My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

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.



ben_i said...

Thanks so much for sharing that story, HF.

That's really powerful.

RJ Bates said...


I've been thinking a great deal about the impact that celebrities and artists have in changing the world ... thanks to a BC students writing about End Poverty Now campaign. This made me think about it as well.

Great to hear what is up with you.