My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gone to Kalachakra

With Christmas just passed, many houses on Christmas day placed lights in front. I was thinking that they were for the holidays. They were, but not for Christmas. It turns out that yesterday was the day that Je Tsongkapa born and died. Who is Je Tsongkapa you ask? Well is the founder of the Geluk order of Tibetan Buddhism, to which HHDL's is also a part of. Geluk is the largest sect in Tibetan Buddhism and their highest ideal is the scholar. Je Tsongkapa was a great scholar and yogi, and is held in the highest esteem for followers of the Geluk tradition known as Gelukpa. So the lights in McLeod Ganj, were not for Jesus but for Je Tsongkapa. Yesterday morning HHDL conducted a puja, and also that night at the main temple there was another puja by the monks of Kirti monastery. It was quite a site since all around the temple butter lamps were lit. Thousands of them, plus many people circumambulating the temple. After a while monks from the Namgyal Monastery came chanting a beautiful prayer. Afterwards the monks of Kirti showed up wearing the Yellow hats that are typical of the Geluk sect. They marched from their monastery to the main temple. We could see them as we circumambulated and they chanting a different song, but eventually everything turned in one group of motion. With the walking, butter lamp lighting, chanting, prayer spinning, and incense burning I had a feeling of churning. Kind of like butter but not tangible. The monks of Kirti Monastery circumambulated once and then they sat in the Buddha temple to chant about Je Tsongkapa. I enjoyed being churned, carried away by the multiple events that surrounded me at the moment. This is going to be it from me for a while. Next Sunday I travel down to Amaravati for the Kalachakra empowerment which last for two weeks. So I won't have internet access for a weeks. I will post as soon as I can about the event. The pictures seen here are of Je Tsongkapa and the Kalachakra deity with consort Vishwamata. Catch ya later, dude.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Winding down

This a picture of a sunset from McLeod Ganj.
I took it while sitting on the roof of a cafe owned by TCV on Temple Rd. For the pass two months every single evening had sunsets such as these, but that is about to end for a while. For the pass few days heavy clouds have settled above the mountains dusting them with snow. I heard thunder for the first time in months this past Wednesday and it sprinkled a bit yesterday. A site that can not be missed in McLeod Ganj are the walking bushes. Underneath these bushes one will find small little women, but some times men. They are of the Pahari speaking Gaddi people who live around upper Dharamkot. They used to lived in McLeod Ganj, but due to the expansion and tourism they have moved. They walk a pretty long way with those bushes on their backs and they walk doubled over at the waist the whole way. So, one usually does not see them, just the bushes with legs navigating around McLeod Ganj streets. They are getting ready for the winter. They only get one type of tree. I can recognize the tree now though I do not know what the tree is. At times one can see a woman high up on a tree with out any ropes, cutting branches down with a huge knife. Changing topics..... School has ended at TCMEC. Yesterday we had a gathering/ graduation for the students with music and food. We all said our goodbyes, eventhough I will be back in the spring. I will be gone for about a month. I will be in South India attending the Kalachakra Empowerment. Check out . Well, I am now thinking of moving again. My friend Dean is currently living with a Tibetan family and I am thinking of moving in with them. But they charge is the same that Dolma ( the lady that I was living with when I first got here charged). But, I truly to would like to have a family experience. I have spoken to Dolma, and she has gone down on the price, but regardless I think I will try to live with the family. But I have not totally made up my mind yet, I do not have much time left before I head down south. McLeod Ganj, has been emptying out. Many of the Inji's have left for the New Year's trance parties in Goa. Many Tibetans have left already of the Kalachakra. It is going to be interesting when I come back in February. It will be cold and empty. But I am looking forward to it. There will be so many people at Kalachakra. I have heard estimates up to 300,000 people. Oh, I almost forgot. I might be in a documentary. There is a guy from Thailand who shot a scene with Dharamsala president of SFT ( Students for a Free Tibet) and the associate director of TCCR (Tibetan Center of Conflict Resolution) and me. I was the Inji voice and supposedly added "diversity" to the shot. It was quite fun and I enjoyed it. The holidays are here and I will attend some "fiestas". Next week I will still work in the TCMEC office until I leave for Amaravati. That is it. Merry Christmas and all that jazz.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mist of Oceanic Wisdom

It has been a very busy for the pass two weeks, just for those who have been wondering, LOL. I had decided not to update last week because of the upcoming teachings being given by HHDL. But within a week, Mcleod Ganj has experienced a up flux in new Tibetan arrivals from all parts of Tibet due to the teachings and the Kalachakra intiations next month. It is so apparent, these Tibetans carry themselves in a much different manner than Indian-born exiles, for one they all wear the traditional clothes. Some of the attire is amazing. Some men will have thick red cords that wrap around their head like a wreath. Some women will have only the back half of their heads braided in tiny braids that join at the back with neat knot. Yesterday I was walking up Temple Rd with the Venerable Tashi Tsering la, and he was telling me where they came from by looking at their dress. "Oh he is from Ladakh, they are Amdo, they are from Kham" etc. From what I hear, they are coming in the thousand from inside Tibet to go to the Kalachakra and that most will return to Tibet after it is over. At a week and a half ago there was a huge march from Mcleod Ganj to lower Dharamsala. The reason for this was because, in Lhasa, Tibet there is a colossal monastery called Drepung. Inside Drepung some of the monks staged a protest in which resulted the arrest of 5 monks. They where protesting a "re-education program" that Chinese government had placed on the monastery. The goal of this program to instill patriotism in the monks, since it is through the monastery that the Tibetan freedom in mostly alive. So it seems like throughout the world different Tibetan NGO's have been staging marches and demonstrations. That day I did not attend the march, cause I heard of it after the fact but I heard the yelling from my room. Last Saturday, Tibetans celebrated the day the HHDL received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. At the main temple there was a Himalayan festival, with music and dance from all over the Himalayan region. Then that night at TIPA, there was a contemporary music festival with some pretty good Tibetan artist. This was a bit of relief for me since the last TIPA show that I went to was pretty rough. There was one female singer named Chokey, some of my Tibetan friends told me that she is called the Tibetan Shakira. She definitely is not a Shakira, but I will have to give it to her that is the first Tibetan male or female that I have seen who knew how to move their hips. And she was energetic. Most Tibetan singers don't really move when they sing, they stand there like beanpoles. Oh, and then there was a Tibetan rap song. VERY INTERESTING!!! At the end of the concert Chokey invited the crowed on stage to do some shaking of their own, ironically a majority of the dancers where mostly Inji's and Tibetan dudes. I have had the pleasure to meet the mother's of two BC Tibetan girls. I met Tenzin Khandoe's mother just yesterday, and last week I met Tenzin Dolkar's family. It is great to meet the family side of these folks that I know from BC. But the highlight of my week was attending the HHDL teachings. Tibet Charity had cancelled school for the week so we had the time to attend. They lasted for five days starting December 12th and ending on the 16th. On the 11th people on already secured their spots on the floor, which I did also. HHDL taught in the Buddha Temple. These teachings were requested by the Korean sangha, so there was many Koreans in town. Each day the teachings starting around 9am and lasted to 11:45am and then started again at 1pm to 3pm. Each time we entired the temple we had to go through a pat down and search with security. At the beginnings of each teaching tons of folks will circumambulate around the Buddha and Kalachakra temples. Usually when I got to my spot, I will stop and watch as the crowd of Tibetans and Injis murmuring mantras under their breath walk around the Temple. Then after taking this in, I will follow suit. Obviously of the whole day the highlight is seeing the HHDL walk to and from his throne. From my spot I could clearly see him as he taught and also when he left walking down the stairs that I sat by. He'll be just feet from me. One day he had started alittle early. I was trying to go the stairs to my spot but the guard had stopped me and few others, so as we waited there he was right in front of us. We all stared as we watched him scale the stairs. The actual teachings were great, His Holiness is extreme erudite in his explanation of the Buddhist tenets. Being that he is from the Gelukpa school, known for complex scholasticism, HHDL shows his true colors in his wisdom. The knowledge that comes out of him is just incredible. The basis of the teachings on a book called "The eight verses of training the Mind". So HHDL first outlined several various Tenets' arguments on consciousness from Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools. For the most part HHDL argued from the Madyamika (Middle view proposed by Nagarjuna) prospective. The other schools that he discussed were Chittamatrin (Mind-only proposed by Vasubandhu and Asanga), Vaibashika (ancient Hindu School), and Samkhya ( Hindu School also found in various yogas). HHDL will first describe in detail all of these schools thought's on mind and consciousness and then he will elaborate on then with his own commentary. It is great to watch as he did his thing. His body and composure as spoke helps to connect with what he is teaching. If you what to learn more I suggest that you get some books. research or something for I am in no position at this point to explain what was said. But on the first day, there were a group of new arrivals sitting next to me. I had said some few things in Tibetan to them. On guy whispered to me if I know now to read Tibetan. I whispered back "tets tets" "alittle". What insued was a brief written conversation in Tibetan. I found it quite amusing for I was glad that I could at least write where I am from in Tibetan, although it is not truly a huge accomplishment. The translation could my heard in English over the FM radio, and the translator was great. He himself was a monk and a great scholar. I only understood basic words from HHDL, for he mostly spoke in Dharma language and honorific. I noticed that younger Tibetans were also listening to the translation on the radio for it if quite difficult for them too. The older folks had traditition Tibetan scriptures and were follwing along quite nicely. I hope that evenutally I will be able to understand with out radio cause it is cumbersome. I have found two courses offerings in India. One in Dehra Dun and one in Dharamsala. They are two year intensives in Tibetan, and I am trying to see if this is possibility for me. They cost money, but it is not much by US standards. I will continue to search to see what oppertunities I can find. I would total love to attend a two intensive course. I will see what develops. So now that teachings are over. There is one week of class at TCMEC, and then I will prepare to head to South India for the Kalachakra. Dorje Rinchen la aka Dorje Momo has left already for the Kalachakra. Many Injis are going to Goa for the New Year. So Mcleod Ganj is aboutt to become a ghost town with many Tibetans and Injis leaving. Yesterday at the temple there was a huge puja (ritual) to protect the area from earthquakes. Last tuesday around 3:30am a tremor had gently rocked Mcleod Ganj. I was sleeping so I did not feel anything. I found out about it through my Pema my tutor that day. Then I read the paper and saw that several tremors were felt from Afganistan all the way Fuij. So well see if the puja will help us out. I am getting a bit tired so I am going to ditch out. I hope that everyone has a great holidays, though I have to say I am so glad that it is not a big deal here. Once again reporting from the Tibetan capital-in-exile this Hotfoot saying "Peace out, Bitches"


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Trilingual Prospects? Not!!

