Robin Cappuccino is currently traveling to all of the Child Haven homes – here are some thoughts from road.
Tashi Delek from Lhasa, where Child Haven supports 15 children, college students and several senior orphans. The flight from Kathmandu offered a clear view of Mt. Everest, its searing peak scraping the sky and snaring passing clouds. No less a profound visage, the Potala Palace rises high above Lhasa as we enter the city.
Many of the kids from our Home in the village were in Lhasa visiting some of the older students who attend school there. We took them out to lunch for bobis and veg momos. Delicious, but no match for the spicy vegetables and tofu we are most often served at the Home. The photos show some of the kids around the table. There is not as much English spoken here, so we rely on our good friend Pema for translation. Home Manager Norbula had brought along a huge thermos of tea from the village, so our cups were never empty. In fact they were rarely less than half full. One of the first phrases I learned in Tibetan was mei mei mei, meaning something like thanks but if I drink any more tea I’ll float away, which only seems to work if accompanied by a hand placed directly over the top of the cup.
Norbula brought us up to date on how everyone was doing with their studies and the latest news of the Home and community. As is the case with all our Homes, Child Haven does not get involved in local politics here in Tibet. To do so would jeopardize our ability to do the work that we are able to do. Our focus here as elsewhere, is on raising our children in a loving home while embracing and learning from their cultural and religious heritage. So far, two of our charges have become Doctors of Tibetan Medicine, several are in university studying the Tibetan language, and hope to be teachers or translators when they graduate. One is studying Environmental Science while another has learned the decorative painting that often frames windows and doors here. Yet another graduated with a degree in Tibetan agriculture and is working as an agricultural consultant for farmers in a remote rural area. Many of these students were and are sponsored by generous Child Haven donors who commit to paying college fees through our college sponsorship program. (More on this program can be found at Child Haven’s website.)
Our Hotel is just a few blocks from the Jokhang Temple, considered by many to be the most sacred in Tibet. One cannot approach the temple, without being caught up in a flowing river of humanity, circling, or circumambulating, the temple and the several block sized complex it is a part of. The air is filled with the sound of chanting, twirling prayer wheels, animated conversation, frequent bursts of laughter and the smell of dried juniper incense smoldering in huge incense pyres along the route. As on most days, there must be thousands of people, walking clock-wise, performing the ritual Kora pilgrimage, circling the temple once or many times in succession as time and desire allow. Many seem to have come from the far reaches of Tibet, men in long sheep or yak-skin cloaks, women with massive turquoise and coral beads braided into their long black hair, not long from the steppes and distant mountain villages. There are teenagers in tight jeans with poufy hair, helping grandmothers in striped Tibetan aprons and long dark skirts cane their way along, red-cheeked tykes in slings and back-packs, businessmen in black leather jackets fondling prayer beads, young families with strollers, animated groups of teen-agers, slower moving elders periodically stopping to sit and rest. The afternoon we were there 3 or 4 people prostrated their way around the temple, dressed in long leather aprons with wooden paddles strapped to their hands. Chanting, they raised their hands in the air, held them together at their chests, and then dove forward with arms outstretched, landing on their paddled hands. Sliding a short distance, they stood, walked to where their hands had been and repeated, around the temple. Perhaps a hundred others performed a similar practice directly in front of the temple in a more stationary fashion, somewhat akin to yoga’s sunrise salutation, rising and falling hundreds if not thousands of times on narrow padded matts.
A guide who gave me a tour of the Jokhang told me that “We Tibetans believe that the statues inside this temple are alive, that they know us. They know who we are and what we are thinking and what we are feeling. That is very important to us”.
It always feels like such a gift to witness and come to understand a little more about the foundation and fundamental beliefs of the ancient and venerable peoples we are so fortunate to be able to come to know. Of course the more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to know.
Norbula is thinking about some training programs for women and young people in the village. His family has lived in that village for hundreds of years. We look forward to continuing to work together for many years to come.
Tomorrow we will go back to our home in Kathmandu.
Until next time,
Robin Cappuccino for CHI
Stay tuned for more ‘thoughts from the road’ as Robin continues his journey through the CHI homes in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Tibet.