Dharamsala: Search for the Dalai Lama

First, some logistics: you may have notices that at the top of the sidebar on the right, there’s a new widget that says “My RSS.” If you click on the little logo, you can go to a site that lets you subscribe to my blog, so it will send you my updates. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Let me know if it does.


As I mentioned in my post about getting robbed, we are now in Dharamsala, in the mountains leading up to the Himalayas. (I would call them foothills, but they are mountains in their own right. I guess that’s what happens in the world’s largest mountains – everything is bigger.) Technically, we are in McLeod Ganj (pronounced mc-CLOUD GAN-j, bizarrely), the home of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (and, therefore, the Dalai Lama), a town a little north of Dharamsala, but everyone refers to it as Dharamsala in the wider world. Don’t ask me why.

McLeod is unlike anywhere else I’ve been in India. As the displaced Tibetan capital, it is understandably filled with Tibetans, and often feels more like Tibet than India. Of course, skeezy Indian men are ubiquitous within India’s borders, so you can’t escape that, but otherwise, I would call McLeod more of an international community than anything else. There are tons of people from all over the world who are either just passing through, or moving here for months or years. Some people are here for Tibetan Buddhist, some for spiritualism, some for yoga and/or reiki, some to work with refugees and/or help the Tibetan cause, some to just chill with other Dirty Backpackers (yes, it’s a thing), some to hike around and use it as a launching point for Himalayan treks… the possibilities are endless. Over the four or so days that we’ve been here, we’ve met so many interesting people and had so many interesting conversations, and it’s all so fluid that I don’t even know the names of half those people, much less have contact information for them. We always just say, “I’ll see you around town!” The assumption is that you will stay longer than planned, because it’s just that kind of place. Indeed, it reminds me a lot of Ubud, in that sense.

That is, in fact, the problem we are facing at the moment: whether to continue on as planned to Tanzania for ten days, or to spend the next few weeks here, volunteering with Tibetan refugees, doing yoga, and getting to know the community and area here.

In the meantime, I have talked Willa into going to yoga classes with me, and I’m hopeful that we have a new convert, or will have one by the time we leave. We have taken a Tibetan cooking class from a really cool Tibetan guy – Sangye – during which we had a very interesting conversation about the Tibetan/Chinese situation. We have enjoyed really good international food, and appreciated the proliferation of good coffee and adorable coffeeshops (think Seattle) here in McLeod.  We’ve hiked up to a waterfall with an amazing view and enjoyed the fresh mountain air. We have developed favorite cafes and restaurants where we are friends with the Tibetan owners and staff, and we hang out in the evenings watching documentaries and movies about Tibet (last night was Seven Years in Tibet), chatting afterwards with the other international viewers. We’ve visited the Dalai Lama’s temple and the complex his residence is in, though at the moment he’s in California, I think. Unfortunately. I would love to meet him, but it seems a little unrealistic.

Second semester senior year (so, this time last year), I took a class on Tibetan Buddhism. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined I would be here, in what some call “Little Lhasa.” (Lhasa is the capital of Tibet.) It’s been so amazing to see how much of what I learned then comes back now that I am here, surrounded by Tibetan Buddhism and culture. I frankly didn’t realize I’d remember so many details, but I appreciate it.

Stay tuned to see where we go next – we don’t even know!

2 Replies to “Dharamsala: Search for the Dalai Lama”

  1. Dharamsala sounds quite a lot like Leh to me, but that’s probably just me making some gross overgeneralizations. Sounds wonderful though, regardless. I miss you and wish I could be sharing all these adventures with you!!

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