March 7, 2006

From Brahma to Buddha Semester Overview: Sept. 15 - Dec. 17, 2006

Go! Go forth to India and live! There's nothing that I've done that has been more expanding, more eye-opening, and more exciting all at once. I'd recommend this experience to anyone looking to learn a little about themselves and the world, but more about the vastness of all that there is to be learned, and the pleasure of learning it experientially.
--Julia Bloch, "From Brahma to Buddha" India semester alumna

indiasemsplash.jpg

Whenever I meet a ‘foreigner’, I always have the same feeling: ‘I am meeting another member of the human family.’ This attitude has deepened my affection and respect for all beings. May this natural wish be my small contribution to world peace. I pray for a more friendly, more caring, and more understanding human family on this planet. To all those who dislike suffering, who cherish lasting happiness, this is my heartfelt appeal.
--Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet

Exploring a traditional village perched on the Tibetan Plateau. Sipping butter tea around a kitchen fire. Smelling jasmine flowers and curries sold in the bazaar. Listening to horns and bells echo over ancient monastery walls. Watching colorful prayer flags blowing in the wind on top of a Himalayan mountain pass. Throughout this cultural immersion program, we will live and study in the country that gave birth to two of the world’s major religions—Hinduism and Buddhism—and will travel amid some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. On this journey, we will meet many of the people who keep ancient traditions and spiritual practices alive, including possible audiences with the Dalai Lama and/or the Karmapa. And at the same time we will witness and study the forces of modernization and globalization that are influencing all aspects of traditional ways of life. Though it is impossible to predict the most memorable experience you will have during the Global LAB India semester, those who choose to participate can expect to embark on a journey of discovery that may well last a lifetime.

Continue reading "From Brahma to Buddha Semester Overview: Sept. 15 - Dec. 17, 2006" »

March 8, 2006

Tuition, Eligibility, & How to Apply

2006 India Semester Program Tuition: $8,950

Tuition includes residential pre-trip orientation, preparatory and educational materials; dedicated student website for program communications and resources; all logistical facilitation; all hotels and guest houses; all meals; all domestic air fares/taxis/buses/trains/boats; museum, park and temple entrance fees; Global LAB faculty and instruction as well as local coordinators, cooks, porters; all program elements (independent study projects and apprenticeships, community service projects, home-stays, guest lectures, community support/charitable contributions).

Please note: Additional expenses not covered by Global LAB include r/t international airfare and costs of domestic travel to point of departure (NYC), inoculations, travel insurance and international medical and evacuation insurance; visa/passport processing fees; personal costs (laundry, phone calls/emails, souvenirs, etc.).

Semesters are open to those ages 17-21. While Global LAB semesters are geared toward interim or ‘gap’ year students, high school seniors as well as university students are welcome to apply. No language prerequisite is required

Global LAB accepts applications on a rolling admissions basis, accepting qualified applicants until programs are full. Each program has a maximum of 12 participants and 3 Global LAB instructors. For this reason, we recommend candidates submit their applications as early as possible.

To begin the application process, print out the preliminary application and FAQ below:
* Application form
* FAQ

March 9, 2006

Fall 2006 Daily Itinerary

Please note: the below itinerary is planned months in advance and may change due to group interest, health and safety concerns, or other factors beyond the control of Global Learning.

In United States:

Sept. 15-17: Group orientation at Hudson River Valley retreat center

In India:

Sep 17-18: Flight to India

Sep 19-21: Arrival, orientation, introductory language lessons, and visits to key cultural and religious sites in Delhi

Sep 22-24: Arrival in Leh and introduction to Ladakh; Ladakhi language lessons and walking tours of Leh Old Town and Shanti Stupa; day excursions to Tikse Gompa and an audience with the Tikse Oracle; visit to Siddhartha School and student exchange; visit to Hemis Gompa and nearby hermitages; visit and possible overnight at SECMOL; guest speakers to include local political figures, intellectuals, religious leaders from both Buddhist and Muslim communities, and youth activists.

Sep 25-Oct 1: Homestays and service work in Phey village with excursions.

Continue reading "Fall 2006 Daily Itinerary" »

May 10, 2006

India Semester Packing Suggestions

Lugging a heavy pack around for the entire time we are in Asia can be extremely tiresome. We can find almost anything you’ll need in India, and you’ll also want to have room to pick up gifts. Seriously challenge yourself to pack light, and lighter still…you definitely will not regret it! That said, you will not want to leave out any of the cold weather clothing/gear suggestions--our trek in the Himalayas will require appropriate protection against cold weather.

BAGS:
Internal Frame Backpack – Your main “suitcase” should be comfortable, durable, and as light as possible…
Daypack – A book-bag or fanny-pack to use for daily excursions.
Duffel Bag – While you’ll want to be able to fit all of your things in a backpack and daypack, an extra duffel can be handy. This bag should be nylon and relatively durable.
Stuff Sacks – Light-weight and compact, using stuff sacks to separate clothes, food, toiletries, and everything else will bring order to your pack, and make your life simpler.
Ziploc Bags – Like stuff sacks, these can be invaluable for organizing and keeping things organized and dry.

Continue reading "India Semester Packing Suggestions" »

May 11, 2006

Suggested Reading & Viewing

Below are some highly recommended books and movies which will help you better prepare for your experiences in India.

History:

John Avedon, In Exile From the Land of Snows, NY: A Knopf, 1984
This excellent book and should almost be required reading! It offers a clear and concise background on Tibetan culture, and details the events surrounding the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese.

Tenzin Gyatso, H. H. the Dalai Lama, My Land and My People NY: Potala, 1983
This is an autobiographical account of the history of modern Tibet, told by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama. We also recommend any other publication by His Holiness such as Ethics for a New Millennium , The Art of Happiness and The World of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mahatma Gandhi, (Louis Fischer, ed.) The Essential Gandhi, Vintage, 1962.

Continue reading "Suggested Reading & Viewing" »

June 25, 2006

Greetings from Galen Murton, Program Co-Director

galen turban.jpg

Namaste, Jullay, and Tashi Delek-

That’s ‘Hello’ in just three of the languages (Hindi, Ladakhi, and Tibetan) which we will soon to be using on a daily basis (though maybe not all at once) upon our arrival in India. What they also mean is ‘welcome,’ and that’s what I’d like to extend to each one of you as we prepare for this fall’s exciting semester program in the subcontinent.

I imagine how eager you must be to set off on a journey of discovery to this ancient and diverse land, and I anticipate great things for us. And while I don’t yet know you, I am incredibly impressed by your interest, courage, and resolve to join Global LAB in exploring the sacred Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Sikh traditions of northern India, and can only begin to suggest how positively this experience will affect you.

Continue reading "Greetings from Galen Murton, Program Co-Director" »

June 28, 2006

Hello from Tracy Joosten, Program Co-Director

Tracy.jpg
Tsering Kunzes, Kunzes Dolma and Tracy at the SECMOL school in Ladakh, India

Tshangma-la Jullay!
Greetings to all of you!

So, you’ve taken on the exciting responsibility as ambassadors of the youth of the United States; what an important role for you to be playing at a time when global conflict riddles the news media and our hearts. I enthusiastically welcome you to this traveling community where we will create new definitions of “home” and share with each other the invigorating reality of group living.

I chose to work with Global LAB because I believe that engaging in and reflecting upon international experiences becomes a catalyst for personal transformation. This program will help facilitate the process of personal transformation in a safe, organic way, opening our eyes to the lives of people in this radiant country on the other side of the world. We participate in and observe different experiences every day of our lives. The challenge is to be present and aware of these experiences, new and old, as we realize we are already active contributors to the world around us. I feel excited about being a member of this group! Each of us contributes important knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from each of you.

Continue reading "Hello from Tracy Joosten, Program Co-Director" »

June 29, 2006

Hello from Jesse

jesse_pirate.jpg

My name is Jesse Chappelle. I live on Mercer Island, WA, which is right outside of Seattle. I've been wanting to go to India for a long time now. Buddhism spurred my interest in Asia about four years ago. I have read about eastern religions on my own and studied them in school but that is not enough for me. I am ready to see them lived.

Earlier this spring I had the wonderful opportuntity of travelling to Vietnam. It was an amazing trip but I wasn't there long enough. I am very excited for the family stays and getting into the rhythm of life in India.

I am a very outgoing person and love working with groups. This year at my high school I was ASP Vice President. I learned a lot about group dynamics and how to give and follow advice. I love getting to meet people and making new friends.

Also I am looking forward to the study of Hindi. Linguistics definitely is a love of my life. This program stood out to me right away when I found it. I wanted something educational, but not a classroom type setting. I think it will be a wonderful experience and cannot wait.

Greetings from Emma

Emma.jpg

Hey, I'm Emma Cruse and I'm from Annapolis MD.

I love chocolate, boating, cats, writing, photography, music, driving, all sorts of things that make me laugh, nighttime, swimming (not in swimming pools), horses, being with friends, the country, Broadway, Jane Eyre, mountains, and a caramel macchiato.

I am so excited about being a part of this and can't wait to meet all of you.

June 30, 2006

Hi from Jordan

Jordan.jpg

Hey all,

My name is Jordan Guard. I just moved from Chicago to Buffalo and am now working for the summer. I played lacrosse in high school and enjoy reading. I also like Tom Petty and that kind of music. Can't wait to meet everyone and am sure it'll be a great trip.

Jordan

July 10, 2006

Hello from Andrew

Andrew.jpg

Hey I'm Andrew Rosseau. I'm eighteen years old and I live in Inverness, IL. I just graduated from high school, but I've decided to take off a year before college in which I plan to travel all over and stuff. My first trip was to Peru, and I've only just returned a week ago. I like to read, write, play hockey and tennis, skateboard, snowboard, and hang out with all my friends. I'm looking forward to getting know you all and I can't wait for our trip to India. See you soon.

Andrew

July 12, 2006

Hello Universal Travelers

Breena.jpg

My name is Breena and I am ecstatic to soon be joining you on our adventure into the mountains and cityscape of India. I currently live in Newton, MA with my yellow Labrador, Harper and am working in a funky coffee shop. The farthest I have traveled East has been to Poland so I am filled with excitement for the road ahead. See you all very soon and enjoy the summer days.

Breena

July 25, 2006

Greetings from Kate

Kate.jpg

My name is kate Deming. I have lived in New Haven, Connecticut, my entire life. I am taking a gap year, and after that, I will be going to Washington University in St. Louis.

One of the main reasons that I am doiing this program in India is that I want to see as much of the world as possible whenever I get the chance. I am really looking forward to experiencing a culture completely different from my own.

Hello from Julianne

Julianne.jpg

Hello all,

I'm Julianne Skinner from Voorhees, NJ. I am so excited for this journey--I've never lived abroad for an extended period of time, but I can imagine how much there is to learn from it. I am joining the program as part of my gap year, and I'll b e a freshman at Carleton College in the fall.

Some of my interests--I listen to a lot of music and play a little, and I love the outdoors, camping, backpacking, and everything that goes with it. I loved Latin classes in high school, and I'm looking forward to learning a spoken language. I am very undecided about what to study in college, maybe Linguistics or Chemistry. I miss doing community service in my school's service program; my favorite weekly site wasa a group home for the mentally ill where we talked and played board games with the residents. It was surprisingly homey.

Can't wait to see everyone in September.

--Julianne

August 1, 2006

Greetings from Michelle Bos-Lun

Hello Students-

Having spent four months with the Brahma to Buddha program in India over the past nine months, I have some recommendations that I wanted to share with you before you depart for India on September 17…

These are fairly simple things to do or keep in mind that can really help to make your time in India more enjoyable and make you a more culturally sensitive traveler.

1) Packing hints: Culturally appropriate clothing. What does this mean? When you are packing for this program it is really important that you bring clothes that will be both comfortable and suitable to the locations we are going to.

For female students this means loose fitting shirts that have sleeves at least the length of a usual t-shirt. Shirts that have spaghetti straps, are sleeveless, tight-fitting, or mid-riff baring are not appropriate and can lead to troubles that can almost certainly be avoided by more conservative dress. If you wear pants that have a low-waist line you need to have shirts long enough to cover your mid-riff. If you wear a skirt, it should be at least to your knees.

For male students it is best to have pants and shirts with short sleeves as well. Local men in India almost never wear shorts and if you wear them it will set you apart in a way that is not helpful.

Continue reading "Greetings from Michelle Bos-Lun" »

August 8, 2006

Greetings from Sanghamitra, Varanasi Coordinator

Sanghamirtra.jpgNamastey,

My full name is Sanghamitra Sarkar and I will be helping to arrange your projects in Varanasi. I am originally from the northeastern part of India i.e. Assam. My mother tongue is Bengali. I have done my studies from Allahabad (a city which is 127 k.m. from Varanasi), and Madhaya Pradesh. I have done two masters, one in Modern History and the other in Tourism Management.

For the last 5 years I am staying in Varanasi and working with the western scholars from all over Europe and America. They were all research scholars. I used to help them in the field with translation and transcribing the tape records and arrange interviews for the students. In the last few years I worked with almost 20 scholars who were working on different projects.

I look forward to meeting all of you soon and introducing you to Varanasi.

With Good Luck,

Sanghamitra

Hello from Namgial, Ladakh Coordinator

Namgial.jpg

Julay!

My name is Rinchen Namgial. I come from Domkar village, which is 118 km west of Leh, Ladakh. I grew up in that village, and received my high school education there. Afterwards I moved to Jammu for higher secondary school and college. I graduated in history, geography, economics and English. Later I went to Jammu University where I studied Buddhist philosophy.

To support my studies I worked as a freelance guide for the local travel agencies in Ladakh. This started my interest in working with people from different countries to help them understand Ladakhi culture.

Continue reading "Hello from Namgial, Ladakh Coordinator" »

August 15, 2006

Hello from Sonam (Peter), Dharamsala Coordinator

Sonam.jpg

Hello. My name is Sonam, but you can also call me Peter. I was born on the 10th of March, in 1979, in small village called Changthang Nyoma in Leh, Ladakh to a family of nomads. At a young age, I was sent to the Tibetan Childrens Village School located in the town of Choglamsar, in Ladakh. After the 10th class, I completed two additional years at a school in South India and then completed my college-level courses at Delhi University in the field of Business. In March of 2000, I started to work in the travel business IATO (India Association of Tours Operation) company at New Delhi as a travel coordinator. I stayed with the company for six years.

Last April, I started my own travel business company at New Delhi in the name of SP Travels 24/7. I now work with a dedicated team, which combines the dynamism of youth with the experiences of age, to ensure a memorable tour experience to our clients. This work has allowed me to develop a good relationship with the native people. I look forward to sharing with you the actual lifestyle and culture of the people you will meet.

With regards,

Sonam (Peter)

August 24, 2006

Pre-departure Info

Hi Fall ‘06 India Students-

Today Kate and her mom and I had a chance to meet and see pictures of India and talk about the upcoming program. It was great to meet them and I am eager to meet the rest of you in less than a month’s time in New York for orientation.

I hope all of you have had a chance to communicate by email and phone with your “alumni mentors” by now. If you haven’t connected yet, do get in touch with them as they are all students who have experienced the “Brahma to Buddha India Semester” within the past two semesters and have plenty to share with you to help you prepare for your pending adventure. If you have not heard from your mentor in an initial email contact please let me know and I will follow up and help get things rolling.

We would like all of you to register with the US Embassy in New Delhi. To do this you just go to the US Embassy website's Travel Registration page and fill out the registration form on-line. You’ll need your passport number to do this. Once you do this you will receive periodic postings from the US Embassy about things you might want to know about in India.

Continue reading "Pre-departure Info" »

August 28, 2006

Hello from Cassie (semester student)

Cassie.jpg

Hi Everyone,

I'm Cassie Denton and I'm from the ever-illustrious California.

I love the smell of chlorine and drinking kombucha and dancing. I hate the sound of Styrofoam and bedroom windows that don't face east.

The rest you can figure out pretty easily just by asking.

I can't wait for the rest of my life.

August 29, 2006

Siddhartha School request from Galen

kathleenstudents2.jpg
Art teacher and Global LAB board member Kathleen Frye visiting Siddhartha School students in Ladakh last month

Hi Everyone-

I want to let all of you know about a terrific opportunity that we have for the second week of our program in Ladakh at the Siddhartha School, a small day school which I visited for the first time last fall.

The Siddhartha School was founded in the small village of Stok, Ladakh in 1995 by Geshe Lobsang Tsetan Khen Rinpoche, a Ladakhi monastic abbot who had been living and teaching at a Tibetan center in Washington, New Jersey as well as throughout the northeast of the US since 1978. In 1992 he returned to his homeland of Ladakh in order to open the Siddhartha School and educate the children of a community without a school of their own. With funds raised primarily in the west the Siddhartha School was established, and today the 100 students enrolled there learn Ladakhi, Tibetan, Hindi, and English languages, as well as math, science, history, and culture. Geshe-la (now more commonly known as Khen Rinpoche) travels to the US every fall and winter, and lives and teaches for much of this time just outside of Portland, Maine. Both last winter and again this past spring I had the good fortune to spend some time with him at teachings which he was offering near my home here in Portland. One afternoon over a pizza buffet at his favorite local restaurant we shared our stories of Ladakh and Buddhism in America, and he expressed warm and sincere gratitude for bringing my previous groups to his school. In turn, I said the honor and pleasure was ours, which is the plain and simple truth.

Continue reading "Siddhartha School request from Galen" »

August 31, 2006

Namaste from Knight! (Alumni Mentor)

Namaste from Knight! I'm an alumnus from last Spring's Brahma to Buddha semester. Since I've been back I've taken my experience and written a 30 page paper on insight philosophy. Then I took a summer class in digital video production at NYU where I'll be returning to for the Fall semester. I rounded out my summertime by catching the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee and the Gathering of the Vibes festival in upstate New York, not far from where our retreat will be. I'm just returning from a long weekend at my friend's cabin in beautiful Vermont, and am writing this email from my family's home in central New Jersey. I'll be looking forward to meeting you all and seeing you off on what will be the adventure of perhaps many lifetimes ;)

After September begins you'll be able to look at the Consciousness website Chris, Caroline, and myself from the Spring '06 semester have been collaborating on.

September 1, 2006

Hello from Amit in Delhi

Amit.jpg

Namaste,

I am Amit from Delhi and I've been working with the Brahma to Buddha semester for almost a year now. I love to meet different people, understand the diversity of cultures, and love traveling to new places and exploring new ideas. The last three semester groups were wonderful--I learned so many things from them, enjoyed traveling with them, from Holi Festival in my house to each and every day was something new like visiting the blind school, watching Bollywood movies and taking Bollywood dance lessons, etc.

About my qualifications I went to a boarding school which is 175 km from Delhi and I studied there up to grade 10TH and then came back to Delhi, finished my grade 12TH and college from DELHI COLLEGE OF ARTS AND COMMERCE IN HISTORY (HONS).

You are very lucky as you are coming in a very good festival season--almost all the big festivals of India are in the following months. Moreover you will be celebrating Diwali at my house.

So here I sign out and for more information you have to meet me. Wishing you love and luck for the fall 06.

Amit

India a Superpower?

There's an interesting audio slideshow accompanying today's NY Times story on the reasons why "India is now developing into the world’s next big industrial power..."

Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone.

John

September 11, 2006

Mailing address in India

If you would like to have mail sent to you during the fall semester, the address below is the best one to use. Sonam will forward mail to you depending upon where you are when packages or letters arrive.

Student's name
c/o
Sonam Peter
KK Travels
1st Floor, Shop No. 205
Cycle Market, Jandewalan Ext.
New Delhi 110055
INDIA

September 12, 2006

Orientation Info

For those of you planning to meet us at Lifebridge (rather than at the Rubin Museum in NYC) this Friday, please plan to arrive between 3-5pm. Driving directions are available here. (Given Friday afternoon traffic, please allow some extra driving time).

