Upcoming Shows

We've been named as a official selection in the Southern Circuit of Filmmakers Tour, March 17-24.

Shows are in Hapeville, GA 3/17, Madison, GA 3/20, Orangeburg, SC 3/22, Gainsville, GA 3/23, and Manteo, NC 3/24.
Learn more by going to the SouthArts blog.

View the theatrical trailer for A Gift for the Village

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Oh, and By The Way

As I failed ever to get around to explaining in my last post, it was Pasang who sold me today an ancient Tibetan mala (108-bead prayer strand, like a rosary, made of sea-shell, so very prized by land-locked Tibetans who only heard stories of oceans. On each large, heavy bead is hand-ccarved om mani padme hum, hail to the jewel in the lotus, which is to say, hail to the potential wisdom and compassion in each of our hearts. I'll show you this necklace when I get back, if you promise not to make fun of it. This necklace hangs to my knees, but hey, maybe I'll be a trend-setter. Jane

Pasang and The Shell Mala

One more from Pokhara, again from Jane. We have seen full blazing sun, cool rain, and humid overcast today, but all the while, we have had a great time. Jenna found an excellent map that tells details about the western terrain we will hope to reach tomorrow if we are fortunate enough to be able to fly and begin trekking soon after. Tom bought a topi, a Nepali hat, shaped not unlike my father's World War II paratrooper cap, and I must say, he does look handsome in it. I have just spent two hours with a Tibetan woman, a shopkeeper, named Pasang. She was born not far from where our team is going, sometime after the Chinese takeover in 1959. She isn't sure where or when she was born exactly--just that her parents fled successfully across the border into Mustang. But not long after, they came down to Pokhars, to get away from the possibility of Chinese invasion even there, and she has never been back to Mustang, let alone Tibet. Traveling there, several hours northwest from here (in fact nine days by foot from this town) would be a luxury she can not think of. Pasang is roughly my age but fifty million times more amazing and trillions of times more beautiful than anything I can seem on my best day. She is so calm, not resigned, but so at ease with thiry years or more of difficulty. Shge told me one fact in particular that helps explain the Tiubetans' plight. Her husband spent much money to gain what are called simply "Travel Papers," which Tibetans can get if they pay exorbitantly and then can use only one time and only for one trip to India. They as Tibetans can not get passports--why? Because even after all these decades, Tibetans can only present Refugee Status papers. They are still all refugees here, not Nepali citizens, even after all this time. Pasang joked that in America, a foreigner might live or marry in America and after only five brief years be eligible for a Green Card, leading to citizenship status. "Me," she said, "I am here for more than thirty years, and I am still only a refugee." See the problem: no citizenship, no passport; no passport, then few Tibetans ever coming to America; few coming to our country, then our citizenship rarely hears about this long genocide. But all of you reading this blog know, and I hope you will always remember the people of Tibet like Pasang who make their living only in the shadow of their rightful homeland, unable to go there, but still completely at home in its history and memory. It was such a pleasure to sit with Pasang. I helped her, of course. She has four daughters, one of them 25 years old whom I met. None are married. She, her husband and her four gorgeous Tibetan girls live without national status and work all day to try to sell small jewelry and some old fine antique pieces and prayer flags. Like Jenna, I bought prayer flags today for our trek. Four rolls to hang in the most amazing places we reach: one strand for my mother and father, who are both gone; and one for my incredible and loving daughter Iris, and one for my incredible and loving son Emerson, for their long, happy, and productive lives; and one for my best and most amazing friend Jenna, and also for all the team members here and their families, all of you, all of my friends who know and love this project or some member of this team, and for all the pets like Kunk the King of All Skunks, my black and white handsome prince of a cat who does not know why I am gone, and for even Ike, the Fox's dog who doesn't love me at all (still, I love YOU Ike), and for Katy Bowyer and Sammy Robbins, our heroes and friends who have done more quiet fighting and have created more victory than most of us, and for Resson Saville, my forever-friend, and for my Virginia Tech students, and especially for Hilary Strollo and her handsome, well-spoken brother Pat and their family and all the families affected by the loss of our Tech students and faculty on April 16th (Pasang already knew the story of April 16th completely), and for all sentient beings: that we may all suffer less, and come to realize what we may do to best give our world as much comfort and joy and beauty as we can, and come to be as brave and clear-minded and unassuming and as hard-working as my best friend Jenna Swann, teacher extraordinaire, and best imaginable travel partner for all of us. Tashi Deleg. And so so so so la, as the Tibetans say: Victory to the Gods. All of you please be wishing us safe and good flying tomorrow. Jane

New Friends and new places by Jenna

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Asmita Poudel (7) her 2 1/2 year old brother Anup, and her parents Divya and Laxman. I was on a mission to deliver a gift from Jenna Repass, the daughter of the art teacher at my school. When I first saw Asmita, a slight girl with bare feet and a gentle smile I knew she was the right person for the clay, markers, paper, glitter, glue sticks and water colors. I sat with her in front of her fathers "shop" a makeshift wood fraimed closet full of trekking goods-- poles, hats, tents, sleeping bags, shoes and North Fake packs and jackets. I thought I might need a translator when I started explaining Jenna's picture and reading the letter her mom had written, but before i finished, Asmita asked "Which contry she from?" and "This picture for me??" as Asmita started opening the gifts a crowd of children quickly gathered. Asmita promptly gave each child a marker from her new set. We had a wonderful conversation, took a few photos, and Asmita wrote the names of her family members in my travel log. Now, everytime I pass the shop Asmita comes running out and her mother claps her hands in "Namaste"

Today is our last day in a "big city" we leave at 6 am for our 40 min flight over the mountains and into the Kali-gandiki Gorge. The village of Jomsom,will not have emall, but an hour and a half walk to the south west and we might be able to find working email (with the help of generators.) We plan on staying in Jomsom for just 2 or three days, to present the Gift to the Village, then we will begin our trek. Our plan is to take a less touristed route from Jomsom, to Manang where we begin the ascent to the Thorung La (the 18,000 foot pass Jane and I crossed in the snow last time.) We will spend several days getting to Throung Pheda-- the foot of the Thorung La. we will cross the pass in one day--- about 6 hours to the top. There will be a tea house and we will hang prayer flags,(I will hang one in honor of Garland Richardson, one in honor of Eddie Belcher, and one in honor of Cindy Goad and Tyler Goad) and then we will make the steep ascent to the bottom. The village at the bottom of that mountain is called Muktinathit, it is a very holy pilgrimage site because it is one place where ALL the elements can be found---- A natural spring from the earth, right beside a natural gas flame, and of course air, earth, and the final Tibetal element, mind. There are 108 spouts on the shape of differnt animals also pouring water from the spring and there will be thousands of prayer flags and prayer wheels to turn. I will add more prayer flags to this holy site in honor of Garland and Eddie who were important to me in my childhood, and Cindy and Tyler who have deeply touched my adult life.

