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On the Saturday of my being alone in Ladakh, or at least feeling that way, I decided to get out a bit. Leh has several attractions which you may want to consider visiting if you have some time to spare, and I am hoping that these locations still exist after the tragic floods.
I stopped by Namgyal’s office on my way up the main street, which heads toward the Ecology Center and the Women’s Alliance. His employees are so funny, standing up when I entered, opening the door for me, basically treating me like nobility. What a good feeling! I borrowed a book from him which I read over a few days, which turned out to be quite a tale – Sherlock Holmes and the Mandala – basically a mystery about Sherlock Holmes in Tibet, a fictional tale involving a Dalai Lama.
The Ecology Center is an indigenous non-profit organization which seeks to benefit Ladakhi welfare and improve their standards of living. It has a nice little library and I spent several hours looking through a book detailing the artwork and history of Alchi Gompa, which we had visited previously. I really regretted not going in – that day I was feeling sick. It was one of two monasteries I decided to skip out on. Apparently some of the artwork in Alchi is the oldest in Ladakh, and it discussed how Alchi was founded around the time of Tsultrim O, Kalden Sherab and Rinchen Sangpo (the great translator, Lotsawa). There were numerous little inventions laying around outside the Ecology Center – including the Solar Cooker pictured below.
The Women’s Alliance is a group that focuses on bringing women’s rights up to par in Ladakh, selling their crafts and handiwork. I purchased some nice fabric from them and spoke with several European interns who were working there at the time. Oh – on the way I kept seeing signs for the Sanctuary for Helpless Donkeys – pretty funny.
I stopped by the Tibetan Doctor’s office again and I made an appointment for the following week. Oh and I gave out some glasses which we had collected – this is one of the altruistic deeds we had planned on before going. In Tibet, and Ladakh as well, people do not have easy access to quality reading glasses, so we had asked for donations ahead of time and I handed out several sets. It is very heart warming when people light up like that – plus some can read again for the first time in years. Wow!
Later, I spoke with the owner of the Guest House – his English was actually pretty decent. He had not spoken much previously so I was unsure. His name was Angchuk and we discussed winter in Ladakh and how recently some newer technology made its way over the Himalayas to them: radio got to Ladakh in 1971, TV in 2002 and they did not see the first cell phone until 2003. I believe it was the late 1980’s when they saw their first plane land – and actually when it happened, the people of Ladakh, having never seen anything like it before thought that a miracle was occurring. They treated the plane and the people getting off of it like high lamas – offering white scarves. Angchuk said that in the winter, the temperatures can drop to negative 35 Celsius. He said when that happens, their family all gather in the kitchen around the stove, and sleep there too. He said they normally have snow on the ground from November through March, with some early snowfall in October and late snow in April.