Saturday, May 13, 2006
More than half way through.
I have been here in McLeod Ganj for more than six months now. At this point I find the prospects of returning to the United States of America very frightening. My reasons for this surrounds that now that I have been making basic progress in learning to speak Tibetan, all that work that I have placed will be lost. Thus since I have been here I have been searching for ways to not make this happen. I am satisfied with my volunteering and that has been extremely worthwhile. I am appreciative of all those who have supported me to come here and I have felt that that aspect of my trip is truly successfully. I see the benefit that the students at TC MEC are receiving from my help and I am so happy for this. But the other aspect of my trip to learn Tibetan is and will be unfilled. Unless I can extend my time in India (unlikely) or come back in a year to start from square one.
I have got it in my brain that I have the capacity to be a translator, from Tibetan to English. Thus far from what I have read, this is a very complex type of work involving being fluent in reading Classical Tibetan and speaking Tibetan. These are two different skills since the two are rather separate from each other. It also involves an intimate knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy. These are quite daunting prospects and I feel that if I have to opportunity to study these things that I could do it.
So I have searched for options, and what have I found? First, was the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition’s (FPMT) translator program here in Dharamsala. I have already explained this course in a previous blog entry. The second option that I have found is based forty minutes from McLeod Ganj. It is called the College of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah, set up under the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in McLeod Ganj. Unfortunately they do not have a website at this moment so I went to the school. I was recommended to go here by a young Swiss man that I met on the train on the way to the Kalachakra this pass January. He was in the same position as me last year. He thought about the FPMT program, and found the Sarah option much better. Part of the attraction to Sarah is that it is cheap.
Their first year Tibetan class is $1000 dollars for ten months, where the FPMT course is $3200 for two years. FPMT does help one find a job, though one might not necessarily get paid. It depends if the Dharma center that FPMT finds for you can afford it. My Swiss friend’s Tibetan was very good when he started and thus he went to take their philosophy course that is taught only in Tibetan. The philosophy course is seven years long!! And the super plus at Sarah is that one is only allowed to speak in Tibetan!! No English!! I think that that is so awesome. This was what I was hoping for when I came to McLeod Ganj, but instead found many people spoiled and a bit arrogant of their knowledge of English.
I went to Sarah last week and they have placed my on a list of their first year Tibetan course. Thus I too might have the opportunity to take this philosophy course. Maybe!!! This will mean going to America, which I do not want to do. I feel that I will lose all my Tibetan in the US. If I was a stable level in my language learning I might feel different, but I want to nurse what I have learned thus far. Learning a new language is not easy and to learn it when one is not hearing it everyday, I feel is almost pointless for one easily losses their motivation towards language learning.
Learning a language when one is an adult is a great and humbling experience. For even if one is a great scholar, when you learn a new language you are put back to a level below that of a kindergartener. So I would ideally like to stay until I can read and speak Tibetan fluently. I do not feel that this will happen in the US. So I will try my hardest to figure a way to stay, if not I will return home with my tail between my legs and try to raise money for the Sarah college and hope that I can find Tibetans in America who are willing to talk to me in Tibetan.
Now, today I met with a girl who was in the Summer Tibetan Language course that I took at Cornell University in 2004. I had had a feeling that I would have run into her and I did at the Tibetan Film Festival organized by Lobzang Wangyal. She is PhD Anthropology student doing research for her dissertation on the Maitreya Project in which Lama Zopa, the head of FPMT, wants to build a huge Maitreya Buddha statue in Kushinagar, India. Therefore, she is here and we ran into each other. I was glad to see her; it seems that there are some issues with the project, especially dealing with the locals who might not be too fond of the future Buddha’s presence on their farmland.
My life with the family here goes on as usual. Many of the other home stays have come and gone. I did have a great bond with an American college girl who stayed with the family. She had a knack for attracting Tibetan Amdo men and Kashmiris. At one point, I a made fun of her for she had about seven men after her. She is a totally a pretty girl, but in the US she would not of received the same amount of attention that she ended up receiving. I am sure that some of these men are looking for a passport to the US through some western girl action. I think that it boosted her confidence a bit to have some of this extra attention. I have another American friend who told me that she is suffering from an over abundance of Tibetan and Kashmiri male attention. But it is all a kind of game with the men here, who gets to leave this god-awful wretched place for the Shangri-La we call the west. I hope that everyone finds what they need in life.
At first I was not going to update the blog for I felt that I had nothing to write about, but now that I have babbled and ranted I hope that you have enjoyed the stuff that I have written. I have a feeling that my readership has been declining. Oh well. The picture that you see is of me in front of a statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh at the Prashanti Nilayam Ashram, Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh home of Sri Satya Sai Baba.