Friday, July 8, 2011

Full Circle

*CAUTION* -its a long one, possibly my last one since Im back in the States now. Over view at the beginning of the places I went in India, a story about one night in Ladakh in the middle, and hippy-dippy advice at the end. Read it all or take your pick, up to you. Enjoy!***
Well, here I am again on a bus in New England, this time from New York to Vermont, off to Goddard College to start my final semester of undergrad. The trip’s coming full circle, well, figure 8 really, if you make Kathmandu the pinch point that ties two circles, one in Asia and one in the United States.
After I left Lumbini and my one zillion hours of meditation, I skirted across the Northern half of the Indian subcontinent, from Varanasi, the ancient city on the Ganges river, to Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, and finally to Ladakh, a rocky region near Kashmir that shares the features of the Tibetan plateau with its icy moonscape and rugged, snow streaked mountains. Travelling through India, alone as a woman, was just as hard and adventurous as you can imagine. Despite countless episodes of warding off naive Indian men from sexual advances [culturally, looking a man in the eye means you more or less want to have sex with him--this posed quite a problem when walking down the street in some cities], and the unavoidable loneliness, traveling alone does have its advantages. After Anna, my best friend from home, was stranded in South Africa without an Indian visa (don’t worry, she spent two weeks in Spain instead) my plans and responsibilities were left to the wind. After wandering the narrow maze of streets in Varanasi for a few days, trying to avoid the almost overwhelming crowds and heat, I took a 17 hour train ride to Jaipur, Rajasthan, an oasis in the desert surrounded by old fortresses and palaces. There I met up with Becca Cooper, a friend from Occidental, and spent two luxurious days in an AC car (it was well over 100 deg every day on the plains) visiting the sites, feeding peanuts to monkeys, and even riding an elephant!

**pause for pictures...*

young muslim boys posing outside a mosque in Varanasi

sunrise on the ganges

milking water buffalo for my morning curd

a giant puja on the ganges

preparing for the elephant ride

a friend fire dancing with poi on my last night in Dharamsala-- full moon + lunar eclipse!


the road to ladakh

the women with whom I weeded fields in Nubra Valley

the grandmother milking her cows for breakfast

the tent settlement i stayed at near Dok

After a pit stop in Delhi, I bused overnight to Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile. I spent two fine weeks there, volunteering and relaxing, and met up with a fellow musician from Nepal, a dijeridoo player and carver from South Africa, who showed me around and organized jam sessions with the hundred other musicians in the area. Dharamsala, or really Upper Bhagsu was where I was staying, is a town of travelers, mostly Israelis actually, journeying on the “hummus trail” in Northern India after their two years of mandatory military service. It took a while for me to get used to the place, and land of healing and no responsibility, where people spend their days crocheting in cafes or taking a variety of courses from Indian cooking to astrology.  I spent my time doing yoga, hiking, and hanging out with my flat mates making macramĂ© and speaking Spanish. Surprisingly, though I spent four weeks studying Tibetan and picked up whatever local language I could, my Spanish really made the most improvement on this trip, due to the high volume of travelers who, like me, prefer Spanish over English. I also learned, however, how definite English has become the international language of the world. Everyone speaks it, at least a little, to converse about trade, food, transportation, and instructions across cultural barriers. Pity, since the language it quite difficult, but great for me, since I was hardly ever worried about being stranded without being able to communicate. After two lovely weeks which included hiking to the snow line and staying over night in a cave, I took the 12 hour bus to Manali, a small town in the foothills, to rest up before my twenty hour jeep ride over the Himalayas to Ladakh. In Manali I made my first appearance as a professional singer, being paid for my concert by admiring fans in the form of waffles and tomato soup from the cafĂ© at which I was singing. This little trick came in handy a few weeks down the line, when I nearly ran out of money and sang for dinner almost nightly.
The trip to Ladakh, over the second highest pass in the world on a bumpy set behind the back axle with a surface area slightly larger than the area of a laptop computer was long and arduous. It’s a trip to be made once, as the scenery is unforgettable, but I was happy to purchase a flight out of Leh and back to Kathmandu as soon as I got there. Besides, for a reasonable price, it would save me almost a week in bus transportation back over the Nepali border.

