My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year’s Entry, E ma ho!!!

Hello everyone, it has been quite awhile since I have been able to write an entry for the blog. As you know of my isolation at Sarah College and level of busyness that I have accrued is exacerbated by virtually zero access to internet which makes it difficult to update. But I have taken time off of school for the holidays which is providing me the time to do this long neglected business. What makes it also so difficult is to figure out where to begin since so much time has lapsed. I am feeling that it will be better for me if I start with the most recent events that have been prominent in my mind and to digress from there.

Being in the Tsamjor class has been such a great experience regardless of the challenges and recently I have been moved to realize the greatness of motivation that is instilled in some of my classmates. Most of the classes at Sarah have mandatory cleaning duties which happen at the end of each week. Different areas of the campus are divided amongst the classes in a rotation period normally lasting one month per site. When it came our turn to burn the trash, one of the students was moved by the ghastly amount of trash and malodorous smoke that it created. Everything is just burned at one go, glass, plastic, paper, etc. Due to this, some of the students from my class decided to make an awesome presentation on the environment, pollution and the effects it has on our campus and the world at large.

They did such a wonderful job; I mean they really put it together well, along with the initiative to help our campus to be “greener”. As for my own involvement with environmental activism back at home, I was moved to feel so proud of my classmates, for it was not something that was pushed upon them, which I believe to be the case when environmental issues are presented to a rural Indian population or even in Dhasa, but from their own visual experience of the horrid situation of how trash is handled at Sarah. They are putting themselves into action and I hope that it will come to fruition. Because of being in their shoes many times while being at Berea College I know what obstacles face them including the acceptance of the idea by fellow students, and the willingness of the administration to believe that this is a worthwhile avenue to take. My pride in those students knows no bounds.

This previous winter solstice, there was a celebration for the birthday of the founder of the Gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Je Tsongkhapa at Sarah and in McLeod Ganj. At Sarah they had a very nice ceremony including long, slow and thoughtful chants coming from the Lama Chopa liturgy, offerings, etc, followed by the lighting of candles placed all throughout the campus and since it was night that gave Sarah a subtle atmosphere, and concluded by an innumerable series of circumambulation a.k.a. Kora til you drop. The chanting of the liturgy was so nice and soothing since it was slowly led by the Umze (chantmaster), for normally most chanting is done at breakneck speeds, which makes it difficult for the beginning students to follow. Chants where exclamated with sounds of ‘ah la la, la la lo, and emaho’, which are exclamations used in Tibetan Buddhist literature as a vocal expression of the intensity of bliss that the great masters have experienced in their meditative realizations. Since no words are ever seemingly suitable for such an experience. Towards the end our Umze, concluded the chant with the infamous deep throat singing, which gave me goose bumps. Totally enthralled was I to hear the amazing ness of such vocal skill and the way the sound concentrically expanded at a single given moment as if the sound is produced everywhere but not from a single given source. Vibrations felt at the core of ones body made this very wonderful for me. These are definitely the times when my appreciation of being lucky enough to live in such a place arises.

For a more gruesome shift, the week before that in one of my classes we watched some of the most disturbing video footage that I have ever seen in my life. I have called this day “Decapitation Wednesday”. And why you might ask? Well one of our students in class had some videos to which I assume that he felt it was pertinent for our class to watch, for which purpose I guessed was to instill the insight of what samsara (cyclic existence) is really all about. It first started with a video produced by the T.V.A (Tibetan Volunteers for Animals) which uses the same tactics that the P.E.T.A videos use of getting and/or scaring people into considering a vegetarian diet. I have seen many of the P.E.T.A videos before so I was not to horribly disturbed by the graphic depictions of livestock being slaughtered and I felt the videos had a clear goal and focus “Don't eat meat”. But the next set of videos is still now beyond my comprehension since I was totally unprepared for what I saw. Pretty much they were a series of videos made by Muslim extremists consisting of a hostage kneeling on the floor blindfolded in front four or five masked fellows holding AK-47’s. Next to the kneeling hostage was a man orating something in Arabic with the voice of passion, similar to the vibe of a bible thumping, jumping up and down preacher in a black Baptist church.

As this scene started to unfold my stomach just knotted really hard for my brain was like
“I hope this is not what I think it is”. The man orated with passion and air striking fingers for about ten minutes, and then with the chanting of “Allah Akbar” one of the men behind the hostage proceeded to extract a huge knife and decapitated the hostage, in which afterwards the hostages’ head is placed on top of his limp body. It was fully graphic with zoom and everything. I was utterly shocked, with no mental preparations or nothing. I did not wake up that morning thinking that I will be watching such a scene. The horridness of the scene is just too gruesome to describe. In one video, the hostage, who I presume was a South Korean volunteer kidnapped in Iraq, was pleading for his life, the only English in the entire series of videos. One my classmates who was sitting next to me is Korean and she was crying.

Throughout the whole, I was thinking “Why the fuck are we watching this?” The progressing scenes got worse and for the rest of my day my mental space was just utterly bombarded by these images flashing like a strobe light. I was asking myself who is selling these CD’s and where the profit going and so on and so forth is. Is the purpose to create a wide hatred for those who practice the faith of Islam? Especially since the last few weeks before that there were the attacks in Mumbai. Is it just a weird fetish that folks get off at watching such things? Some students were saying such things as “all Muslims are evil” and whatever, but I made sure to enforce that that is not the truth. In many religions there are extremists and Tibetan Buddhism is not exempt from this, i.e those who adhere to the worship of the deity Dodgyal. I explained this to one of my teachers and to some of my classmates. No doubt those people who do these types of actions are messed up, but without having at least a partial knowledge of what is driving them to do such a thing then the perception gained from seeing these activities creates a generalization such as “all Muslim are evil”. Enough said about this, moving right along.

One weekend we had a Tsamjor class field trip to Trilokpur which is about one hour and half from Sarah by local bus, where the meditation caves of Tilopa and his disciple Naropa are located. A nice amount of students attended so it was quite a nice trip. The students organized the cooking of food and chai. We first visited a Karma Kagyu nunnery under construction in the area. The main temple possessed the log implement that Tilopa is said to have used to grind Sesames seeds. We gave the customary prostrations, khatak offerings and chanted.

We had to stop at another nunnery on the way to Tilopa’s cave. After the nunnery we went to Naropa’s cave which now has a Shaivite Temple built on top of it. Then we had a little adventure getting into Tilopa’s cave, first we had a cross a river of icy cold water twice. The cave sits about maybe ten to twenty feet above river on the opposing shore. So went rented a latter from the previously visited nunnery. We all had to stripped down a bit in order to go into the cave because it required entering that ice cold water up to waist height for me or if your Tibetan chest height. Me and Dolma, my Korean classmate had to wait a bit in the water, brrrrrrr. Two guys had already scaled up to the cave using a slimy rope that was already there, that was quite funny to see. In the cave our class captain proceeded to do a puja in another section of the cave. It was quite wet inside, but since Tilopa lived many centuries ago I hoped that is was not moist in those days. Some parts of the inside had craved doorways and Tibetan mantras scratched into the walls. I was unable to go to other parts of the cave since there was not enough space and the puja was going on. “An actual yogi cave wow”, I said to myself since for ages I have wanted to be in one and there I was. Afterwards on the way back to Sarah, some of the students sung lovely Tibetans songs all the way back to the awe/ suspicion of the other Indian passengers.

