Kirsten Penaloza

Everything in this Blog is written by me and reflects my opinion / experience only. Read at your own risk!

When you hear “The Fourth Wave”, a term defined for the first time by Trish Rothgeb, you imagine some kind of science fiction scenario from a movie with aliens invading earth in waves. And although this wave is taking over a well-known area of our lives, it refers more to a new era of coffee making and serving, but more so the relationship between the consumer and coffee as a product.

The previous waves, therefore, explain how Americans consumed coffee and how their consumer habits changed significantly over time. Although each wave represents an evolution in the relationship with coffee, it does not mean that the particular era is over by the new wave coming into existence.
Each wave is rather an addition to the existing one(s), even if any new wave becomes potentially the predominant one for that era.

To understand how we got to the Fourth Wave, let's take a look at the previous waves.
The First Wave refers to how coffee became a "mainstream" product around the turn of the century. Not this century, the last one.

Everyone started to offer it, and everyone started to drink it. Folger's became part of the American lifestyle, coffee was part of your day, even if - in retrospective - it tasted pretty awful.

In the second half of the century, different brands entered the market and with brand recognition coffee started to have a qualitative "distinguished taste". Espresso and cappuccino were in demand and "going to grab a coffee" got popular.
The coffee bar and chains like Starbucks were born all riding the Second Wave.

In the Third Wave of coffee we see the introduction of deluxe coffee brands, artisan coffee, and highly expensive coffee, therefore, the consumer being an expert much like a wine connoisseur.
You have now not only the consumer as an expert in knowing different kinds of coffee, roasts, or quality but also the increased interest in the multiple applications to brew coffee at home.
Besides experimenting with a french press, espresso maker, filter coffee, cold brew, coffee pods, and anything in between you can imagine, consumers started to be aware and becoming concerned with the origin of coffee beans. Questions like where they come from and how the coffee production looks like, whether it's organic, fair trade, or sustainably sourced, are now increasingly more important. This may be the reason as of why we are now seeing the rise of a "New Wave" - the Fourth Wave.

Consuming coffee is nowadays not just a matter of drinking it to stay awake, it's a question of lifestyle. The "hipsterization" of coffee that inspires coffee roasters and baristas to continuously introduce new kinds of coffee, such as a nitrogen infused one, leads at the same time to look beyond our to-go-coffee-mug.
Especially the Millennials are showing a big interest in sustainable farming, organic and healthy ingredients, and furthermore, the ethically sourced and produced goods. Consumers want to be sure they support local roasters, small coffee shops, and social businesses that ideally give back to the community or support any other good cause.

There is not yet a consensus as to what exactly the Fourth Wave of Coffee means, however, the tendency seems to be moving away from the classical chain of "coffee producer to consumer" that includes the middle man and the retailer. Instead, the new model is circular, where all involved parties win and above all where the consumer takes interest in the coffee farmer and production.
The interest shown can be for example just buying fair trade, organic, locally roasted coffee, or directly supporting social businesses where you further see the favorable impact on the families, the communities, as well as the environment.

How exactly the Fourth Wave will look like, what the impact will be, and how the consumer relates to it, is yet to be seen, but it definitely looks promising.

July 2017

I just read about the open letter from students of Sogyal Rinpoche, in which they mention in 12 pages physical, emotional and sexual abuse from him.

I have first hand experienced an abusive lama, who used his position to manipulate me into a sexual relationship. It was NOT a Rinpoche - to state this very clear! - nonetheless a lama.

I have also seen and experienced how high masters misuse donations to build big mansions and there are known issues with this with India's government. Such case was one in Bir, resulting in all foreign visitors having to get a permit from the government to visit Tibetan settlements, with the mean to control and track from where donations came from and what they do with them.

It is an "open secret" that many lamas and high masters have been using their position to abuse their students in many ways. I know of people who have been blackmailed by their sanghas to remain silent, who have been bullied and forced out of their communities when they spoke up. I also know of so many misconducts of lamas, khenpos, rinpoches, etc. who get involved with their students or even translators, with the concept of having "dakinis" and practicing "tantric forms of Buddhism".

We cried out loud when those behaviors became so evident in priests - we couldn't longer ignore them, when the Catholic church and community tried to silent those allegations.

But now that it hits home we try to ignore the facts, we blame the victims, because victim shaming is easier than to see and accept the truth, and we try to dehumanize, humiliate not only the victims, but also the "press" that publishes those articles almost in a Trumpanian way.

I don't know in person Sogyal Rinpoche and his sangha, and while I believe that for certain he has done many great things, I also am very reluctant to believe he is a saint. When so many people speak out, there is something behind it.

As Westerners we tend to romanticize Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and the culture, we put our teachers on altars and we are taught that questioning them and seeing them as impure beings is just our own dirty mind projecting our impurity to them.
I think this is just another way of manipulating our mind, of emotionally being blackmailed to believe we are the ones at fault.

Institutionalized victim shaming is the most dangerous form and although I am still a Buddhist, I still follow Tibetan Buddhism, I also refuse to be a blind follower and support this institutionalized religion.

© Kirsten Penaloza

June 2017

Before I begin, I am not pulling a Britney Spears; in other words, I am not going through a rough time, I am not hating myself, I am not going through a divorce or the kind.

I am also not doing this because I want any other kind of unwanted attention.

The main reason I am shaving my head is, because I want this spiritual experience to teach me something. I don’t know yet what it is or what it will be, maybe I won’t learn anything, but at least I don’t want to regret not having it done at least once in my life.

Many years ago, I went to India to become a Buddhist nun. Well, we all know by now it didn’t happen. Too soon I realized I am not able to follow the outdated rules of monastic life, where women have more vows simply for being women (sounds like Trump and his cabinet are not the only ones to consider being a woman is a pre-existing condition). Nuns are not allowed in certain teachings and empowerments, they are ranked second and third places while many still believe that as a woman you cannot - or with more hardships - reach enlightenment.

I think that’s BS and I didn’t want to commit my life to that, so I turned away and continued to search for something else. But I missed on one experience: Getting my head shaved.

Of course as a lay Buddhist practitioner I am not required to do so, but I wanted to see how it feels to be less attractive (according to society’s beauty standards), how it helps being less vain, how it helps letting go of this ego clinging in times of social-media-self-optimization and obsession with the self.

And so I did it - I shaved my head knowing that at age 36 I am not the prettiest to pull it off, knowing that my husband’s uptight family will openly disapprove and possibly shower me (and him) with all kind of dismissive comments and knowing that microaggressions are coming my way.

My husband helped to shave my head and supports me in this experiment that also has a lot to do with defying people’s idea of how women have to look and have to be.

Before I shaved my head I was nervous, maybe even afraid. As a child I was not really cute, as a teenager I was considered ugly. So I made my “ugliness” my strength and went over to provoke: Short hair, military boots, ska, punk, rude girl.

Eventually I physically became more tolerable, and the ugly duckling became better looking. But unfortunately my family never fully inspired me to see my beauty, to accept me the way I am. Instead I was criticised by my mother that I looked like a slut. Irony is, I was always very prudent and far away from being one.

My father told me I looked too pale, Mexican men said I wasn’t feminine enough. And yet, I got groped, sexually assaulted, and - yes, why not openly speaking about it - raped. So much of being feminine and a woman - I guess it doesn’t matter how you look like, as a woman you always have to deal with sexism.

It took me going to India, to break into pieces and patch myself up again. It took me getting married, suffering depression, self hatred and eventually seeking therapy. Above all that, it took one person to tell me every single day without failure, that I am beautiful and it was until then, I started to see beauty in myself: My husband.

And that’s where I am now: Centered, strong, and with enough self esteem to endure whatever comes.

© Kirsten Penaloza

May 2017

I just read a public post from Jennifer Anniston about her not having children-. It makes me feel better to read her, as I experience this kind of nuisance on a regular basis. I understand that many cultures, such as Latin American or some Asian cultures, believe a woman is only complete when she is a mother and only "woman enough" if she wishes to be a mother.

Macho cultures, where women are equally responsible for the Macho attitude, not only make you believe you have to want to be a mother, because it's natural, its how it's supposed to be, but they also make you believe you're not fulfilling your duty as a good wife, daughter in law or simply as a good citizen.

I continuously get judged, together with my husband, because we take a conscious decision of being happy without children and above all without wanting any.

As if people around us project their own wishes and desires for children in their lives onto others, without even considering that you may feel uncomfortable.

The topic of having children is uncomfortable, because it is very personal. It equals to talking about my sex life, mental health issues in my family or any other sensitive topic I would not discuss openly with anybody who comes along.

The decision of having children is a 100% personal one, not only as a woman, but as a couple, and I don't understand why people feel to have the right of an opinion on this.

It's not that they would have an opinion on my sex life - and if they do they would certainly not share it with me.

So why sharing their opinion as of why I should have children?

It's not that we didn't think about it, not even that we haven't tried. We did! But it didn't happen and the more we thought about it, the less we didn't want children.

We are accused of being selfish because we're not paying our tribute to humanity. I must have missed the all too many orphans out there in need of parents; the over population, the lack of resources, the horrible state of our environment, let alone the political mess my parent's and grandparent's generation is leaving us.

Is there really a need for one child more? I mean honestly, besides my mother in law who pressures us for her sake and wish of having grandchildren, what other need is there for one?

Oh because they are so cute, and you won't be alone when you're old, and they will take care of you!

Essentially the reasons I should have a child is because:

  • I can't stand to be alone
  • I need an insurance and nurse when I'm old
  • Humanity will die out
  • I need a pet, a doll or any other living toy
  • My mother in law is desperate for grandchildren

Wow, convincing reasons.

Have people ever considered that women and couples can be happy without children?

Children are not necessarily the ultimate factor of happiness. And above all they don't need to be a measure point for a successful marriage and the love for each other.

