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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010


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We posted photos of 7 of our students engaging in their I.S.P.'s - now here are the other 4!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Independent Projects and Photos – 2

Instructor Team,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

We posted photos of 7 of our students engaging in their I.S.P.’s – now here are the other 4!

Posted On

03/26/10

Author

Instructor Team

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My Nepali name is Maya and jewelry makes me happy, theredore it is quite sensible that my ISP mentor has dubbed me "Happy Maya". As I mentioned, my Intedependent Study Project is learning the craft of jewelry through a Nepali lense. Having already studied jewelry for two years in high school, I started the experience with the assumption that I understood all the basics of the craft and would produce pieces at a rapid rate; this pre-disposition proved to be terribly wrong. Jewelry-making in the United States and its Nepalese counterpart are worlds apart, but luckily I have my fabulous mentor Keshab to guide me through every motion.

The simplest way of describing these remarkable differences is by referring to the term hand-made. When Nepalese say that something is handmade, they are not pushing your buttons, they genuinely mean it is made from scratch.

To start the process, little balls of silver must be bought, the number of grams depending on the size of the piece in ming. This is always an entertaining activity since the man who sells me silver (having sold to me four times already) still cannot grasp the fact that I am making the jewelry myself. In order to convince him, I have made sure to bring proof in the form of my newly finished projects whenever I drop by for a visit.

The next steps involve a lot of flames, melting the silver into a bar and shaping the result into the desired form with a hammer and constant re-heating and cooling of the metal. This whole process inspiresmany rounds of my mentors second favorite chant (right after "Happy Maya, Maya Happy") which is "heat and beat".

At this point, numerous options follow. There is cutting out shapes and patterns with a saw blade that can snap with the blink of an eye, drilling holes with a pointed blade contraption propelled by ribbon tension. There is also filing and sanding, both of which coat my skin in silver dust, giving it a shimmering appearance. Who needs shimmer-lotion when you can file the edges of peacock feathers for a couple hours and produce the same result. My favorite activity, and the one I am currently partaking in for the second time, involves creating wire. This can be defined as pulling strips of metal through little holes with the help of your body weight. I provide constant amusement to my mentor and his assistent with my panting, sweating and necessity for minute-long breath catching breaks. It is all very light-hearted teasing which prompts my mentors third favorite chant, "silly Maya". The most recent chanting followed my accidental hitting of my thumb with a hammer, causing a blue blood blister to form on the tip. Although this may sound painful, I was overjoyed, only because an hour before the silver seller had tried to argue that my hands were too clean and smooth to have made jewelry; I now felt that my welt would really show him what was what.

All in all, everyday of my ISP is an adventure. Whether it is rushing through the streets of Thamel and being approched daily by the same albino man trying to sell me a wooden recorder, sitting mesmorized as my mentor shows me his newest creation finished at an impossible rate, or smiling while sitting beside Keshap as he sips black tea and chants "chyaa yummy, yummy chyaa" and bobs his head from left to right. If there is one activity I would recommend to anyone visiting Nepal, it would be making jewelry. Who wouldn't want to be a "Happy Maya"?

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Silver Wonderland

Montana Feiger,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

My Nepali name is Maya and jewelry makes me happy, theredore it is quite sensible that my ISP mentor has dubbed me "Happy Maya". As I mentioned, my Intedependent Study Project is learning the craft of jewelry through a Nepali lense. Having already studied jewelry for two years in high school, I started the experience […]

Posted On

03/25/10

Author

Montana Feiger

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In a land of mountains, rivers, valleys, forests and plateaus, environmental development is on the minds of many. To put Nepal's environment into perspective, Robert Zommer, also known as "Bob", from the Center for Integrated Mountain Development, meandered over to our Program House one afternoon in his stylish electric automobile.