At this point, our group of 7 may break in two. Tom, Diane and Reba heading back to Jomsom to catch their flight and Jason Jane Sherrie and I saying in Muktinath for a few more days. We hope to visit and flim Tsampa's nunnery. After that we will begin a slow descent to the village of Kagbeni where we will pass thru the gates to the forbidden region, Lo Manthang, in the Mustang Region. We have each paid $2000, completed the required paperwork and permit forms, we have met with our guide Narayan who will be with us for the 12 day journey. We will travel back in time 1000 years, the last most restricted, unspoiled region in Nepal. 30,000 people per year pass thru Jomsom a year and only 200 people get into this region per year. I might be wrong, but I don't think we will have any chance of finding email, phomes, or Ben and Jerry (Kim, I keep looking for them here....)

gotta go it is hot here and I want to find a cool place by the lake to sit and have a fresh lime drink. jenna

from Jane in Pokhara on Sunday

Hello Friends, We just got back from our boat ride on Phewa Lake, the centerpiece of this twon. Last time Jenna and I were here was Thanksgiving Day of 2000, and I remember reaching for a dragonfly on a branch overhanging the lake and very nearly tipping us into the water. I keep wondering what lives in this lake--what the strangest beast is. I imagine something like a prehistoric fish that has been declared extinct, but, surprise, lives in plenty in this black water. We paddled to the island in the center of the lake, where there is a Durga temple and ten thousand pidgeons which we fed with a twenty rupee bag of corn and millet and barley. The cooing of that many pidgeons was like the sound of chanting, but Reba still said that Jayeanne Bridges would have a heart attack since she has a phobia of birds. We talked to a large group of frinds who had traveled here on vacation from the state of Punjab in north India, and took beautiful photographs of all of us together. It was a good feeling to realize that there are still contingents of the world who think well of Americans, since I know our national position in the world has fallen into some relative shame and disrepair in the last decade. Anyway, Reba may or may not tell you that we drive our boat backwards the whole time (I think the guys at the dock were laughing at us). Carl, your wife got a workout on that lake. She missed your steering, and I think she thinks of me as a totally useless boatmate.

I want to talk a little about the plants and the lushness here, and what one writer calls the "jungle tide," the sense of plants trying to reclaim tamed places and return them to green wildness, despite the lack of any system to dispose of plastic and other non-biodegradable forms of trash.

This morning I sat under a mimosa tree, but its flowers were not the light ballerina pink color we know. These mimosa flowers were quinacridone, an ultra-saturated raspberry color. Around me were lime trees, and pomegranate, and papaya, and banana trees with their enormous strange upward-pointing clusters of stubby green fruit and their gigantic pendulous purple-hepatic modified petals around small and simple flowers.

The Kathmandu Guest House of Pokhara, the affiliate of our place in Kathmandu, has a l\awn kept like a putting green to its eges, but after that, just beying the place where the gardener has drawn his line, plants are absolutely spilling over like the greenery in Sarah Eyre's lush hothouse: tropical hibiscus, zinnias, oversized morning glories, huge marigolds and poinsettia trees.

The common sparrows of this place are snow-white herons. With their stiffened serpentine necks they fly so calmly here that they seem the confident bearers of some profund news.

What could the news be? Something sweet, and calm as a lullaby; some kind of good and world-relevant news. Something on the scale of global warming, but happy. Something about extermination and extinction, but this time, not the old sad clearing out of the dinosaurs--not that extinction. And also not the possible future obliteration of all life on the planet Earth.

This time, the white herons in their dozens here all seem to say--with their flights so impressively calm and deliberate and seemingly purposeful, all across this wild sky--this time the extinction seems to be about the end of what Hindu literature calls the Kali-Yug, the Age of Chaos and Destruction. But what would it mean, if these herons were all the bearers of something so happy, as it seems to me? What would it mean, to have these white birds flying with great news about all of us in this world?

It would mean no more and no less than these things: simply, that these nearly microscopic ants on my tea saucer (and later, their cousins in Reba's sugar bowl)are fine where they are. And that the cell phone photos we were shown of our young Pokhara Guest House manager, Kumar Parbat, with his young wife Srijanna and their 9-month old son Krish, shows three people as important as any other three people you could know by fame or accomplishment, anywhere in this world. And that A Gift for The Village is times perfectly, and is perfectly equipped, and is being filmed perfectly by Jenna and Tom (I can tell when I watch them), and photographed beautifully by Sherrie, who keeps smiling and shaking her head, and conceived and reconceived better and better with more and more perfect layering each day and hour of our trip.

One final example of what present perfect means in Nepal. I had a long and thorough talk with Kumar this morning, even before my early tea. Kumar has been managing this hotel for eight years. He is young and thin and handsome and sweet-faced, and said that he is "same my son," meaning we are family. You should have heard him read aloud with brilliant musical accent our letter from the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the one in support of our project, which he put to his forehead after he finished reading, in the traditional fashion of taking a blessing from anything that has kind content. I explained to Kumar in great detail how for the seven years since Jenna and I were here the last time, this project has been afoot; and how each stage of the way, we have not had enough money, or time (at least Jenna and I work two to three jobs apiece)--and yet, here we are. I told Kumar that getting such an enormous thang-ka on the plane going to Jomsom worries me, since the thang-ka, now brocaded, is truly gigantic.

After he understood everything about our film and the commitment of each of us on the team, Kumar declared that he would be going with us to the airport for our first attempt at a 6 a.m. flight to Jomsom. I will fight Gurkha airlines itself if necessary, he said, and struggle myself to insure that this thang-ka gets on the flight out to Mustang. "After all," he smiled beatifically, "I am never meeting a man like you, Madame Jane." Present PERFECT in Nepal. With Love, Jane-Man, Slayer of Dichotomies, Crosser of Passes, Flyer with Huge Paintings to Villages So Remote that I am BOUND to Be Famous There

Saturday, June 23, 2007

From Sherrie (FINALLY!) on Saturday the 23rd

From Sherrie

The first impressions I have of Nepal and Kathmandu are of chaos, dirt, Namaste, peace, beauty, and differences beyond what I could ever describe. However, even with these differences I feel a familiarity here...I sense nothing is strange or different at all - as if this is not my first visit.

I am thankful my impressions of Nepal are preserved as still images although I feel it changes my experience at the moment it is all happening. I am learning how to better keep my head up and my senses open, even as I am searching for and recording the scenes and shots before me. You would think it would be easier for a photographer to be in the moment, but really it is in the moment in a different way.

