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

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Home - From Jane

This is Jane, writing from my Glade Road computer, with one of my fourteen cats,
Mary, insistently on my lap. It is Friday, August 10th, and our crew of seven
have now all returned and disbanded, with Jason in West Virginis to guide a
lucky whitewater rafting crew, and Tom and Diane in Roanoke, and Sherrie,
before she returns to Hawaii, enjoying her family and friends in Dublin and

Jenna and I were at Carl's and Reba's early this morning, to sit on the porch
with the hot pink geraniums, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and heady rubrum
lilies, to help send off Sunil, Sarita, their son Manoj, his girlfriend
Sheetal, and her best friend, Haseena--our friends from Nepal. Will Landon and
Mary and Ella Hoffman were there, too, hugging our Nepali family goodbye, and my
son Emerson would have been, except that he was in Roanoke, shopping in
preparation for his flying soon to Malibu, where he will start in less than two
weeks at Pepperdine University. And my daughter Iris sent her love from New
Orleans. She especially appreciates how hard Sunil's and Sarita's son Manoj
has had to work to come from Kathmandu with little English and then to graduate
from the University of Kentucky, his English now surpassing many Americans'.
Like Manoj, Iris has had to work 40 to 60 hours a week, several concurrent
jobs, while taking heavy courseloads, and like Manoj, she has done the

We cried, parting with our friends, who at least this time know that we hope to
complete the documentary and raise the funds to return, to show the film in
Kathmandu and Jomsom, as soon as possible. Sunil and Sarita thanked Carl and
Reba for hosting them so generously; and thanked us for showing them Virginia
Tech, especially the April 16th memorial in progress, the horticultural
gardens, Price's Fork Elementary and Blacksburg Middle School, a house being
constructed, Pandapas Pond--where Sarita learned to skip rocks, Claytor
Lake--where Sunil tried valiantly to get up on water skis ("Trying, trying, but
not possible," he laughed), and all of our homes for many dinners. They enjoyed
the 20-minute collection of video images that Tom Landon has put together as a
teaser of what we have to work with for our film, and this only from his camera
(Jenna and I now will be reviewing and logging her hours of video footage too),
since none of these Kathmandu Valley friends has ever traveled out west in
Nepal, where our festival and our treks were. They enjoyed having kids sit in
their laps, love them, hug them good morning, and entertain them--Mary and Ella
and Will did such a good job being friends to "the Nepali people," as Ella
called them so casually. For me it was amazing to see Manoj and Emerson
together, who had known each other when Emerson was three and Manoj was eleven.
Back then, Emerson sat on Manoj's lap. Today, they are two handsome young men,
discussing college and how they will link up in Calirfornia, with Emerson in
Malibu and Manoj in San Francisco soon. All of us in the crew of A Gift for
The Village see our friendships already happening in the generations following
ours, and, as many speakers said during the festival in Nepal, and as Jenna
said at the end of her speech that day, may this friendship between our two
parts of the world last a thousand years.

So this is, in a way, the first day that Jenna and I, and probably Reba too,
feel "back," simply because now we are not with our Nepali friends, and no one
from Kathmandu is in the kitchen.

Jenna has been working already to post some photos on-line. These are photos
from her video-camera's still shot capacity. If you have already seen them,
you know how excellent they are.

A few of our friends have received their presents--Suzi Gablik and Dollie
Cottrill and Andrea Langston. What a pleasure to bring back little pieces of
Nepal! Emerson's two masks from Swayambhunath made it home safely, thanks to
bubble wrap. So did the lama table that Tsampa carved and painted and
presented to me at the festival. So did all of our things from Mr. Bhatt. Now
that we are back, we really look forward to seeing so many of you!