In Ladakh, the final leg of my trip, I was content to enjoy the moment, knowing that the end was near and happy to be headed home. It was just enough time; I got to go on a small trek to Nubra Valley, six hours North of the capital city of Leh, and over the tallest motorable pass in the world. At 18,382ft high, it was a family record, my dad coming in second with 18,100 on the lip of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Nubra Valley, to me, looks like the spitting image of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, but without the Chinese infrastructure. I spent a day in a small but beautiful village, literally paradise with a fresh mountain stream running through the town to make it an oasis in a san dunes desert, complete with two humped camels and backed with jaw-dropping mountains. Three generations of Ladakhi women invited me into their home for some bread and tea after I spent a few hours weeding their field with them and trying out some Tibetan phrases mixed with basic English, Tibetan being similar to Ladakhi, and English, as I said, known to some extend by everyone, even farmers deep in the Himalayas who had never gone to school. The next day I set of to Diskit, the town with the bus station, but got distracted by a beautiful river gorge extending into water cut mountains with snow capped peaks. Captivated, I changed plans and started up the winding trail, fresh cut by the road crew building the first motorable path to the Dok, a village some fourteen kilometers away. Unfortunatly, I started on the trail too late, and the sun was already casting long shadows on the canyon walls by the time I got to the end of the road- the path wasn’t yet finished, and Dok was unreachable even on foot at this moment. Not discouraged but a little exhausted I turned around to find a cave to sleep in for the night. I didn’t have a sleeping bag, but enough clothes to keep me warm and a bit of food- not a problem for only one night. About a half hour before the cave I’d spotted on the way up, I saw two giggling children by the rushing river and their tent camp nearby. They were the children of the road workers, Nepali immigrants resettled in India for an income. I peeked inside one of the worn tents and said in my best (and quite pathetic) Ladakhi “nga nit i?” [I sleep this?] The adults, visibly surprised looked up at each other from their card game. “Yes, you can stay here” answered one of the men in English. The man’s wife led me to the white tent, their home for the past year. Don’t let outside looks discourage you, inside that ragged structure was a true home: a decent sized bed, a kitchen area with gas stove, china plates and metal cutlery, some trunks of clothes and personal items, and a glowing alter with a picture of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The woman and I conversed in stunted Nepali and showed each other pictures of our families while she prepared tea. That night under billions of stars and a half moon the young married couple only a few years older than myself taught me how to make Thentuk, a traditional Ladakhi  and Tibetan soup, and prepared a bed for me on the floor after I refused to take theirs. Returning from brushing my teeth, I found they’d complied by putting their mattress on the floor for me and laying down on the wooden frame. Feigning irritation, I thanked them gratefully and settled down to a comfortable nights rest. Much better than the cave would have been, I think.

The next morning after a breakfast of flatbread tea, and eggs, I set out back down the gorge toward Diskit to meet up with the other travelers with whom I’d taken the bus. Despite all my internal complaints of loneliness and feeling ungrounded, I know that experiences like that, the will and ability to follow wherever your heart tells you to go and finding unexpected kindness in a place far from home could only come about if I’d done it alone. Responsibility to yourself only and not external forces, the ability to listen to that voice inside that tells you to go down this path or stop under that tree, is the gift Ive gained on this journey. I don’t know if I believe in something that has plans, in a path that’s cut out for me and only me, but when I do it, when I listen to what’s happening inside me and how I fit with the forces around me, things just work out for the best, they do. Maybe it’s a sign that god exists. Maybe its sheer luck. But I hope I can keep listening even when life is structured and planned out and I don’t get to make the decisions all the time. Because that little voice that tells you to bring a rubber band to work today even though you can hardly fathom why on earth you would need a rubber band, and then it comes in handy so unexpectedly, that little voice gets louder the more you listen to it, and discernible from other little voices like your sex drive or the little devil who always thinks that chocolate is a good idea. I don’t know, Im just on the precipice of this really, but maybe if we all just listened to ourselves a little more instead of advertising, or subliminal messaging, or our parents or our lovers or our friends, we might just be a little more content with our lives, a little more adventurous. Its not always clear cut, but next time you have to make a decision, whether a big one or just deciding which street to walk down to get to the other end of town, stop for a second and see if you can feel a pull in one direction or the other. Its usually right.
As for me, my next big decision is whether to take the train 28 hours from Santa Fe, New Mexico, back to San Francisco or fly for $40 more and the chance to see my parents for one more day before I move to the big city. My travels are almost up, and I’m settling down in San Francisco for my finally semester of college and a dream life living in an ashram in the Mission, single and 21. Next spring I’m headed back to Asia for my first job out of college doing research in Bhutan for the Ministry of Education, not far from the lines of my independent research project while I was there this semester. Then its off to Central America again with a job with Amigos and perhaps I’ll hit South America after that, who knows.
I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to read and respond to my blog posts, it’s nice to know I have an audience- it keeps my writing up to higher standards so I’ll have something solid to look back on years from now. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my journeys and got something from my little notes of young adult wisdom I threw in there every now and then. I might keep posting, or I might not, but regardless I’ll take the time to say thank you for your support. May your journeys in life be as fruitful as this one was for me. Carpe diem and bon voyage,
Happy trails,
Andrea Savage

