Tuesday, January 19, 2010

School in the High Himalayas

Above is a school that is under construction in the Langtang, Nepal. This project was undertaken by a group of Italian scientists and tourists/trekkers. You can read about the school and make contributions through their web site at http://www.sundaribaini.org/chisiamoen.htm
If you click on the top photo you should be able to see the school perched on the hillside.

Some of you have read my stories about helping some boys go to school in Kathmandu, 'Dream A World of Good.' The boys were from the village above. When they were young they had no opportunity for an education so their father gave up his status in the village and moved the family to Kathmandu so that the boys would have the possibility of receiving an education.

Below is an excerpt from a recent letter I received from the boys who are now young men.

It rained yesterday. Brr!!! And this morning we are all wrapped up and warm. I am writing this email with a huge pile of blankets around me. Recently there has been much news of deaths in the southern part of Nepal and India because of a cold wave. Homeless people suffer the most and the governments try feeble ineffective ways to counter the problems. Poor people are given wood to burn and clothes to wear but that will not help at all. It is so sad to hear when we are wrapped up and warm inside our home there are people dying because of cold.

Last week I visited my village. I have taken some photographs of the school and we all hope that you will like it. Recently, the school has been developing under the eyes of an Italian volunteer who helped the school build its first toilet and even a new building for higher secondary classes. A few years back the school ran up to grade eight only, but now villagers send their students to grade nine and grade ten too.

It is progress! If possible, I would like to visit the school when I go to Nepal in March and make a contribution to their operating expenses. I would also like to arrange a letter exchange with some of our local school students. But, I will have to wait and see how the plan unfolds. Travel restrictions, strikes, and weather can make it difficult to get to rural areas of Nepal, and someone would have to offer to host me in their home. With only a two week travel plan, I may not be able to get there and back. If I do get there, I'll bring you pictures and stories.

In February, I will be giving a free lecture on 'Life and work in Nepal during difficult times.' I will discuss the effects of 911 on Nepal, the murder of the entire Nepalese Royal family, endless annual strikes, and the Maoist Revolution. The lecture will be held at the Plymouth UCC in Shaker Heights, OH. Sunday February 14th, 9:30 - 10:20 am in room 102.

Peace to you all and prayers for Haiti!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What does an angel look like?

By Butternut Squash

God’s Words Whispered Obliquely
Mirror Creation

(another haiku for you)

I have been thinking a lot about angels lately, probably because Christmas has just gone by and I have been watching the Christmas trees pile up on the curbs and the angels disappear from windows. It occurs to me that what I know about angels is mostly from Renaissance paintings, Christmas cards and the nativity story. I have never read a book on angels other than the Bible, though I know that there are several available.

Some people say that we all become angels when we pass on. Others say that we are angels to one another in the present moment. When my grandmother was on her death bed, my aunt said, your grandmother has just seen an angel. And so I asked her, what did it look like. “Beautiful, I guess,” was all that she said. She was very ill, so I didn’t press for more. But I have always wondered what did she see and how did she know that it was an angel?

A few years ago, I was in a shop of crystals and rocks. The owner and her assistant were laughing while watching people walk through the door. “What’s the joke?” I asked. They told me that they had rearranged a bunch of crystals when they cleaned their shop. Something about the way that they had arranged the crystals was making people loopy when they walked through the door. I walked over to the door and put my palms out. Much to my surprise, there was an electrical flow in the air. I could feel it quite clearly. There were three large crystals, about 10 feet apart, forming a triangle that seemed to generate a very strong circular flow. Standing in it, I could feel energy enter one palm and shoot out the other. I felt like I was standing in a giant crystal radio kit. As I stood there I could feel a release of tension from the muscles in my back, neck and shoulders.

I closed my eyes and enjoyed the waves but when I opened my eyes, I saw that one of the women who had been laughing moments ago had her face buried in her shirt and she was crying. When I asked her what had happened she said that she saw an angel on either side of me. I couldn’t resist. What did they look like? Her description was that they were shafts of light that came from heaven. She could not see them when looking directly at them but only askance. How did she know they were angels? She just knew.

If you have seen an angel, I would love to know what it looked like.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Pondering Divine Intervention

Street Dogs in Thailand are often hairless and covered with scabs. This photo is from Thai Pulse.

Pondering Divine Intervention
By Butternut Squash

A spotlight fixed on a steam locomotive that was about to charge across the bridge. Moments after the engine crossed, the canons boomed from the river spewing water up all around the bridge which was rigged to collapse. The look-out towers were in flames and men on fire leapt from the bridge. From the boat, I could see everything quite clearly. The music was unbearably loud and I couldn’t help worrying about the ecosystems of the river that had to endure the blasting night after night all throughout November and December.

I had traveled with a friend to Kanchanaburi, Thailand, in early December to watch a reenactment of the bombing of the bridge over the river Kwai. After the show we headed to a video restaurant and had a few beers and stayed to watch a movie. However, my friend got tired and decided to return to the houseboat where we were staying. She left with a few other drunken backpackers that were headed the same direction. Shortly after midnight, when the movie ended, I headed off toward the house boat alone.

Earlier in the evening the streets had been full of cars and pedestrians, but I found it to be disturbingly quiet when I entered the dark humid night. There were few electric lights in the neighborhood and I was feeling vulnerable without people around. I thought that it might be quicker to cut through the temple grounds, so I turned at the stone gate and walked briskly into the center courtyard of the temple.

I saw a shadow move beside the temple, but I kept my pace. It was a bad choice. Very quickly I saw two shadows moving slowly toward me. I stopped. A dog stood in front of me. Its back was arched its head and tail were down and it began a low menacing growl. This mangy, hairless cur had a scabby friend with infected eyes that came up slowly behind him. Within a few seconds, while I was still struggling to decide which way to go, four more dogs arrived. I was now surrounded on three sides by a very hungry looking pack of stray dogs.

My rear was the only side without a dog, but I was afraid that if I turned to leave that I would be taken down and mauled. There would be nothing left of me but a fleeting story of gore for the morning news. I had never had a dog, but I had had a few scruffy cats in my life. So I summoned the persona of my mother enraged by the cat eating hamburger from the dining room table. I stood taller and fiercely smacked my hands together and said, “Bad dogs, go home!” And I marched forward confidently while circling back toward the stone gate from which I had entered. The dogs did not attack but they did continue to growl and followed me closely until I left the temple grounds. A few paces out of the gate. I grabbed a fat stick and carried it all the way to the houseboat.

I have been in some terrible situations in my life, but that was the most frightened I have ever been. The fear made me tremble so badly that I could barely walk, and I felt as if my soul was only vaguely connected to my body for at least the next hour. I still wonder how I could have possibly managed to escape without a scratch.