Any time not spent "just experiencing" is made up for when you get THE shot...the one that captures the face, the moment, the feeling, and the scene as it is everyday, with or without you there.

I have had many of these moments but a few stand out. One in particular happened while we were on our way to Swyambunath. We passed a tailor shop and I caught a glimpse of an old woman with her family. A moment later the group stopped so I ran back to the shop to get the shot. She gave me permission to take her picture and I recorded her deeply wrinkled face, nose ring, and warm, seasoned eyes. The rest of the family posed too - a woman with a child, a man smoking a cigarette, and three teenage boys, one laughing, one staring, and one simply smiling in his white tank top.

One would think people would tire of being photographed or do so only for money, but this family was happy to have the attention. To be thought special enough to be noticed and to be photographed. In fact, it is often the case that a hard look or seemingly cold expression washes away from the faces of the people as soon as you say "Namaste" or acknowledge them and their own importance as a fellow human in some way.

It is easy to feel unsafe in a foreign country - actually, it is easy to feel unsafe anywhere. So far this experience called Nepal has shown me there is often not as many reasons to be afraid as we might think.
Most of you who may read this blog are clean - or can be :) , warm (or cool), well dressed, and able to eat anything, anywhere, anytime. Today as Jenna, Diane and I tried on clothes in a shop we asked to go in the back for some privacy. We were led through a tin door to the back of the shop into a small room with a small bed, two books, and a few hooks with clothes. This of course was the home for the shopkeeper, and for all we know may have been the bed for two. This is not sad, just a reminder of what we have and the comfort most of us experience.

Walking through town requires a bit of navigation around cow pies, but so far Pokhara is much calmer and small town than Kathmandu. My spirit has already opened here and this island girl is pleased to be near a lake, a big body of water to soften this fire sign.

Jenna has been fabulous about giving gifts to the people in the villages - magic markers, clothes, headbands. Even today she walked about giving gifts, even to the cow passing by as we walked toward our hotel. This fine sacred cow received a purple headband which it promptly tried to shake off. Laughing uncontrollably, we gathered ourselves and took it back. Maybe it would have preferred a skirt.

All for now,

From Jane and Diane, Thursday and Saturday!

From Jane--- Saturday

Dear Friends Back Home, It is Jane again, this time from the "city" of
Pokhara,in central Nepal, in fact Nepal's ONLY other "city" besides Kathmandu.

Our gorgeous flight on Yeti Airlines brought us here this morning, over land that looks like forest-green cake icing with curry-colored ribbons of rushing swollen river identifying dozens of gorges.

We seated the new-to-Asia people on the right side of the flight, since
from those windows, you get to see Mount Everest arching her back: Chomolungma, she is called locally, Highest Goddess of the Himalayas. I probably looked as strange on that flight as I have ever looked (I know, I know: people can not imagine THAT extreme), but something about flying out of the Kathmandu Valley on our penultimate destination for this huge painting with our amazing Lucky Seven PLUS our dear West Virginia friends Debra and Eric and their curly-haired, barefooted thirteen-month old French-and-Sicilian-blooded American baby Joey made me so grateful that my memory just sharpened and I could recite more Tibetan mantras, more particular incantatory reminders of the aspects in each of our hearts represented by the Tibetan dieties, than I have ever been able to recite; and for me, the forty-five minutes just vanished as I spoke these syllables half-under my breath, looking over at Reba and jenna seated together next to me, both glued to the cloud-piercing precipitousness of Everest out their window.

Pokhara is a village compared to Kathmandu, though let me hasten to add that it is a village sizzling in a frying pan at this season. Not since I spent May through July in the south of India in 1985 have
I felt heat that I know is burnishing my hair from copper-brown to gold. We all have suntanned and travel-rough faces, well, except for MY inexplicably lovely and calm and unlined face: actually, I think I look like I have been living with a raunchy and ugly abominable snow-somebody for about a decade, and I've just come down from the m9ountains to see if the world still makes haribrushes I might remember how to use. Speaking of ugly snow-people, yesterday in the ancient kindom-village of Bhaktapur, while the others bought beautiful fabric and carvings, I found a brass candle-holder made from an admittedly ugly abominable snow-woman with a badly misshapen body and a
low-brow, Neanderthal, dull-faced head. This was my prize, since I know I will paint from her. This piece for me tells the uncivilized truth of what species might be left in the wild places we are going day after tomorrow. My roommates, Jenna and Reba, however, asked if I really paid for the thing, and said the shopkeeper must have laughed that some sun-fried tourist finally bought the ugly thing that no one else has had ever picked up. When my painting of a wild abominable snow-woman is painted one day, and it sells for ten thousand dollars, I will not buy drinks for Reba and Jenna with that particular money. Infidels.

Yesterday in this ancient village of Bhaktapur, I had the pleasure of helping our great friends Debra and Eric shop for a thang-ka, a Tibetan-style painting. My "Amchi" painting is referred to as a thang=ka as well, which means that it passes as a Tibetan painting with a sacred subject--in this case, a teacher. Otehr thang=kas may be about places such as holy mountains or temples, syllables whose chanting calms and simultaneously awakens a particular organ in your body (your heart, your lungs, your spleen), or other great teachers, like
Jenna or Andrea or Carol or our own Miss Reba Loving-Life-in-Nepal Hoffman. There are dozens of thang-ka shops here, since Tibetans paint as a form of

Debra and Eric thought they might like to buy a mandala painting. A mandals is a geometric thang-ka subject. What many westerners don't know is that a painted mandals is an aeriel view of a palace. Think oflooking down on a Chinese lantern from above, and then picking up the lantern and unfolding its accordian shape, and then going to ground level and entering this palace. Mandalas have five directions, the four we also allude to in teh West--North, East, South, and West--but a fifth direction as well: the Center. Som, a mandala is a little like a gerometric labyrinth, and also not unlike a cathedral, with stations of the cross being ten-fold the ususal number, and each "place" in this imagined "palce" a reminder of a certain quality you need to inculcate before you go on to the next stage or spot. Eventually, if you
know every detail of the mandala, you complete your complex tour of this imagined palace, and you have done a kind of exploration of one quality of an enlightened mind and heart. So think of the mandala as a visual aide and as directions for recalling what it takes not to forget what life can be in its sweetest and least agitated and wasteful moments.

We were in our second shop when Jenna had already explained to the Tibetan painters there that one of us was, strange to say, and American thang-ka painter. We showed the chief two artists a color photograph of the "Amchi" painting, and let's just say that the people in the shop suddenly knew that they were not with ordinary tourists. The shopkeepers explained that they wer a not-for-profit painting collective, and that they were honored to show us their best pieces, even one ancinet original piece the likes of which I have
only seen in my books on Newari (Kathmandu Valley) style thang-kas. There are not but a few dozen paintings as old and as intact as the one we saw yesterday, and it was brought out for us with care, since the people keeping it were reluctant even to let any daylight hit its surface, the thing was so old and so fragile.

