It’s 2:22 am in the New Delhi airport and it is a bustling place! I’ve been people-watching here for three hours as the students trickle in. I’m sitting under the baggage screen that announces where to claim your things as the entire international wing ebbs and flows thru India’s largest duty free shop. I glance at every face as they pause to check the monitor.
We began this journey to northern India three flights ago. One more and then we can rest at the feet of the Himalayas. Dharamsala, were almost there!
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Now on flight #4, and roughly 40 hours since leaving Denver, we are departing New Delhi and it’s smog, which has been hovering between severe and toxic for several weeks. Even inside the airport, the air was hazy and my throat was scratchy. We are fortunate to be heading far north to crisp mountain air.
This last plane ride is small — 2 seats on either side of the isle — especially after the massive planes we’ve been on the past two days. If not full or even half full, and our group takes up probably 75% or more of the passengers. Everyone is sleeping but me (and presumably the pilot). Out the window, the morning sun lights up the Himalayan skyline. Two years ago, I remember sometimes just walking around town or on a little hike, and thinking to myself, “These are the Himalayas.” And reveling in their vast expanses and ragged peaks, twice as grand as anything in Colorado, or the majestic Mt Rainier.
Last fall, I started my travel writing class off by asking my students a simple question “Why bother leaving the house?” Some snickered a little at such a simple and direct question. But really, why? Everyone has seen a photo of the Himalayas. Everyone has internet and could google a little recap about who the Dalai Lama is and what the story is with Tibetans living in exile. I left the house because I had an opportunity wonder with my whole body, not just wonder by looking at photos online. I left the house because I get to wonder with these 13 other people and all the people we will talk with. Essentially to collaborate. Selah often talks about collaborating with uncertainty. Maybe this is collaborating with wonder.
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After a quick walk around the main streets of Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, and lunch at Snow Lion cafe, we stopped in for saffron tea with Jhon, a longtime friend of Denver students and a shop-owner here. Then we walked off to the Bhagsunag Waterfall. After walking out of town and along a short trail, we laid down on large sunny flat rocks at the base of the waterfall. We talked, looked & listened to the water, some napped, some hike a little further around. We stayed here for a couple hours in the late autumn sun. Above us, a single long string of prayer flags flapped their compassion prayers for all sentient beings into the wind.