woensdag 16 september 2009

Cultural smackdown

That's the way to describe the way I met Indian culture the past 2 days.In your face, up close and personal.

Foreseen pick up for Nubra Valley: Tuesday 7 am.
8:15 our party arrived.
The program: not really clear (what's new?).

The 5 of us (Driver Mr. Lobster, Jorgis, Ramesh, Clai and myself) in a tin 4x4 with worn out shock absorbers on our way for a 5 hour drive over the mountain.
I don't really have words to describe the journey... The first part was -besides very winding- OK.
But then we drove for about 2 1/2 hours over something that could be described as a very narrow, unpaved dust road with potholes all over.

You have to brace yourself, hang on to everything that doesn't move and can't sit back against the back of the seat as then you treat yourself to feeling the bumps and holes about 2 times more
Very very tiring.
The car wrecks of vehicles that made way for opponents -unsuccessfully- were scattered down the flanks of the mountain and didn't immediately provide comfort for a safe return.
The views on the other hand were amazing and that was a comfort as I thought these views could very well be the last views I ever laid eyes on.
We passed the highest motorable road in the world (almost 7000 meters: ice, snow, wind, tea) had a couple of stops along the way and finally arrived in a tiny tiny village.
Jorgis disappeared for about 1/2 an hour while Clai and I were the talk of the town: strange white people had been dropped. The Gods must be crazy.
I started getting grumpy as I got the message we were having no lunch today.
When Jorgis finally came back, he had dragged his cousin along who was rather sick (probably H1N1) but he told her it was better to get out of bed and make us some tea.
I had to refuse tea again (I have a tea-trauma ever since I was 5 and have to kindly turn down tea here about 8 times a day - people don't understand).
After a school visit (We brought a box full of stuff we bought yesterday and had them drawing Seabuckthorn stories), a SB processing plant, another cousin's visit (water irrigation system) and a monastery tour (seabuckthorn sightings), we drove off (for another 2 hours).
Where to? Only God knew. And Ramesh. And Jorgis. And Mr. Lobster.
OK, basically the only ones in the dark were Clai and me...
The only thing we did get out of Jorgis about our destination was that we were probably going to sleep there tonight.
Let the guessing game begin! Is it a nice hotel? Massage and copious dinner awaiting? Is it a warm and inviting guest house, no tea included? A hot shower? Internet connection maybe?
No, we ended up at his mother's house and were put in the sitting area for...tea.
All I could think about by that time was food. Meanwhile a lot of stuff was happening in the background but we were completely left out (as we are guests).
It turned out they had gone to the market (for a freshly slaughtered chicken) and Ramesh would cook it.
Get a move on Ramesh!!!
Not thinking about all potential stomach and belly complications ahead we had a great meal.
With very welcoming people: Jorgis mother and sister in law, who did think that adopting a donkey and drinking water instead of tea was not really a very normal thing to do.

The surroundings and the humble home are so far off from anything we're used to.
I can only describe with the help of visual support (and orally later on).
(see movie of my room, walk down to the dry toilet and the dinner)

After dinner: straight to bed. Which was for me: a plank with a blanket on it as mattress,
the family's Japanese pillow (which had a stone in it or sth cause half way through the night I thought I was about to loose my ear cause it ached like hell), and some thick dusty but warm blankets. Besides the ear-falling-off-condition, I had a great night.

Rise and shine for a new day.
And that new day didn't bring a bucket bath for a change but a hand pump down the garden.
(I don't think I'm that dirty today, I might skip this one)
And of course the new day also brought more of the same: driving around.
First stop: sand dunes (And camels. But they were on strike). Lots and lots of Seabuckthorn in the sand dunes and we convinced innocent tourists to try after giving them the full SB 101.
After that, we went to a monastery where we witnessed a Buddhist ceremony (secret footage attached) and had tea in the monks' kitchen (not me).
Some leftovers along the way later, I cursed myself for eating them right before driving back. But in any case: I did have lunch today.

Still totally overwhelmed by what happened, need to process a bit now.
Back in isolated Leh, with on and off internet connection, with my bucket bath and night time
only electricity, I feel like a queen, living a life of luxury.

Video-footage to follow - connection too slow...

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