Taking a conscious decision of not having children is acknowledging your needs, desires and wishes, but also your limitations. It is not being selfish, it's called maturity.

© Kirsten Penaloza

My dear husband and soul mate,

While everybody is celebrating the day of love, buying the biggest flower bouquet or chocolate box, the most tacky valentine's card with cheesy phrases and posting tons of corny love related videos on Facebook, I’m sitting here and think about how much I don’t like this day. Before I met you I didn’t like it because I detest the idea to commercialize something so wonderful as it is love and friendship.

Now that you are my husband I don’t like it either, because I’ve realized that there is no bouquet beautiful enough to compete with your beauty. And not only because you are the hottest husband on earth (of course for me and my taste), but because your inner beauty is just not comparable with anything in the world. I don’t want to buy a chocolate box, because there is just nothing material, not even non-material, that can ever express the deep love I feel for you.

In other words, it seems that there is just absolutely nothing with which I can measure your greatness and the importance you have for me.

It doesn’t matter what I buy and what I do it would never be enough, because you are the best and greatest thing that ever happened to me.

Today is just another day, no - not "just", but fortunately another day in which I can tell you that I LOVE YOU. With every breath, with every cell, with every thought, I LOVE YOU.

I don't like Valentine's Day, because I just don't find a way in which I can fully show how much I love you. It frustrates me, because this day evidences how limited I am when it comes to expressing all this and more. It makes me sad that there is nothing else I can do than simply write this blog and share it with the world: You.

Published February 2014

© Kirsten Penaloza

It was April the 10th of this year (2013) when Mila, the puppy my now husband Alex and I rescued almost exactly half a year ago, died. This day was full moon and a special and auspicious one for the Tibetan Buddhist Calendar, too.

Alex and I waited since almost 2 weeks for the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC to bloom, and finally the moment came. It was an extraordinary hot day, 30°C, no clouds in the sky, no wind blowing and perfect to find a nice spot in the shadow of the cherry blossom trees on the shore of the small lake.

We walked around, hand in hand, like so many other couples; we took a lot of pictures and finally decided to lie down. We just enjoyed ourselves and the nice atmosphere that was within and outside us.

After a while Alex looked over my shoulder saying that he can’t take his eyes of the beautiful pink tree over there, so I looked around. I saw plenty of white blooming trees but not one single in pink but I thought maybe it’s me… and just replied: “Oh, yes, it’s amazing!”

Then I turned my head back and suddenly Alex was holding a small little box in front of me, opened it (by then I already knew what he was going to ask) and pronounced the unexpected question: “Would you marry me?” I started to cry tears of joy and emotion and said “yes, of course I want!”

He put me the ring on and we hugged and kissed and were happy, enjoying this moment, surrounded by cherry blossom trees, covered with the soft white and pink petals.

We went to have lunch and to celebrate with a beer, we came back home and wanted to do a puja (an offering ritual in Buddhism and Hinduism) to offer this new event in our lives and our love in general to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and spiritual friends.

Once at home I checked quickly my e-mails and Adriana Ferranti from Maitri Charitable Trust in Bodhgaya had written me. As I read the story I couldn’t help it, I started to cry. She just got the news in the morning from her employees in Bodhgaya that a kennel cough spread out in the shelter and Mila got sick along with other puppies. Mila died uncommonly fast.

Joy and sadness came together and we couldn’t avoid thinking and reflecting once again about all the circumstances that brought us two together and how we met Mila. Until now I don’t understand how a little dog I knew for only two days could still have such an impact on me, but I guess there are many unperceivable and inexplicable aspects of a bond with another being.

Was it just another “coincidence” that Mila died exactly the day Alex decided to propose to me and therefore to start something new together? Isn’t it strange that on that day of full moon, where there was said that this was a special and auspicious one to leave the past behind and start something new, Mila died and we began to realise that this engagement is the next step to spend a lifetime together?

Could it be possible that Mila had one purpose in this life and this was us? We rescued her from a terrible life in the street in an ugly, yet sacred place in India, we saw by observing each other doing all we did for Mila, how wonderful the other is and this made us fall in love with each other.

Mila taught us many lessons, and even her mere death is a valuable teaching that makes us understand, that death is not the end, it’s the beginning of something new. We hear so often: When a door closes another one opens. But we don’t really understand this line until we experience it fully aware.

And maybe the fact that Mila was part of this amazing and magical encounter with Alex makes her so important to us. She is part of our story, even if the story started long before we rescued her.

It started actually in 2011.

Well, I can also start even before that and you are free to skip that many details.

Still here?

Ok, when I was around 12 years old I bought a diary with the American flag as the cover. From all the stupidities I might have written I remember one thing: I was amazed by the USA. Not that I had a better reference than the Sylvester Stallone movies I saw and that inspired me that everything is possible – even for losers.

I kind of felt like a loser back in that time when I was about to become a teenager. I was ugly – that much ugly that my sister’s classmates used to call me the ugly duck. I felt that most of the people my age were silly and boring, I had a terrible relationship with my mother and I just got to a boarding school in Germany. Even if I can’t complain of not having enough friends, I always had friends, but for some strange reason I always felt like a lonely person. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad or that I hated it, I took it just the way it was.

Anyhow, so I wrote in that diary that one day I would become a historian, that I would like to teach history because it fascinates me and above all I wrote that one day I would like to visit the USA.

A couple of years after, I must have been like 14 years old, I was visiting my father in Mexico during the summer holidays. I don’t remember how we got to talk about this topic but I clearly remember that I told him very serious: “I’m going to marry a gringo one day!” He only laughed at me and said “Ay, hija! From all the nationalities in the world you chose a gringo? No way!” But I was so sure about it, that I didn’t even discuss it with him.

The time went by and I guess the process of growing up (especially when it came to emotions and mind), brought so many distractions, that I completely forgot about it. Then I became this rebel girl, reading intellectual stuff, becoming social critic and as every youngster from a Latin- American background, I too became a fan of Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata and Subcomandante Marcos.

I was 16 years old, when my friend Diana and I went to this new age, spiritual, psychedelic village near Mexico City called Tepoztlán. Curious as we were we went to the passage where a bunch of wanna be psychic’s were giving hand lectures. Again, I don’t remember anything but one detail. I asked the girl that sometimes I just don’t really have a connection with guys and whenever one appears I just feel like annoyed or even disgusted and I just didn’t know why. She deeply looked into my hand and said: “Of course not! The reason why is that you are waiting for the right one. And [showing me some lines on my hand] the right one will have the initials A and M!”

Believe it or not: For the following years I was searching for someone with that initials, but every time I was with someone, who obviously didn’t bring this special requirement with him, I just told myself that it was anyway a waste of time and money this whole hand lecture thing and what the girl said was just nonsense.

Trying to figure out my own identity, I was not at all interested in the USA and later on, living in Mexico there was nothing at the other side of the northern border that could somehow catch my attention (except of the headlines in the newspaper).

So life went on, love and relationships only brought disappointments and I only started to be in “peace” with that (as far as a latina girl’s mind can be) thanks to Buddhism, meditation (though I’m a lazy practitioner) and my friends.

One day I went to see a friend who is supposed to be psychic, but unfortunately every time she told me about things to be happening soon, she was always wrong. Except for one thing: In a very beautiful way she told me, that obviously I haven’t found the ONE for me, because I was looking in the wrong direction. What I needed to find is someone, who shines as much as I do, and together then we could shine even brighter.

Then finally I went to a retreat on meditation. In one moment an event called “Kalachakra” in Washington DC the same year (it was February of 2011), was announced – I didn’t pay that much attention. Back at my Buddhism classes again someone mentioned it and then I started to wonder what this Kalachakra thing was about but didn’t give that much importance to it. Finally I started to have contact again with a high school friend from Hamburg, Germany and it happened to be that she was living near Washington DC and had just became mother. She offered me to come visit her whenever I wanted, especially when the Dalai Lama would come in the summer and suddenly I thought “wait a minute! Isn’t this strange event with the Dalai Lama the Kalachakra?!” Now I was fully into it: I looked it up, I made my plans, I signed up to volunteer for this event and bought a plane ticket.

For some strange reason I was convinced, that this event would be life changing for me. I had no clue how and why, but it would define the rest of my life. And: I knew deep in my heart and mind, that I would find the love of my life. I was so sure about it, that I talked with this “psychic” friend about it and she only replied “I know, I’m also pretty sure!”

So I went and had the time of my life not only in that event but in general in my first visit to the USA: I saw the Dalai Lama for the first time, volunteered in such a beautiful event with him, I met friends from Boston, made new and lovely acquaintances from around the world, I had fun at Tibetan Dance parties and as a tourist travelling around. But the 11 days at the “Kalachakra” went by and no Mr. Right came along. I visited my friends in Leesburg, not one single interesting gringo around. I went to Boston to see my friends, no one inspired me any feeling of “uh, he must be it”.

After a month being in the USA I came back to Mexico – without having met the guy of my life. But I knew undoubtedly, that something had changed. My life would definitely not be the same again.

Still it would take me more than two more years to understand how all these events are related. I would finally understand how all this makes perfectly sense. And it was the moment when I was walking in Bodhgaya, India with my blue volunteer shirt from the Kalachakra and another tourist recognised it, asked me about it and we started to talk in front of the entrance of theKalachakra Ground on the main street. As soon as he said that he also volunteered in the same event in Washington DC I was completely thrilled. Something inside me was starting to acknowledge everything, but when he said his name, I knew immediately that the search has finally come to an end. That it doesn’t matter how, when or under which circumstances: He was the man of my life. He was the one, whose initials were tattooed since my birth in my hands…

And after Alex had proposed to me I started to remember all the things I said when I was a 12, 14 or 16 year old girl. Not knowing at all (because I never took me too serious) that my words were pronounced subconsciously and unwillingly as a decree.

