Sunday, May 11, 2008

Festival Day

was terrific fun. I shaped and fried many, many dumplings. Chef and I had a rotating brigade of high school students. It was somewhat unfortunate that as soon as the kids got into a dumpling groove, their teacher rotated them to another duty and sent us a new group to start over.

I stayed in the kitchen until my guests arrived. We marveled at the mandala, listened to our monk talk to a packed lecture hall, took in the high school dance troupe's performance to benefit the organization. (I had been mistaken, thinking we were to see traditional Tibetan dance.)

The whole event was to benefit the school my sangha runs in a remote, impoverished mountain area where many Tibetans settled. Lobsang calls it both "school" and "orphanage", which gives you an idea. His talk was quite heartbreaking. The stories of these children were worse than the most macabre vision of Dickens. The photos of the shacks, the 85-year-old woman supporting her two orphaned grandchildren by hauling rocks 12 hours a day... But the changes in the children's faces after a month at the school are undeniable. They learn to smile.

My Mom had a hundred million questions that I could not answer, as usual: Where do the monks live who aren't affiliated with a monastery? Do they have divinity degrees? (I'm pretty sure that the monastic educational system is just Totally Different in Tibet and India.) I can't remember another example from the multitude of questions, for the questions probed the kind of concrete-thinking, "how" details that simply float out of my abstract mind. I offered what information I could about Buddhist belief and practice (which didn't seem to interest my mom all that much) and apologized for not having more answers. On Mother's Day, no less! My mother was very gracious but assured me there would be more questions nonetheless. (My Dad was interested in Buddhism itself, but especially in finding himself in a state-of-the-art high school. Once a principal...)

Dinner was delicious, especially the beef curry. Two Tibetan cooks--just two!--worked from 10:30 AM until 6 PM preparing the feast which, in addition to the beef, included grilled chicken, vegetable lo mein, jasmine rice, salad, and hot hot hot sauce on the side. My kitchen contributed dessert (the carrot fudge) and chai. The Tibetan cooks were just such nice guys, friendly and shaking my hand, no matter any language barrier. The Tibetan chef taught us his way to fold dumplings, which was better than the way we'd been doing it, so we switched. I began to think that the Chinese government could not have violently deposed a nicer people.

I was very tired, so we left before the Tibetan music concert. No matter, collapsing on the couch to watch a bit of "The Vicar of Dibley" was really what I needed that that point. Today, I feel a little of that sadness that a very happy event has passed and we are back in ordinary life. I'm trying to remember the Zen teaching of "no coming, no going".

PS I have photos, but they are on film. Someday you will get to see them.


Larry Jones said...

Let's see the pix!

kStyle said...

I know, I know it's hard to understand this because it's so old-fashioned, but: I need to use up the roll of film before I get it developed. I know, get with the millenium, kStyle!

Narya said...

I can top this--I don't even have a regular film camera. Well, I sort of do--a camera that my dad bought when he was in the Army, stationed in Germany . . . in 1952 or so. It has nothing automatic, and I have no clue how to work it, so, for all intents and purposes, I have no camera. When I feel like I need one, I get one of those disposable ones, but then I have the must-use-it-all issue as well.

Narya said...

p.s. it sounds like the festival was wonderful; made me wish I'd been there.