Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tso Pema Days 7 - 10

Day 7 20th Feb

Today is filled with small things …requests for sponsors addresses, photos to give sponsors, detailed descriptions of old ladies ailments etc etc Ani Thupten Palmo arrives to boss us around for a while. Sonam reads her letter from Jo to her several times & she marches off to find a new address for Jo to write to. I pity the monk who was meant to be collecting them before … he is in big trouble.

Sonam takes the faulty heater back to the shop & returns with another one …. the plug is so big it doesn’t fit in any socket! We laugh & laugh, perhaps I am meant to be cold. No he says & takes this one back to the shop demanding they chop the plug off & fit a smaller one. When he returns & plugs it in hot air comes out… a small miracle …

Day 8 21st Feb

Monks are scrubbing the courtyard of the Nyingma Gonpa, flags are being hoisted and auspicious symbols painted on the road. Are they getting ready for Guru Rinpoche day (24th Feb) already??? A car full of monks pulls out of the gonpa, gets stuck & does a 20 point turn before revving wildly & taking off. A nun nudges me & says they are off to meet Yangsi Dudjom Rinpoche who is coming to Tso Pema today. All day people, often complete strangers, come up to me & tell me he is coming … “the greatest man on earth today” “He is Guru Rinpoche in person” “Only 20 years old & the essence of wisdom” … it seems impossible that anyone could live up to all this hype.

When I go down for some evening koras the roadside is packed, we wait & wait. Guess he will be on the right side of the road as is 4 deep on that side, I opt for the left & hope I wont be elbowed out of the way! Police walk up & down demanding everyone stay inside the lines painted on the road. At last can hear a procession coming … Indian men appear playing instruments & in the distance see Indian men carrying a throne … how odd … suddenly they too are ordered off to the side & a cavalcade of cars & 4 wheel drives slowly drive past. So many monks in the cars its impossible to tell which one he is … someone leans out of a car & pushes a bunch of plastic flowers in my face, hope that wasn’t him. Must be looking bewildered as the young woman next to me says “Not yet not yet” I turn back & look straight at a beautiful young man dressed in white who nods & laughs at me … I forget I am waiting for the Yangsi & cant help but watch him continue up the road. The young woman next to me starts jumping up & down “Yes yes yes him in white, him in white” Wow … He was worth the wait!

Follow the swarm of people up the road to play with Samdrup (Dr Dorjee’s son) again. He is grumpy, tired & hungry but thrives on the attention & we are soon playing, much to his mum’s relief.

Day 9 22nd Feb

This is the 8th day of the Tibetan month … Medicine Buddha day … practice

Day 10 23rd Feb

Spend today saying goodbye to all the children who will have left for boarding school by the time I return to Tso Pema. Sad but happy to have seen them all again after so long. It is raining lightly … more & more people arrive … can only go clockwise anywhere … the throng of people doing koras insists all go with the flow.

Happy to be heading to Bir tomorrow

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tso Pema Days 4-6

Day 4 17th Feb
At last Sonam has found my sleeping bag & I sleep warm all night … bliss!
Spend the morning discussing the different options for the school, we are hoping the landlord will give them another years lease as Yangchen Dolker already has enough pressure for the moment & to move the school in May would be very difficult for her.
Meet Ani Wangmo on the street, she babbles endlessly in Tibetan gesticulating wildly & crying. Eventually someone comes past who can translate for me and tells me Tulku Choying Rangdrol has been rushed to hospital in Delhi. I do a Kora with her & hold her hand while she continues to weep & babble.
The Health & Caring project that provides cleaning & general care for 15 old people here has bought the old monks a washing machine. They love it & find it quite exciting to use! Also found room for Jamphel in an old peoples home at Dharamsala. Many thanks to the health sponsors for their support & kindness.
Day 5 18th Feb
Meet Ngakpa Karma Lhundup & we enjoy tea & a chat. He & his children are all looking well & his son has grown quite tall now. Rigzin (son) reminds me when he came to Byron Bay & saw the ocean for the first time, he gets excited again just thinking of it.
Ani Bumchung comes down from the caves to visit me … she too is looking great & I think this might be a happier day. She brings me fresh milk, bread, butter, honey, cheese & fruit. The table in my room is now piled high with fruits, juices, biscuits etc from all the people popping in to say hello. I keep giving things away but the pile just seems to grow.
Sonam & I head up the hill to Ani Tenzin’s for lunch. There are houses built over the path to her house so we wind up & around & through them … the house next door to hers is about a foot away so the view from her window is now a brick wall. She is happy as always, continually muttering prayers. We eat piles of veg momos with chillies, but not enough to keep them happy, “ you not like our food” “you eat like bird” Tell them I’m not an elephant just a small human but they still tut tut me.
On our way back through town we notice all the Tibetan shops are closed again ??? Ngawang Phagpa passes by & tells us Tenpa died this morning & they are preparing for his ceremonies & cremation in an hour. Tenpa taught English to the monks at one of the monasteries. 
Day 6 19th Feb
All three transfers have arrived at the bank so we make arrangements for the $s to be collected from Mandi. Next time we will write cheques … should be interesting trying to spell everyones names!
Play with Dr Dorjee’s son showing him all the photos on my computer & give his mum a small break from the endless harassing. The children all go back to their boarding schools next week.
Sonam buys me a heater, I plug it in with much hope .... nothing happens.