The shopkeepers brought out such amazing pieces, and I told them the dieties I love to paint best: Vajra Yoghini, Dorje Phagmo, Vajrabhairavayamantaka, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Green Tara, Ekajati, and, well, you get the point.
They were surprised.

Eventually Debra and Eric settled on a magnificent and sizeable mandala with much gold paint gilded onto the palace design. The palace is the residence of the diety Kalachakra, who operated The Wheel of Time, and whose presence calms and tranquilizes a place, and clears it of fear and anger. Our current Dalai Lama has performed the Kalachakra Initiation (like an incantatory theatrical dance and beseeching) to this diety more times than any other previous Dalai Lams, since He believes the world is now in such need of pacifying.

Anyway, Debra and Eric made an offer on the painting, and I wish you all could have seen the magnificent response. Though I am shy to say so, the painter himself was called into the room, and far from any question of any bargaining
or haggling, the painter through a translator said that he and his fellow brother-sister painters were proud to send this great mandala to America with these people, in part to honor our project and my art as a Tibetan thang-ka painter of such high skill. Much bowing, much holding of our hands in namaste to bless one anotehr, and much good fortune for Debra and Eric, who have a mandals worth a fortune for a fraction of what I believe anyone else in the world could have had it for, borrowing anyone connected to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Enough for now. We are well and missing all of you. Tashi deleg, as the Tibetans say. Blessings to each of you. And Barbara and Jessica, Great Keepers of My Million Cats, sorry that Rare, Rare, the Cat With Grey Hair looked you straight in the eyes and peed on the living room floor. This was a comment on the kind of mother who goes to the other side of the world to deliver a gift, and nothing about either of you. Forgive me. With love, Jane

Thrusday from Diane

The other night each of us decided to write to"agiftforthevillage.blogspot.com" about something that has been profound for us thus far on our journey.

At this point, we could probably each pen a book and have yet more to say, much of which may remain unsaid. as it continues to reside within the in the mind of our hearts forever.

Here the formless takes form before our eyes at every turning... as Tom is wont to say, "everything is a picture."

There was a moment for me on the way to the Monkey Palace when I had just stepped away from saying "namaste " to an ancient man busily working away at a sewing machine in a tiny hut along the crowded roadside.

It had been a long walk and I'd not eaten breakfast beyond the delightful cup of french-pressed coffee with steaming milk that's been the first thing in my hands each morning on the beautiful outside patio at Kathmandu Guest House.

I had looked up from the lens of the still camera I'd asked permission to capture this timeless man's image, when I saw her.She wasn't a samll girl. She was scant. Like a moth, hovering before me, with eyes as large as her face.Matted hair, dusty-covered clothes in tatters, dark, dark skin.

I felt her hunger. She's asked for nothing.
My hands in " namste," I mouthed the typical greeting that we often share in church at Unity.

For the first time in my life, "the divine presence in me greets the divine presence in you," of " Namaste," was utterly real.
She walked lightly by me. She asked nothing.

I'd been so overwhelmed, as we all have, with the neediness of those all around us asking for 'anything, something (just help) please, namaste, can you give me something, anything, ruppees, dollars, care for me, won't you? namste madam...'
Her silence was absolutely magnetic.

I slid off my backpack and, reaching in, grabbed the "Bible Bar" that one of my girlfriends, Leigh, had given me at the airport in Roanoke, Virginia, as we were checking in for our first flight on the 44 hour journey to Nepal.

Made of seven basic and precious ingredients spoken of in the book of Deuteronomy, a Bible Bar could be thought to represent the sustenance God is constantly providing each of us in our multiverse. For me, it was a sign of the abundance in this little girl's life and in mine, beyond any seeming conditions.

I turned and ran back to find her with a sense of urgency, as if my finding her was absolutely the only thing that mattered in my life. Because, at that moment, it was, truly.

I found her sitting on top of a pile of roadside trash, picking at a fruit that she'd gleaned.I think I startled her with my immediacy, but she calmly lifted her eyes to meet mine as if to say, I knew you would come. I offered the Bible Bar to her and bowed in namaste.

She gently pressed her hand in mine as we passed the food bar between us. I'll bring what she gave me wherever I go...

Beloved, thank you for being a part of our journey.
You are one of the gifts we carry and you are one of the village we are gifting.

Loving Light, Diane

Thursday FROM Jane

Hello Amazing Friends, I think that Jenna is giving assignments and I am the only one who can't remember what hers is for me. But let me TRY to tell you about the latest expansion and iteration of our theme, a gift for the village, which manifested last night. We ate as guests at Jenna's and my old friend Sunil Shahi's house, down alleys and bizarre turns in the medieval, intestinal warren of Kathmandu, beyond any tourists' imagination, with his shy and beautiful wife Sarita and his new daughter-in-law Arundhati helping to cook this extravagant vegetarian dinner for all may-as-well-be-hundred of us. (Meanwhile, as the stars came out, as they do in the clear evenings here, the
holy hill-top temple of Swayambhunath glowed, and seemed to float, lit by spotlights, apparition-like, hovering not far in the distance, across the Vishnumati River and across lantana thickets and monkeys sleeping in neem trees, all visible from Sunil's balcony.)

Sunil and his wife Sarita, not from any Hindu caste which could ever have expected access to America, have a son, Manoj, who is now graduating from the University of Kentucky. He graduated this July. Manoj has known me and Iris and Emerson since Emerson was too young to hold playing cards, and after, when Emerson was barely old enough to consider dexterity and sleight-of-hand (or, as
Sunil rememebers, "Emerson cheating!". In other words, we are old friends from 14 years before, Sunil's family and Jenna and I. Manoj Shahi has come to America because Sunil, a driver in Kathmandu, came to value education so highly that his entire extended family gave everything they all had to help Manoj--Sunil's son--come to America. I helped, and Jenna helped, and Jenna's parents' amazing church community helped, and Manoj himself, having the perseverance of a determined student (not unlike my Iris, working three jobs and taking 21 hours at Tulane)all got this boy TO America and into university.
Then Manoj helped himself, learned better and better English, polished his work skills and his writing, and improved until he had an admirable 3.5 or 3.6 GPA--having come to America with only fair English and much homesickness.

Our team mate Diane learned that Sunil and Sarita, our hosts last night, and the parents of Manoj, had had the great fortune of winning visas in the random lottery for which Nepali applicants might gain possible access to America. Sunil, the Dad, was delighted to have an American visa, but still daunted to think how in the world he could EVER get enough money to buy not just one, but the second ticket so that he AND his wife Sarita could fly to America to see their son Manoj--our friend--and the first person in his immediate family ever to graduate college--accept his diploma from the University of Kentucky next month.

