Saturday, July 31, 2010


Waiting, Kathmandu

Patience is power; with time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.- Chinese Proverb

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Path of Pleasure

This is a calf, not a dog, Kathmandu
Katha Upanishad 1:2:1

There is a path of joy and there is the path of pleasure. Pondering on them, the wise (one) chooses the path of joy; the fool takes the path of pleasure.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meet Your Neighbor

Mark 12:28-31 (King James Version)
The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. -Jesus

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making Wishes

"In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else
will solve their problems.  Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction.  Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged."
-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Holy Baba

Holy Baba in Kathmandu.  Always click to see the details!

What person can give me the wisdom I am seeking?

True knowledge is never covered by super impositions. One's practical life will necessarily mirror such pure knowledge. -Param Pujya Ma

What knowledge do you reflect?

I will be in Oregon for a week but I am leaving you with daily quotes and original photos.  I'll check in if I can. Peace!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Remover of Obstacles

There are some things that I haven't told you, things that I shouldn't tell you, but at least I have to try to help you understand why there are omissions.  Eighteen years ago when I was traveling in China, I met an interesting artist who had very nasty things to tell me about the Chinese government and the Cultural Revolution.  When I asked him why he had a picture of Mao on his wall he said, "Mao was so scary that I kept his picture to frighten away the evil spirits."  When he saw that I carried a journal with me everywhere I went, he cautioned me not to write anything that he said in a public place because it could be very harmful to his health.

I love Nepal dearly, but it is going through some growing pains.  It would not be good for me, my business, or anyone that I do business with, or anyone that I am trying to help, for me to discuss my uneducated political views about Nepal.  I will only say, and I think that all parties concerned would agree, that corruption is a bad thing especially when it is paired with violence.

When I offered to help the Shree Nava Vijayee Mahendra Secondary School to build a library,  I didn't consider how that could affect local politics.  My immediate thoughts were: How much would it cost? and Who do I give the money to?  But it took very little time for me to understand that there was no one person or group that I could give money to.  It simply wouldn't be healthy for them.  What was needed was an NGO (non-governmental organization) with established practices.  So, of course, I said, "Just tell me who and I will work it out with them."  But there was no reply.
Ganesh, the remover of obstacles.  He is prayed to before other deities because he helps to clear the path for communication with the other deities.
As I wandered the streets of Kathmandu, I was puzzling how to make good on my promises to the school children.  I talked with my suppliers, and the other Nepalese people that I knew, and some other foriegners that I didn't know, asking them all about how one establishes an NGO in Nepal.

In the end, it was the man that I have known the longest in my travels to Nepal and who has helped me the most with my business who had the solution that I needed.

Raju, is a remarkable self-made man.  I knew him when he had a small shipping business that operated out of a second floor office on a side street in Thamel.  It had a dirt floor and I had to climb a wooden ladder to get to the office.  He now has his own building, several vehicles with chauffers, and a multitude of business ventures including a network of ayurvedic medicine shops attached to free yoga centers.  It is my personal opinion that he has acquired all of this wealth via his rakish good looks and superior smile.  It also helps that he is considered extremely trustworthy and well connected.  I have known him to be quite generous both with his customers and with his staff in providing regular parties, good advice, and loans in dire situations.  Once, when I was in Nepal he got a phone call from another importer like myself who was going to jail because his taxi cab driver accidentally hit a cow.  Raju sorted things out and got the foriegner back home safely.  But his success has not come without drawbacks.  Because he is well known and has money, his family has been threatened and his brother beaten.  In fact, while Tania and I were in Nepal, he received a phone call demanding a million rupees.  It was an insane demand with no specifics, and no follow-up.  He has lived a remarkable life, and some day someone will write a book about this country boy who grew up to receive awards from the King of Nepal.

Kathmandu, click to enlarge
When I mentioned to Raju my intention to build a library, he knew exactly where to begin.  He and several businessmen in Thamel had set up the Joy Foundation, years ago, for just this kind of charitable donation.  They had all of the accountability and the follow-up worked out and they had years of practice building schools and training teachers.  He even offered to make a donation.  Without hesitation, he made phone calls and arranged for Tania and me to be invited to a dinner where we could meet with the founders of the Joy Foundation.  I will tell you more about the dinner soon.

I haven't told you anything that isn't well known in Nepal, and Raju, unlike many poorer people in Nepal, does have the resources to protect himself and his family.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bead District in Kathmandu

Beads are an important part of a woman's attire in Nepal.  Hindu women in Kathmandu go to a small alley in Indrachowk called the pote bazaar. Pote, pronounced potay, are worn by married women.  A wedding pote might be very long, worn like a sash that hangs to one's hip.

