Location: Norbulingka and Amritsar
The faces of our MLPs and our TCV babies lingered in our minds as we officially left Dharamsala behind this morning. Not only were we already mourning our time of enlightenment (and the Dalai Lamas face smiling everywhere) but also the cool (at least the not boiling) weather. With a four hour drive ahead of us, both cars had a speaker blasting to keep us awake and alive. The inconvenience of a car ride over a plane ride became almost erroneous as the amazing view and culture of India surrounded us. At around 5 pm we arrived at the hotel, named Hong Kong, in Armitsar. The hotel was spacious, the staff stopped us from carrying our bags to our rooms, and the rooms came with complimentary food and goods. This dumbfounded us for a second until we quickly remembered the-once-expected-but-now-foreign thing known as western convenience. We had to take off soon after we arrived. Surprisingly the streets of Armitsar weren’t as busy as Dharamsala there were more cars, but less unprotected living things (i.e., humans and animals) sharing the road with them. From our windows, we stared as advertisements showed something other than coca-cola, and actual department stores and chains passed by. Almost immediately after we arrived at the Whaga border for the nightly dance-off between India’s military and that of Palestine, Olivier’s flip flop broke yet again. The street vendors ran to Olivier no doubt all wanting to take advantage of the man down. Once Olivier and I did our best to temporarily fix the shoe, we ran to catch up. The audience area was divided into foreigners and Indians; then the Indian section was further divided into men and women. As always security to enter was separated for each gender too. Once inside, Jampa and Abhishek found us what seemed like great seats. We watched as Indians and foreigners alike danced to the blasting Hindi music before the show began. Elizabeth and I attempted to replicate some of the moves for a bit (we won’t be winning any awards, but it was fun). The show pretty much consisted of a man shouting, OOOOOOHHH UH, signaling the Indian military performers to do high kicks and high knees. Jampa and Abhishek explained that everything that happened on the Indian side was mimicked on the Palestinian side of the gate. At sunset, each country’s flag was lowered simultaneously. The lowering formed a cross to symbolize peace. The flags were then exchanged to be returned during the morning flag raising. Once the flags were lowered the gates opened, and the soldiers danced off in the narrow strip of no man’s land between the two countries. Crowded seating and blazing heat made the show a very Indian one at the very least. After the show, we practically ran to dinner. The car drove us through downtown Armitsar, where there were actual lights and billboards, and the normal Indian crowded streets and reckless driving. Jampa helped us cross the road no one had thought that were even the smallest possibility, then we took a miniature elevator up to an OH MY GOD fancy restaurant. When the food came, everyone went crazy as there was a mix of continental (i.e., french fries and bruschetta) and Indian food. The chairs were cushioned, and luxury no longer seemed like such a distant friend. Rushing out of dinner, the group headed to the Golden Temple. Anyone who didn’t have something to cover their hair had to buy essentially bandannas head covering is mandatory for both girls and boys in Sikh mosques. The Golden Temple is named so because an Emperor covered the inner temple in gold. With an entrance from the North, South, East and West, the temple accepts people from all backgrounds and religions. Ahbishek sat us on the marble floor around the pool and taught us a little bit about the Temples history. Everyone then had a chance to run around in groups for a little before meeting up to leave. Olivier, Daniel and I had a nice (although a times very awkward) tour from two little boys. They took us inside to pray (tourists didn’t tend to enter these places) and every person always turned to stare. Indians’ openly stare, ignoring them and staring them down never seem a true deterrent. We arrived back at the hotel at around 10:30pm. Most of us stayed up pretty late. The girls especially stayed up to chat, do face masks and order room service at 2:00am. Overall the day was long, yet as always very fun.