal paid for by Lattitude. During the live music we met those Tibetan lads I told you about a while back. The rich guy has invited me and Mike to go to his Tea Estate next weekend to go fishing and have a bonfire. The meal we had was questionable at best. I went for the mixed meat grill. Not one thing on that plate was actually what it claimed to be What I can only assume was supposed to be the mutton (eugh) was just a big bone.
Today we went to the zee. I saw red pandas, monkeys, bears, and pheasants for some odd reason. Normally the only time i see pheasants is shortly before they collide with my car. Afterwards we went to the Mayfair hotel for a we bite to eat. This place is like the cream of indian hotels. Soooo nice. 9000 rupees a night. Half way through our sandwiches these two monkeys jumped down and started to eat the peanuts from a bowl on our table! One of them started eyeing up my sandwich and i was ready to punch him in the face, but they scarpered Must've seen the glint in my eyes I liked my sandwiches. All through this James was squealing and asking for permission from the monkeys to leave the table. It was an admirable display of courage. Anyhoo back in Ghoom now, for another week of teaching those darling monks. They're alriiiight really. I'll post again in a week or so. And remember You Can't Stop The Signal. Anyone who gets that film reference will get a prize sent to them personally, by me, from India.