My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

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.