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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007


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A few days out, and I am in Benares, the last of us in India, I think. It has been a relaxing couple of days here. I have visited the Benares Hindu University campus, which is enormous. I have met one of the Dragons students who stayed on here after the course.

It is nice and relaxing here.

I hope you are all well.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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Benares

Chris Limburg,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

Description

A few days out, and I am in Benares, the last of us in India, I think. It has been a relaxing couple of days here. I have visited the Benares Hindu University campus, which is enormous. I have met one of the Dragons students who stayed on here after the course. It is nice […]

Posted On

12/13/07

Author

Chris Limburg

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Greetings from Singapore! I can't believe that I'm going to be home by the end of the day. The past three months have been an amazing roller coaster ride, I've learned and grew more than I ever could have imagined. Thank you to everyone who has supported all of us on this trip, we couldn't have made it without you. I really feel like I've created a family and I'm going to be really sad to see everyone go on their separate ways.

Good luck to everyone who has already left us: Turner, wherever you are, good luck and have fun. Scott, have fun in Japan, I'm glad you got the chance to go. Cori, If you ready this, I hope your having a blast wherever you are. Ofer, we've missed you a ton, I hope the states have treated you well and I hope to hear from you soon.

I need to thank our three instructors for the amazing work they did. You three were, guides, teachers, translators, confidants, friends and so much more, you made my trip extraordinary, thank you. I hope It wont be too long before I see all of you again.

Thank you again, everyone, I can' t express how much this trip has meant to me.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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Singapore

Robert Burnett,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

Description

Greetings from Singapore! I can’t believe that I’m going to be home by the end of the day. The past three months have been an amazing roller coaster ride, I’ve learned and grew more than I ever could have imagined. Thank you to everyone who has supported all of us on this trip, we couldn’t […]

Posted On

12/9/07

Author

Robert Burnett

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Hello to all the friends and families of the Himalaya studies semester students! We wanted to repost the flight information of the group, as well as let you know that we are aware of the fact that all previous postings are not currently available. We will be working on this problem first thing next week. Thank you for your understanding!

Dear Families,
As the semester nears its end, we're sure that many of you are anxiously awaiting your son or daughter's safe arrival into Los Angeles. For those who are returning under our group reservation, travel information is as follows:

SATURDAY DEC 8th

KOLKATA to SINGAPORE (950pm-425am on the 9th) Singapore airlines flight SQ0517

SINGAPORE to TOKYO (950am-520pm) Singapore airlines flight SQ0012

TOKYO to LAX (630 pm0 1125am) Singapore airlines flight SQ0012

They will arrive into Los Angeles at 1125 AM on Sunday, December 9th.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding the return - and you're calling outside of our normal office hours - please leave a message at 800-982-9203 x13. Dragons' administrative members will be checking x13 voicemail messages frequently during the upcoming travel days.
Please be patient if you don't hear from your son or daughter immediately after their scheduled return. Occasionally, re-entry into the States after an extended time abroad can take a bit of time. We have done our best to communicate to students that they should connect with home as soon as possible after landing in the States; unfortunately, we can't make any guarantees that a call will be made!
If, for any reason, your son or daughter misses their connecting flight and can't depart LAX that same evening, Dragons can help arrange reservations at the nearby Hacienda Hotel. Again, please leave a message on x13 if you need to connect with a Boulder staff member.
Here's to a happy return...
And Happy Holidays!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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Flight information and your yak board

Dragons Administration,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

Description

Hello to all the friends and families of the Himalaya studies semester students! We wanted to repost the flight information of the group, as well as let you know that we are aware of the fact that all previous postings are not currently available. We will be working on this problem first thing next week. […]

Posted On

12/8/07

Author

Dragons Administration

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    [post_content] => We are back in Calcutta in one piece after an exciting night train from the feet of the foothills. Turner is happily off to explore the Himalayas again on his own and the rest of us are preparing for our final departure: the trip home. Kristin and Bryan took most of the students to Fab India for some organic clothes shopping. I went with Scott and Jason to venture into the wilds of international flight changing. Good times were had by all.
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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Back in Calcutta

Chris Limburg,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

Description

We are back in Calcutta in one piece after an exciting night train from the feet of the foothills. Turner is happily off to explore the Himalayas again on his own and the rest of us are preparing for our final departure: the trip home. Kristin and Bryan took most of the students to Fab […]

Posted On

12/8/07

Author

Chris Limburg

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To many, my home is the country known as "America the Beautiful," – the land of opportunity, accomplishment, and individual success. Although, at home in America, I sometimes feel disconnected to the land that I live on. I have grown accustomed to walking on smooth cement surfaces, in a city with a dearth of dirt. I come from a city where fresh produce lies conveniently chilled and periodically misted on counters lining grocery store isles. I am usually uneducated about the food I eat, such as where it was grown and methods used to grow it.

I come from a culture that is often disconnected to its land, where one's own moral codes does not always relate to what is purchased off of shelves. Therefore, it is easy for me to look beyond the idealistic view of the "America the Beautiful" label of my country. To some Americans, this label might seem slightly romantic and simplistic, because it fails to include the entirety of things. However, while traveling in Asia, I have found that many of the people I have met see this label as the truth. Nevertheless, my own romantic notions of the land of the Himalayas are what brought me here in the first place.

I wanted to surround myself with beauty. One might label that desire as a superficial one, but to me, it sounded tempting to lay my own eyes on the world famous Himalayan Mountains which include Mt. Everest within its mountain range. I desired the physical exhaustion that comes with trekking the mountains at high altitudes. I wondered about the land, how it was taken advantage of, and what role farming and agriculture played in the countries. Through farming at an organic research center in Nepal, doing a homestay in a rural Nepalese village, and visiting tea plantations in Darjeeling, I immersed myself into an agricultural study. I have found important themes that relate the places I have visited with one another. Each agricultural site I visited included ideas for sustainability, connections to poverty, and importance in community involvement. Through the lens of these themes, connections between agriculture within the Himalayas can be made. I have learned to read in-between the lines of the beautifully terraced land that makes up the Himalayan mountains and valleys.

While curious about sustainable farming in Nepal and India, I wondered if the term 'organic' meant as much here in Asia as it does in America, where the word alone continues to successfully market itself on products and produce. In studying Himalayan agricultural practice I have found 'organic' produce to be farmed for reasons other than the purpose of a marketable label.