And Mila? Maybe now you understand how she is part of this wonderful story? That’s why it hurts to know her dead. There has been so much magic around Alex, me and her that we want to believe to meet her again in this or in a future lifetime.

Published May 7, 2013 

© Kirsten Penaloza

March 29, 2013

Recently there has been lots of news about women being raped in India. It started with one case in December 2012, when a twenty something year old student from New Delhi was group raped in a bus. 5 guys raped her in a bus with no one intervening to stop it, nor even to help her afterwards. If raping her multiple times wasn’t bad enough she was beaten and tortured with an iron stick. When the men were done they threw her off the bus and left her badly injured on the street. If I remember well, even then people who witnessed partially the scene never came to help her – at least not immediately.

I’m not pretending to give a report of her case, I just know that she wasn’t even in an Indian hospital; she was brought into another country to receive the best treatment possible, since her uterus was destroyed and many body parts in severe condition. She was in coma and eventually she died.

This event provoked a reaction of rage among many New Delhi citizens – a lot of them women.

Now there has been the case of the Swiss couple who was making a bike tour through India. In a random village they stopped to camp and pass the night. 8 guys attacked them, handcuffed the husband and group raped the 39 year old women. He had to witness everything. Now a police officer was cynical enough to say that the couple was to be blamed for that! The argument? They were in a place where they shouldn’t have to.

I remember when I was in Bodhgaya, I read a newspaper note about a Spanish girl who was staying in a homestay. An Indian guy came through the balcony into her room, raped and robbed her.

Then I heard of cases during the Kalachakra event (a huge days lasting ceremony with the Dalai Lama in January 2012), that several nuns got raped; as well as I remember that I met two Indian men in Bodhgaya, who were into politics and pretty much known in the town. One was owner of several establishments (food and clothes), the other the chairman of a big NGO. They were interested in knowing me because of my profile and experience in social business; I brought a lot of new ideas of possible projects to do in Bodhgaya and we started to talk about making something together.

One day one of them invited me to a dinner party he would have at his place. After a few months of travelling in India and Nepal I became much more cautious and suspiciously, so I asked him how many people were going. Five friends. And will your wife and the other wives be there as well? No, you know, Indian women have another mentality, India is still different, so Indian women don’t go to parties.

I refused to go alone. I thought about what it was about: So Indian women are not allowed or it’s “not their culture” to go to parties, but western women are allowed, or what?!” It didn’t make sense. Or did it? I mean, I have been thinking about it for a long time, and not only because recently there have been so many raping cases. These things have been occurring since a long time, but now finally the world knows about it. Now, more than ever I wonder what would have happened if I would have gone? Trusting in people who seem to be decent, married men? I can’t even imagine, I don’t want to imagine it.

So, the impression that I have now – and I mean in retrospective because it is now, after a several months being back from India, that I am getting awareness of what I’ve experienced and observed – is that most of the Indian society is a big deal twisted in their minds. On one hand guys are allowed to walk hand in hand and hug each other in public, but a married couple is not allowed to show any kind of affection: no hugs, no hand holding, no kissing – that would be obscene!

There are all this funny Bollywood movies where beautiful women are dressed like Britney Spears in her video “Hit me baby one more time”, dancing lascivious with the protagonist hero, seducing each other with looks and touches and all the theatre. But the common Indian couple doesn’t even choose each other because of love rather than of cast and status convenience.

From what I could see is that women are married so men can take their dowry, they cook and have children, sometimes they can be intelligent and study but it doesn’t mean that women get more affection because of that.

In many towns and villages, once the dowry is spent, the women “suddenly caches fire in the kitchen” and she burns to death, or commits mysteriously suicide and the man gets married again. A happy marriage as long as the dowry lasts.

Since women don’t have any status no one wants to have a daughter, that’s why baby girls are murdered.

In a culture where once the Kama sutra was drawn, where temples full of erotic sculptures where built and where in it symbols of phallus and vaginas still are not only represented but also venerated, where sexuality is extremely shown in movies but not practiced at home and where gays are sick and perverted but guys can walk around hugging each other when women or girls are not allowed to do so… I don’t wonder why all this group raping is occurring. The cliché of this open and flexible culture was for me the discovery of a highly repressed and twisted one.

And then there come the western women along. Of course Indians know them from the movies: Hollywood and the liberality. Where in India a women needs to cover practically everything that could provoke, in the west they run around almost naked (at least in the eyes of an Indian). Even if I was warned that I should be careful because Indian men consider western girls as cheap porn stars, I wasn’t fully aware. But yes, I felt treated like a cheap object, like someone with so little value that it is easy to exchange, like someone who has money but no virtues.

I was naïve in many situations, blind in a few and seldom wise enough to not get in trouble while travelling alone in India and Nepal. For sure I have been more dumb than courageous to go alone and travel on my own in a sexist, repressed country.

So eventually I got into a problem. And ironically it wasn’t an Indian man. I mean, I got harassed once by an Indian guy, many tried to flirt with me, one tried to get me to sleep with him, I was stared at by tons but never one single dude tried to force me into something. It was a Tibetan who did it. The whole experience is so embarrassing that I still can’t find the words to write it down. Still I want to do it, because I want to warn other girls and women by sharing my experience. The thing is that it has been a process of coping with an event that implies being manipulated and used and blackmailed and I don’t know what. So bit by bit I am dealing with it, dealing with the shame and the anger, the frustration and self-reproaches. Eventually I hope I will be able to tell my story.

©Kirsten Penaloza

Homeless?/!

March 21, 2013

It has been almost a year since I left what I considered my home. After I decided in November 2011 to leave everything I had in order to get to India and become a nun, a volunteer, a Weltverbesserer or just myself, I met a guy –  L. He was nice, also Buddhist and very different from all (Mexican) men I’ve met before. Even if I already knew that my path wasn’t going to be at the side of a man, I wanted to know him and at least establish a new and very worthy friendship. He helped me with everything regarding moving from my huge 4-room-appartment into a small room at my best friend’s house, he drove me there and back and up and down and indeed a friendship flourished. Probably it was evident that on one particular moment he would fall in love with me. And I don’t say it because I’m arrogant or think I’m special – I myself was tempted to fall in love with him and to actually forget about my trip to India and becoming an ordained Buddhist practitioner. But using my reason I could stop this upcoming feeling.

L. didn’t know my real motivation to do all this so one day he completely declared himself to me. It was very passionate in words and I never have been in such situation before, though it was very romantic I was steady in my plans. But I had to explain him what was going on, even if I ran the risk to lose the fresh friendship.

Against all my ideas about guys who fall in love with a girl, who doesn’t love them back, he was completely cool with it. And not only that: L was inspired by me, my decision and the plans I got for the future, so he offered me help. I asked him to help me sell all my stuff in order to have the money for my plane ticket to India and a few days later he had bought me a ticket with his Miles-Programme. Before I could really realise it I had my flight to India for May 2012. The only concern I had was not to have enough money for that, but since my illusory thinking was visualising myself living in a monastery or more general as a renunciant, I didn’t really needed that much money.

By the end of January I got a call from the CEO of a company I worked with in several occasions as project manager. He and the University where he gives lectures decided recently to hold a conference on Ageing Boomers and Social Business and he needed someone to organise it. Are you interested in doing it? He asked and I immediately accepted. Everything was perfect, everything was flowing, I almost had nothing to do for things to appear in my life and I saw it as a sign that I was on the right track.

By the end of February I was already in Germany running the project for three months. Exactly right before my flight to India – from Hamburg – the conference was over and I had plenty of money to survive as a nun. Holiness here I go!

Being in Frankfurt, acting to be a business women, running around in high heels and skirts, trying to be fancy, was fun and I had a good time and experience. Even if I was almost all the time alone, if I didn’t always know how to connect with the students and I found the habits and behaviour of colleagues and people so much different from what I was used to in Mexico and even if sometimes I felt frustrated because things weren’t working out the way I wanted and my boss opted for giving me more liberty than indications to fulfil the job duties, I enjoyed every day in Germany. For sure it was because I knew that it was for just a short time and because soon something bigger would be happen, a life changing event.

In resume: I started the year of 2012 familiarising with the idea of renunciation. I gave away almost all my material belongings – my furniture was given away to my parents or friends, my clothes went to the poorest in the city (the homeless youngsters in the historic centre), some few things I could sell and some few things I would keep in a secure place.

With a backpack and a suitcase I came to Germany. One was full of typical backpacker stuff like Jeans, India-suitable-shirts, traveller kid, survival medicine, etc. The other was full of fancy clothes for my temporary job. But I knew that at the end I would reduce my luggage to the most basic. What would I need as a nun anyway?

I left Mexico, my home, my family, left behind friends; I left behind the comfort of living in Germany, the possibility of a high profile job in the future and the idea of a standard life: Home-job-wife-kids. I had nothing but a few thousand Euros for travelling to the holy places of Buddha, to Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives, to get to Nepal and back to India and of course as a buffer for my first years of being a nun.

When I left to India I was homeless, I had only the basic clothes and I was alone.

But I was free.

Free from commitments and possessions. But not at all free from wrong ideas, illusions and wrong expectations.

What has changed since then? What has become of all this after one year?

It took me precisely one year to find a home again. After I found out, that I didn’t want to become a nun, that the Buddhist world I dreamed of was nothing but a romantic ideal in my head, I travelled and stayed in a place as long as I was interested in. I followed the footsteps of pilgrims, I climbed holy mountains, saw the sacred places, I gained a lot of money in the same amount I lost a lot by wanting to help but fell into the arms of a scammer, I was used by people but at the same time I had always true friends on my side – like L – who gave me so much without wanting anything in return, I met false monks, false Lamas, corrupted teachers, at the same time I found many incredible practitioners, spiritual guides and at the end a teacher I would consider my root Lama (Tibetan word for teacher). I saw happy, angry, serious and sad faces, animals and humans in terrible conditions, I saw rich people and tourists with and without behaviour, but above all: when I decided to be alone I met an incredibly loving and adorable person and rescued with him the life of a random sentient being – an event that became the most meaningful of that trip and one of the few unforgettable experiences of my life.