Dr Dorjee's widow & son

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tso Pema Days 1-3 Feb 2010

Day 1 14th Feb

Today begins as a blur. Off to Delhi airport at 4.30 am … luckily after all the check in & security cues there is still time for a very strong coffee before flying to Bhuntar.

Arrive in Tso Pema at lunchtime. The street is full of Losar (new year) pilgrims saying their prayers as they circle the lake. The sun is shining brightly.

Walk with Sonam to visit his wife who is sick in bed. Their landlady has installed a couple of other people in the bedroom & hallway so their once beautiful flat is now a minor hell realm. They and all their possessions are cramped in the lounge room which the new tenants walk through to use the bathroom or kitchen but they are stuck there til the peak season finishes & there are other flats available to rent…no wonder she is sick I can only stand it for half an hour.

Back at the lake I meet Dr Dorjee’s widow. The pain of her grief is so tangible … she comes back to my room to cry and tell me all the details of his passing. Feel so inadequate in the face of her suffering but comfort her as best as I can. She dreams of him every night & can’t believe he is gone, neither can I.

Phew, time for a kora (circumambulation) Most of the small Tibetan shops & street stalls are closed for their annual holiday & I don’t see any one familiar. Then a shriek as Lhakar sees me, she is so happy, her daughter is here for school holidays. I haven’t seen Tashi Lhamo since she started boarding school four years ago & its wonderful to see how much she has grown and how well & happy she is. Lhakar is so proud, she tells me Tashi Lhamo is the first girl in her family ever to go to school. They invite me for dinner, homemade noodle soup, made with love, yum.

Day 2 15th Feb

Wake up at 3am shivering, already wearing my jumper so put on hat & coat & crawl back under the blankets. Breakfast at Kora Café inc very strong Indian coffee. Vijay & his staff are always so happy & friendly it’s a great way to start the day. Most of the day spent discussing the school & what to do now. Fortunately his wife is very keen to continue Dr Dorjee’s vision of providing nursery age kids with a valuable beginning to school life. She plans to open again after winter vacation on 2nd March & then we will see how many students for 2010 (probably around 50). The young monks who also attending the school are ringing her regularly, keen to begin again.

Back to their house for dinner with Ngawang Phagpa, the monk who works tirelessly for the school. Dr Dorjee’s young son is surprisingly affectionate, he tells me how much he misses his father & even wants a cuddle! I’m quite surprised as he used to just poke his tongue out at me. His mum says he wakes up every morning crying & scared she has died in the night.

Day 3 16th Feb

Even though I go to bed wearing a jumper, scarf, hat & coat I wake again at 3 shivering. I get up and make some tea to warm me.

Thakpa’s shop is open again & he comes to collect all the parcels Helen sent with me. I go to their house for lunch & his young son is having a great time playing with all the toy cars she sent him.

Meet the nurse from the Health Centre & hear all the sickness & accidents news. Nana has broken her hip, Gen Jinpa has been diagnosed with throat cancer, Tulku Choying Rangdrol has something wrong that the hospital in Mandi cant diagnose. They think it is from him suffering extended torture before his escape to India. Tenpa who taught monks at a gonpa here has severe liver damage & cant get out of bed. Thanks to sponsors kindness we arrange to buy some more basic medicine for the health centre.

Have dinner with the family from Pundah Café. So nice to be with a happy healthy family. They show me a video of last year losar celebration in Lhasa & tell me all the stories from their family. Their young daughter is also home for holidays, I haven’t seen her for years, she grows more & more beautiful & speaks very good English now. She was one of the first children here to be sponsored but last year her sponsor didn’t reply … I hope I can find her a new sponsor but she is 12 now & its always harder to find for the older children. She plans to become a doctor & I’m sure she is capable. They offer me orange wine, strange taste but warming!

Lhakar & Tashi Lhamo