Late in September 2007, I had visited an organic farm, hidden among the terraces in the mountains of Nepal. "Hasera" is an agricultural research and training center run by an upbeat and educated man named Govinda Sharma. His reasons for organic farming come from his own belief system that farming sustainably and organically through permaculture farming methods is simply the right thing to do. He believes in the extent of what organic farming entails, including production of healthy and nutrient rich food, and nutrient rich soil. To him, farming organically makes the most sense. He sets an example for the rest of Nepal's farmers, in farming in ways that he believes in.

In contrast to the farm, my home stay family in Suspa, Nepal, farmed organically for a different reason -- put simply, they had no other choice. Suspa is one of the most rural villages I have ever visited. Farmers seem to rarely use paper money, and are unable to afford chemical fertilizer. When I had visited Suspa, I had come during Dasai, one of the biggest traditional celebrations of the year. My homestay family had only been able to afford tika and flowers for the festival in having sold two of their goats. Farming land holders in the village could barely provide enough food for themselves and their families throughout the year. Adding the cost of fertilizers was simply not an option.

Of the three areas I visited, I found reasons for organic farming at the tea plantations to relate most closely to what I observe in the market at home. The plantation exports the majority of its tea to Germany and the U.K., and adding the word 'organic' to the labeled 'Pure Darjeeling Tea' satisfies the Western market, including consumers looking for healthy, good quality products. Two years prior to my visit, the plantation had discontinued the use of chemical fertilizers, in hopes to one day certify the tea as 'organic' -- a process requiring five years of chemically free farmed land in order to gain the label.

A second theme arises in comparing the three areas of study. In some way or another, the success of agricultural farming depends on community involvement. In the three places I visited, I observed a deep connection between the land and people within the community surrounding it.

Darjeeling's "Happy Valley" tea plantations contain housing communities within the fields, where people know their neighbors, calling them 'brothers' and 'sisters.' These houses nestle between the plantations and belong to the tea field workers who spend their days working the land and picking tea leaves. I spent a lot of time hiking around the tea plantations, following the footsteps of my homestay father and plantation manager, Saurav Gurung. One day we passed by a heap of compost, clearly belonging to the home it lay next to. Saurav had explained that the plantation was free to use the compost belonging to villagers within the area, including manure from cows among the villages too. While the tea plantation provides work to the community surrounding it, it depends on people to work the land and the resources they are able to provide.

In Suspa, successful agricultural production relies heavily on strong intra-village relationships between farming neighbors. My homestay father had described that during harvesting season, neighbors and relatives would help him with his workload, as as he would contribute to their workload in the same way. The household structure also plays an important role in securing food supply. My Suspa family had included around five children, all of who helped work the land, cut grass, and gather firewood almost everyday I stayed there.

Maintaining the land at the Hasera Organic farm included an even more expansive form of community involvement -- one which includes volunteers, as well as international ones such as myself. The majority of the work at the farm is done by Mitthu-la, both the farm owner's wife, and my past homestay mother. Her two boys help her out as well, but the farm also hires workers from the village, and the Nepal Permaculture Group (NPG). I found community ties to be strong in the area, as relatives live in houses within walking distance of the farm. I often found myself working side-by-side grandfathers and uncles of my home stay family, harvesting rice together in silence.

Yet another theme that connects the farm, tea plantations, and Suspa is the relationship to poverty in Asia. While Hasera farm promotes ideas for sustainable agriculture, it acts as an example for Nepal's farmers to follow, as organic farming uplifts living standards through the maintenance of nutrient rich soil. This creates nutrient rich food, which ultimately minimizes health treatment costs. Biodiversity in organic provides for long-term food security as well, a benefit to the recent problem of food insecurity in Nepal.

In stark contrast to Hasera, the tea plantations I visited had a different connection to poverty within India -- they help to create it. At the plantation I learned about the history of Darjeeling tea, including that the British brought the seeds to India in the first place in the 1800's. As a non-native species of the Darjeeling hills, and one that takes up entire hillsides and valleys to grow it, tea production contributes very little to the food security of the people living within the country. As a monopoly, a private ownership, and an export company, the plantation adds little support to the lives of India's people besides scanty pay and even scantier benefits that it provides its workers.

I experienced the poverty in Suspa through being in the sort of place that food security textbooks talk about. Suspa is a rural village that recently has been connected to a major road; a development that creates connections between rural areas and the national and international market. With the creations of these roads, families in villages such as Suspa now depend on an income to buy necessary household items. As stated earlier, they also cannot solely rely on their crops and village products, and food shortages are common.

Only recently have I begun to better understand relationships between people and the land they live on, mostly through education I have gained in traveling away from the land of my own country.Three months ago, I decided to travel to Asia because I wanted to receive education in a different form than the one that I've endured since preschool – one through hands-on experience. Most of all I wanted to be surrounded by and immerse myself into the land of three countries very foreign to me, and on the other side of the globe. As an American, and more importantly, as a foreigner, I had romantic notions of traveling to a place far from home, and one that I had labeled mostly, as simply physically beautiful. However, now I see more to a place I had only experienced before through vivid photos on the internet, or on glossy pages in "National Geographic" magazines.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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sustainable agriculture studies

kimberly,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

Description

To many, my home is the country known as "America the Beautiful," – the land of opportunity, accomplishment, and individual success. Although, at home in America, I sometimes feel disconnected to the land that I live on. I have grown accustomed to walking on smooth cement surfaces, in a city with a dearth of dirt. […]

Posted On

12/6/07

Author

kimberly

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I wanted to share the extensive notes I took from each student's ISP presentation. The presentations were really impressive and we, as an instructor team, are so proud of the work everyone did. Enjoy!

Himalaya Semester Fall 2007

ISP Presentations:

1. HANNAH THOMPSON: Ayurveda

Notes from her presentation:

*Dates back to Vedic period (oldest recorded document in human civilization)

*Goal: to achieve inner and outer harmony. BALANCE

*What does it mean to be healthy? Not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, sensually, etc.

Created a chart: Ayu: Life; Veda: Science = The Science of Life

Health is 4-dimensional: spiritual, mental, sensorial, bodily

Rishis perceived that consciousness was energy manifested in 5 elements (Pancamahabhut): ether/space, air, fire, water, earth. All 5 elements exist in all matter.

Humans are microcosm of universe.