Along the path I learned, that being homeless has nothing to do with not having a place to stay or an actual address, therefore that having a home doesn’t refer to a physical house. Far beyond this limited concept of “home” I understood that being home is where the heart is, and the heart is the place where Buddhists believe the mind is located. And my mind and heart is my home, it’s the place where I interpret the world, where I determine the taste or disgust for something or someone, it is the place where compassion, kindness and generosity are created and emanated, it is the place where we meet in good and in bad moments the people we need for some or the other reason. It is in the mind and heart where we decide to be happy; it is there, at home, where we find security, and once we found our home within us we can let love in. We can then clear the way to the door and thus finally be open to love ourselves and others.

Homestay with Indian family in Garsha after I finished the Kora around the holy mountain Drilbu Ri (Himachal Pradesh)

© Kirsten Penaloza

November 30, 2012

Why is it that most of the people just aren’t able to talk about death, not even be with someone who suffered a loss and help one to get over it? What happened to the societies that made death a tabu? If we don’t even know what exactly is death, then how to understand and even harder: to accept it? We can’t even tell if it’s a process, a cycle, a situation, a moment, a fact or just a reality!
I remember when I just started to become a Buddhist practitioner and during the guided meditation we were “meditating on death and impermanence” we had to imagine our own moment of death, e.g. in a car accident or whatever came into our minds and observe the emerging uncomfortable sensation. It was supposed to be an aversion against this moment and death in general showing us that we are afraid of it because we haven’t really started to live. All with the final goal to understand that we need to work with our minds and transform them or ourselves in order to live meaningful. To make the story short: I had no such uncomfortable feeling. There was just nothing. No fear, no aversion, no panic. Just nothing. Now that worried me. It couldn’t be possible that I was so indifferent towards my own death! I approached our meditation guide and he recommended to find another way to “get close” to the idea of death in order to experience the emergency of change. Still nothing happened.

After one meditation class I was on my way home and passed by the entrance of a metro station. In the late rush hour were still a lot of people in hurry to reach their homes, and as it is sadly normal in big cities, no one had a look at one particular old women standing completely at a side with a shoe-box full of sweets, candies and chewing gum holding in her arms. She was just staring into huge black hole in front of her, not caring about the running people, not noticing anybody, not even making an attempt to be noticed in order to sell some candies.
The moment I saw her I started crying - just to vary a little bit. I mean, there is something about old people that makes me cry since I was a little girl. But this time I realised that I was deeply touched by her appearance because I could see my fears and neurosis in her, it was a clear moment in which I understood why I couldn’t do the meditation properly: I wasn’t afraid of dying rather than afraid of growing old alone and abandoned, unloved and uncared. I was terrified of getting old per se. And that’s why I developed the neurosis about buying, collecting and of course using all these kind of cosmetics - refreshing cream for the eyes, extreme hydrating cream for the face, a lifting body lotion and an anti cellulitis serum for butt and legs, of course the anti ageing face peeling and accordingly the body scrub, then the whole collection (obviously) of make up with the same rejuvenating attributes to hide my imperfections and to lighten my plus spots etc. etc. etc.
That I had taken this over from my mom, I was conscious about, but that I took this to an extreme of a neurosis, that was new for me. I understood all this just in a few seconds lasting enlightening moment, then I went over to that ancient women, gave her some coins without wanting anything and thanked her in my mind for being my precious teacher, for having taught me this priceless lesson of myself and one aspect of my dark side (maybe not the darkest, but still it was enough an obstacle to keep me from growing internally). I kept giving her money for the rest of the time I was living in Mexico City, always with the huge feeling of gratitude paired with an immense sense of compassion, wishing each time that not one single person might be alone and abandoned when old.
So what now? A few years later, I’m still not really afraid of death itself, but I’m afraid of what comes after and I got obsessed with this topic looked at from the Buddhist side. I took a meditation course on how to die consciously (Phowa) and read the Tibetan Book of Death in order to be prepared for when someone (it might be me…) dies. A few weeks later I got the news about the death of my youngest uncle in Germany. I was in Nepal, in Boudhanath to be precise, practically surrounded by Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and very close to the biggest stupa on earth. So I went to many of them to ask the monks to pray for my uncle in reward leaving a small amount of money, I went to the stupa to lit candles and I prayed for him by myself. Of course I was sad about him passing away but all the small rituals I performed helped me to get over it - alone. ‘Cause strangely when it comes to death no one is able to help you, to be with you, to hold you. It’s not about finding the right words to say, it’s just to show a little bit of empathy. We all have suffered the loss of someone, so why can’t people hold strong together - above all in a situation like this?
My uncle passed away in August this year, now in the beginning of November another tragic news reached me: My cousins wife shot him, the two eight and six years old sons and at the end herself in the head.
It was a brief e-mail from my father in the style of “dear daughter, I hope you’re well and in good health? I have tragic news … I am very sad but life needs to go on. Well I hope you are enjoying your time and in good company. With affection, your dad.”
It was on the first day of a three months lasting event with great masters of Tibetan Buddhism, I was still under the symptoms of a slight concussion (means: sensible) and anyhow very emotional because I felt kind of left beside from my parents, who never call me, never write a mail - only if I write first, and now my father couldn’t even try to find out a better way to reach me.
I was at shock. No clue how to digest something like this. I went back to the Institute I was staying, logged in and skyped with a good friend who is an excellent psychologist. I asked him to help me, not as a friend but as a professional, and he did very good. When I finally called my dad from my mobile I could hear that he was more shocked to hear my voice than because of the tragic incident and the loss of my cousin who was like a son to him. He called me back once, my mom never called nor made a real attempt to know what happened… My best friend asked me after my Facebook status saying that I have one trauma after another in a mail what happened, but never replied when I told her (by the way: I remembered in this occasion -a few years ago a good friend and his sister were killed also with a shot in the head and I called my best friend, crying and telling her that I was trying to reach him and to reestablish contact but it was too late now… And she just replied something like ‘that sucks, hm!” - now it feels the same…)
After two weeks even my friends and buddhist companions around me stopped asking me, if I’m well. I mean, apparently I am, but I don’t want to run around either demanding everyones attention. If they don’t want to, why should I be the annoying girl in need of an ear and a shoulder to talk about how I feel, to cry once again over that event, asking them to help me?! Why is it that people, even the closest ones, just block themselves when it comes to death?
There is one really dear friend I am talking to, even through a huge distance and over 9 hours of time difference. He is pretty much the only one who still listens to me. Honestly? I wonder what makes him so different in order to stand me? Because I understand that it must be annoying to listen all the time to an emotional girl, but isn’t it what not only friendship is about, but also empathy, a kind heart being there for someone who needs a little bit of support? I confess: he is like this.
Anyhow: It’s been three weeks now, and I still feel like crying. And I cry. Alone. And I retreat from others, from my family, from my friends, from my companions. I retreat because their inability to be there when I could definitely need some support hurts and because I feel that I’m not allowed to demand any attention from anyone (and if I do for example in de with my mother she complains that I’m exaggerating). But also because the teachings and empowerments are really going deep and there is this inner struggle of my ego to survive.
Before leaving Mexico to start my journey towards India, I dreamed that I would die. In the dream I wasn’t afraid of dying, nor panicked. I was completely calm and in peace, even when I woke up it felt perfectly fine. A friend interpreted this dream as the actual me dying and she wished that this old me would die and a new one would be born. Today, in a moment of perfect loneliness, I cried again (eye roll) but this time because I started to realise, that now, I’m dying. This old, annoying me is being erased and I’m in the hard and sometimes painful process of gesture.
Isn’t it with death the same? You struggle to survive because of your clinging and grasping to your ego, your life, possessions etc.? You fight against death or transformation because you are afraid of the change, you are afraid of the unknown, afraid of the next life or person to be.
Definitely, I am bloody scared but also curious and looking very much forward to see the result. And I hope that this renewed me will be always compassionate, affective and empathic enough to share the difficult moment of death and loss with others.

Bir, India on November 30, 2012

May these words be for the benefit of all sentient beings.

November 13, 2012

One more time I’m back at Dharamsala against my own promise to never come back here, teaching me again to never say never. 
‘Only four days’ I thought, just to go to the recommended dentist and to the District Comissioner Office to get the special area permit for the Tibetan settlement in Bir where I would spent the next month. 
First I was excited about going to the temple each morning, just as I used to do in Bodhgaya in order to keep the pace of my recently started Ngöndro practice (purification and preliminary practice which enables you to get to another stage of meditation level - as a friend wrote a few days ago) and doing prostrations. But it always comes different as planned, right? I got a light concussion and I was supposed to rest for the next weeks.
Here in McLeodganj it is too cold anyway, that I prefer to stay many hours in the morning time in bed, reading and writing and to go early to bed to do the same… During the day I just hang around in one or the other café with free wi-fi.