This week I have been a bit more active than usual. To start out, I woke up early last Wednesday to go to the Main Temple, for it was a holiday celebrating the day that the Buddha Descended from Tushita (Pure Land) to earth. Thus, there was a ritual happening at the temple. Most people pretty much circumambulated the temple while the ceremony was going on. All around the temple people offered prayers. And many had been in front of the temple doing full body prostrations. Since it was a holiday there was no school. But I do have to say that the mention of these holidays just creep up on every one, for not even the director of the school know about the holiday. So while at the temple, I ran into two other teachers and we talked about going to the Gyuto Monastery ( about 30 minutes from Dharamsala) to see His Holiness the Karmapa. So at around 12:30pm we heading to the monastery. This place is huge and extravagant in contrast to the poor Indian community that surrounds it. When we got there we circumambulated the temple and then submitted our passports numbers to the security guards so that we can receive blessings from the Karmapa. Afterwards there was a puja (ritual) going on in the temple. Now the monks from the Gyuto Monastery are world famous for there yang style of chanting, which involves producing the most amazing vocal harmonics over and under there main vocal tone. So many people were gathered outside the temple just in amazement at the sounds that were exiting the temple. I have heard this style of chanting before but to hear five hundred monks hitting these surreal harmonics is truly an experience. And then it came time to receive the blessing. We all crammed into a room after being padded down by the guards. I had just previously purchased a Katak in the temple, so the people (a mixture of Tibetans and Injis) took out there Kataks. And then, first we made a line and one monk placed the Kataks around everybody's head as we headed to another room where the Karmapa was given blessings. The Karmapa is quite young, maybe about 20-21 years old. As I walked towards him, I looked him square in the eye and he then handed me a red blessing cord and that was it. I was thinking to myself, man!! this guy doesn't look quite so happy. I mean he does this twice a week, with about 300 people coming each time. I know that if I was him, I will look quite bored myself. But the Karmapa does have a reputation of being quite stern looking. He does have a energy about him. After that I found myself at the Norbulingka Institute, which is suppose to be an exact replica of the Dalai Lama's summer palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Again it is a beautiful facility surrounded by poor Indians. The focus of the institute is the preservation of Tibetan Culture through art. We met many young Thangka Painters (intricate religious silk paintings) as they were working on their pieces. We met woodworkers, metal workers, and embroiders. They were all at work on there pieces as we walked around taking pictures at what they were doing. The best moment was when we went to the woodworking shop and there were about fifteen Tibetan women sitting cross-legged on small benches sanding wood and gossiping. When they saw us, it led to a uproar amongst the women, especially for James ( a young handsome British dude). Then with my choppy Tibetan, I had caused another uproar as I conversed with the women. They were teasing one of their fellow workers by saying that her face looked similar to James. The poor women was trying to defend herself from the comments of her coworkers. At last as we were about to leave, I asked if I could take a picture of them and I ended by telling them "Khyerang tso peh nyingje bo doo" (You all are very pretty), which cause a last and very loud uproar. They were literally howling on their benches. That day had been a productive day of minor touring and pujas. And it is great down there for one gets a better sense of the mountains. On Thursday, it passed with my third view of the Dalai Lama sitting the Indian shotgun side of the beige toyota waving all the way up to the temple. I was suppose to lead a class that day because the teacher was going to Tso Pema (A sacred lake close by that has a cave in which it believed that the Indian Tantric Guru Padmasambhava practiced meditation). It is also said that in this cave imprinted in the rock is Padmasambhava's handprint due to the tantric power that he had gained from his practice. For those not in the know, he is said to have brought Buddhism to Tibet a long time ago. So I did those classes which was totally fun by telling them about Native Americans since it was Thankgiving and it gave me a break from working in the office very morning. Changing topics, I have become a regular of a restaurant called Shangri-La (what an appropiate name heh? LOL). I pretty much eat there 3x a day, it is ran by the Gyurmey Monastery in South Indian and I have made friends with the monks who work there. They don't mind dealing with my Tibetan unlike other folks. One of the funny thing is that I don't know any of their names. Anytime I need their attention I just say "Kusho La"(Honorific for Monk) and bam I am in a conversation. Anyways a few days ago at Shangri-La I met a woman from Colombia and we were talking with each other. Her English was not so good, so I spoke to her in Spanish. She was asking me if many Tibetan who escape to India walk across the Himalayas. So I asked Kusho La how he had gotten to India. Well what happened was that Kusho La's English was non-existent and the Colombian Lady was in the same boat, so that led me to play translator totally unexpectedly. It was a hilarious position for me to be in. Here I am with the Tibetan language skills of a 4 year old, the Spanish skills of a 13 year old translating back and forward between them. Many times some of my responses to the Colombian from the monk, was mix up Tibetan, English, Spanish garble. I will afterwards then noticed that she will shoot a face of utter confusion at what had just escaped by mouth. Eventually I survived this interaction. This might be a taste of what is to come if I became a translator. Big, Big "IF". Anyways now comes a Italian man who joins us after the monk had left and I was translating between him and the Colombian lady. Wow, I as mentally exhausted. I had mentioned to her Dorje Rinchen a.k.a Dorje Momo's story and she wanted to met his family. So I first asked him if it was ok to bring her to one of our lessons, which was fine with him. So yesterday at about 6pm we met in front of Shangri-la and headed to Dorje's pad. We first had our lesson for a hour, and then Dorje told his story to lady, through me as psuedo-translator. This was more tiring than the night before, but I pulled it off miraculously. What made the experience so special was that the French mountaineers that Dorje and his wife on ran into in Nepal took pictures of them. And Dorje had them. Now those were potent pictures. Dorje and his wife's face was totally frozen and you could see what they had been through on their faces. There was some true power there. That brought the whole story home. At first, I was quite cautious about bringing the lady to Dorje's place, for they are not a museum place that tourist can just waltz up into the place. But Dorje's receptivity to telling his story, brought an experience to the Colombian lady that she would not of had if she had just listened to those long haired women hungry cat-daddies who hang about the streets of Mcleod Ganj. That was seen and heard was at least authentic. So that is that. My last rant, is that this week has been the week of meeting Spanish speaking folks. While at the Norbulingka Institute, I met a group of seven Spaniards traveling around India. Then yesterday the Colombian lady, whose named is Marseilla by the way, and I were dining at a popular restaurant that Injis love called Khana Nirvana. While there a lady approached us and asked Marseilla in Spanish if she was Colombian. The lady was also from Colombia and her name was also Marseilla. She was there with her American husband and son. They are teaching at the American Embassy School in Delhi and will be India for two years. We had a big ole conversation in Spanish, so this week I had spoken more Spanish than I have since I had left Panama when I was twelve years old. Well that is my week. Reporting from the Tibetan capital-in-exile, this is Hotfoot wishing everyone a Happy Turkey day, or Tofurky day and Buy Nothing Day