* Space: sense: hearing; sense organ: ear; action: speech; organ of action: tongue and mouth; main character: non-resistance; characteristics/function: unobstructe3d movement, non-structural

* Air: sense: touch; sense organ: skin; action: holding; organ of action: hand; main character: movement; characteristics/.function: clear, sterilization, purity, displacement, force

* Fire: sense: seeing; sense organ: eyes; action: walking; organ of action: feet; main character: heat; characteristics/function: light, digestion, burning

* Water: sense: taste; sense organ: tongue; action: procreation; organ of action: genitals; main character: liquidity; characteristics/function; cohesive, smooth, heavy, shiny.

* Earth: senese: smell; sense organ: nose; action: excretion; organ of action: anus; main character: roughness; characteristics/function: structure, resistance, stability, compactness

Tridoshas: biological humors in body

Vata: elements: air and space; character/function: kinetic energy, electric impulses and movement

Pitta: elements: fire; character/function: thermal energy, metabolic process of transformation

Kapha: elements: water and earth; character/function: maintains the basic structure of the body, stability and solidity

Characteristics of Tridoshas:

*Vata: dry, light, cold, mobile, eratic, rough

*Pitta: hot, soft, oily, light, intense, fluid

*Kapha: cool, heavy, sticky, fluidity, oily, stable, dense, smooth

Function of Tridoshas:

*Vata: enthusiasm, expiration, inspiration, movement, balanced regulation of transportation of the body elements, excretion, breathing, natural urges, transformation of issues, motor and sensory functions, ungroundedness, secretion, fear, emptiness, anxiety

*Pitta: vision, digestion, heat, hunger, softness in body, cheerfulness of body, intelligence, temperature, perception, understanding, thirst, anger, hate, jealousy

*Kapha: unctuous, stability of body, heaviness, aphrodisiac, strength, forgiveness, patience, non greediness, energy, energy, lubrication, attachment, accumulation, holding, possiveness

Food:

6 Tastes and 5 elements:

* madhur (sweet): water, earth; increases Kapha

* amla (sour): earth, fire; increases Pitta/Kapha

* lavan (salty): water, fire; increases Pitta/Kapha

* katu (hot/sharp): fire, air; increases Wata/Pitta

* tikta (bitter): air, space/ether; increases Vata

* kashaya (astringent): air, earth; increases Vata

Daily Routine for a Healthy Life:

Arise from between 4-6am (Brahmauhurta: 5 elements of the universe in their purest form). “Early to bed and early to rise”

•Wake and pray for the wellness of all creatures in the universe

•* Leave bed with a positive intention to seart a new day

•brush teeth and clean tongue, gargle mouth (clove water)

•drink glass of warm water to encourace regular elimination

•empty bowels and bladder

•massage body with oil

•take bath

•perform light exercise (sun salutations, yoga postures, breathing)

•meditate

•eat breakfast before 8am

•take midmorning walk

Lunch from 12-1pm

•Eat lunch (largest meal of the day)

•Sit quietly for 5 minutes after eating

•Walk to aid digestion

Bedtime: 9:30-10:30 am

•Perform light activity

•Go to bed early (at least 3 hours after dinner)

•Do not eat, read, or watch TV in bed

Evening Habits:

•Left side of person contains female or lunar energy

•Right side contains male or solar energy

*****Hannah also went for a 4 day Ayurvedic Massage course, and explained the principles she learned and also demonstrated various techniques:

Ayurveda Abhyanga (Spinal) Massage:

*Relaxes muscles

*Nourishes skin

*Relieves pain and fatigue

*Improves digestion, circulation, endocrine and nervous systems

*Improves flow of prana (energy) and functions of the brain

*Helps emotional and psychological well being; helps to calm depression and stress waves, anxiety feelings of sorrow and sadness

*Caregiver must be free of anger, fear, and greed; must be patient, loving, and caring.

*Massage stimulates body’s natural pain killers -> releases endorphins

Conditions for spinal massage:

•relaxation, tranquility during mental and physical tiredness

•when there is more stress or pain in lower back

•to open the channels and to improve circulation

•to improve the functions of the sensory neres

Conditions not recommended for spinal massage:

•fracture of the spine

•dislocation of the spine

•infection of the spine

•hemmoridge

•fever

Oil: heat the oil!

•helps balance doshas

•reduces vata, increases kapha, blances pitta

•increases immunity and power in body

•gives strength to body

•protects our body and skin from dryness

•softens skin

•provides nutrition

•sesame and olive oil are good in all seasons and for all ages and constitutions

•Vata: dry skin: sesame

•Pitta: soft skin: sesame, sunflower, ghee, coconut

•Katha: oily skin: sesame, mustard

2. ROSIE SHRIVER: Meditation and the Mind

* Interested in how mind works.

* Went on Buddhist retreat, read Hindu philosophy, and spoke about similarities/differences in philosophies.

Notes from a chart she presented:

Hinduism:

•atman universal reality, pure consciousness, real self outside the world of thoughts

•ego claims to be the real self, influenced by perceptions and thoughts, guided by ignorance

•ignorance: we don’t have pure consciousness within us, and we are separate egos controlled by our thoughts and happiness is to be found outside ourselves, leads us to misunderstand our real natures

•we look outside ourselves for peace, happiness, and use accumulated wealth, sense-gratification, etc to make us happy

•this ignorance or misunderstanding leads us to two other major obstacles to enlightenment/happiness: 1. attachment – bondage to pleasure; 2. aversion: bondage to pain, fear, hate

•Ignorance and resulting attachment, aversion, and ignorance are the causes of suffering

•Solution: recognize the restless mind and work to understand it.

1.non attachment: discrimination: question thoughts. This shows us that we don’t really desire the object but carry a desire to desire which shows us the restlessness of the mind – how it moves from one desire to another which is either unsatisfied or satisfied temporarily which leads to more desire. Awareness begins to free us from the imagined needs and desires

2.meditation is a tool to see through ignorance (through the need to find happiness outside ourselves). It starts with the outermost latyer and works inward seeking the cause behind appearance, then cause behind the cause until innermost reality is reached. First step: concentration on one object (example: breath) to calm the mind

* Goal: moksha: realization of Brahman (sole reality, pure being) – union with God

Buddhism:

•Emptiness – reality; there is no essential nature: if we remove concepts and projections, one will see/experience emptiness.

