We went to our local bank to withdraw cash for our upcoming adventure to Bhutan and Northern India.
You would think it should take no time, but we wanted the whole amount in crisp new hundred dollar bills, and it took a long time for the friendly cashier to sort through piles of cash in her vault, in order to select for us bills that were printed after 2006 and had no small tears or pen marks on them.
After our experience in China, where a bank teller refused outright to exchange most of our money, we now make sure to bring overseas only crisp new bills.
More than once while cycling around China, the bank tellers completely rejected our American bills, saying that they were “no good” because the image of Ben Franklin was too faded, or because they had a minor and almost invisible tear or a pen mark on them.
While we sat patiently waiting for her to scrutinize and select nice new bills for us, I picked up and read a children’s book with animal cutouts in it, in the bank’s waiting area.
It was a book of facts about Hippopotami.
Did you know that a Hippo swims all day, eats only grass and that even with all its healthy eating habits and exercise discipline, it still weighs between 2 and 3.5 TONS?
It kinda shakes everything I ever learned about nutrition….
So…. if I were to swim all day and eat only fat free grass or lettuce, I could still gain weight and weigh tons?
Our house is a mess but it feels so useless to clean it well just before departing for two months.
Still, I do not like seeing so much dust around.
It is summer and we have the windows open, which brings much dust into our house.
New neighbors just bought the last available piece of land near us, and they are busy building their house before winter will arrive.
The construction trucks are stirring up clouds of dust as they pass by our house.
We spent the whole day packing and repacking our bags.
My intentions are to “travel light” with a minimal amount of necessities, but that is much harder than it sounds.
I took only light weight travel clothes, and nothing else is particularly heavy, but all together they make my pack rather heavy.
The sleeping bags that we bought, even though they are the lightest on the market, purchased from the superb outdoors company “GoLite,” are still bulky and the air pads, pillows, travel clothes, hiking boots, warm clothes for hiking in high altitude later in November, and all the little gadgets, like a water purifier, multi tool and toiletries, all take space and accumulate to a fairly heavy duffel bag.
I plan to go through my bag one more time, and force myself to take out a few more things.
It is our anniversary day and we went on a date to celebrate our marriage.
We booked an overnight at a nice boutique hotel in Vail Village and a dinner at a creative restaurant.
The room that we got is a large and elegant tower room facing the mountain.
The aspen trees are changing their colors and the slopes looks so majestic, making the mountain ablaze in golden tones.
Before dinner we spent some time in a cafe, writing down ideas of things to do and see in the days we will be in Delhi and in Dharamsala.
I made a long list of good places to eat in Dharamsala, which offer herbal teas, fresh juices and a lot of yummy food (for a stomach used to western food and not yet adjusted to spicy aromatic food.)
I also made a list of yoga and meditation places, as well as places offering classes in Tibetan Buddhism.
For relaxation, I intend to book some Ayurvedic massages while we are in Dharamsala.
My body is achy and I welcome the indulgence and self-spoiling at such reasonable prices.
My stomach is churning in excitement and I can hardly wait.
I know that very few places on earth are as harmonious, quiet and vastly beautiful as our area of Colorado.
But somehow my love of adventures propel me to leave all this behind and it does not seem daunting to step out of all this harmony and beauty and to go into Delhi where the noise levels are high and instead of fresh mountain air, I will breathe exhaust and diesel fumes….
Before dinner, we went for a long walk around Vail Village, and into the manicured alpine garden donated and planted by Betty Ford.
The American President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, were two of the pioneers of Vail Valley, and they established their residence here.
The garden felt very harmonious with many water fountains, albeit a bit overly manicured as both Vail Village and Beaver Creek Village are.
As I walked along the garden path, admiring the perfectly manicured green grass, I enjoyed the flowers, the alpine architecture of Vail Village and the quiet.
I reflected about how we will soon fly into a whole different world….. A world which is the exact opposite of the one we leave behind us…
I do not mean that all of America is exactly the opposite, even though the sensibilities and the public expectations of basic living standards and political freedom, are indeed very different in the USA from how they are in many parts of Asia.
I specifically mean that THIS part of America is very different from the world we will soon be flying into.
Here in the mountains, the ski resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek are especially well cared for and manicured.
Vail Resort aims to be the premier and number one luxury resort in all of the USA.
The mountain has many peaks and a lot of acreage, making it one of the largest in the USA.
They groom more ski runs than any other ski resort on the planet, and the village has houses by the mountains, selling for 25-40 million dollars or more.
The villages are thus maintained to extremely high standards to measure up to the expectations of the wealthy residents, and of those who pay the high cost of coming to ski here.
A hotel room in this area during ski season, averages $400-$600 per night, and it cost about $100 per person per day, for a ski pass.
Add to it the cost of food in one of the many upscale restaurants in the area, and you can see why the sidewalks, parks, rivers and the villages, are kept so well and are so beautified.
In the part of the world we will be flying into soon, if the pavement and the streets are not torn and kept somewhat clean of rubbish, the local residents would consider it great.
None of them expects beautiful artistic benches to be placed at short intervals along the river, bronze public sculptures, well maintained flower beds, water fountains, special kids’ parks and recreation zones, free education offering wildlife lessons nor tons of money poured into beautifying every aspect of the place….
So why am I so excited to leave this place and to go and walk the busy and dirty streets of Dharamsala, where it is recommended not to walk in any dark alley after nine in the evening or you risk getting robbed?…..
Why is it that I look forwards to drinking salty Tibetan tea with yak butter, and eating in backpackers places with questionable hygiene?….. Anyone’s guess is as good as mine…