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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coming to the end of my trip

Hey Everyone!
Thanks for following my blog while I have been here.
I have had a blast and I just LOVE these kids!!
Today we had grits for breakfast and I'll be using the Tibetan bread to show them how to make cinnamon rolls today :)
We ALL made homemade pizza and brownies the other night - It was great to make 6 pizzas the very first time I made pizza from scratch.  Baba Ji came over and ate with us - very nice.
Of course the years wasn't active so my doughy didn't work - that's okay - we use the tibetan bread which made for a very thin crust but the sauce was good and it was fun for the kids.
We leave at 4 am for Delhi tomorrow and then I am heading to the airport Saturday morning at 8am
10 hour layover in Dubai
and finally Atlanta on Sunday around 6 am...more than 24 hours of travel time but the trip has been SO worth it!
thanks for your love and support!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The SHOES!!

June 26

June 26 - Saturday
I am trying my best to keep my blog updated with everything that is happening and going on but it seems that the closer I get to the end of my trip the faster time is speeding by and the less time I have to steal away and write about my days.
This past week has been jam-packed. I started teaching English lessons everyday beginning on the 14th but I think I have updated everyone on that.
We started watching a Korean “movie” on the 11th and we still have not finished it - not from lack of trying.  I think it was sold to Lama Tenzin as a movie but in reality it was a television series.  It is such a good story - we are ALL addicted and can’t wait to see what will happen next.  We really thought it was going to be about 2 hours long but when we put it on my laptop to see the menu we saw that there were actually 20 episodes.  Each episode is about 45-55 minutes so you can see why this is a marathon event. Last night we finished episodes 15 and 16 and started 17.
Every Sunday is cleaning day - for everyone and everything.  And by everyone I mean all the animals too.  The funniest thing I have ever seen must be kids giving sheep a bath. Hilarious. The only animals that don’t get baths are the birds and the fish but I think if they COULD wash them, they would.
So, about the animals...CED has quite a few animals here.  They have a front yard area that is the home to 2 sheep, about 30 fish in a little pond, and two different cages of birds.  Then there are the day dogs and the night dogs.  The day dogs include Darling, the momma dog, Tiger ( white fluffy dog) the daddy dog, and Zema and Metto the puppies of Tiger and Darling.  Zema is the Tibetan word for beautiful and Metto is the word for flower.  The girls get to stay outside at night but Tiger goes inside the courtyard so he doesn’t fight with the Night Dogs - Kahyio,Tashi, and Singhi. The night dogs are a little more rough and tough while Tiger is called the “Reception Dog”. They ALL get baths on the weekends - it’s a whole process and very entertaining from my perspective - the dogs don’t quite agree but at least I get a good laugh.
Sunday is also wash day for clothes and kids - everyone washes/ takes showers during the week but on Sunday they all get a good scrubbing from what I can tell - hair washed,  which normally includes tears from Kunchuck who seems to love swimming but dislikes baths.
Before I came to India I asked Lama Tenzin several times what I could bring with me for the kids and he always responded that we could buy 3 times the amount for the same money in India - I just needed to wait until I got here and we could go shopping or see what the kids needed.  So I packed gel pens, Bic pens, pencils with American flags on  them, Blow Pops, Tootsie Roll pops, balloons, bubble gum, a couple of Charleston calendars and postcards and pecans(thanks mom). They have loved all of the little gifts which I most likely spent about 50 dollars on.
Well, for 50 dollars I was able to buy new shoes for ALL of the boys and for another 75 or so I was able to get new handmade shoes for ALL of the girls.  My friends Lorcan and Lizzy sent some money with me and the kids were thrilled to hear that people they had never met were buying them shoes.  They are all so happy with their new shoes. The shopping part was just as much fun for them-  on Tuesday, we all loaded up to go get the girl’s shoes and then the next day just the boys got to go shopping. On Friday Lama Tenzin and I went to pick up the girl’s shoes and let Karma (the mom) pick out a pair as well.
On Wednesday, the older kids, Lama Tenzin, and I all went shopping for “colors”.  The children all picked out colors for their rooms.  For the first time in ten years, the walls of their rooms are colors other than the peachy cream that the entire orphanage is painted.  Of course, I was thinking four rooms, four colors but Lama Tenzin was thinking 20 kids, almost 20 colors.  The kids picked out a different color for each and every wall - Happy Hyacinth was the most popular - appearing on three walls in three different rooms.
I don’t know if it has come through in my writing or if I have hinted at Lama Tenzin’s nature - he is one of the most determined and focused individuals I believe I have met.
He is also one of the hardest working people I have ever seen - he is constantly thinking forward and considering his actions and deeds and the effect it will have on the children’s futures. It really is amazing how much he thinks about.  
He chose painting the walls as a project because it will make them happy for years to come, they can look around and enjoy the colors each day, they were involved in making the decisions,  and they would remember me when they see the walls.
Well, in keeping with his character, on Wednesday night after dinner we started right to work.  Tenzin and Samdup went around and puttied the holes they found and  removed nails while two teams started applying primer.  We were able to get primer in three of the rooms - we finished around midnight.  On Thursday we finished the primer in the fourth room and started painting.  We painted ALL day - for almost 12 hours we painted. Four colors in each room - working in teams to paint two colors at a time.
Yesterday, we applied the second coat to all of the rooms and after lunch the children were able to reorganize their rooms and get settled in again.
This is my Taj Mahal - and I mean that quite literally.  The Taj Mahal is known as a monument and labor of love.  I love these children and the money I spent on paint is the money I had budgeted for a trip to see the Taj Mahal. So, I will return to America from India without having seen the famous Taj Mahal but I have seen the effects of Happy Hyacinth, Mango Mood, Summer Fern, Code Red, Soothing Sapphire, Green Apple, Gulf Stream Green, Spinach Soul, and Wild Pink and that my friends is love - real love in the hearts of children with smiles so big that the joy just spills out and covers me like the paint on the walls - a permanent change that has made ME so happy. 