Monday, November 21, 2005

Kangra Fort

Yesterday was the first day that I have actually left Dharamsala since I have arrived. A group of us had met at the busstand at around 8:30am and took a jeep to lower Dharamsala. We squeezed about 9 people into a jeep. It was also the first time seeing the main road that leads to McLeod Ganj. I was surprise to know that a military base is directly below McLeod Ganj. When I had arrived in Dharamsala, my bus dropped me off in lower Dharamsala and not McLeod Ganj. So when I took a taxi up, we went by the road that passed the Exile government building. That is why I did not see that main road. When we finally reached lower Dharamsala, there was about twenty folks rushing the jeep. I had to push my way out of the ride. By the time that we had got out, all those folks had some how squeezed into that tiny ass jeep. I had almost lost my waterbottle in the process, but a sadhu baba in the jeep had found it, so we gave a couple of rupees (which some injis call rupes) to him. Another first of the day was taking a true grudgy Indian bus to Kangra. It is only about 14 km to Kangra from Dharamsala, the bus ride was great. The seats were not long enough, thus my knees could not fit in. The seat are hard as nails. But the smell of incense and the stare of Shiva and Parvati from the bus altar brought me some reassurance.The temperature and flora and fauna changed drastically, it was hotter with more true jungle. Throughout our group we have been saying that this was our chance to see the real India, for being in McLeod Ganj is so different. Mainly because of the tourism. I found this kind of interesting, for I do not have quite the same sentiment. No doubt that McLeod Ganj is set up for tourism and the Tibet culture is heavily present, to me it is the multifacetness that make this country so astonishing. Just with the amount of languages that it contains, I do not think that there is one India. Once in Kangra, we met up with our tour guide named Vikram. He had lived all his life in Kangra, and wants to attract tourism to the area. So far the state tourism of the Himachel Predesh focuses on McLeod Ganj and not the many other relics that can be found. From Kangra one can see the entire Himalayan foothill mountain range, that scenery is one that can not be seen in McLeod Ganj. First, Vikram took us to Hindu temple devoteed to Devi called the Brajeshwari Devi Temple . We had to take our shoes off and present offerings to the goddess who resided in the main mandir (temple). Outside the mandir there were many other side temples holding Shiva lingams, and the 12 manifestations of the goddess Kali. This temple is built on a site that has been holy for 4,000 years. The story goes that Shiva's first wife was Sati. Sati's parents did not approve of Lord Shiva ascetic ways. So due to the disapproval from Sati's parents, she threw herself into a fire or her parents did (I can't remember Vikram exact words). But in either case Shiva was not happy with this turn of events. So he took different part of the ashes and dispersed them around India. Sati breasts where placed at the Temple that we were visiting and thus it has been known for the practice of left-handed Tantra, which today is illegal. Somewhere in Assam, Sati's vagina is placed and at that temple left-handed tantricism in still practiced. Vikram told us that in Assam they will closed the Temple for ten days for tantric rituals. The whole story interesting, especially to the fact that Sati is also a event in which a widowed wife is suppose to throw herself into her husband's funeral pyre out of devotion. In some cases the other people end up throwing a widowed wife in the pyre. I enjoyed that temple and the associations that it had with Shiva and Tantra. After the temple we had tea with Vikram family. Inside Vikram house one sees a silk hanging of Buddha with Indian figures in the teaching mudra. A picture of Jesus, a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and a picture of Sri Sri Satya Sai Baba. I thought that is shows the Indian way of accepting various holy people of different faiths. And we asked Vikram about his choice of various faiths in his room. He said that he truly felt that all religions boiled down to how we treat each other and that they set up in the direction towards selflessness. I know that I tend to think that way myself, but at the same time I have seen the opposite due to what I feel to be identification as a person of a religion than a person striving for planetary betterment. After Vikram's place we had incredible lunch at Indian dhaba (Cafe). The food was incredible and so cheap. In McLeod Ganj it is a bit pricy. Eventually we hopped on some richshaws and headed for Kangra Fort. The fort is supposed of been built during the times of the great Indian epic the Mahabharata. It reminded me of something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of doom. There were so many little side paths that looked like dungeons. Places were tons of booby traps could easily be imagined. I feel sad that my references of the fort came from popular movies. That reinforces how much effect pop culture has had on me and the world. I referred to the fort saying " Wow, this is just like Indiana Jones" but when the fact of the matter is that this fort was created way before Indiana Jones and had it own identity separate from Inji pop culture. The coolest thing out of the whole trip was when Vikram took us to spot were we had to tread some water through a river and we looked up the rock cliff and we saw a secret walkway that Vikram thinks was used for escape. No one knows where the tunnels starts. Part of the tunnel was blocked during a huge earthquake in 1905. The whole place was magical. On the top of the fort there was a small Jain shrine with a 3000 year old statue of Mahavira, at least according to Vikram. We talked to Vikram about how he feels about Tibetans in India and what was the general feeling amongst Indians for Tibetans. Vikrams has many Tibetans friends that he has known personally for years. And also he has great respect for HHDL, but he say that some Indians would like to see the Tibetans leave. When asked why, Vikram says that many some Indian feel that the Tibetans do not like Indians. He has witnessed this himself in McLeod Ganj, where he walked into a store and be asked to leave. But at the same time he knows Tibetans that treat him like family. Me and my tutor had a long discussion on this subject a few days ago and I find it to be very interesting. Anyways we spent most of the day in Kangra and had a great time. I will definitely go back in the future. Right before we left Vikram gave us pictures of original Kangra style paintings that he had taken. Mine was a Krishna gently washing Radha hair. We said our goodbyes and took the grudgy Indian bus back to McLeod Ganj and almost got into a accident. Our first bus was packed in tight. Lucky the second bus was roomy, LOL. I am glad to get out of McLeod Ganj for the day. And I am looking forward to attended the Kalachakra in South India. Work at Tibet Charity in quite regular for me. We had a meeting this pass Monday to add suggestions on how to improve it. They have text books which they are trying to implement, but some teachers feel that it is too late, and that it should wait until a new term. I will be working on give a clear pictures to the new volunteers over email. I have been contacted many volunteers and keeping up with them. Liking my time here, lowly my Tibetan is improving, what a job though. I hope that all is well. I am out.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Kalachakra Initiation in January

Well, last Sunday I was able to wake up early to hike to Triund. Man, It was a longer hike than I had anticipated. We had a group of four and we left McLeod Ganj around 7am and did not arrive until 12:30pm. One Swedish woman who was with us was lagging behind so that took some of our time. The views as we traversed our way up was amazing. We got see a huge flock of goats chillin' on the side of the mountain as we hiked up. Once we had got to Triund, the mountain range is right in your face and they are massive. For it boggled my mind that these mountains that face Dharamsala are just the beginning and by far are not the tallest. We had about ten minutes of picture taking time before the clouds totally covered the mountains. Every day, around midday the clouds comes to cover the mountains, then around dusk they dissipate. Many people were up there, mostly Inji's and some have spent the weekend up there. It is for sure butt ass cold at night in Triund. The area is a bit grassy with goat and sheep droppings fertilizing it. I walked around abit and found a few dried laid stone huts. Most of them just big enough to sit in cross-legged. Also one could see the "metropolis" of McLeod Ganj, for compared to the rest of surrounding area, McLeod Ganj is densely packed and congested. We stayed there for about three hours. I met a lady from Spain, so I used it as a opportunity to brush up on my Spanish. I have met a few folks from Spanish speaking areas, like Argentina and Spain, but not much. I have met , many Koreans, Israelis (including some Hasiddics), Thai, English, France, Taiwanese, Mongolian, and German folks. On the way down, our Swedish friend had fell and twisted her ankle. So by the time we had gotten to Dharmakot, we needed to catch a motor-rickshaw to Dharamsala. Those rickshaw are quite small, so I decided to walk since it wasn't too far from my apartment on TIPA Rd. So that was my journey to Triund in a nutshell. The rest of my week has become quite standard. I work in MEC's office every morning writing emails to new volunteers or writing letters to donors. At 2pm I met with Pema to get tutored in Tibetan then at three go back to Tibet Charity for conversation class. And I met with two students in the evening. So far pretty laid back. I am happy with studying Tibetan. If I was not doing that I will probably get myself into trouble, of which there is a lot of trouble to get into. I am beginning to plan to go to the Kalachakra initiation ceremonies that HHDL will have in January. It is at the Amaravati Stupa in Andhra Pradesh South India. It is believe by Tibetans at it is at this spot that the Buddha himself first taught the Kalachakra. The Kalachakra, comes from the section of tantric texts known as the Highest Yoga Tantra. With the Kalachakra being the Highest of these Tantras. Within are detailed introductions to achieve the goal of this practice. This also requires that the practitioner has a indept knowledge of the Kalachakra mandala. For most people this is way over their heads. But HHDL believes that the vibrations produced during this initiation can help with world peace. It has been said that this might be the biggest Kalachakra. For in the past, in Tibet it was only given to those highly advanced yogins and tantrics. I am excited to go, and know that it will be a challenge. It will be hot down there, I will be going with another volunteer, so I wouldn't be alone. Also next month HHDL will be giving teachings at the main temple which I will try to attend. Next weekend a group of us will be going down to Kangra Fort. That is all for today.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Diwali passed.....

Tashi Delek to all you folks who read my entries! I've got to tell you that I definitely find it amazing that people are reading my stuff. It has nothing to with you, but mostly with my view of my self. My self-esteem has never been the best thus many times I feel that things that comes from me are not worth two cents. Of course this is not very spiritual of me and I have been hoping that spiritual inner reflection will gradually assist me in overcoming many of my deficits. Maybe!! So.. This passed Tuesday was the Indian festival of lights known as Diwali. Here in McLeod Ganj and I assume the rest of India this meant lighting off fireworks. Here I have only seen one small Hindu temple that I walk by everyday on my way to Tibet Charity. Diwali is the celebration of the victory of light over darkness, or if you want to be a bit deeper than this, the victory of wisdom over ignorance. As some of you might know Delhi had just suffered from some terrorist bombings right before Diwali, in which 60 or so people had died. I am sure that for those families who had lost someone in that blast that Diwali, the victory of light over dark, has a intensified meaning. This pass Monday, a few westerners (or I will now use the Tibetan term Inji's since I like the term so much) had a Halloween party. But we can not trick or treat here in McLeod Ganj, for that will surely ruffle many Tibetan feathers. We could get a tons of things to make costumes out of, but here some Inji's have permanent costumes and the locals will think nothing of it. So we had a party. No pumpkins, no candy, no cut-out copies of Dracula or the mummy. No witches on broomsticks (which by the way I have always found to be quite disgusting once I knew the history behind it). I've got to say that I'm glad not to have the commercial pressure that comes at this time of the year in the States. Over there, from Halloween, into Thanksgivings, into Christmas and New Years, we are jogged into a consumer frenzy. Just visit any Wal-mart. Dracula is replaced by Turkeys and then they are slyly replaced by Santa Claus and so on. No doubt that India is aiming from such consumerism, but at least in McLeod Ganj, that manifests with folks letting off firecrackers for a night and I can not forget a fight very now and again. Changing... Changing... I must, like all other American give my respects to Rosa Parks. Now that woman back in her day seriously "Rocked Da' House"/ RIP Rosa Parks. That all I got to say about that. My pass week in McLeod Ganj has been growing colder. In the sun it is pretty hot, but away from the sun it gets quite cold. I am currently searching for some winter clothes. For now though I am OK. I continue to tutor Dorjee Rinchen during the week which has been a blast, he is a very diligent student. Before too long I think his English improve dramatically and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I am fighting a cold though, but with this being India, these things do happen. Two days ago I was pretty bad, but after sleeping for 14 hours straight I am all good. I figured out that if I drink a lot of Hot lemon, ginger honey tea, my body can woop a wussy little cold. If worst comes the worst, I can buy almost any medication here over the counter. Work at Tibet Charity Multi-Education Centre has been better. Many of our volunteers are truly talented individuals and I have been learning many things from them. For the most part I am the official "Office wrench" which has been very enjoyable. But so far, nothing outstanding has happen. I have found myself surprised with my Tibetan language progress. This morning I went to Kirti monastery were a monk named Jamyang Tempa lives. I was connected to him by the righteous Berea Tibetan named Tsering Ten (Wasssssuuup Ten). Jamyang knows absolutely no English what so ever, so I was at first quite nervous about meeting up with him and also he is from Amdo. But it turned out OK My Tibetan was very choppy of course, but I was content that we were able to communicate at a basic level. And now on every Sunday I will help him with his English (which will be interesting). Last weeking I did some minor touring of the area for the first time since I have been here. I went to the Bhagsu Waterfall, were I found a valley full of wet maroon shawls drying in the sun on huge rocks. A few Indian guys wanted me to be in their picture with them which was fun. They asked me if I liked WWF wrestling, and who my favorite wrestler was. Many folks were washing clothes or themselves below the waterfall. I touched it with my pinky finger and found it to be extremely cold. Above the waterfall I went to the infamous Shiva Cafe which is rumored to have the "Happy Lassi". This was quite the Hippy Dippy joint with some dreadheads milling about. I have been seriously forewarned about trying the "Happy Lassi" so I resisted the temptation and went on my merry way. From there I walked back to McLeod Ganj, on which on my way there I was scared half to death by a Swami holding a cobra. From McLeod Ganj I booked it up tp Dharamkot, which is about a 15 minutes walk from my apartment uphill. I reached a spot that was filled with prayer flags. I chilled there for a bit a went back to McLeod Ganj. Tomorrow, if I wake up early enough I might take a 3 or 4 hour hike to Triund which is the top of ridge which faces the really big mountains. But I will have to wake up at 5:30 am, for there are some teachers hiking together. It is already slightly snowing up there, so if I don't go now I might have to wait several months. No Mas, No Mas. Well, have fun where ever you might be. Muchas Amor.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Om ah ra pa tsa na dhi dhi dhi........

