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A leap into thin air and the joyfulness of breathing...

INDIA | Monday, 1 September 2008 | Views [1138]

What do you think is most important in life? 

I will tell you. To breath. So, after an incredibly early morning flight I landed in 3500m altitude, from what i think was around 100m. crazy. The body immediately tells you to move slow, and you realize how hard the work is your body is doing without uyou even knowing it!

Well, I was out of breath for a day, I think. But already running up hills with Ladakhi school children the next day, so I feel re3ally lucky. Many of the people I have met here were headachy for a few days! I drank a lot and rested the first day.

When I landed the sun was shining in its morning beauty and the brilliant mountain ranges that surround Leh were gistering in the sun, feeling as blessed as I. My heart litterally leaped, and I felt instant joy.

I should have guessed from the people in the plane: Almost all tourists (and there are a lot!) are Israeli. And the best thing is: they think I am Israeli, too! :) Apparently I look like that. :)

So I am having fun trying to lure people as long as possible into the idea that I understend what they are saying when they speak Hebrew. achlo means great, so that is always a good thing to say:)

I am sleeping at Tsavo Guest house for 100Rs, the cheapest so far. The woman of the house is really great and the whole family sits around and talks in Ladakhi. She brings me mint tea every say and I am always free to join them for dinner. (I am assuming they will put it on my bill, but it still is autentic, somehow..sitting with grandfather and grandmother in the small room). The mother of three is always busy. I have not seen her sit down once, except for a meal. That seems to be a good thing, since I heard the father say:"...is a very good person...always busy...".

And now, today, it is Ladakhi Festival time:). So she gave all the girls of the guest house a traditional Ladakhi costune!! I am so proud showing off my cool dress (which is completely black in the brooding sun, but still..). The way I see it there are(at least) three steps to getting accustomed to Ladakhi life as a traditional woman: 1. get used to the altitude. 2- get used to working hard and 3- get used to breath even less, because the dress includes one of these shawls that you wrap around the point of your torso that wants to expand the most during breathing!! :)

So, once again, I am walking through the hot streets, breathless.

The sun is real mountain sun up here, and the air is so dry, I think my nose is going to fall off. That's whay even all the fresh looking tourists (like me;)) end up with thin skin and a few happy wrinkels around the eyes. And the Ladakhi are far younger than you wourl estmate based on their skin, I am sure.

The Ladakhi Festival is something special, even to the people in Leh. All societies and groups from all around the area come (sometimes those are many-day-trips) and perform their local dance and show off traditional dresses. Really pretty. I will go to the Polo-grounds, where the processsion comes to a halt and more dances are performed. For all those groups living reasonably close together, the diversity is great. There are those with camels, most are on foot, some wear masks of goats, yaks skin, others have ornamented woolen coats or wraps.

The fist day I was here I slept and looked for a Trekking agency that had a group leaving on a 4-5 day trek which I could join. Oh, and I met the sister of the woman of the house, who workes at the woman's aliance. The second day that sister and I went to drop her little four year old girl at school and continued on to the woman's aliance house. There, I helped cook traditional food all day, and talked to some of the people there. It was great. I felt like I was really on the road, experiencing new things..And the food is great! Not spicy for once! (okay, small explanation: after I was getting all used to spices in Hyderabad and Bangalore and Karachi, I had a small phase of "leave me alone with  those spices already"...so I was thankful for a chinese chow mein or a pasta with olives, which - by the way- the make really well!).The same day I went up the neighbouring hill to look at a buddhist monastery. Only one monk lives there the whole summer and it harbours a Buddha statue 5m tall and 500 years old. Impressive. The way up some local children saw that I had somehow missed the main path and was navigating through rocky/sandy terrain:). So this one kid said:wait, come here, and showed me the way back onto the main path. After that we pretty much raced each other up the hill. I just didn't want thode 6/7 year olds to be so far ahead of me!!Every now and then they thankfully came to a stop and I offered them some water, which they accepted (GOOD, that means they are still human, even though their movements resembeled the gracefulness of mountain goats!!). At the top, they went on to thei village, and I sat and ebjoyed the view:).

The third day I spent with my new Israeli friends exploring surrounding villages and walking quite a bit. Some of my friends are extreme;y picky about food, it seems. They had the waiter go back and forthe three times, frying the scrambeled egg "just a little more brown" than before...:) I had fun, watching, it entertaining!

Okay, I will allow you to move on with your day now, I think this has been one of the longer ones, but there is just so MUCH!!

Oh, can I say one more thing? Leh is not like the other cities I have viasited at all. Even though there are many tourists, the people of Leh greet them with a happy "joo-lay" (meaning hello, good bye, thank you, please, ..) and the tourists are very laid back...no-one wants to sell you anything if you want it or not...and there are very few beggars. As my guest-house-father says:"Many people look up and that's no good. It brings too much unhappiness".From the smile I see and that is (finally! I have been looking for that country!) without hesitation, I think this old mentality is still prevalent, even though modern life has seeped in.

Bye for now from me.

Tags: altitude, festival, guest house, ladakh, leh



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