Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spelling Bee

Eleven in the morning on half-day Saturday, Pema Ts'al held its annual spelling bee in the assembly area.  The audience had the distinct look of a family.

Both English and Nepali were being tested. Nepali would have to be written due to the nature of the language.
The three top students competed by selecting a number out of a jar which referenced the word on the official list with the same number.



Some of the Shedra monks were assisting and some were looking on from above.



 Lama Kunga-la presented each winner with a Kata scarf, a package of biscuits and a white envelope - with a small cash prize.

Katas are scarves in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. They are given to one who is leaving on a trip, draped around the neck as an honor to someone, or used to enclose an offering. Traditional katas have a subtle pattern of Tibetan symbols. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

BBD - Big Basketball Day

The basketball game that was postponed to let the paint dry on the backboard stands finally occurred. The staff and volunteers are in orange and the monks are in red.

Of course like all great events we have our dignitaries. 


Monastic Himalayan Basketball

And the Final Score

On a final note, there have been many firsts for me in the Himalayas, (I shall not dredge them up), but this one was beautific: this was the first basketball game that I had ever attended in my life, or viewed on a tv where every basket was applauded by the sidelines.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Post Gurkha

Having had a chat and photo op with the museum director, we headed out to Mandripul, for me to stock up on supplies and for us to eat non monastery food.  (The Maoists keep threatening a multi-day strike, like several weeks during which time no vehicular movement would be allowed) So onto another bus and a gathering of items at Salesway. They had some cup of soup, Cream of Leek & Potato, which turned out to be quite a delight at this juncture. More peanut butter and pistachio nuts for protein, batteries for the flashlight, and soy sauce for the rice rounded out my purchases. Passing on the street I was able to purchase some cardamom and fresh cinnamon for tea.

 We ended up at my favorite restaurant in Mandripul, Almond's. Located on the third floor at a busy intersection their house speciality butter chicken masala is delicious. The boys decided on cheese pizzas as they retain their vegetarian status outside the monastery. For dessert it was ND's ice cream.
It was an incredibly wonderful day. Now just a bus ride, a taxi ride and a chug up the hill to be home.

Losel asked the waiter to take a picture and then offered me his lap. The waiter happily complied.

Gurhka Museum

 It was an utterly grand day and off to the Gurkha Museum went Class 7 and myself. I had had enough of sharing my room with other creatures, so for two classes last week Class Seven swept my walls and ceilings of cocoons and webs, washed my floors and windows, removed the cockroaches from under the linoleum and hopefully frightened the little things and large things away with the smell of Lysol. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I found Lysol in town at Saleways, the local and only one of two in town, food store. Local equates to two bus rides away.

The boys were very excited and so was I. So permission granted from Lama Kunga, down the hill we trotted to begin to walk to Harichowk, hoping a bus would come along with at least one seat inside, as I do not ride on the top of the bus. This group of 4 boys do not get off the ranch much, they are ages 15-17; Kunga Lekshey, Kunga Choepel, Jamyang Sangpo and Kunga Losel. They are kind, polite, and dedicated to each other; truly brother monks.

And so we arrived. The museum was 3 full floors of wonderful exhibits detailing the Gurkha contribution to the world. Some moments were unforgettable.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No Tickee, No Laundry

Ergo, now power, no bloggee.
This has been the worst episode of load shedding with no power, no power and more no power. Last night I almost ate a cup of noodles dry. There was no hot water for tea, coffee or the invaluable best friend, the hot water bottle.
And on top of that Dariah, the volunteeer from Switzerland went into a screaming frenzy over a 2 foot spider. Manual came to the rescue and after the hullabaloo had died down, the only thing left to worry about was to remember to put a towel at the bottom of our doors so the mice would not come in at night and wake us up with their scrambling. Finding them with a flashlight and reasoning with them to leave the room so one may keep the Buddhist precepts takes patience and virtue.

The ever dutiful lesson planning and the correcting of
22 essays from the Shedra college class.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Today was very exciting as the monastery finally got some basketball backboards. The transporting, erecting, painting, topped with the anticipation of a game of volunteers/teachers VS the Shedra college students is causing much excitment.