Monday, May 30, 2011

105 hours of meditation

Oh so much time to make up for, I havent written in a while and so much has happened. To begin where I left off...
I finished my (60 page) paper on that porch in my hostel in Pohkara, Nepal, keeping a rigorous schedule of sleep, excercse, write, eat, repeat for four days. On the fifth day after a beautiful hike to the international peace pagoda, I was wandering around aimlessly when I decided to swallow my pride and make some friends. So glad I did: the two boys I met happened to be muscians with an extra guitar, and interoducted me to a world that is sutrely my home as much as any other world. Tucked in a corner of a local cafe amoungst colorful silks and candle light sat twenty to thirty young adults from all aroud the world, sitting cross legged sipping tea and chatting. A row of musicans lined one of the wall, with instruments nas various as the faces of the travellers, from violin to wooden flute, jimbe and dijeridoo, and at least three guitars. We spent the night making music together, playing off each others chords and rhythms, and creating an atmosphere of creation that spread to everyone preset. Women danced when the music moved them, soft lamps lit the warm night. It was magic, and gave me new life on this trial-ful journey.
I retured the Kathmandu refreshed and back in my usual state of glee. I delivered my paper and presentation without problem and spent the last week in Boudha hanging out with some of the musicians that- unbeknowest to me- had been living there the entire time, including a fellow yoga teacher. It was wonderful- I played guitar so much in that week I had bulging blisteras on my fingers and couldnt be happier. I dont know why the universe decided thatr I couldnt have met these young people earlier, surely I would have enjoyed their company for the three months I spent depressed in Boudha, wondering why no one on my program wanted to do anything but study or drink beers at fancy tourist restaurants. But the on week I did have with them was magic, and I'll be forever grateful for the doors they opened and the profound sense of confidence I've gained in meeting fellow travellers that had helped me so much to this day.

After our final classes came to a close, me and my friend Jerry from the program set off on the roof top of a bus to Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha, for a vipassana meditation course. We arrived in the sweltering heat and sat down to 10 days- 105 hours- of meditation in the Burmese lineage. 10 days of waking up at 4am, no speech, two meals a day and nothing but sleep and meditation- no books writing materials, electronics allowed. It was hard. It was painful, though my hips have never been as open as they are now after sitting cross-legged 10.5 hours a day. I can now sit without moving for one hour, and count to 350 without my thoughts wavering even once (try it, before the course I could barely count to 20). I learned a lot and continue to practice, though this particular lineage didnt stike the inspiring chord that some other meditation techniques havedone. Regardless, I'm glad I did it, and recommend it to anyone who thinks they'd benefit and have ten days to spare...

