September 14, 2015

The Kingdom in the Sky - part II

We reached the capital city of Leh eight days after leaving Dharamsala. The journey, although exhausting, is one of my best memories. In Leh, we settle down in a small house opening on a big garden. There is old furniture in the rooms and lilac bushes obstructing the window. The smell is divine. Our host is an old man who smiles all the time and brings us endless milk tea between two prayer sessions. There is an incredible looking old woman – his mother – giggling and waving at us from her bench. In the morning, we sit on the balcony and burn in the sun. Pi does his laundry downstairs, O and me sing silly songs, and C is always the last to wake up. When we want to shower, we fill a bucket from a big tank in the garden, and we scoop the boiling water with a plastic pan and let it drizzle over us, crouching in the small stone bathroom. Late in the afternoon, the light becomes golden and ripples over the small streams of water running through the garden. We go out to the market – I chat with cheeky tibetan ladies and come home with a beautiful ring on every finger. In the evening, we wrap ourselves in our yak wool shawls to keep warm. We go to restaurants where we can eat like kings and spend almost nothing. Or we just stay home and watch movies under the covers. It's stillness, and it's blissful.

In the last few days, stillness starts to feel unbearable. I want to stay with the others, but sometimes I just have to get up and leave. Walk the streets for a couple hours. Pretend it's not going to end soon. One morning (we decided to have a late morning, so obviously I woke up at 5am), I get up, look at the boy sound asleep in our bed, and walk out. I wander in the streets alone, my head buzzing with thoughts. Lately, I am riding a wave of highs. I feel everything, everywhere. Sights, sounds and smells melt into one another and form this big synesthetic bubble around me – but it doesn't blur my vision, it makes it clearer, more defined.

I climb the hill to the Palace and I wander through the empty rooms and staircases. It's 7am, I am alone in this huge labyrinth of a building. The silence is absolute and spooky. Leaving the palace, I climb up to the monastery, a few hundreds meters above. From the hill, you can see that the old city is in ruins, but being rebuilt, his medieval remnants disappearing under the big concrete feet of tourism. The path is steep. Soon the altitude makes knots in my chest and legs – my breathing is painful and my head dizzy, but I don't stop. At the top, the mountains circle around me, their snowy tops glittering in the morning sun. The high is here again – I feel like I could scream, like I could jump of that ridge, break my body at the bottom of the castle. I don't know if I am being supremely happy or dangerously sad. Once again the wind comes and tugs at my scarf, gives me a kiss that ripples and makes my cheek feel like ice – and I smile, because I know that this time, it's taking me home.

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