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

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wild Pre-Dawn Parties, from Jane, August 9th

Hi Friends, Not one of our bodies has caught up to Eastern Standard Time. No wonder. We hurtle at 36,000 feet for 15 hours over Russia, and then Poland, and finally Greenland, and Canada, and then cross into American air space, and stagger into a line of New Jersey Customs Officers at 4:30 a.m., who ask, Have you been on a farm? No, I answer, but my mind thinks, The whole of western Nepal is a farm, and the luckier parts of the Kathmandu Valley as well, though Sushma Joshi is right that the Valley's rivers are choking on plastic. I have been within spitting distance of yaks and monkeys, water buffalo and black cobras, rabid dogs and yarchen gonpo (the fabled summer grass/winter worm--or is it the other way around?--the seemingly dual plant/animal that Tibetans drop into their moonshine).

Next question: Was I there, in Nepal, on business? No, I answer again, but if you want to talk about spiritual profits, then yes. Am I carrying any food into the country? I 'fess up. Yes, I stammer, and unzip my luggage to show my plastic-sealed Haldiram's bhujia. "That's okay," he concedes, but he misses by thousands of miles. A bag of bhujia is the life of my pre-dawn parties since I've been back. Awake at 4 a.m.? No problem. Put on the kettle to make my first cups of Darjeeling tea, and unzip the bhujia. It's called Indian and Nepali junk food, but please: its crunchy vermicelli-tiny bits of chick pea flour squiggle, with salt and chili powder. If Paul Simon had traveled to Nepal, he would have written the song about Bhujia instead of Kodachrome. Same tune, and same refrain: Please don't take my bhujia away. Bhujia is what Jenna and I took to the Ambassador and his wife when we went for dinner on our final night in Nepal. Jenna defended our choice as we handed over a giant bag of bhujia. "No," the Ambassador intervened. "This stuff is great."

So now (this is my wild pre-dawn party) I sit in a house full of cats and paintings and objects collected since my first travels to south Asia in 1985. I walk around the yard (even before it is light outside--I want to hear the shy wood thrushes). Tall phlox is the flower of the week, taller than I am, with clusters of Pepto Bismol pink and lavender-pink blossoms that look spectacular against my turquoise house. Their perfume is like a sweet black pepper, especially in the dark.

On my lap is Mary, my oldest cat, who lived through a horrible injury just before I traveled in June, and who had to have stints and antibiotics while I was away. Only because my friends Jessica and Barbara Vance and Marlene Benson, who care for the cats while I am away--only because these women have absolute compassion for life--could my old friend Mary live for us to sit together again. Mary is not going to live long--she is skeletal. But her face and her eyes are bright. And she is purring.

I have just turned the calendar page to August. I have a great Frida Kahlo calendar, and this month, the painting is one of her zigzag cut watermelons, into one of whose drenched pink insides is written, Viva la vida. Long live life.

That's the motto for my wild pre-dawn parties from now on. Whenever I may have the chance again to travel and return, to be charged as I am now with the warp of circumscribing the planet, whenever, from now on, I feel home and far from home, Frida's invocation will be my banner. Long live life. And let's toast also (lift your cup of Darjeeling with mine) to what Buddha said: As you walk and eat and travel, be wherever you are; otherwise, you will miss most of your own life.

We DO miss Nepal already. Scott and Leija DeLisi, our new friends--what an inspiring last evening with you. We miss you. And all of our old friends, weeping with us at the airport, we miss you.

But let's see what new happinesses we can grow here, now, like a crop: what new paintings, and what other new reasons for wild pre-dawn parties like mine today, right now. Here are the seeds and the supplies I have: my family, my friends, my animals, my gardens, my woods, my students, my paintings, and one more unsiezed bag of bhujia. Viva la vida. Jane

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Saying goodbyes and anticipating hellos