A week or so before that, due to some severe mental trauma that I was causing myself because I was smitten over someone at Sarah; I took the exam time at Sarah to go to Rajpur to visit H.H. Sakya Trizin and my good friend for college. Some friends took me to Mussorie where one can see the snow-clad mountains of the Indo-Tibetan frontier, which was a sight to see. I went with some monks from the monastery on motorbikes which caused us to be a sight to be stared upon. Mussorie sits on a high ridge above Dehra Dun, and was where HHDL lived when he first came to India, where he established the Tibetan Homes Foundation School which we visited. I could not but help to feel bad for the students who live there for from there the mountains that guard their homeland is clearly visible and they can’t go back, what a constant reminder of the state of stateless! The guys that I went with had to bring to some articles for some of their relatives who are attending school there so I tagged along. It was quite a cold motorcycle ride up the hill and I was quite underdressed.

But I had a great time there; the guys took me around the town. We went to a garden, an aquarium, and an arcade. We also just walked around the mall area there. It was quite a pleasant time and I was so glad that they took me up there since I have always wanted to go. In Rajpur I stayed in the servant’s quarters directly behind the Dolma Phodrang, since their guest house was full because Lama Zopa and several monks and lamas were there to receive empowerments from H.H. Sakya Trizin. At the beginning of my stay I helped entertain my friend’s daughter known as Jetsunma. She is going to be two years old soon and is so cute. She remembers me from the last time I came to visit because I juggled for her. So when she sees me she says “juggle, juggle” while making the hand motions imitating my juggling. That was quite a joy. At first she was scared of me but she slowly got used to me, I don’t think that she liked my matted locks though. Anyways, for most of my time there I just relaxed, received H.H. Sakya Trizin’s blessing, studied and chatted which the folks who work at the Dolma Phodrang. I stayed a total of about two weeks, and came back to Sarah with my battery recharged and my head cleared from the nonsense that I had place myself.

And now it is the Holidays and though it does not feel like it I am amongst some good company, chillin’ in McLeod Ganj until after New Years and then back to grindstone. I was like to dedicate this blog entry to my parents in Florida who believe in the work that I am doing regardless of how crazy it sounds, heh it could be worse, I could be studying Klingon, Elven or Esperanto. Just Kidding, I love you very very much. To everybody else out there, I miss yo ass, come visit beeeeaaaaach.


Monday, September 29, 2008

At times…..

At times since I have been living at Sarah, regardless of all the difficulties that I have experienced, difficulties of not fitting in, difficulties in language learning, racial differences, understanding and trying to be understood, personal interrelations and so forth, I have always been driven with a tremendous sense of gratitude and appreciation to be here. I am a progressing slowly through the motions that will lead me to my goal. It is the art of manifestation that I have heard so much about at play. For those who know anything about my previous life then you will have a better idea of what I am getting at.

Sarah is like living in an extremely acute bubble for sure, especially if you are an international student. The further away one is from the surrounding ethic group the more acute is seems to be. Me for example, I am as far as Tibetan as anyone since here. Yep, I was born in US so I have that going on, and I am black which means I will always be the “Token” black man. To many of my black friends at home that will be problematic. Why!! Well, here this community is definitely more accustomed to the European caucasians type since they have had more interactions with them and that is who is paying the bucks and doing the most of the supporting.

Sarah and I can assume every Tibetan NGO in Dharamsala probably has a white face behind it. I remember when I was working as the secretary at Tibetan Charity in McLeod Ganj in ‘05, I had to write letters to the sponsors for support or do outreach for new support and they were all white. Now, I am not saying that this is bad or condemning it. What I am getting at is that is firstly only white folks on the whole have the kind of resources to support these NGO’s and at the rate that they do, since they are in a superior position of privilege in the world as compared to other global minorities. Secondly, most black folks are in bad situations, many because of the economic situations of living in the projects, zero to no education, etc are even going to know any about Tibet. Third, that means that the interactions that this community has the people of the western world do not look or act like me.

That is also fine, but a friend recently told me, I am like a triangle trying to fit into a square, I think it I am more like a rhombus but I hope you get what I am getting at. At times here I feel the sense of invisibility that Ralph Ellison wrote about in the Invisible Man but more acute. That sense of invisibility does not mean that folks don’t see you they know that you are there, but they don’t really see you. But now I do not want to be misunderstood here, I have never sensed hatred towards me because I am black since I have lived in India. What it is, I think, encountering a type or race that they have never encounter before.

Thanks to MTV, AND 1 Basketball, and hip hop, everyone have seen black people on TV, but that picture of what actually flesh and blood black is about is glorified sense of reality, just the part that the media corporations feel is worthy enough since is creates fantastic profit margins. I don’t play B-ball, I can’t rap, or anything else that is portrayed as Black or more specifically African-American.

I think that there is a lot that I can work with though. One thing that I can hope to instill, which is something that I would hope to instill is a sense of inquiry about whatever subject that drives you best. For example, so many students here love Bob Marley, and hip hop, but could not tell what it is about. Yea not doubt, it is uber trendy at point, their English is not so good and no one is going care. But I think that people cut themselves short when they don’t do so. For me, lets take Bob Marley, the man’s life was an inspiration to millions, his message was universal, but if you don’t understand the root of where at came from, the political situation of Black Jamaicans at his time in history, the birth of Rastafarianism as a religion etc, the message is cut that transmission to change one’s paradigm is lost. Like I had some one tell me that the song “No Woman, No Cry” meant that because a man does not have a woman, they are not crying from the difficulties that a woman could brings to a man, which is not what that song it about. It seems with hip-hop that if one does not understand the initial situation of the Blacks in US history, that a healthy appreciation for the music and culture will not be born.

I made one hundred percent sure that when I started my studies on Tibetan culture that I will use every resource at my disposal to learn as much as I could about the culture as I could. All aspects of the culture I delved in as seal dives into the sea. I talked with my Tibetans friends from Berea College; I resourced the positive and the negative, whatever I could find, Chinese propaganda, TGIE propaganda, history books etc, etc. Since I have been here amongst the community that work has gotten me such a long way and that is what I would like to instill, ok, not to my extent, but a little since of it. How many times I have seen it since I have been here, when I hear Tibetans saying how much they dislike when foreigners think they know everything about their culture after two weeks in McLeod Ganj when they don’t. They hate it and so do Black people and every other minority race.

I was really happy to hear that there was a Tibetan translation of Alex Haley’s Roots, though I cracked myself up on how the translators dealt with the South-Eastern Dialect. Like “Yo name Tooby, Boi!!!” wouldn’t have the right feel in Lhasa Tibetan, hehe. Anyhow some folks have asked me about slavery and I was so happy to explain, but that has been few and far in between. I remember when I was doing the Tibet Charity conversation classes, that one middle aged Tibetan lady from Kham told that all black people in the US got there with visas, I immediately said without thinking, if you call being stolen from you land and crammed like a sardine unto to a boat for a 2-3 month journey across the Atlantic Ocean a visa then you are correct. Of course she had not clue of what I was talking about but I did my best to elucidate.

I am sure that as my Tibetan starts to iron out a bit that I will get more opportunities to elucidate and hopefully to inspire an altruistic thirst for knowledge, for it is a step in true global solidarity and that is what I think will help bring this world in a better position for the karma that it must reap.

The pass month at Sarah I have experience many things in more subtle ways to say the least. Like I said my sense of gratitude for being here far outweighs my troubles. My classmates have been so supportive of Korean woman and me, offering to help us whenever, since our classes are difficult for us. I was so incredibly touched by that, it means that the barriers are starting to fall. Of all my professors, two are monks and two are ex-monks. The ex-monks have spent 2-3 years in a Chinese prison in Tibet for pro-Tibet demonstrations. One in particular is our best teacher, he teaching style is more interactive. One day he told us about his situation, how he ended up in prison. And wow, to hear what people have gone through in life and still keep a healthy perspective is very inspiring to me. We all sat there, ours ears were drawn in as a bee is drawn to pollen. A few days ago, a NGO from McLeod Ganj, came to talk about the TGIE’s Middle Way policy for Genuine Tibetan Autonomy with in the PRC. Yesterday one of the ex-monk teachers who did not concur with this policy totally presented his point of view to us.