The Storm Adventure

June 23
Wednesday
What a good week we have all had.
Last week I said I needed to tell you about the storm at Kempty Falls and where Lama Tenzin was.  I’ll go ahead and do both of those.
First, let me tell you that as I write this I am listening to the children from CED sit in the courtyard and say their prayers which consists of about an hour of chanting - it’s 6:30 and their day begins at 4:30 when they all get up. Then at 5:00 they have Yoga in the same courtyard.  From 6- 7 it’s time for prayers, followed by breakfast at 7:00, school homework from 8-9 ( and they have LOTS of summer work), English from 9-10...the schedule goes on all day.  Lama Tenzin likes for them to be busy and have structure throughout the day and week. 
On the 13th we all packed up the Tata and headed to Mussoorie which is a Himalayan hill station.  That morning we went to the Buddhist Temple there and prepared our prayer flags and lit butter lamps.  We climbed to the top of the tallest hill close to the temple and the children said their prayers there while Sonam Bhutti wrote everyone’s name on the prayer flags. As the prayers were finishing up, Lama Tenzin climbed up and hung our prayer flags.  
After prayers were offered and the flags were hung we headed to the hill station and to Kempty Falls to go swimming.  Traffic was pretty bad since it was Sunday.  I can’t quite explain the give and take of driving in India - it includes lots of two inch margins when it comes to passing someone or squeezing by someone on a rode.  This was a mountain rode full of tour buses, tourists, motorcycles, goats, bikes, people walking on the sides.  We sat in traffic when we got there because two buses had decided to just park on the wrong side of the rode to unload their passengers, leaving almost one lane open.  We finally got through the bottleneck and found a place to park under a rock edge where we could sit and picnic out of the sun and out of the traffic. The children all sat at the back of the truck and ate their lunch.  After lunch was eaten, we headed off to Kempty Falls which was about a 20/30 minute walk from where we had been able to park.
We arrived at the “swimming pools” which was a series of dammed areas where the water from the falls pooled.  We went to the top one where there were less people and more room for us to have fun.
The normal, “Oh, look, a WHITE person” reaction happened. I swear one guy was from the Geico cave man commercial and I almost asked to have MY picture taken with him just for the sake of it but that would have caused SO many problems.  Lama Tenzin is my ever-present body guard and picture denier.  He is quick to tell these boys who want pictures made with me that I am part of the group that includes 20 kids and they can have their picture made with EVERYONE if they’d like to which after seeing 20 wet children they usually pass.
We had a lot of fun swimming and Lama Tenzin used the falls as an opportunity to get everyone wet -he held everyone under the water to get soaked - making sure they all had a good laugh.  Of course, we had one who cried but I guess that’s the nature of getting dunked under a water fall :)
As we were finishing up our swimming and we were ready to leave, it began to rain, really just a sprinkle.  Lama Tenzin thought it would be a good idea to walk down toward the big fall at the bottom of the Kempty Falls area since the children had never seen it.  The walking path to the bottom fall is lined with shops for tourists.  You can buy toys, food, sunglasses, hats, wood crafts...so much variety but all really touristy.  The walkway in front the shops were mostly covered with tarps so we thought we would be out of the rain.  As we walked down and down, the rain continued but we were already wet from swimming so it didn’t really matter.