I have noticed a few changes since I have gotten home. One is that I want
strange things for breakfast, and I want my breakfast between four and five
a.m.; for example, a plate of pickled okra and diced raw onion. Another
morning, I ate a cereal bowls' worth of Virginia peanuts soaked overnight in
lime juice with minced garlic and minced hot green peppers, like a cold spicy
soup. One morning I ate two giant sliced tomatoes with olive oil and basil
leaves and raw sliced garlic. One morning, when Jenna and Reba and Mary and
Ella and I took Sunil and Sarita to Crow's Nest, to meet Charlie O'Dell and to
pick raspberries and blackberries, I ate two pints of berries. Jenna is making
blackberry smoothies, and I wish I had one right now.

I also noticed that the oldest of my cats were the happeist to see me. Mary,
the undisputed queen of this pack, walked up to me as if to hug me when I
returned. She was vocal and physical and her expression showed that she really
understood my absence and my return. Rare, the second-oldest, was also
delighted, and didn't stop purring for the entire day. Even my backyard
hoodlum cats didn't shy when I went out to visit them. Poor things, in this
hundred-degree heat.

It is good to be home. And I think I speak for all of us when I say that Nepal
and Tsampa and his family and his village all treated us like family. It was
good to be home there as well. Tashi Deleg.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Nepali Friends in Blacksburg!

Sunil and Sarita arrived in Blacksburg Tuesday, July 31, after attending their son’s graduation ceremony at the University of Kentucky.
Their son Manoj and his strikingly beautiful female friends Sheetal and Hasina (also Nepali) arrived with them on Tuesday afternoon, and after dinner I convinced them to stay here instead of going to a motel for the night before their drive back to Kentucky. In one evening, I am in love with these youngsters. They came into this house and made themselves instantly at home, working around my kitchen washing and drying dishes, making us Masala tea, talking and laughing and answering all of our questions, and translating for us with Sarita.
Manoj is a 25 year-old handsome boy who coaxes and plays with my too-shy-to speak-or-look-at-anyone daughter Ella until she comes TOO far out of her shell and becomes obnoxious in his presence. After dinner our friend Tim came by with his kids, (Kayla,10 and Austin, 8) and Manoj, Sheetal and Hasina showed us how to write all our names in Nepali ...so beautiful it looks like art.
They leave us the next day, promising to keep in touch and to come back and visit, and for that I am glad. Manoj has since called his dad and mom several times a day to check on them.
That afternoon, Sunil and Sarita go with me to take Mary and Ella to their swim lesson at the pool (I wonder what they thought of that), then to the Oasis International market. Imagine my surprise when within minutes of entering the store, they are chatting with a Nepali woman and 2 Nepali men! We leave with a few things that Sarita has chosen to make us a meal the next evening.
Dinner that night was a cookout at Carol and Joe's, which sprang out of a morning that Carol, Andrea and I spent at Virginia Tech with a group of international teachers from Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil and Vietnam. We enjoyed meeting them so much we decided to host an All-American Barbecue, during which Sunil invited everyone to come to Nepal.
On Thursday I drove them up to Wythe County where my parents live, and my dad goes with us over to Foster Falls State Park where we eat a picnic lunch and watch people canoeing, kayaking, and tubing down the river. Sarita rolls up the pant legs of her salwar khameez (I hope I spelled that right) and wades in with Mary to pick up mussel shells. We tried fishing but we forgot to get bait and the leftover cheese from our sandwiches refused to stick on the hook.

Back home for dinner, Sarita has brought her own spices (which she has ground herself, one of which is a red chili) from Nepal and cooks us a meal of tomato pickle, cabbage, cauliflower with potatoes, chicken and rice. She goes about cooking with no fuss or fanfare, and any concern I had about communicating with her while cooking quickly vanishes when I realize she doesn’t need me for anything except to get her down a bowl (she says “bol”) or to chop the onion more, which she communicates by motioning to the chopping board in a way that I know means “chop those pieces smaller!” She has Sunil food-processing 2 heads, not cloves, of garlic and a whole ginger root. We had purchased a bag of basmati rice and in my desire to contribute in some way I read directions and measured the ingredients in a pot to place on the stove. Sarita quickly spoke to Sunil, who told me that I had done it wrong, and Sarita would show me the right way to cook it. It was the coolest thing...she simply put some unmeasured amount of rice in a large bowl, filled it with water, stuck her open hand fingers-down in the top and showed me that the water level should be up to the second joint on the middle finger. She motioned for me to put it in the microwave and told Sunil to tell me “twenty”. We had to add a few more minutes, but it came out perfect. The food tasted amazing.