We also have a new student, just arrived from Tibet to India last year, spent 7 years in prison and knew one of our teachers because they were in the same prison at the same time. One day when one of our teachers cancelled class, a group of us surrounded him and he narrated his experiences to us, Tibet now, prison life, torture, Chinese government, etc. I think it was so beneficial to listen and hear his words especially for the students who have never seen Tibet.

When the HHDL’s was in the hospital in Mumbai, a few us fasted for 12 hours recited prayers at the Main Temple in MC Ganj and there I was chatting to some students from TCV and some old timers, and it was so nice to have had that kind of exchange with them. The HHDL’s eldest brother Takster Rinpoche passed on recently. He was the first rinpoche that I had ever met; I still have a pin of the “namchu wangdan” a symbol for the Kalachakra Tantra that has 10 Tibetan letters stylistically superimposed on each other that he gave a group us of who had joined a peace march for Tibet from Bloomington, Indiana to Indianapolis. That was my sophomore year in college, and he was very sick then. I also saw him during my last return to the US, during a Tibetan thanksgiving party at the Tibetan Cultural Center in Bloomington. He seemed better then, but I am sad to hear that he had passed; tons of prayers were recited at Sarah and throughout MC Ganj.

Like in the last blog, the Buddhist Philosophy course a.k.a the “Smack Masters” had another entertainingly exciting debate with the monks of IBD; this time the IBD class was 9 years ahead of the Sarah monks and had been studying Madhyamika for awhile. I am slowly but surely continuing by studies in preliminary debate and driving myself so that I enter the next batch of the Buddhist Philosophy course in the next year of so.

A guy came to Sarah and gave a talk about earthquakes, there are four spots here around Dharamsala that stupas (ritual reliquaries) where erected after a ritual the HHDL performed as earthquake prevention. Sarah College has one of them, it is black, and I think that there is one at the Norbulingkha Institute, at TIPA and at the HHDL’s residence. But the guy, who I assume was trained somewhat in seismology, told us that we are in a high risk earthquake zone, sweet right? What is even better is since that most houses are made of concrete, that if a big one hit, it will just crush everything. I think at Sarah it wouldn’t be as bad, but Mcleod Ganj is a nightmare. It is so cram packed with concrete building after concrete building on a ridge on a hill. Remember when I wrote the blog entry in ’05 about the earthquake that killed 100,000 in Pakistan and Kashmir I felt in Mcleod Ganj and then I knew, seeing where I was living in the middle of concrete buildings on TIPA road that I would have been done. Luckily it was only a tremor in McLeod Ganj, right? The speaker gave us good tips about what to do in case of an earthquake. Do not worry out there; I will be fine, I think.

The next speaker was Gelong Tenzin Choerab la, American Doctor who has lived in Dharamsala for about 20 or so years and has been monk about 5 or so years. He gave a talk about TB, hepatitis, and AIDS, and how they are transmitted and so far, and it was really good. We were so proud of him; he spoke in Tibetan at beginning, mixed in English for the more trickier stuff. He is in his early 60’s I think and I proud that he is attempting to learn a new language. For me learning a new language since you late 20’s it is hard as hell, and he just plugged on through. Anyways, he talked about how they are communicated and so on a forth, Sex, intravenous drugs, bad blood transfusions and the like. The students asked many questions, but since it was a sensitive topic dealing with sex most students wrote their questions on pieces of paper and pass it up to Choerab la. I was a slightly relinquishing in the oxymoron that laid in front me, an American celibate monk talking to younger Tibetans students both lay and monastics about sex.

Afterwards the Lobchila, the principal of Sarah, went to say the AIDS and Hepatitis B is the proof of why sex is evil and that accumulates bad merit. Now I can understand, the principal himself is a monk, and in the Buddhist scriptures there tons stuff about desire, attachment and so forth, but when dealing with adolescent students who have not had any type of sex ed. whatsoever say a thing like that is unhealthy, I believe. The principal is also my Buddhism teacher for the tsamjor class and it happened that that week the topics were on sexual desire and so on and again he said the same thing. I have been told the same thing for the Christians conservatives back in the US, and have seen how that had totally backfired and caused teenagers to be even more sexually active with a unhealthy view toward sex.

I guess I wish that the issue could be addressed in a more open manner, instead of just scaring them into not having sex, no doubt there is a “no dating” rule at Sarah, but it does get broken and that is understandable. The little that I have talked to as far as the guys go in the sexual arena is that they harbor a highly unhealthy outlook on sex and I think that that will manifest in their lives in very negative and detrimental ways. I was glad to heard that small Sarah shop is now selling condoms, but also it is a good way to know who is getting their “freak on”, too. I just wish that instead of outright condemnation that some way to teaching the youngsters about their bodies and attraction to the opposite or same sex can be responsible and healthy and not source of sin.

Now that I have been in Tsamjor there have been some things that I have had to get used too. One is teaching styles, the teachers have no syllabus so the lessons day to day don’t follow a schedule. Most teachers just lecture to you, and at times assign an ass ton of homework, which if it is do big for me, I just don’t worry about it. Most of the students have to work on campus, not like at BC but similar, like very Saturday after lunch each class minus the international class are assigned a certain area of the campus the rotates very month that they are responsible to clean. This month we clean the basketball court. We clean our classrooms together, like one time we were cleaning the classroom and rubbing candle wax into the concrete floor to make it shiny, so we used shawls to give the floor a shiny finish. Some guys got the smart idea that if one person sat cross-legged on the end of the shawl and if two guys pulled the other end that it will make the floor shiner. It was tons of fun; the girls were in on it, too. The next things you know there are folks sliding all over the floor shawl racing into each other and into the wall. I tried a few times almost banging my head against a wall, praise jeeves for dreadlocks!!

This week they had us hauling rock and dirt from a small square roofless area in the center of the main classroom building. At first there was just concrete but that was smashed into chunks and we hauled them away in bags. I did it solo hoisting the bag of rocks on my shoulder, many did it in pairs and it was gratifying to me. I have done work like this tons of times in the US, so in some ways I was able to fulfill that part of me that enjoys physical labor, and also the solidarity that it brings when you are willing to suffer and endure with others.

That is one of the things that Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara got right even though I believe that he went way to far at the end, but that when you are willing to work, to put your body on the line to help and benefit those who are seemingly lower and less privileged than you, that at that moment is when true solidarity between peoples is born. Many people back at home talked about solidarity this and solidarity that and when I saw that many of these movement always had more talk and action, I realized that solidarity is born from placing yourself in a different position and experiencing it from that angle. When you see it from that angle then you understand. You will never be able to understand like a person born into the position but it is enough to open your mind to a new world of understanding about yourself and others.

All activist movements need it for without it there will be no activism, from the Free Tibet to the Free Hawaii movement. I have notice that also in my recent relations with the students now because last year rumors had it that the international students at Sarah never worked, and that they were lazy. My four years of homelessness taught me to never shy away from work and that is the least that I can do. No doubt that at Sarah that students have no choice, they must work since there tuition is half of what I am paying, I don’t have to work but I do choose do and as they say in the blue collar workforce “there is no I in team” and I am in their team now. I think that I have gotten pretty long winded here and I hope that I have not bored you to death.