I already realised in Delhi, that a place is less hostile when the weather isn’t burning like hell, though I must confess that the people in Delhi, above all men, are still as unfriendly and careless about others as all the last times I was there. This fact leads me to the conclusion that it must be kind of a reality of the capital-people. And I’m glad to hear this said by other Indians, thus I feel less discriminatory. But honestly, in Mexico it’s similar: people of Mexico City have the worst reputation in the rest of the country, therefore I suggest that it’s a general phenomena about the capital and the contrast of the rural or provincial area of a country.
Coming back to the topic: McLeodganj now in November, when it’s already starting to be fresh during the day and freezing during nighttime, reminds me a bit of Germany in autumn. But then again it is like Mexico in winter, when there are no heaters and the walls and windows not being isolated don’t allow the room to heat up with the sun. 
There are also less tourists, either westerners nor punjabi tourists around, therefore the atmosphere is more quiet and silence. Still this city inspires me loneliness and I can’t help it. For sure I can say it’s me and my own perception and there is no one to blame for. Actually it’s not about blaming someone or something or judging it. It’s just, that I try to figure out why I feel like this being here? After being the last weeks and months continuously around friends and people, I appreciate to be alone for a few days, even more because I will be among people for the next weeks again and probably unable to make a retreat in my own tortoise shell. 
I like it better now. I like to wake up in the morning with my next door neighbour singing and playing on his guitar. I like to go and talk with the charismatic Hotel manager and the soft and sensible massage therapist Sami so eager to win my trust (because after all the disturbing experiences of little sexual harassment by Tibetan and Indian men I totally mistrust them when it comes to my body), and I very much enjoy to read in the recently bought book “eat, pray, love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. This autobiographical story about a women in her early thirties, going through the worst phase of her life and which leads her to give up everything conventional in order to start a journey of self discovery around the world, makes me identify with it. Of course not in every aspect, but in many. And in the same way each and every single person comes into your life for a certain reason, so do books. This book brings me to be in a mood of introspective reflexion about my own life and what I want from it. Didn’t I leave for the same reasons? Rather because of a crisis, but for the seek of spiritual realisation? I don’t mean by any chance this kind of realisation of higher beings, or call it enlightenment if you want, which of course is definitely my highest goal, but for now I am happy enough to just be able to find a profound spiritual path. And further on: what comes after finding a genuine spiritual master, a root guru or root Lama, and after realising what I already was told - that the spiritual practice, the Buddhadharma, is exactly where I am and therefore no need to go to a specific place to find it. 
Now I have reached a moment in which I have to take decisions about the next steps to take, though I’d prefer to wait and see which doors are going to be open. 
Well, lets be frank (since I promised to myself to confess without shame) about my reason to come to India and Nepal. Almost all the Buddhists in one moment of their life, want to visit and see the places where their religion began, where Buddha was born, where he got enlightened, where he taught, meditated and finally died and stepped into what we call parinirvana. All of us want to know the great monasteries of the great Lamas, Tulkus and Rinpoches - some of them we just know by stories but never have met them in person. We want to see the caves where the great Indian yogis meditated until getting fully enlightened. So for this, I am no different from other Buddhist practitioners. 
What is then or was my reason? Until now only few people know it and the rest of my friends, colleagues and family just knew that I wanted to volunteer - in a nunnery or monastery. Just to know how a monastic life is, just because of my curiosity of living amongst ordained practitioner and to be able to practice with them or on my own and being there I could volunteer by teaching English. Well, not that this is not true, for sure I wanted this, but my motivation was to become nun myself.
It all started exactly one year ago, in November 2011, when His Eminence Ayang Rinpoche was giving the Phowa initiation in Mexico City. It was the moment when he gave the oral transmission of Buddha Amithaba practice, that for almost two hours I couldn’t help myself stop crying. First I thought it was the infection in my eyes I had for several weeks, but my accelerated breath and something unexplainable in my mind, made me cry and cry, not desperate but in silence. After that I knew I needed to change something in my life, I knew that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing and that I must go and give not only my life but my spiritual practice a profoundness never experienced before. I was convinced that in order to practice and learn as much and profound as I wanted, I needed to become a nun - it wasn’t a desire per se, rather than a logical consequence, an obvious next step on the spiritual path I chose to follow. And with that in mind I decided to quit as soon as possible this mundane existence, to give up the beloved flat I lived for almost 7 years in and which already became a constant headache due to a legal issue with the landlord, to work just enough to be able to pay my trip to India but after that leave behind all kind of jobs not related to the Buddhadharma, to leave my friends, my family, to sell and give away all my belongings and finally to make prayers and aspirations to soon become part of the ordained community - the Sangha.
But it was here in Dharamsala, in McLeodganj - the Tibetan settlement around His Holiness the Dalai Lama, here where the Tibetan Government in Exile resides and where I romantically thought I would find genuine guidance to my new existence - that I realised how little I identified with the idea of being a nun. And to admit this to myself led me to one of the biggest crisis regarding my existence I ever experienced in my life (if not the first, but hopefully the last one). All I clearly wanted to do and be for the rest of my life, all I aspired with such eagerness for about half a year, vanished in only a few days and a huge question mark at the end of the sentence “and what now?” arose. So I keep moving, I keep searching I keep my eyes and heart open because I haven’t found the answer yet.

McLeodganj on November 13, 2012

November 6, 2012

Where do I start to tell the story about friendship, karmic bonds and the generosity of protecting life?

I am in this small, ugly village called Bodhgaya, famous for being the place of Siddharta Gautama’s enlightenment, making him the Buddha of our time. Until today I used to spent almost the whole day in the beautiful Mahabodhi Temple Complex, which is like an oasis, a small jewel inside this chaotic, dusty (and with the rain muddy), loud and dirty place.

My days where for almost a week marked by the following rhythm: 4 am standing up, one hour later going to the temple to make prostrations and recitation of mantras guided by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Around 11 am I went for an early lunch, sometimes a coffee or to check my mails and all this cyber world. At 2 pm I used to go back for an afternoon session of prostrations and more prayers.

So two days ago it happened that I was kicked out of my until then favorite restaurant and I had to chose another one further away. And this I consider part of the chain of events who leads one to be at the right moment, at the right place to meet the exact person you need to meet for an undefined reason.

I was on my way back to the temple for my afternoon session and in front of the Kalachakra ground (where HH the Dalai Lama uses to give the Kalachakra empowerment) was a guy walking in front of me. I had seen him before with his red bag giving a coin to a beggar. He saw me when I turned into the street and since I was wearing the unique blue volunteer t-shirt of the Kalachakra event last year in Washington DC he immediately asked if I volunteered there. Since that moment there was not one single instance in which we didn’t talk. He is US American with Bolivian parents, living in Washington DC and he also volunteered at the Kalachakra event last year. From the beginning there was a common ground for eternal talks about how we got to Buddhism, the teachings, our practice, similar experiences regarding the Tibetan cause and activism, the Tibetan culture, friends, respect for life, our viewpoint of karma, interdependence, the process of dying and death and who knows what more. For me it seems that there is not enough time in a day to talk about everything and only my motivation of getting up early the next day leads me to go back to my room at my basic but friendly home stay.

Then yesterday when walking through the main street, we saw a few meters ahead a brown, small something looking like a puppy trying to cross this terrible street with all the busses, bike rickshaws, motorbikes and tempos (three wheel motor taxis). If for us human beings it’s a hell crossing it and bearing the noise of the horns, we instantly were shocked how a puppy was managing to cross it. We ran over to the other side to help this little dog who almost got ran over by a motorbike and he seemed so cute and helpless. But as soon as we got to him our “oh how cute!” sensation turned into sheer horror when we saw a huge open wound terribly infected at his back. Both of us needed a few minutes to recover from this shock and to decide to take him to a veterinarian. The shock wasn’t only about how it was possible that a small puppy, not more than 3 to 4 weeks old, was able to get such a profound wound, looking like if another animal just ripped out his flesh, but above all: how all the people just could see him and decide to ignore this helpless being (who as soon as it reached the street’s side decided to lay down as if convinced to wait for death to come there in the middle of the mud, the crowd and the noise). I could hardly bear to see the people laughing at us because we wanted to help him and screaming “take him, come on take him with you!” making a deprecative gesture with the hand. In a plastic bag, we took him to the direction of the Mahabodhi Temple and decided to find something like a pet hospital. A Tibetan lama looked at us, stopped and I asked him for help. He accompanied us for the next hour or so, along with two Indian boys who showed us the place of the veterinarian. This place was a small and dirty, unprofessional something but a hospital. But at least the guy gave him injections and cleaned the wound where worms started to come out.

We bought a small blanket, a bowl and milk powder for Mila and left him with an old man for the night. I think it was more my doing to call him Mila because of Mila Repa, the great yogi, and poet of Tibetan Buddhism who in a lifetime became from being a murderer to an enlightened being. It was him who made the promise that all sentient beings who hear his name should never be reborn in a lower realm (e.g. as an animal). Since I’ve heard this I use to call all the animals Milarepa in order that they might be reborn in a precious human life. And from Milarepa, we just left the name Mila.

Alex and I weren’t really sure if Mila would make it but we prayed for him at the temple in the hopes that the next day he would be alive. Today in the morning we came back to the old man’s place which had no real floor (just the blank hard mud) or walls, sharing it in the night with two cows heating it up with a bonfire made out of paper and garbage.

Mila was in a good mood as we opened the box and we wanted to believe that the huge wound looked even better but still he looked miserable and more since he had dried milk powder all over his head and the box dirty of urine and spat milk. Originally we wanted to look at him, go for breakfast and then come back for him to find a place where he could stay. But after the vet gave him the injections, cleaning as unprofessional as used to be the wound, we decided to take Mila immediately with us. In consequence, a stressful journey started leading us through parts of Bodhgaya which are even more miserable than the actual village around the nice temple of Buddha’s enlightenment.

We saw the “common” poor beggars, thin as a human might be without disappearing from the earth’s surface, kids full of lice, people of all ages walking barefoot in the dirt and muddy streets, which sometimes aren’t real streets and living in poor, trashy huts. We also saw all the garbage - and Mila was an eye opener- all the dogs in poor health conditions, with skin diseases, full of bugs and infectious wounds, all with the deeply sad look in their eyes, reflecting their physical pain as much as the profound suffering in their mind or soul due to starvation, mistreatment by humans and the fight for surviving between themselves. No wonder at all that people with that life condition just doesn’t have any interest left for animals, especially dogs who apparently don’t offer anything in reward (as do cows, goats, and chicken). If there is no loyalty and human behavior among their own kind, how would they know that a dog might be a better friend and companion than possibly any other person around them? If there is no food, medicine, and education for themselves, why share a meal with a dog, why spending money for vexation and how to educate such a useless being as a dog if they can’t even educate their own children?

