Dolkar, my eight-year-old homestay sister, is curled beside me. She just finished showing me each page of a German cookbook, marveling at the pictures and colors. She’s grinning and mumbling to herself as she searches her Pala’s phone for games, reading each game aloud in exaggerated English. She is absolutely full of energy, which she shares eagerly with the rest of us.
I am writing because I am fascinated by the way life works ~ it’s easy change, the way it leads you silently yet assuredly toward something you could never expect.
Anna and I parted nearer to her homestay, so I wandered down the hill toward mine without really knowing what I would do. I had the option to see Miss Himalaya live, which started at 7 pm, but for some reason I preferred to walk slowly and allow my eyes to wander, halfway looking for something to pull me. I saw Peace Cafe ~ yesterday, a slip of paper my Amala back in Boudha wrote for me fell out of my journal into my hands. It said “Mr. Yeshi, Peace Cafe” and gave a few more details about the general area~ I remembered my Amala telling me that her brother owned a restaurant in Dharamsala. So when I saw Peace Cafe, I walked by it but stopped moments afterward. I turned around and walked up to the doorway, peering in. It is a small cafe, with perhaps only 6 tables. Only one was empty and it had four chairs; I didn’t want to use it up, but something made me walk in anyways.
Hello? I asked the man standing at the counter. He looked at me, his face neutral. Can I come and read, and drink tea? I stumbled over the words, made nervous by his consistent neutrality. Yes, sure, he replied, and I sat at the empty table. I pulled out my journal and book, and soon he slid a menu to me. The note, which I’d slipped back into my journal, pushed the pages open so that it sat there, on the table. I looked at it. When the man came back, I asked if we were near to the hotel my Amala had scribbled. Yes, he said, it’s right over there. He pointed. Do you know a Mr. Yeshi? I asked, and he looked at me quizzically. I showed him the note. This is me, he said, how do you know this? I laughed, invigorated that I had found him, and told him about my Amala in Boudha. Nyima? My sister, he said, and I laughed again.
When he left, I reopened my journal and wrote a bit, then began to slowly read. Before I’d read more than two pages, I heard someone walk up to me. “May I sit here?” I looked up to see a middle-aged man, dressed mostly in dark browns, with an enormous variety of tattoos encircling his bared forearms, smiling openly at me from across the table. Of course, I said, and to my surprise he sat directly across from me instead of at the other chair, which would’ve given both of us more individual privacy. I put my book down.
Somehow conversation was easy. We discussed the Dalai Lama, India, our hometowns and what brought us to that table in Peace Cafe. After my tea, then my soup had come out we were still talking ~ I forgot to eat at first, until Mr. Yeshi came over and reminded me that my soup was growing cold.
Chris, as is the man’s name, is a healer. He left his job in California five years ago to travel in search of a spiritual path. I do not want to say too much because I don’t have the right to share his personal story, but I was fascinated by his words. I listened for so long, I don’t know how long, asking questions and learning more about a life completely foreign, yet breathtakingly similar, to my own.
I am writing of this experience because it encapsulates something I know to be essential: connection. A random cafe, a stranger, and the power of storytelling and listening made this one of the most meaningful experiences in my journey thus far, and also in my life.
Thank you, to everyone who is willing to share their stories, and to everyone who listens.