•Ego – creates and believes in its own reality based on ignorance; doesn’t know reality

•Ignorance – doesn’t know the nature of reality, has power because we believe in it; empowers the delusional ming (that lives in its own reality); pollutant in the mind that self-perpetuates

•Universal Wish: everyone wants to be happy and to avoid suffering -> the mind/ego is the base and decides how to achieve these goals -> we thing we don’t control our moods, feelings (happiness/sadness) = this is NOT reality

•We live in our won reality and perpetuate suddering through ignorance. Dissatisfied minds look for ways to chance this

•Solutions:

1. observe the mind to see if the above holds true for us. Wear down the delusional mind and build up the pure mind which is underneath. Follow attachments and find out how and why they work (Example 1: attachment to pleasure breeds dissatisfaction but if we can live according to reality, which means enjoying pleasures as temporary, you avoid suffering. Example 2: attachment to a person vs. love of a person – want person to love you/bring you happiness vs. wanting the best for that person, but if you can enjoy that person and still be satisfied when they leave (enjoy self alone), you won’t be dissatisfied and suffer.)

By observing attachments, one can see the reality of their attachments – how they cause dissatisfaction – and change their experiences of reality vis non attachment; begin to replace ignorance with wisdom

2. Meditation: watch the “movie” we/our realities create. Notice the delusional mind and the power of ignorance over the ego. Ultimately overwhelm the delusional mind with pure mind/wisdom and gain control of your own happiness.

Goal: Nirvana/Liberation: experience reality, emptiness; no core.

** Finally, Rosie led us in a guided meditation

3. KELSEY MORRIS: Nepali Folk Music

* Worked with a music teacher in Kathmandu and in Darjeeling

* Has been invited to many parties to play. Music was the avenue for her to connect with people here, to drop all inhibitions and language barriers, and just enjoy simple interaction.

* For her presentation, she performed (on guitar and singing) two traditional songs with her Sarangi teacher, one Elvis song, and also one that she wrote – so beautiful!! The lyrics were incredible…

4. TURNER MANDEVILLE: Parables

* Did a meditation retreat in Kathmandu

* Went to the tea plantation in Darjeeling

* Upon reflection, he decided to present to us various parables (metaphors in nature that hold life lessons) he’s realized on the program:

1. In Tibet, we were returning back to Lhasa in a truck over a very bumpy road, and he couldn’t read or do anything else he wanted to on the ride: “Every road is bumpy. It’s only when one wishes there to be no bumpiness that the bumpiness ceases to simply be and begins to act causally and affectiously. It is through this that one’s reactions to the bumps provide a disposition, even a dogma, by which they live and view life.”

2. On his full day solo in Tibet, he was throwing pebbles at a larger rock and missed most of them. Thought of a short story by JD Salanger where the characters were playing marbles on the street and were continuing to miss their aim. Then there was a character that threw his marbles without aim, and seemed to always make it. Turner applied this principle to his own rock throwing and realized: “Don’t aim, don’t miss.” He’s not saying we shouldn’t have goals, but should be open to other accomplishments.

3. Driving back from Tibet down the plateau to Nepal, we stopped for the night in a cold guest house. The next morning, he went out into the courtyard and observed some dry desert on one side and then huge snow peaks on the other side, and noticed the huge difference between these two landscapes. Then he realized all the various scapes in life, and realized that there is no good and no bad, there are just people, scapes, perspectives…

4. During the Helambhu trek, we had a group split between those who wanted to walk slow and appreciate the landscape, and those who wanted to walk fast and challenge themselves physically. Turner was irritated by all the stopping, and then realized he didn’t need to be so irritated…there was nothing to do to chance the outward situation. He recognized his personal responsibility with how he reacts to situations. You get to choose how you feel about a situation to a certain degree. Instead of looking around during the breaks and appreciating where he was, he got frustrated. He realized that frustration is a form of violence and doesn’t do any good. “We CAN choose our own sentiments.” (This ignited a group discussion).

5. Also on the Helambhu trek, we stopped at a Milarepa cave. He went off to smoke a cigarette and observed a tree. He was struck by the movement of the tree blowing in the wind. He realized that it’s not the big overall movements that cause the smooth movements, but it’s the small movements that inevitably cause bigger movements.” Thus, it’s important to be conscious of our small actions because they contribute to a greater situation. (Applies this to the group).

6. During the Sikkim trek, there was a lot of time in the afternoon after reaching camp to explore. He went up a hill to watch the sunset and every time he thought he’d get to the top of the hill, there was another higher hill and his view was always partially obstructed. Then he realized, no matter how far he climbed the hills, there would always be higher and further ones: “Baby steps.”

7. After exploring the Drak Yangdzong caves, he reflected on when he cheated on his girlfriend and what the root of that deception was. He tried to figure out what might be helpful in that situation and realized “be open, be simple, be honest.”

5. SCOTT ISRAEL: Power Places

•He was moved by the power places we visited and contemplated the physical energy of power places. Did much reading on various aspects and Tibetan Buddhist interpretations of power places.

•Why are power places powerful?

* Physical Landscape

* Shamanic View

* Tantric View

* Practices/experiences

* OUR experience

Notes from his presentation:

Physical Landscape:

1.confluence of physical and elemental energies (earth, air, fire, water)

2.power places are at the center/focal point of the greater landscape

Example:

a. Drak Yangdzong: earth rising up from center of valley, water flows downward from mountain, water source inside the cave, lots of wind, mountain caught the sun at all hours of day.

b. Terdrum: steep canyons cut by two rivers, wind strong whipping around mountains and through canyons, thermal energy in hot springs (fire and water), caves.

Shamanic/Folk View:

1.Elements/Landscapes literally represent deities, spirits, goddesses, etc. Physical landscape is transformed into an otherworldly landscape of spirits and gods.

2.Shamanic practice: purpose is to influence these elemental energies (weather, etc). Shaman goes into transcendental state to communicate with spirits or to transform into these deities to affect external energies for the benefit of the human community.

3.For the shaman, a power place would be an acceptable location for these practices (the confluence of energies is an auspicious place to go into trance…mountain is inseparable from deity so is the perfect place to communicate with it, etc).

Tantric View:

1.Tantric Practice: to experience emptiness in the most direct way possible in order to benefit all sentient beings.

2.Methods are vast

a.Harnessing energies, especially in subtle body (one’s own) and in the earth

b.Places/experiences in outer earth are metaphors for internal experiences in the body.

i.Jokhang: pinning down the heart center of the demoness of central Tibet.

c.Mandala visualization: map of kosmos and existence. Visualize oneself at center of mandala in order to harness the power of the diety one is visualizing oneself as. Apply this vision to every day life so the world around you becomes a Buddha field.

3.Power places are important because they’re the ideal location for Tantric practice because they’re the home of the deities.