The Mantra of Manjurshee. The Bodhisattva of Infinite Wisdom. My students in the conversation class told me that if I chant his mantra "Om ah ra pa tsa na dhi" and repeat the dhi until I run out of breath, my Tibetan will become fast and clear. Now, I do not know about the actual power of this mantra, but it definitely give the mouth quite a exercise. I have decided that I will give the mantra a try. It sure won't hurt and even if my Tibetan doesn't improve cause of it or I don't gain any of Manjurshee/ Jampel Yang's wisdom, I will be giving my tongue a good exercise. Last Sunday I took the hike up to the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV). I think all or most of McLeod Ganj was in attendance including the beggars. I got there around 8 am and could not find anywhere to sit. I eventually found my landlady and sat by her. I had a pretty horrible spot for I had a tree in front of me. But I did get to see many of the tradition Tibetan performances, including a Western Woman doing a Tibetan dance traditionally reserved for men. She did a excellent job, and I could hear throughtout the crowd their amazement that it was a Western woman. I eventually moved from my crappy spot to a small roof that was on the other side of the TCV track field. I got a better view of the show and His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa. For me the shows are very interesting, but for many they have seen the same or similar performances for years. At lunch time I went to the nearby Dal Lake to eat some food that I had just purchased. My friend Wangyal was telling me that there is a myth about the lake. Many believe the lake was created by the urine of Lord Shiva. Thus the lake is holy to Hindus who come to the lake to take a dip in its glorious waters. There are more than one Dal lake in the Himalayan region each formed by a different action of Lord Shiva. If this Dal Lake is Shiva's urine, I am not sure I want to know what the other lakes are made of. The rest of the day at TCV was a delight. We went to the TCV temple and I circumambulated around it turning prayer wheels as I walked. We could see all the performances from above the basketball court. Eventually I went down to the court to get a closer view. While I was there I got to see HH the Karmapa walking about 50 feet behind me. I was watching the performance until all of a sudden I hear people murmuring "Rinpoche, Rinpoche!!!" Then the next second there he was the 17th Karmapa head lama of the Karma Kagyu. He is only 20-21 years old and quite handsome. I have heard some American girls who have a bit of a crush on the young lama. Anyways I have been wanted to see him and so I did. Things are going fine at MEC so far. Lakha Rinpoche gave a speech to the whole school on Thursday, and the school is implementing some changes. I am working more in the office because a more experienced volunteer has arrived and is teaching the beginners. I still have the conversation class which I enjoy the most. I am now tutoring Dorje Rinchen aka Dorje Momo every evening which is going good. I will go watch a Tibetan film called "Dreaming Lhasa" tonight at TIPA. I have seen only one other Tibetan film called "Samsara" which was quite good, but I had some issues with that film. One can see many newly released American film here but they are ripped from the Internet or bootlegged and I don't want to pay money to sit in a theater to watch bootlegs. I will get my fill when I go back to the states. I hope that everyone has a great Halloween. The Hindu festival of Diwali is around the corner, but being here in McLeod Ganj I don't think I will see the full effect of this holy day.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rocking Dharamsala

Last night, I went to a rock benefit concert at TIPA. The concert was for AIDS/ HIV and drug abuse awareness. The pitch was "turn off the drugs, turn on the music". The band was from Delhi and their name was "Basement Blues". It was held by joint collaboration of Students for Free Tibet Dhasa Chapter and Kunphen. Kunphen is a NGO the works on drug abuse and HIV/AIDS issues in the Tibetan exile community. My friend Tenzin Wangyal, who is a relative of Berea's own rocking Tibetan female Tenzin Khandoe, told me about this event. He was involved in the organization with SFT. I can definitely say that I had a good time, and also a lot of amusing laughs. As folks walked into the TIPA quad, you were given a packet with two condoms. Since I have been here, I have not seen a convenient place to purchase such items. What I taught was condoms wrappers hanging in every store in India, turns out to be dipping tobacco. Anyways, my feeling was that sexuality is a taboo issue like it is everywhere else, but more so here. Incidentally as the night progressed many of those condoms that had been given to us were turned into nice playful balloons with which we could bounce it to each other. My farovite, was when one of these balloons had fell to the floor. Anxiously waiting was a eight or nine year girl who dashed for that balloon. She had such a big smile on her face for the great treasure that she had scored. I figured that most to the "rubbers" ended as balloons. I totally got a kick out of it. There was some monks that this event and I was wondering if it was them that had first made their "jimmy hats" into balloons, since they can't use them anyways. The band was alright, though I had some issues with the set list, they had to repeat some songs. The sound needed some work, like the singer was louder than the rest of the band and he hit some way off notes. But the band was good, the guitarist had some rocking solos. I taught also that they should of let the drummer kick a beat for a minute to get the crown into it. But as some of you know I have a soft spot for drums. Their set list ranged from Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Nirvana to Limp Bizkit. Kevin and Tomer (Two MEC volunteers) and I were cheering for the band to play "Freebird" but that did not manifest. I might see Tenzin Wangyal tonight, I have hung out with him and he is a cool guy and tons of fun. At Tibet Charity, this pass Wednesday we had a meeting with the chairman and his wife. The Venerable Lama Lakha Rinpoce is the chairman. He is a high gelukpa lama from the Kham province of Tibet. He had left Tibet two days after HHDL had escaped in 1959 and has been highly involved with the exiled government. He moved to Denmark where he founded Tibet Charity. Tibet Charity has many projects spanning all over the Tibetan settlements in India and Nepal. From education to business programs. They have one program where they have Danish business outsourcing to the Tibetan settlements. Also, they have tailoring and computer processing programs. The Multi-education Centre, had just recently been added to Tibet Charity. Before it was running itself with its own funds. Which the addition of MEC to TC, there have been many changes that needed to happen. This was why all the volunteers and staff had a meeting. TC had just printing some language books for the school, but since this is the middle of the semester we have not used them as of yet. Also we have been having problems with students just going to which ever class they please and we have no guidelines as far as what the progression of the students should be. So those issues we had commence to hashout. We still have a long way to go, but I think it will be beneficial. There has also been some controversy regarding students paying Rs.500 to attend MEC. The volunteers were under the impression that all the students attend here for free. So, we have been quite confused regarding what some of the students had been saying. Some volunteers think that the director of MEC is pocketing some money. Now, I am hoping that this is not the case, and that the implementation of what we discussed on Wednesday will take hold. I have been very disappointed to hear such allegations, for it because of this place that I was sponsored to come here. You folks back in the USA are directly responsible for me being here, thinking at I am doing good work with a good place. So the effects, if the director is truly pocketing some money is far-reaching. But so far I give them the benefit of the doubt, for I have seen no solid evidence that the director of MEC is doing such things. Plus it doesn't make any sense, if the students are paying then why do we have such poor attendance? But we are talking about having a deposit that will be fully refunded as along as the students keeps up with his or her attendance. This makes sense to me, and I think it will help with the attendance. Since MEC has been under TC it has not held Tibetan, Chinese or Hindi classes, but they will start a computer processing class. The other classes needed paid teachers, since MEC is not going to find a Tibetan or a Indian who has enough money or time to volunteer, so these classes are on standby. As for us volunteers, they have either been sponsored like me, or saved up from summer work earnings. At least that insures that the volunteers are serious and dependable. Many good things came out of that meeting and I hope that serious progress will happen. I am here for awhile so I will have to play apart in this. Lama Lakha Rinpoche had just recently visited Kham for the first time in twelve years. His is the Head Lama of certain areas in Kham so when he arrived there, many flocked to receive blessings from him. I mean in the thousands. His wife said he was giving blessing for up to twelve hours a day. Many of the folks who came for blessings had impetigo all over their hands and he saw thousands of them. The next day he had came into the afternoon conversation class and immediately a lady had stoodup and bowed really low and he blessed her by placing his hand on her hand. It was a intense moment for I have never experience such actions before. He was really nice and I talked to him like I do to anybody else. This week I also got a second glimpse of HHDL, a virtual repetition of my first glimpse, except that it was after my morning beginners class. HHDL had been south to the other Tibetan settlements and was returning to McLeod Ganj. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Tibetan Children Village, and HHDL is expected to be in attedance. I am planning on attending. One more story I would like to relate. A few days ago I was talking to a student. His name is Dorje Rinchen, but we call him Dorje Momo because his wife sells momos (Tibetan stuffed steamed dumplings) on the Jogibara Rd. Dorje is about 24-25 years old. I talk with him everyday because after class I go to the TC lobby and study Tibetan until lunch time. Dorje also eats lunch at TC. Usually I help him fix some sentence that he is working on. So he told me his story of how he escaped Tibet. Three years ago, he and eleven other Tibetans were up in the mountains about to cross the Tibetan-Nepal border. They had a map but for some reason they had loss their way. All of a sudden the Chinese border guards had found them and they all started running. Ten of the twelve had been caught. Dorje Momo and another girl had avoided been caught by blindly jumping off a cliff. Dorje told me that he did not know how high the cliff was but he had no choice. He showed me a huge scar on his right arm from the fall. He and the other girl had hidden under rock as they heard gunshots for about two minutes. After they realized that the border guards were not chasing them they continued walking. For nine days they walked, all they had was water. Dorje was from Amdo province and the girl was from Kham province so they could not even communicate with each other, but all they had was each other. Eventually, they ran into some French mountain climbers who were climbing Mt Everest or Chomolangma as the Tibetans call it. These French mountain climbers totally hooked Dorje and the girl up with clean clothes, a shower and money. They also took them to the Tibetan refugee reception center in Katmandu. After that Dorje and the girl came to McLeod Ganj, and got married. They have a very cute baby. They have both learned U-Tsang dialect so they can talk to each other. I thanked Dorje Momo for telling me his story, for he told it from the heart. Some times some Tibetans tell their story to receive some sympathy or to pick up Western girls, but others tell their story with complete humility and it is those stories that touch me the most. Regardless of whether I think the Chinese had any right to invade/ peacefully liberate Tibet or not, such human stories are experienced everyday. And also the romantic element of Dorje's story touched me. He married the girl that he had escaped with, though when they first met they were total strangers, they were locked into each other for the sake of surival. Such an experience with a mate has to create a strong loving bond that is hard to find. For in their situation the other knows the other's capacity to love and has seen each other in the worst of times. I hope that I am not boring you to death with my rantings. That is it from me, as I sit in Nyimon's internet cafe in front a window with a great view of a high mountain peak with the setting sun shining on to it.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky.....