The next morning we went down to Blacksburg’s Steppin’ Out Festival before I took them to Roanoke to stay with Diane and Ken. I will miss Sarita combing and braiding Mary and Ella’s hair and hugging them, Sunil playing chess with Mary and Chinese checkers with Ella on the front porch, Sarita taking a walk around my house and up my street every morning before she has her tea, Sunil reading Carl’s notes he attempted to write in Nepali, Sunil taking pictures of everything that I take for granted (or used to), long conversations with Sunil comparing our way of life with Nepal; our roads, homes, cars, shopping, food, marriage, crime, sickness, religion. Having them here is like having a little piece of Nepal with me, only now that piece is part of me, like family. That Carl and my girls know Sarita and Sunil makes me so happy. I hope it helps them understand in some way how Nepal affected me and perhaps will create a desire in them to go experience it for themselves.....with me, of course. And we will need Jane and Jenna. Anyone else want to go? We also went through a drive-through laser car wash. Hearing Sarita laugh was worth every penny.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Last Blog from Jane in Kathmandu

Friends, Andrea, Carol, Joe, Tom, and most of all Ike, THANKS for your latest encouragement and e-mails as we ready to return. I am tired, and it must be the emotional kind of tired, because I had only a grand total of three sips of rakshi (rice wine) tonight with dinner--Jenna will tell you about our fun meal at Bhancha Ghar--and I can't think of any other sufficient reason for all this yawning and for the feeling that somehow I have a sodium i.v. drip slowly knocking me out tonight.

I know that when Jenna and I picked up our last little Tibetan stone things at Mr. Bhatt's, we had yet another amazing talk with him, and a last overview of what we would be doing until we should see one another again, hopefully with our film in hand. We planned to cook together next time, momos and vegetarian spring rolls, and sweet and sour vegetarian soup. Apparently Mr. Bhatt is also a chef. Mr. Bhatt apologized for not having us to his home this time--and Reba, I think YOU and Carl have some very special company just now, bless your heart, and THANK YOU all for taking such good care of our Sunil and Sarita! We can't believe they are in BLACKSBURG!--and Mr. Bhatt and Jenna and I talked about world politics and the 2008 American election and terrorism and Tibetan culture and American awareness of the Tibetan issue and the Dalai Lama's accepting our government's highest civilian award, The Congressional Medal of Freedom, this October 18th (also my brother Charles' birthday).

We talked, and laughed, and Mr. Bhatt told us the parable about a man walking on a sea shore, where the tide had beached a school of fish, who were all flapping, but lost, and destined to die out of water. This man was stooping down to pick up the fish, and to throw them gently back into the water, one by one. He was at this task for hours, when another man came walking by, who saw that for the length of the beach, as far as the eye could see, there were such beached fish, thousandsm who would die without being rescued in this way. "Why do you stop to save these fish?" The man asked. "Can't you see how many there are? Many are doing to die, no matter what you do, so what does it matter that you stop and save any?" The man saving the fish paused for just a second before he threw the present fish back into the ocean, and said to the sceptic, "See this fish? This one? To this one, it matters."

Mr. Bhatt said that we can not stop all the terrorists, but we can be sure that our own actions, our own hearts and jobs, are right. We can love, and take care of each other, and do good wherever we can, in our own lives. We can find beauty and make beauty, and string these amazing necklaces of our times with our human and our animal friends. My Virginia Tech students know that I am thinking of A River Sutra, Gita Mehta's excellent book, and that a sutra is the connecting string that holds together the stories and the karma which all touch and add up to the weight of your own narrative. You can not do everything, but what is near you, you should do, if you see that you can try. This kind of practical compassion is enabling, I think, and makes good sense to me in a world where fundamentalisms clash violently, while detached intellectuals hold up magnifying glasses merely to show the severity and folly of the clashes. Mr. Bhatt is right, and I will take heart from his lesson.