4.Geomancy: landscape is geometrically ordered perfectly – elements form a literal mandala.

5.Mythological history of power places: places where tantric lamas have practices and were thus infused with the vibrations of their practice. Place becomes inseparable from that lama and their timeless enlightened energy.

Actual Practices done at Power Places:

1.Pragmatic orientation: practices done for the benefit of here and now (to have wealth/fortune, to accumulate luck or the favor of local deities, etc.)

2.Karmic orientation: practices done for long term benefit (to gain merit in order to achieve a favorable rebirth)

3.Bodhi orientation: practices done for the achievement of enlightenment in this lifetime (devote body, speech, and mind toward transforming world).

***All these are interconnected!

oPilgrimage: Actual traveling to power places. Engaging in mantras and prostrations and other practices, etc for the above reasons. Tapping into the energies of these places to gain benefit on every level.

oPractice of altering the actual physicality of places: walking koras, hanging prayer flags, carving mani stones, constructing chortens/stupas, etc. (Done on all levels).

OUR Experience:

1. Our group had very powerful experiences at the power places we visited. (talked about that a lot…were we influenced by the timeless energies of those places…)

6. SARA TOWER: Relationship between lifestyle, environment, spirituality

Designed a board game of the web of interdependence between lifestyle, environment, and spirituality. We played the game as a group (we were each given a card with a person, an object, etc, and had to place it in the web between these three concepts…we saw the total interconnectedness between these three, and how culture is the culmination of these three.)

She also wrote an excellent paper which she submitted.

7. KIMBERLY VOLKMANN: Sustainable Agriculture and Development

Read reflection paper about her time living with a family in rural Suspa, Nepal, and working on farms in Dhulikhel, Nepal (HASERA farm) and in Darjeeling, India (Happy Valley Tea Plantation). She had done a lot of background research on the food crisis in Nepal, permaculture design, and agricultural practices of the Himalayas. Reflected on agricultural practices in the United States vs. what she saw here, the detachment from the land at home vs. the integration here, etc.

Notes from her presentation:

Regarding “food insecurity:”

•Use of fertilizer (incorporated in order to produce more surplus) ultimately stagnates land productivity, making land unusable in the future.

•Using permaculture techniques increases land sustainability (she learned about permaculture design at HASERA).

•Villagers leave the countryside for the cities to find work.

•Brahmans tricked villagers out of their land and now people are working land that is not theirs and often do not have enough food for themselves even though they’re working the land each day.

•Road controversy

Shared photos of her time living at the two farms in Nepal and India, and told some stories of the work she did, spoke about what the farms grew, and explained a little of the philosophy behind sustainable practices, etc.

8. MARGUERITA TEN HOUTEN: Tibetan Language

Marguerita studied Tibetan script with various teachers in Kathmandu, Nepal, Reting and Lhasa, Tibet, and Darjeeling, India. She was really able to connect with people she met through learning language from them. She said people were so open with her and she loved this avenue to get to know people.

She illustrated the three most common Tibetan scripts (writing the word: “tashi delek”) for us to show us the difference: U-chen (formal script used for religious texts, etc.), U-me (script for common writing), and chuk (short hand). She enjoys learning scripts and so had much passion for her ISP. She explained that there are 30 letters in the alphabet, 4 vowel symbols, letter stacks, etc…

She also wrote a letter in Tibetan to some monks she met at Reting Gompa in Tibet, and read this letter to us in Tibetan and in English. (gave us each copies to “read along”).

She was also comparing different Himalayan languages along the way, and tried to learn a few words in each language. She gave us each a small chart of a few words in the different languages she compared (Nepali, Tibetan, Thami, Hindi, Bhutia, Lepcha).

9. JASON COHEN: Shamanism

•First, Jason led the group in a short earth centered meditation

•Spoke about his experience and what he learned from the Jankri (shaman) in Darjeeling.

Notes from his presentation:

•We are in our mother’s womb for 9 months before birth and when we die, we return to the womb of the earth.

•What is a Jankri?: each jankri has his own idea of what it means to be a jankri.

•Told stories of his time interviewing the Jankri in Darjeeling:

•Showed us a photo of Man Bhatadur Thami (Lhate Guru)

•When a jankri gets old, he chooses his successor while they are still in the womb

* At 3 months in the womb, he was given the knowledge of the jankris and was born with that knowledge.

* Child will shake every full moon and do not behave as a normal child, take interests in “normal” things children are interested in

* When he was 5 years old, he was called by a “bon jankri” (forest jankri) into the forest. They are short men and live in the forests/mountains. When the child is called by the bon jankri, they will see a light and follow it as if in a trance. While they are following this light, nothing can harm them or come in their way. They can walk over high passes and walk through water. When he arrived, the bon jankri gave him all his knowledge. The child returns home after 15 days-3 months with the knowledge given to him from the bon jankri.

* When he was 8 years old, he started doing rituals in his village. When he was 11 years old, he came to Darjeeling by himself without his family, and walked many days to get here from Nepal. When he first arrived, there were no jankris around and the people asked him to stay. He was been living here for 60 years. He was never lonely because he did not have any fear. If you’re speaking the truth, there’s no fear in what you’re saying. He was following this light inside him and believed in it so strongly that he felt perfectly protected (because he was going perfectly where he was supposed to be). “How can there be fear if you follow the truth?”

•The Bon Jankri is a mystery. They are short people who have their own shamanic lineage. They have traditionally lived in the forest but these days the world is overpopulated and there aren’t many rural forests left. Now they have moved into the mountains in hiding. In the past, people used to hear the bon jankris doing rituals in the forest but people do not hear them anymore. There are some women bon jankris who typically live alone, but sometimes they find a male bon jankri and fall in love and give birth to a child bon jankri. Yetis and bon jankris come from a similar lineage, Lhate guru said.

•Question of metaphor vs. literal story. Is the jankri actually describing actual events or is that explanation infused with myth?

•Lhate Guru said he followed Truth “satya guru,” and he used this intuition/inner voice to know how to heal people. He kept coming back to the idea of following our Truth. This can be a difficult concept to grasp. To begin to understand this idea of truth, it’s important to know his idea of cosmology:

•Time: There are four great ages (yugas) that spirals over and over again (turtles up and down). He said time DOES have a beginning and was born in the satya yuga (big bang), but goes on endlessly up and down the spiral, but the spiral never peaks at one finite point…explode…implode…

Satya (truth) Yuga: At the beginning of time when there was only water and devils rule the globe, an earth goddess was born and created land, humans, grass, and taught the humans to follow the Truth. Lasts 10,000 years, 5 months, 7 days.