Lifebridge Sanctuary
333 Mountain Road
Rosendale, NY
Map It

In addition to simply enjoying being in a beautiful area (more about the "Gunks"), we have a full schedule of activities lined up to help get the semester off to a great start, including a special visit with Remy Mansfield on Saturday. Remy is currently finishing up his final semester at Middlebury College, completing his thesis on travel writing and digital storytelling. Be sure to check out some of his great photography and writing on his blog before this weekend.

See you soon!

John, Michelle, Brad, Tracy, Galen, Alex, & Gabe

September 13, 2006

Last minute questions?

Michelle, Galen, Tracy, and I will be meeting together in the Berkshires this Weds-Friday before heading to Lifebridge to start the student retreat. If you have any questions while we are away, feel free to contact us at 800.984.4522 and your call will be forwarded to us.

John

September 15, 2006

Orientation Begins

Everybody arrived at Lifebridge this afternoon and the semester's orientation got underway with an excellent group dinner, some discussion about our various motivations for joining the program, and a screening of a documentary film on last semester's students encountering India. Congratulations to Frank Siringo for creating an outstanding video record exploring homestays, independent study projects, trekking, and community service.

More soon,

Galen

September 17, 2006

On their way, from JFK

group_1.jpg
Global LAB students and program directors at orientation in New York

Following a great two and a half day Semester orientation at Lifebridge Sanctuary the group caught the 12:40 bus to NYC, leaving plenty of time to get to JFK several hours ahead of tonight’s 8:10 flight to Delhi. Building in some extra time turned out to be a good idea, as the Trailways bus broke down en route and a new bus had to be dispatched for the journey to continue. Galen described it as an excellent introduction to the kind of unexpected transportation delays everyone will learn to roll with once in India. The group has now checked in, cleared security at JFK, and will soon be taking off for Delhi via a quick layover in London. We’ll post a note here as soon as they have arrived in India and reached their guesthouse.

knot_3.jpg
During orientation, students set a new speed record for untying the Human Knot and forming a circle without once letting go of each other's hands.

tablerock.jpg
On Saturday we hiked to Table Rocks within the Mohonk Preserve (New York's largest non-profit nature preserve; designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the planet's "Last Great Places") and enjoyed sunshine and a panoramic view of the Catskills range to the north.

knight_guitar.jpg
Knight singing "Salwar Kameez," an original composition from last semester about the national dress of South Asia.

Between Tracy's singing and guitar playing, Jesse's musical gifts (thanks, Jesse, for the post-meal piano jam sessions and for sharing your blog), Cassie's experience as a singer in a Ska band, and all the other musical talents yet to surface, this promises to be a semester filled with outstanding music and song.

tracy_guitar.jpg
Tracy borrowed Knight's guitar and revealed some serious musical talent, singing John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery."

September 18, 2006

All's Well in Delhi

Group at Heathrow before the final leg to India.jpg
Enjoying a short layover at Heathrow before the final leg of the journey

Sonam Peter greeting Julianne with a traditional Tibetan katak at the Delhi Airport.jpg
Sonam Peter greeting Julianne with a tradtional Tibetan katak at the Delhi Airport

Group in the van upon arrival in Delhi.jpg
A happy van ride from the airport to the hotel, and to bed

Tracy called to let us know everyone has finally settled in for some sleep at their hotel in Delhi. "The students have been wonderful--real troopers through the long flight and everyone's doing great."

John

September 19, 2006

Exploring Old Delhi

Galen reports that after sleeping in until around 10 and enjoying a South Indian style breakfast and a Hindi lesson, the group headed out to explore Old Delhi, including a visit to the Red Fort (one of the palaces of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan), then on to the Digambara Jain Lal Mandir (one of the oldest Jain temples in India), and wrapped up with an early dinner near the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India.

Tomorrow, the group will continue exploring India's capital with a visit to New Delhi.

John

September 21, 2006

Update from Galen

Group with Guarav at the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi.jpg
With Guarav at the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi

All's well here in Delhi. We have students sending blog updates presently, so I'll keep it brief in regards to yesterday other than saying the first ever 'Gandhi Day' was a smashing success. It began with a morning discussion of Gandhi, his legacy, and nonviolent civil disobediance led by Jordan and Tracy; this was followed by a visit to the Gandhi Smitri Museum and the interactive multi-media installations there which illustrate Gandhi's life and teachings in the very home where he used to stay in Delhi, and by the garden in which he was assasinated; after a short, reflective writing exercise we went to the Andhra Bhavan for a South-Central India buffet lunch and then to the bustling Pahar Ganj bazaar, only to find it closed and our shopping assignment postponed due to a Gandhian solidarity movement in which all store owners shut their doors for the day, paralyzing business city-wide in protest of new government policies; from Pahar Ganj we went to Raj Ghat, where an eternal flame burns over Gandhi's resting place (as well as Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi's); after a short diversion to the ISKCON Hare Krishna temple, we went to an excellent screening of Manni Bhai, the latest Bollywood smash hit which is uniquely Gandhian in its premise and purpose, featuring the Mahatma himself as an apparition summoned by a hallucinating Manni during his conversion from gangster to humanist. A Chinese-Indian dinner in the food-court outside the theater wrapped up an excellent day, and already this morning we've been to the US Embassy in order to register for absentee ballots and are now back in Pahar Ganj for yesterday's delayed project. Off to Ladakh tomorrow morning, and ready for it.

September 22, 2006

Settling in to Ladakh

Galen called to describe the group's first day in Leh, Ladakh. Following a smooth, spectacular flight from Delhi up to the Himalaya, the group was met by Namgial and checked in to the Chube guest house in Leh. Namgial led a walking orientation through the old city and main bazaar, followed by a visit to the polo grounds where an exhibition on hydropower, animal husbandry, and apricot harvesting provided more introduction to life in the Himalayas.

Everyone's health and spirits are great--a bit tired from getting up at 3am to catch the flight, but otherwise feeling little to no effects from the higher altitude and savoring the crisp temperature compared to Delhi's heat and humidity. After acclimatizing to the altitude for a few more days, the plan is to take a day hike outside of nearby Phey village to test out boots and gear prior to beginning the longer trek.

All are eager to email and post to the blog, but the Internet is down in Leh at the moment--it might be back up later this afternoon, according to local prognosticators.

John

Tshangma-la Julley!

After a VERY early morning getting to the domestic airport in Delhi, we've arrived safely in Ladakh. We were silenced by the beauty of the trans-Himal landscape this morning as we drove from the Leh airport. The students were awestruck as we watched Leh waking up in the early morning sunlight. Upon arrival, we were filled with cha (tea) and biscuits while we admired the inspiring gardens at the Chube Guesthouse. All of us promply hit the hay for a few hours recharging from our early morning and were awakened to a feast of spaks, dal, and das (vegetables, lentils and rice).

Namgial lead us on a stroll through the north bazaar of Leh, pointing out important sites that we all will visit frequently during our time here: Ecological Apricot store, tailors for making gonchas (traditional Ladakhi dress), and the Ladakh Ecological Development Group.

We're all looking forward to a good night's sleep and some more Ladakhi adventures tomorrow!

Hope all is well state-side...

Peace,
Tracy

Pepper tears, nudists, & neem

For a student perspective on day one in Delhi, Jesse offers a vivid description. Thanks for keeping it real, Jesse!

John

September 23, 2006

Julley from Cassie

Emma, Cassie and Namgial.jpg

Julley from the sole-survivor of a bout of altitude sickness (11,700 feet) in Leh!

Most of the team is down with general fatigue and alot of stomach trouble, and I found myself the only person awake at seven o'clock this morning breathing in this fresh air. We are, however, blessed with an incredibly peaceful guest house complete with a gorgeous garden and toilet paper, so the next couple of days are devoted to tea and recovery.

As for myself, everything here is crisp and refreshing and it makes me feel tingly and awake. The only altitude adjustment I am feeling is very sharp and clear vision, which is quite enjoyable for the STUNNING views of towering mountains all around. I sat with my journal and a mug of hot water in the sun this morning and marveled at the change I feel here in this high village. Delhi for me was hot and hectic and rather startling, whereas this is just plain beautiful. The people will always give you generous white smiles and a "julley" anytime you pass, and I feel embraced in the small cobblestone streets and the rough houses.

Continue reading "Julley from Cassie" »

September 25, 2006

Hello from Emma

Emma smile_resized.jpg

Julley everyone!

I’m sorry to say that my first blog posting is after a most unfortunate couple of days where I and almost everyone else in the group have been suffering from altitude sickness! Fortunately though Tracey makes a very good mother and Galen manages to keep smiles on our faces. Leh is perhaps the most beautiful place on earth with breathtaking snow covered mountains, picturesque monasteries with colorful Tibetan prayer flags, and simply clad friendly locals. The market is full of local foods and dried apricots as well as hand made jewelry and local woolen vests. Our guest house is spectacular with a beautiful vegetable and flower garden, cozy box beds, excellent food, and a flush toilet! The peacefulness of Leh is a nice change from the insanity of Delhi but I must admit I miss the gypsy (our local Delhi coordinators awesome open air jeep)! I hope everyone at home is doing wonderful and I miss you all more then words could describe.
Cheers!
~Emma

Happy Equinox

Hello Ladakh Travelers-

This past weekend my sister hosted an Equinox celebration to welcome the coming of the Autumn, at her place in the woods of Vermont which included a “Meditation Nature Walk” during which all of you were filling my thoughts…

We were walking through the forest, observing falling leaves, crawling salamanders, listening to the bubbling brook and having various “ New England nature” experiences, when we were advised to pick a place to sit. I chose a mossy rock beside the stream where I noticed an intricate circular spider web spanning the width of the water.

Continue reading "Happy Equinox" »

September 26, 2006

One Kind of Trekking

Andrew_Leh.jpg

The first few days in Ladakh have been absolutely stunning and full of intrigue, adventure, and a whole lot of work. I get most of my exercise braving the rugged, tortuous trail between clothing garments or shoes strewn across the floor of my cavernlike room. My destination: the bathroom. As I stagger my way through the dimly lit, cramped cave, my olfactory senses are assailed by the aromatic stench of day old vomit mingled with the overwhelming product of our dashes to the bathroom. It is breathtaking indeed. I do my best to remain upright as I stumble back to my bed, wearily signaling Jordan that the bathroom is now vacant for a few minutes. I reach my bed and collapse on it after the long trek only to have it hit back. I didn't know my body could ache so much from sleeping. The covers seem totally insufficient as my body is overtaken in a fit of shivering.

Continue reading "One Kind of Trekking" »

Group Health, "A Mid Summer Night's Dream," etc.

Group at polo ground.jpg

Things here in Leh took a tremendous turn for the better today. After several days of general altitude fatigue compounded by a stomach bug that seemed to claim most all members of the group, we've rebounded with our feet moving.

Yesterday morning we ventured up to Shanti Stupa, where Namgial gave us an informative talk on the history and culture of Ladakh and its relations with Tibet, Kashmir, and greater India. The afternoon was spent in relaxation before a tremendous theatrical production of Ladakh's own take on 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (plus another one-act number). Afterwards, our first meal of momos wasn't received as warmly as we'd hoped, but an interview on BBC with HH the Dalai Lama got us talking over tea.

Continue reading "Group Health, "A Mid Summer Night's Dream," etc." »

A Plea for Some Sound...

Well, India rock stars. Keep the intense dispatches flowing. It appears as if many of ye have been smitten with Ladakh and overwhelmed by Delhi. Feeling ALIVE is living, no? India is still virgin territory for me, but the sensations you've been sharing remind me of my first slaps and jolts from Egypt and Morocco. I believe you have kicked up India to my short-list of new experiences to seek. So I'm sitting here in VA, near sea level, and all of you are about 2 miles up it's killing my neck to catch any semblance of your peace or being. It's a breezy autumn day and the silver maples and sweet gums are breaking the wind with that happening crinkly rustle.

Continue reading "A Plea for Some Sound..." »

Majestic Classroom

Namgial talks with the group at Shanti Stupa terrace.jpg
On Shanti Stupa's terrace, Namgial and the group discuss Ladakhi culture and history.

September 28, 2006

Ladakh Map

Ladkah_Map.jpg

For those who may not be familiar with Ladakhi geography and place names (click image to enlarge).

October 1, 2006

Reflections in Dha

Underneath the stars' careful scrutiny I am naked. Their gazes pierce through my outer shells of self erected facades. The masks I wear to protect myself, hide myself, and keep myself sane are nothing; their eyes bore into the core of my being and see me for what I really am. When I stare back, I can see my reflection clearly written in their vast eyes. The illusions I hold are quickly swept away, and I feel small and insignificant. The universe seems so large from here. I realize it must borderline hubris for humans to even attempt to fathom it in its entirety. It won't be the first time I've fallen prey to that vice, and certainly not the last.

We arrived in Dha an hour or so ago, and set out on a small walk to explore the village. We finally stopped to rest in a small field overlooking the convergence of the Indus river and a stream from a nearby mountain. From here the world is beautiful and its tranquility is ubiquitous. The serenity I feel in this place seems to have crept into every crevice in the mountains surrounding us, every ripple and rush of the river snaking through the valley below us, and every inch of the barren land ahead of us. The world is at peace, and I can make out the cricket's rythym and a bird's soft cry somewhere far away.

Continue reading "Reflections in Dha" »

Julley from Jordan

Group at Siddhartha School in Stok.jpg
Group at Siddhartha School in Stok

Hey all,

We recently visited two very different schools. The Siddhartha School is a private one near Western Ladakh. It has 191 students and around twenty teachers. We had a very warm welcoming in which we visited each class and talked to students with ages ranging from around four to sixteen. They danced and shared their cultural dances with us and we sang a few songs and danced for them. Later on we visited Namgial's house and feasted until we fell asleep where we laid. After a walk the next day we visitied Namgial's old school, the government school, and met with their faculty and students. After a short bus ride with Punsok "the guy" as our driver we headed over to Deh. There we learned about pagan rituals and societies. Julie and Jesse got marriage proposals.
They said no.

Lata,

Jordan

The Sabu Oracle

Breena Tsemo Peak.jpg

Jullay (Hello, Goodbye and Thank You) in Ladakhi. It works wonders, especially when repeated over and over again to young Ladakhi villagers. Our stay in Ladakh has been an adventure of amazing sorts, beginning with a slow and painful arrival but we have finally settled in comfortable motion. And now luckily we will have the time to get to know the Ladakhi people on a closer level as we enter into their homes and make way into the everyday life they lead.

Before we set out on an excursion this past weekend, into the farther mountains beyond Ladakh, we visited the local oracle of a village known as Sabu. The following is a story I wrote after the experience. Enjoy.

The Sabu Oracle
We walked into a commonly small-sized room on the outskirts of the city of Leh. There we found a woman at the threshold, chanting to spirits, and swaying back and forth to the sound of her own voice. In the room were mostly Ladakhis, two muslim woman with gypsy dress, an American with a videocamera, a French couple, swarming flies, and the ten of us withstanding Ka Namgial. Immediately we sat with our blessing shawls while Namgial went forth to act as translator and local tie-keeper.

Continue reading "The Sabu Oracle" »

Making skew

Kate Tsemo Peak.jpg

This weekend, we took a two night excursion away from Leh, along the Indus River, eventually ending up in Dah. The first night, we stopped in Domkar, the village where Namgial, our crazy and wonderful guide, grew up. We spent one night in his family's beautiful home. That night, all the girls helped Namgial's mother, sister-in-law, sister, and niece make skew, a traditional Ladakhi dish made from barley flour dough.

Emma, Tracy, Cassie, Breena, Julianne, and Kate making Skyu (Ladakhi stew) with Namgial's family in Domkhar.jpg

We sat in a circle, rolling strips of dough in flour and then breaking off little pieces. We could not really communicate with each other, but it felt great to just sit and cook together. Tracy and Emma entertained everyone with some swing dancing when we were done. Later, we enjoyed what we had made, which was delicious, even though many of our stomachs are still feeling somewhat questionable. Despite the altitude issues, Ladakh continues to amaze me, both the people and the landscape. I hope everything back in the states is good. I can't believe it's already October!
Kate

Update from Tracy

Global Learning students saying goodbye to Siddhartha students at the end of the school day in Stok.jpg
Global LAB students saying goodbye with the traditional High Five to Siddhartha students at the end of the school day in Stok

We've returned from an eventful journey to the northwest end of the road: the village of Dah. This place is as far as foreigners can go in the Indus river valley. We shared my favorite Ladakhi music, Bob Dylan's greatest hits, and many more songs as we traveled by a small bus through the valley. Namgial's family, in Domkhar village, hosted us for our first night, and filled our bellies with snacks, cha ngarmo and cha khante (sweet tea and butter tea) and an amazing meal of traditional Ladakhi Skyu, which we helped the family make. (my personal favorite Ladakhi meal... it was yummy!)

High Five Goodbyes.jpg

We visited Domkhar High School, a government school. We experienced quite a warm reception from the administration, asking and answering thoughtful questions from both Ladakhi and Global-Labers. We shared our version of the Hokey Pokey with the students after they showed us up with two traditional dances and drumming accompaniment.

Continue reading "Update from Tracy" »

October 2, 2006

Hello from Phey Village

Galen called Global LAB's NYC office this morning to say that everyone has settled in happily with their homestay families in Phey village, outside of Leh. They enjoyed a walk down to the nearby Indus River this morning, had a talk on Buddhism, then helped their families with the potato harvest. Today is Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) Day and a puja ceremony is taking place at Julianne's home, where all will gather at 7pm to witness the honoring of the person considered to be the the founder of Tibetan or Tantric Buddhism. Tomorrow they will spend some time visiting with students and teachers at the SECMOL School, where Tracy lived and taught last spring.

Given the altitude and stomach issues that cropped up last week, the group has decided to stay in Phey with their host families through this week and begin their trek on either Friday or Saturday. This will allow for a more meaningful homestay period and exposure to village life while also giving everyone time to get in some training hikes.

John

October 4, 2006

Of Potatos and Men

Phey Nono Chospel showing off his finds.jpg
Nono Chospel showing off his finds

The sun is beating down mercilessily on my back as a fog of flies clouds my view. Blotches of dirt in my eyes compound the obstruction, and I can taste the soil as it crunches through my clenched teeth. Sweat beads trickle down my forehead and my eyes have an unnatural zoned in focus.

The animals are coming to make another pass. My body is poised and eyes sharp as they draw nearer. Out of the corner of my eye I can make out Galen waiting impatiently, circling like hawk on the hunt. The tension accompanying our competitiveness is as pervasive as the anticipation is palpable.

The plow plunges into the soil and the animals begin to move. Galen is a blur of blue amidst the field and his voracious hands move with a carnal mind of their own. I see Jesse move in to cut him off, and in the instant the two of them fend each other off I make my move.

Continue reading "Of Potatos and Men" »

Karnak Chu Trek

On Saturday morning, October 7, we are departing for what will certainly be an exciting and challenging trek in the remote mountains and valleys of Ladakh, a journey that will find us traveling by nothing but our own feet for the next week and a half.

After a short drive southeast from Leh, we will start our walk at the small hamlet of Shang Sumdo. From there we will begin a gradual climb up a narrow gorge and through ibex and blue-sheep country to the campsite of Chuskyurmo. The following day we will make a climb up and over the Kongmaru La pass, and then descend into the Nimaling Plains, a grassland on the fringe of the Markha Valley where we’ll stay for the night amongst the grazing yak and sheep. From there we will venture southbound through several other seasonal encampments, Yakrupal and Tsokra, and traverse some high country around the Zalungkarpo La with spectacular views of Zanskar to the south and the Karakoram to the north, before dropping down into the Kharnak gorge and the summer pastures of nomadic herders.