What I will most remember from our trip, outside of the festival on my best friend's birthday, and the time our entire team spent together to create the Gift for The Village, is that as the time came for Jenna and me to leave, Mr. Bhatt stood up and came out from behind the counter. I am well aware that he is a Tibetan Muslim, and out of respect, I would never, ever have assumed to do anything but shake his hand goodbye, even though I have known him for many years, and even though I am a southerner with a passionate heart (I hope). He looked up at me with a Tibetan face almost stern and full of honor and courage and then reached for me and hugged me long and hard, and came away from this long hug crying. He hugged Jenna the same, long and hard and firmly, as if we had all crossed oceans of time and thousands of past lives to reach this recognition of how deeply connected we are. We said not a word, but all stood crying, and then we held our hands up to one another in namaste, trying to smile, but being too sad and yet also too sobered by the bare truth of our affection and love for one another as friends to do anything but stare at one another with tears in our eyes for a few more seconds. These moments were one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

Iris, Emerson, all my our friends and family, we are coming home, with hearts full, and luggage heavy. Jessica and Barbara Vance, you have been my greatest of all friends, and I owe you a debt from my heart--for taking care of my cats all this time, and for knowing how wonderful it is to have loved ones in my home. Thank you again. To our teammates already returned, we know you must be smiling, because you understand the journey. Sherrie, Jason, when you read this, thank you for staying on. Our time together with Tsampa and Tsewang and Narayan and Bishnu and Ganesh and Gopal and Hari was astonishing. And Jenna, you still amaze me. Love, Jane

From Jenna on our last day

Today our last full day was beautiful and sunny--- most days we have had at least an hour of rain. Jane and I got up early to watch the streets come alive. Imagine a narrow street lines with metal car garage doors, side by side and all closed, next imagine the sound of these clunky nosy doors being lifted to reveal the goods inside, except the shop is not contained within the walls, the shop spills on to the street, tables are brought out and set right in the way of the traffic, making the narrow ONE lane road even more impossible. It takes a shop owner close to an hour to set out the masks, bells, carved rocks, beads, thankas (paintings), prayerflags, and other goods that STILL tempt us as we walk by. Then the streets begin to bustle with activity.... the street sweepers and trash pickers are up early to clear the streets. A large dump truck rolls slowly thru town and the three men on the back catch trash being thrown to them and they sort the cardboard, plastic, glass and other trash into piles in the bed of the truck. Rickshaws come out to find the choice spots where a tourist might be. Slowly the noise level begins to rise and before you know it, there is full chaos on the streets again. I LOVE IT!!

Today while Jane was with Mr Bhatt, buying the last necklace, and Jason and Sherrie were getting massages, I went to visit Mia's "home." Mia is woman who I have become freinds with, she walks the streets with a big smile on her face, a baby girl tied to her back and a hand full of silk purses i nher hand. She buys these purses whole sale, on credit, for 30 rupees and tries get 35 to 100 rs for each one. The beautiful baby on her back is always sluggish and sleeping. Mia's oldest daughter is always in school, so until today I had not met this 5 year old. Mia, her husband, (who has not worked in 6 months because of health problems) and her two daughters live in a room that is 10 feet by 15 feet, there was one small window, but the window opened to a brick wall less than a foot away, there was one bed and a pile of blankets on the floor, which her husband was sleeping on when we walked in. One large, chest-like piece of furnature was on one wall, but I could see that the slightly opened drawers were empty except for a few articles of clothing, one blanket and some broken barbie dolls. The few pictures on the walls were tear outs from a magazine. One one wall, there was a low shelf supported by bricks. This shelf had a small propane cook stove, (which was out of propane), two cooking pots, one frying pan, and a few wooden stiring utencils. There were a few dirty plates sitting in a bucket of water near the shelf. That was all there was. Mia told me that she was out on the street from 8 to 4 (when she walked to her daughter's school to pick her up), then if she had not made ANY slale for the day, she would come back on the street till. Mia explained how she was happy when she was outside with her daughter on the streets, but that she cried everytime she walked into her house. Her marrage was arranges, and her parents and his parents are not in the picture to help out. She explained that the rent on their room was about 1200 rs a month ($18) and she was allowed to make it in three payments when tourism was slow (which is this time on the year).

