Well. I hardly know what to say…
I mean, I’ve joked a lot about selling off the excess guys who’ve approached me in my travels, but as it happens, I’ve actually been handed one to sell. Anyone want a househusband?? He’ll do the dishes, wash the laundry, and change the diapers…and pay you to boot. All you have to do is get him into the country. 😉
——— So, yesterday, after two frenzied days of shopping and trying to get my thangkas (religious paintings) blessed by various Tibetan personages, I went back to Rewalsar. I missed the rest of my travel companions through a foulup in communications, so wound up having to get my own taxi, for the princely sum of 1600 rupees ($34). (To put this in perspective, that would pay a month’s rent on an apartment in Dharamsala.)
However, to prevent getting ripped off (a white American friend was quoted 2200 rupees for the same trip), I trekked back to the Tibetan handicrafts shop, where I’d made friends with a wonderfully generous Tibetan woman.
(I’ve learned by now that the best way to avoid being cheated while traveling is to make friends with a local person, and get them to advise you. It is, of course, good to give them a gift in exchange–otherwise, you’re using up future tourists’ travel karma. I don’t like giving cash (it encourages people to see tourists as money cows), so I like to buy small gifts instead–I gave her a Buddha-of-compassion thangka, which she absolutely loved.)
At any rate, she wasn’t there, but one of her friends ran off to bargain with the taxi union for me. So I wound up with a Tibetan driver at a pretty good rate.
The guy was really sweet (and kind of cute), so when, about two or three hours into the trip, he started in on the “do you have a boyfriend?” routine, I went along with it, just to see what he had in mind…I figured he was looking for a fling, but it turned out he had Honorable Intentions. Of a sort.
He was, of course, looking for a Western girlfriend to marry him, and get him a visa into the U.S. or some other country. (Once in, Tibetans get refugee status, but they have to get into the country first–which, sans passport, is a bit of a neat trick. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, though.) So he offered first to pay me for a paper marriage, then (when I politely declined) asked me if I knew anyone who was looking for a househusband. In fact, he insisted on it. So, if you’re in the market, and planning to go to Dharamsala, I can send you a photo and his email… 😉
Being in Dharamsala was actually a bit discomfiting, by the way… it’s made me uncomfortably aware of being rich. Not because my yearly salary is more than most Indians/Tibetans will earn in their lifetimes (this is true for most Americans, by the way), but because I have U.S. citizenship…Tibetans, even if they were born and raised in India, do not. (The U.S. is one of very few nations that grants citizenship to anyone born within its borders. I think it’s one of the coolest things about the U.S., actually.)
So, Tibetans can’t own land, hold sensitive positions, or travel about freely…and they do not have passports, which prevents them from leaving India. The wistful looks on their faces when they ask me if I have citizenship aren’t exactly heartbreaking, but it makes me a bit twitchy.
Tibetans, you see, consider me a fellow refugee from the Cultural Revolution–my parents left China during the Communist takeover, theirs left when China invaded Tibet. My parents got into the U.S.; theirs walked out of Tibet, into India. I got lucky. ———
Other than that, I’ve mostly been running around buying gifts–I think I have finally found a route to have my thangkas (religious cloth paintings) blessed by the Dalai Lama, which is wonderful!–though it will mean another trip to Dharamsala.
I’ll be spending the next four or five days up on the mountain, so don’t expect to hear from me much. Most of the lamas/nuns are going to be engaged in a religious retreat (puja) for the week–I’m not going both because I was sick in Dharamsala (so a week of sporadic fasting is not a good idea), and because I’m completely unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhism. Normally this wouldn’t deter me, but I want a couple of quiet days for contemplation–so I’m going to spend the week in the kitchen, spinning and knitting and helping out the nuns/caretakers. (Lena, I definitely owe you a favor: everyone has been just wonderful, mostly on your account. Thank you. 🙂 )
Some of my flight details have changed, incidentally; so I will be back in Bangkok March 25, and returning home on March 31. But don’t pay out on the pool just yet–you never know what will happen. 😉
back in Tso Pema–