From Lumbini I set off walking to India. The Nepali government had been given a timetable to compose a constitution which they did not meet, and thus the day I left there was another "bunda" a general strike. So I went on foot toward the border, only to find a bus running which scooped me up for the last 3 hours of the journey. Crossing through the Nepal/India border, I boarded a 10 hour bus to Varanasi, India, where I currently reside. Its hard to describe this city- its literally different on every street. Its ancient, over 4000 years old, and some of the structures have been in use since the time of christ. Its really incredible- tiny, narrow weaving passageways, the old part of town is a maze of a city. Not to mention the mother ganga, the great ganges river that gives life to this dusty barren land. Old customs and practices, and of course religion, still vibrat throughout the city. Curd is served in fragile clay cups, eaten and then thrown on the ground- organic, swept up and turned into dirt by natural process, no platic needed. Similarly, a samosa is handed to you on a folded leaf, discarded into the gutter without a though because it requires none. The rest of the world could learn a lot from these practices kept in tact by poverty. Oh the poverty- so pronounced here. There are beggars living on the precipice of death at every turn. I couldnt have imagined the disparity of wealth in the 21st century, but it prevails. Leprosy, beggars, street children always hold out a hand, asking, wanting, needing, its impossible to remedy. Yet life goes on, the city bussles, and the sun rises and sets.
Since arriving here on the 26th Ive been looking for company- traveling alone is not only lonely but not an easy task. In a city like this, going out alone even in the day time attracts drug dealers, sketchy men, hundreds of eyes, staring. The local women here are respected as goddesses- dressed in glittering saris and dark eye makeup, they rarley leave the house, and are untouchable by their male counterpart until marriage. The tourist, on the other hand, wears half pants and a t-shirt and travels alone with a full wallet. Invitation for living out fantasies and who knows what. Needless to say Ive been spending much of my time with the nice french couple who live in the next room over in the hostel, speaking spanish instead of english for practices and beauty. It had become strikingly clear to me that english really is the international language of the world, spoken as the second language anywhere it is not the 1st. But interestingly enought Ive been speaking more spanish than anything else here, as most of the travellers Ive met prefer it to english, as do I. Happily I practice the language of my heart I thought I would lose on this journey.
Since arriving Ive done some pretty interesting things: spent the day with pretten drug dealers who showed me around the spiraling alley ways of the city and tucked away temples, milked a water buffalo, played badminton and duck duck goose in the park with school children on holiday, watched a cremation, taken a tour of the city on rickshaw, gone to see a bolliwood film, and had my picture taken over 200 times.
The worst invention to come to india, after plastic bags, is the camera phone. For some reason Indian toursits think it is really amusing and exciting to take a picture of a white person and will literally walk up to you, point their phone at your face, snap a picture, and walk away. Thats if they dont stop you as you walk aliong ont the street, gather the family around, and then pose for four or five before shaking your hand vigorously and attempting to communicate in hindi even when you repeat, in hindi, that you dont speak hindi. Very amusing. For about a nanosecond.
Walking around this city is really intense. THe road is under perpetual construction, there's no dividing lines, and a taxi, car, rickshaw nor motorickshaw that goes 8 seconds without honking must have a broken horn. Its loud, dirty, and in your face. But adfter a week here Im actually getting accustomed to it and can now smile and say "nai, danyabad" (no thank you), to the 500,000 rickshaw drivers that repeat "madaaaam, rickshaw?" (If I said no to the guy standing right next to you, is it really necessary for you to ask me as well?!?) India is definitely a differnet place than Nepal, but its growing on me. I wonder what the next city will hold...

Tomorrow I head off to Jaipur to meet up with a friend from Occidental, then off to Dharamsala via Delhi where my best friend Anna will meet up with me from her studies in South Africa. A joyous reunion, we'll sepnd the month making music with some friends I met in Pohkara, volunteering teaching English to Tibetans, and hiking in the nearby mountains.
I'll write again from there, and maybe attach pictures from Anna's computer if possible.
Until then, many blessings,

