The Bodhi Tree

Our tour group visited the Bodhi Tree last night at 5:30. I was so pissed because it was too dark to take a decent picture. With the flash, the tree looked fake. Also I felt rushed.

So this morning Rob and I woke up early to go back and take lots of pictures. We only got two with both of us because the guy we gave the camera to was hesitant. A monk in dark red robes gave his cell phone to Rob to take his picture in front of the tree. Funny that the monks want to take that picture of themselves too.

Last night, an Indian family with a baby girl wearing dark eye makeup came up to me near the entrance and said, “One picture? One picture?” I reached out to take the camera and they said, no no, they wanted to take a picture with me.

Earlier, Rob and I took a rickshaw to an 80-foot-tall Buddha in Bodh Gaya. A 10-year-old boy followed us and asked us what country we were from.

Then he said, “The capital of America is Washington, DC. George Bush is not a good man!”

Rob chatted him up about how we’ll soon have a black president or a woman. Vikram (that was his name) wasn’t so sure about the woman. He asked us to buy him a school book and Rob was just going to give him money, but he said he didn’t want money (I wondered if that was because someone would take it from him). He took us to a bookstand and picked out a 500-rupee Oxford English Dictionary!

Rob asked why he didn’t want money and Vikram said he’d only spend it on food or something.

I know this was likely a scam and the woman behind the counter was his mom or at least in on it, but whatever. The kid spoke great English and knew about American politics. We bargained down to 400 rupees ($10). Whether we gave him 40 rupees or 400, he was going to do with it what he was going to do with it.

Today we found out that one of the Canadians on our tour had met him too. He said, “Canada! The capital is Ottawa.”

Apparently he didn’t ask her for a book, but when she told me she met him, I braced myself for the news that she had bought him a 500-rupee Oxford English Dictionary.

Having a wonderful time, wish you were here

I don’t know what all the guidebooks mean when they say you can’t prepare yourself for India, that it won’t be at all what you think.

It’s exactly like I thought it would be.

Not that I expected I would leave behind the baggie with my underwear in it and have to buy six pairs from a man on the street in Kathmandu, or that I’d be groped by a female Nepalese masseuse, or that Maoist revelers would climb on top of our bus on the way to Lumbini from Kathmandu. Which was awesome, except that’s where our backpacks were.

Oh, wait, none of that was in India. Yesterday, the first day in India, was a little chaotic. Involving waiting 2 hours for our ride from the border to Buddha’s deathplace. And having our driver forget to pull over with the other cars in our group for lunch. But I did enjoying peeing on Buddha’s grave. Or near it anyway. Much prefer peeing al fresco than to smell the squat toilets.

Don’t worry about a thing

KATHMANDU, March 14 (Xinhua) – Security officials of India and Nepal Friday decided to tighten security along the Indo-Nepal border in view of April 10 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections.

In a meeting between Nepali and Indian security officials held Friday, both sides agreed to install additional barriers and pickets and post more armed security personnel along the border, the local media house’s website eKantipur reported.

They have also decided to seal the border along the Lumbini zone for 72 hours from April 8 for the crucial polls.

However, the authorities informed that patients, ambulances and tourists would be permitted to cross the border during the closed period.

See? Extra security. Besides, we don’t even get to Kathmandu until April 12.

I believe the children are our future

From the New York Times:

The lesson began with the striking of a Tibetan singing bowl to induce mindful awareness.

With the sound of their new school bell, the fifth graders at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School here closed their eyes and focused on their breathing, as they tried to imagine “loving kindness” on the playground.

This is what is known as mindfulness training, in which stress-reducing techniques drawn from Buddhist meditation are wedged between reading and spelling tests.

Asked their reactions to the sounds of the singing bowl, Yvette Solito, a third grader, wrote that it made her feel “calm, like something on Oprah.” Her classmate Corey Jackson wrote that “it feels like when a bird cracks open its shell.”