Diane listened to how Sunil had managed to save the terible amount to gain ability to buy even ONE ticket to America. These people, everyone in Sunil's family, have never, any of them, been on an airplane to anywhere.

And then, without fanfare, Dine told us that SHE would be grateful to cover the second ticket's fare. Without hesitation. Without question.

Sunil and his family got his news last night. I drew an airplane, and told the story of Diane's idea--to give BOTH of Manoj's parents the abilty to be together in Kentucky for their son's gradation from an Ameican university.
Diane, in other words, moved in this world like lightning, or like a flower blooming: naturally, and with amazing power.

It was an awesome sight to see Sunil's humble family realize the magnitude of this freely-given gift. What a dinner, as a result. What an amazing gift to Sunil's village, thought Daine kept demuring, insisting that this opportunity to help was HER gift. What a team we are here in Kathmandu, working together to build bridges and hope where nothing but impossiblilty

So much more relaxed in Pokhara!

Before I tell you all about getting to Pokhara, let me describe the scene outside this internet place: Two beautiful girls walking by the lake, past two young cows in traffic and a woman in a sari selling roasted corn from a hibachi cart, while a bus full of tibetan people goes by headed to a nearby refugee camp, pst the guy repairing shoes on a mat on the roadside next to a small shrine where you can rent boats and go across the lake to a hilltop shrine... OK, I've got to stop looking out the window or I'll never get anything written. It's nice here because the pollution is WAY less than Kathmandu, and there are no beggars that I've seen so far, and while the prices are a little higher, the shopkeepers are way less competitive. Pokhara is lower in elevation than Kathmandu, but it is surrounded by some HUGE mountains which hopefully we'll be able to see tomorrow fully if the clouds clear.
Our trip here was pretty uneventful, except for the scene in the Kathmandu airport when Jane had to use all of the tools at her disposal including the letter from the
Dahli Lama and one of the two (TWO!) newspaper articles that were published about us in the Kathmandu papers... one in English and the other in Nawari with a little sanskrit thrown in...
The man at the gate kept showing her a photo of the plane and saying, "Madam, this is a picture of the plane, and your package will not fit". Somehow magically though it did fit and we made the flight, and it was uneventful. Now we only have to get it to Jomsom and we can start lightening our load. Jenna lightened the load more today when she gave a bunch of the used clothing we've been carrying to two beautiful old ladies who live in the refugee camp.
We're all doing well. A few stomach problems at various times, but now I think we'll all be healthy by the time we get to Jomsom.
Love to all,

How many rupees, Madam?

Reba here. We've arrived in Pokhara, napped and had lunch. This place is slower paced, cleaner, and not as crowed as Kathmandu. As we walked to lunch, (this place has sidewalks!) a cow strolled lazily down the center of the street as cars, motorcycles and bicycles drove around it. It's more of a small-town feel. Tom and I have both commented that we could live here. We will check on real estate tomorrow.... There is a beautiful lake here, which we will go out on in either canoes or paddle boats.
Yesterday we went to Bhaktapur, a very, very old place. I mean older-than-anything-I-could-ever-imagine kind of old. People were living and working in buildings of crumbling brick, with every window covered with elaborately carved wood. The streets were sometimes brick, sometimes concrete, sometimes dirt, but NEVER easy to walk on because of huge holes, crumbled rock, trash, dog poop or worse. We were shopping for wood carvings on an alley about 7 feet wide and looked up to see a rooster's back end hanging out of a window above our heads. Needless to say, we stepped a little to the side. Which reminds me of shopping in Kathmandu the day before where we were standing in the doorway of a shop when we heard this plopping sound. Jason and I turned around to see a broken egg on the street just a few feet away. A surprised response from Jason about the delivery of that egg caused me uncontrolled laughter for more than a few minutes. It's just so crazy here.
Back to Bhaktapur....several kids adopted us while walking around, a couple begging for rupees but most seemed interested in baby Joey, who just arrived with his parents Deborah and Eric from West Virginia. Joey took particular interest in one young girl, Sumitar, who was 13 years old. He would put out his arms and go to her. It was so sweet. Of course I broke after awhile and gave them 10 rupees to go off and share, which is about 15 cents.
On man aproached me with a singing bowl, which was small but very pretty. He was asking 1200 Rs. Jenna looked at it for me, listened to it and told me to offer him 500. Of course his reaction was, "Sorry Madam, this is very nice bowl, VERY nice." How about 1100 rupees?" "Nay", I responded. I've learned by watching Jane and Jenna that you CAN bargain nicely by saying "That's OK, I keep looking, no problem", only to have him follow me down the street saying, "Then how much you pay? You tell me best price"
"500 rupees IS my best price".
"No, no, no"
"That's ok, sir. I keep looking, that's ok. Thank you, sir"
All this transpires as we are walking down the street. At some point a woman selling silk purses holds them up to me saying, "You look, madam. One dollar, one dollar".
So now I have two people following me down the street, talking to me as I try hard to look at other things and talk to people in my group.
"One thousand rupees, Madam. Best price for bowl"
"Nay, 500"
"Ok, ok. 900 rupees, madam. Best price"
I pull out a 500 Rs bill ($7.80) and say, "This is all I pay" as I keep walking.
"Ok, ok. LAST price, best price. 700 rupees, madam. 650 rupees madam. Little bit more than 500 Rs.'
"I'm sorry, next time. Thank you sir, but nay" (I'm still walking)
"OK, OK 500 rupees!"
I got the bowl, then felt really guilty about it. There is a desperation that is hard to ignore when you remember how well we've got it back home.
Jason, Diane and I found some shade and were immediately joined by several children. They ask where we are from, if it is our first time in Nepal, and if we like Nepal.
"We love Nepal", we tell them. I pull out Mary and Ella's picture and they take it and crowd around, looking at it. They ask me their names and how old they are. They tell me their names and how old they are, then I think to pull out my small notebook and have them write their names and ages for me. Milan is 12, Sumitar is 13, Suraj is 9 and Runi is 8. There were a few who either could not write or didn't want to. I took their picture so you can see them. I can't wait to show you how beautiful the kids are here.
We love reading the comments, thanks to all who are posting. Everybody here is great and new experiences happen about every 15 seconds. It's hard to absorb and process it all, but I am so happy I am here. I want every one of you to be here with us!
Love to everyone,

Thursday, June 21, 2007

from Jenna June 21 4:02 pm

Hi This is Jenna,

We have been on the run since we landed. And unfortunately I am having trouble adjusting to the time change and not sleeping well. Last night was my best night's sleep (4 hours) YAWN!!! AARRGGHHH. It is hot here too and the long pants that are proper for women to wear are hot. Otherwise EVERYTHNIG is incredible. It is so fun watching Jason, Reba, Tom, Sherrie and Diane. Sometimes they just sit and stare with thier jaws hnaging opne. Here is a famous quote from Reba " look at the, look at the, look at the............." she never finished the sentence so I looked around and saw 4 people on one scooter, a cow in the road, terraced land, a car on our side of the road coming straight towards us, a man sleeping on the road, a little girl (maybe 6 or 7) carrying her younger brother on her back, and fruit, cloth, paper, mask and prayer flag sellers. I still don't kow what she wanted me to look at. Jason, Tom and Sherrie sure do giggle a lot.