The name of the game, according to Bob, is climate change. The Himalayas are thought to be the "3rd pole", due to the fact that it contains the most ice in the world after the Artic. The implications for glacial melting in the region are huge, and floods threaten agricultural production and the livelihood of communities throughout the Hindu-Kush range. Temperatures have risen .6 degrees Celsius per decadeon the Tibettan Platteau(3 times higher than the global average), and just a 2% increase in nightime temperatures can wipe out a farmer's crop yield. While there is a large datadeficit in the area, the numbers scientists do have are outstanding, and suggest a drastic need for change.
Pollutions is also an issue. Although Nepal is a 0 % emmiter on a global scale, its current practices have left Kathamndu draped in smog. Taking advantage of the abundance of resources and installing renewable energy practices could also solve the problem of load-shedding and water shortages, but is unfortunately extremely difficult when a stable government is lacking.
Bob left our minds spinning, but not without outlining what is needed in Nepal's future surrounding its environment. By organizing communities, providing knowledge to its residents and finding ways to finance energy alternatives, it may be able to have a much brighter, cleaner and sustainable future.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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The 3rd Pole

Katey Parker,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

In a land of mountains, rivers, valleys, forests and plateaus, environmental development is on the minds of many. To put Nepal’s environment into perspective, Robert Zommer, also known as "Bob", from the Center for Integrated Mountain Development, meandered over to our Program House one afternoon in his stylish electric automobile. The name of the game, […]

Posted On

03/24/10

Author

Katey Parker

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Last Sunday I arrived at the Program House 45 minutes early for what I thought was our weekly excursion. I was looking forward to some peace and quiet at the Program House so I was surprised to find the majority of our group already present. (Dragon's sutdents are not always known for being timely.) I was greeted somewhat somberly and 5 minutes later an impromptu contingent was organized to go get momo dumplings at a nearby shop. Having already eated I at first declined to go, but eventually gave in to repeated and insistant cajoling. Thirtry minutes later, feeling comfortably full from a helping of the light steamed treats, we returned. Suddenly all the suspicious behavior of my frie3nds made sense when I walked into the kitched to shouts of "Surprise!". The same ritual was repeated five minutes later when Susanna walked through the doors (our birthday's feel just a day apart). All were gigantic smiles as we were both forced into birthday hats and photographed mercilessly. I had to laugh as everyone shared stories of their party planning efforts and the panic they felt when I showed up early.

Two cakes, ice cream and and hour later, we all joined hands in an appreciation circle, enjoying eachother's company and sharing what we all felt grateful for. We finished off the morning with a hot and sweaty group "cinnabun hug" extending even more the closeness of our group.

That very afternoon, the group travelled to Swyambunath- the famous monkey temple where we contemplated much more sober matters. After explorning the Stupa and nearly losing vertain belonging to the impetuous monkeys there, we all congregated in a secluded prayer room to hold a ceremony for a friend of Susanna who had recently passed away. The atmosphere was stifling but magical as we all lit butter lamps and joined hands in the smokey darkness to listen to Susanna's words. Afterwards, still silent we filed outside and walked several "kora" -circling around the giant stupa spinning the prayer wheels, the tiny papers inside realeasing their mantra into the world and accrueing merit for all of human kind.

Walking from the Temple, there was a great feeling of tiredness to the group but also of closeness and emotional release. We ate dinner together and said our goodbyes, each of us making our ways to our separate houses, racing an impeding thunderstorm.

The two events of the day would seem eachother's polar opposites, but ended up complimenting eachother in a perfect symetry giving the day a feeling of completness and closure at the end. In one day, we expereinced the yin and yang of life, celebrating both a birth and a death. For us all, it was a quiet way to break the pattern of our busy days for just a moment and take time to be thankful; thankful for our lives, for our health, and for the chance to be in a beautful country with friends that we love. For many of us, we don't often have the opportunity to reflect on these values and express those more intimate emotions on a regular basis which can create an imbalance in our lives. I went to sleep that night to the sound of hail against my window, feeling quiet and content and in perfect balance.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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3/13 events

Deva Steketee,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Last Sunday I arrived at the Program House 45 minutes early for what I thought was our weekly excursion. I was looking forward to some peace and quiet at the Program House so I was surprised to find the majority of our group already present. (Dragon’s sutdents are not always known for being timely.) I […]

Posted On

03/24/10

Author

Deva Steketee

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Unbelievably, yet another week has escaped into the past. It feels like yesterday that Rajesh-ji and Nisha-ji began our Nepali classes with those phrases which now seem almost clichés (“Namaste, tapaaiko naam ke ho?” and “Tapaailai sanchhai chha?”) below the grand views visible from Bhaktapur Guest House, cosily besieged by mountains. Indeed, I’ve found that an easier way of keeping track of how long we’ve been in Nepal for (the concept of time has melted here, which is understandable considering how perspiratingly hot it’s been recently- seriously, it’s difficult to remember whether it’s Thursday or Tuesday or neither) is to recognise how much we’ve learnt. After lessons every weekday from nine until eleven, including particularly energetic word games whose competitiveness tests the bonds of friendship in our group (bring it ON Deva!), all of the group members are now comfortably capable of having conversational-level interactions, much to the delight of locals who would never have suspected as much. Fellow tuk-tuk passengers, waiters, shopkeepers, and host families immediately warm to you once you display the ability/willingness to progress beyond the Nepali-phrasebook Namaste, and ask in their language about where they live, their history, and their ideas. Political questions, as in most cultures I know, are particularly explosive; I have heard numerous, and, more often than not, contradictory opinions about the current state of affairs, and I am sure that there are many more to come.

