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.
Each day I am more impressed and motivated by the thriving community of Tibetan artists, careers centers, NGO’s, and resources and assistance available around this beautiful, hilly town.
Today I met with the Tibetan Women’s Association, which empowers Tibetan women living in communities not only in Dharamsala, but all across India and abroad. Seeing women working for women and ready to have frank and decisive discussion about the progression of their community always invigorates me, as well as further solidifies my belief in the power of women. No matter where you go in the world, small groups of strong, dedicated women working together create progressive environments that nurture and challenge. I am excited to learn more from TWA in the future.
Afterward, as per TWA’s suggestion, I crossed town to meet Dolker, a woman working at the Tibetan Career Center. With her firm gaze and unabashed discussion of women’s issues, violence against women, and the need for sex education, I stumbled upon another wonderful resource in the world of Tibetan women. She immediately had a handful of suggestions for me, from groups to check out to events for attending.
I have, after years of study and preparation, finally met one of the ani (Tibetan nun) face-to-face. The meeting gave me great hopes for this project’s success.
Stepping onto the grounds of Geden Choeling, the oldest ani gompo (Tibetan nunnery) in Dharamsala, I looked from door to door, saw nuns doing laundry, cooking together, thriving in their own community in exile from their homeland, and felt a rush of surreal excitement. This was Geden Choeling, the place I’d read about and imagined, this was the place. A true dharamsala – because the name itself literally means “Safe haven for the people of the dharma.”