We will be heading to the airport in a couple of hours. Yesterday we walked around Kathmandu within the 2-3 block radius around the Guest House that we have roamed multiple times a day for 12 days now. Yes, we could walk further, but within those blocks lies everything in the world you can imagine that you would ever need to buy. There must be dozens of jewelry shops, shops that sell pashima wool (like our friend Sunil), thankas, wood carvings, brass statues, embroidered rugs and tapestries, groceries, books, clothes and tailor shops.
We went by our friend Firdoz's gem shop to say goodbye and promise to keep in touch. He especially wants Mary and Ella to email his children so they can remember each other and maybe see each other again. We stopped in the photo shop where our friend Rajif, who has printed hundreds of photos for us, has asked us about our names, jobs, families and insisted we come say goodbye before we leave. Even the street people, as I call them, who walk around and approach you with their musical instruments or little purses, or the rickshaw drivers who ask you for the 10th time if you want a ride, know how many days we have left because every day they ask. I'm trying to resist the urge to buy those little things that I have eyed for days. Things I don't really need, but just like. Feeding Mary and Ella here is costing me enough rupees per day, so I have tried to be conservative, although you won't believe me when you see some of the things I bring home :)
The shop owners who called out to us insistently the first few days to come into their shop, "Please come look, looking is free, Madam!", now just nod politely or say "Namaste!" when we pass. The ones who have not been too pushy, who have treated us like guests and not like tourists, I have tried to at least visit their shops and support them a bit.
I logged on this morning, our last morning, to do a last minute email check to be sure nothing has changed with flights or our DC pickup. I found emails from friends wishing us a safe journey home. I read the sweetest comments ever on our blog or on Facebook. Now I'm getting all emotional, darn it, to see you all. I will refrain from getting all sappy, except to say thanks. Your time reading and commenting, your thoughts and prayer....it means everything.
See you soon.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

from Jane, August 4th: Last full day in Kathmandu

Hi Friends, I should say, I THINK it is our last full day in Kathmandu.

It's the morning of the 4th in Kathmandu, and the evening of the 3rd in Blacksburg, and as yet we have no printed tickets (e-ticketing makes me anxious), but today, the gods and the electricity willing, we will see actual plane tickets for tomorrow afternoon's flight to Delhi, and then onward home.

We have packing to do.

And goodbyes. To our friends, Pema Dhoka and Tenjin Thakuri, Mr. Bhatt and Yusef, to Sunil and Sarita, to Firdoze, to Narayan, to our new English friend, Tracy Litterick, on her way to Tibet, to Mingma Sherpa, and to all of our old friends at the Kathmandu Guest House, from the CEO, Rajan Sakya, to the housekeepers and the amazing gardener, to the tame supermodel-thin cats who are allowed to sleep in the garden in exchange for ratting duties.

Once we get to Delhi, we also have to say goodbye to Ashleigh Shepherd and to Mika Maloney (who returned to Kathmandu last night,
having spent glorious days in Pokhara, after her trek around the full circuit of the Annapurna; Moms and Dads, both Ashleigh and Mika look glamorous and glowing). We will miss them both terribly, but both are on their way to India for their first visits. They go with our admiration and love. Our summer was richer for their presence, and I am confident that their experience of Nepal will bloom into greater and greater
meaning, once they return to Virginia.

I hope so. My son, Emerson, about to start law school at UVa, says that his weeks with us at the beginning of this trip are definitely blooming for him. My daughter Iris, in med school at UVa, who has so sweetly followed every move and twitch of this trip, and who these
places when she was a child, still feels the exquisite effects of knowing Nepal.

Mary and Ella Hoffman, although they are only 12 and 8, have grown into capable world travelers in these six weeks, and, thanks to their amazing Mom's brilliant job mothering AND sharing her kids, Mary and Ella already plan their own returns.

We have already said our goodbyes to Tsampa and his family--they are all in Jomsom now, out west, in the high country--a world away. They will spend the day pitting apricots, and harvesting apples from Tsampa's orchard in Dhumpa.

Thank goodness it isn't easy to bring Nepali cats--and dogs--back to Virginia. I would be in real trouble.

Tonight, Jenna and I are invited back to His Excellency Ambassador Scott DeLisi's home, for a private, casual dinner with him and his wife Leija. How fortunate to have their company as a send-off. We liked them so much at the gala event they hosted to show A Gift for the Village to 52 amazing people this past Saturday evening. We are honored.

There is no re-capping a trip like this, but it is worth recalling that at the beginning of our Summer 2010 in Nepal, our hopes were to have the film shown in Kathmandu--which we have done, with great success; we didn't know back in June that our documentary would show in the Ambassador's home, as well as at the incredible Indigo Gallery, thanks to director/curator/artistic powerhouse of Nepal, James Giambrone, as well as in the Kathmandu Guest House Film Hall.

