My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Monsoons Begins…

The weather just could not hold out any longer. The infamous rains have finally come. Supposedly, Dharamsala is the worst place to be in India for monsoon, and I can see why. I think that these next few months will be the hardest and most challenging time that I will have in McLeod Ganj. Three months of rain does not sound like my cup of tea, but I do have some serious rain gear. I am only missing one thing, and that is some rain boats. And with all these small bodied Indians and Tibetans around there are not much prospects of finding any in my size.

The first term at TC MEC is over. My class ended up with 4 students on the last day. With my class was consisting of beginners with no knowledge of English, I was happy for the students that stuck it out. I think a few found teachers better than myself, and one lady, in fact the only lady in my class, had some kind of foot injury preventing her from coming to class. Her name is Coenga, which means “fifteen”. With that name, I could not help but to affectionately make fun of her. I noticed with her that she will transcribe all the English words in Chinese. She is not the first Tibetan that I have seen doing that. With some new comers, they might not necessarily know literary Tibetan. And some do not know Spoken Tibetan every well, or they speak a dialect from a remote area in Tibet.

There is one woman of about 24 years old that I remember from my first class. She was not supposed to be in my class in the first place, but she will sneak in. So, I will call her out on it. She was a rather obstinate woman. I would of let her stay in the class, but she’d always over power the class. I think that even the male Tibetans were afraid of her. So, after a few little spats with her, she finally listened. I noticed with her that she will talk to Tibetans in Chinese, and they made fun of her for it. She was totally educated in Beijing and was very Chinese in character, despite that she was born in Tibet. She eventually went back to Tibet.

Class at TC MEC will resume on the 10th of July, at this moment HHDL is giving teachings on the Bodhisattvacharyavatara a.k.a A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva. This is a very important text because in outlines the Bodhisattva’s ideals (to stay out of nirvana until all sentient beings are liberated) which is the crux on which Mahayana Buddhism is founded on. In comparison to Theravada Buddhism where the Arhat (one who seeks liberation for ones own self) is the highest ideal. The teachings have now been going on for three days, and I am enjoying very bit of it. Every now and then I can understand a bit of HHDL’s Tibetan. With the teachings, McLeod Ganj is packed full of people, also with the coming rain after the teachings they will all flee for their dear lives.

At home we are all watching the World Cup and that too I am extremely enjoying. We had two girls for two different prep schools here on a study abroad program. One of the girls goes to Lawrenceville which is a school that a friend’s sister attended for her senior year. They were quite interesting girls since they come from pretty wealthy families. But regardless of that I did enjoy their company. I have never interacted with folks from a prep school before. Us po’ folk usually make fun of prep school students “preppies”. There is no doubt that these girls have rich families, and we had very different high school experiences, but for their short time here I truly had fun with them.

Pa la came home drunk one night and Ama la was not too happy about it. Pa la got schooled hard and it was the first time that I have seen them have anything that could resemble a fight by western relationship standards. They never share any affection towards each other. I get the sense that the only reason that they are together is because that is not to acceptable to divorce. It feels more like a business relationship. And I have a feeling that this is quite common among Tibetans, well at least older ones. A friend of mine was telling me a story. She was teaching English to some Tibetan carpet makers all of which were women. On Valentines Day she asked if they will make Valentines Day cards for their husbands. She told me that all the women starting laughing saying “Why would we do that for?” as if that was not an option. She then asked them if they loved husbands and they said, "Why would we love our husbands?" We then realized that in exile and probably in Tibet, marriage is done more for the sake of convenience over that of romance, not to mean that love does not happen but that it is not the main impetus for marriage.

Oh one more thing I have purchase my airplane ticket back to the US. I set to leave on the 24th of September, flying straight to Kentucky. My heart stops at the thought. Don’t get me wrong I love my home just not ready to leave just yet. I think that I will leave this post at that.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thoughts of return to the US, Mama Mia!!!!!

Two nights ago I was tossing and turing in my bed, and my mind was rustling with thought of my inevitable return the US of A. I ain't goin’ front, I have no desire to return to US, but it is something that I must do. Thus I have been thinking of how to return ASAP. I have given up the hope of attended FPMT’s Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Course for several reasons. Firstly, I cannot afford it. Secondly, I have not heard any thing from them and Thirdly, I think I know the potential teacher and he is an utter asshole and I do not want to study under him. So where does that leave me. IBD Sarah seems to be my best option. Their class is for one year and that will cost $1,000 including room and broad. If I excell in this class then I will have the option to take another one year brigde course with is $ 750. The beginner’s one years course plus the brigde course is expecting that a person who finishes these will be ready to do university work in the Tibetan language, which is my goal. The prices are right in reach.

The problems are that I will not be in the US until the beginning of October 2006, and the first course commences July 1st 2007, leaving me 9 months to come up with the funds. There is a hard chance that can go to the States, just for nine months. If I rent, I will have to comment to one year, and then rent will prevent me from saving the required money. Right now, I do not have a place to stay when I get back, nothing. I will have to figure everything out when I get there. But I do have some hope. If you have any suggestions please let me know. But, first things first, I will buy my ticket to the States, I am intending on leaving on the 24th of September. And I have made a 5 year plan as far as where I want to be, scary heh?

