Bodhgaya Day 2

I ended up getting to bed quite late the previous night, but I still woke up on the early side, around 8AM.  Not wanting to waste any time, I showered and dressed and headed up to the Be Happy Cafe for breakfast by 9:30.  Since I was somewhat disappointed with yesterday’s breakfast, I ordered oatmeal porridge with the works which included milk, honey, bananas, and pomegranate seeds, toast, and a cafe latte.  This breakfast was significantly better than the last.  I spent some time at the cafe blogging and drinking lattes.  Eventually RIccardo came in and joined me, figuring he’d give the coffee a try.  I didn’t stay long because I needed to checkout of the hotel by noon, so I told Riccardo that I’d text him later and left.

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When I got back to the hotel there was a bus full of Indian tourists that had just arrived and they were making a big commotion in the hallways.  I went into my room and finished packing my bags, bringing them downstairs to store for the day, though I did bring my backpack with some warm clothes for later.

My first planned stop was the Thai Temple, but it was closed when I got there and wouldn’t reopen for nearly an hour.  I started walking around looking at the tables and booths of the street vendors.  I came across a Tibetan man selling the most beautiful wool blankets/shawls.  There was one in particular that caught my eye but it was pretty expensive and he didn’t want to take what I offered him, so I moved on.  A few minutes later I found a nice shoulder bag that I really liked and he was willing to take only 200 INR for it which is about $3.  I walked further looking at many of the vendors along the way up to the Mahabodhi Temple, and then at the top of the street I turned into the Tibetan quarter where I found some wonderful gifts, but no one else sold blankets like the one I saw earlier.  I headed back down toward the Thai Temple and approached the Tibetan man with a slightly higher offer which he took.  Having found everything I was looking for I was able to now get into the Thai Temple which was a glorious masterpiece, or perhaps a showpiece.  The grounds were largely inaccessible, but inside the temple it was magnificent.  Every wall was painted in spectacular colors depicted various scenes with Buddha.  There was a large gold Buddha statue front and center and amazing details all over the room.  Even the outside of the temple was incredible with two large statues covered with little mirrors.

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From there I went back to the Kagyu Tibetan Temple to get a look inside, but this one wasn’t yet open from lunch.  I quickly went back and took a peek at the giant Buddha statue and when I got back to the temple it was open.  The grounds of this temple were much more open and accessible, though there were many police scattered around.  The architecture and design inside was beautiful.

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The next temple I visited was the Bhutanese temple which from the outside is commanding and the inside is so intricate and detailed.  It’s hard to convey the beauty, even in words and pictures, because they don’t really do these temples justice in comparison to being there.

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Beginning to get a little hungry, I started to make my way back up to my favorite restaurant, Mohammad’s and got some momos and lassi.  I ate quickly while playing on my iPad and once again followed that up with coffee at Be Happy.  Thinking I’d stop in the park and work on the blog for a while, I left the cafe and made a quick stop at the Vietnamese Temple which was nearby.  This temple was much less of a showpiece than the Thai temple.  Simple and zen-like in it’s design, a true monument to Buddha, with a statue that you could approach, unlike in most of the temples, and a peaceful garden outside.  Unfortunately, they were about to close so I couldn’t spend very much time there.

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On the way back to the park I began looking at some of the vendor tables.  A young teenager approached me and started talking to me in the same way that most of the people on the street did, but something about him was different.  I was doing my best to ignore him or blow him off, but he continued to follow me around.  We approached the Nyingpa Tibetan temple and I decided to go inside.  I was a little apprehensive about leaving my sandals outside for fear that he might try to steal them, not knowing his intentions.  But when I returned, he was waiting outside and my sandals were where I left them.

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We continued walking towards the park, but I decided to pass the park and stop at the Chinese Temple first.  The temple was quite impressive on the outside, and relatively simple on the inside.  There were beautifully painted murals on the two side walls and three gold Buddha statues directly ahead, but behind glass.

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I didn’t stay long because the kid, whose name turned out to be Jitesh, warned me that the park was closing soon.  I left the temple and he was waiting outside and a few other kids had come up to talk to him. I headed up to the park and Jitesh once again followed me, but it was closed.  He suggested we head down to the giant Buddha statue, and since I had nothing left to see I agreed.  As we approached near my hotel, which was on the way, we noticed that the Japanese Temple had a bell ringing, indicated the start of a daily 5PM meditation.  We headed inside the temple grounds, at my suggestion, and I removed my sandals outside.  Jitesh was just standing there, so I asked if he wanted to come inside and meditate with me.  He joined me inside where a monk could be heard chanting in what I assume is Japanese and the two of us found a spot to sit down.  I engaged in a combination of kriyas and meditation, and by the end I felt great.  At one point a man tapped me on my shoulder and offered some insect repellant because there were mosquitos out.

