Hellllooo everyone… Just wanted to check in and give you a little heads up that I’ll be out of communication for a while. Don’t freak out, I’m sure you’ll somehow find a way to manage your daily lives without the regularly scheduled, “As the World Turns in India” program…Ha!

No, but seriously, I’m going into a 10-day retreat where all phones, computers, etc. are turned in and there is no communication with the outside world. Ok, actually there’s no communication at all! Say whaaaaat?? No phone? No facebook? No email? No computer? No talking at all unless you’re asking a question in class? Have you lost your freakin’ mind? Ummmm, well, maybe… If all goes well, I’ll check into the retreat Tuesday the 8th at 1:00pm and then I’ll be silent, silent, silent all the way through to the 17th.  Have no fear, my devoted followers, I will grab my computer and rush right out (well maybe) to the nearest wifi café to share with you the complete ongoings of 10 days silent… Sounds just riveting Eryn!

As for what’s been going on so far… It’s been a really interesting time here in Dharamsala. I like the town very much… more than Rishikesh if you can believe it… It is much cleaner here overall, the people are nicer, the street vendors less aggressive and I don’t get quite as many stares from people as I, the white American girl, walks by.

I was at a café Sunday morning, working on my blog – about 8 random people (and Siggy) just hanging out talking… one guy playing guitar… people sipping chai and sitting on floor cushions next to these little short, ground level type tables, and a young man asked what my religion was… Hmmm seems an odd question to ask a total stranger… I sort of reluctantly told him I was a Christian and he asked if I could help him… “Ummm, sure.” He got up from where he sat, next to Siggy, and plopped down on the little cushion next to me and showed me a book on Christian beliefs. He explained that he was helping a friend who asked him to translate this English book into Tibetan and was having some trouble understanding the concept of a few sections (the way it’s written can be confusing even to us English speaking folks), so we read over it together and I explained it to him so he could write it properly in Tibetan for his friend… What a cool thing to help with! Cross cultural religious conversations with Amdo, a Tibetan refugee right here in the Carpe Diem café… Whoa! Seizing the day, the moment, the miracles around me…

We carried on talking and I was curious about his story, so I was politely probing him with questions… Where are you from? How long have you been here? Did you flee Tibet by foot? Is your family here as well? So many questions!!!   He was happy to share his story with me… He is 23 now and lives here in Dharamsala. He fled Tibet 7 years ago at age 16, with other Tibetans who walked 28 days across the Himalayan Mountains to arrive here in India where they would be safe. Whoa, 28 days!!!!! On foot… Crossing mountain ranges… Holy unbelievable!!!!! His family stayed behind and he hasn’t seen them since.

Amdo then joined the THC, Tibetan Hope Center – an organization that takes in Tibetan refugees here in Dharamsala. As I understand it, housing, food, and English lessons are provided for these refugees until they acclimate to their new surroundings. We talked for a while about our cultural differences, he asking me things about our American culture and my struggles, and then we went our separate ways… After friending on facebook, of course, in case he needed any more English/Christian assistance while I was here. How minuscule  our typical first world problems are in comparison – Yeah, so my parents got divorced when I was young and life kinda’ sucked after that… Really? Ummm, no… No need to flee a country or take month long treks over snow covered mountains to safety.  Mouth humbly shut…

It’s just an amazing story to hear from this 23 year old, and his is only one of many that we’re running into… Sigrid befriended a Buddhist monk and he was interested in spending time with us to improve his conversational English. We lunched with him yesterday and heard some of his story and we talked of the terrible things happening in Tibet and amongst the Tibetan community as China systematically works at destroying their country. This conversation actually got very heavy as we discussed self immolation (the practice of setting oneself on fire as a form of protest) that some of the Buddhist monks and Tibetan people practice. However our monk friend explained that the Dalai Lama does not promote this practice…

Siggy and I had visited the Dalai Lama temple earlier that day and it was truly sobering to see a huge banner that they had displayed with pictures of 100’s of monks and Tibetan people that had burned themselves to death as the ultimate protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. We noticed that many of the people displayed were between the ages of 18 and 25 and it was really striking to see this. Feeling so compelled by a cause to take such extreme action… And at such a young age…   Pause for reflection Eryn, this is beyond comprehension…

The whole self immolation concept is something that’s so completely foreign and extreme, it’s hard to even imagine, as I sit here sipping chai, an American girl, so free and void of any real similar situation in the states to relate this to… How lucky are you Eryn? All because my parents had sex in America, I got to grow up in a world free of 28 day treks to freedom and causes so compelling to my culture that I would consider burning myself in protest…

Scrolling through my mind… And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free… and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me, and I’d gladly stand up, next to you, and defend her still today… Cause’ there ain’t no doubt I love this land…. God bless the USA…

There are museums, movies, books and talks on the Tibetan plight all around me here… And I am drawn to research the history and the many stories unfolding around me. Wow, these are stories you would’ve only seen in the movies before now!!!  It was clear to me after my time with the young man at the café and lunch with the monk, that I am extremely ignorant to the depth of their struggles and their culture in general, and don’t recall anything in our American schools about any of this. I wonder why that is… Maybe I skipped school that day… Hmmh. I will definitely have to investigate this further when I get out of my retreat to learn more about these amazing Tibetan people. I am so drawn to their stories and sit like a new sponge; ready to absorb any new information I can soak up from them…

I continue to be in a state of shock and awe at how cruel the world can be and naively wonder why we all can’t just get along… World – Can we not just sit around the freakin’ campfire and sing Kum-ba-ya? The whole thing is something that is hard for an American like me to really grasp…

I suppose I will have time to ponder this as I move further up the mountain into my silent retreat with 100 or so other silent seekers… Words of violence, break the silence, come crashing in.. in to my little world… Come on, Depeche Mode, 1988, Enjoy the Silence? Anyone? Anyone?? Yeah, probably not…   Ok, that’s all for now… Off I go to enjoy the silence… Shhhhhh!

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