Continue reading "Karnak Chu Trek" »

October 5, 2006

Homestays

Phey Students meet their homestay families.jpg
Students meet their homestay families (click image to enlarge)

Homestays are amazing! The opportunity to share such intimacy with a local family is spectacular and my family has been amazing. We've had some wonderful potato picking moments, clothes washing fiascoes (Jesse's crazy army lamb fleece jacket!), precious moments at Secmol School, deep talks out in the fields, and soul feeding evenings with our families at dinner time.

Some of us have been feeling a bit dodgy but we're hoping we all pull through to make for a good trek. Right now the plan is to leave on Saturday and perhaps we'll even do a trek that our local buddy Namgial can join us on.

We had a great discussion on Islam with a very knowledgable guest speaker today named Abdul Ghani Sheik and everybody asked great questions such as the place of women in the Muslim religion (compliments of Cassie) and how the Muslim community views America (go Jordan).

Continue reading "Homestays" »

October 6, 2006

Voice Mail Transcription from Galen

Hi everyone, this is Galen here calling from the SECMOL campus on Global LAB’s satellite phone. We wanted to let you know that after meeting with the group we have decided to change the trek itinerary and complete the Markha Valley trek. While the health of our group is better, we haven’t had the chance to do a great deal of conditioning walks and with the colder temperatures right around the corner, the Markha Valley will be more comfortable as well. Last spring, the students very much enjoyed this walk and enthusiastically recommended it to future groups as well.

Tomorrow we are heading out directly from Phey where students have enjoyed their home stays. After a few days, we walk over the first pass and into the Markha Valley. If all goes according to plan, we should end up at Hemis Monastery (the largest one in Ladakh) about 8 days later. From Hemis, we may take a day and visit the hermitage above the town of Gostong.

The next 10 days should be fantastic and Namgial will be sending a more detailed itinerary soon.

We should be back in Leh on either the 15th or the 16th, and will go back into home stays for a few days before flying down to Delhi. But we will be in touch over the satellite phone before then. Everyone here is well and we will look forward to being in touch about the trek when we return.

October 10, 2006

Hello from Tracy

Trek, Tracy riding Black Horse fast but standing still.jpg
Tracy riding Black Horse fast but standing still

Tracy calling here from the Rumbak Valley. I wanted to let you know that the trek is beginning very well. Just as I am speaking, the group is finishing up a chocolate cake (complete with frosting) in honor of Jesse's birthday. Students have also brought along small gifts. A wonderful evening is being had by all.

Earlier today, some of us hiked up to Rumbak Village. And tonight, we are hoping to get a good night's sleep before the Kandala pass tomorrow.

The group's health is strong and everyone is being supportive of each other as we progress along the Markha Valley. Spirits are high and people are enjoying the pace of the trek. We will be in touch again soon.

Tracy

Trek details from Namgial

MARKHA VALLEY (Hemis National Park)

In comparison to Nepal, Ladakh has relatively few trekkers, and although you are still in the Greater Himalaya the scenery is so different you would hardly know that you were in the same range. It is often called 'Little Tibet' and lying north of the main chain it receives little rainfall.

Trek, Andrew, Breena, and Jesse walk out of the Shingo gorge and into the Markha Valley.jpg
Andrew, Breena, and Jesse walk out of the Shingo gorge and into the Markha Valley

The scenery is stark and dramatic - deep gorges, alluvial fans, contorted strata, large Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, flat-topped mud-bricked houses in oasis-like villages, snow-capped mountains and grand distances.

The Markha valley epitomizes the best of this scenery. It has giant rock pinnacles, beetling cliffs, narrow defiles, prayer-flagged passes and evidence of a much older civilization, the history of which has been lost in antiquity. As you trek up the valley, there are the ruins of many forts and castles, some built in some pretty unlikely places!

Continue reading "Trek details from Namgial" »

October 11, 2006

Voice message from Galen

Trek, Galen supervising the Markha River crossing.jpg
Galen supervising the Markha River crossing

Galen calling on Wednesday evening from Markha Village. We're just over half way through the trek. Had a great walk up the Markha Valley today. Over the last few days we have stayed in villages along the way after descending from the pass. We have seen lots of wildlife including ibex and marmots. Today, as we approached our campsite, villagers were singing in the afternoon as they harvested barley, surrounded by lovely autumn colors.

Everyone is doing very well. In the next few days, we will work our way over another pass and down into Hemis. We still anticipate returning to Phey Village and our home stays on the 14th or 15th. We will check in again in a couple of days.

October 13, 2006

Message from Namgial

I got a call from Galen this morning and the group is doing well. They will come over Kongmaru la this morning and tomorrow afternoon drive to Phey and stay with families for 2 nights.

With warm wishes,

Namgial

Satellite phone message from Tracy & Breena

Trek, Breena enjoys her wakeup call of bed tea at 7 am.jpg
Breena enjoys her wakeup call of bed tea at 7 am

Hey, Tracy calling from Sumdo on day seven of the trek. Breena has an update for you that she wanted to share for the blog, so here she is. (Handed Breena the phone)

I was totally unaware that the phone was going to be passed to me! OK. We had an outstanding day today. Definitely very strenuous but ultimately rewarding as we walked through beautiful landscapes. We have set up camp in the most beautiful spot of all under crystal clear skies. Today we saw Blue Sheep. Overall, it was an amazing day and we are enjoying the trek fully. We went over a pass of 17,400 feet today, the Kangmaru-la, and then down through a gorge with the most amazing rocks I have ever seen in my life---something out of the Land of Oz. We got a geology lesson from Tracy on the way down.

Hope you enjoy this message and that you are having fun in the States or wherever you are.

October 16, 2006

Embers

Trek, Group mesmorized by the bonfire at Pentse.jpg

The flames dance erratically in front of my eyes, dazzling me with their brilliance. I can feel the fire's warmth radiating against my glowing face. The fire has beaten the dark, cold night back for a bit, and I am thankful for its presence. It soars up higher with each small gust of wind, scorching the sky as it spews tiny ashes from its peak. Silence reigns around the campfire. What do the others see in the fire, I wonder, as it crackles and snaps vibrantly. They all seem entranced in the fire's magnificence and I dare not break the silence, but I can't help my curiousity. I wish I found something in the fire to keep me rapt, but my mind will not settle.

Continue reading "Embers" »

Man Day

Trek, Jesse and Andrew have a laugh during a lunch stop at Sara.jpg

Trekking altogether was an amazing experience, but one day in particular will stand out in my mind: Man Day. We had a hard day out walking and while relaxing in the dinner tent we had no idea what was in store for us. I went to use the bath room and when I returned I found most of the group asleap on the floor whilst Tracy was singing quaint songs. I panicked and looked the other way, is that, why yes that is, the trekking staff is starting to make the beginnings of a huge bonfire. I quickly turn and go offer my help. Galen and I quickly went of the wrestle trees. We worked for hours, maybe days, jopping down the largest trees we could find...with our bare hands. We made the largest pyramid of wood you have ever seen. It was then time for dinner. The usual massive amounts of food were brought to us, and then, just when we thought it was over, a four inch tall pizza came out (no joke). After we feasted on the pizza and usual desert of raw carcass, we went out for the bonfire. We doused it in kerosene and let it go. Thus ended the greatest day to ever come into existence.

Markha Valley

Trek, Julianne and Breena give us their best before setting off from Pentse.jpg
Julianne and Breena before setting off from Pentse

Hello all... For me the past 8 or 9 days have gone by faster than any other stretch of the trip. We got into something of a daily routine while trekking - usually when I woke up, it was a few minutes before I could drag myself away from the comfort of my tea and sleeping bag, but outside the tent, the ponies were already lined up and waiting for our packs, Dorje Tsering was singing to them and us alternately, and Galen was finishing putting away his single-occupancy tent. On the other end of a day of trekking, we were served tea again and spent the hours before dinner talking, writing, or napping, adding layers of clothing as the sky darkened. Every dinner was like a performance by Ram and the others. We came to expect a small barrage of courses, usually featuring plenty of mayonnaise and dishes that never should have been able to show up in the Himalayas (we determined that there are rocks in the Himalayas, not four-inch-thick pizzas). The crew was plenty sensitive to our progress through a meal as well as to our need for nourishment to match the "vigor" of the day's walk - Tenzin and Sonam often hung out by the tent flap, grinning, helping us figure out what we were eating, and moving things around on the table.

Continue reading "Markha Valley" »

Galen's Call

Galen called today, reporting that the last couple of days have included a lively farewell party in Phey with homestay families; a return to Leh where long, long awaited hot showers were enjoyed by all; and a free day in Leh followed by a traditional Ladakhi cultural performance of song and dance.

He said that everybody's in fine shape in terms of health and all are in great spirits coming off of the challenges and spectacular beauty of the trek. That said, it promises to be a bittersweet farewell when the group says goodbye to their friends in Ladakh. Tomorrow morning they will fly back down to the warmth of Delhi, where they will continue to explore the capital's teeming streetlife and various cultural centers. Wednesday they will visit the Amity School during the day and that afternoon catch a train down to Agra to encounter the Taj Mahal.

John

Trek Photos

Trek, G-LAB group with Sonam, Dondrup, Stenzin at 16,350 ft atop the Kanda La.jpg
Global LAB group with Sonam, Dondrup, Stenzin at 16,350 ft atop the Kanda La

Trek, Cassie atop Gongmaru La at 17,300 ft.jpg
Cassie atop Gongmaru La at 17,300 ft

Trek, Breena ascends the Kanda La.jpg
Breena ascending the Kanda La...

Trek, Breena at the top of Kanda La.jpg
and arriving, exhausted but victorious, at the top of Kanda La

Trek, Emma happily summits Kanda La.jpg
Emma happily summits Kanda La....

Trek, Emma hangs prayer flags at Kanda La.jpg
and hangs prayer flags at the top

Trek, Julianne, Breena, Galen, Cassie, and Ram do a camp clean-up and crush cans discarded by previous expeditions before setting off for Gongmaru La.jpg
Julianne, Breena, Galen, Cassie, and Ram do a camp clean-up and crush cans discarded by previous expeditions before setting off for Gongmaru La

Trek, Kate and Tenzin at the top of Gongmaru La.jpg
Kate and Tenzin at the top of Gongmaru La

Trek, Kate and Sonam cross the Nimaling river en route to Tachungtse.jpg
Kate and Sonam cross the Nimaling river en route to Tachungtse

Trek, Jordan relaxes at the top of Kanda La.jpg
Jordan relaxes at the top of Kanda La

Trek, Group in the breakfast tent on the final morning.jpg
Group in the breakfast tent on the final morning

October 17, 2006

Leaving Ladakh

Hello everybody,

This morning, we left Ladakh, bringing to a close the first month of our time in India. Last night, we enjoyed an amazing traditional Ladakhi dance performance, complete with ornate headresses and traditional instruments. They even balanced jugs of water on their heads, which was quite impressive. It was a great way to finish off our time in Ladakh. We even got to see our trekking buddies again, which was very exciting, especially for me, as Tenzin gave me his address and phone number.

Earlier that day, we said goodbye to our homestay families, thanking our ama-les, who had welcomed us into their homes so warmly and fed us to the bursting point. I will miss walking out of my house every morning and seeing goats piled into a pen right outside the front door, and sitting in the kitchen every night, watching (and helping) the family make dinner. I was sad to leave the cool, dry weather and the beauty of the Himalayas, but now that I am back in crazy, steamy Delhi, I am ready and excited for the next part of our time in India.

Kate

Salivatory Salvation

So we had a super early flight from Leh and arrived in Delhi around 9am or so this morning. After the hectic struggle through the airport I think everyone was pretty relieved to get back to Cartel Palace and relax. By the time lunch time came around and the money for food and transportation was passed out, Jesse, Jordan, and me were all in "concurrence" as to where we should eat: McDonalds. After a short auto rik-shaw ride to the great golden archs we were all smiles and anticipation. I have to admit, I've never been to a higher class McDonaolds. It was definitely the happening place to be in Delhi, with groups of teens crowded around tables, flat screen plasma tvs hanging from many of the walls, a play place for the youngsters, and good old smiley Ronald relaxing on a bench upstairs.

We were pretty suprised, we asked a couple of times to clarify, when the smiling Indian ladies working the registers told us our fries and a burger would take a couple of minutes, but we need not worry, she would send it up to us as soon as it was ready. True to her word but not quick enough to beat our mouths, the fries were sent up to us a minute or two after Jesse and I had devoured our McChicken Burgers, which, I must add, were super good, although I ate so fast it's debatable whether or not I tasted it. As soon as Jordan devoured his version of BigMac made with chicken, we rushed back downstairs for a full new round of McChicken burgers. Then we topped it all off with some quality ice cream covered in all sorts of chocolate or caramel. All in all, it was definitely the best lunch I've had in Delhi; so good that we borrowed a pen from a police officer and had Jordan write the number down on his arm since they actually deliver. I don't know how it could possibly get any better. We're thinking maybe Dominos tonight.

Anyway, great to hear from everyone on the comments thing. I don't know if I have a quick way to respond so I'll just do it here. Gotta admit Danielle, I was suprised to hear from you, seeing as Danny has gone missing for the past month. He best be practicing some serious guitar or doing something to occupy his time. Hope all is well at Potbellys if you still work there. When I get back I expect a discount or something because I'm going to spend a whole day there. And Ashleeez! Nice to hear from you too. I'm glad you're learning new words from my blogs...hell you don't even need college just read up on g-lab every day. Oh and if you see Kelly, tell him to send me an e-mail from his new college address so I can write him too. Thanks for the quotes Grandma and Grandpop, and I'm glad you enjoy reading the blogs. I'm guessing Mom is there now visiting you both so I hope you're having a good time. Adios everyone. Enjoy your days and thanks for keeping in touch.

A Piece of The Trekking Pie (or should I say...)

Oh, the glory that is FOOD!

I see these amazing pictures of smiling faces climbing atop 17,000 foot passes and scaling heights unknown to generations of humans, and I think: trekking was amazing, trekking was one of the most incredible things I have ever done, but did we all forget the fuel that got our muscles to the top?

Maybe I should say: Oh, the glory that is RAM. Head cook, head champion, and the hero of all of our stomachs, Ram made us feasts to remember. In the morning there was stewed apples in milk, with steamy creamy cheese omelets, chapatis that still felt warm in your hands. Lunch could be wacky vegetable dishes or french fries or samosas or ____ (insert some delicious, body-fueling meal). But the dinners, oh the dinners. Course after course, pile after pile of dishes new and familiar and variations on both. There was the bright orange paneer and the rich eggplant that melted in your mouth, the most bizarre mayonaise salads (who eats mayonaise with a salad? I remember someone asking) and the most innocuous fresh cucumbers with lime juice and salt. We would never begin a dinner without some enticing broth, ginger and garlic and tomato and the perfect consistency to make your mouth ache for more food. Who could forget the Man-Day pizza, four inches tall and unlike any pizza I have ever seen in my life. A masterpiece, shall we say?

But for me, the culinary delights were climaxed by one dish. It began with the teasing smiles from Tracy and Galen- You are in for a surprise, they both said, and then refused to budge from their secretive stances. My mind was awhirl with possibilties, each crazier than the next. What could top the Man-Day pizza? At first I was convinced that it was the billowy clouds of mashed potatoes that Stenzin brought to our table, melt in your mouth. But Tracy and Galen insisted: it is amazing and we will never tell you what it is. The table was soon cleared and Jesse and Jordan had retreated to their usual after-dinner stances, stretched out on their backs with their stomachs as wide as possible. What could it be?

Continue reading "A Piece of The Trekking Pie (or should I say...)" »

October 18, 2006

Month One

Hard to believe it has already been a month--one third of the semester--since you guys packed up at Lifebridge Sanctuary and flew to India!

Reading over the blog it's clear you all have managed to pack an extraordinary number of rich experiences into just four weeks. Congratulations on diving in to the semester with such spirit, humor, and thoughtfulness. All of us stuck at our desks back here in the States continue to suffer envy attacks. Even so, we're eager to follow month two, as you work your way back into the Himalayan foothills and settle in to the special exile community that makes Dharamsala the epicenter of Tibetan culture in diaspora.

Travel well,

John (from the NYC desk)

October 19, 2006

Amity School, Taj, Keoladeo

Delhi Returning from safari at Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan.jpg
Returning from safari-by-bike at Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan

Tracy and I just had a good telephone conversation--she was sitting in a taxi that was playing loud Hindi music, bouncing its way from Rajasthan's Keoladeo National Park back to Agra. They had just spent time bicycling around Keoladeo, which is an incredible bird sanctuary, following their visit to the Taj Mahal. Yesterday they had what sounds like a wonderful visit with students and faculty at Delhi's Amity School, including tabla lessons, great food, and much discussion of future student and teacher exchanges.

Once back in Agra this evening, they will sleep at a guesthouse before an early morning train ride back up to Delhi, where they will celebrate Diwali, the "Festival of Lights", with our friend Amit and his family. Then it is off to Amritsar to experience the Golden Temple, sacred pilgrimmage site of the Sikh faith, before pushing on to Dharamsala.

Tracy assured me that health and spirits remain high, which was clear from the background laughter and conversations that were competing with the taxi's sound system.

John

October 21, 2006

Music Lessons at Amity School

Del Julianne practicing tabla drumming.jpg
Julianne practicing tabla drumming at Amity School

Del Tabla drumming lesson at Amity School.jpg

Del Jordan, Jesse, and Amit practice the Indian flute.jpg
Jordan, Jesse, and Amit practice the Indian flute ("Bansuri")

Del Bansuri lesson at Amity School.JPG
Bansuri lesson

Rain Dance at the Taj

Del Cassie and Breena play in the rain at the Taj Mahal.jpg
Cassie and Breena play in the rain at the Taj Mahal

October 22, 2006

In Delhi for Diwali

Hi Everyone,

I'm writing for a quick update as "crackers" go off relentlessly outside the door to this internet cafe. The noise/celebration has been constant for the last hour as I write. I'm anticipating an interesting/exciting walk back to the hotel.

The last few days have been quite eventful... Our train ride to and from Agra was a wonderful experience. Students adjusted very well to "train culture" of thick layers of people, chai sellers, and lack of schedules. Sunrise at the Taj Mahal was less than spectacular due to the cloudy skies, but we were rewarded with a fantastic thunderstorm that lit up the Taj in a manner I've never seen. Afterward, off to Fatepur Sikri and the National Park where we went on a bicycle safari viewing jackals, serpent eagles, antelope, blue bulls, parakeets, and countless grazing deer and cows. What a beautiful, calm, quiet way to end our long day in Agra!

We arrived back in Delhi in time for some prep for Diwali celebration hosted by Amit and Gaurav and their family. We enjoyed a tasty meal of chicken, rice, and brain curry (!) and ice cream and ras gula (indian sweet) for dessert.

Continue reading "In Delhi for Diwali" »

No More Nalgene

Amit and Galen.jpg
Remains of Jordan's erstwhile Nalgene bottle, sacrificed to Diwali

Diwali was a welcoming break after a few days of travelling to Agra and back. Diwali, the festival of lights, has its roots in Hindu culture. Because people celebrate it by blowing up fireworks for five straight days (and nights) it can be likened to the fourth of July, though it does not celebrate Indian independence. We went to Amit's and started lighting fireworks on his patio until we bored of this. Eventually we started blowing up sundry items such as a pumpkin, tomato, my nalgenes and some cardboard boxes. Later we feasted on a traditional Indian dish of rice, goat's brain, pork, and nam, followed by gulab jamba and Indian ice cream.

