Today I leave India once and for all, to return to St. Louis. I am full of every kind of emotion, but the predominant feeling is anticipation. Anticipation to reunite with my loved ones, to be back in a fully equipped kitchen, and to sit down to work with all of the amazing source material that I’ve gathered here in Himachal Pradesh.
Here’s a logistical update/timeline for the project:
– Right now, our interpreter/translator Choekyi is digging into the interviews she expertly facilitated for me. The poor thing not only had to live the stories twice per interview, but she now gets to hear them again AND express them again, in English. Diligent lady. Choekyi is averaging three transcripts a week, so I should have all of the material translated and ready for reading within two months. Also, I believe that the steady flow of interviews to my inbox will help keep everything fresh in my mind.
– Some of this material will be uploaded on the website – which by the way, is going to be redone within the next two months to be more like a website and less like a blog – so stay tuned for some samples of the women’s stories. There is also a lot more media (including video of prayers and debate at Dolma Ling!) that, due to very slow internet connections in the cafes of McLeod Ganj, are still fidgeting impatiently on my computer, waiting to be uploaded for all of you to see. Expect these in the next few weeks.
Restored Voice is entering into the last stretch of its field work phase. Today the final damp, chilly gasp of winter is passing through these hills. Rain and cold keep us prisoners around densely smoking scrap fires or in cozy cafes with fogged up windows. I watch the weather move around me in a way I never can in St. Louis. At this altitude, the clouds creep wetly through town and across neighboring hills and mountains, shrouding familiar sights in mysterious glamour. Somehow, a clear view of mountains in the sun humbles me, but when those same mountains turn misty, I feel excitement and restlessness. The sense of impending adventure arises. I’m unsure why this is and it has me wondering about past lives again. Spring should be starting up any day now, and as beautiful as the snow has been on the deodar pines and temples, I am indeed ready for a steady stream of warmth and sunshine.
Losar, the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, came and went relatively quietly this year. Lobsang Sangay, the Sikyong (sort of like a PM), asked his community in exile not to celebrate Losar with the traditional dances and music this year, in light of the ever-increasing number of self-immolations in Tibet. If you ask Tibetans around Dharamsala how they enjoyed their Losar, as I did many times, most of them will say, “Ah, it was okay. This year, not so big. We are sad.” Last year, and this year also, Chinese officials forced Tibetans to celebrate, and taped the farce to show how “happy” Tibetans are in the occupied region.
Hello and tashi delek, friends!
RVP has now been in Dharamsala for a month. In that time, I’ve acquired an interpreter, an intern, a better understanding of Tibetan culture and Tibetan issues, meetings with local NGOs and nunneries, many new friends, and about a third of the ani-la’s (Tibetan nuns) interviews necessary for the publication. And more are to come! Next week – Dolma Ling and Tibetan Nuns Project down in Sidhpur, a valley in Dharamsala with a spectacular view of the mountains. I look forward to writing more about Dolma Ling – it is a place that is as powerful as it is beautiful.
View within Dolma Ling (photo property of Restored Voice Project)
The book is now much fuller and tangible in my mind. My instincts on the structure, goals, and spirit of the project were solid – descriptions of the project have been met with support and enthusiasm from the Tibetan community, which is most important to me. The ani I’ve interviewed have been so thankful for the chance to speak, and flush with emotion and smiling humbly at the thought of our support. I always take the time to explain how we came together to make this happen – how many individuals, not an organization or institution, wanted to hear their stories, to learn from them. They are generally at a loss for words for a moment, in response to this. The constant oppression they and their people have faced is tempered by our interest and concern. I thank you again for your support. And when the book is published, you’ll see the words of thanks from the women themselves.
Dharamsala itself is a beautiful and vibrant city, full of researchers and activists. I meet someone new every day who gives me fresh inspiration.