Just another ordinary day…

The handsome Dr Kumar

I awoke yesterday morning at 5.30am  to the delightful sounds of Payma’s mum gobbing up outside my bedroom window.

But my day really started when she came into my room at 6.00am to clean The Dalai Lama’s altar and light two large incense sticks.

She disappeared for a couple of minutes, to reappear with a large canister on chains full of red hot charcoal. She swung this in front of the altar several times, filling the room with smoke.

Time to make an early exit up the hill to wait for the cafe to open. Continue reading “Just another ordinary day…”

A Teaching with the Dalai Lama

Inside the Temple

Teaching English to Tibetan monks is one thing, but to see the Dalai Lama in person is quite another.

From Thursday to Saturday here in Dharamsala, he has been holding twice-daily open audiences at the Temple.

As 6,000 people are expected at each session, I was thrilled when Kunchok, a senior monk who runs the English teaching programme at the Temple, showed me a special area set aside for guests of the Temple office. This included those of us who teach English to the monks.

The area is outside the Temple itself, beside a large open widow promising a great view of his Holiness.

Continue reading “A Teaching with the Dalai Lama”

A fish pedicure, a trip to the post office, and to the Hope Mission

Traffic madness in McLeod Ganj

My time in McLeod Ganj is already half way through.

So far it’s been a mixture of what I expected (this is my third time in India) with a lot of surprises thrown in.

McLeod Ganj is a bustling town full of Indians, Tibetans, Westerners and goodness knows who else, living in peril of being mown down by maniacal drivers and motorcyclists.

For some reason traffic has right of way down these tiny streets teeming with people and shops. It’s remarkable so few get injured – not that I’ve seen, anyway.

Continue reading “A fish pedicure, a trip to the post office, and to the Hope Mission”

Rhonda’s advice for older volunteers

Rhonda – a rare species!

I knew the average age for an IVHQ volunteer is mid to late twenties, but I hadn’t expected older volunteers (people over fifty) to be such a rare breed.

Therefore I was delighted to bump into Rhonda, a gutsy fifty-five year old Australian, who has been volunteering in different parts of India for several years. I asked her how many older volunteers she had encountered during her travels.

‘One’, she said. ‘A woman in her sixties, and not one single older man.’

We both agreed this was a shame, and decided it could be due to a lack of information aimed specifically at this age group.

So, over a long cool Kingfisher beer, I asked Rhonda for any advice she would give an older person who might be thinking of signing up as a volunteer (although what follows is sound guidance for anyone planning a trip). Continue reading “Rhonda’s advice for older volunteers”

Settling in with my Tibetan family

What with settling in with my home-stay family in McLeod Ganj (similar in size and vibe to what I image Kathmandu to be) and finding my feet teaching Tibetan monks, you could say these past few days have been one hell of a learning curve.

I am staying with Payma and her husband Nyima, and their little minx of a daughter, Tenzin Zompa.

Both Payma and Nyima  speak surprisingly good English, learnt at school, and they have made me feel very welcome.

The one-storey house is made of concrete, as are most of the houses. It has a kitchen and two small rooms which act as bedrooms-cum-living-areas.  They don’t have chairs, but use low couches that double up for sitting and sleeping. You just chuck a blanket over you at night and curl up on the Tibetan rug (probably made in China) that covers the couch. All Tibetans do this. Continue reading “Settling in with my Tibetan family”

A gruelling bus journey soothed by the Dalai Lama, himself!

Okay, so the bus stop in the middle of a Delhi slum wasn’t exactly London’s Victoria Coach station, and the road certainly wasn’t a motorway, but this was a journey I’m glad I didn’t miss.

It started for me (I was travelling with four other IVHQ volunteers) with two delicious potato cakes from a food stall holder for the massive sum of four rupees (around five pence).

Lulled into a false sense of camaraderie with the locals, I handed my suitcase to a lean, just post-pubescent youth with a wispy beard and moustache who was loading luggage underneath the air-conditioned bus to Dharamsala. Continue reading “A gruelling bus journey soothed by the Dalai Lama, himself!”

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