Cheers,

Jordan

More from Phey & Leh

Del Kate and Cassie working hard hauling mudbricks.jpg
Kate and Cassie working hard hauling mudbricks

Del Jesse reaches for his next brick.jpg
Jesse reaches for his next brick

Del Kate dancing with the Ladakhi Cultural Dance Troupe on our last night in Leh.jpg
Kate dancing with the Ladakhi Cultural Dance Troupe on our last night in Leh

Del Andrew saying goodbye to his homestay Abi-le (Grandmother).jpg
Andrew saying goodbye to his homestay Abi-le (Grandmother)

Del Group departing Phey.jpg
Group departing Phey; farewell Jullays with host families

October 23, 2006

Golden Lungar

Oct. 26 Breena and Tracy wash dishes at the Golden Temple Langur.jpg
Breena and Tracy help wash dishes at the Golden Temple Langur in Amritsar

We arrived in Amritsar yesterday afternoon after a pleasant train ride from Delhi. The ride in the rickshaw through the city was a bit hectic but once we walked into the white marble walls around the temple and saw the gold and silver streamers hanging all above the walkway I felt much more at ease. Even though the fact that we're still right in the middle of Diwali made it extremely crowded here at the temple with brightly colored turbans and sari's left and right.

We were ushered into a close cornered but very fresh and clean tourist guest area which Tracey said is much like what you could expect from any youth hostel around the country. We quickly get settled in after a fight to the public bathroom where I learned you have to have you hand physically on the stall you want next because lines do not exist in India and I had my shawl gently pulled off my face and my head stroked by a curious smiling Indian woman.

Next we decided to take a walk around the actual golden temple and the pool of "holy nectar" (the meaning of the word Amritsar) that surrounds it. The temple is absolutely beautiful and Cassie and I enjoyed dipping our feet in the water as the Sikh men and woman take leisurely baths around us. There are hundreds of people flocking up the long walkway to the temple entrance so we all feel it would be best to wait before going inside.

Continue reading "Golden Lungar" »

Sounds of the Mahakala Puja

Group on the roof of Phyang Gonpa.jpg
Group on the roof of Phyang Gonpa

puja (puujaa): Honor; respect; devotional observance. Most commonly, the devotional observances that are conducted at monasteries daily (morning and evening), on uposatha days, or on other special occasions.

This puja was during our afternoon visit to Phyang Gonpa, north east of Phey Village. We were very lucky to witness the Mahakala Puja during our visit. We sat in on the small puja room while the monks chanted, played instruments, and sang in homage to Mahakala, a Dharma protector deity and wraithful manifestation of Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion. The group was heading down the steps of the gonpa when we heard the puja and were invited to sit down inside the puja room to watch the end of it. The monks, upon their completion of the ceremony, asked us eagerly how we all liked it. We responded with smiles and head nods, thankful for the experience. Press play below to hear a couple of minutes as the puja comes to an end.

Enjoy,

Tracy

October 25, 2006

The Golden Temple

Oct. 26 Golden Temple on Diwali Night.jpg
Golden Temple on Diwali Night, Amritsar

The Golden Temple, the holiest site for the Sikh religion, is located in the middle of a marble pool, as Emma described in her blog. To get inside the actual temple, you have to wait in line along the central causeway, amidst many turbaned pilgrims come to worship. The temple attendants lift an orange, cloth covered bar, and you are pushed along with the crowd into the first floor of the temple, where the main book is located. It is quite crowded in this part, and so I quickly continued to the second floor, where there is another book and an overlook to the first floor. Nearly every space was taken by someone sitting, many reading and reciting the texts of small books. I sat down against the wall by a window and watched the people.

Continue reading "The Golden Temple" »

October 26, 2006

Dharamsala Update

Oct. 26 Nyima-la giving a lesson on the letter 'nga' of the Tibetan alphabet.jpg
Nyima-la giving a lesson on the letter 'nga' of the Tibetan alphabet, Dharamsala

Hi All-

As is evidenced by the blog, we have now arrived here in Dharamsala after a busy and awakening two-day visit to Amritsar and the Golden Temple as well as the Wagah Border ceremonies on the Pakistan border. Plus a day of eventful travel getting here, and a full day and then some which started just this morning.

Oct. 26 Wagah Border ceremony in-step.jpg
Wagah Border ceremony in-step parading

Oct. 26 Breena and Cassie sport their nationalist Visors from both sides of the border.jpg
Breena and Cassie sport their nationalist Visors from both sides of the border while watching the pomp and circumstance from the Indian bleachers, Wagah Border (India and Pakistan)

Yesterday found us at one of the filthiest and foulest train station platforms I've ever encountered in years of travel across South Asia (no doubt due to the Diwali rush), but the morning assault on the senses was allayed by some of the finest onion pakoras, for breakfast, ever experienced. Tea served to us on a tray while sitting atop our mountain of backpacks was just a prelude to a lively hacky sack session which brought on an prize-fight crowd totaling no less than several dozen men and boys (all the while Jordan talking one on one with a friendly and playful sadhu, one speaking Hindi, the other English). There weren't even close to enough seats on the train for all of us passengers, so after bumping a couple of poachers out of our compartment we sat cozy and some of us even slept up top in the luggage benches (which were closer to the fans). That is, until the train hit a farm tractor (the driver escaped, or rather fled, unharmed).

Continue reading "Dharamsala Update" »

More photos from recent days....

Oct. 26 Sparklers on the roof in honor of Diwali.jpg
Sparklers on Amit's roof in honor of Diwali, Delhi

Oct. 26 Tenzin Tsendue speaking to the Emma, Jesse, and the rest of the group about the Tibetan struggle for independence.jpg
Tenzin Tsendue speaking to Kate, Jesse, and the rest of the group about the Tibetan struggle for independence, Dharamsala

Oct. 26 Peter preps Tibetan homestay families in Dsala.jpg
Peter Sonam gives Tibetan homestay families in Dharamsala a final prep on how to take good care of US students

Oct. 26 Global LAB group with Joanna, Ralph Singh, and Dr. Hussein at Gobind Sadan.jpg
Global LAB group with Joanna Lazarek, Ralph Singh, and Dr. Hussein visiting Gobind Sadan, an international interfaith community center, Delhi

October 27, 2006

Our Fearless Leader

bottlerocket.jpg

Could he be celebrating the fact that we just received confirmation for a private audience with HH the Karmapa for this Saturday, even though HH Karmapa's office set a new policy that private audiences are generally no longer available? Or is he just determined to burn off all his arm hair, whatever the cost? Please do not attempt this at home.

More Sounds from Ladakh

During our visit to Domkhar High School last month, the students performed two traditional Ladakhi songs and dances for us. One song was performed by the younger boys, and the other by the girls.

One class from Domkhar High School sharing a dance with us.jpg

Here's a bit of the girls singing:

Hokey Pokey Sequence 4.jpg

After their performances, we were asked to sing something. Luckily we had practiced the Hokey Pokey for hours the night before and were ready to deliver.


Butter Lamps

Jordan photo.jpg
Namgyal Monastary in Dharamsala (photo: Jordan Guard)

October 29, 2006

Traveler, Tourist, Tibetan, Tripped-out

Thinking about being a tourist. Or maybe a traveler. In Dharamsala, surrounded by so many other faces that have the same skin as me.

Is it so bad to miss the times when people would stare and ask me for a picture because I was so different from them?

Do I belong to one of those easily clicheed groups? The middle aged hiker with the khaki trekking pants the big straw hat. The young hippy with the flowing skirt shoulder-baring shirt long dreadlocks permanently blissed out look. The Israeli eating down mountains of cigarettes sporting outrageous striped clothing. The man snapping photo after photo after photo of the common busy street and its Tibetan faces.

Is it that glow of pride I feel when I ask the young man eating noodles near me if he can help me with my Tibetan and he says with a glowing white smile, "So few tourists here learn Tibetan, it is so good for you"?

The war within of battling the strange tinge of repulsion I feel when I see other white people. I can see only their surface, and so like the beetle skimming the edge of the water I judge judge judge them into the ground because they are obviously not learning about the culture, they are obviously not living here, they are obviously only here to see the famous Dalai Lama

Except that person is me, too.

So in this mountain town, I ask myself questions day after day. When you travel somewhere, who are you? What do you bring with you? You will be breathing this air for a while, so what impression will your breath make? Can you come to terms with the title of tourist, and if so, how does that affect the way you live? Will you see the monuments and give money to the beggars? Will you ask questions or merely observe?

It is beautiful here. I could take pictures of it all day long, just like that man.

Whose Dharamsala?

This place is incredible and vexing. I remember the drive like it was yesterday--with the jungle creeping up the mountains and monkeys leaping from trees or bamboo trees coupled together as we ascended the curvy, bumpy road. I was in awe at the natural beauty, and even humanity's contributions seemed right and in place. The houses sat high, nestled in the mountains and climbed the slopes until they reached the peaks. It seemed so peaceful and harmonious from afar, like there shouldn't be any reason on Earth why such a wonderful place should be uninhabited.

The illusion stood for a while, invigorating me throughout my daily routine of Independent Study Projects. Then I realized my naivete. How could I forget that such places are never what they appear, and there is always more than what meets the eye. The beauty is seeping with depression and despondency; the cries of a people unjustly displaced from their homes with brutal force are echoing from every inch of the city. There is a duality here that is hard to express or articulate. It moves in a type of circle for me.

It starts with sadness and despair. How can such an atrocity happen on such a large scale and go unchecked and even unnoticed. The world averted its eyes while the people of Tibet were being tortured, killed, forced from their homes, and eradicated. The once proud, independent, influential, and peaceful nation has been reduced to a Chinese settlement devoid of its original inhabitants. We're not talking ancient times either when things could go unnoticed because of a lack of communication. Tibet was invaded in 1949 by China. The struggle continued for years to come, and still continues in a nonviolent manner.

Continue reading "Whose Dharamsala?" »

October 30, 2006

Gyuto Monastery

Ganj Julianne approaches Venerable Gyalsap Rinpoche to offer a kata and get blessed.jpg
Julianne approaches Venerable Gyalsap Rinpoche to offer a kata and receive a blessing

Hello from McLeod Ganj! Our time here lately seems to be divided between intense involvement in our ISPs and, as the past few entries reflect, a lot of thought on the difficult issues we're finding here. On Saturday, though, we were able to be somewhere else altogether - with the help of our friend at Gyuto Monastery, Tenzin Kalsang, we were scheduled for a private audience with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Buddhism. Everyone dressed in their Tibetan best, or at least wore a fresh outfit for the occasion. At Gyuto we first toured the temple itself, where there were a number of golden statues made with incredible artistry and monks sat scattered throughout the room, studying or being tested on religious texts, distracted somewhat by their foreign visitors. We were one group out of several that were waiting to see HH Karmapa - a family with two little girls had brought a set of colored pencils and bookmarks for the Karmapa's enjoyment, and another group had come from HH Karmapa's center in Scotland. A dog outside the second-floor room where we were to meet him was apparently the Karmapa's - it was so small and inanimate that it hardly looked real until it got a bit too much attention from the travelers and started snapping at them. Eventually we were ushered into the room where HH Karmapa was seated, and he immediately accepted our questions when we finished prostrating and offering our khatas.

Continue reading "Gyuto Monastery" »

October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

BobbingforApples.jpg
Jordan and Kate successfully bob for apples.

Tonight, for Halloween, the students have reserved one of the many "movie theatres" in town for a viewing of the "Fellowship of the Ring," or "Nightmare before Christmas" (if we can find it). We were instructed to show up in costume, and bring lots of candy!

I hope you are all involved in celebration of All Hallow's Eve in some manner...

Take care,

Tracy

Independent Study Projects

JewelryISP.jpg
ISP Jewelry Instructor Pierre Mohammed instructs Breena and Kate on proper use of the blow torch and stone-setting techniques

Student ISP's are off to a great start in Dharamsala. After exploring several options, Jordan is digging in to researching the Tibetan political situation; Kate is studying jewelry making and also teaching introductory French to Tibetan students; Cassie is impressing her traditional Tibetan dance and singing teacher; Jesse is taking tabla lessons; Julianne is studying Buddhist Iconography at the Tibetan Library and Archives and also taking yoga; Breena, in addition to jewelry making, is volunteering at a local community center and practicing yoga; Emma is studying and practicing Tibetan Thangka painting; and Andrew is learning Tibetan massage as well as studying meditation techniques.

November 1, 2006

ISP Details and Update

BusyHands.jpg
Busy productive hands.

Greetings to all of you, Family and Friends!

As the 10 of us prepare to retreat at the Tushita Center tomorrow afternoon for 10 days, we wanted to give you a little bit of description of the activities that have filled our days in the last week or so. In addition to guest speakers, Tibetan language class, and our time with His Holiness the Karmapa, we’ve all been quite busy.

Last night, we shared a peaceful, reflective celebration of All Hallow’s Eve complete with bobbing for apples (thanks Galen for iodizing the water in the bucket before we all submerged our heads!) and a pile of candy so huge we couldn’t eat it all, though Emma and Cassie sure did try. After the pre-party, we all settled down for a viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring (theatrical version).

We’re very much looking forward to the retreat. We will be heading to Tushita tomorrow after lunch at our language teacher, Nyima-la’s restaurant. Our days will consist of early morning meditation, breakfast, morning teachings on the Lam Rim (beginning contemplations of the Buddhist path in the Gelug tradition), free time, lunch, guided meditation in the afternoon, and time for reflection before dinner. After dinner, there will be some activities such as more guided meditation or teachings. The retreat will be silent in order to encourage looking inward at the activity of our minds. We will also focus on reading books about Dharma and journaling about the experience. I hope this time in retreat will be relaxing and rejuvenating as well as a wonderful opportunity to integrate teaching and practice of meditation.

Thus, we’ll be out of touch for ten days! We hope you all stay well and look forward to connecting upon our reengagement with the busy world.

Farewell!

Please read below for what we have been engaged with for our Independent Study Projects…

Continue reading "ISP Details and Update" »

November 2, 2006

Into Retreat

I am writing to send a warm goodbye on behalf of the entire crew. We will be heading into the mountains shortly for what is to hopefully be an intense and enlightening retreat. Since we will be unable to use computers while on the retreat the blog page will be empty for some time with the students thoughts. But do not fear! When we return there will be much to tell of our mindful experience and intellectual journey.

Also, I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween. It was fabulous here in MCloud Ganj. We had a showing of Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring), bobbed for apples, and stuffed our faces with massive amounts of candy. Lets just say it was difficult to rise the following morning for Bhokezinda (Tibetan language class).

Before the movie began Tracy proceeded to display her latest dance moves. She was completely serious the entire time and I don't believe I ever laughed so hard in my life. She was also dressed up as Galen for Halloween, so appeared before us a being: combined into one ultra-wacky, spacey, energetic alien. It was difficult to control my laughter. Which is always a challenge.

Okay, Farewell for now!
Onward to Enlightenment

--Breena

November 11, 2006

Back From Tushita

Tushita_Sangha_sm.jpg
Tushita Sangha---click on image for high resolution/printable versions of group photo.

Hi All-

We checked out of Tushita just a few hours ago and already I feel myself slipping into the hustle of McLeod Ganj. Trying my best to slow down and breathe, as we all are. I'll keep this short for now, but wanted to send these images of the Tushita Sangha to you with our beloved Gen-las, Namgyel and Linda.

Of course, the retreat was an amazing experience for all, and thought it especially appropriate to share with you the many praises and accolades I received on behalf of the group. From the Tushita administration to the fellow participants, everyone was wowed by our students' maturity, poise, interest, and commitment to a rather intense yet immensely rewarding past ten days. Most folks just said, 'Man, I wish I could have done (or even knew about) what you all are doing when I was eighteen.' Suffice it to say, Linda (one of the co-directors) said we were really one of the best groups she's ever had join a course, and I think the opportunity for all of the students to exist outside of our normal 'group' dynamic, assume new roles, and throw themselves into an incredibly inward looking process while being supported with brilliant wisdom teachings was just what we needed.

We had a great debrief as our Global LAB group after a picnic lunch at the close of the course this afternoon, and as is often the case, everyone was so grateful to have been a part of the retreat, expressed how much they had learned both about the Dharma as well as themselves, and while excited to return to this samsaric world down the hill, felt reservation for returning and even disappointment that it was over. Having received so much great feedback from fellow 'adult' participants regarding our crew, my compliments to them were probably sufficient to have rebuilt their pride and ego-grasping just after we'd sent so much time dismantling it.

We're off to a performance at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts this evening, and I may cancel Tibetan class tomorrow morning for a day-hike up to Triund (might be a nicer activity for Kate's birthday as well). Everyone's quite eager to stretch their legs and I think the room to breathe up there is just what we need. Some of us plan to return to Tushita tomorrow afternoon for a teaching by Geshe Sonam Rinchen (from the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives) which is being held in honor of Lhabab Duchen, the day which commemorates the Buddha's descent from Tushita Heaven. This will be followed by dinner and a musical performance at our Tibetan teacher Nyima-la's restaurant, J.J.I.'s, featuring the local band The Exile Brothers (featured in the April 2006 issue of Outside magazine)-all in honor of Kate's 19th birthday.

Have to run for now-we'll send updates on the actual course as soon as possible.

-Galen

November 12, 2006

Hiking

Jessehiking.jpg

Jordanhiking.jpg

Galenclimbing.jpg
Jesse, Jordan, and Galen on day hike.

Today Galen, Jordan and I went on a hike outside of McLeod Ganj. We went to a waterfall and then climbed up and up and up. We didn't end up where we thought we would, but we got a great view anyway. We also discovered a sweet Shiva shrine and a temporarily abandoned village. All the houses were made completely out of slate, even the roofs. We had a great time finding our way down since it was to steap to go back down the way we came up. It was awesome to excersize again seeing as we weren't allowed to leave the premises of the retreat center.

November 13, 2006

Life After Retreat

Galen says to us, There is a concert tonight up at TIPA (Tibetan Institute for the Performing Arts) and it will probably be some traditional dancing and singing with costumes, really interesting and informative if anyone would like to go.
Of lack of anything better to do, Team Jordan shrugs its shoulders and says, Yeah, sure we're in.

This will be pretty good, I think.

Instead I leave the concert hall realizing what it was like to be one of those girls screaming their hearts out for the Beatles. AaKaMa is not traditional song and dance, it is electric guitars and synth pads and keyboards and incredible singers and songs. They enter the stage dressed in fashion jeans and black t-shirts over white collared shirts and proceed to drop my jaw and the jaws of all other audience members. They play Santana, they play pop hindi (complete with gorgeous Tibetan girls, Galen is gloating over the fact that he is the only one allowed to have a girlfriend in India), they play their own version of a love letter from the 6th Dalai Lama to his girlfriend, and they make me want to dance. They are all incredibly handsome (if only Tracy were here, I'm sure she would be gloating about her freedom as well) and Emma and I were gripping eachother's hands every time one of them would jump around and perform some fancy move. They even played our all-time favourite song, Paal Hara (just kidding, Jesse).
The word AWESOME seems to be echoing around in my head quite a bit when I think of this experience.

A introduction for us back into Samsara, the wheel of life complete with all of its auditory and sensory riches. After days of silence and contemplation, I tucked myself into bed late that night and thought, Wow. Isn't it so incredible to be alive?

My Indian Birthday

Kate_s_Bday.jpg
Happy Birthday, Kate!

My birthday started off with a wonderful card handmade by Chemi, my 6 year old homestay brother, and a gift of a little stuffed koala from him and my ama-la. In honor of my birthday, I went to the same restaurant for lunch twice, once getting momos with Breena and the next time getting a chocolate pancake, which was huge, although that didn't stop me from eating the entire thing. Emma, Cassie, Breena, Andrew, and I all hung out at the local basketball court and playground with some local Tibetan kids, trying to get them to play hackey sack with us, although they seemed much more interested in kicking it as far as they could and posing for pictures that Emma was taking.

