Well believe it or not, several potent variables came together and I experienced some strong emotions on this last day in Ladakh. In one way I was very happy and full, having experienced multiple, extraordinary events and energetically charged, serene monasteries.
Oh – side note in case I forget to mention it – if you are traveling to Ladakh on your own, as in without a travel company’s advice or guidance, schedule your return trip out of Ladakh a day early. That is what I did, and I was very thankful for having done so, because I would have missed my international connection in New Delhi otherwise. This is due to high winds coming over the Himalayas – these force the “normal” flights to only come in by 9 AM and take off by 6 AM. If a particularly bad wind day comes up, the handful of daily flights are canceled. Apparently this happens several times a month, even during the summer. So… you can either take your chances or leave an extra day for R & R in Delhi.
Nothing too outlandish on this day, but a few curious glimpses into Leh’s mundane lifestyles. First, I had wanted to hang out with my new-found Tibetan friends, but apparently they don’t set up their tables when there is a Tibetan holiday or Day of Mourning – I later found Tamding sitting elsewhere with dozens Tibetans having a meeting / tea. Afterward, he told me it was a day off because a nasty Chinese attack had occurred on that date in recent history (somewhere around July 7th to the 9th?). So that was strike one.
On the way back from trying to find Tamding, I stopped in a roadside tea stall. Which may not have been the greatest idea… I ordered a ginger tea, for my stomach, which turned out to be black tea with a touch of ginger flavoring. After witnessing the gentleman’s (I’m making an assumption here) sanitation or terrible lack thereof, I drank just a touch of it and prayed I would not get even more sick than I had been. Strike two. I had wanted to people-watch but I went back to the Guest House for a brief nap. Instead I listened to a monk performing what sounded like protector practice in the family shrine room (I was outside in the sitting room), I assume it was protector practice because there were many instruments played – cymbals, the drum and bells.
I did a little practice, lay down and did some reading, only soon thereafter to discover a fuming, steamy, red-hot resentment welling up in my belly. No, believe it or not, I was not sick. Rather, I was Pissed Off and I know not what at. That feeling stuck around for a little while – strike three! It might have been the fact that no matter where I went (restaurants / guest houses) I could only order food in Ladakh that was incredibly spicy (for my sensitive taste at the time). That was starting to rub me the wrong way. The feeling might have just been a visceral manifestation of my desire to get the heck out of the country – several things were starting to grate on me:
1) mentioned the spicy food above, where at every restaurant I went to, knowing my issue with spicy food, I would ask, “please show me what is not spicy.” The waiter would point to a few things. Proceeded by me asking them if they were sure! I would choose what seemed to be the most innocuous but then later leave the restaurant breathing fire, again… and again…
2) I was getting tired of every (!) Kashmiri / Pakistani shop keeper telling me I was their friend and asking if I wanted to come into their store. It effectively made trying to get into the bazaar in Leh, where I would be subject to more of the same, like running a gauntlet – several times daily… normally I am a cool cucumber but by this point I was having difficulty (in case it was not obvious). Luckily I had the natural boundary set up of having an empty wallet.
3) these few days in Ladakh without the containment of the pilgrimage group were like being on a retreat where you know it is “working” because every one of your vices and buttons are coming up and being pushed. I was doing a little practice each day but not pushing too hard. Maybe I was doing too much nonetheless, maybe it was just enough.
And finally, on a separate subject, Ladakhi’s incredible hospitality: last night Stanzin Phuntsok (Tenzin in Tibetan, Stanzin in Ladakhi), the shop owner and Thangka painter from a shop in Leh came by to drop off my already purchased Thangkas. He had wrapped them up and I was very happy with my purchase. About the hospitality, the Guest House owners did not know Stanzin from Adam, seriously – he had to ask me very specifically where the Guest House was located because he had never been there before, but nonetheless, they offered him butter tea. He declined. They pushed a cup into his hand any way, as he was attempting to walk out the door. He said he had somewhere else to be. 🙂 I love it. The same thing happened with Namgyal (the owner of Yama Trekking – a very generous and excellent guide), except, because they knew Namgyal, the server / helper-14-year-old body, Sonam blocked the door and they “forced” Namgyal to sit and have tea. It was very comical.