Finally, huge thanks are owed to our instructors and teachers, without whom we would most definitely still be mumbling along through the basics, beaten by the language barrier.

Wahaa haru ekdam ramro guru hunuhunccha- harek din hami haru nayaa sabdha pardchhau, ra harik manis sadaae khusi laghyo. Rajeshko humour ra Nishako patience sanga hami haru dherai sikyau. Ekdam danyabad!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Language and Lessons Learnt

Dougie Foster,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Unbelievably, yet another week has escaped into the past. It feels like yesterday that Rajesh-ji and Nisha-ji began our Nepali classes with those phrases which now seem almost clichés (“Namaste, tapaaiko naam ke ho?” and “Tapaailai sanchhai chha?”) below the grand views visible from Bhaktapur Guest House, cosily besieged by mountains. Indeed, I’ve found that […]

Posted On

03/23/10

Author

Dougie Foster

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As you all must know by now, one of Where There Be Dragon's goals is to develop the leadership skills of each and every Dragon's student. One of our required assignments that enables us to practice these skills is the task to, in groups of 2 or 3, lead the others in the group in what we call a Development Discussion. It is also the aim of these student-lead discussions to make the group more aware of current events and issues that are related to the development of Nepal, Asia, and the entire world.

Our first official student-lead development discussion was held last Friday and was focused on the topic of food security in Nepal. So far we had not really been exposed to any kind of food crisis in Nepal since every night we are served heaping plates of daal baht from our families; however, what we learned through the provided readings were some shocking statistics about both food availability and food distribution in Nepal.

Because the rate of Nepal's population increase is much higher than the rate of the increase in agricultural output, the demand for a balanced diet is becoming higher every year. The people who are affected most by these shortages are those without land or a steady income who live in urban areas. These include artisans, self-employed workers, beggars, and others who are employed in ill-paying or seasonal occupations. Even if people are able to feed themselves, consuming a balanced diet is another challenge. 40% of the population suffers from malnutrition.

One of the major causes of the decline in food production is the migration of rural Nepalis to urban areas. The cities have higher paying jobs, provide better education, better living situations, and the food is actually much cheaper in the city. Because food distribution is so poorly managed in Nepal, it requires a lot of money to ship food products out to the far-away rural villages. When these rural families move from the villages to the cities, they leave there farming practices behind, causing less food to be produced. Other factors behind the decline in food production is the increase in urban sprawl which leads to less land availability, a decrease in the fertility of the soil in arable lands because of deforestation, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, scarcity of water for irrigation, and water logging and salinity due to insufficient water management.

After being informed through the student-leaders' presentation about these issues, we were split into three smaller groups to discuss more in-depth about a specific issue within the broader topic. My group focused mainly on what other issues arise within Nepal when food availability is not stable. One big issue that was brought up was the Nepalis' feeling of abandonment from the government for not putting any efforts into the crisis. For example, the government allows for massive shipments of lentils to be exported out of the country when there isn't even enough food in the country for the citizens. Some think that this unsatisfactory feeling towards the government could even be an opportunity for the Maoists to rise up and turn the people against the government. Another question the government might have to deal with is whether they will have to eventually ask for foreign aid if the crisis is not fixed. It would require a lot of money from Nepal to ask for aid, which could then bring the country great debt. If Nepal can't pay off that debt, they might have to give their land to the foreign countries as the only way of payment.

When we started talking about solutions for Nepal, one of the big ones we talked about was education. Education in order to get jobs, education about health and nutrition, and education about the environment could all improve the issue enormously. We also talked about how important it is for the government to play a bigger role in fixing the problem, better food management, a better system of food distribution, and well-managed food buffer storage.