I informed my jr high students that I have a dilemma, because I am rooting for the Shedra class, they are my students, and I adore them all. I taught them the word "ostracize" by projecting what punishment the staff may meet out to me for abandoning them. However, teaching in context is a guaranteed win.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Load Shedding

The country has some interesting experience to share from its existing 12 hours power cuts. Nepal Police says that incidences of robbery & petty crimes go up during the dark hours. Hospitals refuse accepting emergency & injury cases due to their inability to operate such vital machines like MRI & CT. Nepali doctors are adding laurels to their professionalism and ask for extra privilege & protection for their success in “Candlelight Operations”. Nepal’s radio & TV networks have officially announced a five hours’ closure of “informing the public”. The dailies publish students’ complaint letters lamenting how their exam & career are affected by continual load-shedding.

I wrote about this topic before arriving in Nepal, now I have lived it. The current weekly schedule for our area is about like this:

Hours of No Power
Sunday   5:00 -10:00 AM   5:45-9:45 PM
Monday   5:30-10:30 AM    2:00-6:00 PM
Tuesday  8:00-1:00 A/P     4:00-8:00 PM
Wed       9:00-2:00 A/P     5:00-9:00PM
Thursday 10:00-3:00 A/P   6:00-10:00PM
Friday       4:00-9:00AM     1:00-5:00 PM
Sat           4:00-8:00AM     1:00-6:00 PM

Next week will be an entirely different schedule. Of course it is not the same for all areas. Thus, you have to know the schedule for the area you are going to if you happen to need electricity for business purposes.

Talking to a friend tonight back in the states, they were commenting on how desperate we get when we are without power for a few hours. I responded with the worst case scenario which is no power, freezing cold, and total darkness. Yes, I do have candles. Yes, I do have flashlights. They only go so far. Reading under the blankets with a flashlight in a frigid

On the other hand to all those electricians reading this blog, check these photos out and I am sure you will be amazed that connectivity is retained at all, ever.

Well the good news is, looking at tomorrow's schedule, I won't have to boil water in the middle of the night for coffee tomorrow 'cause the power will be on 'till 9:00 AM. Little things mean so much when you're far from home.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jangchup Choeling Monastery

This monastery is a short walk from ours and is set in the center of the Tibetan Refugee Camp. Jangchup Choeling Monastery is of the Kagyul School. (Ours is of the Sakya School) This monastery consists of approximately 120 monks.

Butter Sculpture Offering


Sunday, January 17, 2010

International Team

It's warming up a bit and that's just terrific. One afternoon after our classes were finished we walked up to the Tibetan Village. From left to right, Darja, Manuel, from Switzerland, then Jin, from Korea, YT, Dhaks (Dhakpa Gyatso) Tibetan monk, and Tom from UK.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Still Water Runs Deep

While teaching one of the Shedra monks, one of the two quiet ones, I was struck by his silent, warm smile that spread across his entire face when I would make a small joke. Although I have barely heard him speak, his concentration is palatable. For some reason, “still water runs deep” came to my mind and I decided to christen Nawang Dakpa with an new name. Only two or three of the 22 boys have nicknames, I thought one more would be accepted. I have been living and working with them for over a month.

First wanting to check for understanding, I shared the idea with the class and we discussed the phrase “still water runs deep.” I asked them to add to their other assignment and write a response to our discussion.

Still Water Runs Deep
by Kunga Sangpo

In our culture our father, mother, and master frequently advised us to be as “still water (that) runs deep.” Some people misunderstand the proverb and believe that it is nonsense. Actually in Buddhism, we are always trained to be like this; in this way we lessen our desire for our own purpose and so not show too much aversion to others. This behavior also aligns closely with our Bodhisattvas. To embrace “still water runs deep” can ably benefit both ourselves and others.

I Wish You
Ngwang Tsultrim

To be a high thinking person, to do any kind of work very carefully, as “still water runs deep”,
To be a very good person as the proverb “still water runs deep”,
To be an understanding person as the proverb “still water runs deep”,
To be the person who has a good understanding of the of the proverb, “still water runs deep”,
I wish you to be an understanding man as the proverb, “still water runs deep.”

Lord, they do warm my soul.

Flashlight Learning & More

I thought I heard something. I thought I heard it again. Finally I went to the door and standing all alone in the dark was Kunga Sonam from the UKG class. He had walked all alone in the dark up to my room; obviously he wanted some quality time. Unfortunately the power was off, but not wanting to turn him away I set out some books and beamed up a flashlight.

He immediately set to work. He was writing his alphabet and numbers on a wipe-able page, singing the letter names while he wrote. He went through all the various colored dry erase markers. After a while I said I thought it was time to go. I motioned teeth brushing which is the activity before bedtime.

