Monday, February 28, 2005

Leaving India

It's Monday afternoon around 3:30 pm and we just arrived in Calcutta from Bagdogra. Will spend a little over 10 hours here in the International terminal before taking a Thai Air flight that leaves at 1:45 on Tuesday morning.

Had a wonderful time in Mirik, taking meditation empowerments from Gyaltsab Rinpoche every day for 10 days. All of the ceremonies started after lunch and lasted until 5:30 or 6 pm. There were two days when they started around 8 in the morning. It felt very spacious and made it much easier on my knees. I took a cab each day to and from the monastery which is, I would guess, about 200 feet higher than the little town of Mirik where we stayed at the Hotel Ratnagiri.

Have lots of wonderful pictures of Eric going into 3-year retreat that I will put on the Internet as soon as I return to Portland. Eric was very emotional, but very happy as he brought up the rear of the procession of retreatants that entered the Shangpa retreat center yesterday, February 27. They finished paving the road up to the retreat center the day before they entered

Dedication of the new Monastery building was held the morning of February 25. A golden ornament was placed atop the highest point on this huge building. Monks were climbing and hanging from bamboo scaffolding to put the top piece in place. You'll see more when I publish the pictures.

Well, that's it for now. We'll be staying at the Shanti Lodge in Bangkok. There won't be any shortage of Internet connectivity in Bangkok.

I'll be back in Portland on Sunday, March 6, and will take Monday off from work to help recover from the jet lag.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Arrived in Mirik on Schedule

I'm writing this at just past noon on Saturday, February 12, in Darjeeling.

We arrived in Mirik, West Bengal, India on schedule a few days ago. Internet access is limited. Today we took a day trip to Darjeeling, and I'm happily established in Glenary's using their Internet cafe. Believe it or not, they're out of tea at Glenary's in the city whose name is synonymous with good tea. So I enjoyed some coffee and Char had a lime soda.

The flight from Calcutta to Bagdogra was uneventful. Char sat next to an Indian who lives mostly in Sikkim, and sometimes in Calcutta. He teaches yoga. They had quite a chat. There's something about Char that invites anyone and everyone to tell her their life's story.

We made the drive up to Mirik in record time. I swear it took just over an hour. An experienced driver (that means at least middle aged) didn't say a word the whole trip, completely absorbed in his driving. After the first few near misses of cows, dogs and people, Char and I settled back and enjoyed the ride. No one passed us the entire trip up the mountain.

Arrived in Mirik about 4:30 pm and ran into Anthony Kimple as we checked into the Ratnagiri Hotel. Anthony left for a few days in Darjeeling before heading to Japan. Char and I went right to bed upon arrival. Woke up a few times in the night, but got some much needed rest.

Took it very easy on our first full day in Mirik, hardly venturing out of the hotel. They now have a rather nice restaurant at the Ratnagiri. We went down for breakfast and watched the owner's son, run out to get what we ordered for breakfast. Since then, we've enjoyed early morning tea and breakfast in our room each day.

Yesterday, Friday, February 11, Ngodrip arranged for us to visit Khenpo Lodro Donyod. He was praying at the new Shangpa retreat center. Had a short, but very moving visit with him. He seems very changed since Bokar Rinpoche's death. Still a very inspiring presence.

Toured the new monastery and the Shangpa retreat center. Both are very beautiful and impressive. The new monastery building dominates the top of the hill now, dwarfing the old monastery. The new retreat center is almost finished. The retreatants have been assigned their rooms and are in the process of setting them up. Eric Triebelhorn is doing the three-year retreat here starting in a few weeks. Eric got one of the best rooms, right next to the shrine room with a great view (that he won't have time to enjoy). The room was locked, but I took some pictures through the vent over the door. Told Eric that we installed a web cam and would know when he was practicing. We'll bring back plenty of pictures of Eric going into retreat.

Saw Lama Lodro from San Francisco as we were touring the monastery.

Dechen Dawkins arrived the day before yesterday. We had dinnner with her and Eric last night at Sewong's house where they are both staying. We'll proably eat at Sewong's at Ngudrop's suggestion during the empowerments. Lot easier than going back down to the village. It's quite a hike, and my knees aren't up to it.

The empowerments will start a day late on the 15th, but are expected to end on time and we still plan to leave Mirik on the 28th. You will probably not hear from us again until after the empowerments.

Leanna from Salt Spring Island in Canada, forgot that she needed a visa for India and has been delayed. Char got an email from her telling us she is still trying to make it to India for the empowerments.

Well, I think that's it for this time. Don't expect any more until after the empowerments.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Night in Calcutta Airport

We arrived in Calcutta about 2:00 am this morning after a 3hour and 20 minute flight from Bangkok. Walked a few hundred yards from the International terminal to the domestic terminal in the dark. All the sleeping rooms were taken in the Domestic Terminal and we were assured that the rooms in the International terminal were all gone also. So we spent the night sitting in the terminal listening to very loud construction work at the other end of the lobby and breathing the construction dust that permeated the terminal. We were both remarkably awake.

As I write this it's about 9:30 am and we haven't slept since our naps yesterday afternoon in the Bangkok Palace Hotel. But, all in all, we're doing fine. We'll no doubt pay for this unexpected energy later today.

We're scheduled on a 12:10 Jet Airways flight this afternoon from Calcutta to Bagdogra. It's a short flight and then a several hour drive up into the mountains. I plan on going to bed early -- maybe as early as we arrive in Mirik.

Had a wonderful breakfast at the restaurant in the Calcutta domestic terminal. It's very slow, but the food is great. Don't go in if you have a plane to catch within 90 minutes. But if you have lots of time, it's a great place to have a liesurely meal.

It's been a fun and enjoyable trip so far. We're both fine and in great spirits. (Char made me say that.)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Arrived Bangkok, Thailand

The first leg of our journey has been completed. Safely arrived in Bangkok after about 24 hours of travel from Portland. A few hours layover in Los Angeles and a stop in Osaka, Japan on the Thai Air segment. Arrived Bangkok and took a private car to the Bangkok Palace Hotel.

We're spending a very quiet day at the hotel just to get used to the time change. It's 10:45 am local time as I'm writing this. We plan a short outing to the Shanti Lodge to arrange our hotel stay when we come back through Bangkok. Will probably eat lunch there, and then head back to the hotel for a well deserved nap.

Char was able to sleep on the plane. I got very little sleep, but am happy to be able to stretch out in a real bed.

We leave Bangkok at 11:00 pm tonight and head to Calcutta, where we plan to spend the night in an airport sleeping room before taking Jet Airways to Bagdogra and a car to Mirik.

Might not hear from us until we reach Mirik. I understand they have Internet access there now. If not, you won't hear from us unless we make a day trip to Darjeeling.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ready for Travel to India

Final packing is underway. Char and I leave early Sunday morning, February 6. Will spend overnight in Bangkok, Thailand on our way to Calcutta, India. The cats know something is amiss. More luggage means longer trip. They'll be well taken care of while we're away.