I don't think I group would say that we came to a solid conclusion of how to solve the food crisis in Nepal; however, through this discussion we became much more aware of a serious issue that affecting so many of the Nepali's lives everyday. The development discussion was also powerful in the way that it made us realize that in order to informed on big issues like this, we really have to take the initiative as an individual to seek out articles and other sources of information on our own because they really aren't noted on the news programs or in the newspapers back at home. Thanks to Janet, Hannah, and Amy for a great first development discussion!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Our First Student-Lead Development Discussion

Susanna McMillan,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

As you all must know by now, one of Where There Be Dragon’s goals is to develop the leadership skills of each and every Dragon’s student. One of our required assignments that enables us to practice these skills is the task to, in groups of 2 or 3, lead the others in the group in […]

Posted On

03/23/10

Author

Susanna McMillan

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When Sita Ram Baba entered the room, draped in bright orange robes and face painted in patterns of red and white there was an audible silence. There, standing in our classroom greeting our guest lecturer with hands in prayer position and a chorus of “namaste” an air of upmost attention and curiosity stilled our antsy bodies and minds. Sita Ram Baba is a Hindu ascetic, meaning he has renounced everything material in his life to take the path of Samana, or uniting with God. Upon visiting Nepal and India, many Western tourists come away with the impression that ascetics, also called yogis, are the malnourished, wild-dreadlocked men who pose for photos (100 rupees, please) outside major Hindu temples. Although Jane and Bob Smith may not be aware of a yogi’s life purpose beyond contorting into advanced yoga poses at the click of a camera shutter, the ascetic tradition is one of the most ancient religious paths in the world.

Because Baba speaks very little English, Sweta sat aside to translate. Baba, who originally comes from Janukpur in south Nepal, is in his 70’s but carries an infectiously youthful sense of joy that is apparent in his smile and warm, relaxed manner. He began his path of religious devotion when he was only 9 years old, frequenting his local temple so often he decided to move into the monastery two years later at age 11. He then embarked on his journey towards becoming a yogi, which required chanting for days upon end with only one chapatti and one jug of water a day. At 13, he saw the god Hanuman in a dream. Hanuman told Baba it was his duty to spread the word of God. Baba was visited by Hanuman on three separate occasions in which Baba says Hanuman protected him from danger or near-death situations.

For 13 years, Baba continued meditating until his revelation came, focusing specifically on the gods Hanuman and Ram, from which he derives his yogi name. These years were spent in isolation in a hut with only chapatti and water to sustain him. Through this intense meditation, Baba received many answers from the gods, in a form he described as “like watching TV or a movie of his life.” These revelations are part of the ascetic lifestyle, but come only from a life absolutely dedicated to the path and devoid of any unnecessary material possessions. Yogis do not own clothing besides their simple robes, and do not cut their hair. Baba undid his head wrap to let 70-something year-old dreadlocks cascade across the floor, much to the delight of our class.

Yogis follow a very austere lifestyle, but as Baba showed us, are in no way without joy or happiness. An aspiring yogi must do years of service for his Guru and his ashram before he can even begin to meditate. The yogic lifestyle proves too challenging for many so true yogis are incredibly admirable in their dedication and perseverance, something that the “tourist Yogis” unfortunately undermine. In his current practice, Baba wakes up each day at 3:00 am, bathes and dresses, taking care to apply the iconic face paint that symbolizes which gods he worships, and after meditates from 4:30 am – 8:30 am. He then spends the morning and early afternoon at various temples or visiting friends (or giving educational lectures, like ours) and then returns to the ashram around 6:00 pm. He meditates again for three hours, eats his very simple meal, and then goes to sleep. Whichever god Baba visualizes before falling asleep comes to him in his dreams, he says.

In his closing comments, Baba told us to take advantage of the life we have received each day and to live life for others. To have a human life, he said, is to have the most auspicious life and so much opportunity to do good. It should not be let go to waste. After sitting with us through lunch, Baba boarded a microbus with Sweta, Amy, Susanna and myself and as we were on our way to our afternoon activities in another part of the city, Baba too was off to the next part of his day. As I sat facing backwards towards other passengers of the cramped bus I made a note to mentally photograph Sita Ram Baba, in the back row of a microbus seated amongst a sea of completely nonplussed Nepalis, riding public transportation just like the rest of us.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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An Ascetic Life, a Joyful Yogi

Alex Kryzanowski,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

When Sita Ram Baba entered the room, draped in bright orange robes and face painted in patterns of red and white there was an audible silence. There, standing in our classroom greeting our guest lecturer with hands in prayer position and a chorus of “namaste” an air of upmost attention and curiosity stilled our antsy […]