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Monsoon season. I'm sitting outside my hotel room in Pokhara, Nepal, attempting to put together some coherent body of information on the research I've been doing for the past month in Bhutan, and its raining. Hard. Fat drops like rocks on a tin roof drive travelers out of their cozy rooms to see what all the hubbub is about. Apparently I'm the only one in this hotel, since no one's come out to join me, which is just as well since I'm supposed to be writing a paper anyway. Well, what better than rain to start off spring, huh?
I got back to Kathmandu on April 27th and decided to bus it eight hours to Pokhara, the unashamedly tourist/hippie town in Western Nepal. Its really a bueatiful place. A calm lake surrounded by green jutting mountains, backed by white peaks. Daily rain and the relatively southern latitude give it a tropical feeling, with white birds flying circles in the misty mornings and papayas as big as a toddler for sale on the side of the road. There's bikes for rent, trendy cafes, and any kind of food you could want. But I wouldnt know, because I'm writing a paper, right?
Getting back to Kathmandu was some kind of wake up call for me. I dont know, its so alive there. Everyone lives so close together, close to life, close to death, close to crap and trash and food and dirty water... For some reason this time around it feels beautiful to me. The same city I resented two months ago is now a colorful maze, a collage of culture and life and boldness. It just goes to show that everything is a product of our perception. Kathmandu hasnt changed, only I have. Nothing has inherent good or bad qualities, its out projections upon emptiness, the creations of our mind, that give meaning to the world. Funny, I knew this journey was to be a spiritual one; I didnt know the world was an expert on experiential learning practices.
This week makrs the end of my semester abroad and the beginning of traveling through South East Asia alone. So far my attempts at being friendly havent brought too much luck, but I think its the Universe's way of saying "sit the fuck down and write your god damn paper, play later." I did happen to run into some friends from Occidental on the way over here, and got to catch up (and split the cost of a room!) on the first night. Now its just me, a half eaten papaya, and the beginnings of a 25 page research paper. Day 1.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Its been over a month since I've written a blog post. I've had Internet access all this time, since I'm living on a college campus in Paro, Bhutan, but I haven't had the spirit to write.
There're some things people don't say about traveling. All the tales of adventure, the embarrassing moments that you laugh at to look back on, the beautiful photographs that don't quite capture the scene you once saw so far away now. Then there's the terrible illness (of which i have so far been spared), the strange food, and the bare living conditions that you share with your closer crowd, and the one story that you repeat over and over like a song when people inevitably asking "how was your trip?" and you enthusiastically say "Amazing!" because you have to. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but what are people to say if you came back and said "Oh yeah, my trip sucked, I never want to go back." Surely there would be some discomfort and a quick switch to a new topic. Well, my trip hasn't sucked, but it sure hasn't been the beautiful picture I'll paint for my friends and acquaintances when i get home. The sense of expectation, of letting people down, has been weighing heavily on my conscience even though i know its stupid. I don't owe you anything. If I look back on this with all the negative feelings I feel now it doesn't mean I've failed, though it sure feels like it. Because I know so many people are living vicariously through me, because I'm so lucky to have this opportunity. I'm in Bhutan for God's sake. But as one of the lessons I've learned, its not a place or pretty views that make you happy. Its really only up to you. And if it isn't, if your happiness is coming from external sources, then its fleeting, fake, and nothing you can rely on.
I only took to the task of writing again because the title of my blog, Sunflowers Rise in the East, drew a memory of my past self sitting at my desk last fall, trying to come up with something that could represent my entire trip and not repeat the same "Andrea's Journey to Nepal" that run as the head of so many study-abroad travel blogs. So I chose sunflowers rise in the east, a play on the sun rising, the region to which I was traveling, and myself identification with sunflowers, their bright yellow petals ever turning toward the sun, beaming happiness at all who care to look. Sunflowers can bring me immediate happiness, something I strive to do for everyone I meet.
This sunflower has risen. Slowly. I'm still a shoot in the ground. From the bright flower that stretch toward the sun to the whithering plant drying in the cold winter. Through trials and nights and questioning what the fuck I'm doing here and why don't I feel like me anymore and i just want to go home, I rumbled in my seed, deep under the dark earth, no light to bring my forth. Yet alive, I forgot about the divine energy of life that I used the send my petals toward and reflect on the world. I sat, encased in a thick husk and waited for the day when I would sprout, or be picked up by a bird, or something to bring me to life, out from underground.
Luckily for me the days wear on, the next chapter coming ever forth just like I wish, enjoying moments here and there but mainly looking forward to the next day to pass so the next would come and soon enough I'd be home again. I'm homesick for the first time. But i knew that I was living a lie, because living a life only looking forward, or backward, as I often did, lamenting the loss of the woman I once was, living a life looking at any moment but the present one isn't a life at all, its a dream, an illusion. So how do I get out of here?
Well, I asked. I asked a prayer that I now say daily, to remind me of what i lost and what I want to become. i say: "Divine Mother," or sometimes "divine energy, divine light; open me, so that I may open the World." Its not a call for help, but an conscious effort to open myself to that universal energy that propels us forward, the holy love that connects all human beings, all species of the planet and beyond, and ourselves with our deepest self, the One that is all.
Some of you might have lost me here and that's fine, but i know most of you will know exactly what I'm talking about and I hope you can open your heart chakras further and send me some divine love, because I could use a little bit right now.
So, the seed-case began to open. I'm a little shoot reaching for the sun. Too fragile to support yellow petals, I've barely reached a leaf to catch the rain. Sometimes i wither and sometimes I grow, I'm doing my best to heal and be healed. It may seem sad, that I'm not the blooming great sunflower that used to shine, but though life as a young green shoot is a struggle, its a lesson I'm glad to learn. Because right now, I'm in an open field, far from home and far, far from anyone i hold dear. I'm struggling all on my own, and I know that if i can do this, if I can get through this without needing a change of place or pace or people, then I can do it anywhere. if I can start from seed in a dark place in the earth and grow even just one yellow petal, shine on just half of the people I meet and continue to absorb and reflect the sun, that great divine energy, then I'll know that when its just me, when I'm alone and at my darkest, that I have the power to open up, let it in, and shine like I once did when all the settings were just right and divine light was pouring in and from me.
What I wouldn't do to touch a sunflower right now.