The further we walked, the harder the rain became.  By the time we reached the bottom we were happy to find a little shop where we could all stand inside.  Once we were inside and huddled together, I realized that we were missing some of the children - Lama Tenzin went back to find them - they had stopped at one of the bridges and gotten separated from the group.  Once we had everyone it began to STORM - hail, rain going sideways...the workers scrambled to release the holding pool dams so that the water would not overflow - it was freezing cold rain - we could all see our breath in front of us.  The amount of water coming down the stairs was forming it’s own little river and no one could really walk up the stairs unless they would have had something to hold onto (which they didn’t). The rain continued for a while.  They little shop where we were standing did not feel like the sturdiest structure in the world - wooden plank floors- so of course I was concerned - holding little Kunchuck - the smallest of the children at just 3 years old.  Tenzin that I thought we needed to leave when he turned around and said “We have to go, now!”.  He had overheard some men talking about what would happen when some other dam was released in a different place and how much water would be on it’s way very soon. We scrambled up the stairs through the stream of water and made our way up as quickly as we could in the pouring rain. When we looked back at the shop where we were standing, we could see the water overflowing from the pool but we couldn’t get a clear view of the shop so I have no idea if it was flooded or not but I feel sure that it would have been.  We walked the 20+ minutes or so in the POURING rain and occasional hail and finally got back to the Tata.  The back of the truck is covered and all of the girls changed clothes in the back and the boys changed on the side under the rocks where we had parked.  I was in the back with the girls when Lama Tenzin decided it was time to leave.  I have to say that being an adult has (most of the time) the advantage of sitting in the front seat. Humph. I sat in the back of that truck for the next 5 hours as we endured the insane traffic caused by the combination of mass exodus, crazy drivers, mountain roads, and well, just India....
Let’s just say I can’t wait to see my chiropractor when I get home- ugh!
I must also say that I am very thankful that Lama Tenzin is so aware and diligent - he is such a good protector of the children and me.
As far as where Lama Tenzin was during my last blog - unfortunately, he had an uncle that passed away and he and his sister had to travel to the ceremony - I think about 8-10 hours away from here.  Lama Tenzin is not one to really talk about the amount of grief he has suffered this past year but occasionally he mentions how hard it has been and how he struggles with “not letting his eyes drop” meaning losing tears. He has lost his mother, one of the sweet little girls here at CED, and now his beloved uncle. His mother was such a presence here - all of the children called her grandmother and she really oversaw the day to day operations and helped the children in so many ways. Additionally, one of his sisters who was also a big help here, recently had a baby of her own and is living for the time being in Berkley. So Lama Tenzin is balancing running the administrative side of the orphanage which includes gathering sponsors for the children, making sure they children have what they need, and raising funds with the other side - the more nurturing, family focus that he strives for.  He plans outings for all of the children, spends time with them, and has the normal worries of any parent or caregiver - am I handling this right, how do I talk to teenagers, how do I help them when they disagree with one another.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Really, It's Friday?

Time is flying - the girls have all started to write me letters about how much they will miss me when I leave.
It's breaking my heart.  They are all so sweet and so smart.
I am so impressed with them and with Lama Tenzin for his vision.
How lucky I am to be here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Having Fun!