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After the meditation was over, Jitesh and I left and I sent a text to Riccardo about dinner.  I told Jitesh that I was planning on meeting him for dinner and began walking back towards the Tibetan quarter.  Jitesh and I talked more as we walked, telling me how his dad worked in Patna and hadn’t been able to send money to his mother for food for Jitesh and his sister.  Though I can’t be certain he was telling me the truth, I wanted to believe him because he seemed sincere, and truth be told his presence had grown on me.  I invited him along for dinner and he accepted.  I even offered to allow him to order extra to bring home to his mother, but he said that she wouldn’t eat restaurant food, only what she could make herself.

On the way up to the restaurant we ran into the two boys from my first night in Bodhgaya.  They began walking with us and asked if I would come to the orphanage that they had previously spoken about.  They told me it was close, and though I remained skeptical, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt.  To me it felt like a lesson in faith, and I was willing to trust my heart and ignore my head.  It was quite dark at this point and we seemed to be walking into an even darker area off the beaten path which made me feel a little anxious.  Still, I continued the leap of faith and followed along which shortly led us to a door with a white and red sign that had the name Elizabeth Orphanage, a Christian organization.  One of the two boys, Priye, knocked on the door and spoke to a girl who was on the other side.  They spoke for a while, in Hindi, before she finally opened the door to let us in.  We entered into what appeared to be an outdoor foyer with a tarp for a roof.  Several children were around and they seemed quite happy and excited to see me.  I was led into a small room that doubled as a classroom and a sleeping area for the boys.  There was only one bed in the whole facility which was only four rooms, a bathroom, kitchen area, rooftop, and the outdoor foyer.  The bed belonged to the pastor that ran the facility.  All of the kids, about 20-25 of them, piled into the classroom and one by one each child introduced themselves to me, shaking my hand and asking for my name.  They were all so polite and charming, each of them had smiles that belied the tragedy of their circumstances.  Their joy was infectious.  They were led in a number of English and Hindi songs by a man who I was told was their Hindi teacher.  

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I was asked if I had any questions and told that they would be interested in learning something about my life, and my country.  They were shy at first, but soon they were asking a few questions.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to talk about, but they seemed excited just to have me there with them.  We took some pictures together and thanked each other for spending the time.

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Priye, Jitesh, the other boy, Amar, and I sat down outside on some chairs, followed by the Hindi teacher.  They told me about what they were trying to do and showed me a guestbook that had thousands of entries by people from all over the world.  Obviously they were looking for some money, and I was all too happy to help seeing the conditions that these children had to live with.  But I was determined to do more than just give a little bit of my own money.  I promised to try to raise more money for them when I returned home, and intend to follow through with that.  In India there are so many people that have little to nothing, and these children are among those with the least, though even they are lucky enough to be in this orphanage instead of out on the street.  I knew a little money would go a long way to provide beds, clothes, food, and needed repairs, and I knew that I could help.  I thanked them all for bringing me and the three boys and I left.

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Outside I asked Priye and Amar if they wanted to join us for dinner and we set out to meet Riccardo, who had texted me to meet at the Tibet Om Cafe just a few minutes earlier.  The five of us enjoyed a very nice meal together, consisting of mostly momos and soup, as well as conversation.  While the food was delicious, it wasn’t as good as Mohammads.

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After dinner we walked Riccardo back towards his guest house, but he stopped at Mohammad’s for some coffee and wifi, so we said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch.  Priye, Amar, and Jitesh led me back to my hotel via a shortcut and soon we were standing in front of my hotel when Umesh drove up on his motorcycle.  I said goodbye to the boys and coyly slipped Jitesh some money for his family.  I retrieved my bags and was quickly whisked away in the taxi towards Gaya station.

It was quite dark out on the road to Gaya, but we made good time because there wasn’t much traffic on the road, comparatively, at this hour.  Unfortunately, we made too good time, as I knew I was in for a wait, even if my train was on time.  We arrived at about 9:45PM for an 11PM train.  I paid the driver and headed into the station, lugging my heavy bags, looking for a place to sit down and wait.

There was a large waiting room that was full of people, not like the rooms I was used to in other stations, but I found a spot on the platform where I could set my bag down and use it as a seat.  Unfortunately, from this vantage point I couldn’t see the monitors displaying the timetables or hear the announcements.  I knew that my train was running about an hour late from a website that I found on my phone.  After about an hour, as the train grew even later, I relocated to an area where I could see the monitors and hear the announcements.  I found a spot on a square bench wrapped around a pillar and put my stuff down to wait.  Once comfortable I pulled out my journal and began writing.  Before long I had a small audience around me curiously watching as I wrote in the journal.  The woman next to me would laugh whenever I caught her peeking.  A few people tried to speak with me, mostly in Hindi, but I could barely converse with them because their English was very limited.

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As time went on my train, and in fact most of the trains, seemed to grow later and later due to the fog that is fairly common in this area this time of year.  Some of the people who had been watching me write departed on their trains, and other curious people replaced them.  Finally, at nearly 3AM, about 4 hours after my train was due to leave I moved to Platform 3 where the train was expected to arrive soon.  A portly man and an older porter confirmed that I was in the right place, and after about 30 minutes the train arrived.

I easily found the correct coach, and my bed, secured my luggage, made the bed, visited the restroom, and settled in to sleep.  A very pleasant ending to a very long night.

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