Donkey Crossing

Welcome to Donkey Crossing! Donkey Crossing is an on-line account of one Limey and one Yank living one Dream. From September 2006 until the end of 2007, we plan to visit friends and family on five continents and immerse ourselves into various cultures, natural phenomena and ways of life. We hope you enjoy our tales and visit often! Cheers, Jason and Rachel Napoli

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monsoon Mela in McLeod Ganj

After our intense trek through the Markha valley and two-day jeep safari over the Himalaya, we were excited for our arrival to McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, the next destination on our travels through northern India. McLeod Ganj is a peaceful mountain town with a strong Buddhist influence. Furthermore, it is home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government-in-exile and, most importantly, our dear friend Bob Miller.

The view from our apartment in McLeod Ganj.

Bob and I have been close friends since our high school days at Naperville North and, although spending the majority of the past 13 years in different parts of the world, have continued to see each other during holiday visits home.

We came across some serious monkey business on one of our walks with Bobby.

While I spent my time after graduating from university exploring and working in Latin America, Bob spent his time living in Asia, pursuing an education in Buddhism and the Tibetan language. Back in 1998, Bob participated in an intensive training course focusing on the translation and interpretation of Tibetan in McLeod Ganj. Soon afterwards, he took a job at a dharma center in Australia, interpreting and translating the resident lama's teachings for Western students of Buddhism. During Bob's years studying and living in India, Nepal and Australia, he decided he would dedicate his life to Tibetan Buddhism, and was fully ordained as a monk six years ago. His ordained name is Lozang Zopa.

The Venerable Lozang Zopa (aka Bobby Miller).

Bob lives a full and active life in McLeod Ganj as a teacher, student, translator and friend to locals and Westerners alike.

Rachel and Bob take a seat after climbing one of McLeod Ganj's local mountain passes.

More "serious monk-y" business.

With a great friend like Bob here, plus a multitude of volunteer opportunities, not to mention the numerous possibilities to study Indian cooking, yoga, Buddhism and Tibetan language, we knew McLeod Ganj would be a great place to settle for a few weeks. With the one year anniversary of Rachel and I being on the road passing just a few days ago, we have been taking a lot of time to reflect on the previous twelve months, as well as think about life after our travels.

With a grand window in our apartment looking out at Himalayan peaks and a lush green valley, the daily appearance of the monsoon rains sweeping across the valley has provided an excellent backdrop for pondering life. The sun and rains would battle for presence throughout the day, with both triumphing in the end. After our first seven days full of monsoon rain, the phenomenon stopped and the rains haven't appeared for the past couple days.

In between sessions gazing out our picture window, contemplating our past and future, we found time to complete a three day Indian cooking course. We are now (theoretically) well versed in making paratha, kofta, aloo gobhi and a wide variety of dishes using paneer. May your kitchens beware, as we'll be on a guest cooking tour through the UK and US in the coming months.

On day three of our cooking course we were able to get our hands dirty making the Indian favorite, samosas! Our instructor, Mrs. Nisha, is pictured demonstrating the proper way to fold, stuff and seal the fried, triangular snacks.

A major goal we set before departing on our travels was to take on a volunteer project along the way. McLeod Ganj provides a plethora of options for volunteering, with many Buddhist monasteries and not-for-profit organizations working with the large population of Tibetan refugees in the area. Rachel started an excellent opportunity as a staff writer and editor for a community magazine called Contact, while I have begun training Bob as an English instructor, as well as teaching some classes at his monastery.

Bob presents a grammar point, observed by his nine young students and my camera.

Bob getting down to some serious English with the young monks.

I don't know if I was more nervous presenting a lesson under the watchful eye of the Dalai Lama or nine unfamiliar students.

The young monks at Chime Gatsal Ling Monastery are committed to their teachers and practice of Buddhism, but also manage to fit in a childhood full of jokes, pranks and plenty of Bollywood videos.

My experience with the monks at Chime Gatsal Ling has been very positive. They are some of the most enjoyable students I've taught during my teaching career.

