October 16, 2010
11.20am It’s raining. And I’m lost. I don’t really understand the layout of the streets in Darjeeling and I can’t orient myself.
1pm Finally I found a way. I came to visit another Tibetan refugee camp, founded in 1959. “Tibetan Self Help Centre”, it’s called. I bought a blue warm shawl made by the women that live here. I love it. I will probably use it as blanket. I can see myself in my living room in Italy watching a movie staying warm with my shawl and dreaming of Tibet…
A poster reads:
Tibet will never die
Because there is no death for the human spirit.
Communism will not succeed because man will not be a slave forever.
Tyrannies have come and gone and so have caesars and czars and dictators.
But the spirit of the man goes on forever.
Jaya Prakash Narayan
This moved me a lot. It’s something I probably will never be able to fully understand, what it means to have to abandon your house and your country. There are about 350 people in this village. A lady explained me that the youngest go away, to work or study around India. Only the eldest and children remain.
5.40 In the guesthouse, watching English football on TV. With an American, from Vermont, and two British. Someone else is playing guitar. I am already sleepy. I bought a milk tea to take home today. It’s weird, to prepare it you use only milk, no water. You boil the milk, add a teaspoon of tea and a lot of sugar, mix for a couple of minutes. I’m adding a cup of tea to my image of myself on my sofa in a couple of months…
October 17, 2010
8.20am Breakfast in a cool local restaurant with fried bread and chilly potatoes with milk tea. 30 cents. I like it. And I’m full. Today it’s not raining. But cloudy. I need to wash my pants. Here they have a weird way of talking on the phone. They keep it close to the ear while they listen, but when it’s their turn to talk, they bring it in front of the mouth. As if the mike didn’t reach it if it was near the ear. I noticed the same way to use the phone in Nepal.
What I am doing today? I might go to the Observatory Hill and then I can have a huge latte in that coffee shop that I saw in the shopping centre. It’s more than 2 months since I’ve had a latte or cappuccino. I deserve one.
3.35pm. It has started to rain. In 30 minutes there’s a movie, Knock Out, a bolliwood movie that I would like to watch at the cinema. While I wait I can drink a milk tea with two Indian sweets super sweet and very good. This white cake with pistachio is made with wheat and sugar. I hope they are selling popcorn at the cinema. There are no foreigners in these local restaurants, only in places recommended by Lonely Planet.
4.05pm The movie was in Hindi, no subtitles, so I came to Glenarys for a tea and internet, if possible (you never know if the connection is good). There’s an amazing view of the hills around Darjeeling from here, covered in tea plantations and hidden by low clouds.
There’s a seat on the train to Kolkata tomorrow. But I would like to stay a bit longer and take the “toy train”, a tiny old steam train. I would also like to visit a tea plantation, I need to go to the post office, so yes, I’ve got some things to do!
8.05pm Let’s see how the weather is tomorrow. Because if it keeps raining, there’s no point in me staying here. After 2 days in Darjeeling I am starting to find my bearings. Tonight I was able to come back to the hotel without getting lost. What confuses me is that the town is on two sides of the hill. It’s confusing that the hill is on your left while going down, then you turn left and the hill is to the left again…
I ordered a banana pancake for dinner. Yesterday I started to take the malaria pills. About time. I bought a wool hat today. I would have enjoyed it in Annapurna, it was so cold there! In a few days I’ll be in the heat and won’t need it, but it’s a nice souvenir. I like to buy things that will remind me of this trip once I’m home.
There are a lot of people today in Darjeeling, in spite of the rain. Some of them are drunk. It’s the main day of their festival that lasts 10 days. Many had a red tikka, larger than usual, with big pieces of powder, on the forehead. There are many Indian tourists, and Chinese.
October 18, 2010
1.30pm. Darjeeling Post Office. I’m looking at the guy who makes the packets. He’s quickly and meticulously sewing my packet. First he wrapped it in paper, than covered it with a white cloth that he’s sewing.
4.20pm It’s raining a lot. Manuel is out there somewhere. He’s from Perugia. The second Italian I’ve met in these two months around. He’s a professional photographer. Why couldn’t I also sell my pictues? Why is it I am not good at anything?
This morning we went to see a tea plantation. Harrods sell their tea. The factory was closed, but a lady showed us how it is made. Well, she tried to. At the end we simply had a cup of tea for 30 cents (very expensive, usually it’s only one third of that!). But it was nice walking among the tea trees. I had never seen them. They are tiny.
We had some delicious momo for lunch, and a sort of huge gnocco filled with meat. It’s the same restaurant where I had breakfast yesterday. We met there this morning, with our fried bread and potatoes. He’s going to Sikkim next, more to the North. This region has a bit of autonomy, and you need a special permit to go there, that is free. It must be nice, you can see the highest mountain in India, and I also thought of going there, but I’m getting tired of mountains and bad weather (forecast says weather will be bad for 10 more days).
We met a guy while we were walking, and when we told him we are Italian (following the usual list of questions) he told us his granfather fought in Italy during WWII, with the British army against the Germans. They were called Gurkha. Gurkha is the name of the people from this corner of the world (between Nepal and Northern India), from which comes Gurkhaland, and Gurkha were the Indian soldiers fighting for the British. They were renown for their courage and strength.
There’s a nice sky, surrounded by clouds and a stripe of yellow light at the horizon.
Today I was in the usual caf? for 3 hours for Internet, having only a piece of chocolate cake and some tea. Will they hate me? But here they don’t mind bringing you the bill as soon as you are finished if they want you to leave, so I believe if they say nothing they don’t mind me staying there.
Anyway, for your reference, here it’s 7pm and in Italy it’s 3.30pm.