Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Washing Machines and Bose Sound Systems

As I hear the washing machine in the background and listen to Enya on the Bose, I realize just how far away I was. Much farther than miles. Washing my clothes by hand in a bucket of cold water was partly doable because I only had to wash 2-3 times a week as I wore my clothes for at least three days. Less hot water meant fewer hair washes and virtually no time spent on my "toilette".

There was so much less to maintain in Nepal. So much less to take care of. Much more time was available even without the accoutrements of my western life.

Owning less, thus cleaning less, straightening less, managing less gave space for more.

Can I live within the more and keep the less, which was truly more?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two Days, Four Airports, Three Flights ...

and already 6 emails from my monks.

Home again.

There are so many things that I did not have time to write about. So many pictures that did not make it to the blog. So many tears shed on the last days.
On my next to last night I bundled all my stuff into 22 packages, and had a Chinese auction with my Shedra guys. I haven't laughed and screamed that much in ages. They really know how to pray, live and play!

 Chinese Auction

Better yet check out a video moment.


Morning Assembly

I never go away with expectations,
I always come home filled with gratitude.

Thanks for coming along

Pema Ts'al Monastic Institute, Pohkara, Nepal

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last Shedra Class

In a week of many lasts, this one was the deepest last. Having taught the Shedra college class for an hour every day, which sometimes stretched into another half an hour, for 2 and a half months, many exchanges occurred. Threats for tardiness, teasing interactions, nicknames created, scored papers returned, a sea of 22 faces distinctly intent on listening and learning, and a final class average of 91; could a teacher ever be any happier?
So for our final class, the top three students were recognized. First place with a 100 average Jampa Dkakpa, also renamed Double One Hundred, second honors to Ngawang Rigzen, with an average of 100, just less of them then Jampa. The third place student, Pemsi Lhundrup with an average of 99 and I had to make a fourth for Sam's 98 average. Small gifts of some NRupees and the joy from their Ms. Foster in presenting their due finished the final class. 

 Double One Hundred

Ngawang Rigzen

  Pemsi Lhundrup

 Sam - Kunga Sangpo

Shedra Class with Kenpo (Abbot)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tibetan Year 2137

It is the Gregorian year 2010, but the Tibetan year is 2137, and it is the year of the male iron tiger. The days preceding the new year are spent in puja as our monks are now doing. Traveling several hours away to another monastery, the monks performed a puja on Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday and today they were in puja from 6:00 AM till 5:00 PM, with breaks for tea and food. (Sometimes tea is brought into the worship hall for them.)

The tailor is busy making final preparations on the lama dance costumes and the masks are all laid out on the tables for rehearsals. 

Known in Tibetan as Cham, "lama dance" refers to a specific form of dance performed in the context of meditative rituals and ceremonies in the monasteries. Generally, these dances represent an enactment of certain sacred rites pertaining to the countering of obstructive forces that hinder the life and well-being of the community...The symbolic clearing away of all the negativities and obstructive forces accumulated over the passing year sets the tone for the coming year to begin anew - with purity, auspiciousness and joy. (http://www.tibetanknowledge.org/provisional/more_3.html)




 Yesterday for tea there were pakoras, rather hot ones, but a very special snack indeed. They were delicious, albeit deep fried. Today there was another special snack, some dough cookie that also looked like it had been fried. The pre-holiday energy is bubbling over.

Rain and Thunder…

It's raining, raining, raining. 'Course last night I soaked a wash to ring and rinse today and hang in the sun. Hah! It is now hanging in my bathroom; doubt it will dry especially since the forecast is for 2 more cloudy days. I got that info from the US while on Skype with Rob. Getting a local weather forecast here is impossible unless I go on the Internet, which of course I need power for.

Around 3:00 AM I was awakened by a surrealistic thunder that was one long continuous, echoing, earth shaking sound. Since it was not raining it took me a minute to register it as thunder. I didn't think there were rains except during the monsoon season. Of course I have no raingear, based on the previous misassumption. This also means that I will not be able to teach on my piazza. The classrooms in the monastery are dark, dank, and natural echo chambers. There is nothing in them to absorb the sound. No carpeting, no window dressing, nothing but table desks and a blackboard, maybe a map.