As you can see, we are settling nicely in McLeod Ganj, focusing on our respective projects with Contact magazine and the Chime Gatsal Ling monastery. We'll be leaving McLeod Ganj the first week of October, after attending three days of teachings by the Dalai Lama. We look forward to seeing what this experience will entail.

Over the previous year, we have been fortunate to visit friends and family in Ecuador, Colombia, England, Ireland, Senegal, France and Finland. We have embraced many unique experiences and gained insights into local culture and traditions. Bob has continued the love our friends and family have shown us around the world and we look forward to another couple weeks of recreational walks, and long talks with him about our families, days in Naperville & Buddhism. It is a true pleasure to spend time with Bobby, and to witness the unconditional compassion he shows to everyone he encounters.

Thanks for visiting Donkey Crossing and feel free to leave a comment and let us know you visited!

12 Comments:

Blogger Elaine said...

One of my claims to fame is that I have met the Dalai Lama - my chat was non-existant though, so he might not remember...

Have a great time,
Elaine Downie.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous rich neville said...

you have a year never to be forgotten and one that most people never will enjoy. I plan to take some of you trip segments, especially the last two myself soon. I enjoy your comments, the pictures and the way you integrate with the people wherever you are. Write a memoir of this time in your life---it is so special
Richard Neville & Karen Shields

8:51 PM  
Blogger fizz said...

What an experience! I would love to be in your shoes. I can just imagine myself teaching English, learning more about buddhism and going for a few nice walks in my spare time. And you get to hear the Dalai Lama teach! Fabulous.

Hoping to see you soon,
Andy M

7:04 AM  
Blogger kelly said...

Contemplation, pilgrimage...in India...yes...this is what I have been waiting for. I was wondering when you would see the good friend...and congrats on the volunteering. I find this part to be most exciting and a powerful testament to your travels.

Cheers!
Kelly

7:32 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

BIG LOVE peace and blessings

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Rob Wozniak said...

Wow! That was really inspiring to read about your friend and the opportunity you had to contribute and raise your spiritual consciousness.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Andy Miller said...

Thanks Jason for providing the window into Bob's world. We get many phone calls, emails, and pictures from ole L-Zed, but your blog is also a nice combination which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Thanks again, Andy

6:29 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Dear Jason...
For the first time I feel like I have had a glimpse into Bobby's life. I am glad you are keeping such a record. I do feel like I am there with you.
As one writer to another...bravo!
Karen Miller

11:19 PM  
Blogger Donkey Crossing said...

Hey there Donkey Crossing readers! I just wanted to post a quick message to thank everyone who posted comments. Your compliments, criticism (mostly Matt in Finland) and all around contact have motivated us to keep the blog going over the past year. A special thanks to Andy and Karen Miller (Bobby's youngest brother and mother) for getting in touch and having a look. We are excited to share our experiences with you and the world!

Cheers,
Jason

2:47 AM  
Blogger Jeanine said...

Jeanine and Eric:

We are always excited to catch up with your travels and see the windows of the world from your unique experiences. Your commitment to each of your stops has been profound and certainly India is at the top :)

Congrats on the one year anniversary and for all the wonderful experiences that your blog serves a great venue in sharing with friends/family.

We miss you and love you both, safe travels, Bean and Eric

9:55 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Ha! This is what I get for dropping out for a while--mud-slinging!! I should have known that he who prods will someday be prodded himself!

Interesting that a post on Bobby and the Dalai Lama should generate the most commentary, but not a surprise. Both inspiring men in their own right.

On to McLeod...You wet my appetite, literally and figuratively. First, when Elina, Selma and I visit the US around the New Year we want you to show off the Indian cooking. Second, I must follow your path to this mountain retreat and visit the man (Bobby, that is) myself. Like Bobby's mom, I also appreciate this everyday glimpse into his life.

And was that a cell-phone he was jabbering into on that mountain, or do mine eyes deceive?

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so amazed and thoroughly speechless. you did exactly what i am planning to do this year when i take a gap year after graduation. The only problem is i dont know how to go about contacting schools where they need teachers. I would be very glad if u can help me with your insights. your experience and suggestions will go a long way in aiding me through mine. thanks..:)

12:28 PM  

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