That night, we all, plus some of the people we had met at the retreat at Tushita, had an amazing dinner at our Tibetan teacher Nyima-la's restaurant, complete with a birthday cake and candles. The Exile Brothers, a band made up of her three talented sons, played for us. They sang in both Tibetan and English, many protest songs about the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and they used guitars and traditional Tibetan instruments:

We were also treated to a performance by Cassie's little homestay sister, who sang, played, AND danced for us...she was quite impressive.

Now we are all getting back into the routine of ISPs and homestays here in Dharamsala, slowly but surely recovering from the shock of being back in town after having spent 10 quiet days at Tushita. Thanks to everyone here, I had a wonderful 19th birthday, unlike any other birthday and one that I will definitely not forget.

November 14, 2006

New York Style Pizza!

Hello Everyone!

Many happy greetings from Nge Agu/Ashangi khangba in Northern New Jersey as I shove some New York style pizza down my throat (savoring each and every chew slowly and intentionally) and prepare for my 16 hour journey back to Delhi. I've emerged from the Land of Mouse fairly unscathed with volumes of stories to tell and photos to share. During the reception, I thought of all of you and of Halloween, not only because I felt I was in costume for the ceremony (but I didn't look like Galen), but because my moves on the dance floor were killer, just as they were on that fateful evening (what seems like) weeks ago.

My journey has been long, and it's a good thing it was prepped by 5 days in retreat or my patience quota would have been quite depleated. I'm anxious to be reunited with you all very soon! Team Jordan has been quite missed by me.

Kate - I hope your birthday was amazing... it sure looked like it was.

Gyokspa jal-in hey!

Tracy

Update from Galen

Tashi Delek-

Things are back in full swing here. Last night, after everyone had resumed their various ISPs, we had a group screening of 'Phun Anu Thanu,' or, 'Brothers Anu and Thanu,' or, 'Two Exile Brothers.' This interesting and locally produced picture discusses the social dynamics of Tibetan exile communities and the struggle throughout the diaspora for independence, community health, and solidarity from within. Moreover, it featured Jesse's homestay brother, Sonam, in one of the lead roles as Anu (this is Jesse's second homestay brother of the trip who's been a local celebrity and moviestar. What are the chances?).

GroupAmaAdhe.jpg
Group with Ama Adhe

This morning we got back to Tibetan class with Nyima-la, and tried to recall a thing or two forgotten during our ten days at Tushita. Afterwards, we spent a wonderful hour talking with Ama Adhe about her remarkable life story, including the 27 years she spent in Chinese prisons and labor camps, what kept her alive (one of four survivors out of over three hundred other prisoners), and how her life has changed since leaving Tibet in the late '80s. Some of our group has read her book, 'The Voice That Remembers' (Michelle's copy of which we brought along and had Ama Adhe sign), and I'm sure those who have not are now inspired to pick it up.

While the group is out and about doing ISPs this afternoon, I'm setting up the next several days of our final week were in Dharamsala. It's full and active and politically charged-all excellent things, I believe.

Tomorrow morning we will have a discussion with a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress (one of the more outspoken, and radical, organizations struggling for Tibetan independence). On Thursday we'll make a visit to the Tibetan Children's Village, where hundreds (if not thousands) of refugee children are educated in one of the finest schools in this nation's Tibetan exile community. And Friday will have us getting together with Lhadon Tethong, the Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), and Tenzin Choeying, the President of SFT India chapter. This will present a positive and excellent opportunity for our group to connect with members of the youth Free Tibet movement both here and abroad and provide an avenue and tangible outlet for continuing our work in and eduction of the Tibetan situation for years to come back home.

Continue reading "Update from Galen" »

November 16, 2006

Loose Ends

Nov Andrew, Cassie, Emma, Breena, and Julianne waiting with community members to welcome His Holiness home from Japan.jpg
Andrew, Cassie, Emma, Breena, and Julianne waiting with community members in Dharamsala to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama home from travels in Japan

Hello everyone. Thanks a bunch for all the comments, you guys rock. It's nice to hear from everyone, I don't even get e-mails anymore because people just post on the blog. We're leaving Dharamsala soon for Rishikesh and then Varanasi. I'm kinda bummed to be leaving, this place is so great. Where else can you get delicious food from all over the world, foreigners from all over the world, and crazy classes in yoga, massage, tabla, thanka,...etc. The list goes forever. Oh ya, and H.H. the Dalai Lama driving by with his entourage is always a perk too. It was awesome to see him, even if it was only for a moment.

So, I don't really have anything to say, but seeing as how no one e-mails me...I'll just respond to all that crazyness. Thanks for reading the blog and leaving me messages. Alan you stud, I can't wait to get back so the three wise men can be reunited. I love you too. Tell Juggz to check the blog and leave me messages...apparently he said he wrote me like 10 e-mails (ya right) that never got to me. Julie you too, hopefully we can all hang out during Christmas; I miss you all. I'm thinking Billy's the day I get back. I hope college is treating everyone well and you are all having a good freshman year thus far. Special shout out to anyone who said I'm beautiful--flattery always works. And ya Matt, it's just a Rosseau thing. As to your comment/essay, thanks a million man. You guys think I'm a decent writer? Read that...wow. I had to read it twice, it contained so much "pulchritude" (how does one use that word) and truth, definitely a worthwhile read. Danny, good call not trying to compete with that, and yes, the idea is to convert my blog entries into a small book. If you look hard enough, you can find plenty of monkeys in Illinois--just pick your head up while you walk from class to class at fremd, they are hard to miss. Danielle I'm visiting you at potbellys. Do you make the sandwiches yet? Practice making wrecks for me. Kristin! I got you on the phone!! Happy 21st! Thanks Chad, I was suprised to get a comment from you, I guess Kristin must be talking me up. I'm glad I could offer some more perspective on the Tibetan issue. If you aren't aware, there is going to be a unified collaboration amonst the Tibetans to protest the Chinese Prime Minister's visit to Delhi. Hopefully they people will pay attention.

Continue reading "Loose Ends" »

November 19, 2006

Spontaneous Travels

Greetings from Delhi!

As many of you may know, the Global LAB group has had an exciting time the last few days witnessing the mobilization efforts of the politically active community in Dharamsala. What a culmination of our time there! There have been great opportunities to learn about social justice work by talking with our new friends and observing activism at its most grassroots level. The Chinese Prime Minister, Hu Jintao, is arriving to Delhi tomorrow to engage with Prime Minister Singh about border issues and business. The Tibetan community has come together, despite differing opinions, and organized a peaceful rally during the three days the two country heads will be meeting.

After a moving talk from Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet two mornings ago, the students expressed passionate interesting in 'doing something' to support the action of the Tibetans. Since then, we have been attempting to support in whatever way we can. Yesterday, we cancelled our plans to travel to Sherab Ling Gonpa near Tso Padma (a sacred lake up north of Dharamsala) in order to charter a bus to Delhi. The bus had 45 seats, and we were only 11, so the rest of the space was 'donated' to Tibetans travelling to Delhi for the protest. I believe this action is a thoughtful contribution to the protest without compromising our safety as a group.

We've all been excited and educated watching our new friends fight for something they believe in. Witnessing these activities brings up questions in our own minds about what we care about enough to speak out about. Thoughtful discussions and teachable moments abound as we observe activism happening under our noses.

We'll take a break from politics (as if this is ever possible) to celebrate our Delhi coordinator Amit's birthday this evening. We're headed to the rooftop of his family's apartment for dinner with some gifts to give. Hopefully, there will be lots of dancing. I can't wait.

We'll head to Hardiwar and meet back up with our planned itinerary with a visit to an Orphanage Ashram where Breena has a connection. Our next big adventure will be a boat trip from Allahabad to Varanasi. After much planning, we'll ride for three days on the Ganga and arrive via water to the abode of Shiva after Thanksgiving.

In Solidarity,

Tracy

Yoga, sights & sound

Nov Breena and Sivadas.jpg
Breena and Sivadas, our yoga instructor



Sivadas begins class


Nov Andrew and Breena show off their yoga skills at ISP Presentations.jpg
Andrew and Breena show off their yoga skills at ISP Presentations

Nov Andrew, Breena, and Cassie presenting their Yoga ISP.jpg
Andrew, Breena, and Cassie presenting their Yoga ISP

The Exile Brothers singing Tashi Delek (and you are pretty) to Kate-la on her 19th birthday

November 21, 2006

Phone call from Haridwar

Galen called this evening from the holy Hindu city of Haridwar, on the Ganges River, and left the following message:

"Wanted to let you know we got in to Haridwar after a night train from Delhi. We got in about 6am and went right down to the ghat to see the morning puja ceremony and ritual bathing in the Ganges.

Everything in Delhi went really well. While not participating in the main Tibetan rally itself, we had an exciting time and were able to join a Tibet Freedom concert and hear some speeches and participate in a candlelight vigil. It was a very successful and meaningful time and we received much appreciation from the Tibetan community.

All's well here in Hardiwar where we are heading now to Sri Ram Ashram and Orphanage where a friend of Breena's made an introduction for us. We'll be working this evening and tomorrow with the children there before heading on to begin our boat journey down to Varanasi."

Check back soon for more posts and photos from the Indo-Gangetic Plain.

John

November 22, 2006

Mailing Issues

Hello Parents and Friends-

As getting letters and packages to India can be a slow process under the best of circumstances and our program is down to less than a month before the students return, we advise you not to send any further items by snail mail to the students. If you must get something to a program participant, please email us in advance so we can confirm the best address and shipping service to use.

Thanks-

Michelle Bos-Lun
Director of Programs

November 23, 2006

D'sala Photos of ISP Presentations & Farewell to Homestay Families

nov. Homestay families gather for ISP presentations and goodbyes on our last night in Dharamsala.jpg
Homestay families gather for ISP presentations and goodbyes on our last night in Dharamsala

nov. Cassie tells us about the Tibetan guitar, Dramyen, as she presents and performs her ISP of Dance and Music.jpg
Cassie tells us about the Tibetan guitar, Dramyen, as she presents and performs her ISP of Dance and Music

nov. Emma shares her Chenrezig Buddha of Compassion drawing with us at ISP presentations.jpg
Emma shares her Chenrezig Buddha of Compassion drawing with us at ISP presentations

nov. Language teacher Nyima-la helps Jesse translate his goodbye to his homestay family.jpg
Language teacher Nyima-la helps Jesse translate his goodbye to his homestay family

nov. Nyima-la and Breena work on Breena's goodbye.jpg
Nyima-la and Breena work on Breena's goodbye

nov. Jesse thanks his Ama-la.jpg
Jesse thanks his Ama-la

nov. Jordan reads a thank you in Tibetan to his family and has all of us laughing.jpg
Jordan reads a thank you in Tibetan to his family and has all of us laughing

November 25, 2006

Arrival in Varanasi

All's well here in Varanasi….suffice it to say the boat trip was amazing and I wanted to let you know that within two hours of arrival here I ran into Gaby (Brahma to Buddha Semester Alumna, Fall, 2003) on Assi road and after a walk up the ghats and visit to the Ganga Aaarti puja she joined us for dinner at Vatika last night (amazing pizza as a treat after the boat ride and thank you to the students for having thoughtfully completed recent evaluations for us) and Atin Mehra came over as well. We're planning screenings of his films, as well as a visit to the pottery village. Gaby is going to have us over some night as well, TBD. Tomorrow Hindi class begins at 9 AM, visit to an orphanage school with Sanghamitra (our terrific local coordinator), and afternoon getting started on ISPs including cooking, tabla, fire dance, and wood/stone carving. Talk with Ranjana Sheel from the University of Wisconsin Study AbroadProgram in the afternoon and then it'll be Tuesday.

Students are in with homestays already and the internet cafe is closing so must sign of for now.

More to come tomorrow.

-Galen

ganga All of us take quite well to relaxing on the boat ride!.jpg
All of us take quite well to relaxing on the boat ride!

boating.jpg

Voice message from Tracy:

Tashi Delek. Calling from one day of our boat trip. I wanted to tell you a bit about what we have been doing since we left Delhi. Things have been going great. We met up with boat wallahs today around noon time and motored on up for the first leg of the journey for a really neat hotel. We had a nice big Thanksgiving dinner of chicken, wonderful pumpkin curry dish, and we tried to get some green beans up ended up with aloe matter (potatoes and peas) instead. Great spicy food. We next head further down the Ganges before arriving in Varanasi to begin home stays and ISP’s.

We had a wonderful time in Hardiwar and arrived early at 6:30am and went right out to the ghats where people were engaged in bathing rituals for a great introductory exposure to Hinduism. We got right off the train and then watched people bath in the Ganges in the place where Shiva’s hair contributes to the flow of the River from the mountains to the Indian plains. We also visited the Devi Temple there to see this important pilgrimage site.

We also spent a great 24 hours at the Shivram Ashram where Breena had a connection through a friend who had worked there. We spent time with the kids there and played with them and also joined them in offering pujas there in the evening. It was a wonderful connection for us to make and lots of opportunities to do service work there in the future.—lots of great people both in terms of staff and students.

Earlier today, we had a beautiful sunset on the river today. The boat is this wooden structure that fits the 10 of us comfortably with the four boat men. We spent a lot of time motoring today, but we should have more time to stop and explore along the way from here on. The boat men constructed a wonderful canopy over the boat made from 4 bamboo oars and a big orange cloth suspended above. It has been wonderfully relaxing and everyone feels great about sitting on a boat and reading, laughing, and sharing some music and having a good time together. The boat ride is fantastic and we look forward to making our way to Varanasi.

Everyone is doing great. Soon we are going to start more detailed planning for the last week of the program and empowering the students to take the lead with this. More updates coming soon.

Tracy

ganga Julianne, Kate, Cassie, and Emma upon arrival at Chunar Beach.jpg
Julianne, Kate, Cassie, and Emma upon arrival at Chunar Beach

November 28, 2006

Amit's Birthday

After a long day of not fitting into a Tibetan protest and planning to watch the new James Bond movie "Casino Royal", someone remembers to give our lovely friend Amit a call for his 25th birthday. We should have guessed that in no time we'd be invited to a 'quiet' dinner on his roof with friends and family and to not even consider declining the invitation because Amit's already bought extra food.

Feeling a bit worn out but excited to be able to celebrate with our friends amit and gaurav the eight of us fan out over Karnak Place, the largest circular shopping complex in Delhi, to find the perfect gift for this modern man. Something you learn very fast after spending a few minutes with the eight members of team jordan without their leaders is that they tend to be very indecisive. We'd brainstormed a few good ideas revolving around cd players, since the one in his gypsy skips constantly, quality trance music that Tracy informed us he has a secret passion for, or maybe some sort of glorious fashion item since Amit is known for always looking his best. Unfortunatly as a group we were overwhelmed and before long found ourselves at Mcdonalds with no gift in hand eating chicken burgers and trying to be creative gift givers.

It seemed hopeless.

Continue reading "Amit's Birthday" »

Leaving Dharamsala

Kate watching the candlelight vigil in Delhi.jpg
Kate watching the candlelight vigil in Delhi

Being in Dharamsala was an amazing and inspiring experience in so many ways, but especially when it came to the Tibetan situation. I have never met so many passionate people in my life, people who are passionate about something so important, something so fundamental, the right to live in their own country under their own leadership. We had a talk from two women from Students for a Free Tibet on our second to last day in Dharamsala, and one of them, a young Tibetan woman, talked about her experience trying to get permission to go to Tibet. Describing how she had to say she wasn't Tibetan, that Tibet was a part of China, she broke down. I can't even imagine having to sacrifice such a fundamental part of yourself, your heritage, your family, your culture, your traditions. Some of the other Westerners I have met here have the attitude like, oh, freedom in Tibet, that's a nice thought, good luck with that, but its never going to happen. And its easy to see the situation like that, but these Tibetan people don't have the luxury of being able to do so. Its their country, their friends and family who are experiencing horrible oppression and awful living conditions. They can't just give up because China is so powerful; that just isn't an option for them. Even looking at the small victories the movement has achieved, that has to inspire some hope in everyone who wants a free Tibet.

Continue reading "Leaving Dharamsala" »

Boating Down the Ganges

jordan boat photo.jpg

We recently arrived in Varanasi from our three day boat ride down the Ganges- a river distinctly Indian: both holy and pure, reserved for the most sacred of funerals, yet also used for anything from washing one's clothes to dumping garbage along its shores. We started in Allahabad and boarded our boat that, though most assumed would at least take on a little water, delivered us quite easily to Varanasi. On the way we stopped to sleep in the many towns that subsist from the Ganges. Our first town was Mirzapur- a fishing station where we ate our Thanksgiving meal. After this we reboarded the boat, saw some cow carcasses on the boat, lounged on the boat, and eventually arrived at our second village for our second night's rest. The next day, after we reboarded, we travelled for about three hours until we saw Varanasi in the distance- located on only one side of the river (the holy side). We docked and literally walked right onto the shore of the city.
-Jordan

Thems Travellin' Words

Cassie and Sanghamitra arrive at Godolia Chowk.jpg
Cassie and Sanghamitra arrive at Godolia Chowk

When you are travelling for long periods of time, your brain begins to feel transitory. The world outside doesn't stay in one place anymore, but rather is always rushing by you. Wind through your hair, water through your fingers, the ground under your feet. Everything blurs a little. Those things that your mind was convinced were solid now seem formless and flowing. They recede from you, farther and farther away until they disappear and you can never really be sure if they remain. They are no longer a part of me. In travelling you feel not a part of anything.

Cassie scarfs down some fish fresh from Gangaji.jpg
Cassie scarfs down some fish fresh from Gangaji

Travelling in India for long periods of time is like looking through a dirty window at a world you don't quite understand (oh wait, that's looking out a train window...) The water buffalo are all there, the big pools of stagnant water are all there, the women washing their laundry in the river are all there, but you just watch them. You can't touch that rubbery velvety skin, you can't hear the whine of those mosquitos, you can't feel the cold water wash over your toes. So separate, disorienting.

Continue reading "Thems Travellin' Words" »

Hunger Strike

FREE TIBET candleglow 2.jpg

Most of you probably heared about the visit of Hu Jintao to Delhi (his first in ten years) and our push to go to Delhi to "recieve him." Because we couldn't join in the actual protest we all wanted to help as much as we could in other ways. Julianne, Jordan, Andrew, and I decided that our time would be best spent joining in a relay hunger strike set up by the Tibetan Youth Congress. All in all, it was a great experience.

hunger strike.jpg
Jordan addresses the hunger strikers

At first, we were the only ones there because all the Tibetans had gone to march in the main demonstration. Eventually some musicians showed up. They were Tibetans studying at the University of Delhi who were to perform later on that day. I got a lesson on Tibetan guitar (what Cassie studied in Dharamsala) and learned a simple folk song on it. Soon after that people started rolling in from the protests. Thankfully it had gone well and there was no violence.

Continue reading "Hunger Strike" »

The children of India

Good Indian students.jpg
Emma and Breena being good Indian students

Oh Blog! and to those who are avid readers of the blog, we apologize for neglecting you so, but we have been experiencing a series of adjustments and have finally landed in our last central stay, Varanasi (City of Lights). But it was such a wonderful journey that we experienced traveling to Varanasi. Our very first stop was in Haridwar where we first caught sight of the magnificent Ganga and the religious life on the waters. It was also the point in our trip where we switched over from our exploration of Buddhism to the colorful religion of Hinduism. Hardiwar is known for having been created by the footprint of Vishnu (one of the three main Hindu gods; the others being Brahma and Shiva). Millions of hindus flock to this holy site to bathe in the immortal nectar.