It was an exhausting trip twice there and back in the outside area of Bodhgaya in search for a dog shelter. Going in a tempo having Mila in a paper box, crying in pain and disturbed emotionally, already traumatized enough by the previous injury. But at the end we could manage it to leave him at this amazing great center called “Maitri” run under Buddhist precepts and ethics of preserving life, helping the most needed, offering shelter to animals and treatment even to the most hopeless cases. But also a huge humanitarian aid for leprosy-affected people, for women and their starved children, medical aid in the remote villages of the Gaya-Region, and even offering education not only for children in a school but also giving courses and training for adults regarding first aid, AIDS prevention, hygienic conditions at home, etc.

Even if the place is such a beautiful option for a dog, because all the hundred dogs there are running around free, not in cage, and the personnel is really caring about the sentient beings, I cried when saying goodbye to Mila, because this little buddy is still in danger and we don’t know if he will survive, though I firmly believe that he is strong and willing to live. I cried in silence on our way back to Bodhgaya; cried because due to him I had a few of the most intense days since I arrived at this part of the world. Mila taught us what no teacher, no university is able to teach: the lesson about unbearable suffering of humans and animals, about loyalty and friendship, about inspiring each other to hold on and move along on our path, about the responsibility of taking care of life in general, about death and impermanence, but above all he taught us the perfections of our human behaviour: compassion, empathy, tolerance, and generosity.

The whole situation made us reflect on the karmic law of cause and effect and the fact of purifying negative karma in the same dimension of accumulating merit through being altruistic. Alex wondered about the negative karma being purified by Mila the same way I said that he must also have done something extremely good so that we all were at the same time at the correct place to run into each other and being able to help him. But not only that: the two days in this whole “Mila-mission” we also encountered difficulties and obstacles. We gave our time, we put our own interests back (like not going to the temple, not being able to eat for hours), we spent a lot of money, I was almost taken out by the horns of a buffalo (out of nothing he kicked me with his horns in my back), Alex stepped outside the veterinarian’s place in a huge cow pat, we drove around in a stressful search for a good place for Mila, I got concussion due to smashing my head against an iron gate and so on. My point is, that we also must have done something in order to find ourselves in exact this situation. We were purifying also a lot of negative actions in the same amount that we were creating the cause of a good karma in the future. In the end, it was also a lesson about the interdependence of all - everything is connected in one or the other way and it is always on us how we react to it and interact with what we encounter.

In the law of cause and effect there is no space for coincidences, therefore you can interpret this story like meant to be, all the events were part of the same chain leading to the whole situation, beginning with a coffee in a new place, a blue volunteer t-shirt and all the rest of it.

Alex is leaving tonight and it seems that it is a goodbye from a friend I know from beginningless time and again there is something I am suddenly aware of: that there is never enough time to spend with a good friend and how valuable each moment is.

I share this story with you not only because it deeply touched and left a heavy impact on me, it also became a priceless lesson of life, but also because Alex and I understood the moment we left Mila at the shelter, that we have taken on us the responsibility of his well being and recovering. Just with leaving him at the shelter is not enough. We were explained that in order to maintain a dog, meaning to pay for his treatment, to pay the vet, the stuff to clean each day his box, to feed him etc. it costs around 2000 Rupies, which is around 38 USD or 30 EURO per month. Even if this amount might be a lot of money for India, and a lot for a dog, but we promised that we would find a way to get the funds for Mila’s stay and treatment. And it might be that part of the money is also to fund all the other aid projects they have at the Maitri Centre, but this is more than understandable and at the end, we want to contribute to this wonderful place. Therefore I would like to appeal to your generosity. Maybe you have a small amount left over from your salary or you didn’t go out for a party and saved a few bills anyway. It doesn’t matter which amount you are willing to give, the open and compassionate heart and motivation are what counts. And even if you decide that you aren’t able to donate, just the fact that you read this ‘til the end was already generous because you gave us your precious time.

Generosity has many forms and each action lead to it, is always unmeasurable, therefore you have all my gratitude!

If you are interested more about Maitri please visit their homepage onwww.maitri-bodhgaya.org And if you would like to donate you can do it by donating directly to their account.

Bodhgaya, India on the 5th of November of 2012

October 16, 2012

When I arrived at Kathmandu I was expecting to work with a so called Lama, who once might really have been a Lama and Yogi, but who resulted to be a complete fraud by now. Back in India in the Tibetan settlement called Majnu Ka Tilla he talked to me when being with a Mexican friend enjoying a nice day. It was a few days before I wanted to leave to a tiny village called Tso Pema or Rewalsar, which means Lotus Lake and where one of the most important figures of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche or Padhmasambhava, meditated in a today holy cave.
Well, this guy (the “Lama”), called Pema Tenley, was also planning to go and said we could team up and travel together.
Well, to make the story (this time) short, he talked about a project he is planning in Kathmandu, where he is living. He wants to built a retreat centre with an orphanage, a clinic for free medical check ups for the local people and I don’t know what else. He already had the land, planted fruit trees and built one retreat hut. I must have had written on my forehead “I want to volunteer for a good project” because it seemed perfect to me that I met him and thus offered my help.
As I said, this time I won’t tell the full story, so I just resume that I wanted to meet him in Kathmandu to help him realise that project.
It didn’t last not even a week or a few days, no, just a few hours after I arrived, for his real intentions to come through: He just wanted me to be his kind of - how to say?- consort?! No idea, but after realising that all my ideas and plans of working as a volunteer in a monastery, of knowing the “real” Buddhadharma and the monastic community, weren’t working at all, and after seeing so much greed in monasteries, misconduct in any way of monks and frustrated nuns, and now a fraudulent Lama who just wanted money from me, and worst of it: he got it, and just have sex, I was totally down. My ideal of Buddhist life, practitioners and Lamas was destroyed and I felt misused, reduced to an object (sexobject) and simply lost in life.
After a week or two I was about to fall into depression and I decided to go out to meet some local people to do whatever: talk and ask what to do and where to go in Kathmandu, hang around or anything that would help to not falling into depression.
In a café I’ve met a young Nepali guy who started to talk to me in Spanish and who was flirting nicely with me. He was handsome and I decided then to go to his shop to talk to him. We went for a tea and the same evening we met to go to a live music bar. He was obviously younger than I: he said 26, at the end it turned out that he was hardly 23 and therefore my record in getting involved with younger guys. Honestly, I have no idea wether I look so much younger or what sort of things I inspire in younger guys to flirt with me?! Since it happened the past years several times I really must have some issue with that. On the other hand I attract much older guys, which bests are willing to cheat on their wives with me. But I really would like to figure out why I don’t find an average old guy? I mean, one who is my age or a few years older, means 31 up to 37, not younger than 30, not older than 38… Is that so difficult, are they so rare or already in some one else’s hand?
Anyway. It was very nice to talk to this guy about music and superficial stuff and after a couple of hours he asked if I would like to go to his place, which turned out to be a motel. And I must confess that not even now I do know why I said just with a nod of my head ‘yes’. An instant later we were on his motorbike and I started to think about how foolish this is. I don’t know who he is, where he lives and I’ve met many decent looking guys who turned out to be complete assholes. Still I tried to make clear that I wasn’t an easy girl to have but he only replied that he was and easy guy to have. Now I wonder: are there guys who are NOT easy to have?
It would be really fun to describe in detail what happened after but for the purpose of this note it doesn’t matter. It’s only important that we started to meet several times during the next two months to have sex. It was a very funny experience and also very exotic. I never hooked up with a stranger and started an affair this type so it felt good even if we both knew and settled from the beginning that it was about only one thing. We also went for dinner and had the attempt once to watch a movie on his laptop but it ended in the same, though I must say that at least we ended up sleeping in our arms, basically hugging, which took the banality of the instinctual a little bit away and gave the situation some sort of fake “tenderness”.
He only needed to text me to ask if I wanted to see him and I went. I have no idea why!? Was it because I was such in need for just one thing and to experience the thrill of the secret and forbidden (because we couldn’t got to my place, he wasn’t allowed to take me to his place and we searched even some weird places to be together). Or was it because I decided not to be a Buddhist nun and saint practitioner and I could do what I wanted, or was it more because somehow we all are human beings who once in a while are in search for affection? Whatever it was, I was there for him. But soon I realised that it wasn’t like this the other way round. Even now I am clear that I wasn’t in love and that it was not more than sexual attraction combined with fun and having a good time. But still it felt unfair that it wasn’t equal.
Before I left Kathmandu we went for dinner and he told me, that he recently had sex with a belgian blonde girl in the toilet of a bar and how exciting this was and how he kind of presumed with that. This happened exactly the time when I asked him to meet me and he didn’t replied. Of course why would he? He was already busy with someone else. And in this precise moment I felt hurt. Not because of jealousy, but because I realised how easy I am exchangeable, not for the first time, not only me. We human beings in general have become and have make us exchangeable like mobile phones. We use people like this: there is a new and interesting model, with nice and modern features and apps, we chose it, we spend time with it, use it, like and even care for it, but as soon as a new, a better and updated model comes around we abandon our previous model. I don’t mean by any chance an “old” model, it’s just an already used and familiar model and we want the more exciting one. So we just exchange it for this newer version, sometimes better version, sometimes not, but it still provokes a new thrill. So then we don’t throw away the previous model, we don’t hate it, we just put it away and keep it somewhere in case we’ll need it again and occasionally we use it again.
This is the consumerism I mean: we get one person and exchange it for another, newer, better one not thinking one moment about the fact that we might not even need another one, that what or who we have has everything we need.
And after this experience with the Nepali guy, my ego felt offended, my self esteem again suffered a small slap in the face, but above all I understood for the first time that it wasn’t only about me. I deeply felt from inside the sadness about what we humans have become, and that the existentialists like Sartre and De Beauvoir where right in their statements. So I came back to my dark, cold and impersonal hotel room, sat down on my bed and cried. I cried for the human kind, and the loss of humanity. Cried because I felt like being used and seen as an object and not as a living being, cried because I made felt others like this, because I have misused other people the way it just happened to me.
And as much exciting and even exotic and nice this experience was, it also leaves a bittersweet taste and the determination to not want to taste this again. I’m just not made for this. I don’t want this, but what about some real and genuine love and affection instead?
I will be looking for it.

