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Saturday, June 26, 2010

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.

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