Kept on my 2 shirts, and my North Face Jacket, rolled up my pants and removed my 2 pairs of socks. Slipped on my flip flops and went sloshing in the lake of water to go down to teach. Wrapped up a unit on Forest Animals, courtesy of Renee; played a game to give out all the lovely post cards she had sent to correspond with the book. God what happy faces. 
Left the book in residence with the oldest student, with permission for anyone to borrow and reread it at their leisure. Leaving the room, tucking my supply boxes and bags under my arms, I turn and see a little one in the back row, beckoning me to put up my hood.  (so teacher will not get wet) !!;;* #$   Jeeze I can't start blubbering now, I still have a few more days.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nepali Morning

It's early morning and my tummy is already looking forward to going to Green View, a restaurant within walking distance. The volunteers go here often. The food is varied, and much tastier than our usual fare. It's about ¾ of a mile walk and if we go for breakfast we catch the early morning activities of the Nepali people living along the road.

Uniformed children are groomed and standing in line for the school bus. Mothers attend them. Other woman are washing themselves, the breakfast dishes, or brushing their teeth at the local spicket. Boys are shooting marbles as cows meander among them. Roosters crow and baby ducklings scurry after their mum. One fortunate group of boy go to school in style - a taxi.


The per capita income for 2007/2008 was just $470 US. Over 1/3 of Nepalis live below the poverty line; in 2004, the unemployment rate was a shocking 42%. Most homes have no running water and of course no heat. They may have an electrical line tied into their home, just for bare bulb lighting, when there is power that is.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lama Dance

I In preparation for Losar, Tibetan New Year, the monks have been learning and practicing nearly every night after dinner for the Lama Dance. When they first started in December it was pitch black outside.
This dance is performed by the Shedra monks and is taught to them by the Lama Dance Master. After hearing them practicing and chanting for many nights, I finally inquired asking what were those seemingly mysterious words they were saying as they all moved around in a circle performing various movements. "They are chanting one, two, three," came the reply. Shucks, I knew I should have learned to count in Tibetan.

Ngawang Palden



The beat of the drum softly thrums with their movements.

Dance Master and Ngawang Tashi



Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thanka Painting & Lekshey Choejor

Traveling monks used scroll paintings as teaching visuals. They were easily rolled up and taken to the next monastery. Scenes of Lord Buddha's life and other important Bodhisattvas (saints) were depicted.

In a small quiet room, off the assembly hall, we find Lekshey Choejor working on a thanka painting for Losar, the Tibetan New Year. It is a vision of Lord Buddha, with vivid eye-catching colors. First the picture is drawn on with pencil and then painted with primaries and brights. Lekshey blends colors for shading effects.

Lekshey is from very small village of 15 families near Nyamgyal in the Mustang area of Nepal. When he was 11 years old he spent his day as a shepherd, watching over the goats and sheep. He returned home one night to find that Lama Kunga was visiting his village looking for boys who wanted to become monks. Lekshey traveled with his grandfather for five days on foot, and then they got a bus to Kathmandu. There he joined the Pema Ts'al Monastery in its infancy.
Lekshey is now 22 years old.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Convent Visit

Ngawang Rinchen, Ngawang Kalden and Lekshey Tsering set off to take me to a sister convent. Two of the boys have sisters at this nunnery; Chime Dolkar and Tsering Sangmo. Located in Chinachowk it is 2 bus rides and a walk, away from our monastery.
Ngawang Kalden & Lekshey Tsering

First we hit Mahadrapul for my supplies list. While at Saleways I suggested we take the nuns a snack treat. Ngawang Rinchen scoured around and knowing the numbers needed found a carton of apple juice packs with 30 units, just the right amount. We settled on canned mango juices for the teachers.

Photo totally set up by Ngawang Rinchen

When I first met the girls outside and was introduced to them, they would not talk; they just smiled and smiled and smiled. Finally the monks and other teachers left and I was alone with them. HA! That's all we needed. The gabfest was on. The girls who spoke English well acted as interpreters for both sides. They were awesome.

 The Kitchen
The convent only winters here in Pokhara as its seat is in the kingdom of Mustang near the town of Tsarang. It is a fairly new structure and very spare. The bedrooms serve as classrooms and the dining hall is the yard. The rooms are clean and neat. The nuns are lovely and delightful. I taught a "getting to know you" lesson in English, and then followed up with a question and answer session. 

Outside Dish Washing by the Water Tank

Our Hostess, the Principal's Wife

The girls' bedrooms held multiple beds. Little ones sleep with older ones.

Beds Serving as Desks

I taught these girls a math lesson on place value. We did have a white board in the bedroom.

Two Swiss girls were volunteering : Amja Waldmeier and Rahel Isenrich. This afternoon after classes they were playing a game with the girls and so much joyful laughter rang out through the little convent yard.