At my home here thing are great, Tashi was accepted to a good nursing school in Dehra Dun, India. The family was quite stressed out about him not being able to get into a school, but this one worked out. Last Sunday at midnight, some of us went to walk the lingkhor (circumambulatory path around HHDL’s residence) because it marks the Saka Dawa Duchen celebrating Sakyamuni Buddha enlightenment and parinirvana. The path was full of people. Many of them were doing full body prostrations while chanting prayers. Other where just chanting. As we walked the sides of the path were clogged with sleeping beggars and mendicants. We also went to the main temple which was also clogged with people. My thoughts were with my friend Dean who was at Gang Rinpoche (Mt Kailash) in Tibet. He was doing the samething me and my family where doing but around a big mountain and about 16,000 feet above sea level. He carried with him a picture of the family to offer to the mountain. The next day I went again to do the same thing, except all those sleeping beggars and mendicants who were sleeping the night before were in full action. Many Tibetans were carring bags filled with Indian coins. I could hear the beggars say "Panch, Panch, Panch" Five, five, five. Trying to increase the amount of alms the Tibetans were offering.

As all the world knows, the World Cup is rocking out in Germany and have been watching it adamantly. The World Cup reminds me of the years that I went to school in Panama, living with my family. I remember how the whole country watched together. I remember how the quickness of the Spanish annoucer entralled me. And of course the long winded "Gooooooooooooooooooooooool" that the annoucer will scream at the top of his lungs when a goal was scored. It is not the same in India, but better than the States. Not much folks be watching it there. Here folks watch it alot, but it does not have the societal passion that I remember from my youth in Panama. Watching it in English is not the same either, and there are no Spanish stations in India. I am glad to get a break from Cricket, and Tashi's favorite WWE wrestling. I have seen to NBA finals games, and one Baseball game recently.

Next week is the last week of school of the first term at TC MEC, and then HHDL's teachings will commence. I am excited since I focus so much on studying Tibetan, it gives me a chance to study Dharma for a week. Well I will leave with that. This Internet cafe is running on a generator right now, and not sure when it will just cut off. We aint got no light in good ole Mo la Gan ji. I hope that it will be on to watch the game.


Monday, June 05, 2006

A slip of the tongue and a wrong turn on the road. Are often the basis of a thrashing (Tibetan Proverb)

I used the above as my title because I could not control my mouth from anger. Here is the Wylie Romanization. kha nor lam nor gnyis de. nyes rdung gzed p’ai gzhi ma yin.

We are currently on vacation at TC MEC, while all the Tibetan schools are also on summer break. Summer consists of ten days. It is quite nice to be around kids, meaning that Choeyang (featured in the picture above) is home a lot watching tons of TV. Choeyang and I have developed quite a love hate relationship. At times she is intimate with me like I am her brother and at other times she is totally hating my guts calling me names like “dukcha” which means bad and “lang go” which means ox. We fight like brother and sister and it has been quite fun. I make of her front teeth which are very black from rotting.

I have also been playing with some other children. My current place of stay is suited down the hill from the Yongling School which is dedicated to the HHDL’s senior Tutor known as Ling Rinpoche. I have befriended some children from that school. I met them while there was a Tibetan cultural show happening at the school. The kids were tripping out over my height, skin color, hair and my ability to speak choppy Tibetan. Their favorite game involved me lifting about 20 little kids of various ages over the top of my head one at a time. We also played an interesting variation of tag. Nothing shows how old ones butt is getting than playing with a bunch of little jits. The good thing is that they know me and they always holler at me when I am walking down that steps homes.

About two days ago I was kicking a hacky sack around on the roof of my family’s house when hear someone screaming at me. I looked up; it was some of the kids from Yongling School. They had spotted me. They said, “De shu da” come here. So I grabbed my things and hoofed it on up the hill to the school. We played around with the hacky sack for a good bit. One of the little boys named Thokmay wants me to get him hacky sack like the one I have. I told that he will have to wait until I return to the US. I took his address and when I get back to the US I will send him one. Thokmay is a cute little boy; he must be Indian or at least partly Indian. Though school is a majority Tibetan school there are Indian and some Western kids who attend. One day I was walking behind a small white boy and a slightly bigger Tibetan boy. I was smiling as I listened to their conversation in Tibetan.

At home it has been quite stressful for the family. Tenzin Tashi, the oldest son, has just received he exam results. He did good, but not as good as he wanted. He is trying to go to Medical School and Pala and him went to Shimla (Capital of the Himachel Pradesh) to see what is up. For some reason all of these Medical Schools require a donation which is another name for baksheesh. It is quite expensive and it does not include any other cost. It is an accepted bribe to receive permission to go to school. Also with Tashi being a Tibetan, it makes it quite difficult. The family can not afford such a bribe of which they have been offered to pay between 300,000 to 700, 000 Lacs or Indians rupees. That is about 6880 to 16,055 US dollars. The family is not doing too badly financially but they do not have that kind of money. Thus it is quite sad, for Tashi studies very hard and also the family is depending on him. So he is under a lot of pressure. The funny thing is that if they did not tell me, I wouldn’t know they were stressed. Still they go about their day like any other day without a sight of emotion. The only hint I get is that Pala is drinking. At times he gets quite drunk. If Pala drinks, he will get drunk. There is not in-between for him. It does bring entertainment, for he is quite funny when drunk. Of course Ama Chuki la always puts the smack down on Pala when he gets out of hand.

I am definitely very happy to be living with the family, they have kept there promise to converse with me in Tibetan, which was the biggest desire I had. Note: I got angry at a friend of mine (Lobsang) for always speaking English to me. I totally cursed him out. He is a nice guy. No doubt that his English and Tibetan are better than mine, but all I asked for was his assistance in helping me learn his native tongue. Very time a saw me he spoke English and finally I told him that he has known me for nine months and knew my reason for coming to India and he could not bring himself to help me out. Well to say the least I do not think we are friends any more. I felt relief after that moment, but I do felt that I did not approach him in the right way. I should have talked to him instead of cursing him out. Well next time I see him I well try to talk to him, apologize and maybe he will forgive me. I am such a mean person.