Last Saturday a very catastrophic event happened. As many of you know from the news a huge earthquake happened in Northern India and its presence was definitely known here in McLeod Ganj. That morning I had just finished my morning meditation, so I was still sitting in posture on my bed. It had not been 2 minutes after my meditation that I felt my apartment building sway like a blade of grass in the wind. I heard some folks outside my window yelling something. It lasted for about 2 minutes and then it was over, so I did not think too much of it. I know that this area is earthquake prone so I went about my business, not knowing that in Kashmir the earthquake had devastated the area. That is all that I hear on the news now. It is such a sad event. This week has been interesting. I mentioned last week that I might attend that Miss Tibet pageant, but I ended up going to a party for people from the Amdo region of Tibet. There are three main regions in Tibet, Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang. Each one of these regions have there own dialects that are very different from each other. So much so that a person from Lhasa cannot understand a person from Amdo. The dialect that I am learning is U-Tsang dialect and most people use that dialect here. What ends up happening is that I learn many different pronounciations for the same words from Tibetans from the different regions. I think that McLeod with eventually develop its own dialect, McLeod Kay, or the McLeod dialect, due to the combination of Tibetan dialects,Hebrew, English and Hindi. So anyways, back to the Amdo party. There were tons of people there, many wearing traditional Amdo clothing. It was quite a site. For the most part, there was a lot of singing in the Amdo dialect, and this went on for hours.Then at one point a singing debate broke out between a man and women. It was kind of a Amdo version of a freestyle rap battle, but in Amdo dialect. This went on for another hour. The singing was absolutely beautiful and I could tell when one of the debaters had a good insult towards the other because the crowd would burst out with laughter. There was a guy behind translating the debate into U-Tsang dialect, so I deduced that they were debating over romantic matters, on how a man should treat a woman, etc.The lady had won the debate/battle since she was awarded several silk kataks and some money. The battle was abruptly ended by the lights going out, which is quite common in McLeod Ganj. Once the power came back Hip Hop and Hard House music was played for the rest of the night. Many people got up and started dancing. I of course, placed my "two cents" on the dance floor with some odds stares to go along with it. The party was broken up by 7 Indian police officers around 11:30pm, as far as Miss Tibet went, I was not to sad that I missed out. Several days later, I was talking to a student who told me that folks were angry at the show because it was advertised that there were eight contestants. The pageant was 150 rupees, which is no small change in India. When the people saw only one girl, they were supposedly very pissed. My student told me that he lives on top of a Japanese restaurant called Lungta. He heard some guys screaming outside his window, so he went to investigate. What was happening was that the crowned Miss Tibet was eating dinner at the restaurant and the guys were making fun of her for lack of competition. OK, moving on. Last Sunday I was forunate to visit the Tibetan Childern's Village and have lunch with the director. The Director is the father of Berea's very own Tenzin Nangkyi. (Thanks Nangkyi la!!!!). Tsewang Yeshi was such a educated man and we had a great time talking about religion and politics. Tsering La, the great wife is president of the Tibetan Women Association and is very busy, so I was very appreciative of them taking time from their busy schedule's to have me over for lunch. TCV is a bit aways of McLeod Ganj and is quite large. It is truly a village in every sense of the word. As a left Tsewang and Tsering La's place was nearly attacked by a gang of 5 years olds. I did some pseudo-kung fu moves to scare them away. That day it had also hailed pretty hard, so the temperature had dropped ever since. All the high mountains are snowed capped now, meaning that I will be watching that snowline slowly approach McLeod Ganj as it gets colder. Life at Tibet Charity is good, my co-teacher Sarah has gone on a ten-retreat at the Tushita meditation centre in Dharamkot, just above McLeod Ganj. She knows nothing about Buddhism or meditation. Her and her boyfriend Clayton are a bit nervous about the whole thing. I think it is mostly from the eccentric westerners that tend to attend such events. I think that they well do just fine, and I do admire them for just immersing themselves in Dharma with no previous knowledge. So with Sarah gone that means that I have been teaching alone. It has gone well, though I broke the classroom clock as I was erasing the board. I was having the students draw their families trees on the board. As I was erasing one of them and the clock fell from on top the board and shattered. It at least provided a break from the lesson. One day was walking up the steep Jogiwara Rd on my way to meet my new Tibetan tutor Pema. As I was walking up the hill, I see a tall blonde woman walking towards me. I thought nothing of it, until she stops and asks me if I am Wendell. I was shocked for I have never seen this woman before, thus I was wondering how she knew who I was. It turns out that she is friends with B.C. alumnus Kalden Sakya, who now lives in Dehradun. Kalden la had given her some parcels for me, but little information, beside the fact that I was black and the phone number for T.C. The woman told me that she has not seen many black men in McLeod Ganj so she deduced that I must be the guy Kalden was talking about. I was thinking, my goodness, it pays to be a black man in India!!! So we made plans to meet at a Tibetan restaurant the next evening. Her name in Julia and she is from Russia. She has been studying Tibetan language for four years and lives in McLeod Ganj. She goes to Dehradun frequently 'cause the Sakya lama resides there. She had been all over India to other Tibetan colonies in South India, and has been to Tibet. I told her that she now serves as my motivation because I have just started learning Tibetan. She told that due to all the tourist it is a bit harder to pick up Tibetan cause everyone wants to talk in English. Pema my tutor told me that I can write and read well in Tibetan but I need to talk, that when folk talk to me in English I should respond in Tibetan. Julia said that Pema gave me good advice, so I am trying. I guess I have improved since I got here, but I think I would be further along if no one spoke English here. I spoke with Julia for awhile, we then traded emails and I thanked her for being Kalden la's postal person. I hope to in the future to visit Kalden in Dehradun. Well I have been typing for a while so I think this entry is over. I hope you are enjoying this where ever you are.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Movie stars and kung fu master