I have some good news, it seems that I will be getting some financial help for my near goal of studying Buddhist Dialects through the method of formal Tibetan Debate, now I need to get into the course and get a long term visa, but it does not cover everything, so if you think what I am doing it worthwhile please hit me up with either suggestions, scholarship etc to help me fulfill a dream.

I would like to dedicate this blog to folks who have proofed to me what friendship is all about, Pawo, Kay, Ani, and to the most stunning of all women Clear Light, may you life be filled with gratitude.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

8/8/08 a sad day…..

Tibet is not just about Tibetans—

Tibet is about an Endless Arms Race between

India and China;

Tibet could well be the Flashpoint of the next

Great War;

Yes; Tibet is about the Future of World Peace;

So Please; please help Free Tibet!

An excerpt from “Please” by Lhasang Tsering

As this day started for me one of my classmates placed this statement, “We condemn the return of Hitler’s Olympic stance!!!” on a piece of paper on the bulletin board of my classroom in effect stating a similarly between this current Summer Olympics held in Beijing and the one held in Nazi Germany Berlin 1936 under Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. As can be seen by what Lhasang Tsering has written and what I have heard from a few intellectuals in the Tibetan Exile Community, that there is a similarity between the two: Communist China and Nazi Germany. Both was/ are oppressive regimes and both have had/ have the Olympics and have used/ are using it as a propaganda machine to promote themselves as a righteous global power. Though I am unable to properly elaborate on the validity of such statements and thoughts, I cannot but help feel a sense of helplessness and sadness from a group of people regardless of achieving much media attention throughout the pass couple of months over the Tibet Issue have ended up being silenced by what counts to those who have power, the “mean green.”

As Dharamshala was turned into yet another focal point for the demonstrating of ones disgust, agony, and suffering that the Tibetans have endured for the pass couple of decades by raising their voices in protest, Beijing prepared and commenced their goal, to hold the first ever Olympics, what I think is a first in the Asian Continent and thus at least at this point if not silenced then at least dampened these voices.

As I was watching the opening ceremony with my fellow college mates, the feeling of melancholy was very thick. On the screen was hundreds of people performing one of the most beautiful displays of Tai Chi Chuan that I have ever seem, in total precision, synchronicity and unity. The commentators were explicating a little bit on some of concepts found in Taoism from which Tai Chi Chuan takes its symbolism. Coming from a nation that its founder claimed that religion is poison; a nation that suppressed
Tibetan Buddhism and banned Falun Gong, all I can do is to be in awe at the skill involved by these participants and laugh at the irony, One World, One Dream…..

As they showed the different “Chinese minorities” in their traditions dresses, dancing their traditional dances the crowd of us watching this in the Boy Dorm’s TV lounge gasped as we saw the extremely familiar masks used in Tibet for a dance called “Tashi Choepa” and the typical elongated sleeves undulating back and forth over the heads of these dancers. Was this to be the only sign of Tibetans at this show? The five races that make up the PRC, as Beijing prefers, the Mongols, Manchus, Uigurs, Tibetans and Hans, all had their representative dances, three out of five of these which are occupied nations as far as I know.

As we watched all the various countries marching into the main Olympic Stadium in Beijing and as the Bhutanese made their presence I once again laughed at this irony. The Bhutanese are of the Tibetan Race or Bod Rig, and if one traces the etymology of the word Bhutan, one would see that Bhutan actually means Tibet, hahaha. But that is not a solace to those who sit around me waiting…. As I was explaining to a monk where the various countries as they came out are located in the world, he suddenly asked me, “What would happen if one of these athletes were to carry a Tibetan Flag or started yelling Free Tibet? Would they go to prison?”, “They would probably be expelled from the games” was all I could say.

There was a sense in the room that something was going to happen, that someone was going to show support for Tibet at this crucial moment, in front of George Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy (who threaten to boycott the opening ceremonies “Money Talks, Bullshit Walks”), Sonia Gandhi and the world, but as far as I know nothing of the sort has happened. Though I am filled with sadness on this day, I am never exhausted of hope, that is the only thing that they have and I am always happy when I am able to instill it to anybody when I given the opportunity. Though the odds seem high, for all freedom struggles that have ever existed on this planet, it was hope that got them their objective.

With me being so involved with Tibetans, more so than when I was at Berea College, my sense to be beneficial seems to grow and intensify. I eat with them, debate with them, chat, clean, get my ass wooped in Badminton by them, and even have totally fallen in love with one of them. My sense of yet other global folly done to these folks, as has been done to the Indigenous Americans and others horrifies me. 8/8/08 should be a day to remember for all the small people of the world who struggle to have freedoms.

Well I have been really bad with the whole blog updating business but I am attempting to strive to be a bit more regular in updating (I know that I have said this before). Please forgive my syntax for I am out of practice in writing. Since my last entry which seems like many moons ago, I have celebrated my golden birthday, 30 on the 30th of June, and a friend from college Fred Rweru a Watson Fellow was in Mcleod Ganj for a month which was awesome, I took a summer course in the Tibetan Medium for Tibetans attending Indian colleges, visited Rajpur to visit my old college friend Kalden a.k.a Dagmo Kusho la and received an audience from H.H. Sakya Trizin which was a true blessing. And my second year at Sarah has begun.

As this year begun with the recitation of “Praises to the 21 Taras” a hundred thousand times, I came to realize how lucky I and the rest of us have been to be here at Sarah. I have always had this feeling, but these times have been much more acute. The folks that happen to me around me are truly incredible people, and if it were not for the timing of my arrival here I would not have be able to meet any of them or more clearly have the type of relationship that I am having with them now. I am doing what I love and it makes me very happy, regardless of the fact that I am in debt, and that my loans were not deferred this year, and that my money situation is very grim. These would normally over cloud any sense of hope and motivation. I will strive to achieve my goal regardless of all these things.

My class is called “Tsham Jor” or the Bridge course, it is meant to bridge Tibetan Students who have slightly less than a10th grade level Tibetan to those of college level Tibetan. All of my classmates are Tibetan except of a Korean woman. My course involves Orthography, Buddhism, Grammar and History. There is a class on poetics but it is too hard for me so I dropped it. A picture of H.H. Dalai Lama hangs from above the blackboard compassionately looking and smiling at us, reminding me of the meaning of the word Chenrezig, he who looks down, as the HHDL is identified as an emanation of the “Bodhisattva of Compassion”. To the right of that is a long panoramic picture of the Capital of Tibet, Lhasa, with the Potala Palace jotting out of middle and directly above it someone has pasted a sticker of the Tibetan Flag.. Below that is a well made modern map of Tibet or more precisely cholkhasum, the three provinces of Tibet, U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo.

This to me gives me the sense of the purpose of this course and this college that I am enrolled in and what gently tugs the student’s motivation. The class is mixed between those born in Tibet and those born in India. Our teachers frequently talk about Tibet, the Tibet of their childhood and I can tell that the students relish hearing these story from their elders. Two of my teachers are political prisoners, detained and tortured in Chinese prisons for numerous years, for saying two words very loudly “Free Tibet”.

When class first started I was quite overwhelmed, and if it wasn’t for the course that I took over the summer I would have been screwed. The work load is quite intense and I have had to be more vigilant in learning how to writing in cursive Tibetan which is hard as hell. All the teachers write only in the cursive script and though I cannot write it well, I have learned to read it. I am slowly adjusting to my new environment, as compared to the foreigner language course from the previous semester which was pretty laid back; this year have a way more serious feeling and I am more interactive with the students. I think when they first saw me enter the classroom that they must have been surprise to see me there, but we are slowly warming up to each other.