I knwo you didnt al want to read me pour my heart out into a blog entry, but I felt it had to be said. So here are some pictures of the place I've called home the last month, as a token for your time. Enjoy.

Masked dances in Talo, Punaka

Punakha Dzong (fortress)


 Rice patties
 Dancing at the college of natural resources
 Some new friends at the college (i'm wearing the traditional dress)
 handcarving/painting that is on every house and building in Bhutan
cherry blossoms

prayer wheels

The only people i resemble in bhutan: the demons

prayer flags

the highest pass on the Bhutan "highway" a dirt road that snakes around the country) alt: 12,400ft

 Me and Tshering Pem, a friend at Sherubste College
 Dinner with our roomates
 Paro Dzong, near the school where i currently live
Paro valley and the himalayas (thats 'town' to the right)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Kingdom of Bhutan

Sandwhiched betweent eh two Asian giants India and China, Bhutan has kept its soviernty by preserving the unique aspects of its culture that differentiate it from Tibet and by remaining cut off from the modern world until the early 1960's. on the Eastern slopes of the Himalayan foothills, Bhutan looks much like the Pacific Northwest, covered with trees and blessed with blissfully clean air and water. Bhutan is the only country in the world without a traffic light; national mandate keeps the country above a 60% forest cover (presently at 72%); the small population of 600,000 to 680,000 (estimates vary) are required to observe traditional dress in all governement buildings including schools-- though most people wear the robe like outfits and long elegant skirts for women everyday. Bhutan has the unique position of joining in the modern world in the late 20th century: it is able to by-pass outdated or destructive technology and jump the linear history of time to pick and choose the aspects fo modernity it pleases; thus, 100% of its electricity is from hydropower, the surrplus of which it sells to India to make up the mmajority of its GDP, as 80% of the population are subsistence farmers. But GDP is not a large concern of this country. Indeed, the 5th King, responsible for the gift of democracy to his people, has decided to measure the value of his country using Gross National Happiness (GNH) and reject the materialistic competition of the rest of the world. Fortunately for me, a pillar of this attempt to redefine society rests on education that centers around a quest for happiness, inner development and contemplative practices stemming from the country's Tibetan Buddhist heritage. Seems like Ive come to the perfect country in which to do research and I didnt even know it. But more to come on that later when i start my four week independent study.
I've been in Bhutan for almost a week now, and I'm already trying to work out a way to come back. Getting around $200 a day tourist fee might be a bit difficult, but I'll find a way. In a word this country is breathtaking. When I stepped off the plane I immediately drew in a huge breath of freash mountain air-- such a contrast to the dust and smog of Kathmandu. The himalayan foothills that constitute the entire country are covered in trees and drapped by a sky that puts on a show every day- rainbows, beams of light busting through the clouds lighting up piney mountainsides. On our second day in the country the weather went back and forth between sunny skies and snow as we road horses up to one of Bhutan's most spectacular monasteries, the Taktsang, or Tigers Nest, a stone building carved onto a cliff wall high above the forrested valley below. It was amazing, and the sights spectacular. I strongly encourage anyone who has the money or knowhow to visit Bhutan, theres just nothing like it. I'd say the best description would be if Asian Buddhists built a small villiage using traditional German architecture in a deep valley in Colorado. Yeah...
Anyway, I'm bored of writing and I'm sure by now you're bored of reading so I'm going to stop this blog post here, most to come the next chance I get. I'm off to take a (free*) warm shower for the first time since leaving New York (*upon landing back in Kathmandu from a week in a village in Eastern Nepal to find my family had no water, I paid Rs.100 [about $1.25] for a hot shower a a public bath)
Take care,

