I’m very proud of the painting Dolkar (my 8 year old homestay sister) and I made ~ there’s a bike, and a tree, and a flower that’s as big as the tree, and birds as big as the clouds wheeling in our blue + white + a little more blue sky. “How to make sky blue?” Well, sqeeze the water into your brush. Yes, I know it’s a bit unusual ~ it’s a travel paint set. Squeeze one more drop, Dolkar ~ now wake up the blue. She carefully mixed the white and the lake-blue until she was content.
Today is my last day in Dharamsala, for now. I think I’ve found somewhere to live when I return in November… it’s down the longest flight of stairs I’ve ever seen. It’s probably halfway down the mountain (and that’s only a little exaggerated). I was with Anna, and we had a vague idea of where to go based on Jaime, a Texan we met in Black Tent Café. “Down the stairs,” she told us, and we knew exactly what she meant. I’d been avoiding those stairs the entire time I’ve been here.
We made our way quickly down, down, down, and walked into a guest house. “Do you have any apartments for rent?” “No.” We continued walking. Halfway down the endless stairs we ran into Alix, a yoga teacher I’d met a few days ago. She greeted us warmly, juggling her baby (whose face showed signs of chocolate consumption) and bag in her arms. There was a young man behind her. We told her about our quest for an apartment, and she grinned. “Follow me,” she said, introducing us to the young man who is one of the managers of the apartment complex she lives in.
I felt a sense of impending doom as we went all the way down the stairs, hoping we’d stop at one of the flights above the bottom but slowly realizing that was less likely. At the end of the stairs, I refused to look up into the face of my future (the stairs) and walked onward.
We wound our way up more stairs until we were among the pines, overlooking an endless valley with a few cows and monkeys moving about. Hello, we said to two young men smoking on a balcony, as we looked in their window to see the room. It was beautiful. “Can I show them the yoga room?” with approval, we made our way further upward to a loft rom which smelled faintly of incense and was golden with leftover sunlight. After looking around a bit, Alix invited Anna and me into her own apartment for tea.
Anna and I looked around the apartment a bit, then sat down with Oscar (the baby). He climbed all over us, using us as leverage to crawl toward items best untouched by babies. We chatted amiably with Alix as she made masala tea, using baby formula instead of milk for lack of the latter. When it was ready, we dragged chairs outside to her porch and talked, listening to Alix’s story while sipping the baby formula tea. This place, whatever it does, has led me to hear so many stories and I cannot begin to explain how thankful I am for this.
Another short story from my past few days: I was followed home on my way to my homestay, two nights ago. It’s something I worried about before coming to India but not since ~ Dharamsala is simply not scary to me. But I noticed someone I had seen before walking behind me, but assumed I had seen his face sometime in the past. It’s a small town here and you begin to recognize people quickly.
As I turned into the alley to my homestay, someone tapped my shoulder. I turned around. “Hello,” he said, introducing himself. “I saw you in the main square and you were the only person who smiled at me.” Oops. I had discussed with Anna that habit and how it could be taken wrongly just a day ago. So, he had followed me down an enormous hill, for twenty minutes, for a smile. I wasn’t afraid, just sad to give the wrong impression. “Can we spend time together?” I explained I had dinner with my homestay family. “Can I come with you?” No, I cannot invite you. “Can we spend time together afterward?” At this point, I did feel badly for giving the wrong impression but wanted to get out of the situation, so I told him good luck in everything, and goodnight.
Successfully avoiding a questionable situation at nighttime: check.
Now, I’m sitting with Anna, Jennifer and Julia at a café, slowly drinking rose tea and writing down stories. Their conversation is a murmur which brings a sense of peace. Later, I’ll find gifts for my homestay family, and perhaps get more tea. And probably walk up a lot of stairs.