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Taking the North Country to Northern India

Becky McCluskey

A Mountain Retreat: November 6, 2004

The mountain retreat place was really pretty, but got really cold at night. In the mornings we did our Tibetan rights and then had yoga with a Frenchman named Gopala who had been staying there for 3 weeks already (things didn't work out with the yoga dude who was supposed to come). After breakfast we worked for 3 hours on things they needed help with, and then we had the rest of the day free.

During free time, the first couple of days, I went on short walks with people; it was nice because, at the top of the ridges, you could see the wall of white peaks in the distance. It was really cool as we were leaving because it was blue above and below the white peaks, so it looked like they were floating in the sky. There was no electricity, so at night we used fireplaces and tons of candles, which was a lot of fun. Six of the girls shared one room and all the guys and one girl were in the room adjacent to ours. One night Lianna and I woke up and were choking and coughing on the air in the room. We both opened the door to the outside to get fresh air and realized the entire room was packed with smoke. Suddenly Chelsea woke up and said in a totally calm voice, "I'm on fire." Her blanket had somehow caught on fire, but we managed to put it out really quickly. It was a little scary because she must have been burning for a little while and everyone--including her--just kept sleeping; it could have been a very bad situation, but thank goodness it wasn't.

While we were there, Duaba and Gopala initiated us in Reiki. It was a totally new experience because the day we were initiated into it, we couldn't talk to anyone and we opted to fast all day. I have never gone an entire day without eating but I made it through without cheating and breaking into my chocolate stash. That day we did this hour-long meditation and then went out on our own for a two-hour vision quest. At night we had a fire ceremony.

On our free day, which also happened to be Halloween, everyone went on a long walk. We went to this little village to listen to a man put on a performance, but he was sick, so instead we walked to a Shiva temple. It was on the top of a mountain and the trees had been cleared away--it reminded me of the opening scenes from The Sound of Music, especially when two of the girls starting prancing around the cows that were up there--cows are everywhere!!! The naandi bull is sacred to Shiva because he rode around on one, apparently. I thought Halloween wouldn't be that great, but I had a wonderful time that day. Later at night, people passed out candy and cookies and biscuits, and we ate tons of chapatis with peanut butter and honey--oh sooooo good :)

The last day we were up there, we walked even farther to the only school in the area that teaches English. All the kids were given their own package of markers and a picture to color. It was really kind of sad because a lot of the younger ones didn't know what to do. They had never colored before...I can't imagine being a little kid and not knowing what markers and coloring are. :( Before we left, our group sang Old MacDonald for all the kids (and we acted out the animals) and all the kids looked at us like we were insane--it was great!! Then we went to a school for older kids where they had been having some big sports day. They were done by the time we got there, but the principal had us sit in front of all of them. They got us to sing for them, so we sang that one verse from "Go Down to the River to Pray" or whatever, from Brother Where Art Thou, like 6 times--also pretty funny, especially because a few of us are tone deaf. It was a big deal for the school though, because I guess some of the kids had come from villages really far away and had never seen foreigners before. I wonder what they thought of us :) ?

So yeah, now I'm back in the craziness of India, but it was really nice being away from it all for a little while. When we were in the mountains I felt like we could be anywhere in the world. It wasn't what I pictured India to be like at all. It really is the land of extremes!

Answers to some of your questions: I never saw any monks playing soccer but I did see some playing volleyball and badminton, although I didn't join in. The language barrier has only been a problem during rickshaw rides in Delhi when the one I was in with two other people broke down, and we didn't know where we were going...hehehe. It was a good incident. I'm really jealous of the kids here because they can speak Nepali, Hindi, and English. My achala at my homestay could speak Tibetan, Hindi, and English. Learning English here is a really big thing. It's sad though, because in the US not so much emphasis is placed on learning any other language and it's really important to start young. I just think it's stupid we don't start learning another language until the 8th grade. Barbie here looks exactly the same as the Barbie back home :) I'm not sure what my favorite food has been--I'll have to think about that one. Oh, and my hair!!!!! hahahahaha. Its gotten long enough so that the cowlicks all over my head are really obvious. It looks so funny and all I can do is let it do its own thing--there's even mohawk-ridge-like action going on in the back of my hair-- it's so strange :) :)

love you all, becko
(that's what all the kids call me; I guess there's some lizard or something with that name so they say it and then laugh hysterically :)

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