Posted On

03/23/10

Author

Alex Kryzanowski

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    [post_content] => We were assigned a project called the Mapping exercise in which we were instructed to go through a neighborhood that we spend time in and ask people for directions and what places they use as landmarks. This assignment is another enthographic method that can be used to better understand and describe a place. The main goal of the exercise was to speak with people in the community and compare our outsiders perspective with their insiders perspective. Many people had enjoyable experiences mapping, and found that people were very willing to help and would sometimes even offer directions without being asked. People took great interest in the maps we drew becasue maps are not something that people are taught to use here, and it is actually a luxury to own a map of your area. This was rather surprising for many of us because for me at least it didn't occur to me that i had been taught how to read a map, but looking back i understand that it is definitely a skill to be able to read a map. My family had fun looking at my map, and they complimented me on the drawings of the temples i had done, of which they were many. Many students agreed that temples were the main landmarks that people used, along with bridges and the large supermarket Bhat Patini. When people give directions, they tend to give you directions for the next block or so, and then you need to ask for directions again, and again until you reach your destination. We also found that are families tend to give directions with time, saying walk along this road for however many minutes, which is a bit inaccurate at times. Overall, the exercise was enjoyable and gave me and i think others a deeper understanding of the neighborhoods we investigated and of Nepali culture in general. 
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Mapping Exercise

Sarah McKenzie,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

We were assigned a project called the Mapping exercise in which we were instructed to go through a neighborhood that we spend time in and ask people for directions and what places they use as landmarks. This assignment is another enthographic method that can be used to better understand and describe a place. The main […]

Posted On

03/21/10

Author

Sarah McKenzie

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Our second group discussion aimed to prioritize the theoretical components of a ‘developed’ country. Imagining ourselves to be the organizing force behind a new country, starting from scratch, we argued for and against the relative importance of the following seven aspects (which we previously agreed to be the seven most important): Government, Education, Natural Resources, Basic Human Rights, Environment, Economy, and Health Care. A general frustration was aired that none of these were capable of operating alone, without the support of at least one of the others, and so choosing the “most important” was everybody’s hardest decision. Should it be natural resources, whose existence (or lack of) would determine the suitability of an area in which to begin a new community? Or should it be education, to ensure that the inhabitants of this land could successfully, with knowledge of effective politics, organize their country’s development priorities (the task which we as a group were pretending to do)? But isn’t that a job for government?

Seeing any of them at the bottom of our lists was also challenging- once the foundations of a country are in place, should economic strength or environmental protection deserve more attention?

These were a few of the many problems we struggled with, and we appreciated further the difficulties which governments face daily (i.e. some of the problems we were trying to figure out, in addition to each of their intricate branches into other subtopics, in addition to dealing with unsupportive media and the general public).

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Exciting Development Discussion – The Second One

Dougie Foster,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Our second group discussion aimed to prioritize the theoretical components of a ‘developed’ country. Imagining ourselves to be the organizing force behind a new country, starting from scratch, we argued for and against the relative importance of the following seven aspects (which we previously agreed to be the seven most important): Government, Education, Natural Resources, […]

Posted On

03/19/10

Author

Dougie Foster

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For my indepentdent study project here in Kathmandu I am learning the art of wooden mask carving. My mentor is a local woodworker named Sujan Lama and he is a very talented woodworker at that.

Over the last three weeks we have managed to crank out a buddha and a half! My instruction is simple due largley to the fact that my mentor speaks no english and I speak minimal nepali. But we get along just fine with our myming and gesticulations. He is a master of his craft and that transcends all langauge barriers.

Our work is carried out with chissels and mallets, sitting on the floor of his shop down the road from the Thai Embassy in Basbari. It definetly took some getting use to sqwating on the hard floor of his workshop for three hours every afternoon but my knees are hanging in.

We just started our last project and are hoping to finish a much larger head of the Buddha in the next two weeks, wish me luck!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Mask making with Sujan Lama

Nick Gollner,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

For my indepentdent study project here in Kathmandu I am learning the art of wooden mask carving. My mentor is a local woodworker named Sujan Lama and he is a very talented woodworker at that. Over the last three weeks we have managed to crank out a buddha and a half! My instruction is simple […]

Posted On

03/18/10

Author

Nick Gollner

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