We had the dream of walking our film 155 miles, to show the film to the 25th hereditary King of Lo. We didn't know back in June that in fact the film would first have a private audience first with the Prince's nephew, our friend Raju Bista, in the beautiful Upper Mustang village of Ghemi, who is Pema Dhoka's brother-in-law, and then a private audience screening with the King, the Prince, and the Princess.

And then, on July 17 evening, with explicit royal permission and request, a screening indeed on the Palace adobe outer wall, for the village of Lo.

I must say that the generator and the sound system were perfect there, and that, seeing our film show in huge and perfect focus on that dark evening, on the medieval wall of Lo Monthang's Palace, at the request of King Jigme Palwar Bista, was a feeling I will never forget.

Our audience that night included villagers, the few other trekkers who had made it to Lo, and our incredible friend Luigi Fieni, the head of restoration for the American Himalayan Foundation, who has spent twelve years, so far, restoring the oldest giant temple in Lo, so important in part because there are several fresco Tibetan deities painted there that are to be found nowhere else in the world.

The next morning, Jenna filmed a rooftop conversation between Luigi and me, one of our favorite hours in Nepal. What impressed youa bout the film, we asked, and Luigi was extremely supportive. My compliment from him was that what surprised him, seeing a Gift for the Village and my commitment to Tibetan art and its ideas was, "Ahh, here is a Lady Luigi."

Such a beautiful Italian man, and such a charismatic compliment. He laughed hard when I rejoined, "Ahh, you meant to say, here (pointing to him) is a Gentleman Jane."

Luigi and Jenna and I hope to collaborate on a show--we double-promised to do so. His photographs, with my paintings, with Jenna's videography documenting, and to some extent creating, the effects of this blend. I can't wait.

I never want to end a trip to Nepal without thanking Jenna, my best friend and travel partner since 1999. I said, at the end of our 2007 trip, that Jenna continues to amaze me. She still does.

Jenna and Tracy (from Sheffield, England) went mountain-biking with our guide Narayan yesterday--an epic adventure that included riding on top of a crazy bus, WITH their bikes, over seriously bumpy roads and on cliff edges, bouncing and screaming and laughing, ducking powerlines and being slapped by tree limbs--let alone the hour of riding IN Kathmandu traffic, to Bhaktapur, sucking diesel smoke and eating grit. The bikes, Tracy added, didn't really have brakes. But they went up to Nagarkot, and rode down, and lived to tell the story. They probably went 25 miles, each safe rotation of their wheels a miracle.

Jenna came back grinning from the adventure. One day, when she turns 108 (lucky Buddhist number) and she does leave this earth, look for her as a cloud shaped like a superfit woman riding a superslick mountain bike (a supercool videocamera strapped to her supermuscular back).

And, once you have spotted her, just TRY to clock the speed with which that beautiful cloud--unlike all the other clouds in the sky, who have all accepted preconceptions about the limited things a cloud can do--just TRY to clock the speed, or measure the grace--as that Jenna-form takes off.

Many thanks to all of you who have followed our trip.

I give a talk at The Taubman Museum, part of their midday Lunchbox Series, a few days before our film premiere on the evening of September 16th. Tom Landon will help post (please, Tom!) the time and date of that presentation. I have worked on it in the last few days in Kathmandu, and feel pleased with finished essay.

Tashi deleg and orche to all of our friends and family here and back home. So so so so la! Victory to the gods. Victory over the causes of suffering. Victory to the wisdom and compassion in the human heart. Jane

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dinner with Nepali friends, by Reba