Dubar Yuga: Lasts 9,000 years, 5 months, 7 days. In this yuga, the plants, trees, soil, grass, and humans came to form.

Tirtha Yuga: Lasts 7,000 years and three days. Dharma and Karma came to be. Humans should believe in the Truth.

Kali Yuga: Lasts 11,100 years, 6 months, 9 days. Destruction age when the earth moves away from truth. Right now, we’re 2/3 way into it. Kali means death, and she is a goddess of destruction. In each living form, death prevails. By the end of this yuga, humans will no longer be able to sense things, will kill each other (even friends) and nothing will be born again. The sun will begin to get hotter and the moon cooler, so plants and animals will die. One second in the kali yuga is as long as 24 minutes in the tirtha yuga, so in the kali yuga, time accelerates.

Back to Satya yuga…

•The more Jason got to know Lhate guru, he sensed that in order to apply this knowledge, you have to give up your sense of self, a sense that you personally will be able to do something… Let go of yourself in order to follow the guidance and allow it to act through you.

•What Lhate guru does:

What is soul/atman? Lhate Guru said it would take 3 months to really talk about it, but spoke a little: the highest atman is to believe in atman.

Humans begin in the womb in fetal position, hands together, embryo is praying. They are still in touch with truth. When baby is born, it forgets the truth and starts to cry. Jankri is present at births and deaths to guide those souls. He will remind the baby that it still holds truth, and encourage it to still do good and follow that light.

When a person dies, the soul becomes a wind and goes through transition stages depending on their karma. He will tell the dying soul to go now, to leave their family behind and face the good/bad deeds they committed in their life.

During life, he will help people with bad luck, and will transfer that bad luck to the soul of a rooster and sacrifice this rooster to free the human of that bad spirit.

He cannot help people with infections of multiplying diseases (cancer).

Treating depression: if they have only had it for a short time, he can help them, but if the person has a long term depression, they need to find that root of their depression themselves. In order to move past it, they need to know that root and transform it. It is important to take the good side of depression and transcend it; its important not to get lost in the darkness.

•In this kali yuga, when things are naturally drawn toward degradation, what should our role be as humans/what advice does he have for people living right now?

oOur role is to follow the Truth at whatever cost. We are born to do good deeds and ultimately gain Truth. Also, it’s very important to look after our earth mother. Remember that whatever objects/sins we accumulate, we leave the world completely naked. All we take with us is our karma.

oThere is only one truth but there are many different paths. Whatever path you take, believe in it FULLY. Believing in Truth is Truth.

•Who is Lhate Guru? Where does the healing come from?

oJason cannot distinguish whether he believes in what Lhate guru says or not. Belief is a difficult concept. Belief has negative connotation – if you believe, that means there is the potential that it’s not real. Everything the jankri said, Jason thinks he actually SAW those things.

oJason thinks it doesn’t matter so much if you believe in what the jankri says or not. To believe or not to believe? If you’re stuck on that question, you won’t be able to take in so much. He thinks to really understand these concepts, you need to surrender to them in order to really listen. Potential…pick the most expansive view.

•Finally, Jason read 2 poems he wrote after visiting with the jankri.

10. TAYLOR BARRETT: Tibetan Refugee Stories

Taylor explained the background of her interest in the Tibetan situation and their refugee stories. She wrote up an essay on the history of the Tibetan-Chinese conflict, and one on the background for her project.

She presented a photo-documentary for her project. She interviewed many refugees in Kathmandu and in Darjeeling, wrote up their stories, took their photographs, and presented all this information together.

She explained how she encountered many tears throughout the process of interviewing the refugees. It was very challenging for both her and them: for them to speak about their history and stories, and for her to hear it.

We all got a chance to check out the photographs and read the stories. Taylor hopes to bring this show back to the States and present it at various libraries and bookstores, and raise money for the Tibetan refugee cause. It was an excellent presentation – very professional. Her photographs were beautiful and the stories she chose very poignant.

11. KATHRYNE DOWNS: Silversmithing

* Kathryne explained her jewelry teacher’s story, and the history of his family working with metals.

* He primarily makes ritual implements for Buddhist monasteries (horns, butter lamps, water bowls, prayer wheels, etc.)

* All of the work he does is incredibly detailed with carved relief designs, etc.

* She explained the studio she worked, the facilities, tools, and the processes of working with metal

* First, the silver came in little balls.

* You then need to melt it into a larger ball by putting it in a chalice in the fire

* Then you forge the ball into a longer wire to work with and/or a flat sheet.

* Draw the design to have a plan before working with the metal

* You can carve designs into the metal by punching them with a tool and hammer

* To connect a ring or bangle into a circle, you solder the ends together

* When the piece is finished, you sand the nicks and imperfections out and then polish it with seeds and water.

* She made 2 pendants, 4 rings, and a bangle. She said she loved working with her hands and was proud at producing pieces of jewelry that she liked.

* She loved getting to know the family she worked with, and enjoyed hearing their stories. Her teacher sometimes received visions of designs in his dreams, and then actualized that vision into a tangible metal object.

* Her teacher is Nepali but has learned Tibetan and has adopted Buddhist traditions through working with many monasteries.

* Her teacher explained that these days many monastery ritual implements are mass-manufactured, which is difficult for the independent artist who does his work by hand. His work is well known in the area and he gets business by word of mouth.

12. ROB BURNETT: Khukuri Making

•Rob’s ISP changed several timed on the program. He initially was going to study altitude sickness and interviewed some doctors in KTM, but soon realized he wouldn’t get much further without going to medical school.

•He then decided to learn how to make a Khukuri, the traditional Gurkha army knife.

•He described the process of forging the knife, hammering the steel for days.

•Steps: forge both sides, shape the tip, break off the tip to give it a greater curve, forge the metal to strengthen it and give it shape, forge the non-blade end of the knife to give it a curved edge, straighten the metal along the way, forge the blade edge to thin it out, sharpen the blade by filing it and using a machine to even out the sides, cut the groove at the handle end. He also carved the knife handle out of wood, shaped it, and sanded it, and then attached it to the blade with tar.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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LONG narrative of ISP Presentations

Kristin,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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I wanted to share the extensive notes I took from each student’s ISP presentation. The presentations were really impressive and we, as an instructor team, are so proud of the work everyone did. Enjoy! Himalaya Semester Fall 2007 ISP Presentations: 1. HANNAH THOMPSON: Ayurveda Notes from her presentation: *Dates back to Vedic period (oldest recorded […]

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12/6/07

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Kristin

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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2007-12-02 00:00:00
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As our time draws to a close...

