Archive for the ‘Cultural diversity’ Category

People’s Climate March September 21

On September 21st, 2014 people from around the nation will come together in an unprecedented citizen mobilization for the People’s Climate March in New York City.

As world leaders meet at the United Nations climate change summit, hundreds of thousands of marchers will demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities. Other marches will take place around the world as we collectively call on our leaders to act on climate change.

To change everything, we need everyone on board. Here’s how you can help:

  • Take a pledge to reduce your carbon footprint and JOIN US at a march (marches happening all over the world)
  • Help Spread the word on Facebook
  • Get involved with promotion, constructing visuals, logistics, and more

For inspiration: Watch Bill McKibben’s invitation to the PCM in Rolling Stone in the video below:

People’s Climate March


Buddha’s Birthday on a Full Moon

The flags hung in honor of Buddha's Birthday in Patan, Kathmandu

The Buddhist flags hung in honor of Buddha's birthday in Patan, Kathmandu

Buddhism is everywhere here in Nepal and it’s intermingled with Hinduism. It seems though that most people I come across are Buddhist. I have always had an interest in Buddhism; they say it’s a philosophy and not a religion. That may be true but here in Nepal it comes across as very religious to me.  The temples alone yell religion and then all the people performing different rituals also smacks of it. Religion isn’t so bad; it brings comforts to millions. Ritual is amazing; it creates energy like nothing else I’ve ever seen. And yet, I find myself resistant to it.  Here in Nepal though I feel slightly less resistant. When I am asked if I am a Buddhist the next question is usually if I am a Christian. When I tell them I’m nothing they don’t try and convert me, they just listen.

So Lord Buddha’s (as they call him) birthday is May 27th and I happened to be in Nepal for it. It’s actually a national holiday here as you can expect. Being next to the gumpa that contains all the mini monks Buddha’s  birthday was an interesting experience for me. All the trumpet playing and horn blowing they have been practicing seemed to be for this day. It was a full moon and I went onto the roof to watch the boys playing their trumpets out towards the city.

I couldn’t get any good pictures from our roof so I decided to go up on theirs. I had my camera with me and as I went to go up on the roof many of the monks were outside the gumpa. They beckoned me and asked that I please, please come in.IMG_0868

Up to this point I had been afraid to go in. I can’t really tell you why. I guess I didn’t want to be disrespectful, this lame tourist poking around inside a religious structure. I think I was also waiting for an invitation. So I finally had it and I removed my shoes and followed the monks in.

It’s so beautiful inside with large statues of Buddha and some other folks. I learned that you always walk clockwise around any religious site here and so I followed the path around inside. The energy inside the gumpa was astounding; I could feel it circulating clockwise through the building. I could feel the energy of everyone that had come that day to pray. It was positively vibrating. As I walked around I saw mini monks stashed away in corners repeating mantras out loud, sometimes in pairs, sometimes alone.

The gumpa next door

The gumpa next door

Doorway to the gumpa

Doorway to the gumpa

As I came to the end again there was a local prostrating himself. It’s quite something to see someone doing this. It’s so humble, almost apologetic. He was doing this movement over and over across the floor as if to say “forgive me, I am so worthless, make me better.” It wasn’t in the direction of Buddha’s statue and I wasn’t about to interrupt him to ask him to who or what he was doing this to. Perhaps it was just himself.

The mini monks asked if I wanted to learn how it was done and I hesitantly said yes. I have this fear of looking like an idiot because I don’t get something right the first time, but I know that it’s better to say yes and have a new experience.

One young monk showed me first. You stand up straight and put your hands in prayer position, then you bring them to your head, your heart, and then you get down on the ground and bow your head all the way down. Then you push yourself up without using your hands more than once for the push.IMG_0865

The first time I tried this I had to use my hands twice, I didn’t really trust my own strength on the hard marble floor and I was being watched. I could see on their faces that I had done it wrong even though they were obviously trying to hide it. I tried again and this time got smiles from the two monks. This is the kind of magical thing I hoped for, the sort of romantic idea that got into my head when I first heard the name Nepal. After this I felt uneasy, wondering what I should do now that I had made my rounds so I made my way out into the entranceway and watched all the young monks gathering at the lit candles. They were picking them up and bringing them inside for some purpose that I couldn’t gather, mostly because I didn’t ask. I kept having this sense like I was interrupting something, that I was an outsider. I felt myself shrinking back. I wanted to take a picture badly but was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to make a wrong impression or say something wrong but the photo opportunity was too good to let go.

I haven’t prostrated myself since then but I have this feeling like it would do me some good. I think it would do a lot of people some good. Do I have to prostrate myself to some religious god? Shouldn’t I prostrate myself in front of my own self judgment instead. I could learn to be easier and more care free…

Woman celebrating in the Laghenkel area of Kathmandu

Woman performing a ritual in honor of Buddha's birthday


Adjusting and Life in Nepal

Warning: I use swear words in my blogs, just keeping it real, folks


Night time setup

So what’s it like living in Nepal for 2 months? First off, there is electricity for only 4 to 12 hours a day. I always wondered how people got by on just candles back in the day. It’s not so bad honestly, and you bring a headlamp to get by when you’re not working with candles. I keep finding myself wandering out of an area without candles and realizing that it’s pitch black. The power is often on at 3 am or some other really convenient time that I can’t quite understand. I find myself working on my blog by candlelight, which I find pretty ironic… As ironic as people carrying huge buckets of water on their shoulders and then stopping to answer their cell phone.