Being a teacher, and overwhelmed by trying to keep up with emails and blogs, I gave everyone an assignment. Each person in our group will be writing about a different adventure from out trip so far. Hopefully you will hear from each of us in the next day or so.

Yesterday we went to Pashupatinath, the cremation temple. For those of you who have seen "Into Nepal," you may remember this place. It is a very tough but interesting place. A mix of smoke, wailing women, and people swimming around in the same water cremation ashes are being dumped into. This is also the home of Sadhus (holy men) These men sit twisted up in pretzel like yoga poses and ask you to take their picture (for a small price of couse). This time I was even bolder with my camer than before. Masked like a bank robber with my red scarf over my face, I made my way to the pyres (the place where the bodies are laid beside the river.) the last time I videoed, i was above these and far away. Tom was across the river from me and I bet his footage shows a familiar westerner in a red mask. There were 5 people being cremated. There was not a body on the "Royal Pyre," there was one on the "wealthy person pyer," and the other 4 were on the "Commoner's pyre." One of these was a soldier who had been killed in "some battle" and the military was there playing an indian style bugle and drum tribute. His sobbing wife was hed up by two men as she walked around her husband's body. There were two, just shaved, bald brothers morning their other brother (they shave as a sign of morning) I videoed them using their bare feet to brush the remaining ashes from their brothers pyre into the river as their father threw rice on to the spot as a blessing. This may seem morbid to some, visiting and videoing a cremation, but in some way it is a good reminder of how short and precious life is. Tibetans keep bones and skulls around their houses as a way to remember that life is brief and there is no time to waste being grouchy, mad, or uninvolved. more later. Jenna

Diagon Alley

My assignment was to write about the tailor's shop where Jason, Jenna, Jane, Sherrie and I went to see the frame for the painting being sewn. First step was the rickshaw ride - me and Jason in one, Jenna, Jane and Sherrie in one, and Tsampa and the tailor in the third, at what amounts to Kathmandu Rush Hour. Like Reba says, there are no words to really describe what it is like. A phrase has popped into my head for everything I see.... "Everything is a picture." It's hard to decide where to point the camera because, like Jane's art, the detail, the color and the beauty are both small and large all at the same time.
Anyway - the rickshaws got into a gridlock at Duhrbur Square, a spot famous for hippie dropouts who've been known to hang out on the steps of a big pagoda temple there. We stepped out and walked through such a throng that there was hardly room to step between the stalled motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, taxis and pedestrians, but we fond our way through the crowd and wound up in a maze of tiny streets and alleyways where parents bathed crying beautiful kids on doorsteps, chickens wandered, motorcycles flew by beeping the horn. Following our host we stepped into a magical courtyard, surrounded by beautiful children looking out over their balcony and a craftsman making a door by hand on the ground. Up some stairs past a maniacally barking dog and into the tailor's house/apartment/workroom we went. The bed was next to the sewing machine, and we had beautiful natural light through the shuttered window as Tsampa, Jane, the tailor and the thangka shop owner discussed the border for the painting, and the tailor got to work on some small parts.
When we left the dog was still barking and life was going on a million ways all around us. We opted to walk back to the Kathmandu Guest House, which was faster than riding, and easier on the kidneys.
This morning we went back to the thangka shop and the frame was unveiled. Wait until you see the pictures. Amazing.
We all love and miss all of you. Excuse us when we come back and you ask us "how was your trip" and we just start to babble. You've just got to come see for yourself.
p.s. I'm trying to post some pictures, but no luck yet. There is construction going on around me in the internet store and it is pretty crazy, so I can't guarantee we'llb e able to get any pics up today.
Love to all,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thanks for comments

Hello from Kathmandu! I know I just blogged, but I wanted to thank all of you for posting comments. As much as i know you love to hear tidbits from here, news and humor from home are great medicine for homesickness!
Beth, thanks for your kind words. Coming from you, being a mom, it means a lot. Donna and Craig, SO glad you are keeping tabs on me. Mama G! Love you, girl. And Kevin, quit making fun of me for crying! Garland, thank you also, I will tell Sherrie we've heard from you.

We had dinner at Sunil's house last night and met Sarita, his wife. Also there were his son Saroj and his new wife Arun. We also met Sunil's parents. Only Saroj and Arun spoke some English besides Sunil, so it was fun having them translate, especially when things were funny and we got to laugh twice. We sat around their living room floor and ate the best food I've had since we have been here. Jane and Jenna know the names of the dishes we ate, so wait for their blogs for better detail. I can only say it was great and there was LOTS of it. We also drank some Nepali beer and rum (good stuff) and felt like we were family. I can tell you that Sarita fixed french fries for an appetizer, those I recognized and they were great but ketchup here is sweeter. Something special also happened, but I will let Jane blog about that.
Walking home late was also interesting. Less traffic but still people out, some sleeping on the street, many asking if we need a taxi or rickshaw rides. While seeing an old man asleep on the street is hard, I can't describe the feeling of seeing a woman with a child asleep in her lap on a filthy street. And when we pass, she smiles at us and greets us with "Namaste", which is the Nepali way of saying "Hello". We're not in Blackburg anymore.
Love to everyone, we miss you all.

How the heck can I describe....?