There are a lot of scams on the street used against tourists...
Kids ask you to buy them milk or something to eat, but then they take the goods back to the shop owner who gives them some pocket change, and the goods are returned to the shelf, then there are the kids who ask you to buy some piece of art work they have colored, of course most foreginers can't resist, but then the kid goes back to a shop owneer who has a stack of these "coloerd pictures" and again they split the profits. Finally, the most heart renching are the mothers carrying their infants and an empty bottle of milk. They ask for you to buy milk for their baby, but the baby never gets that milk even if you buy it for them
There are many people in desperate situations here, so desperate they will do anything to make money. It is hard to decide who to help, and it is even harder to say no to people who you really believe need your help. I bought two of Mia's bags for 500 rs each (she asked for 35 each), and I am sure I will give her more before I leave tomorrow. I'll miss seeing Mia each morning.

We just returned from a great dinner with Cy (Jane's cousin) and Pema, a friend of ours from the village called Kagbeni. Pema made the journey to Jomsom with us and then met us in Kathmandu, she has been here all week. She is a mother of two girls and is pregnant with her third child. Becuase of the pressures of this culture, she is hopeful for a boy this time, so she does not have to have yet another child. She had her first ultra sound (EVER) today and was too nervous to find out if it is a girl or boy.
We took her to Bhancha Ghar for dinner, a traditional Newari Restaurant with dancers and music and great Nepali food. We took off our shoes and climbed to the third floor of the 100 year old building, then we were served peanuts roasted in a lime, onion, cilantro sauce and popcorn. We were then given finger potatoes (french fries) Then my favorite part, we were served Rakshi in small unfired clay cups. Jason drank my rakshi and I kept the little hand made cup(they are thrown out after one use)Pema had never been to such a place and she was mortified how expensive the food was (about 500 to 1000 rs per person) Pema loved the dancers in their traditional costumes doing the traditional dances, and said she had never been to such a place. Dinner was served one floor down, we had more food than we could possibly eat--- mostly, you guessed it, RICE!!! The highlights of dinner, besides the company, a flat pancake- like corn bread, and a wonderful sweet curd for dessert.

the cyber cafe is closing and I have to pack. See you all soon! Jenna

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

August 1, Kathmandu. Tomorrow is our last full day in Kathmandu, and I suspect Jenna and I will get up early and surprise one of the rickshaw drivers who always park so hopefully in front of The Kathmandu Guest House gates. All the drivers have asked us each day for our business, and we say no, thank you, we are walking; but tomorrow we will say yes, please, we would like a bicycle rickshaw to
Swayambhunath Stupa, but no, thank you, we don't want you to wait: we will be there for who knows how long, just watching the mani stone carvers and the sleepy monkeys and the pilgrims always climbing the hundreds of steps to the top of the hill.

Swayambhu will be busier with monkeys than when Tom and Diane and Reba were here with us, because we had the blazing sun then, and monkeys are no fools. They know very well how to hide in the shade of tangled lantana and bougainevillea thickets, and in the highest ferny and bromiliaded branches of mango trees. But tomorrow is likely to be rainy, or at least extremely cloudy, so I expect the monkeys to be bold and daring, baring their teeth if they think we keep eye contact with them for too long.