Another key element that the city is known for is holding the largest religious gathering in the world: Kumbha Mela that only occurs every twelve years.

Continue reading "The children of India" »

December 3, 2006

A Taste of the Holy City

Varanasi Professor Rana-ji Singh explains the meaning of this Shiva Lingam at our second stop on the Panchakroshi Yatra.jpg
Professor Rana-ji Singh explains the meaning of this Shiva Lingam at our second stop on the Panchakroshi Yatra

Today begins our last week in Varanasi, and it seems impossible to gauge how much we've absorbed of the culture and incredible history here. With today's trip to Sarnath, not far from the city, and yesterday's abbreviated Panchakroshi pilgrimage with Professor Rana-ji Singh, along with the many other events and guest speakers packed into this past exciting week, we at least have a considerably expanded perspective on ancient and present life in/around Benares.

Last Saturday, we pulled into Assi Ghat for the first time and said fond goodbyes to the boat's crew in the midst of some very skillful kite-flyers, as well as bathers and people making their living from the Ganga and its pilgrims. Our real introduction to activity on the ghats, though, was to witness a cremation - we joined some other onlookers for what seemed an urgent and strangely practical affair - and soon afterwards, the Arti puja at one of the main ghats. Here, while waiting for the start of the ceremony we were inevitably solicited by kids selling postcards and bindi, tough businessmen/women whom we eventually either befriended with good humor and paper airplanes or offended with our hard bargaining. The puja lasted about an hour; we stayed long enough to get a grasp of the ritual, which was based on meticulous practiced gestures and incorporated representations of the five elements. At one point, power was lost on the ghat and the offering went on without any amplification of the tablas or singing, and with light only from the candle offerings and camera flashes from down on the river.

Continue reading "A Taste of the Holy City" »

December 4, 2006

Walking about Banaras

Varanasi Our fearless leader Part Do.jpg
Galen again displays fearless leadership, meeting Mother Ganga


The update from here in and around Banaras is that all's well, busy as ever, and meritorious as can be. We've spent that past week immersed in ISPs, from tabla lessons to fire dancing to time at the Go Ahead youth hostel to stone carving to yoga, with Hindi class in the afternoon and a cooking class thrown in for good measure every single night. Concerts of tabla, sitar, and shani flute last night and tomorrow, a ghazal performance this evening, and great anticipation for the long-awaited Dhoom 2 Bollywood blockbuster to come on Tuesday.

This weekend has been all about pilgrimage-first along the Panchkroshi Yatra of Banaras, discovering the macrocosmic coordinates of this dynamic city amongst the microcosmic aspects of 108 Hindu temples and shrines along the course of a 55 mile circuit. We took to this pilgrimage with our illustious friend, Rana-ji Singh, Professor of Geography at Banaras Hindu Univerisity and co-pilgrim extraordinaire. This sacred circumambulation of Shiva's hometown, which the devout walk over the course of six days, was (nearly) made by us, in vehicle, as a ten-hour marathon (with a morning excursion thrown in this morning to wrap it up). We had darshan, or audience with the myriad icons, at three of the five most venerated destinations (which also happen to be waypoints for pilgrims' overnight stays), and discovered the primordial hermaphrodite in Ardanarishwara, the blissed-out divine couple in romantic repose upon the ordering of the universe, Uma Maheswara, and the dancing Ganesha of Dehli Viayyaka, who keeps the world spinning and us going round and round again and again. A lifetime could be spent on just this single pilgrimage route, and the fact that it's but one of five focused in this town tells of the sanctified power which grants this City of Light's it's name, Bana-Ras, the Juice of the Divine Spirit (the nectar of the numinous).

Continue reading "Walking about Banaras" »

December 5, 2006

How to Know You've Gotten Used to India

Varanasi Cassie receives a blessing from the Durga Temple priest.jpg
Cassie receives a blessing from the Durga Temple priest

1. When you don't see a cow, the street looks out of place.
2. Your Nalgene is your best friend. It might as well be anchored to your hip.
3. If you aren't asked if you want a rickshaw, you are shocked.
4. You walk out directly into traffic because it is usually safer than standing on the side.
5. A meal complete with drink and dessert that costs more than 4 dollars is way too expensive.
6. You haven't showered in a week and that is a relatively short time.
7. You don't walk down streets looking at buildings anymore, you look at the ground. You don't want to have to clean your shoes.
8. You have not seen a roll of toilet paper in a bathroom in two months.
9. A hotel room with a shower head is virtually unknown.
10. Your bag doesn't hold anything that you have bought anymore.
11. When you see a woman in a tank top, your first reaction is, "Woah! Cover that up!"
12. Throwing clay cups on the ground no longer seems the strangest thing you could ever do.
13. Seeing men urinating in the streets is completely commonplace.
14. When you stop in one place for any period of time, you know that you will have an audience of about 10 curious children and adults just there to stare.
15. At least once a day you get asked to have your photograph taken with some Indians.
16. You know that the 10 minute rickshaw ride shouldn't really cost 25 cents, but only 15.
17. It is not odd to be asked if you want to change money while you are walking down a random street.
18. Your standards of clean have shifted entirely. Hmm yeah, I've worn this shirt for five days, it is totally wearable.
19. Traveling on 20 hour trains does not really seem all that daunting. At least we have chai wallahs, right?
20. It's the little things that count. Headphones in my internet cafe? SWEET! A rickshaw ride that isn't bumpy? NO WAY!

.....and many, many more. Won't we miss it when we are gone?

Rejuvenation

Varanasi Emma and our boatman Ramesh-ji swimming in the Ganga.jpg
Emma and our boatman Ramesh-ji swimming in the Ganga

This morning has been one of the greatest mornings of my life.

It started with a less then amazing wake-up from my alarm at 4:50 am and a sloppy rolling out of bed and walking out into the dark and completely deserted streets of Banaras. I immediately noticed the yellow full moon then almost gone behind the western horizon and then slowly made my way down to Asi Ghat where our group was convening to take a sunrise boat trip across the Ganga.

The view was spectacular from the first deep blue misty appearance of the Ganga Gi in darkness to the final brilliance of the orange and pink rays of sun painting the rivers' surface. Our friend Atin rowed us out half way across the river before he chose to relinquish his place to the boat man and we reached the town of Ramnagar in about 45 minutes.

I have to admit that in the beginning of the day i was feeling a little quiet and disconcerted. These last few days in India and the transitions and goodbyes' we're all preparing to face have been weighing hard on me. So much of the time i just stare out at this glorious country with it's unique smells, sounds, people, difficulties, treasures, and flow of life, that i wonder how i can give it up so soon. Although, as usua,l my grey countenance could not help but be cleared by our arrival to new places so once we sat ourselves in auto rickshaws and headed out to the home of the Pottery Walla featured in Atin's film we were all lucky enough to view a couple nights ago, i was feeling more alive.

Having the opportunity to see this amazing craft of pottery making first hand was incredible. The art of making these tiny and delicate cups out of clumps of crude clay was truly magical. Imagining the significance of this art being passed down through generations, each child learning how to turn the giant piece of stone by hand to get the clay spinning, then mastering the art of so tenderly placing your fingers and palms in the correct positions to pull a cup up from the clay in seconds. Amazing. We also got to witness the potter viewing himself in Atin's documentary for the first time ever. Atin craftily brought the film on his Ipod and was able to show the movie to the Potter and his family without a computer or TV.

Varanasi Atin Merha screens his movie for its star for the first time.jpg
Atin Mehra screens his movie for its star for the first time

Galen pointed out a picture of Ipods bringing people across the world together would make us all millions if we sent it to Apple headquarters.

Continue reading "Rejuvenation " »

December 7, 2006

Independent Study Projects--Banaras

Varanasi Cassie rocks the place with double sadi!.jpg
Cassie rocks the place with double sadi!

Cassie
I have been participating in three ISPs here in Banaras- fire dancing (banetti), yoga, and cooking. Banetti has been really incredible and informative, more of an ancient martial art than a dance. My teacher is amusing and excellent at teaching this art. Yoga is very different from any other form of yoga that I have ever taken. Andrew and I have been a little wary of this new style, but the learning experience is always valuable. Cooking class rocks. I have always wanted to learn how to cook Indian food, and our teacher is super awesome. The food is totally the best part. Busy, but very rewarding.

Varanasi Jordan stone-carving under the tuteledge of Ashok-ji.jpg
Jordan stone-carving under the tuteledge of Ashok-ji
Jordan
I am stone carving and cooking for my ISPs. In stone carving I have made an om pendant and am making a sitting Buddha, in cooking we have made many things including gulab jamun and chai.

Varanasi Jesse attempts the perfect tea cup.jpg
Jesse attempts to make the perfect tea cup. See the master in action here.

Jesse
Here in Varanasi I have been continuing my study of tabla. My new teacher, Kailash, is awesome. He’s a super nice guy and a great teacher. We’ve been working on technique a lot and he’s also taught me the format for playing solo tabla. Also I am learning how to tune the drums. In addition to this I’ve been going to cooking class which is great fun and amazing food.

Continue reading "Independent Study Projects--Banaras" »

Final Days in the City of Light

Varanasi Banati Guru Morari and Breena wrap up the performance.jpg
Banati (Fire Dancing) Guru Morari and Breena demonstrate the Indian Martial Art form for us

Our final days in the City of Light have brought much laughter, good food, music, and connections with our new friends here. From our sunrise boat ride, to time sitting on Manikarnika Ghat observing funeral rituals, pottery attempts, and dives off the stern of the row boat into Ganga-ji, this time in Banaras has been thrillingly rich and deep with meaning and introspection. My experience here was exemplified last night when Breena and Cassie presented their ISP for us after sunset. The two of them lit up their sticks at both ends and proved their skills with Banati, or Fire Dancing. Their performance also provided evidence of the incredible energy in this city... the sound of the fire as it moved through the air framing their faces with light reached into my soul and stirred the pot of my emotions. I've felt this rush before as I walk down the street caught in the stream of energy coming from so many sources. The fire became a strikingly clear representation of our brief time here for me; burning hot and intensely for a short time, then becoming reabsorbed into the ether communicating the reality of impermanence and consistence of change.

This morning, we shared a luscious breakfast with Sanghamitra, our local coordinator, at her house in Lanka. On the menu was kheer (my favorite dessert... funny to have for breakfast!), fruit, peanut butter and tahini bread, pakoras (fried vegetable treats), coffee and much much more. We are so grateful for our time with Sanghamitra.

Tonight we will reconvene at Kate's homestay (and home of the ever popular cooking classes) for our ISP presentations and final farewell to our homestay families.

Thus, as we wrap up our time here in the city of many names, we realize that our semester is quickly coming to an end. I think back to 17th September when 90 days in this beautiful country felt like a huge mountain to climb... as always, in the blink of one eye, change captivates and inspires us tugging our hearts in many directions. How blessed I feel to be a member of our travelling community these past months.

I hope all friends and family back in the States are well, and feeling happy during the most wonderful time of the year.

I wish peace to you all,

Tracy

December 11, 2006

Rajasthan Update

After a long (about 26 hours) but uneventful train ride, we arrived last evening in Jodhpur from Banaras at about 8:00. We were all sad to leave Banaras, and especially Sanghamitra, our wonderful guide, but I think we're all glad to be here. We are staying in a great hotel with a beautiful rooftop and hot water, arranged by Andrew. They are also taking care of our camel trek, which we leave for tomorrow morning, bright and early. We all had dinner last night, including some Rajasthani specials, which were, in fact, special. We had breakfast at a small omelette place, made famous by a rave Lonely Planet review, which they made sure that you knew about. The omelettes were excellent. Now we're all wandering around the old part of Jodhpur, with markets and beautiful architecture. The girls are all getting henna done, and I believe the boys went to buy turbans, hopefully in ridiculous colors. This afternoon, we are going to head over to the fort, still run by the Maharajah of Jodhpur, which overlooks the city and should be beautiful. Tonight we are having a nice dinner at a romantic outdoor place at the fort, so the views should be good. So everything is going well here...the students have taken control quite effectively so far, I think. Everyone is in good health and is happy, although we are starting to realize just how soon we will be leaving.
Kate

December 13, 2006

Darjeeling Limited

Andrew, Galen, Jesse and I were walking in the bazaar in the streets of Jodhpur when suddenly a motorized rickshaw passed us with a hefty film camera attached. We walked on and realized that a movie was in fact being made. I motioned to Jesse to get out of the ATM he was in and we followed the rickshaw for a bit. Soon we recognized a few familiar faces- Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Adrien Brody accompained by Wes Anderson. It was CRAZY! -Jordan

Another Rajasthani Update

Thar Desert Kate leads the way!.jpg
Kate leads the way into the Thar Desert!

Hi everybody,

So now we are back in Jodhpur, after our 2 day, 1 night camel trek. We left Jodhpur by jeep on the morning of the 12th and met our camels after about an hour drive out of the city. After a Rajasthani lunch, the group presented Galen with some gifts (a blue argyle sweater vest, an anorexic Buddha) because, as you might have inferred, it was his birthday. So that was fun for everyone, especially because we had cake. Then we boarded our camels.

Thar Desert Jesse and his camel.jpg
Jesse and his camel

This was quite a process, with the camels kneeling down (their knees go opposite ways) in three parts, making them resemble robots. Riding on the camels is not the most comfortable experience, but I think everyone thought it was worth it. We spent the night out on a dune, which I think was silky and undulating enough for everyone...silky and undulating dunes were a high priority for the group. That night, we had dinner around the fire while men dressed in brightly and variously colored turbans played Rajasthani music for us. We all slept, with various numbers of blankets and sleeping bags, out under the stars, which was pretty spectacular.

Tracy and the camel share a tender moment.jpg
Tracy and the camel share a tender moment

We woke up slowly the next morning, some as the sun rose. After a breakfast of french toast and boiled eggs, we once again got on the camels and made our way back to where we started. The desert landscape was beautiful, with scrubby trees and small straw huts. After lunch, we got into the jeeps and now are back in Jodhpur. Tonight we take a night train to Jaipur, where we'll spend the next day and night, and then take a bus back to Delhi. Everyone is well, and we're all just trying to make the most of our last few days in India, and so far I think we're doing a pretty good job.

Celebrity Encounter, take two

Owen Wilson & Wes Anderson.jpg
Photo Credit: Jordan Guard (Jodhpur, Rajasthan)

After a long car ride from Bihar and then a 26 hour train ride to Rajasthan, Galen, Jordan, Andrew and I went out shopping for turbans. As I was trying to use the broken ATM machine Jordan ran in and told me to get outside. He ws possitive he had seen Adrien Brody go by in an auto with a film crew went out and walked down the street for a while and then to my surprise saw not only Adrien Brody, but Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman as well. Then I turned around and saw the director Wes Anderson. He's made some awesome movies like I Heart Huckabees, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Life Aquatic. It was crazy and not at all what I expected to find in a small back street in Jodhpur. The guys were all nice and we talked to them briefly. Jason Schwartzman asked how long we've been in India and when Galen said three months, he replied: doing what, walking around? They were surprised to find we were a student group. Then we spoke to Wes Anderson about the movie briefly. It's called Darjeeling Limited (but is filmed mostly in Rajasthan?). Anyway they seemed like pretty nice guys. They're staying at the Palace where the Maharaja of Jodhpur lives as it is now partly converted into a super pricey hotel. That made for a crazy morning.

Jesse

December 14, 2006

Addiction

Cassie on the train ride to Jodhpur chewing her Neem stick.jpg
Cassie on the train ride to Jodhpur chewing her Neem stick

My teeth and my life are completely addicted to neem. Ask Team Jordan- does Cassie always have a neem stick in her hands? Yes, yes she does. This fibrous tree that some brilliant person decided to chop into sticks and chew. It has a dark outer bark, bitterly delicious to the taste that you chew chew chew away until you reach the pale inside. Chew and spit, chew and spit, the pavement is already brilliantly red from betel nut and so the acrid bark clogging your saliva is easily discharged in the pavement. No shame in spitting in India.

Then, when the pale fiber is exposed, you brush. Just like a toothbrush. So much better than a toothbrush. Back and forth, up and down, don't forget your gums! The stick in rough and slender in my hand. This is a tree, a living extension of these towering beauties I see all around me. I am told that it is very good for my teeth- so many smiling brown faces tilt to the side and smile, Yes, very good for you. I look at the contrast between the smooth brown skin and those white white cubes of snowy brilliance and I have to agree. Neem must be wonderful.

It feels like a dream, a meditative practice that cleans as it goes. When I run my tongue across my teeth it is smooth and if I close my eyes I almost think about licking the inside of an oyster shell, mother of pearl. I want it every day. Little boys and old women and strong young men all tote bundles of it on their shoulders and I call them over- ek, kitna? Do rupiye. Old men and women in beautiful sarees and beggars all join me and they stare out into the hazy sunlight and think about something, or think about nothing. I like to think about nothing, just the feel of my mouth and the flex and bend of my wrist. Like dancing, in little ways.

Video from the pottery village excursion

If you haven't seen it be sure to check out Jesse's video clip from the group's visit to the pottery village.

December 18, 2006

Hello from Karol Bagh!

Tracy on the Train.jpg
Tracy on the Train

Hello to everyone from the silver room at home base in Karol Bagh!

Though many of us have parted ways at this point, I wanted to recap the last few days of our time together as a group to our dedicated readers…

Post camel trek near the Thar Desert, Galen's birthday celebrations, star-struck moments in response to close encounters with fame, an amazing audio tour of Meherangarh Fort in Jodhpur, buying turbans and getting henna-ed, multiple visits to the Omlet Man, and a wonderfully pleasant time at the Govind Hotel, we hopped a night train to Jaipur to explore the capital of Rajasthan.

We arrived early, caught up minimally on sleep, and ventured out to the Amber Fort mid-morning. This fort, actually more of a palace, is a maze of corridors and hiding spaces that beg for an epic game of hide-n-seek. Rather, some of us chose to sit quietly on a balcony and chat about the semester coming to a close while some boys played the game around us. After lunch, we descended upon the old town for some shopping and later took in our second Bollywood film of the semester: Vivah (tr. Marriage). Check out a review here: We certainly went to see it for its old world charm and an interesting view into the cultural aspects of arranged marriage and engagement, though I think we would all agree Dhoom 2 blew it out of the water.

Upon an early bus from Jaipur, the group arrived back in Delhi early afternoon and geared up for the long-awaited viewing of the robot show, musical fountain, and boatride through Indian culture at the Akshar Dham Temple. Amit was right when he told us this attraction is a must-see. Since I wasn't able to attend, I'm hoping I can see it this coming week while I'm in Delhi. (if anyone wants to write something up… feel free!) We ate a huge dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant with Namgial, Peter, and Gaurav celebrating the stellar planning and execution of the student-led portion of the semester; our time in Rajasthan.

Our last day arrived so quickly, and became quite an epic closing to our time together. After a trip to FabIndia for some last minute shopping, folks spent time organizing and packing to ready for the early morning flight the following day. We took time to share thanks an appreciation with each other as well as reflection on the past 90 days together, then ate some dinner at Amit's house. I was absolutely surprised with a chocolate pre-birthday birthday celebration which ended up more on our faces and in our hair than in our mouths. We all accompanied Andrew to the airport to see him off and as we drove back to finish packing, the mood shifted to tired and sad with the impending departure on the horizon.

Then, in an exhausted rush, Breena, Kate, Emma, Cassie and I joined Amit, Gaurav, Namgial and dancer extrordinare Sonam Peter at the Decibal Disco in a fancy five star hotel. The crowd was international and so was the music spun by the dj. An eclectic collage of techno remixes sounded as we danced, including one of my favorites: Eye of the Tiger. We got down. We dhoom machaiye-ed. We rocked the place up and got back in time to load up the press van and head to the airport.