Hi everybody. Jenna the teacher assigned us all homework. Since there is SOOOO much to tell, her great idea was for each of us to pick something different to blog about so we weren't repeating ourselves too much. I'm happy with that, because I couldn't type everything I want to talk about. Do I get extra credit for getting mine done first?
Yesterday we walked to a temple with Sunil, Jane and Jenna's friend. I'm sorry that I can't remember the name of it. I wrote it down, but do I have it with me? Of course not. Antway, as we walked we came across a school where the childeren, in their uniforms, were outside doing their morning assembly. As Jenna was shooting video across the fence, a mother invited us in. The children were all lined up, reciting and singing, and that's when it happened......I burst into tears. I guess between missing Mary and Ella and being overwhelmed by everything here, I lost it. How embarassing! The principal arrived and invited us into the classrooms, where the kids stood up immediately and said, "Good morning, Madam". I can't wait to tell that to my 8th graders. The principal has taught in the US and returned to start this school, where the classrooms are separated with plywood partitions and the dim light comes from small windows. I visited mostly with an older class of three girls who were studying science (Yea!) and geometry. I got the principal's (who is also the science teacher) address and hope to keep in touch.
My biggest worry is that I won't be able to express how this place is to people back home. Amidst the chaos, crowds, trash in the streets, not-always-so-good smells, constant requests to buy (or give)....are people who are kind and glad we are here. They love to share this place with us. I know I won't be able to do it justice, but I will try. Tom, Jenna and Sherrie are getting AMAZING video and pictures, and we are all having so much fun together.
Mom and Dad, I am fine! Love to everybody, especially Carl.

Monday, June 18, 2007

June 18 Late at night here

This is Jane checking in for all of us at A Gift for the Village, on June 18th eveing here 11 p.m. our time, 1:15 in the afternoon your time, same day. We have been here since yesterday afternoon and we have already experinced and accomplished what feel like worlds and worlds. The painting, for example, is now in the hands of Kathmandu tailors, who had near-endless animated discussions with Tsampa, the man in the painting, about the correct and most museum-quality ways to brocade the work. In two days, this rare heavy-silk brocading will be completed, including a huge yellow sil cover, embroidered with their version of my handwritten title, "Amchi (Dr,) Tsampa Ngawang Life Sotry, Jomson, Mustang, Nepal, 2007." This, in both an embroidered version of my English, AND of Tsampa's parallel Tibetan. Should be beautiful. This embroidery and brocade will really finish and formailze the painting, and is a gift from Jenna and me. Tsampa was so appreciative.

Also today, among many fun adventures, we were interviewed by Kathmandu's leading newspaper and Nepali television, as well as by one reporter who covers southern Nepal. These reporters were charmed by the cross-cultural nature of our work and by our team's commitment to pursue this documentary against all odds--and you can be sure we reported that this perseverence was only PART of our ability--the other part being help from all of YOU. So we are actually leading cultural news in Nepal, just behind the vist of Jimmy Carter, to came to help broker peace between formally incongruous factions. No kidding.

Jenna talked to a pair of young men on the busy,chaotic street, who ended up coming to the garden courtyard of our gorgeous hotel, performing for our project's soundtrack. WOW. More soon, with our love, Jane and crew

June 18: Dateline Kathmandu!

June 18: kathmandu Guest House to Tsampa
Sleeepy eyed and satisfied – After the 17 hours in the Delhi airport, not sleeping more than a few of them, we flew to Kathmandu at 12:30 p.m. A beautiful sunny day yesterday and this morning awoke to a soft rain that stopped by breakfast tie.
At the airport in Kathmandu yesterday we were happy that all of our bags, especially the painting, arrived safely. We were tired byt excited and cleared customs to find Tsampa and Jane’s nephew Cy waiting for us. Outside the airport chaos reigns – a good introduction to what little I know of Nepal. Men clamoring to help us with bags, children begging rupees, and horns bleating constantly.
I caused more panic when I realized I left my audio bag on the plane, but after racing back through customs with a worried look on my face I found a mand at the “luggage complaining” station and frantically asked how I could get it back. He held it up and said, “What seat number sir?” Even Jenna and Jane were surprised by my good luck. We exchanged honorific scarves with Tsampa and crammed, all 7 of us plus Cy, Tsampa, two British Trekkers, a helper from the guest house and a driver into a small van that took us through the streets of the city – a ride more thrilling than anything at King’s Dominion Amusement park. Motorcylcles, busses, little jeeps called “Tut-Tuts”. We were al laughing hysterically and trying to know what we were seeing, but how?

Then, the Kathmandu Guest House, a true sanctuary of calm among the chaos. Jane is welcomed as an ould riend and we find a poster for Gift for the Village hanginn in the lobby.

I am rooming with Diane. Reba Jane and Jenna are together, and Jason and Sherrie. I’m on the third floor overlooking a garden and the rooftops of the crazy city.

Tsampa and Jane unrolled the painting in the sunny courtyard while Jenna Sherry and I shot some good video and stills, and jane and Tsampa discussed the frame that will be sewn beginning today at a tailor known to Tsampa and Jane’s friend Rajendra. We went there this morning and then to a shop that makes embroidered T shirts where we ordered our own GFTV design – get on the list if you want one!
Max, I ordered a special “eyes” shirt for you too… it should be ready by the end of the week.

Last night we had dinner at the Third Eye restaurant, eating on the top floor overlooking the crazy streets below. A great meal and a great big bottle of Everest beer set me back 3.50 US.

Happy Fathers Day, Pop, and to me too, I guess! Love to all who follow our progress.
More later, hopefully. We leave for Pokhara on Friday and then it’ll be no communication for a few weeks.

Love to all, and Namaste,

Thursday, June 14, 2007

An amazing travelogue

When Jenna and Jane traveled to Nepal last time, they kept an online diary, which is avialable for your reading pleasure at http://myweb.wvnet.edu/~gsb00900/ - to access it click on the link in the "web links" section on the right of this page, and then click on the image of the mandala to open the file.

The Nepal posts start about halfway through the document, and my favorite part is the description of the trek from Jomsom.
Happy reading!

24 hours to go...

The last week has felt like a swarm of bees in my body...now there are millions of furious worms just under my skin as I look at all my gear on my living room floor and wonder how I am going to get it into my pack. Funny how my body can feel so electric while my mind moves more like drying glue and refuses to think rationally or make quick decisions. My girls are fussing at each other just like it is any other day while I am desperately trying to finish packing so I can do something fun with them.
I am grateful to many friends who have phoned to wish me a safe and fun trip and to offer help to Carl and the kids. That makes this so much easier.
I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Two days from departure

Could time pass any more slowly? As we prepare to go, it seems like the day moves at a snail's pace, and yet my list of things to do isn't exactly getting completely taken care of. The team met yesterday at Reba's and tried to over the last minute details. I learned that I had lots of things to photocopy to ensure that if my documents are lost I'll still be OK... passports, itinerary, travelers check records, immunizations, etc.

Beth and I hiked the mountain again at 5:30 this morning and the sunrise was beautiful over our foggy valley. I took a picture so I can show new friends in Nepal where I'm from. And while time seems to be moving slowly in some ways, time with family seems way too short. I think Beth and I are both ready for me to go so I can get right back here again.

Yesterday the team was featured in an article in the Roanoke Times, with a good video that includes shots of the painting and Jenna and Jane. You can read it at

Two days til we fly.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jane's Update...5 days away from flying to Nepal!