Thursday
Today is pretty darn hot - all the kids and I want to do when it is this hot is retreat to our rooms and nap which is pretty much what everyone does during the hottest part of the day. My sister texted me from Ga. this morning saying it was already 72 at 5:21 in the morning - sounds pretty darn hot there too.
Let’s see - what’s happening at CED?
We have been playing games and reading stories.  This morning I read Kevin Henkes book - Julius, the Baby of the World.  I thought I was only teaching the little kids today but all the older girls were there too.  Everyone LOVED to book - plus, as some of you may know, I am a little bit of a ham so the acting was entertaining for them as well ;)
We played a word building game and then we played telephone which was a big hit and caused quite a few laughs.  They were all so determined to find out who the person was who got the message mixed up - pretty funny stuff.  After that we played a game the kids in my class love to play - it was the detective game where one person leaves the room (the detective), a pretend crime is committed and the “criminal” is chosen and then the detective returns.  The detective goes around the circle asking,” Where were you at the time of the crime?”.  The criminal is allowed to change their answer to the question while everyone else MUST say the exact same sentence. They could have played that all day. Last night we played duck, duck, goose which was a blast.
While the kids and I have been having fun there have been a few other things going on as well - not all fun.
When we returned from Mussooorie the other night ( after the 5 hour traffic jam), Karma told us that the room under the Reception room was flooded.  The rain storm was awful - it poured and hailed.  Six people lost their lives in DehraDun when a very large sign or banner fell at the ice cream store - it was a horrible storm.
Anyway, when we got home Karma ( the only adult from Dolpo that Lama Tenzin has also rescued, and Choeyni’s mom) told us that the rain water was under a room.  The next day the girls spent all morning bucketing the water. 24 1/2 buckets - the big 10 gallon buckets...they filled them, brought them up, carried them out to the yard and dumped them out.  The storage room under the Reception room held all the children’s old clothes that they intended to give to some villagers. The clothes had to all be pulled up as well and hung out on the fence to dry.  The dogs were the lucky ones - they got all dressed up in some of the baby clothes the kids had to dry (much to the dog’s dismay).
That was Monday.  On Tuesday we had a normal day until I left to go to check e-mails and update my blog.  Pema Dolma and Pasang Lhamo walked up the shop to get me.  Pema Dolma said the police had arrived at CED and I thought she was joking with me since it was dinner time.  I asked her if she was serious and she said yes, the children were all worried.  I paid for my time and we walked back to CED - sure enough, the police were here to see me! The same Police Chief that Lama Tenzin had argued with earlier last week was sitting here as well as a very important looking police woman. Turns out that Jyotika Fernandes’ friend Sammy had called his police contact in Delhi  to let him know I am here and the guy (who must be an official of some sort...) called his people here in DehraDun.  Mr Negi and Schweta Choubey came to visit to check on me, give me their numbers and make sure I have not had any trouble at all. WOW!!
Talk about VIP treatment.  Sammy had teased me before saying that he could give me his friend’s information but that I would be on the “Wanted Persons” list.  The children were SO worried - they thought it was an ambulance at first and then they thought it was because of the event at the police station - they could not imagine why the police had made their way all the way out to CED.
I still need to tell you all about the storm at Kempty Falls and where Lama tenzin is at the moment but the girls are ready to go to their tutoring sessions an I promised to walk with them so - Later!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Never a dull Moment

