A year ago, I sat on a ridge at the edge of the Himalayas in a small town know as McLeod Ganj. It is the official home of the Dalai Lama and many Tibetan refugees who survived the passage over the Himalayas from Tibet. I missed seeing the Dalai Lama by one day, but still enjoyed my week there regardless.
The main section of McLeod Ganj is two very narrow streets that run along three narrow strips of shops, restaurants, Internet cafes, and a beautiful little Tibetan style temple. After a few blocks, they separate and loop around the rest of the ridge like a giant lasso. On the left side of the loop was my guest house and on the right was the large temple complex and the Dalai Lama’s residence. At the tip of the loop, through a beautiful path, looking down over the ravine, was a large residence for monks, and a huge collection of prayer flags. I sat most evenings watching the sunset reflect off the stony, snow covered peaks. Withing an hour, they would change from white to yellow to orange to pink to purple, then finally grey as they faded into the dark.
New Years Eve I met a large group of young travelers who all came together for the Evening. Some had guitars and many were great singers. We walked a couple of Kilometers away from the main part of town, up another ridge to where some young Tibetans invited us to join their bonfire. The were kind, and full of joy and openness, but you could feel there torn hearts when they spoke of their lives away from Tibet.
On New Years Day I awoke to find an owl sitting on the pine tree outside my window looking in at me. I felt like is was an auspitious way to start the year, and smiled back at him until he flew.
In Korea, tomorrow everyone turns a year older tomorrow. I will be 31 in Korea, though I’m not yet 30 elsewhere. One of my favorite students, who looks a lot smaller than the rest of the class has her birthday today, so the day after she was born she was already 2. She told me, “I’m lucky girl!”