Our real explorations of Darjeeling unfortunately were belated by the strike, but now everyone is out and about again, shops are bustling with customers, tourists have come out of the woodwork and are consuming appropriately, Internet is back up, and the zoo is roaring with lions and tigers and bears, oh my! We have been able to get back on track with ISPs and students will begin their presentations this week (more on that to come!). Some of us have been playing fierce games of soccer with the local kids. Some of us have been writing novels of reflection on the past three months in our journals. Some of us, when taking a seemingly ordinary break on the roof to look out over the snow capped peaks have been overwhelmed by how far we have come, looking forward with anticipation to the changes returning home will bring. It is a time of transition for us here in the Himalayas about to fly home to a place that perhaps has lost a bit of it's consistent "homeyness." This week we will spend a significant amount of time digesting our experiences together, and beginning to process what retuning home may look like.

As we enter the last week of our program and "home" becomes an ever brightening light at the end of a long tunnel of travel, we simultaneously look forward with excitement to see our loved ones again while also feeling a bit of anxiety about our re-integration. Many of the students have been sensing their entrance into a world of independence they have never experienced: for some, this trip was their first taste of independent living, and many are soon to be beginning university and living for the first time on their own. Returning home may be a difficult transition for a variety of reasons - they will be entering an outwardly different world living away from home and beginning university, and they will also be inwardly trying to make sense of the places they visited which is often a more alienating transition than we can anticipate. Both outward and inward transitions require gentleness, outwardly and inwardly. I hope the transference "rituals" we do here might assist the beginning of this process, but such vision quests must continue far into the return.

I find the beauty of truth is that it can be gleaned on many levels and at many times; our interpretation is determined by circumstance yet Truth transcends space/time. (Jason and I have been visiting with the local Jankri, or Shaman, and he continues to advise us with a deep sense of urgency to always follow Truth, this mysterious Truth that no one can define but which all of us are striving to realize moment to moment). We are often so absorbed in living, are so overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle going on that we do not sense the multiplicities a moment embraces. As Rob wrote, we are driving at full throttle most of our lives and rarely do we take the time to slow down to really embody where we're at. On this program, we have traveled fast and we have traveled far. But we have also had periods of time which were frighteningly slow, and for many of us it was the first time we sat with ourselves and let what arise truly arise. Sometimes what arises is difficult, sometimes it is exactly what we need to come to a conclusion so we can move on. And, each time we reflect, something new arises. Certain quietude provides a space for reflection, an opportunity to midwife forgotten truths into mindful awareness as they seep from our unconscious into our consciousness - we are able to experience a moment again and again, each time deepening our understanding. I wrote a "yak" last year discussing how traveling is a process that does not cease when we leave a place, but continues to inspire and reveal truths to us long after returning home.

Advice to loved ones at home welcoming a ragged crew with open arms:

Sometimes a homecoming aches for the traveler in a way that might be sensed but never fully understood by those holding down the ship. Just give us space and love through our highs and lows of frustration and excitement with our transition. Our behavior may sometimes fail to reflect how much we appreciate home and you as we grapple with trying first to understand, and then to integrate our experiences with a home that might have become a little alien in our time away. Nevertheless, there is much to share and learn on both sides, and I know my traveling companions and myself are thrilled for our upcoming reunion and all the stories and hugs awaiting both sides.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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As our time draws to a close…

Kristin,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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As our time draws to a close… Our real explorations of Darjeeling unfortunately were belated by the strike, but now everyone is out and about again, shops are bustling with customers, tourists have come out of the woodwork and are consuming appropriately, Internet is back up, and the zoo is roaring with lions and tigers […]

Posted On

12/2/07

Author

Kristin

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Essay on Bumpy roads

Hi everyone, things are going really well here in Darjeeling, everything is open and seems to be back to normal. It feels very weird to know that I will be home in around a week, I've gotten very used to life over here after three months and the transition back might be harder than I originally thought. I'm looking forward to finishing up my ISP and getting some last minute Christmas shopping done. I'm also looking forward to just relaxing and enjoying the rest of my trip.

Over the course of this trip I have been working on this essay in my journal, both for fun and to use as a college application essay. I though I would post it here to maybe get some feedback. As of now I haven't revised it save for spell check, so its raw. If anyone wants to comment my email is robertgburnett@gmail.com :

“Every road is bumpy. It is only when one wishes no bumpiness that bumps cease simply to be and begin to act causally or affectiously; and how those bumps affect, should they do so, provides disposition, dogma, by which one views the road.”

-Turner Munroe

By all accounts I have a smooth road ahead of me. In fact, I have an eight lane super highway stretched out in front of me, with no speed limit. Not only is there no speed limit, but I am actually encouraged to go faster and faster. I, however, have a problem with this road, sure, I can get to where I want to go faster, but I lose a lot along the way. When you drive too fast there is no time to stop and enjoy the places you are driving through. Sure, driving fast is fun, but at the end of the day there is way more to life, things I don’t want to miss out on. I only get one life to live (or if you’re a Buddhist, infinite lives), why would I want to spend it with my foot jammed on the accelerator? This fall, instead of continuing down that highway, I decided to turn off and explore some slower, less traveled, bumpier roads.

Its 2:30 am and were all exhausted from three straight days of travel from L.A. to Calcutta. Were one short bus ride from a bed and, we hope, sleep.

“Is that our ride?” I ask, pointing to an old ambulance parked across the street, attempting to break exhaustions grip with a little humor.

“Yes.” replies Brian, our instructor (who we had met just a few hours before), as he bends in half laughing.

“Ha Ha, very funny” I reply, I’m tired and I don’t appreciate my humor turned against me.

“No, gasp, I’m serious.” He starts laughing uncontrollably.

I stare across the street for a moment, then start laughing hysterically along with the others. It seems that after three days of exhausting travel nothing could be funnier than being picked up form the airport in an ambulance.

After the laughter subsides we set about the task of actually fitting all of us and our things inside. This turns out to be much more difficult than expected, but in the end we were off with all of us piled in on top of each other in the back. Calcutta can’t be more different from home. We are constantly jostled and thrown against each other as our driver honks and swerves to avoid potholes and other vehicles. Thankfully, he is successful in avoiding the other cars, if barely, unfortunately, he is not so successful with the potholes.