I have also finally commenced my studies of Tibetan Buddhist Debate, one of the nuns from the current Buddhist Philosophy course from Switzerland a.k.a Swiss Ani, has been teaching a few of us once a week how to debate. We are working on debating procedures from a genre of text called Collected Topic/ dudra which are the introductory texts that teach first steps in Buddhist logic. It has only been two weeks, but I am slowly making process. It is way hard, I have been reading a book about it in English and it is tough, we are doing it in Tibetan which makes it even tougher. The First year bachelor’s degree course ‘rignae’ are also studying Dudra and they debate twice a week for an hour on Monday and Thursday evenings. I started going to their debates last week just to get just to hear it live, because it is very fast and requires that one is on their mental toes. I hoping that as I learn more that I would be able to take a more activate role in the debating, but that this point it is just to try to get a feel for how the terms and ideas at I will be learning are applied in real live debate. Also the good thing is that they are also just starting their study of dudra, even though their some students who have studied it in the pass. My Buddhism teacher from this summer is the one teaching first year Rignae dudra so he told to listen very carefully and that it will come, so I was happy to hear that.

Last night the students of Buddhist Philosophy course (a.k.a The Smack Masters) had a four and some hour debate with two monks from the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD), Sarah’s mother school. Apparently, they do this one a month. These two monks took the position of defending, meaning that they sat of the floor and each student from the Sarah class will initiate a debate one by one in turn. The (IBD) monks are in a class higher than the Sarah class and thus in assumption have more experience. The Sarah class has been studying the Prajnaparamita Sutra/ Phar Chin, and I assume that that is where their debates came from. It was quite raudy to say the least; though one person might have initiated the debate eventually there were ten or more challengers ganging up on the two defenders, in which some of more forceful challengers were either cutting off or straight up pushing the other challenger/s out of way so that they could present their point. In Tibetan monastic debating is called “tsod pa gyab” arguing and that is exactly what it looks like. Upon a casual glance one would not think that they are discussing the finer points of Buddhist Philosophy. The challengers are at times jumping up and down, the defenders and the challengers are pointing fingers at each as they spit out rapid fire statements, and times all the various challengers in union will present a point that ends in huge clap of the hands (thus Smack Masters) and a stomp of the feet that resounds solidly throughout the temple. It is quite a show actually even if you don’t know Tibetan. When a defender, the one sitting down, takes too long to respond the whole crew starts yelling at the top of their lungs, “ooooooohhhh cheeiir cheeiir cheeiir!!” clapping their hands at each cheeir. Though I have just begun learning the procedures of debate I felt it was very beneficial for me to have gone even though there was little I understood. It seems very daunting to me at this point but if things work out that will be me someday up there with them debating. I have so much work to do.

To all those out there, friends from BC, the road and elsewhere I miss you very much and I think of you often, always remember that all of you reside in my heart.

P.S. This blog entry is dedicated to “Clear Light” for expiring me in many various ways.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

bod rgyal lo!!!!

Right before the beginning of the 2008 New Year the International class was requested to prepare a performance for the incoming students of the Emory University Tibetan Studies Study Abroad Program due to be coming on the 18th of January. Since it was seen by certain students that I possessed the talents and know-how deemed certain necessary to arrange a performance, I slightly reluctantly accepted the task. My first idea was to do a way chessy dance routine to a popular hip hop song since our performance was to be aimed at young US students. Some of the other students objected to this idea saying that we should do a Tibetan song instead, and so Kay and I sat down one day and Kay our German homeboy came up with a great idea.

It consisted of using a popular Tibetan exile pop song called “Ngantsho Bod Kyi Pu mo” aka “Our Tibetan Women”. The chorus goes: Our Tibetan women, Short, Fat and Beautiful. Because of this lyric, Kay thought that it will be utterly hilariously if he dressed up as a girl kneeling on the ground wearing sandals on his knees and a chupa (Tibetan dress). I was to be Kay’s suitor, the tall black man who falls heads over heels with Kay’s short, fat, beautiful Tibetan woman self. Once we had worked through some more ideas, we came up with a game plan. We wanted four back-up dancers, who all ended up being from Korea. Kay and I will have our own moves which corresponded to the song and the back up dancers. My responsibility was to choreograph and teach the dance. Kay’s job was to get his costume details all worked out.

So one day in my room I played the song over and over again until I had a rough draft of the moves. This had been the first time that I had ever choreographed a dance, although it is not something that I can hardly place on a résumé, I felt that it was quite an accomplishment. I have had experience in being in choreograph pieces in college in different styles of dancing, salsa, contra-dancing, lindy hop etc. so I guess from those I was able to come up with some mad chessy steps.

And thus Hotfoot’s shea thrap (dance your ass off) boot camp began. We trained for about two weeks and even though not everyone in the class performed others where able to contribute to it in other ways. One student translated the lyrics into English and we had another student who was not willing to dance but willing to be our flash card girl. Thus while the song played she change the cards so that the students could at least get the gist of what is going on. For I thought that although it still would have been funny to see the performance with out translation, knowing at least what the chorus meant will help provide the insight that the Tibetan audience was to understand. Also as a suggestion from one of the Korean back-up dancers a speech was prepared in Tibetan by another student and I was to read this before the start of the performance. It pretty much entailed our appreciation to all the students, faculty and staff for all the help and kindness that they have shown to us, especially in the realm of helping us out in our Tibetan, making us feel at home and to welcome the study abroad students, faculty and staffs. By the time we were ready to perform, we were absolutely sick of that song, but we had our moves down.

During the actual performance everyone about died. This, as far has I know, as been the first time that the International students have done a proper performance and when they saw our lovely little Kay in a Tibetan chupa at 4 foot 2 inches, fat, with long black hair and makeup, the audience totally busted it wide open. No one was expecting that because we had set up a covert operation to keep Kay’s short, fat, beautiful Tibetan woman identity covered up until it was time from him to come out on stage. The Korean backup dancers acted as a partition between the audience and Kay in order that he could get ready without them seeing him. Me, as Kay’s suitor and choreographer remember watching the Sarah’s principal, whose a geshe, gusting a gut and the students were just hysterically laughing. Our mission was complete and it was tons of fun.

Before the dance I was quite nervous, but not over the dancing, but over the Tibetan speech. I cannot speak Tibetan when I am nervous so I practiced that speech to death, more than any other speech that I have given. Obvious since Tibetan is not my first language is worried that no one will understand me or that my US accent will be bad etc, but my fears were not the reflection that I have had of the situation. My teachers said that I spoke clearly and everything was understood and also that they were proud, and that made me soo happy. Anyways that opened up the welcoming celebrations for the study abroad student to Sarah.

Having the students here was great, though at first I was a bit apprehensive because I thought maybe the students would not like me for numerous reasons that I had built up in my whacked out little head of mine. Though I am older than them and all, they all are totally awesome. There main director who I got to chat to a bit is a way intense lady but who was cool and speaks excellent Hindi. She is an Indian Buddhist scholar with tons of knowledge in Indian Buddhist epistemology and knows the who’s who in Dharamsala and she created the Emory Tibetan Studies Study Abroad program. Emory for the pass couple of years has an especial connection with IBD and HHDL. This connection led to HHDL accepted an Honorary Professorship (?) at Emory after he had been awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor, which is something the he has not accepted from any other institution in the world.