Western standards of cleanliness don’t apply here; I’m far from a germaphobe but I find myself amazed at the amount of dirt and grime on everything. The people that live here don’t notice it because it’s how they live. I find myself trying to just be cool and ignore the grime, but I have to admit there have been a few days where I struggle. Walking into the clinic kitchen and seeing Urmila preparing lunch on the floor is something you just can’t prepare your mind for. I think to myself, okay, that’s how they do it here and look they’re all fine. Every time there’s something just a little bit crunchy in my lunch I have to cringe and tell myself it’s just an un-ground piece of pepper. Right. If you’re the kind of person that walks around with hand sanitizer in their purse never, ever, come here. You will have a complete meltdown, or maybe you should come and get over it.

20Local water fountain

Water is scarce so we put a bucket under the tap while we wait for the water to be heated by the solar panels; this water is then used to water plants and to do your laundry. Being here has made me realize that while I’ve fancied myself a conservationist I have a lot to learn. The clinic reuses water bottles until they start to stink. The sponges used in the kitchen for cleaning don’t get thrown out at the first sign of wear. There is no washing machine or dryer so it’s all done by hand. All food scraps are saved in the kitchen in a bucket for compost. I keep putting a lid on the bucket because it attracts flies and Uma (the cleaning lady) keeps removing it. I mention this to Nicky and she says that the concept of keeping the flies out of something has probably never occurred to Uma before. This concept has never occurred to me before.

Of course there’s no refrigerator. There’s running water in the clinic but it has to be pumped out of the ground into two large containers on the roof almost daily. If you forget to pump then it’s possible that you go to the sink to wash a dish and no water comes out. This happened for the first time on one of the two days I had where I was ridiculously homesick and fairly irritable. Okay, I think, so the waters not coming out, great. There’s no electricity so we can’t pump water until it comes back.

“Fuck, really? Of course there’s no water, and there’s no electricity,”  I sarcastically say under my breath but it’s noticed by Sonya. Sonya, one of the interpreters and students, forgot to turn on the pump so tells me that she’s only human and I realize I am over reacting.  Just add it to the list of things I have to get used to here.


Me in my cute mask

Many local buildings don’t have any kind of running water; so the locals go to a community fountain and fill up there. Prajwal, one of the interpreters and my student, tells me that people spend hours waiting to get water sometimes. As I start to realize what this means I begin to feel less inclined to judge the dirt on everything. If you don’t have running water, it’s so much harder to do laundry and take a shower.

Most of the streets aren’t paved in the village so every truck that goes by kicks up a dirt storm. I bought a cuter face mask (if there is a thing) than the Home Depot style ventilator masks I brought my first day here.  Even though many people walk around with them on, I still feel like some kind of prissy Westerner every time I have to put it over my face to protect from all the dirt and smog from the ancient vehicles.

The clinic I live in is actually quite new and therefore much nicer than most of the buildings in the area. You can buy milk every morning from the local restaurant owned by Lilla Didi. She’s a smiley, happy loving person that welcomed me immediately. She knows a few English words and says things like “Amy, beauty,” “welcome,” and “no.” She’s a shining example of the friendly people of Nepal. Lilla Didi (Didi means sister) says that she loves all the volunteers so much and she is so sad when they leave.


Lilla Didi sitting on a table in her restaurant the Forest View

I’ve taken to walking around Chapagaon and into the neighboring Newari village at dusk after I am done working. It’s practically right out of a postcard with the beautiful old buildings, people in colorful clothes, chickens, goats, and straw everywhere.

Everywhere I go people stare at me. Apparently it’s not rude to stare in Nepal, especially at random white chicks with red hair walking around your neighborhood. I will be happy to be back home walking down the street in complete anonymity. The people here cannot afford cameras and they are completely amused by pictures of themselves. I walk around and when I want to take a picture I hold up the camera and say “okay?” They usually don’t answer but I take the picture anyway and then I hold the camera up, “you want to see?” They always smile or laugh at the picture. The little kids sometimes fight to be in them.  A lot of the kids here learn English and sometimes they follow me and try out the words they know. Because I work at the clinic they call me doctor. I can’t lie; I really like how it sounds.

Newari girl with my audience in the background

Newari girl with my audience in the background

Newari village at dusk

Newari village at dusk

Newari villager chilling out in a squat that is impossible for my body to achieve for longer than 2 minutes

Newari villager chilling out in a squat that is impossible for my body to achieve for longer than 2 minutes


Sonabai, self-taught artist and inspiration

On a rainy day in San Diego, this dragon blew into the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park on free museum day. (There was actually a tornado watch going on outside! I love to fly in a storm but tornados really tear up my wings!)

Inside I found an amazing exhibit called Sonabai, Another Way of Seeing. For a decade and a half, Sonabai Rajawar only contact was with her husband and child! In response to this isolation, she created an entirely new artistic expression of color, light, and fun.

How amazing that she had no instruction or guidance, but was able to create such joyous art! Years later, quite by chance, the Indian art world discovered her and later gave her India’s highest honor, the prestigious President’s Award.

sonabaibookSonabai’s story clearly expresses the capacity of human beings (including dragons) everywhere to meet their challenges head on and to draw from within themselves the strength and insight to change their lives.  Sonabai found ways to transform her oppression into expressions of courage, beauty, and joy in living. What an inspiration!

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The Asian Hot Pot That Is America

This dragon thinks it’s really cool how Asian culture has co-mingled so much into every day mainstream life in America, the current lair of the dragon, where people love us dragons…

Martial Arts DragonToday in America, many of us practice yoga and meditation for stress management. (In fact, most fitness centers now carry yoga classes.) Martial arts and Tai Chi have also become popular activities for many.

In the area of alternative medicine, more and more of us are turning to Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda and Oriental therapies for health and well-being, and most people have heard of Deepak Chopra, the “poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” (This dragon turns to acupuncture when its scales get too scaly or its flames start to sputter, especially since many health insurance companies now cover acupuncture!)

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