Well, so far I just have to say “What an Adventure!”
I have experienced things in India that I didn’t expect- in his defense, Vatsa did tell me to expect the unexpected in India.  What an understatement.
Let’s see - what have I done so far?
3 day journey to arrive here
Trip to the sacred Ganges
Stayed in bed all day
Attempted to go to “Robber’s Cave” had tea with the police instead
Watched my first Bollywood movie (HouseFull)
Went to Robber’s Cave (the next day)
Took generator for repairs (was able to cash in “good karma” {read=free of charge}for my conversational skills...)
Went shopping/ for errands with Lama T
Watched “Wash Day” for all the animals and kids
Went to Mussoorie and Kempty Falls - got caught in a horrible monsoon like hail storm
Began teaching English each day - games, conversation....
Okay so now for the adventure part - Well, driving in India is always an adventure.  The first night I was here Lama Tenzin told me that India is a “honk culture, it’s a happy honk...” 
That translates to everyone honking pretty much the entire time they are driving and anywhere close to another car. A honk can mean so many things - it means keep going, keep backing up, come on out, don’t come out, stop, move over,yield, I’m faster than you, I’m slower than you, I’m looking at you, I need to get in front of you, I am passing you, you are passing me, watch out - I’m right here, hey- I want to go over there, I’m parking, I’m pulling out, I’m pulling over - If you think I am exaggerating in the least little bit let me assure you that I really am not exaggerating AT ALL. It’s hilarious and I am glad Lama Tenzin framed it for me in a positive light.  It’s amazing how well it works - 4 cars side by side on a two lane road - along with cows, dogs, tractors, donkeys, cows, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, cows, pedestrians, push carts, tatas (big trucks), buses, vans, rickshaws, and a smaller tata vehicle which I think is called a tuktuk but I could be making that name up....
The next adventure I had was the encounter with the police - CED has a huge truck that Lama Tenzin transports all of the children in  - think about taking 20 kids somewhere - I’ll have to post a picture of this truck.
Anyway, we were heading to Robber’s Cave which is a local swimming spot.  We packed our lunch ( also think about buying lunch out at a restaurant for 20 kids - not happening my friends, not happening...) and got a loaded up in the Tata to head out on our trip.  Lama Tenzin was driving and he passed a big truck that was going pretty slowly up a big hill - at the same time, a car was coming to the end of a street ( he should have honked but he didn’t...) well, we heard a noise which sounded like the back gate bumping but it was really the other car hitting the tail end of the truck.  Lama T stopped when we got to the top of the hill and got out to check the gate, saw it was in place and we headed out, never realizing we had been hit.
Well, these 3 crazy guys that hit us started following us ( and need I say it...honking...) and had Lama T pull over.  We pulled over and the guys accused Lama Tenzin of hitting THEM and then running... mind you, with the very tail end of the truck...anyway, this became a shouting match and we headed to the local police “stand”. this is of course, when it started to rain.
The police there sent us along to the actual building to settle the argument.  We all had to get out of the truck (picture that - the American, the Lama, 20 kids of all ages all piling out in the rain...).  Well, the discussion was rather heated and I was a little intimidated by all of the arguing.  I’ve  got to say that Lama T is really good at standing his ground and not giving in - plus he had really not done anything wrong so that helped. It went on and on and on and on - Indian folks like to argue I think.  The men in the car were asking for money to fix their bumper. They all argued for such a long time - the kids had to stand outside under a little car garage.  It hailed, it poured, they argued more...
Finally the policeman in charge took away Lama Tenzin’s permit to drive and sent the three men on their way telling them to file with insurance.  
Here I am thinking that Lama T won’t be able to drive, what will we do, oh my goodness....
Once the men left the mood changed - Lama T started chatting with all of the police, made a few jokes, I was introduced and then the questions for me started - we were offered tea (good sign), and Lama T was handed his license back.  The female officer apologized for the “acting” but it seems it was necessary in order to placate the other men. After an hour or two at the police station the rain subsided, the children were loaded back up, and we were on our way - no ticket, license in hand.
What a day!

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 14 - much, much better

Hey Everyone!
I feel 200% better now - I am getting the hang of our daily schedule and starting teaching English lessons today.
I will blog at home and then bring it here to cut and paste - Blogging from the internet place doesn't make sense - takes too long
The kids are amazing!
I'm having a great time!!