I remember when I at Berea reading about this very program and I had wanted to apply but it was too late since if I would have gone it would been during my last semester of college and Berea does not allow students to study abroad in their last semester. Plus at that point I was a bit disappointed with the study abroad office because the previous semester was not allowed to apply to the SIT Tibetan Studies program because my GPA was fractions lower than the minimal requirement. So here I am not in the Emory program, but in a weird way being here at Sarah and interacting with the students and the staffs is like I can experience it vicariously. The students get to meet the who’s who in McLeod plus have a private audience with HHDL, can’t beat that, right!!

I have made good friends with the staffers, one who I had met at the beginning of my first stay in MC Ganj two years ago who is as cool and awesome as it gets. She is a TA for a Tibetan Culture course. And the other TA for Tibetan Buddhism who I had not met, but I friend of mine who was in the program last year had told me that this woman was totally kicks ass, which is does. And not forget the coolest nun ever, who teaches the Buddhism course. She is way famous in the Dharamsala dharma circle for being a great teacher, and for being an erudite debater in Tibetan Buddhist dialectics. Since they have arrived, I have spent most of my free time with them and it has been a blast. They have acted as a sort of temporary emotional support base for me, since with being in Sarah I have not had someone to properly talk to about the stuff that is going in my head for while sometime. My Sarah friends are great and I love them, but due to cultural differences certain topics that were bothering me did not translate and I was not able to get the support and understanding that I would have desired and these girls came at the right time I guess. The two TA’s, I have felt, where able and willing to hear me blab about my shit, even though at times I might have been a burden on them. They did have a lot work. I owe all to them and if they ever read this I hope that they know that I love them to death and that they have helped me tremendously and I hope that I in someway have been able to help them.

We all celebrated the Tibetan New Year (Losar) together bringing in the Earth-Mouse Year (rab byung ri zla’i sa byi lo) 2135. I enjoyed the celebrations here. It is only on Losar that alcohol is allowed to be drunk on campus by students and I got to see some of my teachers in full drunken regalia. The school provided dance parties around a bonfire in front of the Girl’s Hostel. A combination of Tibetan (traditional and Modern) music and dance, Western music, and we cannot forget the Punjabi Bhangra, which is hella fun. We went in and out of the staffers rooms who has made Losar altars out of khapsay, which is a kind of a fried doughy things of different shapes used to be stacked on the altar or small pretzel versions to be eaten immediately which many of the students had help make in an assemble line fashion a few day before Losar. If front of all the altars there are various small or big bowls filled with various offering stuffs. The most important one as far as guest are concerns in the one containing tsampa ? flour, in which every guest as they enter whosever’s room or house take a little pinch and flick it up over there heads three times as a offering while facing their altar. You do this to every room you go into on losar. The host will then proceed to offer various drinks, snacks, etc, including big Ole hunks of meat and pig fat marinated in some yellow looking seasoning.

Also another rule that is totally loosened on Losar is that the hostels are totally open to either sex up to 7pm. Normally for a girl to enter the guys hostels or vice versa is a big no no. I heard that in pass Losars there was not a curfew, but last year something went down in the boy hostels that the administration decided on placing a curfew. I am not sure what went down, but I heard in had to do with alcohol, dancing, US girls and Tibetan boys, great combo ain’t it. I did not go to MC Ganj the whole time, because it was cold and I heard that it had been snowing and Sarah was cold enough as it was.

Class went on just fine when we had it; by this point many of our students had already left a month before to attend HHDL teachings at the beginning of January in the big Tibetan settlements of South India or just wanted a vacation, so up until this point we have not had our full class attendance. A few days after Losar HHDL give his Monlam Chenmo (Great Prayers) teachings. Usually back in the pre-1959 Tibet after Losar, Tibetans in Lhasa will celebrate Monlam Chenmo, but it exile HHDL does teachings. This year the teachings were based on the Udanavarga (ched du brjod pa’i tshoms) or the Mula-Sarvastivadin version of the Dhammapada, and the Jataka Tales (skyes rabs). Most of the teachings were in the form of lung transmission in which HHDL just reads the texts and that led up to a empowerment on the 16 drops of Kadampa. I know that many folks don’t know what the hell I am talking about but hopefully this might get your inquisitive mind going to search out what this stuff this for I don’t fell like explaining it. These teachings were totally crowded; there were people from all over the world, hung out with some cool Spaniards which was nice since I haven’t spoken Spanish in quite sometime and a Tibetan Doctor from Amdo who had come just for the Teachings. I also saw Dr. Barry Clark, an Englishman who learnt Tibetan medicine from Dr. Yeshi Dhonden many years ago in Dharamsala. Dr. Clark had come to Berea a few years ago to give a small workshop on Tibetan Medicine before the thought of even studying the Tibetan language had entered my mind. He was a great influence in my desire to study Tibetan.

A few days after the Monlam teachings, HHDL went immediately to give the Guhyasamaja Empowerment. While the empowerment was going on I had found out from a student who was attending the empowerment that my main Lama was also at the teachings, and that in fact it was him, HH Sakya Trizin and HH Karmapa, who had requested these teachings from HHDL. Guhyasamaja are tantric teachings which means that they are secretive and at a level of Tibetan Buddhist practice which requires a high level of dedication to your main Lama and to the practice. So for teachings and empowerments as such, it is requires that those who attend had received certain preliminaries empowerments and teachings, if one had not done so then one is not allowed to attend. Last year HHDL had given the first half of the teachings thus only those who had attended last year were allowed to attend. But since HH Sakya Trizin was in town I had to go see him, so last Saturday morning I went up to the teachings and got to see him with HH Karmapa and HHDL which I got to say is incredible for it is not everyday that one gets to see three really incredible teachers of their spiritual stature in one place. Then that afternoon at 4pm there was a public audience where I receive his blessing. I got to talk to his main attendant who I had known from my previous stays at the Sakya Monastery in Dehra Dun. That was really important for me and I am glad that it was to be. HH Sakya Trizin is giving the Lamdre empowerment, which is the main tantric teachings of the Sakya lineage, at the Dzongsar Monastery in Bir. It is the monastery of the famous film director Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. If you have seen the movie, “The Cup” then you know who I am talking about. I will be going to Bir this week for three days to attend some of the teachings and hopefully get a private audience with HH Sakya Trizin.

The 10th of March marks the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa. In Mcleod Ganj as usual there was huge gathering at the Main Temple, and then a march to lower Dharamsala, but that was not all. Five Tibetan NGO’s from the Ganj had organized a march back to Tibet (The Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement) with 100 core marchers (including the famous Tibetan poet-activist Tenzin Tsundue). I and several Sarah and Emory students marched to Sarah College on the first day with the march. The marchers were spending the night at Sarah. It was a great march, with great countryside and weird stares from the local and what have you. Also one of the organizers is a Berea Alum who had years before marched with together on a march from Bloomigton to Indianapolis, Indiana for the Tibetan struggle. I reminded her of that influential event for me at that time, for it was that march that had fully introduced me to Tibet, Tibetans and their struggle. Being here in Dharamsala with her and taking a small part of this march showed me how far all of us had come and made some sort of a cycle, especially for her as an organizer of this march. That night at Sarah, I was standing in front of the office/ temple building when a saw some police walk into the office hall. I know then that something was going down. Essentially, the police were there to inform the marchers that they were not allowed to march pass the boundary of the district of Kangra, if they did they will face the consequences of Indian law. So the following day the 11th all of Sarah’s campus community marched with the marchers up until about Kangra Fort. As the pass couple of days have unfolded those core marchers have been put into detention, protests have exploded in Tibet itself and Nepal. With the Olympics going to China soon the Tibetans are trying to act on it and get some attention to their plight so that some real change can happen in Tibet that benefits them and that grants them more freedom. Below I have place some links to news relating to these recent events as FYI. Many of you know that HHDL was awarded to the US Congressional Gold Medal of Honor recently, so here is your opportunity if you did not know before why this came to be and why was he the one awarded such a medal. Read up and spread the word, Beeeaatcches!!!!