Since I have been in McLeod Ganj, I have gotten to hear about the numerous movie stars that have visited. Some of the stars have been a bit of a surprise to me. From the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Goldie Hawn who don't seem like harden Buddhist, to Lama Steven Seagal Rinpoche (recognized as a tulku by Penor Rinpoche himself) and Richard Gere. Richard Gere has seem to have a huge influence in the community, from setting up garbage/ recycling system to funding with the upkeep of Temple Rd, which leads to Tsuklhakhang. Thought they should change the name to Gere Rd. I have continuously heard the praises of what Richard Gere has done for the community. This is interesting to me, because in the US I know nothing about the guy, but here people are surprised when I have a neutral reaction when I hear his name. Now I can say I am glad to see a rich person using some of their hard earned wealth in good service. Right now, the Kung fu superstar Jet Li is in town, he is a die-hard Buddhist and has received teachings from H.H the Dalai Lama and H.H. the Karmapa. Now with Jet Li, I like him because he can kick some serious tush!!!. My ears popped up more to hearing Jet Li's name over Richard Gere's. Maybe if Mr. Gere did some bad ass kung fu I would have the same feeling toward him. But Kung fu masters will always have a place in my heart for the hard earned years of discipline to kick butt. Enough!!! Not sure where I was going with that thought anyways. This week at Tibet Charity, Sarah and I have been having a great time with the students. We have trying to use a more interactive methods with the students. For the most part they can write all day long, but when it comes down to saying something, it doesn't fly. And in class the students will speak Tibetan amongst each other. So we have been enforcing a no Tibetan rule in our class, so at least in that way they try some English. We had them try to construct sentences out of pictures that Sarah will draw on the board, or vice-versa give them a sentence and then they draw it on the board. This has not been perfect, like yesterday we have been teaching them about body types, chubby, thin, short, petite, etc. So we gave a student a sentence that went something like this "Sally is thin and has long hair". The poor student just laughed the whole time, she could bearly get the marker to touch the board. I tried to help her out, but she was too beside herself. We went with a another student, and he drew the picture of the sentence we had given him, but the drawing was something that made the entire classroom burst out laughing. With having the students attempt to construct their own sentences or draw pictures, we then to have a lot of fun at least, and I hope they learn something too. On other things, three days ago I had some free time, so I decided to sit on a Buddhist Philosophy teaching at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archive. The course is based on a Tibetan/ English translation of a Sanskrit text called "Nagarjuna's Letter to a friend". Nagarjuna is the main or first voice of the Madhyamaka school of Indian Buddhism, the school of the middle path. The Lama who was giving the teachings was very articulate in his commentary on the text. This text is basically used for beginners course in Buddhism for it outline the basics, focusing mostly on desire for worldly things and the consequence of having desires namely suffering. Suffering and desire keep us forever trapped in cyclic existence (samsara) and keeps us from following a spiritual life. I pretty much came in a few days after the teachings had started. I think that the Lama will elaborate on the text for about a month. The classes are pretty big and the room is small. Due the time of the teaching I will not be able to go. I think that I will need to dedicate some serious time to going to teachings regularly for me to learn anything substantial. Last night, I attended a multicultural show presented by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). It was quite a site, it was held in the auditorium of the Tibetan Institute of the Performing Arts (TIPA). Most of the songs were sung karaoke style, in Hindi, Tibetan and Ladakhi. There was a Hindi, English, and Ladakhi dance routine to canned music. Most of the time the sound system would fail due to the overdose of electricity the sound person was giving the speakers. At these moments the crowd would scream Tibetan swear words at the singers. My favorite was a traditional Tibetan dance with about 10 guys and girls playing the dramnyen (Tibetan lute). The men did rhythmic stomping as they sung and played the dramnyen. I was quite impressed. Overall the show was good, and I had a good time. Tonight is the Miss Tibet pageant, with only one contestant. I have heard about the pageant for sometime, and I have been asking some of the female students at Tibet Charity to entire the pageant. I told them that, "you have to give that single contestant some competition, you can't just sit a watch someone win $2300 dollars for doing nothing, I know you girls are broke, so atleast make that lone contestant work for the money". But these girls are very shy, LOL. It is bound to be interesting, at least the crowd will have something to say. Khale Shu, Later Punks!!!


Monday, October 03, 2005

Endless Knot

The Patra symbolizes perfection, fullness and the glory of the five wisdoms. It is sometimes referred to as the "knot of eternity", and is associated with the concept of tendrel, meaning
"interdependence". This is one of the fundamental notions of Buddhism in general, insofar as all phenomena are regarded as being interdependent and linked to causes and conditions.
(The Manual of Standard Tibetan, Nicolas Tournadre and Sangda Dorje).

The reason I placed this symbol here is because you cannot walk anywhere in McLeod Ganj without seeing this symbol. It is seen in most window frames of homes, offices, classrooms, restaurants, and temples. In my own apartment, there are about 12 of these knots all across my window. In many of the speeches given by the H.H. the Dalai Lama, almost always it will come down to interdependence. With everything connected, if you harm one thing you harm yourself. As I have been here I have been unable to study Buddhism directly due to my responsibilities at Tibet Charity, but I have made visual observations. When I first arrived here I noticed that many individual families will have rituals performed in there homes. The sounds of cymbals, drums and prayers can heard daily as one walks around. When I was staying with Dolma, every mornig I would hear her reciting prayers to the bronze deities that she had in a altar, to a picture of H.H. the Dalai Lama, and a thangka (really nice religious wall hanging of a deity or lama) of the medicine Buddha. I spoke to her one day about it, and she told me that her prayers are for the sustenance of Buddhism. She does this by taking refuge in the Buddha, refuge in his teachings, refuge in the Sangha (community of practitioners), and the Lama ( the one to transmit the teachings to the laity). This is what she repeats every morning. Walking around you will also notice a stupa that has many prayer wheels in a row built into the wall. People circumambulate this stupa in a clockwise direction turning the prayer wheels as the move along. Another object of circumambulation is the main temple, the Tsuklhakhang, in which there is a long route and a short route. These are usually called Kora, with Lingkor being the long route. Personal prayer wheels are seen handy, and the people twirl them with such finesse that the hand barely seemed to move, rosaries are also very common. It is normal to hear people saying under their breath Om Mani Padme Hung, the main mantra of Chenrezig (Bodhisattva) who Tibetans believe H.H. the Dalai Lama to be a manifestation of. Reciting this mantra, it is thought that one accumulate merit. One top of roofs of some houses small mini stupas or chortens are seen, except that they are hollow on the inside and a aromatic shrub is burned within it. It looks pretty nice when one of these hollow chortens are bellowing with smoke combined with the sounds of prayers. For the most part, I have seen mostly the elderly with prayer wheels, going on the kora, and reciting mantras. But I have also noticed young people are interested in Buddhism, it is their source of identity as Tibetans growing up in exile. Many are interested in things western, hip hop, technology, etc. I was talking with a student who had been studying the treatise of emptiness from Nagarjuna. I could tell that he was very serious about his studies. Though he was not a monk, he felt that is was important for him to study Buddhism. You do you see more than plenty young monks and nuns milling about. One lady named Yangzom in conversation class told me that since she had three boys, her and her husband enrolled one in a monastery. It is custom that if you have a few children at you enroll atleast one in a monastery. This morning I met a young monk named Kunga Gyaltso. He gave me a tour of the temples of Tsuklhakhang. He first took the Kalachakra Temple, where on the one of the wall was a huge painting of the Kalachakra mandala. Kalachakra is Sanskrit for the wheel of time, it represents the mind, body, consciousness. The mandala serve as a huge mansion with various different deities housing in the many rooms. They reside in very specific rooms, according to the aspect of the deity. Some deities are mind deities, some are body deities. Kalachakra is also a deity that resides in the center of the mandala. The mandala is then protected by a vajra or dorje band (the lighting wisdom that comes from tantric practice), and band of Tibetanized Sanskrit letters in the color of its deity, and by a band of wind. This mandala is absolutely huge. Outside the mandala then there are many deities and lamas.The lamas shows the lineages of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Nyingma, Kagyud, Sakya, Geluk. All of the lineages start with Indian Buddhist Masters from antiquity. At the Center wall there a huge painting of Shakyamuni Buddha, painted by Kelsang. I met Kelsang's brother Palden Oshoe in Ithaca, NY. I saw a 3ft Shakyamuni Buddha statue that Kelsang had made at Palden's house. Another one that he made is in the Smithsonian museum. He is a reknown painter and a sculptor. The front of the temple, there is also a overdose of painting. On each side of the Buddha are smaller mandalas that show the residents of the Kalachakra deities in detail. There are six small mandala's on each side of the Buddha, each symbolizing a character of the Tibetan zodiac. Tibetan astrologers use the Kalachakra text for astology. In front of all this are two jars with butter candles in them. On top them, suspended by a wire are round paper prayers wheel that turn my themselves due to the rising heat from the candles. There is one more huge mandala, the Mind mandala, because all the deities that it houses are mind deities. Ones' personal Lama guides the practitioners as to which deity will lead them to enlightment. Eventhough there are many deities you only need one, that one is called your Yidam, your deity that you will focus on the emptiness of. Kunga said that are many texts that describes all the many aspects of the individual deities. When you read these texts and visualize the deity, you eventually start to have the aspects of the deity. As you progress and see the emptiness of the deity the practitioner will know the deity like his/her ownself. The seat of H.H. Dalai Lama is covered up, with many Katak's draped on them. People place their foreheads on it. In January in Andhra Pardesh, at the stupa of Amaravati H.H the Dalai Lama will give a Kalachakra empowerment. This is a huge event and I hope that I get the oppertunty to attend. In the next temple there three statues, one of the Buddha in the center, Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, and the Thousand arm manifestation of Chenrezig on the side. Parts of the Chenrezig statue was smuggled out of Tibet during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This temple also houses the Kanjur and the Tenjur the main corpus of Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, which is over two thousand volumes long. Right next to this temple is a room with windows on all sides. Inside this room, are various tables with butter lamps, some lit and others unlit. Kunga told me that the public will come here to burn these lamps, some times they burn it for the safe travel for a deceased family member so that they have a good rebirth. It is a visual site, for these lamps are pretty small and there are so many of them. With them all lit it is a nice site. I was very appreciative of Kunga showing me around the temple and explaining things to me. All this religious activity that is incessant here, it is hard for it not to rub off of you. In the US, religion does not take on this quality of style. Most of the time, from my perspective it seems that religion is restricted only to setting and only used when one so feel like it. Of course there are exceptions to my perspective. But one thing is for sure, its the heighten religious activity here, the actions of the people reflect their religious lives. A big difference from back home. Eventhough home is mostly Christian and in McLeod Ganj there are alot of Buddhist, to me that is not so important. What I am looking at is the amount of time spend of out ones day that is devoted to religious activities. By sheer amount, religion is a live indentity, that you can touch, smell, see, and feel. Enough of my rantings.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

A glimpse of H.H. the Dalai Lama.

