My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

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


1 comment:

jai said...

hi there interesting blog . i to belong to dharamsala and am doin my engineering frm delhi. i really appreciate ur endaevor. i would also like to help teach children there if its possible. i am having vacations in december and would be comming to dsala. can i be of any use ?? my mail id is
waiting for a response