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Many Moons ago….

This blog entry is dedicated to Thomas Marshall aka Lil Jit, a young man that I had the privilege of workimg with at the Tokico factory in Kentucky before I returned to Dharamsala. He had recently passed away in a car accident in Richmond KY during the holiday. He was only 19 years, but his potentiality was incredible, it sadden me to hear that he had passed on and thus these my first words from India in a while are written with him in mind. R.I.P.

Well what can I say; this blog has been totally inactive since I arrived in India six months ago. I was totally meaning to be really good about updating when I arrived, but since I dropped my laptop on the floor of a friend trying to answer a phone an hour before I was to be driven to the airport, that had place a damper on my ability to update properly. But now, that is no more. It took me about 3 to 4 months to get my computer fixed, and by that point I was so busy and out of the habit of updating and now so much has passed that I won’t even bother trying to start from the beginning. I guess I will describe certain events that I deem to be important or semi noteworthy thus far.

As many of you know I am continuing my Tibetan Language studies as IBD Sarah College and it has been great for the most part. It has taken me quite awhile to get used to living here. For thing, there is not too much around here, beside farms and farm animals and a tiny shack shop behind the college called “Babu Ram” where we can get a mean chai and a spicy omelette. No dancehall clubs, not much as far shops go, or restaurants for that matter. There is the local village from which our college bears its name, but it is not exactly podunk either. It does not take too long to get to some action like McLeod Ganj, which many times requires being squeezed like a sardine in a can on the local bus to Lower Dharamsala and then enduring an even more compacted shared taxis ride to McLeod Ganj. In McLeod Ganj or as I haved called it “MC Ganj” or just “The Ganj”, there are people to visit and stuff to buy and more diversified grub to eat.

As far as Sarah food goes, all I can say it that it gets the job done, except the time when they served bitter gourd, for that night the squat toilet became my dearest friend. The food is not bad but it is not good either. The International students are infamously known for bitching about the food but I thought that it would have been a lot worst that what it is, but at the same time I did live off of garbage for four years of my life so my taste buds have a have a slightly higher tolerability level than your average westerner. Anyways, if there is the need to get a break from Sarah that is easily possible.

At first, I was heading up to the Ganj almost every weekend. And that was either because some one I know was in town, or a party or something. Like when the tall beautiful Sarah whom I had met during the beginning of my first stay in the Ganj two years ago was back and we got to hang out lot. Tomer and Cassie, a hip ass couple that I used to just kick it with two years back were in town for a bit. Jason Fults, who is on a Fulbright Scholarship living in Delhi, gave me a visit with his friends. Antwon a Senior from my alma mater Berea College was up here with the SIT (School for International Training) Tibetan Studies study aboard program, so we got to hang out quite a bit. It was really nice to have all these friends around. Oh and how can I forget? My very first Tibetan teacher who taught me Tibetan three summers ago at Cornell University in Ithaca NY was working with SIT, Gen Thinley La. I was really happy to see him. I we got to hang out a lot. I actually stayed with him in his hotel room during one of the HHDL’s teachings with was way cool. I later came to find out that his niece is attending Sarah.

But after all these folks had left I haven’t been going up to McLeod that much unless the HHDL is giving teachings or I need some thing or to visit my old host family. So that also makes it a bit tougher to update the blog. The internet connection down here isn’t so hot, sometimes it works and the other times…… well you know. There are folks that I need to visit, like my college mate Palkyi who I ain’t seen in months and who I owed a lot to like for dealing with my broken Tibetan and watching my stuff while I went to hang out in Manali with Jason Fults and Molly when I first arrived six months ago. I went looking for Palkyi last weekend but she done moved. Her uncle had given me a nice warm sleeping bag since it getting a bit nipply down here at night and we are not allowed to have a space heater our rooms. Since I haven’t written in a while my writing will suck ass, but it will improve if I try to write every weekend or so.

So how can I describe my new college, well I probably can’t but I will give it a whirl.
I live in the boy hostel which consists of both lay and monastic folk and mean ass looking wasps that have a thick yellow line on their bums and these little birds that whiz all over the dorm hallways, I love these little birdies. The bathrooms are communal on each floor, but I was lucky to get my own room with a toilet which is a blessing and a curse. When the stomach goes off the toilet is an utter blessing, but when it is really cold, due to the fact that all the rooms which have bathrooms are north facing, or when the water runs out thus meaning that I can’t flush the toilet it then becomes a curse.

When class first started it was monsoon season so water shortages were not too common, but afterwards it was mighty dry and that also meant that the communal toilets stunk way bad. The boys here are great for the most part, many still don’t talk to me. I think that mostly that they are not sure just how to digest me. The story is the similar with many of the other International students. I knew that I am one of the first black person that many here have ever met. Most folks here have met plenty of white folks, but a black one is uber rear here. Some students love rap music and make a stab at speaking Ebonics. A few have expressed to me their love for things black such as Bob Marley, NBA, AND 1 Mix tape, Ebonics, etc… But that too has led to some weird tension, for since I am the only person for miles that they can practice their Ebonics with I find that many will just ignore that I can speak Tibetan. Even our teachers do it and it get to be a bit discouraging. A few students will not even think of speaking to one of us in Tibetan unless we kindly asked. This has been the major beef between us. It sucks, but I am also used to it from living in MC Ganj and I have learned to always speak Tibetan, for if I did not my Tibetan would have never gotten where it is at now.

I am a bit proud that they are interested in my culture, because it is for once that something of which I belong to is seen in a desirable light, where it would not have been happening to such a extent 30 years ago. Plus I love to share my culture with those who are willing to get to know me. But I am still a bit cautious because the representation of the U.S. minorities that they are getting in India is still coming from the multi-national corporations like MTV, thus I am glad that I can be a freshly representative. It is bad enough the US racism is being passed along with consumer globalization.

But I have to keep my eyes on the prize which is to learn Tibetan well and thus I continue striving for such attainments. Living here is interesting, we get the second Saturday of every month off, so usually on those Saturdays one experiences what your modern Tibetan young man is into as far as music goes, for here there are a few who love to make their tastes obviously known. The tastes here are much same as well as being eclectic, in the same hour Tibetan exile pop, Hindi pop, 80’s and 90’s pop and rock all the way to Akon and Chamillionaire can be heard. There have been many a time that I will be sitting in my room laughing hysterically because a song. Like “Country Road” for example, I would have never thought that backwoods West Virginia will be a place where Tibetans belong, shit I couldn’t go there myself. Many of course I find down right cheesy.

One thing that I really love about the Tibetans is there love for singing out loud at all time and not having a qualm about it. For generally, one will find Tibetan folk rather shy but on the other hand, they easily walk the halls singing their favorite song. These songs range from Hindi, Tibetan, Chinese, and Western songs, to having a monk vibrate the entire dorm with the deep throat singing that Tibetan monks are famous for doing. Speaking about throat singing, one day some of the Tuvan students told about a Tuvan group that was going to perform at Lower TCV, I was soo excited since I am an amateur throat singer myself and hadn’t until that time had ever seen an actual Tuvan throat singing group. This group more than fulfilled my expectations, they were just incredible. It is one thing to listen to Tuvan throat singing on the CD player, but live was off the hook.