July 2, 2012

I met this lovely Tibetan girl called Lhachi. Her parents are taking care of the Guru Rinpoche statue at Tso Pema, India. Since two weeks I am here and the first days I used to go there almost each day to make prostrations, meditate or do butter lamp offerings. When I was doing the latter Lhachi accompanied me and since I always care the “Tibet will be free” bag she asked me if she may take some pictures of me. We started to talk and I liked her immediately, because she has a very open, polite, calm and friendly manner.
Almost each day I went up to the temple to see her and eventually she would teach me a little bit of Tibetan and I would teach her a little bit of Spanish. But we became friends, so teaching and learning became secondary. Through her I was - or still am - invited to drink chai with her and her parents, sometimes her brother, who is a Kempo in one of the monasteries, sometimes other relatives or monks are there. With them I tried the famous salty butter tea, which for most of the westerns is totally not their taste, and tsampa. A “dish” made of barley, tea or simple water, butter and dried yak cheese. You mix everything that way that it becomes like a ball and you eat it just bit by bit. I must confess that I liked both and they wondered how it comes. So we laugh when I say that in another life I was Tibetan myself.
They are such a sweet and friendly, generous family (above all generous with smiles, laughing and chai), with such and amazingly good vibe that I consider myself very fortunate to have them met. They make me feel at home and this is a precious gift.
Since Lhachi leaves tomorrow to Delhi, because she studies there, I went up to see her and it resulted in the longest visit which was practically from 10 until 19 o’clock. First we talked about all the difficulties her uncle, the Rinpoche who built the temple, and her family have to affront with local Indians and government, who are envious because of the success of the big and impressively beautiful temple and Guru Rinpoche statue. Then we switched to the topic of the Mexican movement “Yo Soy #132” where her uncle joined us and resulted in all taking photos of me with the movement’s sign, and them showing respect and solidarity with the movement. Afterwords they invited me for lunch and Lhachi and I kept sitting for hours in the dining room talking about her life, her parents life and how they came to India as Tibetan refugees.
In eastern Tibet they used to be nomads, having horses, cattle and sheeps. Considering the difficult situation for themselves and her elder daughter they took the decision to send her together with her uncle, a Lama, to flee via Nepal to India.
When I listened to her story it felt like being absorbed by a movie, full of suspense, emotions, fears and victories.
From their home she, being like six years old, and her uncle took an open jeep like bus to Lhasa, having a huge amount of luggage like clothes, milk, tsampa, meat, pans and so on. The street was hardly to consider like this but more a way pressed naturally by the passing by of cars and horses. Only one vehicle has space at the time and even this single vehicle was in danger of falling down the abysm. In their journey it happened once, almost twice. The first time the driver could ask everybody to get off the bus before he started the engine again, causing that the bus fell down. Everyone was screaming, the drivers son, the women and Lhachi was hiding her face behind her hands to avoid seeing this scene. Three loops and the bus stopped. Few people ran down immediately to help the driver, who, by the way, open the drivers door and came out like nothing. He said that he was holding as strong as he could to the wheel, making it almost hard to believe, that precisely this saved him.
After three days they managed to get the bus fixed and pulled it back to the street.
Before reaching Lhasa again the conditions were bad. It was raining, the street - which was not - full of mud and the bus was already slipping into the precipice. Two monks managed to jump out of it before falling down themselves and again the driver shouted that everybody should get off the bus. Lhachi’s uncle put her down the floor where she got stuck almost until the hips into mud and she was not able to walk at all. The men helped to secure the bus with trees so it wouldn’t fall down and decided to keep driving the next day by daylight. Full of mud she slept in her nice and warm quilt only to realise the next morning that now there is nothing left clean anymore.
From Lhasa the group was guided by a tall and thin Tibetan to the Himalayas to cross them nearby Mount Everest towards the Nepalese boarder. Once they left the tibetan plateau behind and one step before starting the several day long, non professional trekking through the snow peaks, they had to leave all the heavy baggage and they made a mountain of pans, food, clothes, etc. just in the middle of nowhere, leaving behind everything they possessed.
Being afraid of the Chinese soldiers who are trained to catch Tibetan refugees and bring them back to put them in jail and in many cases to torture them there, they walked by night only and slept during the day hiding in caves.
For that little six year old girl it was such a tedious journey through snow, rocks and icy wind, that even if she and her uncle had the appropriate shoes and clothing it was too much for her. The guide was so fast and she hardly couldn’t follow his steps, so that her uncle had to carry her. Tired and full of fear she prayed so much that the Chinese guys would catch them and just send them back home where mommy and daddy were. But they reached some lakes, indicating that they are about to reach the boarder and the group also walked by daylight.
Once in Nepal they sold their clothes and shoes made for snow to buy from that money a sheep. The owner killed the animal and Lhachi was happy on the one hand to have some solid food again, and crying because sheeps remembered her in that moment (and the future years of infancy) of her home and parents.
The whole group was arrested and put in jail from morning to evening until a blonde, western women came to pay for their fees and took them to the refugees camp. Once they got their refugee certificate they were able to go to India.
Another Tibetan told me that the Chinese government doesn’t expire so easily a passport to a Tibetan because they fear that then all the Tibetans would abandon “China” legally and spread the word about the human rights violations committed against the Tibetans. And I would like to ask all those people who think, that after the Chinese invasion everything changed for good in Tibet and all the Tibetans are living in better conditions, why then they aren’t given a passport? Isn’t that your right as a citizen of whatever country to get an official ID? And if everything is that good, then why do they need to flee?
The United Nations established that each and every single person has the right of an identity, and even if they don’t have a passport at least they get this refugee certificate which with they are allowed to travel and to ask for exile in other countries.
Once in India Lhachi’s uncle brought her to the Tibetan Children Village (TCV) which is kind of a boarding school for Tibetan kids who came under the same conditions to India. Sometimes with only one relative, but sometimes completely alone. Not even knowing where their parents are and for sure not being able to meet their parents ever again.
Lhachi judged them as heartless, wondering how parents could send their kids without anyone taking care of them, without telling them where to go and where to reach their parents.
But I think more of how desperate they must have been, under which terrible conditions they must live, to send them far away. Isn’t it possible that the fear of being caught by the Chinese authorities, if their children tried to get back or were caught as well or simply told the wrong person from where they come, would have led the parents to that unbearable action?
I really don’t dare to judge in any way, it’s just far beyond my understanding and capability.
Tibetans who flee first and then go back to Tibet are always caught, put in jail and often enough tortured, but for sure always interrogated. Sometimes they spent months in jail and when released they are spied, making communication to friends and relatives outside Tibet almost impossible and highly dangerous for both sides.
Since the Chinese soldiers became much more violent and not seldom shoot at refugees while attempting to cross the Himalayas in hope for a better future and life conditions, less children are sent to India. During the five years of being at the TCV, Lhachi tells me, they were about five to six thousand children. Now they are hardly seven hundred and from them also a lot of Indian kids
Now seriously, who believes that Lhachi’s story is only one of few???
I better leave the answer to you.