Last Monday was my very first day of teaching a Beginners English class. There are six classes total, Beginners 1 and 2, Intermediate, Advance, and Conversation Class with all the beginners in one and intermediate/ advance in the other. I have the beginners 1 class. That day was totally wretched, I had a cold and I was nervous. As I was teaching the class there was sweat running down my armpits. Through most of the class I was counting the minutes for it to be over. Jigme the director gave some encouraging words. But on Tuesday he almost gave me the axe. I was lucky that a Australian woman with teaching experience was willing to co-teach the class with me. On Wednesday, we thought them feelings with me acting out a particular emotion and the students guessing what I was doing. It was really funny for the must part, for I was as goofy as I could be. So that day the lessons were awesome. Thursday the whole school had their Midterm exam, but it was the same exam for all the levels, so my class was in a state of panic. It took them two hours to take the exam. My students are mostly my age and above with about 5 or 6 monks and a nun, a mom and some fathers. So with the lessons, it is interesting teaching them elementary English using pictures and writing sentences on the board and then have them saying the sentences as I point to each and every word. During the exam some of the monks, particularly one named Ata will come up to me each and everytime he finished a question to ask me if it was right. I stuck to my, "I don't know" or " I will not give you the answer". Ata was pretty persistent. Me and Anne the Scottish/ English women marked the exams and the scores were all over the place. Some students in the advance class got horrible scores, while other students in the beginner and intermediate class did great. So we had to shift some students to their correct places. What happens a lot is that some students will go to whatever class they want. Like I have a lady, Kelsang Tso, she needs to be in the beginner 2 class, but she has been coming to my class and she is a pretty aggressive one. I gave her the boot from my class, but she was trying to talk me into thinking that she was in the right class. Her exam scores reflect that she needs to be in a higher class than mine. So this happens quite a lot. Friday on my way to work I noticed a huge crowd of people by the Tsuklhakhang (the main temple). As I reached the crowd I saw one of my students and I asked him what was going on. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was due to arrive soon. Everywhere I looked, I saw people waiting, burning incense, or with Katak's (white silk Tibetan offering scarfs). I decided to continued my downward descent towards Tibet Charity. I saw many of the students standing outside opposite the Tibet Charity building. I thought to check the classroom just in case anyone was in there. Of course ZERO. So I went back outside and waited with the rest of the students. Obviously this was a special moment. Sarah the aussie lady that is teaching with me was right behind me. People were burning pile of some aromatic shrub of some kind so you could smell it everywhere. All of a sudden a bell started to ring from up the hill. A Tibetan man with a walkie talkie had us get out of the road. Then two trucks packed with Indian Army soldiers passed by and behind them sitting in the shotgun seat (which is opposite from the shotgun seat in the US) of a biege sudan was His Holiness Dalai Lama. I saw him as clear as day, smiling and waving his hand. All the Tibetans had their heads bowed and the bowing rolled up the hill like a wave at a sports events. It all happens so fast. What surprised me was that I was really ecstatic just after seeing him for a few seconds. It probably was just starstruckness, for seeing the leader of the Tibetan people and someone that I highly admire. I definitely was not excited to see him before I saw him, but afterwards there was a tangible change in my mood. Directly afterwards we all went to class and practiced saying, " I am happy because I saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama today". The class totally loved it.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

A father's love

Another week has passed for me in Mcleod Ganj. I am now beginning to get the hang of how the Tibetans pronounce Mcleod Ganj. It sounds more like "Mcludgunj". I find this to be quite funny cause when they would say it, I thought they were saying something else, with my eventually realization of "Ohhhh, Mcleod Ganj" in my obvious American accent. At this time with the weather getting nicer, there have been a influx of foreigners. For the most part it is ok, and they seem to be conscious and respectful. But I have noticed from talking to people that the Israelis who come to Dharamsala do not have such a nice rap. Unlike the other tourist who come to this area to learn about Tibetan culture, the Israelis come to party. I have not had direct contact with them, but to me they seem fine. I guess I would hate to think that they come here to start trouble, I have been warned to not associate with them. From what I hear, most of them just got out of military service and then come here. This is just one of many interesting things that I have encountered. Here also you can get cable TV, and Dolma she likes to watch XZTV which is a station from Lhasa, Tibet. I think it is quite a interesting station for all the shows on it are in Chinese dubbed over in Tibetan. There is one particular show that I have watched with Dolma all most everyday that I have been here. It has Tibetan actors, and the storyline is based on Old Tibet, and actors speak in Chinese, and it is dubbed over in Tibetan. I found it odd to have Tibetan actors speaking Chinese with their own language dubbed over them. At least it is the only show with Tibetan actors, the other shows are just straight up Chinese shows. Dolma also loves those Hindi movies, or in reality she just loves the songs. I have watched more Hindi movies in the pass two weeks that I have in my entire life, which for me is quite amazing. Dolma would watch a movie and if there is not a song playing she'll start getting distracted or will start a conversation, but as soon as a song is on, she stops everything and is singing along turning up the volume. When the song is over, the volume goes way down that you can't even hear the movie anymore. Of course I will make fun of her, saying the you might as well just fast forward through all the talking until other song comes on. My time with Dolma has ended though, I will miss her. I am now her neighbor. She helped me find a apartment, which is kind of nice. It has no view, unless you want to count the crusty moldly house in front of it as a view. Also, after this weekend I will begin to teach a beginners english class. All throughout last week, I was sitting in on the class to get a feel of what I was to do. The lady who was teaching it, Anne from England told me that there was a student who has been absent because he had kidney problems. This student is a monk who had escaped out of Tibet, and as it turned out he needed to have his kidney replaced. Since he was unable to find a suitable donor the monk's father walked through the Himalayan mountains to give his son his kidney. After the operation the father went back to Tibet. I was amazed of the love for one's son especially since my own father had not been apart of my life. In a way I was envious of the monk since his father truly cared for him. While my own father is totally unknown to me. This story will give me the motivation to be loving father towards my children like the monk's father, and not to be like my father. Changing topics, I have been studying Tibetan pretty regularly. I constantly get frustrated. Even with having a tutor it does not make it any more easier. My tutor is trying to learn english, so we trade lessons. But when it comes down to explaining some of the questions I have, he has a lot of trouble. I do have to say that I am feeling more comfortable in using Tibetan, eventhough it is extremely choppy. I will work hard to improve it.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Am I dreaming or did the rain stop?

I have been alluded to this mysterious tale that the rain actually will end, but I have had my doubts. True, I have only been here in India for a week, but the way it has been mentioned to me that the rains will stop seem so far fetched. Like a few days ago, I woke up to find a strange site, rays shining on the wall. Wow, I was so amazed, I told Drolma that the sun is shining. She told me that the monsoons are finished. Man I was stoked, my excitement was hard to contain. That morning I played Badminton with some of the volunteers at Tibet Charity. I was sweating basking in the sun. Later on that day before conversation class, I notice some clouds racing up the mountain. I am thinking, "Oh, they are just passing by". Then in the middle class, it started to downpour hard. It lasted all the way to the next night. Since I was doubtful of the tales of the end of the rain I brought my poncho with me. But my feet and pant bottoms was utterly soaked, and Dromla thought is was the funny thing that she has ever seen. As far the other volunteers they were caught off guard due to their belief in these mysterious tales of the end of monsoon. I am fine with the rain, and I am prepared for it, I think. If not I will be by next summer, lol. I have had the opportunity to see some more of Dharamsala. Jigme Tenzin took me for a ride on his two-wheeler to the Central Tibetan Administration, where the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives is located. They offer various classes on Buddhist Philosophy and Tibetan language. Unforunate for me, they are offered when I am volunteering. I do have a language tutor, he's a monk from the Namgyal Monastery, and we are trading languages which is more economic. At Tibet Charity, I am amazed at the studious intensity of the students, and also the hardships that they have endured to get to India. It has been common thus far to hear the escape stories of many Tibetans braving the Himalayan altitudes. So far, it seems average that groups of people between 20-40 will spend up to a month walking in the mountains to cross the border. Drolma, the lady that I am staying with now has vision problems from snow-blindness and needs glasses. Others have lost limbs to frost-bite. These stories have been frequent, with exceptions of course. These stories remind of hearing a story from a Haitian girl in high school. She told us that her family risked floating on a raft to come to America. She described to us how her uncle had fell in the ocean and was eaten by a shark. I could not imagine experiencing something as raw as floating in the ocean on a small raft, and watching helplessly as a relative has been had by a shark. Similar thoughts enter my mind as I continuously hear these stories of escape. I am happy that I am able to hear this first hand, for as I talk with many people here their countenance is so positive. I am not sure that I will such a positive outlook on life if I had sustained such trauma.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Getting familiar with MEC

Yesterday was my first day at Tibet Charity Multi-educational Centre. On my way to there I have confronted by a woman holding a baby. She told that her baby was hungry, and if I could buy her child milk. At first I just tried to ignore her, but she was, as I say " All up in my grill". She just kept on hounding me and man was she working on me, so I fell in and brought her the milk. Later I come to find out that I had been scammed. That what the poor women with children will do is to have a gullible westerner (me) buy them milk, then they go to another store and sell the milk back. I been had. I was thinking "Oh, she can now feed her hungry baby". What I was told that if I really wanted to help to poor I should donate to a NGO like SEVA that helps the poor. Giving money to the street people doesn't truly help them as much as it can seem. So at the MEC, a teacher was sick so I was called in to take over the class for the last couple of minutes. There was about 20 students in the class and I told them about my life and experiences in the US. I was pretty nervous but I must get used to it eventually. The current teacher is leaving at the end of next week, so I will start sitting in on her classes and when she leaves I will take over. I am definitely nervous about that. Another part of my duties will be as volunteer coordinator, to make sure that the new incoming volunteers are straight away and to kept up on. I will also take take part in conversation class which consist of a class that is broken up in groups of 3 or 4 and you just talk to them. Yesterday I spoke with two monks, one from Drepung Loseling monastery from the Geluk sect and another monk from the Sakya sect. Their English was pretty good, and we had a good conversation about the aspirations of our lives. One monk wants to be a Geshe (PH.D of Buddhist Philosophy) and teach around the world. I also interacted with another group and we talked about Hurricane Katrina and the situation in New Orleans. The students have such a great desire to learn, so they catch things pretty quickly. They stay informed about current events. I find it a bit hard to explain the quirks and idiosyncrasies of American society to the students thus far. I guest that I just want to make sure I don't paint a too unrealistic picture of the US to them, for many want to go to the US.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

