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Update on Our Activities in Dharamsala
We continue to be quite active here in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala. Last Saturday we spent the day in the Sidbari area, home of the Karmapa, and also visited the Norbulingka Institute, the cultural centre of the government in exile. The Karmapa is the 3rd highest lama, after His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and the Penchen Lama, who was kidnapped by the Chinese, along with his entire family at age 6, many years ago. On this visit the Karmapa did not give a talk, we merely walked past him, heads bent, and he passed us a red silk cord that he had blessed, to be worn around the neck or wrist.
We’re meeting many interesting people here at Loseling, the monastery run guest house in the centre of town; in ’09 we were somewhat isolated at Kirti Monastery, although the accomodation was good and the energy of the monks’ chanting was incredible. Here at Loseling the monks speak English, a nice change. When I mentioned to one that the Kirti monks are not allowed to learn English (I had it on good authority), he said that they’re too lazy to do so! (Later we heard that Kirti has recently changed its policy and is encouraging volunteer English tutoring now).
I began my women’s English and Empowerment Coaching group last Thursday and it is going well. The nine women are in a training program called Stiches of Tibet, run by the Tibetan Womens’ Association. They learn to tailor chubas so they will have a trade to earn their living with, also English and computer. We meet for 90 minutes and will have 15 mornings together before I leave McLeod Ganj; my friend Dolma will assist with most of the sessions, adding the cultural component that I’m lacking, plus interpretting. The level of English among the women varies greatly, 4 have almost none, so it is challenginng.
This past weekend was the Tibetan Film Festival; we attended all the Saturday events and it was very worthwhile. The festival was begun in Zurich in 2009, and is Swiss sponsored; 2 years ago they brought it to Dharamsala. Saturday was a combination of feature length films and shorts. In the morning there was a contest where the audience voted for their favourite out of 6 - 5 minute films made by young Tibetan filmmakers. All were very creative.
Two of the feature length films caught my eye: Girl from China, a film about an ordinary Chinese woman visiting Tibetan India and a Tibetan man; (it`s not yet released, but we plan to purchase it on-line later to show our friends and family); and We Corner People, a documentary about a remote village in Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern Indian state lying between China and Bangladesh, where our sponsored families are coming from in the New Year. The idea of helping people transition from a life high in the Himalayan foothills to the Gibsons BC, Canada, is somewhat daunting after seeing the film.
All for now, more news later.