Jesse, Galen, and I passed around kataks, hugs, and wishes for safe travels and waved our goodbyes until we could no longer see the other six, plus our friend, Tenzin Kelsang, who was traveling on a plane for the first time, in the security line.

I feel so thankful that all of us were able to share time and space together this fall and have an incredible amount of fun… which was only exemplified by our last few days together. I'm all smiles seeing the photo of Jules, Breena, Kate, and Cassie arriving safely at JFK on the blog.

I hope everyone is enjoying their reunions with family and friends and that the coming holiday season is filled with happiness for all.

Radhe Sham, SitaRam.

Tracy

Home

Home.jpg
Julianne, Breena, Kate, and Cassie arriving at JFK. Jordan, Emma, and Andrew caught connecting flights and Jesse will continue traveling in Asia for a while.

Wood of the Sandal

How many are the trees on earth that bear
the scented flower and juicy fruits!
Yet, O' Sandal you are unique in possessing
Unparalled fragrance of wood.
-Sanskrit shloka

"In India the heartwood of sandalwood has divine status. One species, Hari-chandan was said to grow only in the heaven worlds filling the celestial empire with its divine fragrance. The terrestial sandalwood is said to be its representative on earth."

From the Wonderful Wikipedia Website:

"Sandalwood is considered in alternative medicine to bring one closer with the divine. Sandalwood essential oil, which is very expensive in its pure form, is used primarily for Ayurvedic purposes, and treating anxiety.

In Buddhism, sandalwood are considered to be of the Padma (lotus) group and attributed to the Bodhisattva Amitabha. Sandalwood scent is believed to transform one's desires and maintain a person's alertness while in meditation.

Sandalwood essential oil provides perfumes with a striking wood base note. Sandalwood smells are not unlike other wood scents with the exception that it has a bright and fresh edge with few natural analogues. When used in smaller proportions in a perfume, it is an excellent fixative to enhance the head space of other fragrances. It also used to fragrance some Fish hair products."

As promised, here are some thoughts and resources on Sandalwood. I, for one, am very interested in finding out what 'Fish Hair Products' might actually be. :) I also hope you all enjoy your malas and the enhancement of your head space as a result of smelling their fragrance.

Read more:
http://members.aol.com/parijata/sandalwood.html
http://www.oller.net/sandalwood.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandalwood

Sending Love and Hugs,

Tracy

Welcome Home, from Galen

Final Group on final night at Amit and Gaurav's following Tracy's birthday cake exchange (those in fresh new kurtas and pajamas escaped unscathed).jpg
Group on final night at Amit and Gaurav's following Tracy's birthday cake exchange (those in fresh new kurtas and pajamas escaped unscathed)

Hi Andrew, Breena, Cassie, Emma, Jesse, Jordan, Julianne, and Kate-

Well, I hope everyone (save Jesse) has had a good reentry back into home life thus far. It's probably a little strange to wake up in a familiar bed, but nice to open a refrigerator with cold milk and drink cold water from the kitchen tap.

I made it here to Kathmandu yesterday evening, where, as always, it's wonderful to be-but I must say, I miss you all already. From the flight into the Valley around 4:00 PM the Himalayan peaks were shining in the clear splendor which I generally only dream about, without the obscuration which I typically attribute to pollution but is more likely my own romantic delusions. Truly, things were magical coming in-the evening light, the easy smiles, the energy which I always recall so fondly but still somehow manage to forget about until I'm actually walking kora around the Boudha stupa with mountain people in town for the winter and beautiful faces every which way I turn. Now connecting with an impossible number of friends and teachers whom are here in town-Wisconsin and Middlebury, chums of Paul's and colleague trip-leaders of Tracy’s and mine. Much like it must feel for many of you back with family and friends at home, it seems to me that everyone from a vast yet small world of mine is here right now. But not all of you, which is strange.

Let me say, that in telling a few stories last night, it sure was nice to brag about what amazing individuals each of you were, and what a joy it was to travel with you all as a dynamic group over the past three months. I think our final days in Delhi are attestation to this, and as Tracy and I mentioned back at the Cartel Palace, I want to say again how much we appreciated the opportunity to work with each one of you, as a unique person, as well as with everyone together in the community which we formed.

It truly was a pleasure for Tracy and me to introduce you to a bit of the ways of India during the course of our journey together. And on behalf of both of us, as well as Global LAB, I’d like to sincerely thank you for being a part of our amazing group, for making it all happen.

I hope you will drop me a line now and then and let me know what you're up to. And if you ever need to talk and feel like there's no one there to listen, or no one who can understand what it means not to be eating butter chicken and nan or searching for a bathroom in the middle of a new city, you have my ear.

And please, let one another know how it's going. You have all shared so much in the past wild three months and it's important to continue the dialogue. Our blog will remain a great forum to share your thoughts, and I hope we will all send some end-of-the-program photos there in the days and weeks to come in order to create a Flickr album which we can all share. I continue to look back at previous programs now and then, and love that return to a time and place in the past, so I hope you’ll take advantage of the resources which we created together as well.

Also, thanks to each one of you for keeping Tracy’s birthday bash a surprise and for helping to smear the cake in her hair and on one another’s faces. At this point I think it’s become a Global LAB tradition for the fall semester, as it was my day last year at the very end (I’ll try to send the photo of me and Amit going at it with the cake a year ago). Hopefully Jesse will post my less-than-becoming Bone Diggah photo sometime, too.

Moreover, we express our sincere gratitude for taking the time, on our last day in India, to do all of those program evaluations. We appreciate this so much, as all of us at Global LAB benefit from hearing more about your particular experiences and new found wisdom, in writing, and can then continue to build successful programs for new students down the road.

And finally, when you’re sitting at home or driving down the road, thinking about India but the fact that you’re not there, please recall a few of the talks we had about the nature of travel and the meaning of pilgrimage. Remember how, when deliberating about what to do for the Chalo Delhi protests and while doing circumambulations at the Namgyal Monastery we discussed how the Tibetan term for pilgrimage, ne-kor, literally means ‘going around places.’ We talked about how in the tradition of pilgrimage the path is but a circle, and whether at the destination, somewhere along the way, on the way back home, or in between and within the mind (which is where we always are, after all), the journey is always happening and never concludes. And so I hope you recognize that the pilgrimage which you’ve just returned from is, in fact, really just beginning. For when you return home you're merely somewhere along the way-not at the end, and far beyond the beginning, en route a circuit that need not end.

Be well, keep in touch, and thank you so much for a truly wonderful journey.

And don’t forget to dhoom achiyay.

Yours-
Galen (aka The Bone Diggah, or, as Jesse prefers, Lenny)

Welcome Home, from Tracy

Final Amit, Tracy, and Galen laughing after tasting her birthday cake Dharampal-style.jpg
Amit, Tracy, and Galen laughing after tasting her birthday cake Dharampal-style

A, B, C, E, J, J, J, and K,

I'm so happy to see Kate, Breena, Jules, and Cassie's smiling faces on the blog this afternoon as I logged on to write some words about the final days of the program! I am processing through missing each of you. The third floor of the HCP seems incredibly empty and quiet this morning as I woke up and engaged with the streets of Karol Bagh. I'm hoping the flight was safe and enjoyable, if not a last taste of Indian culture before heading back home for the holiday festivities.

I saw Jesse off early this morning to catch his 24 hour train to Kolkatta. He, Namgial, and I took in a classical piano and tabla concert last night (not to mention an amazing performance of Brahm's Quintet in F minor for piano and string quartet!) and had some amazing south Indian thali for dinner. After dinner, Jesse and I endulged in the second half of Star Wars Episode I on Stars, all the while complaining about George Lucas' directing. Peter is still busy running around, hopefully I'll see him tonight for dinner, and Amit is taking another exam as I type. Namgial and I will attend a lecture on Milarepa this evening. I'm thankful for the presence of our friends here in Delhi as I work through the quiet loneliness... Conversations turn back to the eight of you repeatedly during our meals together repeating funny stories, and reflecting on what an amazing group of folks you are.

As Galen communicates, and I reiterate, I thank you, each and as a whole, for contributing your whole selves to our journey and our community this fall. Galen and I have been quite blessed to be able to work with you and share in your discoveries and learnings over the course of the last 90 days.

I was looking back over photos this morning to organize for the Flikr site and was astounded to see the changes that have taken place in each of you from the first days of our time together at Lifebridge. You all look a little scruffier :), and you carry a profound knowing in your smiles and expressions in the most recent ones that has replaced the nervous excitement communicated in the first photos. I always underestimate the power of image-capturing to truly show change taking place, but I felt inspired as I peered into the images and watched our sweet story unfold. I can't wait to share them all with you on the site!

In the meantime, catch up on your sleep and enjoy the holidays with your friends and families... ease back slowly into the pace and style of your lives. I, too, hope that you'll write and keep me updated on the choices you're making that will shape your next ne-kor. I admire you all very much for taking the risk, against many cultural expecations, to take a break between (or amongst) your schooling to consider a change of perspective. You also have my ear if you find yourself in need of understanding or processing any piece of your re-entry or lives and I very much look forward to hearing about your new adventures.

Congratulations, alumni of Global LAB. It's with great love, appreciation, thanks, and a happy, but heavy, heart that I celebrate sending you off on your next journey. I'll not easily forget my first semester leading with Global LAB and it is because all of you gave of yourselves to make our time together beautiful.

Take care of yourselves, and be well.

Tracy

P.S. It took me three shampoos to get all the grease out of my hair from my delicious birthday cake. Thank you all, again, for the suprise and I'll certainly be thinking of you tomorrow!

This Morning Before I Go Make Some Chai...

Final Emma, Tracy, Galen, Breena, and Andrew share thoughts of appreciation in closing activity on their last night together in Delhi.jpg
Emma, Tracy, Galen, Breena, and Andrew share thoughts of appreciation in closing activity on their last night together in Delhi

Hello my beauties,

Well here I am at nine o'clock in the morning in a dauntingly quiet home starring out at the beautifully sparse winter landscape.

I made it home safely last night and my connecting flight was only delayed an hour. The home place is already adorned with Christmas lights and boxes of partially wrapped gifts and I had a small tin of chocolate chip cookies waiting on my bed when I arrived.

I miss you all. With every last inch of me I miss you. Galen and Tracy thanks so much for the e-mails and me being me they totally made me cry. The time that lies ahead of reliving each moment of my time with you all in India through each memory and sharing as many stories as possible with the people here at home seems a scary task but one that I think I’ll enjoy. Team Jordan in all it's glory as well as India will forever be a part of me and though I can't say everything I want to say to you guys as well as in thanks to Global Learning, I just wanted to drop you all a blog post this morning and say I love you.

Cheerio my darlings,
Emma

Holiday Card from Siddartha School

The below card for the fall India semester leaders and students just arrived here at Global LAB's NYC office:

Siddaratha School Card.2.jpg
Siddhartha School Card.jpg

Pajama Boys

final The Kurta pajama boys say good bye at the airport.jpg
The Kurta pajama boys say good bye at the Delhi airport before Andrew ended up joining the rest of the students on their Air India flight. Jordan takes first price for best "before" and "after" photos.


December 19, 2006

Flight Layovers Do Strange Things to Your Psyche

I could never explain to you my adventure or its implications on my life. I could tell you, a stranger, all of the subtle twists and turns my trip took me on, but chances are you wouldn't know what to do with that information. I could tell you how it felt to link his fingers in mine. I could tell you how it felt to see the Dalai Lama's smiling face out a car window. What thenthuk tastes like.

I wonder which people in the world my story will matter to. I wonder what my story meant to that security guard who was dying to see my dramyen. I wonder about the people sitting around me in this practically barren airport and I wonder what they are seeing. That girl in her green skirt and soft brown shawl, carrying a rainbow coloured case. This advertisement comes on T.V. for Incredible India and I want to jump up and down and say, "I've been there! Look, I have mendhi on my hand too!"

But who cares? There are millions of lives out there. Which ones do you actually want to know about? When you see Tenzin Kalsang in his maroon robes and Dalai Lama pin, clutching a big yellow passbook marked Guest of the Government of India, travelling with a group of young Americans, what do you think? Are you curious about his story, or even their story? How fleeting is that curiousity? You look at someone and they are strange and unfamiliar and you wonder. How long does that wondering last?

And for the first time in three months I have a flash of insight about curious Indians. When they look at me, it is so new and startling and they have that wondering spark: Who is this person? Where have they come from and what is their story? And because they are interested and because in their culture human interaction is a very different thing, they simply ask me those questions.

I sit here in this airport and I think, That's it. Sometimes they are using me to practice English, sometimes they are selling me something, sometimes they are rude, but sometimes they are just plain curious. So valuable! I was so stopped by unwanted attention of sex-deprived males and the creepiness of salesmen and my own culture that stresses silence and privacy that I never really thought that maybe sometimes they just want to know.

Hmmm. I'm sure they also want a picture and bragging rights, but they aren't afraid to ask me and for the first time I realize that this is okay with me.

My clothes smell like smoke from the Ganga. The smoke of three bodies being burned on wooden pyres while I watched their families stand around in pain. I walked down narrow stone gulleys with that wood piled high on either side and I heard the drums of joyous death- did you know they will only play the drums when the death is a good death, like that of old age? I watched those bodies wrapped in white sheets lowered into flames and my green skirt smells like the smoke of flesh, but you will never ask me. You will smell that acrid burn and wonder where I have been and who I am, but you won't ask me, and soon it will pass.

I arrived home three hours ago to my house of the other side of the world. Did you realize that for me in India the time difference was 12 hours? That means that I was the farthest away on this planet I could be without coming back around the other side.

I miss you all more than you could even imagine.

Whoops...

So I didn't mean to post that thing before...I was just thinking about writing a blog and so I was writing down random stuff. Apparently I still don't understand how the website works. My bad.
But I guess I will write some stuff since I'm writing anyway. Its bizarre being back home...I still feel like I don't even realize that I'm home and won't be back in India until who knows when. It could and likely will be years before I go back, which I haven't really come to terms with, I don't think. I miss all of you guys tremendously. But I'm enjoying the Christmas season, so that's good. My sister and I went to the mall the other day, which neither of us had done in a long time...talk about culture shock. So many people...so many people spending so much money. I don't really know what else to say. My mind is kind of bouncing around everywhere, so I'm still waiting for it to settle.

December 21, 2006

Special request photo post from Jesse

Galen Loses.jpg
Galen, apparently conceding victory, following the cake fight at Tracy's surprise birthday party in Delhi

December 25, 2006

Ho Ho Ho

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HANNUKAH!

Ah my darlings i love you all and i think this has been my best christmas ever. I got some really great books on Tibet and Buddhism/Hinduism. Also last night i went with my family too Midnight Mass in Baltimore in this ancient church where they still do the old latin mass. Amazing. I thought of each of you and i wish you the merriest of christmas's and send you so much love... I think of you all 20 times a day...

I love you,

Em

P.S. Anyone know what's up with the Fliker account?

December 26, 2006

Happy Holidays

Hi everybody
I got an email from Stanzin from the trek, so I just thought I would share it with you guys:

Dear friend kate Hello and juley

First i am going to wish you happey new year 2007 and x.mass also. and today i open a new mail add so i am going to write a small mail on ypour name. Are you knowed i am your friend stanzin from zanskar. And hope that you will be fine and glad in your country. At here are i am fine as well as before.dear friend what are you doing there during thise time i hope that you would be busey of your jobs.and i and my friend are going to winter trek or chadar trek on date 07/01/2007.for 20 days. and i alwys remember of our trek which is we make in markha vally.and i full hopping that you also remember of uour trek.and plz send me our picture which is you taked of our trek i wanted to see theme.

post address:
stanzin spalzang R/o hanamul zanskar
C/o lions club hostel
leh ladakh near radio station leh ladakh
pi cod no 194101

see you next mail dear kate
its me your friend stanzin spalzang

Happy New Year from Sonam Peter

Sonam Peter.jpg

Hello Galen la,

Many greetings and best wishes at the very beginning.

Hope you reach very save at your natiive place and really missing you a lots. We really enjoyed your company Indeed thanks for everything and praying to god for meeting many times. So here i would like to wish you a merry Christmasday and Happy New Year 2007.

May this year bring you lots of success and peace in your mind and also Pay my same regards to your loving family members, today this much.

Here i would like to give the same wishes to everyone for Global LAB on our website if possible kindly do that if not then ok, today this much till then take care and hope for the best.

With warm regards,

Sonam Peter

India Photos

After Varanasi Sunrise.jpg
Varanasi Sunrise (courtesy of Jesse's blog)

After One crazy Rickshaw Ride in Jaipur.jpg
One crazy Rickshaw Ride in Jaipur

After Julianne gets her foot all done up with Henna.jpg
Julianne gets her foot all done up with Henna

After Jesse practices tabla on the train.jpg
Jesse practices tabla on the train

After Jesse plays tabla for us at ISP presentations.jpg
Jesse plays tabla for us at ISP presentations

After Group at a fancy dinner at the Jodhpur Fort.jpg
Enjoying dinner by lantern at the Jodhpur Fort

December 27, 2006

Some Resources...

Namaste Everyone,

I hope you are well and sharing happy and peaceful times with your family and friends as the holidays pass quickly. I’m having a wonderful time with my sister (who is experiencing her own culture shock!) as we travel back from Goa to Delhi and on to Kathmandu in a few days.

Watching my sister adjust to India, I realize how used to things here I actually am. I continue to think about you all and your adjustment back to the states, and the constant adjustments we make in every new/old place we go… the expectations we carry, the memories and fondness we feel for a place or a group of people that no longer exist in “real time”…

I’d like to pass on these internet resources to you just to read or digest in your own time if you feel the need. I’ve used the first two before with student groups and found them a while back just by searching “reverse culture shock” or “reentry shock” on any search engine. The third link I just found today, and the last link is from SIT. Enjoy them… I hope that you’re all happy and healthy these days. I miss you all very much. Being here without you seems awkward most days…

Much Love to you,

Tracy

http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/overseas/faq/culture_shock/culture_shock.html

http://international.missouri.edu/studyabroad/after/cominghome.shtml

This is an interesting website I came across while searching… (Seems Jennifer has an interesting perspective on her travels in India. Makes me think about what you all would put on a list like this…)
http://members.tripod.com/~jennifer_polan/india/backtousa.html

Check out this resource, from the School for International Training, written to parents of students who study abroad. Sometimes reading material written for another audience gives you a different perspective on your own experience:
http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad/parents/docs/parent_reentry_handbook.pdf

Why, hello

Umm sooo I'm lame, and I have officially lost EVERYONE'S contact info.

Because I'm lame.

Anyhow, I am sure that the rest of you are well-adjusted people and have managed to hang on to MY info, so if y'all could send me the necessary email, phone numbers etc etc I would be eternally grateful.

Love and kisses,
Cassie

December 28, 2006

La La La Goa.

Christmas Eve in Goa.jpg
Christmas Eve in Goa

Laura and Tracy on Christmas Day.jpg
Laura and Tracy on Christmas Day

Holiday Greetings from Goa!

Just wanted to send some love from the other side of the world to all of you back in the states. Christmas in Goa has been a very different experience compared to our last three months of traveling together. Though Laura and I found ourselves on a quiet beach during the days enjoying the books we are reading (The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and One Night @ the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat) our nights were filled with fancy dinners and fireworks. We had a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner outside under the palm trees, crackers bursting overhead as we ate our ‘traditional’ Christmas pudding and drank ubersweet chai.