This note was sent to all of us on the team by Jane. Just reading it bumps up the anticipation level that much more (just how much more room is there on the anticipation meter, anyway?)

I have just written again to both the CEO and the general manager of The Kathmandu Guest House to thank them in advance for the help they will extend to us in a week. If you haven't, do go to their web site and glimpse some of the > details of that place. You may have read that all the famous explorers, literary types, and The Beatles would always have stayed only at The Guest House. I am always excited to go back there.

I have also spoken yesterday to Tammy, my cousin and old roommate from undergrad days at William & Mary. Tammy is married to Andrew, and with their younger son Luke, the three of them leave tonight from Dulles Airport in D.C., fly to Bahrain, and tomorrow to Kathmandu. Tammy and Andrew are also the parents of Cy, who is the 20-year-old from Blacksburg living in Kathmandu to study Tibetan language. They haven't seen Cy for many months and so they are leaving before us and reuniting with him, but they will be at the festival out west when we are there.
> >
Tammy was speaking to me from her cell phone while Andrew was driving them to D.C., and I told her that if she had forgotten anything, just let me know--that I could help. No, she said; she had triple-checked her list. Half an hour later, she called me, panicked. I FORGOT MY CONTACT LENSES!, which I went to her house and found and have already packed and told her are safely on their way; no problem. The lesson being, you are likeliest to forget what is closest to your nose.

Tammy and I discussed what Cy did while he was out in Mustang, in Tsampa's village of Jomsom. Mostly, Cy told his mother, he practiced the ten alphabets of the Tibetan written language. There are ten, because Tibetans use a different "font," you could say, depending upon the subject matter being written about. You would not use the same alphabetic style to write a note to a friend as you would to write a prescription for medicine, and you would need a third "font" to write a prayer, and a fourth to write directions on a road sign, and a fifth to sign your name. You get the idea. Isn't so much diffeentiation daunting, confusing, almost impossible? Tammy asked her son. Oh no, he said. It's relaxing, like drawing.

Cy wrote to me to tell me that Tsampa's priorities are to meet us in
> Kathmandu (we arrive on the 17th) and then to go to Jomson ahead of us, on the 20th, to make preparations. He knows to go ahead and have a Buddhist tailor lined up to get the edging/framing sewn onto the painting, so I am very hopeful that connection will happen easily if not promptly when we arrive. "Promptly" actually isn't a word you'll need in Nepal. I'm sure the British never
it during their 150 years of attempts in colonizing India, either.

I wrote to Tsampa's younger son, Tsewang, to thank him for agreeing to be our translator (probably with Cy's help too). Tsewang is brilliant, and is often called upon to translate when visitors come to Nepal. He has just been accepted into the Dalai Lama's prestigious and small private school for training amchis in Darjeeling, in the Himalayan foothills of northeast
> India, overlooking the enormous Kachenjunga peak, but he will be available to us for the time we are there. This is fortunate timing for our project, and nice in terms of content, since the younger amchi will be side by side with his teacher/father for our film. I expect one day I will also paint this next amchi's portrait.

I also wrote to Tsewang to contact Tsampa, to try to see if there is any way to get word to Jenna's and my friend Sonam Lama, who lives in the village of Manang, on the other side of the Annapurnas from Jomsom. Sonam was our chief porter when Tsampa and Jenna and I crossed the 18,00-foot Thorung-la Pass in January of 2001, in a serious snowstorm. He held our hands over patches of slanted ice that pointed down on our right into ten-thousand-foot ravines, and sometimes his hand was the only way we could cross dangerous stretches. His portrait is prominent in Jenna's painting, "The Land of The Three-Legged Crow," and we are bringing prints of it in hopes to present one with our thanks to Sonam and his family. You have read already in my e-mails that we have things to do and people to
> meet in our brief days in Kathmandu. Two of them are at the Tibetan rock shop, called The Lhasa Gift House, just across the lane from The Kathmandu Guest House, owned by our long-time friends Mr. Bhatt and his brother-in-law and business partner, Yusef. These two handsome men are Tibetan Muslims, highly educated, even more highly ethical. Richard Gere shops only with them. Tibetan refugees who sell their family's precious heirlooms sell only to them. If they name a price, that price is not only fair, but generous. Be completely at ease in their hands. They expect us and look forward to serving us chai in their amazing shop. On rainy afternoons, if our weather is rough, you might find yourself returning to their counters. They have both ready-made pieces and loose stones that you can point out and have them turn into necklaces for you. It is fascinating to watch them custom-make the pieces with the stones you

We also have introduction to this place called Wild Earth Nepal, a workshop that Carroll Dunham owns, to visit the place where the hand-made soaps and amulets, etc., are made, using traditional herbs and yak milk . And, to a small
orphanage in Kathmandu, a place where
no one speaks English (a sign that they will REALLY be grateful for any help)
but where we will have a friend taking us around and introducing us.

I can not control how polluted and crowded and possibly how godawful-rainy this crazy South Asian city may be, but we will have things to do and see. There is also the peaceful and beautiful Pilgrims Book House exactly next door to The Guest House, if you need to take a break and have a pot of tea and just SIT.

Kathmandu strikes people in different ways, and I am hoping that none of us recoil and get angry, but I have seen westerners feel a kind of repulsion or insult rise in them at the overwhelming amounts of chaos and damage and illogic and disrepair that go hand and hand with the gentleness and indomitability. You should expect not to know what you are doing at many points, and you should expect there will be times that you may turn to me because I have been there before, when you NEED an answer to some question, and, despite your urgency or frustration, I will not be able to know any more than you. What I will know is that fury or irony won't get you anywhere if we find
> ourselves, as is likely, in ludicrous positions. So know in advance that I won't be meaning to thwart you, and that I certainly will not be ignoring you, when we may
find ourselves having to navigate what I don't know how to do. We will find a
way. Whatever the obstacles.

As for those hours in Indira Gandhi airport, I apologize for how hard it always is to get to Kathmandu. I told our friends at The Guest House please to remember that we would arrive neither brilliant nor beautiful, but more like shocked zombies. But know that we do arrive into the capable hands of good friends. I would say, Get Ready, but I know and Jenna knows that there is no way for you to do that. Jane

Friday, June 8, 2007

7 days...

Today involved picking up grapefruit seed extract to help avoid stomach problems and hiking Mill Mtn. in the a.m. with Diane, plus putting new batteries in the smoke detectors at home so Beth won't have to worry about that when we're gone. I checked the weather in Jomsom again today... rain, rain, rain.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

8 days away

A first attempt at blogging... we're 8 days from traveling to Nepal, and it's hard to think about anything else. If this seems easy to do, we'll try to use it to communicate with those of you who wnat to follow our trip.