It's Monday, and we have only three full days left here in Kathmandu. In the last few days, we have had the pleasure of having meals with friends in their homes. First, Sunil and Sarita hosted us again, and this time we got to meet their new granddaughter. Their son Saroj and his wife Arun live with them, and they welcomed a new baby just two weeks ago. She is absolutely perfect, although she was not impressed that there was a houseful of Americans oooh-ing and aaahing over her....she slept the whole time we were there. As usual, Sarita fixed a LOT of food, and they also had Jane a birthday cake.
Next we were invited to the home of Firdos, who runs the Gem Empire store where Mary and Ella got beautiful necklaces. Mary's is a black opal set with a green amethyst, Ella chose a gorgeous tiger-eye. Firdos has many finished pieces, but Mary and Ella sat down and went through his collection of loose stones and chose their favorites (within a reasonable price range) and he put them in silver settings.
We walked with Firdos to his home after he closed his shop one evening, and as we entered his home, his mother was doing her evening prayers on the kitchen floor. They are Muslim, and it was quite the culteral experience for all of us. We entered a room and sat on the floor, and Firdos brought us the food prepared by his wife. He told us that he would not be eating with us, but would eat later with the family. His 6 year old son, Aaman, ate with us. He was studying English in school and could understand our questions, and answered in very good English. He also had some well-rehearsed speeches that he recited for us. Atiya is Firdos' 8 year old daughter who was too shy to interact with us, although she watched and listened.
Firdos' parents and brother also live there, and we had an audience while we ate. It was odd to me, being invited to dinner but not eating with our hosts. I have no experience and very little knowledge of the Muslim faith and customs, but I felt so welcomed and comfortable. I'm not sure if our limited contact with his wife was a cultural thing or whether it was due to her inability to talk with us, but his mother, who also did not speak English, came in and sat down with us. Several times she fussed at us through Firdos that we were not eating enough.
Finally, yesterday we went to our upper Mustang guide Narayan's home. His wife delivered their second child, a son, just 10 days ago while we were returning from our trek. They share their home with Narayan's brother who is an artist, and his sister, who lost her husband a year ago and has a young daughter. Juice first, then tea, then french fries and vegetable pokura, then finally dhal batt with rice and greens. Then tea again. We were there for four hours, holding the baby and playing with his smart 5 year old daughter, Nikita, who loved Ella.
We are so lucky. We are guests here, and like other tourists have visited the popular sites, eaten in the restaurants and stayed in guest houses. But I wonder how many visitors to Nepal get invited into homes for meals and are treated like family? Mary and Ella have had very rich experiences and interactions here, and have been very well recieved. I hope the impression we have left is a favorable one.
In all three Nepali homes, extended families live together. They work together and share everything, and I can't help but notice how happy they all seem to be, especially the kids. How wonderful for these children to have so much family around them to depend on. I want this for all kids. For my kids.
Which reminds me of how much I miss everyone back home. I can't wait to be with family and friends again, even to talk about routine things and catch up on thier lives. I'm anxious to hear the stories Mary and Ella will tell their dad, my Mom and Dad, Grandma Rose, Kristi, Lawrence and Rachel, and Grandpa Richard. It will be so much fun to hear it all again from their perspective.
See you all soon. We love you.

August 1, from Jane

Friends, It has taken me 24 hours to think of how to begin this e-mail.

What if suddenly there were a new color, a lemonwhite, for example, off the ordinarily visible chart, that has a scent associated, gardenia and frangipani, jasmine and New Orleans ginger blanc and tea olive, all at once, a heaven of white flower perfumes blending into a color so soothing and exciting and sweet, we can barely imagine it.

This clear, sweet, unimaginable perfume was our evening at His Excellency Ambassador Scott DeLisi and his wife Leija DeLisi's home last night.

Fifty-two incredibly accomplished people, including the Ambassadors from Switzerland and Holland, filmmakers, the best bronze and thangka artists and monastery restorers in Nepal, newspaper columnists, authors, doctors, television reporters, humanitarians, healers: these stunningly gracious, highly skilled professionals, each one friendly and intelligent, beautiful and poised, all gathered and heard the most elegant, seemingly impromptu introductions from the Ambassador, who didn't need a single note in front of him. Only when I heard Jane Goodall speak did I see this level of calm mastery and absolutely flawless eloquent delivery.

After greeting us personally with rich blessing scarves, and greeting all of his other guests, the Ambassador introduced the evening, and his words were all about A Gift for the Village as an example of the bridges we all need to attempt, that Nepal itself needs to attempt within its politics, that are every individual's greatest goals to aspire to help build. Jenna and Tsampa (in his most formal electric-marigold lama robes) and I could not have been accorded greater honor.

Ambassador DeLisi is an incredible statesman and an inspirational orator, and a gem of a human being, and Leia is brilliant and generous. What a night.

The film showed, followed by an incredible dinner at tables all around their magnificent home full of breathtaking art, and everyone circulated and told each other stories and very lavishly praised our film.

Jenna and I have been invited to return on our last night in Nepal for a very casual private dinner with the Ambassador and his wife. We can't wait.

A Gift for the Village grew wings last night. So did we. Jane