I can't wait to walk on their hill with them again. These monkeys are rhesus. They have tiny pink faces with intense burnt sienna eyes. They look forlorn for a second, then irate, then sanguine, then melancholy, then terrified. Each expression, Raphael would have given anything to paint, but god help any artist who tries to use a monkey for a model. The changes come like playing cards folding and fanning and clapping over one another when someone knows how to shuffle in a bridge. Still, a monkey goes through more than 52 expressions a minute, so could more than fill a deck of cards with states and emotions: regret, confusion, self-pity, senility, numbness, agony, exhaustion, hunger, meaninglessness, loneliness, fury, challenge, zen. Every possible face and more, always a passing perfect mask.

There is something comforting about seeing every completely convincing intensity arrive but also vanish, and so I like to walk with all the monkeys. Their angry face subsides; their hatred evaporates; their fear vanishes. In a second, their posture of confrontation and menace relaxes. The desperation goes, and a monkey
is left, contemplating the sinuous and languid eyes of Buddha looking out in each
direction from Swayambhunath stupa. A blinking, not particularly verbal monkey, sighing or remembering, or hoping, or thinking of the shape of its own shadow.

Today Jenna and I visited Mr. Bhatt and Yusef, and talked more about Tibetan stones. Jenna wanted to see fake red coral next to real red coral, and fake dzi beads next to the rare and unaffordable real dzis. Mr. Bhatt said that he and his brother-in-law Yusef can now see a dzi from five meters and guess its authenticity and worth. How, exactly? Jenna asked. There are no criteria to be certain, Mr. Bhatt said, but the recognition is sensual. And there are numerous stories about what dzis are. To be certain, they are agates, but where do these agates come from? Mr. Bhatt's grandfather and most Tibetans of that generation believed that you could see a small snake, if you were very lucky, and if you were quick enough, and threw a handfull of dust on that snake, the part you touched with dust broke off and hardened on the spot into a dzi stone, while the rest of the snake wriggled down and disappeared into the earth. Which means, of course, that this was no mere snake, but one of the wise race of nagas, who occupy a different realm, which westerners would call mythical, but which Tibetans understand as being "in a different room." Occasionally these creatures from a different realm appear here, or occupy a form that we think of as familiar. So you must always be on the alert for these opportunities to see what isn't usually possible, and which usually does not exist, but, on rare occasion, suddenly does exist.

Other stories about the rare dzi stone--which is a banded or circled agate, in browns and blacks and whites, cylindrical (the circles are called "eyes")--include the belief that they come from dragon's breath, or another story has dzis coming from the minds of dragons, who decide to implant them in secret and unexpected places, especially inside the hollow, discarded horns of dead yaks. Even the most scientific explanation of dzis say that they are simply agates which must have been prehistorically acid-etched somehow, to achieve these strange patterns, but the carbon-datings, which verify their age, leave no hints of how the prehistoric jewelers managed to do this acid-etching, since no one can replicate the effect now. (You pronounce the name of the stone ZEE, by the way.) Ask Reba Hoffman where dzis come from. She has a necklace of baby dzis, the most miniature form, very rare and beautiful. Or ask her daughter, Mary, the most expert dragonologist in North America.

Dragons earlier today, and monkeys tomorrow, in the morning. And earlier this evening, an excellent book find in Pilgrim's, a gorgeous little edition of Indian beasts, each page a sumptuous silkscreen, a collection of ethnic folk renditions of foxes, elephants, anteaters, cows, snakes.

And also time to browse in Pilgrim's section of essential oils, scents affordable only here. I selected neroli, the extremely rare Egyptian essence, and cajput, which is eucalyptus-stong. Any of you who sneeze at overpowering scents will now, at least for a time, unfortunately die in my home, because the only way for me to re-suture myself back into America without hurting too terribly and to continue something of the experience of being in Nepal is to heighten every flavor and aroma I can. So beware, my friends. Just for a few weeks, dinners on Glade Road will roar with chilies and cardamoms, and the house will smell like a harem. My cats will all be disgusted, but I will feel like Nepal came home with me.

We can't wait to see all of you. Love, Jane