What was I blabbering about…. Oh right, Sarah!!! That’s right, in some aspects I have found Tibetans not as shy as they have let themselves out to be and Westerners to be shyer than what they let themselves out to be. It is through this Tibetan inspiration that I have been slowly losing my shyness for singing and studying out loud which I find to be a beautiful study habit. In most, if not all Tibetan traditional learning arts, memorization is a huge part of learning. Coming from the West this is quite looked down upon, but here is it utterly compulsory. In all the classes students have to stand in front of their class mates and spit out word for word a certain text. For us in the International Tibetan Language course we have been encouraged to memorize certain mnemonic grammar poems that lay out the essences of Tibetan grammar. I wished we had something to the same effect in English and Spanish when I was a kid. Those who study Tibetan Medicine or Buddhist Dialectics are required to memorize corpuses of texts which to me seem un-imaginable, but they do it. I have seen it so many times; I am amazed at how the Tibetans here at Sarah can remember things, like a computer searching for the right file. I greatly desire to learn this skill, and I know I am a bit too old really at near 30 to be as good as one who has been doing it since their childhood, but from I have heard from the westerners who are in the Buddhist Dialects course, that the more you do it, the more one can memorize in one sitting. That’s how they do it, start off small and slowly build up. Since memorization involves doing it vocally one reading comprehension, reading speed and vocabulary will increase also.

The International class is truly international; the class consists of, Korean, Australians, US, German, Tuvan, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Romanian, Bhutanese, Chinese and Indian students. Many of us have studied Tibetan before and many have not. Our teachers are fantastic, with one outstanding problem, which is they were never trained to teach their language as a Second and Third language. We are more or less taught like how they were taught Tibetan. Too many questions at times tend to annoy the teachers and at times they don’t know how to deal with. We love to ask questions. But they will get used to it if they continue teaching to International students. Our classes consist of vocabulary and spelling (dag yig), grammar (brda sprod), Buddhism 101 (nang chos), Tibetan colloquial expressions (kha skad) and conversation class (bka’ mol) all about an hour each and this month since our Buddhism teacher and other students went to South India to attend a teaching given by the HHDL, so we have a calligraphy (yig gzugs) class instead.

Also every morning at 6:30 am there are morning prayers that are mandatory for the Tibetan student but not the International students, but I go for it a good way to start the day, in improves reading and I get to practice at the same time, but the Tibetans spit out the prayers way fast, like Slayer thrash metal fast on crystal meth, because they have been reciting them since primary school and have them memorized, but now I am getting used to it. We have mandatory study time from 7 to 9pm and sometimes the old man that every calls “Warden Pa la” will come to your room to make sure that you are studying. So that keeps us pretty busy. We have only two huge exams, one which passed about a month ago (mid year) and one at the end of the year before we leave. I have never studied so hard for anything in my life and I am loving it. I truly feel that this is what I am supposed to so.

Since I have been here we have be blessed to receive the 17th H.H Gyalwang Karmapa, the Prime Minister of the Tibet Government in Exile Samdhong Rinpoche, and the two amazing Tibet movement activist, Tenzin Tsundue and Lhadon Tethong. We were also able to watch live via satellite HHDL receive the United States Congressional Gold Medal Award. Sarah was in charged of welcoming the HHDL when he returned backed to Dharamsala after receiving the Gold Medal, since the local airport is walking distance from the campus. That day was very beautiful. The picture of the HHDL in the corner was taken by one of my classmates that day.

We have had concerts where Jigme of the JJI Exiled Brothers played and a new but very popular duo Sonam Gonpo and Urgyen Lhundup wooed the crowd with the dance moves, love songs and hilarious comedy. Still to this day after their concert these words are constantly being echoed throughout the Boy’s and Girl’s hostel “Ngea sempa kher song ke so, Ngea sempa lak song la sooooo”. Which means something like, “You have carried away my heart, and have lost my heart”. Sorry the translation is wicked bad, but Tibetan love lyrics are uber cheese in English. And how can I forget the little 5 year old Tibetan B-boy who’s got some moves on him. He’s the nurse’ son and I can’t for to life of me figure out where he learned his moves but he got a groove on down good.

Some of us we’ll have our share in performing at Sarah, like last week there was a conference held here at Sarah in which Tibetan students came from colleges all over India to discuss various topics pertaining to Tibet. On the first day a concert was held to entertain the student guest. Me and two of the German students, Kay and Lina, performed an instrumental with me playing lead yadiki aka digeridoo, Kay on back up yadiki and Lina drumming on a small Guinean wooden slit gong. It was way nice, and the other performers were incredible including the students from Tibetan Music and Dance school up the road and the four really cute Tibetan girls doing an innocently sensual dance to a Hindi pop song. In about two weeks or so we the International students well have to perform again to welcome the students that will be arriving here from the States through the Emory University Tibetan Studies Study Abroad Program. Right now we are still in the planning stages of our performance, each class will have to do one. It has been told to me that the International students rarely performed for these functions.

By the way, the classes at Sarah are as followed from lowest to highest. International Tibetan Language Class the one I am in. The skad yig ‘dzin grva aka language course, the Himalaya Class for folks from the ethnic Tibetan regions in India such as Ladahk, Spiti Sanzkar, Lahoul, Kinnaur, and Sikkim. The ‘tsams ‘jor aka Bridge course for Tibetan students who are not ready for college level work in Tibetan, and the 3 years of rig gnas, aka the Bachelors degree course in Tibetan Studies. There is also the nang ‘gro rig pa aka the Buddhist Dialects course which stays down at Sarah for about 2 to 3 years and then moves on up to the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics Campus aka mtshan nyid grva tshang in McLeod Ganj for another 12 years. That class is mostly for monastics, but there are slots lay folks.

Anyways, I am going to try out for one of the lay folks slot in the Dialectics course. I have been thinking about this for the longest time and it now seems that this is what I am supposed to do. I could learn this at home to, but I feel that the hands on approach of learning traditional debate methods in Tibetan will allow me to learn this art more thoroughly than I will be able to in an U.S. university, plus it is way cheaper. But first I will have to take a test and exactly when this test is given remains unknown. Probably in 2 or 3 three years from now. Better 2 than 3, for I will need to stay here the entire time until which I can take the exam. The other International students who are in the course now are very supportive of my plan to take the exam. My parents are also very supportive and this makes me happier than anything in the world, even though I have not been close to them for years their supportive encouragement to follow my dream means so much to me.

There are several obstacles that stand in my way, mainly dealing with funding. When I have time I will apply for every scholarship that I can apply for, other than that, I am asking folk who are interesting to sponsor me or to suggest any ideas for funding. If any one knows of any scholarships or work that I can do for two months out of the year when I will be on vacation where I can earn $2000 to $3000 dollars will be greatly appreciated. Not one person will have to be responsible for the full price but maybe several persons can help. I am a bit scared about put myself out there in blog o’ landia like this. But this one way to help someone fulfill their dream and aspiration. I already have one person who has agreed to help me with the funds. The tuition for the course runs at about 4500 INR a month being about $120 dollar a month, depending on the strength of the Indian Rupee, for about 12 to 13 years. I know that it is pretty heavy. I am pretty well decided about this and there is nothing else in my life as far as my education and career are concerned that I want to do. I am studying like a dog to get this done. This is it, I have found it. I have always believed that it takes the help of other to bring about the positive change in a person or in society in order for that person to fulfill their life goal and bring benefit to the world. This is my life goal. If you are in the least bit interested in helping or you think that I am totally whack, please respond here or email me at or I guess that is all that I have to say, I hope that you have enjoyed my first blabbering from this blog from my second stint in Dharamsala. There is more to come. Please forgive my syntax!!!