Upon Arrival/ Blog form June 9

Well, I arrived in India on Saturday, June 5th. I was met at the airport by Lama Tenzin and Swami G - “double good karma” as Lama T said - two holy men to drive me to CED.
The orphanage is about a 6 hour drive from Delhi but it took us forever - my plane arrived at 10:45 and it took a little while to go through customs and then a little longer to get my bag. I didn’t really sleep very well on either of my plane rides and I was looking forward to staying the night in Delhi just to sleep but the plans had changed and we drove back that night. We stopped a couple of times for the drivers to sleep for an hour or two at a time - I have decided the people in India have the superpower of sleeping anywhere if they are tired. We pulled over at a couple of food stands - where the big truck drivers stop.
So Sunday I met the children and rested a little in the afternoon - I napped basically until dinner time. Monday I went with Lama Tenzin, his sister and her two boys to Rishikesh which is located on the Ganges. We walked across the two suspension bridges and walked around the markets. The riverside areas had many beautiful Hindu temples. We were there at night and it was very nice to hear the prayers and see the people putting their offerings of banana leaf boats filled with colorful flowers and incense into the Ganges. Later we drove to a different place where the river was very strong and there were all sorts of bathers. The boys took a dip but I wasn’t quite up for it. Being a red-headed foreigner attracts some attention so I thought the last thing I need to do was jump in the Ganges.(most of the attention is in the form of people wanting to take a picture but not asking to take a picture - pretending to take a picture of a friend and waiting until I am right in front and then snapping....I was very proud of my “oh, excuse me” manners as I dipped below each time saying - “sorry, don’t want to be in the way...HA! ”) The belief is that if you submerge yourself 3 times in the Ganges then all of your sins are cleansed. I settled for dipping my feet :)
The whole time we were in Rishikesh I had a horrible headache which I figured was really just the jet lag which is a whole new experience for me. We had dinner in Rishikesh and after we had been down to the bathing place on the Ganges we headed home. I almost made it back to the orphanage before I had to throw up - almost....
and so began the “Delhi belly” ( I will spare you the details but if you are truly curious I bet you could google it). I was up for most of the night and slept all day yesterday and I am only beginning to think that any food other than dry corn flakes might be okay. ( and all I can say is thank God for cornflakes). I did eat a piece of bread for breakfast which is major progress in my opinion. So, as far as not trying to take ALL that medicine I packed - well, we shall see how that goes. I’m on the Cipro now and hopefully that will help.
So, that’s where I am and what’s happening. Lama T is sharing a lot of information with me about the organization and the children. I will share that soon but I want to get it all straight in my head before I start sharing.
Please comment on my posts so I can have some contact with you all - I feel very disconnected right now and that would be very helpful!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Getting Closer!

Eeesh.
Well, my bag is packed and I have an enormous amount of guilt about the weight of the bag... I pride myself on my ability to travel somewhat lightly. I have the top of my bag packed with stuff for the kids - markers, crayons, tootsie roll pops, calendars for Lama T and his family - it all just adds up.
Then of course my mom helped last night and I think it helps her to know that I have some things like a protein bar (or 12) in case the food upsets my stomach, and an extra t-shirt "just in case"...
I am hesitant about taking my laptop but it is coming along - so is the new camera both of those items are heavy.
So, I spoke to Lama T a couple of days ago and he is the one picking me up from the airport and we will stay the first night in Delhi and then we are going to pick up a graduation gift for three of the girls - they passed all of their exams and he wants to find watches for them. He really is funny -he said his favorite colors are yellow and red (the colors of his robes) and that he doesn't know what the girls would like. He also warned me about choosing the right Lama at the airport..."Don't go with wrong lama - we want the right girl with the right Lama".
Of course when I show up and there are 87 Lamas it might just be confusing....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm packed!

Well, I am packed!
I think the majority of my duffle bag is filled with fun stuff for the kids and medicine of the "just in case" kind.
I am taking just the basics - a couple of pairs of capris, a couple of skirts, a few t-shirts, a couple of long sleeve cotton shirts, a rain jacket, a sun hat, flip flops, tennis shoes. I also have a sleep sheet and I am thinking of throwing in a sarong since they always come in handy and can be so versatile.

My list of meds is much longer than my list of clothes - cipro, a z-pack, stuff for nausea, malarone for malaria, immodium, ambien in case of jet lag, saline spray, pepto, eye drops, tylenol, BC powders, meclazine, zyrtec, daytime allergy stuff....the list does go on but gracious!
I swear I am not a med junkie but from all of the stuff I have read and all of the folks I have talked to it seems that it's easier to just have it with you.  My hope is that all of this was completely unnecessary and I don't need any of it. I'm not heading to India so I can try out all of my prescriptions.

So this morning (later this morning) we are heading to Georgia.  Unfortunately I keep thinking of things I need to do here.  Right now Sadie's woobie is in the drier and she is about to get in the shower - unbeknownst to her.
I think that a departure time of 11 seems realistic - if I can get out of here earlier that's great but if not, no big deal.