The hotel had an outdoor pool, a shower curtain in the bathroom, hot water that didn’t run out, clean towels, and chocolates on our pillows every night! … All the amenities we had been dreaming (or dreading) about. I had a little freak-out when I realized I didn’t have to turn the shower off while I was in there. The hotel also hosted a ‘compulsory’ (which is Laura’s new favorite word, by the way) Christmas Day buffet dinner complete with a talkative DJ who announced prizes for the man with the longest hair and exclaimed, “Oh My Gosh, is that a guy or a girl?!” as the winner approached the dance floor, a band that covered everything from polka to disco to classic rock to children’s nursery rhymes, dance performances by Sylvia and Jason who were dressed in ‘Dancing with the Stars’ ballroom garb, huge cardboard Christmas tree cut-outs, Styrofoam cresh scenes of the baby in the manger, a Santa Claus carrying balloons on a stick, a ‘Yule Log’ (chocolate cake shaped like a tree branch … we were in hysterics at this one), and those oddities are only to mention a few. Needless to say, it was a Christmas to remember!

I was mostly reminded of how much I appreciate traveling and living as modestly as I can. Three days in tourist-land was more than enough to remember why I like Phey Village and sleeping in tents on trek. I’ll always be a tourist, but there are certainly ways to continue to communicate cultural sensitivity and tread lightly on the land and people you encounter.

We are certainly thankful for our swims in the Arabian Sea floating amongst the wave swells catching up about our lives. I’m feeling lucky to have another fellow traveler to keep me company while I’m missing the 9 of you!

Hope your family gatherings for the holidays were smashing…

January 5, 2007

Ahhh, the beauties of travel

One swim in the Ganga, 10 fishy fish, 16 sketchy stall vendors, 3 water purifications that I am not so sure about, and countless non-prescribed activities later, I have giardia.

I miss India really really badly. And you guys! I hope everyone's holiday love was...well, lovely.

Congrats, Jordan!

For any who may not yet have heard, Jordan successfully sold his photograph of Wes Anderson and the gang in Rajasthan to US Weekly AND People Magazine (and shared proceeds with his spotter, Jesse).

Maybe we should add a new Photography & Entrepreneurship ISP for future semesters?

John

January 10, 2007

Pura Vida

Hola amigos! I don't know if anyone still reads the blog or not, but it's been a while and I thought I'd drop a line to see how everyone is doing. I'm in Costa Rica right now, taking Spanish lessons and surfing by day and hitting up the bars at night, well, hopefully I can do that as soon as these parasites are out of me. No matter what I seem to do, India sticks with me in some form, but I guess it takes a more literal form in my digestive system. I miss all of you a lot. It's still a little weird waking up and not having team Jordan around. I hope everyone is having fun back home while they get prepared for another trip. I'm looking forward to exploring another country, but it just won't be the same without you all there. Chau todos. Nos vemos.

January 24, 2007

"Reunited, and it feels so good..."

BEK_1.jpg

Hello family across the world,

Kate, Emma, and Breena here are gathered here in Annapolis, Maryland as friends reuniting. From the moment we arrived it was an adventure in this town of historical goodness, especially with Emma behind the wheel. From Italian food to the naval academy to strange beings at St. John's College, we've had our fair share of the true Annapolis experience--as only we could have it.

We've found ourselves slipping into far too many long and contemplative conversations about life, the universe, and the unravelling of it all. Yet we have also found in one another a unifying feeling of "home".

I'm overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings - Kate. But I'm working on it...

We miss you all dearly and most certainly in our moments of talking deeply about our experiences in India.

Hope you're well wherever you find yourselves.

love always,
Peace out Homies,
Saludos,
and NAMASTE DHOOM MACHAYAY

Emma, Kate, and Breena

January 25, 2007

Aloha

GBM Maui.jpg
Remember, always take time to stop and smell the flowers

I hope this finds everyone well reuniting in Maryland, exploring New Zealand and Thailand, surfing Costa Rica, working at home, doing thousands of prostrations a day, and otherwise keeping on keeping on.

I'm back home in Portland, where the thermometer recently hit numero zero. Cold.

Frankly, not quite as pleasant as the tropical breezes which kept me hangin' loose in Maui over the past couple of weeks. Intended to send you all an update from there, of course, but what with distractions like hiking across the lunar landscape of volcanoes and diving down with the sharks and the turtles, I neglected to let you know about it.

So, surfed some big days (or should say got pummeled by some big waves), counted rainbows by the dozens, swam under waterfalls, and watched whales get airborne barely a hundred feet away. Books on the beach and luaus in the evening, what an amazing place. Andrew will be glad to know that I went fishing for the big game a couple of times (but am sorry to say we didn't get anything more than mackarel). Anyone know that there are raspberry and redwood and eucaplyptus forests in Hawaii? (I sure didn't until I was walking through them).

And now, although I'm back home for a brief spell, I'm nontheless repacking the bags again. That is, I'm hitting the road tomorrow for a long-haul drive out to Jackson Hole, WY, acting the wingman to an old friend with whom I promised to make the drive way back when we were still in Banaras. Plan to ski for a week or so with hometown friends out there and then it'll be back to Portland for the month of February. Not that I'll be here for the whole month or anything, but, you know...

So, please keep me posted on what's going on in everyone's world and thanks for posting so many great photos to the Flickr site. Great to check-in on now and then.

Take good care everyone, and kale shu/pep ah

-Galen

February 14, 2007

Ashes?

And while the plane lands, I can’t help but wonder if it’s going to blow up because the engines are going to set on fire. Not that it’s rational but because it was just one of the many experiences in India, and thinking about it takes me back to what seems like a lifetime ago, but could only be a couple of months. The anxiety is fleeting and unwarranted, but it’s enough that it makes me look out the window for a couple of seconds until I make myself relax and exhale with a sigh. It’s funny how I could repeat the process so many times in a matter of days, and I can’t recall if I’m on my way home from Costa Rica or dozing up in business on the longest flight of my life. It’s only when I get there and collapse into a new bed that it hits me and the haze clears. But the bed isn’t that new; it’s hard and short like India. Nothing like mine back home. I can almost remember mine back home if I think hard enough. Distantly I remember spending a night or two there, laying on the mattress that was too large and too foreign, luxuriating in its comfort as I sink into it and pull the sheets over me. Yet I don’t sprawl across it like I used to, taking up as much bed as possible because my arms and legs are so far apart they seem to be trying to reach around the whole bed and pick it up. It was different then, and I can’t decide which is more familiar--the one I knew for eighteen years or the one I knew for three months.
It’s like Cassie said, I thought, you really do become transitory. Or maybe not as much as you’d like to think, because as I walk through the streets of Beijing, everything I see is compared and contrasted before I can stop myself. It’s funny though, to what I compare it. Not to Inverness, Peru, or Costa Rica, but to India, like somewhere along the line some part of my heart stayed there, willingly and consciously or not. Something about the country maybe, or because it’s the longest I’ve stayed in one spot all year and the longest I’ve stayed with friends all year. Then I wonder if China will be the same, but I know as soon as I ask the question that it won’t and it can’t. I don’t need a rational reason for it this time, I just know and don’t need to pursue it further, although it is a bit depressing. Somehow I managed to forget how long three months is.
It’s just that I can’t help but wonder why I’ve been all over the place this last year. Is it some defect of character that drives me to these foreign places? Something wrong that makes it so easy for me to tear the bonds that tied me to my home for so long and now they are so frail and stretched they have no pull on me. It seems each time saying good-bye became easier, and I can’t decide if that is good or not. Before I left I thought maybe I would find something in China that I wanted to latch onto and pursue, but during the first day of kung fu lessons, I watched my master and a student of his practice and couldn’t help but be in awe at how perfect it was. Not that they were perfect in their practice, although the master seemed so to me, but that it just fit so well and everything flowed because their hearts were there. I noticed that it was them. That was them. It was not me, and as much as I may have wanted it to be, it could not be and I realized and understood that then. So I guess I’m still looking—for something to latch onto or for something that fits. When they practiced their kung fu I saw their passions, but I couldn’t help but wonder where mine was hiding.

I had to name is ashes for you guys. First week is hardest, so I guess that’s why I feel so…I don’t even know right now. Beijing is cool though. It’s kinda like a U.S. city because it’s so modern. Hope Team Jordan is enjoying themselves wherever they happen to be in the world. Good luck with the next Brahma to Buddha. Hope you guys have fun at Lifebridge.
Andrew

February 16, 2007

Las aventuras de Cassia

And as Andrew flies East, Cassia flies south... landing on her brand new green shoes (I know, can you believe it? My mom almost cried) in the beautiful land of Argentina.
Transitory. A good word to describe our years. Our lives. I hope to be transitory soon because I am hopelessly lost right now, and my Spanish skills are just rusty enough to make me timid about asking for directions. Just ask, Cassie! But my ipod is not frozen and my shoes are comfortable, and it has cooled down enough today to make walking a pleasure. I hope that my sense of direction can function even in another language.
Who knows how I will feel? Who knows how it will be? I´m still pretty terrified of this new adventure, but my little homestay sister loves Jennifer Lopez. She has the thickest, most beautiful accent, and doesn´t seem to care that I can only pick up every other word.

The next Brahma to Buddha program is meeting in a few days in Lifebridge, and that makes me wistful and somewhat sad. Good luck to all of you (and to Emma, who has to brave that gorgeous retreat without our faces there)!

I miss you guys.

February 17, 2007

Welcoming a new family...

Hi Team Jordan,

I've got about two days until the new students arrive and we are off on another adventure and I, too, as it seems Cassie and Andrew are, am thinking lots about transitions and their meanings.

My time in Nepal was wonderful... if not freezing (no central heat, so prostrations served to keep me warm as well as occupied in the last weeks). I spent my last evening at Boudhanath Stupa, one of my favorite places in the world, and one that I hope you will all have the opportunity to visit someday if you wish to. This past week, I've been working hard with Peter, Amit, and Namgial to make sure the spring semester starts off well, not to mention playing lots of guitar with Guru Nakamura (the founder of Shanti Stupa in Leh) who I've been quite fortunate to meet. I'll celebrate Tibetan Losar (New Year) tomorrow with Peter... he told me he's making a huge pot of thukpa and to bring lots of small change for some intense card games. I can't wait!

As I'm so excited to welcome a new group to Delhi and am looking forward to what this new semester will bring, I can't help but feel happy that you are all out in the world doing amazing things and looking toward your futures as well.

Do check out the new blog, and maybe leave some "love" for the new group if you have a chance. I know they would love to hear some comments from you all as they experience similar things and attempt to process through them as you did.

Keep shining!

Tracy

Musings from Lifebridge

All of this blog activity plus another inspiration talk from Remy about the importance of blogging has left me with the need to make a post..
I sit now at the top of the Lifebridge stairs listening to the voices of John and Michelle, along with the new India students about to take a walk outside in the snow, float up towards me. We ate chili and hot dogs, did the rope exercise and the strange role playing game, talked about itinerary and health and safety (no slideshow with rabid dog this time!), and I cannot believe these new faces that surround me ready to take the same amazing steps the eight of us took six months ago.
They don't seem as nervous as we were and even though there are only six of them (five here now because one is already in India) there wasn't even a seven minute silence occurrence. They're all excited, all smart and lively, and all seem more then capable of meeting the challenges and blossoming within this new experience. I am so excited for them, and yet so moved when I think of them being in those places and having those moments that I shared with you. Will they feel the same way? Will they form those same bounds we now feel stretching over across the world between us? It's amazing to think about all the different possibilities a trip like this can and will take. Good luck to you all Tracy. I can't wait to stalk you on your new blog (they're moving ours tonight from current to something else... the nerve!)
I wondered up to that amazing room this afternoon at the top of this center and gazed out over the Catskills. They are so beautiful, and I once again felt that feeling I had in India that the world is just so glorious that it truly can wipe away all of our fears and discontents with one glance at it's excellence.
My love goes with all of you in your moments of exploration, confusion, discovery, enlightenment, sadness, fear and joy.
Cheers for Team Jordan, and all the others who are pushing the limits.


March 3, 2007

Banaras Revisited

So, we were having the "pre homestay" talk... don't be afraid to say you've had enough rice... please be home by dark... spend lots of time with your family...

and Sanghamitra yells loudly, "JORDAN!"

I'm thinking, "Jordan? There is no student named Jordan this semester... what is she talking about?"

And then I hear the Jesse giggle. The two of them suprised us a few days ago with a visit!

What a suprise to see Jor Jor and Jesse right as the students were going to homestay. They showed up in Banaras that afternoon and came over to the Anami Lodge to see if we were there. In fact, we were. It was great to see them. They are staying at Kailash's place so we were able to share a tabla concert with them and the new students with Kailash and Druv on sitar. We shared some food at the program house as well, and some good stories about monk-ish experiences and visits with family back in the states.

They are off after celebrating Holi (the festival of colors) tomorrow. They'll be missed.

I wish I could "run" into each of you and catch up. If you're out there and reading, send an update! I'm wishing you all well and hoping this spring is going wonderfully for each of you.

March 9, 2007

Hurray for Blogs

Still in Beijing. I'll be here for two more months I think, unless I decide I am taken with the place and have a sudden urge to stay longer. Everyone got Galen's e-mail? I remember when he first mentioned March 10 back in India, and I wondered what it would be like to be in China for then, but I really didn't think it would happen. Well, it's happening. Kind of like being in the lion's den or something...I don't know, pick an analogy you care for. Anyway, back to blogs. The program I'm here with recently put up a site with a blog that I have to contribute to every week. Check it out if you want - Academic Explorers.

How is everyone? Scattered across the world yet? I'm wondering how Jordan is doing in India without Galen and Tracy to save him. Have fun.
Andrew

March 13, 2007

JJT.jpg

March 15, 2007

Finally!

Just wanted to shout out to you all that I have finally loaded my many photos from the fall semester on to Flickr. Hooray for fast internet connections at Assi Ghat and Flickr Uploadr (and Remy for teaching me how to do it quickly rather than one by one).

Feel free to browse and reminisce!

Enjoy them... I hope you are all enjoying your semesters.

much love,

Tracy

March 16, 2007

March 10 Update

The March 10 Uprising Day in New York was a true success, marked by a prominent procession across the Brooklyn Bridge through Chinatown to the UN, where the largest rally to date spent several hours before proceeding down 2nd Ave to Union Square for the climax of the day's events. Global friends from Tibet, China, Dharamsala, New York, Canada, Vermont, Maine, Alaska and many, many other nations and cities congregated to hear prominent members of the Bod Rangzen/Free Tibet movement, including SFT Executive Director Lhadon Tethong, activist extraordinaire Tenzin Tsendue, Columbia Professor Robert Thurman, acclaimed author Jamyang Norbu, Chinese democracy dissident Wei Jingsheng, as well as several others. City of New York traffic control and police facilitation was exceptional, helping to make for what many identified as the most successful Uprising Day in recent history.

I hope some of you were able to participate in an event wherever you may be, be it a public or private one.

Please check out the www.March10.org website to see hundreds of photos from protests around the world, as well as videos, articles, and other resources for our benefit.

Here are a few shots I was able to get over the course of the day. Michelle, Erin, and I had a chance to briefly speak with both Tsendue and Lhadon, and caught a picture with him as well. It's also worth noting that in the foreground of the image of Tsendue's address is Kelsang the photographer, Dharamsala program coordinator from last year.

Galen, Tsendue, Michelle, and Erin.jpg

Tsendue's address.jpg

1st Ave.jpg

Union Square.JPG

And despite my activities on March 10 I had no trouble collecting a visa at the Chinese Consulate several days later.

Hope everyone is well and remember to keep the flame a burnin.

Bod Rangzen-

Galen

March 22, 2007

A Really Good Map - A Call to Action

Hi Team Jordan and Friends,
Forgive my cross-post on both blogs, but I thought you would appreciate these thoughts of mine. We're having a great semester, and of course, my thoughts turn to all of you daily as we trace our steps from last semester. Tomorrow night, we'll hear JJI Exile Brothers rock out... first time for me, as I was in Disney World when you saw them last semester. I spoke with them yesterday and they sent their hellos to all of you.

Would love to hear some updates about what you are all doing these days...

Take care,

Tracy

*************************************************************************************************

Bloging connects all of us through the internet in amazing ways. We can share in our loved ones' journeys across the globe, comment with sentiments of support, encouragement, and information. We are quite lucky to have this tool to deepen our personal connections while we are far away from each other, or while we are right next door.

With this in mind, I thank you all - parents, students, friends, loved ones - for contributing to our online Global LAB community. and with this post, I ask for even more response and interaction than before. My gratitude in advance for reading on.

Lhasang Tsering.
Tibetan Freedom Activist.
He spoke to our group today. His talk left all of us reeling with hope
and determination to contribute in whatever way we can to the cause of Tibet. The students and I
were totally charged.

One piece of his talk, which rang true to me last semester when we
heard him speak as well, stayed with me again this time:

Lhasang-la suggested that we use our power and privilege in a
functional way when we get back to the states. "When you get back
home, there will be so much to tell and share about with your family
and friends. Please talk about Tibet," he says to us. He asked us to
"ask our politicians to take a good look at a good map," one that
shows the actual boundaries of Tibet during the last centuries and
point out how Tibet was independent of China. Not only this, but look
at a good map currently that shows how the 4 occupied territories have
been assimilated into China.

Last semester, I asked him about where I could find a map of this sort
to show folks back home. We looked and looked for one but couldn't
find a "good map" of these things. I am continually inspired to find
one, or make one that shows these truths.

Map making is totally subjective. Maps are arbitrary visual
communications of political borders that are constantly changing.
There are maps made these days that are "fair to all people of the
world." (I know this, but my good ol' gradschool SIT has them for sale
in the bookstore.) But are they really? Are maps able to communicate
genocide and millions of people living in exile from their homes? are
they able to communicate families being split apart with no hope of
seeing each other again in their lifetimes?

My question for all of you...
Does anyone have connections with a mapmaker, or know how one would go
about making a map? This is where the networking and the wonders of the internet come in. I would
really like to make this happen. More amazingly, I would like to
publish such a map and make sure it gets into the hands of political
powerfuls in the U.S. Government and plenty of activists in all
communities that are working toward the cause of a Free Tibet.

What do you all think?

March 29, 2007

Drumroll, please...

At long last, the results are in and the winners of some sizzling hot prizes have been identified.

In the Best Photographic Contribution to the Blog category, the judges all wanted to award the prize to Tracy. We kept explaining and explaining that Tracy was not eligible because she is an employee, but they wouldn't budge. So we decided to give all of you (including Tracy & Galen) a hot prize in this category. Keep an eye on your mail box because it is going to burn a hole if you leave it in there too long.

In the Best Blog Writing category we had a tie vote: Congratulations go to Ms. Cassie Denton and Mr. Andrew Rosseau for their exceptional literary contributions to the Blogosphere last semester. You two will be getting some dangerously scorching hot prizes very soon and we ask that you please write a post to confirm arrival.

Thanks all for you patience. It is never easy gathering a panel of Nobel Laureates and keeping them on task and cooperative as contest judges, but all's well that ends well.

John

April 13, 2007

Charming Romania

Hello all. We just wanted to write a bit to let everyone know how we are doing. We are both happily and safely in Romania, in Transylvania, the land of Dracula. We are living in a foster home kind of place, where we're volunteering by spending time with the kids. Its really beautiful here, with rolling green hills and snow capped mountains and old medieval towns with red tiled roofs. This is country is new to us, but so far so good. We are in the midst of planning our future travels, hopefully over to the Black Sea coast and then to Budapest and eventually down to Greece to see Emma. We are in the city of Brasov, where there is a festival this weekend, where the young buff Romanian men ride into the city on horses, wearing traditional clothing, looking for brides. We will be the first to welcome them.
I hope everything is well with each of you all over the world. We're thinking of India. Love you all.
Kate and Breena

www.flickr.com
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from globallearners. Make your own badge here.

Program Partners

Resources