© Kirsten Penaloza

July 1, 2012

Vor meinem Küchenfenster befindet sich auf dem Dach des Nachbargebäudes die “Küche” des kleinen Schnellrestaurants und Süßigkeitenladens. Die kleine Wohnung, die ich mir mit dem Vater des Hauseigentümers teile, liegt ebenso im ersten Stock. Die Fenster sind verdunkelt, so dass man von außen nicht hinein gucken kann, es sei denn ich habe das Licht an. Um 5:30 Uhr morgens zu jedem Tag beginnt der Arbeitstag für den Koch und den Jungen, der die Tabletts voller bunter Süßwaren in allen möglichen Formen und Konsistenzen hinunter bringt. Unten werden sie an der Hauptstraße, die einzige in diesem kleinen Dörfchen, und günstig gegenüber dem “Busbahnhof” (der keiner ist aber alle Busse halten hier), an den Mann gebracht. Anscheinend erfolgreich, denn den ganzen Tag sitzt der junge Mann auf dem Dach in dieser halb offenen Hütte und rührt, kocht und knetet Massen an Ingredienzen, und formt und schneidet die Leckereien zu, während der Knirps (bestimmt nicht älter als 14) die Treppen mit leeren Tabletts rauf, und mit den vollen wieder runter läuft. Manchmal hilft auch der Chef persönlich mit, wenn er nicht gerade früh morgens, also so gegen 6 Uhr, eine “Eimerdusche” nimmt oder abends seine Trinkkumpanen bewirtet. Zum Glück behält er, wie auch der kleine Knirps, als auch der Koch, bei dieser indischen Art zu duschen stets immer seine Unterhose an. Ich beobachte gerne dieses Treiben, egal zu welcher Uhrzeit. Wenn ich mir morgens einen Chai mache, beobachte ich mit Verwunderung das morgendliche Hygieneritual. Wenn ich das Mittagessen vorbeireite, oder danach das Geschirr spüle, sehe ich dem Koch dabei zu, wie er auf einem sehr niedrigen Hocker (der diese Bezeichnung meiner Meinung nach nicht verdient) sitzt, in seinen blauen Shorts und seinem weißen Hemd und knetet und knetet. Die Ärmel sind hochgekrempelt und man sieht seine sehnigen, muskulösen Unterarme, die hier selten zu sehen sind, denn die große Mehrzahl der indischen Männer sind entweder Haut und Knochen da unterernährt oder aber weich und rundlich (wenn auch nicht dick) da es ihnen finanziell gut genug geht, um ausgediegen essen zu können. Er hat immer ein Cappy verkehrt herum auf. Seine Kinn langen, schwarzen Haare wellen sich an den Seiten um seine Ohren. Ich mag es, ihm bei seinen Tätigkeiten zu zusehen. Wenn er weiter hinten unterm Dach Schutz vor der Sonne sucht und die Masse knetet wirkt sein Gesichtsausdruck und seine ganze Körpersprache so, als ob er meditiert und nichts um sich herum mehr wahrnimmt. Hin und wieder rückt er ein wenig näher zu meinem Fenster. Dann hat er einen riesigen, industriellen Topf mit irgendwelchen gelben, weich gekochten Hülsenfrüchten oder ähnliches vor sich stehen. Sein Hemd zieht er vorher aus, bindet es sich um die Hüfte und sitzt dann im Unterhemd da, während beide Arme in den Topf hinein tauchen. Vorsichtig greift er mit einer Hand in die milchige Brühe hinein und holt gleich seine volle Hand wieder rauf. Die Masse zermalmt er behutsam mit beiden Händen. Jede Bewegung wirkt so gleichmäßig und gediegen, bedacht und gleichzeitig vollkommen natürlich, dass es mich an atmen erinnert. Er arbeitet immer mit dem gleichen Tempo, nie zu schnell, aber rhythmisch und sicher und höchst effizient. Vertieft in seine Arbeit, habe ich ihn noch nie ein Wort sagen hören und wenn, dann immer nur das Nötige. Sein hinter einem kurzen Vollbart verstecktes, aber weich und fein gezeichnetes Gesicht verrät Konzentration, aber keine Verbissenheit, Ernsthaftigkeit, aber absolute Zufriedenheit und vollkommene Hingabe, als ob diese Tätigkeit die einzige ist, die er auf der ganzen Welt ausüben möchte. Nicht weil er nichts anderes kann, sondern weil er nichts anderes will, ganz so, als ob es das einzige sei, was Sinn für ihn mache. Selbst das Geplapper und Gezwitscher des pubertierenden, zum Leben erweckenden Jungen, lenkt ihn nicht ab. Wenn überhaupt hebt er nur kurz den Kopf, um sich dann gleich wieder in seiner Welt zu verlieren. Ich beobachte seine bronzefarbene Haut, gleich die der Mexikaner, wie sie in der Sonne aussieht, seine großen Hände mit den langen Fingern, die behutsam und sicher alles anfassen, das zucken seiner Schultermuskeln, sein Gesicht mit der schmalen Nase und den dunklen Augen (und denke dabei, dass er für einen Inder sehr hübsch ist). Ich bewundere seine meditative Haltung und seinen ruhigen, zufriedenen Ausdruck. Die Stimmung, die er ausstrahlt, wie gerne würde ich mich in ihr verlieren. Ich lächle stumm und schweigend in mich hinein. Er und keiner sonst kann mich sehen, dennoch gilt dieses Lächeln ihm, denn mir wird klar, dass man zu einem zufriedenen Leben eigentlich nichts weiter braucht, als mit Hingabe und Konzentration oder konzentrierter Hingabe das zu tun, was man tun muss und will, egal um was es sich handelt. Vor allem aber braucht man seine innere Ruhe.

© Kirsten Penaloza

June 30, 2012

Bevor ich im Detail mein Reisetagebuch digitalisiere und fast Tag für Tag meine Erlebnisse in diesen Blog setze, schreibe ich erstmal eine kleine Zusammenfassung. Später kann dann jeder, der interessiert ist, die Einzelheiten verfolgen… Mein Indien-Einstieg war recht merkwürdig. Zunächst ziemlich entspannt bei einem Bekannten, wo ich mich sicher fühlte und er mir ein gutes Verhaltenstraining gab. Ich besuchte alleine Agra, wo der Taj Mahal steht und diverse Weltkulturerbe-Stätten der Umgebung. Entgegen der Warnungen, dass es unausstehlich sei, man als Frau von allen Seiten angelabert wird und man von Trauben an Verkäufern umzingelt wird, fand ich es wunderbar. Um 6 Uhr morgens sind nur sehr wenige Leute unterwegs und mit der richtigen Kleidung und Verhaltensweise lassen die Inder einen auch in Ruhe. Dann war ich eine Woche im Norden, in Dharamsala, wo der Dalai Lama lebt und die tibetische Exilregierung ihren Sitz hat. In den Ansätzen des Himalayas, von wo man schon die schneebedeckten Gipfel sehen kann, hatte ich mir erhofft, mehr Ruhe zu finden, um der spirituellen Praxis nachzugehen. Es gibt zwar den Haupttempel, wo der Dalai Lama auch öffentliche Lehren gibt, doch der ist immer voll von Touristen aus der Panjab-Region. Es ist immer Laut und vor allem Westliche werden gerne von Indern fotografiert. Auch wenn es das eine oder andere Meditationszentrum gibt, so fand ich mich nirgendwo wirklich ein. Ebenso gestaltete sich die Suche nach einem Ort für Freiwilligenarbeit als schwieriger als gedacht und erwartet. Ich wollte ja nun auch gerne in ein Kloster gehen, doch wenn sie auch alle Lehrer brauchen, so hat keiner auf meine Anfragen reagiert. In der Stadt selber gibt es unheimlich viele “Sprachschulen”, die Lehrer suchen. Einmal war ich bei einer Konversationsstunde, die allerdings so schlecht strukturiert war, dass ich wohl genauso frustriert wie die Schüler wieder weg ging. Daneben fand ich die Stimmung der Stadt einfach komisch. Als wenn es schlichtweg nur eine Durchgangsstadt wäre, ein Umsteigebahnhof gekoppelt mit einem riesen Angebot an allen möglichen Massagearten, Yoga und Ayurvedischen Krimskrams für die große Anzahl an Hippie-Touristen mit Rastas und Schlabber-Look. Einfach nicht mein Fall. Von einem Tibeter habe ich erfahren, dass die meisten Exiltibeter und politische Flüchtlinge nie länger als 5 Jahre in Dharamsala bleiben, was die Atmosphäre erklärt. Mir sollte es nicht viel anders gehen. Denn nach einer Woche bekam ich schlechte Nachrichten von meinem Anwalt in Mexiko und ich eilte nach Neu Delhi zurück, um eine Vollmacht bei der Botschaft zu beantragen. Über eine Woche steckte ich in dieser lauten, extrem heißen Stadt, in der immer eine Staubwolke wie eine Glocke über der Stadt liegt, fest. Der einzige Vorteil (zunächst) war, dass ich wenigstens Teile von Old Delhi im Universitätsviertel Und dem sogenannten Judenviertel zu sehen bekam. Was in Mexiko nach einem gefährlichem Wohnviertel aussieht, ist hier eine sichere Umgebung, wenn auch die Leute extrem unhöflich sind. Die Menschen in Delhi sind anstrengend, haben keinerlei Anstalten: man rotzt überall hin, Männer greifen sich ungeniert permanent an den Sack, um dann dir die soeben gekauften Mangos mit selbiger Hand zu überreichen und das Geld entgegen zu nehmen, es wird sinnlos gehupt, Müll auf die Straße geworfen und es gibt keinerlei Höflichkeitsfloskeln - kein ‘Hallo’, ‘Bitteschön?’, ‘Danke’ und erst recht keine Verabschiedung. Der Verkäufer scheint völlig uninteressiert an seinem Kunden zu sein, prinzipiell schaut man sich nie in die Augen und Lächeln kommt gar nicht erst in Frage. Ich bin in Deutschland oftmals auf pampige Leute gestoßen, habe den Begriff “Servicewüste” zu verstehen gelernt und war erstaunt über die Arroganz so manch eines Dienstleistenden, dennoch habe ich nie solch eine entmenschlichte (falls es den Begriff überhaupt gibt und ich nicht schon wieder eine Eigenkreation präsentiere) Gesellschaft erlebt, wie in Delhi. Ich dachte, Mexiko sei eine gute Schule, um nach Indien zu reisen und in Hinsicht auf Machos und Chauvinismus mag das auch sein, doch die Freundlichkeit der Mexikaner hat mich sehr verwöhnt und ich vermisse sie. Von allen Dingen vermisse ich die positive Einstellung zum Leben und die freundlichen Gesichter, das überwiegend Höfliche (natürlich sind nicht alle so) und der lockere Umgang miteinander. Hier scheint mir alles so verkrampft! Eine entgegengesetzte Art erlebte ich der tibetischen Siedlung. Und eben dort lernte ich einen Lama kennen, der das selbe Ziel hatte wie ich: ein kleines Dorf im Norden des Landes genannt Rewalsar (indisch) oder Tso Pema (tibetisch). Auf der gemeinsamen Busfahrt lernte ich ein wenig über sein Leben kennen (er ist sehr bescheiden, um darüber zu reden, sowie über die Projekte, die er bereits realisiert hat, wie auch solche, die er noch vor hat. Und mit einem Mal, nach einem Monat in Indien, habe ich einen Weg entdeckt, der mich neugierig macht. Endlich habe ich einen “Platz” als Freiwillige gefunden, wenn auch alles anders kommt, als man es plant.

© Kirsten Penaloza