From the Himalayan foothills

Well I have finally made it. My travels went completey unhitched with some minor confusions but besides that I sit safely above Dharamsala in Mcleod Ganj. I have traversed from the Appalachian foothills to the Himalayan foothills. The views for here are absolutely incredible. Far beyond what I could ever imagine. The roads are so incredibly steep and windy, and people, cows, beggars and motor vehiches mingle in a flow that is very strange to me. I am hoping that I will not get hit. These cars come inches from hitting you very everytime they pass. I arrived here on the morning of September 9th. It took me a 12 hour bus ride from New Delhi. The weather here is cloudy, so far I have not seen the sun until today. Delhi's humidity is not to be reckoned with. Up here on the other hand is a bit chilly. I met my bossman from Tibetan Charity Jigme Tenzin La at the building. He was supposed to of met me at the bus stop in Mcleod Ganj ( the area above Dharamsala), but I was kicked off the bus in Dharamsala, so I did not met him at the bus stop. Immediately getting off the bus, many men rushed at me saying " Hello sir Taxi, Hotel". My first instinct was to grab my belongings and deflect the uncoming solicitors. They were unrelenting. Eventually they left me alone. Since it was around 6:30 in the morning there were not any phones in site that I could call Jigme with. I got a taxi, and he did not know were he was going. We went up one of Dharamsala's many steep and windy pot holed roads to find a tree had fallen on the road. The taxi driver said "no problem" and suddenly many Indians appearred seemingly out of nowhere with axes and two-manned saws. As soon as they cut a space wide enough for the taxi we sped away. After the the taxi driver asked a few Tibetans (which he sarcastically called loudly "Guruji") where Tibet Charity was, we finally found the place and I met bossman. He in turn took me to where I will me staying. The lady that I am staying with is named Drolma. She also has a little dog named Tiger. She is in the process of learning English, meaning that we have some very lively conversations due to my horrible Tibetan. So far I have managed. She is about 32 years old and her husband, who was a escort for H.H. Dalai Lama, had just died five months ago. She has fed me so well, and it is hard to refuse her cooking. I have also met some of her friends who are really nice. One who stands out is Lobzang. I was showing him some picture from Berea and he recognized many of the Tibetans that attend Berea College. He took me on a motorbike ride to Tsuklhakhang, the resident of H.H.D.L, to met my friend Palkyi's uncle. I had some things to deliver to him from Palkyi. He was really nice and he is going to search for a cheaper place for me to stay and arrange a langauge tutor for me. There are still other folks that I need to get in contact with, and I will in due time. Today is a holiday called Mela, which is to celebrate the end of monsoon. The first day that I got here it rained incessantly, until this morning and now the sun is finally shining. Also a ten day Hindu celebration for the Elephant headed deity Ganesh is in progress. Right now there are so many people mingling in the street due to the Mela. Bazaars filled with people are pretty thick. So far I am in the adjusting process, with everything being so different I am in a odd state. Eventually it will subside. Tomorrow morning I will commence my duties at Tibet Charity Multi-educational Centre. I am a bit nervous for it is still not totally clear what I will be doing. It seems that my duties will be maliable which is fine my me. I hope that this posting make sense to those that are reading it, I am writing with what automatically come to my mind with little care for syntax, so forgive me. That is it for now.


Thursday, August 18, 2005


For the pass couple of days I have being chillin' in Washington D.C. I have had a very amazing time here. Most importantly, today I received my visa to enter India. This has solidified my conception of the reality that I am actually traveling to India. Everything has seemed like such dream. I think that it will be this way until I step foot on Indian soil and get a strong swiff New Delhi. Tonight I fly back to Berea for a few more days.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ticket Crazy

Today I just bought a airline ticket to Washington D.C. so that I can take care of my visa business at the Indian Embassay, hopefully that will all go well. I will be there from August 13 to 18. I also bought my ticket to Philadelpia for August 25, where a good friend of mine lives, I will be there for the weekend and then she will drive me to New York City where I will stay until I fly out on September 6. So things are starting to manifest more and more. Tomorrow I will take my final exam in Natural Science, and then I will be done with school for awhile. Many things need to get done, like getting a ride to the Lexington when I go to DC, and I place to stay when I get there and a ride back to Berea afterwards. Well I hope that all is well in the world.


Friday, July 15, 2005

I now have my ticket

Today my ticket to India has been confirmed. This pass monday I called a Indian Travel Agency in New York, and purchased a one-way ticket to New Delhi. I wanted a two-way ticket, but was told that I could only get it for six months, and that I could not extend it. This will be my impetus to be frugile in India, so that I can buy my ticket back to the States. I will be leaving from my birth city of NewYork on September 06, 2005 at 6:10pm with a 4 hour stop in Amsterdam (I wish it was longer for Amsterdam is known not only for it tulips if you know what I mean :) ) and then on September 7, 2005 I will arrive in New Delhi at 10:50pm. This is assuming that the flight goes perfect which I don't. I am so excited, this has been a moment I have been waiting for, but I still need to jump a couple of more hoops. After I am finished with my job at the Berea College Greenhouse and Gardens, I will go to Washington D.C. and get my visa papers worked out. Once that happens, I am pretty set, besides some medication and vaccination. Keep it here for further developments.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Another Shot

I just got my second Hepatitis B today in my left arm, I need another one in four months and another Hepatitis A in five months. I will get those while I am in India. I also need a polio booster which I can only get at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. And some Malaria pills. That is about it, I am looking for plane tickets at this point.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Coco Bolo

Yesterday June 30th 2005 was my 27th birthday, I had a exam to take for my Natural Science class. It was quite a hefty exam, felt that I needed to take a nap after taking it, I was utterly exhausted afterwards. Anyways, at the beginning June, while I mowing at work I had a strong feeling suggesting that I was to cut my hair. It was such a strong feeling that I knew that the time had come. Now hair can be something trivial, but for me it was a big decision but also it was an easy one. I was totally comfortable with the idea. My scalp had not been touch by sunlight, wind or skin since I was between 16-17 years old. Meaning that all of my adult life thus far, I have had dread locks. There is a kind of intensity that I believe surrounds a person who has had dreadlocks. A brother once told me that all of the thoughts and experiences that I have had are in my hair, similar to the layers of a rockcut that contains the past history of the Earth. Since hair is closest to your head, your thoughts are immediately there. What I am getting at with my ranting is that I have been carrying on my head everything that has happened to me since I was in high school. Every thought that I have had. The turmoil of dropping out of High School, living on the streets, hunger, addictions, hitchhiking, people, friends, college and graduation. The good and bad was beginning to weigh down on me, it manifested with the cracking of my neck. So I decided that on my birthday I will cut my off hair. Once I had announced my plans, I instantly received opposition. I was told that my neck pain will not go away, that I regret it cutting it. But finally I found willing ears. Ears that would assist me in my haircutting experience. My good friend Christian a dreadhead himself had agreed to cut my hair, and we set the date. Through that time I had my dog Comet shaved, which she loved, and I was more conscious and mindful than I was ever been. For I wanted to be fully mindful of the implications of what I was to do. For the month of June I was conscious of what was on my head. So yesterday after drumming with High School students from the upward bound program I went to Christian's apartment armed with a white Berea College baseball cap and a digital camera to document the experience. On my way there as I sped up Chestnut St was conscious of my every strand of hair, of every movement of my legs as I rode my bike to Christian's. Once I got there and was settled in. Christian burned some sage and placed a coffee table in front of me. I sat on the floor and started cutting the first ten dreads, and then Christian took over until 2 hours or so later I was left with one solitary dread that hangs of the back of my scalp. I in turn gave Christian a haircut releasing him of the few dreads that he had kept on the back of his head. My parents had wanted me do this years ago, but this needed to be my decision. If I would of followed their command I would of regretted it. Christian and his partner suggested that I place my dreads in different parts of world as I travel towards India. I was fond to this idea, though in my mind I could see myself having to explain to airport customs agents why I am traveling with a bag of nappy hair. I will search for holy spots in where I can lay a dread in the spot. I will of course start in Berea, I will find someplace special. This morning I placed my bag of hair on a scale and it read 1.3 lbs, which does not seem that heavy but I think that the thoughts and the experiences made it feel heavier to me. Now I can rub my own head which feels really good. I am starting anew, heading to a different place, with different languages and culture. I will be a clean slate to those that I will met in Dharamsala. The new thoughts and experiences will have room to now sprout from my scalp, my factory of thoughts.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Shot up

Yesterday I went to health services on campus and receive four shots, two in each arm. I got tetanus and typhoid in the left arm and hepatitis A and B in the right arm. I still need more shots like a polio booster and two hep B's and one hep A. Also I will need several malaria prevention pills. That is a whole much of shots. Right now my upper arms feels like Mike Tyson have been using them for punching bags for I can barely move them. I am working full time for the B.C. Greenhouse and Gardens, so my arm are making my work difficult. That's is my update, working through the process.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Beginning

Howdy Folks,
I would like to dedicate all the words that I will write on this blog to all the beautiful people who believe in me, those that sponsored my dream to directly participate in the Tibetan cause. To you I give one big ole blogger hug. I have now officially pseudo-graduated from Berea College with one more class to take this summer. The ceremony was amazing, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was an amazing speaker. My mother was in Berea for her first time, which was incredible, for you could see the excitement in her face. She was very impressed with Berea. I owe a lot to my mother for she went through a lot so that I could be alive today. On this day, I am packing my belonging to move into the headhouse at the Berea Gardens and Greenhouse, where I will live my summer until my journey to India.
There has been many thoughts that have gone through my mind since this pass Sunday. I have seen people that I have not seen in years. My friend Crystal showed up at my apartment this pass Tuesday after not seeing her in 6 years. She was present on the day that my name changed from Wendell to Hotfoot in that buggy Florida swamp in the spring of 1997. Anyways, with all the life changing experiences of the pass 7 years, I intuit that in India I will be radically changed. I have traveled all over the United States, and I considered those experiences to be very special. But this trip is different, this trip is for service, for the shift to a more self-less self. I am excited as I work through the process of going to India, buying tickets, getting shots, and the like. I hope that my ranting finds everyone in awesome relaxation and happiness. I probably won't put another posting on this blog until I come closer to leaving for India, which will be around the beginning of September '05, unless something very detrimental happens. Once again I thank everyone who has sponsored me for without you none of this could be possible. Namaste.