p.s. sorry I tried to load photos on to this post but the internet was too slow. perhaps I'll revise in the future. Until then I'll put some on facebook eventually...

Monday, March 7, 2011

A week in pictures

A week in pictures

 Thousands of sadhus gather at the Pashnupati ghats on March 2nd for Mahashivarati to celebrate the birthday of Shiva, the Hindu God of distruction
They conduct rituals including copious amounts of marijuana while Hindu boys and western onlookers wander through their makeshift camps

 Dusk at the ghats-- burning bodies thrown into a sacred river

 Meanwhile, Tibetans on the other side of town are setting up for Losar, the Tibetan New Year. Tashi Delek, year of the Femal Iron Rabbit, year 2138! This is the alter set up in my room, the shrine room, stacked high with sweets and other offerings.
 A close up of one of the stacks of goodies-- candy, biscuits, bananas, oranges, kapseh (fried dough)
 Offering bowls of the usual water, but now also nuts, dried cheese and fruit, butter sculptures, fruit...
The trash pile/public toilet on my way to school-- sketch at night
Anyone else think that "hilarious" was a strange adjective to describe cookies?
2011 in the states, 2138 in Tibet, and its currently 2067 in Nepal... man I'm confused.
Vegetable sellers...
Fruit stands... so beautiful and tempting, but dont eat the non-peelable fruit!

Kapseh and candy for breakfast. Tibetans do dessert in the morning
Chang- Tibetan wine/alcohol like substance-- most families wake up at 4 or 5 on Losar to drink a cup, I had mine at breakfast. The floating bits are dried and fried cheese. Surprisingly unoffensive.
My little sister zhang-mo broek her arm walking down the stairs! but shes still smiling :-)
Lots of momos- tibetan dumplings- for dinner on the second night of losar
Momo making
Tibetan script caligraphy class followed by chang, Tibetan music, and dancing. As my host father says "Too much chang and later dancing!"
We played cards for alomst 5 hours on the first day of Losar, when everyone stays inside with their families. i lost 30 rupies, but my host sister lost 200!

An attempt to draw the buddha eyes so prevelent around here made for a very sad looking Buddha...
I made pasta for my family on the last day of Losar-- and took this picture for my mother, as i believe we have one of Torie that looks quite similar.
Little girls in traditional Tibetan dress for Losar!
The monk procession including a photo of the Dalai Lama
The final destination of the procession-- chanting and prayers on the last day of Losar. The end.

And now I'm off to Bhutan for almost two months, touring around the country with my class and then set free for my independent study project-- a look at Bhutanese education and what it might have to offer the West-- for four more weeks. I dont know if I'll have internet, but I'll post if I can. If not, look for another post when I return in May! Happy trails,