He kept shaking his head no, no. I kept relenting. Finally I knew he must return and as I was leaving to walk him down an older student came and said that they were looking all over for him. Well, for a while he had one to one time. Now, in the evening, every time I hear a scratching noise I’ll be opening my door, expecting my flashlight learner.


On the other side of the equation, my Shedra class meets on my Patio, every day for an hour, usually from 1:00 - 2:00 PM
Here they are partnered up and cramming for a test. 

Jampa Dhakpa, Ngawang Rigzin and Ngawang Phuntsok

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Every Third Day

Actually it's not too bad, showering every third day. Truly there is no body odor for me in this climate. NONE. My oil glands must be on a hiatus. My lovely feet which are used to a weekly foot bath and manicure are circling in a waiting pattern. This may continue till the Kennedy set down. Baby wipes which I purchased in Lakeside (touristville, remember) facilitate a quick and easy sponge bath. There are fewer times when I have less/no clothes on and my entire psyche appreciates this, not to mention the reduction of the shivering factor.

I have had quite a bit of trouble with my Internet connection and today the techs (I use the term VERY loosely) are coming again. They were here yesterday, but the power was cut. The monk who brought them to my room went to the head lama to request the generator be turned on and it was turned on for 15 minutes; not enough time.

But today, TODAY, as I sit here and type at 6:40 AM, I am warmed by a cup of instant coffee with Cremora – my only available dairy product at the monastery. Robert, baby you're the best. A package arrived yesterday after around 3 weeks with 4 boxes of instant coffee packets and Cremora in a large zip lock bag. I nearly put it under my pillow last night. I imbibed in TWO cups of Hazelnut flavored Nescafe Taster's Choice with Cremora. I taught a math lesson with the kids figuring out how many cups I could drink a day with the number of packets and the number of remaining days; 2.29 cups per day. This might be a problem. Robert send more. Remember there are other volunteers here and I MIGHT need to share.

I've got the computer lab up and running, but only 3 computers are operational. With all the power cuts they need to be run through another piece of hardware; not be directly plugged into the power. We now have a schedule for the Shedra, college monks, to practice keyboarding and class 7 to begin typing their essays on the word processor. Yesterday with class 7 there were many explanations about how to use the mouse - right click, left click, and also click and drag. Their time in the lab is limited to 45 minutes a day. Actually it took me two weeks to get the keys to the lab, permission for the time slots, and then the creation of a schedule. Heretofore some of the Shedra monks had been using the lab to view movies on the DVD players. Ergo the padlock.

I am looking forward to today's math lesson on estimation with class 2. They are a rather rambunctious group with a wide range of abilities. The classes here may contain an age range of 4 or more years. You do not move to the next class until you pass your exams for the year. So from my western educational point of view, there may be some kids with learning problems and they remain, in the same class, with the same problems. However I must say that somehow this system is working, everyone moves on - I guess repetition has some effect. (Remember, retention was also a method in our system)

(Murmur to self: you will not have another cup of coffee, YOU WILL WAIT.

And now for the mail:

Denis and Anne, the cards were great and the dishcloth was better. It was used immediately, washed and hung for another day. Thanks, from the heart of an American housewife. (OK, I chose not to say clean freak)

Terry, the photo of you all was super and I shall use the card in a lesson.

Jon, trad music fills the air in rhythm with the clicking keyboard. Your One Year Out CD is a beautiful outcome of your year in Ireland and I teared at the Sheba dedication.

Meghan, the poem truly hit home. Tanks

Peggy, the rubies, er pink tissues arrived and are in use. I refer to them as rubies because they are not an available product in Nepal. (except in touristville) The cards will also be used for teaching.

Renee, of course I have the Forest Animals book and as of yesterday I have received cards 1-5. The lesson will commence. I know the kids will love the visuals; we will definitely draw, color and write an English sentence about the animals.

I could talk here now about the card Robert sent me with a beloved cat on front saying "Oh, there you are…", but my mascara will start to run and my foundation streak and I've run out of makeup remover. So…'nuff said.

(If you think for one minute my face is covered with anything more than multiple scarves, hand knit woolen head bands and shawls, you lose.)

Well I enjoyed our chat; I will post this, post the tech visit which should occur sometime between 10 and 12 today.


Harry and Ellen sorry I missed you on Skype; the software has yet to arrive. I am a little worried that it looked appealing to someone in Dubai, or Mumbai, or Kathmandu.
Connie, nothing yet, but I think your care package will arrive for the Desperate Housewife.

Saturday, January 9, 2010