I do my best to look out the window and take in the new world before me. Illuminated by dim yellow street lamps a sea of people, dressed in white rags, using carts, sidewalks and stoops for beds, stretch out down every street. The poverty is striking, I try to process what I see but my mind is unable to keep up.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore” I hear someone say behind me.

“No we are not.” I say to myself and I continue to stare.

Its 9:00 pm thirty-six days later, our travels have taken us from Calcutta to Kathmandu, Nepal, and up onto the Tibetan plateau. We’ve been in a bus for two days, trying to drive from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, back to Nepal. We’ve stopped briefly in a town called Nyalam, translated roughly as “Hell on Earth” and it’s raining.

“The bus can’t take us any further guys, sorry, we have to get all of our stuff out of here, were taking vans the rest of the way.” Brian talks to us from the front of the bus and points down at three small, rundown vans parked next to us; one of them has a huge hole in the windshield.

After much lifting and moving of bags everything is out of the bus and we load up in the vans. I end up with three others in the van with the broken windshield. “How long is this ride?” I ask as our driver puts the car in gear and we jerk into motion.

“Only about three hours.” Comes the reply. “And don’t worry, the road is pretty wide and our drivers do this all the time.” This was not the response I was hoping for.

The “Friendship highway”, which connects Tibet and Nepal, can hardly be called a road, let alone a highway. For three hours we jerk and bounce down a narrow dirt road with many potholes, repeatedly hitting our heads and jarring our tailbones. On one side, a mountain rising straight up hundreds of feet, on the other, a cliff falling into a roaring river.

I am cold, extremely tired, and in immense discomfort. At several points during the journey I don’t think I can possibly take it anymore, it’s just too much, but I soon realize that I have too, there is no choice. I soon accept that the road is not going to be easy, but also that it is not beyond my ability to make it to the end.

We finally arrive at the boarder and get into our hotel for the night, I can’t help but be happy, what was a difficult journey turned into an experience I would never trade.

It’s the afternoon of the 14th of November and eight of us, plus one driver and one guide, are driving through the hills of Sikkim, India, on our way from the modern capital of Gangtok to the ancient capital of Yuksam, where we plan to start a seven day trek through the Himalayas. I’m sitting in the back of the jeep and I am hit with a sudden wave of elation. A lot of things have happened to bring me to this point and I am finally feeling a bit of inner calm. This road is smooth, but not too smooth, the Indian government seems to put a little more effort in keeping up there roads. The twisting road, snaking up and down the jungle covered hills provided a great atmosphere for thought.

Four of us sit in the back facing each other, club style, and I’m struck my how much I’ve been through with all of them. The end of our journey is rapidly rushing towards us and it is easy for me to reflect on my growth over the last two and a half months. I’ve endured a heartbreaking breakup, semi-constant illness, significant discomfort, an intense language barrier, living with a foreign family, culture shock, group drama, and lots of internal struggle. This time has been some of the most challenging, but also most rewarding of my life. Despite all of the ups and downs I find that I am content with myself, and happy to be where I am. I have faced every challenge that Asia has thrown at me and conquered most all of them. I’m far from being done when it comes to learning and growing, but I do feel that things are coming together, sorting themselves out, and getting a little easier.

My road is getting smoother, but I’m still driving slow enough to take in the incredible views around me, and every once in a while pull over to chat it up with some people along the side of the road. [post_title] => Essay on Bumpy roads [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => essay-on-bumpy-roads [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2007-12-01 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=55523 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 196 [name] => Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007 [slug] => himalayan-studies-semester-fall-2007 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 196 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 68 [count] => 27 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 31.1 [cat_ID] => 196 [category_count] => 27 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007 [category_nicename] => himalayan-studies-semester-fall-2007 [category_parent] => 68 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2007/himalayan-studies-semester-fall-2007/ ) ) [category_links] => Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007 )

Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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Essay on Bumpy roads

Robert Burnett,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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Essay on Bumpy roads Hi everyone, things are going really well here in Darjeeling, everything is open and seems to be back to normal. It feels very weird to know that I will be home in around a week, I’ve gotten very used to life over here after three months and the transition back might […]

Posted On

12/1/07

Author

Robert Burnett

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Greetings!

Yesterday (November 30th) we all drove out to Happy Valley, one of the largest and most famous tea estates in all of India. Darjeeling tea commands extremely high prices on the international market, and much of the black tea that we buy at say, Whole Foods, comes from the Darjeeling area. One could say that were going to the source.

Kimberly and Turner had been staying with a family at Happy Valley for nearly 3 days as part of their ISP research, so we were all excited to see them again. The whole group had a delicious Nepali lunch at Kim and Turner's homestay before heading out into the fields to see some of the 300 strong workforce of tea pickers busy harvesting. It's really physically difficult and tedious work, all for less than fifty rupees a day (about one and a half dollars). We also saw the drying and processing facilities, which was fascinating. All the machinery looked to be over a hundred years old, left over from the colonial era.

In honesty, the more we learned about the labor situation at Happy Valley, the less "happy" the whole thing seemed. In the Happy Valley hierarchy, just above those three hundred female tea pickers comes a small middle base (maybe fifteen men) of office workers and those who process the tea. And above them comes only one person, the owner, to whom over ninety-five percent of the plantations earnings go directly. He doesn't even live in Darjeeling, but rather in Calcutta, over a day's drive away.

This was a really profound learning experience for the students. Seeing the brutal economics of a major cash crop in action is a bit of a harrowing experience, but its also enlightening. The world is such a complicated, and often unbearably unfair place, but the students dove into the subject matter at hand with honesty and curiosity. And above and beyond it all, we definitely had a fun experience at the tea gardens. And of course we couldn't leave without buying some "chai" (tea) for the road.

Only one week left of the program. I'm definitely starting to feel the sadness that comes with something like this ending. More on all that soon...

'Til then,

~Bryan

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

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Visiting a Darjeeling Tea Estate

Bryan Newman,Himalayan Studies Semester, Fall 2007

Description

Greetings! Yesterday (November 30th) we all drove out to Happy Valley, one of the largest and most famous tea estates in all of India. Darjeeling tea commands extremely high prices on the international market, and much of the black tea that we buy at say, Whole Foods, comes from the Darjeeling area. One could say […]

Posted On

11/30/07

Author

Bryan Newman

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