The different ethnic groups of the Kathmandu valley have different beliefs about how one should wear their pote.  Some women believe that they must wear it 24 hours a day lest their husband should unexpectedly pass away.  Ethnic groups outside of Kathmandu have very different traditions, but wearing loads of jewelry seems to be the norm throughout the Himalayas.

A golden tilauri bead in the middle of a pote necklace is a symbol very much like the gold wedding ring in the west.  It is always a spiky bead, but it does vary a little in length and design. Below is a sterling silver tilauri bead that we sell on our web site

Surprisingly, although Muslims don't wear pote, most of the shopkeepers selling them in the pote bazaar are Kashmiri Muslims.  When necklaces are almost finished, the bead stringer will have several threads between his toes and something that looks like a little drop spindle in his hand.  So quickly that my eye can not comprehend, he winds a thread around the several threads between his toes and finishes the necklace making a button hole loop on one end and attaching a brass button carved with a lotus on the other end.

I brought Tania here because they make beautiful woven bracelets for a fraction of what they would cost to produce in the USA and because it was on the way to Kathmandu Durbar Square.  I will show you that square next time.

The pote bazaar at Indrachowk

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leaving You with a Smile!

I am on my way to a show in Virginia Beach, VA.  I won't be able to post for a little while.
Have a great week!  Peace.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Artisans of Patan

After the long hike down the mountain, we had a still longer drive out of the mountains.  At about 11 pm after 9 hours of rattling along in the land cruiser on unpaved roads, stopping briefly to return Atit and JR to the village, we arrived back at the Kathmandu Guest House.  The next couple of days were a whirlwind of meeting with my suppliers and trying to show Tania around Kathmandu.  During this time, still ecstatic about my trip to the mountains, I talked to everyone that I knew about how to help create a library for a rural school in the mountains of Nepal.

Tania and I visited an area of Kathmandu called Patan where most of the craftspeople's families have lived for centuries.  When I walk up and down the narrow streets, I literally trip over masterpieces.  Even the gutters have carvings of open mouthed celestial beings that spout water.  All day long in this area you can hear the hammering and chiseling of statues, prayer wheels, door handles, window frames and all manner of handicraft items.  The craftspeople live in districts where many of the neighbors are related and everyone seems to have the same vocation.  There are entire blocks of silversmiths, stone cutters, metal workers, or painters. This is not a tourist show, this is art as work and worship intertwined-- life as it always has been in Patan.

Here are the ordinary dwellings of Patan! 

This is an inner courtyard.  There was a little cafe back here where we had lunch behind the apartment homes.

Below is Patan Durbar Square, or Patan King's Square.  What I love about this place is how alive it is.  I have been to beautiful town centers in the USA that are virtually empty.  This square is 500 years old and much more than that in spots. It is composed of temples, museums, homes and shops. It is also the playground of children, the market place for merchants, the holy place for believers, where women separate the wheat from the chaff, and the meeting place for old men who smoke and swap stories.  It is a place to think, to work, or to beg.  Life happens here!

Please double click on these so that you can see the detail and the exquisite beauty that I saw.

Even in the city, many people get their water from, and bathe in, the public taps.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Monkey Bites and Crocodiles, a letter exchange

This is skipping ahead of the story a bit...

You may remember that I was presented to an assembly of students at the mountain school that had 400 students and no library.  Searching for something to say in my impromptu speech, I made a promise of a letter exchange between my son's school in Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA and their school, Shree Nava Vijayee Mahendra Secondary School in Nepal. This is without having any real plan in place or any advance discussion with the teachers in the US.

When I returned to the states from Nepal, in March 2010, I was surprised to learn that the writing teachers in my son's school were asking parents to come in and talk about their passions.  It was perfect timing!  Two weeks after I returned, I gave a Power Point presentation about education in Nepal called 'Monkey Bites and Crocodiles.' I asked my 6th grade audience to write a letter about a day in their life and mailed the letters to the students in Nepal.

Yes, I did tell stories about monkey bites and crocodiles with photos.  I'll show you these in later posts.

The return letters were slow in coming because, once again, political problems closed the school for weeks.  Also, the English teacher in Nepal had to wait until he had the time to take a 5 hour bus ride to Kathmandu to mail the return letters.  But they are here!

Archana Neupane gave me her permission to publish her letter.  It is very well written and also very typical of most of the letters we received.

You should be able to read this if you click on it.

My son's English teacher will continue the letter exchange in the Fall.

Why the exchange?  Our kids in the US need the awareness of other cultures as much as the kids in Nepal.    Most of the students in our neighborhood have a very limited understanding of poverty in developing nations.  The Shaker Heights sixth graders' thinking was so stimulated by the presentation that I had to limit their questions in the end.

If you would like me to come talk to your school or community group, let me know.  If I'm traveling close to you, I'll come with the Power Point and a pile of Nepali art objects.