The wind arrives once a week. Without warning, it comes crashing down the mountainside, seemingly gathering momentum, howling through the courtyard, whipping up clouds of dust and snow to toss in your face. It moans around corners and under eaves, finding the gaps between window and frame, slipping down the back of your shirt to empty pockets of warmth.
It's like the Provence Mistral, except multi-directional and much shorter in duration. The internet is the first to go; I can almost hear the wind streaming through my connection, halting busy electrons in their path. The lights tease on and off while I involuntarily count how many times they flicker, a knee-jerk reaction from growing up in Maine.
Sometimes I have a weird paranoia that the leaded glass window pane in my room is going to explode inwards with the force of the wind, knock me on the head, and I'll awake from my sepia-toned dream into a techni-colored world of munchkins and Glinda-the-good-witches.
As per the diligent work we put in on learning the "Crank That" dance by Soulja Boy, I have the following video clip to display the fruits of our labor. Anyone want to send it off to the hip-hop prince himself? I think it'd be a hit!
Not only do these girls have a natural talent for dancing, but they can all sing and draw! I feel like I've stepped into the Asian version of a Jane Austen (ok that's a little strange) and am surrounded by dynamic, aesthetically pleasing individuals. It would be a shame to allow the girls talents go to waste, so I have proposed the following plan to Dockpo, based on the model currently in place at the Pacific Ridge School. The girls will hand-decorate blank greeting cards, which I will bring back to the States and sell, with profit returning to the home. What we need: blank cards and envelopes! If you, or someone you know, would be interested in donating as many cards/envelopes as possible, we will be happy recipients. Just send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org
You will recall my bout with an unpleasant Tibetan cold/flu a few weeks back; I was pleased to report a quick return to strength at the end of that ordeal, fingers-crossed that my illness would render me immune to any accidents, natural disasters or Acts of God for the remainder of my time in Tibet... which it has thus far. What my illness doesn't protect against are the remnants of a ski accident four years passed, in the form of an overly-sensitive broken tooth lying in wait for me at the bottom of my mouth. Seriously, I'm about ready to do a Tom Hanks and knock the thing out of my mouth with a rock and a rusty ice-skate. I'll let you know if my desperation takes me that far.
Desperation, if harnessed appropriately, can be a catalyst for long-needed actions, like, doing my laundry for the first time in a month. I was thinking about leaving this story muted under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but I got a laugh out of it, and figured you would too. Laundry is a task. Not the kind of task I'm used to; I can't just drag my loaded hamper down the stairs and hope that someone tosses the whites in separately with a scoop of Tide. No, here, it requires pulling out an antique of a washing machine, hand-loading it with water from the broken well, and pulling suds-sodden clothes out after an hour and a half of being the recipients of the Jackie Chan of washing machines. In the 33 degrees Fahrenheit water, I hand-wrung my clothes, pondered whether or not to rinse the excess soap out, decided that's WAY too much work (and, who knows, maybe a little extra soap means they stay cleaner, longer) and trudged my pile of hopefully-cleaner garments back upstairs to commence the drying process in front of my space heater.
That's not the funny part. While waiting for Jackie Chan to finish teaching my clothes a lesson, I was upstairs in my room, in front of the window that allows a view of the courtyard, complete with the sight and sound of the washing machine. I happened to glance out the window to see Thabeh, a 24 year old guy who lives here, opening up the washing machine lid to peer inside. You can guess that all of my multi-colored undergarments were swirling prominently around, and must have sparked a response in Thabeh because he called out to the several young men who have been working daily here on construction. They arrived on the scene within moments, while I watched helplessly a la Rapunzel from my tower window while the more delicate items of my wardrobe were examined and exclaimed over. Wow. I pretended ignorance when I made the walk of shame within 30 minutes to claim the aforementioned articles of clothing, and gave friendly smiles in response to the leering grins of the guys on construction. Punks.
Thabeh lives here, with his wife, Mimi (23) and their two daughters, one of whom is The Monster, if you've followed recent Facebook photo albums. Mimi is a relative of Dockpo's family, and it's not uncommon for extended family to all remain nearby, or living together. Mimi and Thabeh are a lot of fun, and I enjoy the interaction with people closer to my age. My room is right over their central living area, the kitchen, and usually that isn't a problem, until Saturday night rolls around. I don't know why I should be surprised that a Saturday night has some universal meaning, but I quickly overcame that surprise as I listened to high-pitched Chinese opera and the sounds of rowdy excitement while trying to fall asleep during my first Saturday night here. Add to that the wails of over-tired 4 year-olds whose parents just want to party-hearty, and it's not the recommended wall of white noise supposedly optimal for REM. After two years in a college dorm (albeit a Cedarville college dorm) I think I can sleep through anything, and am more amused by the fact that a Saturday night is still a Saturday night, no matter where in the world.
On a typical night, and especially recently, I am joined by a Tibetan wolf, who I have christened Akela, from the Disney movie, "The Jungle Book." How do I know it's a wolf? I met him, face-to-face, on my way to the well the other night. Nothing scary, he just looked at me, started to follow me back inside until I shooed him away. Wikipedia confirmed it for me, as did the howling (as opposed to the common Tibetan dog's bark). It's become a nightly routine; Akela shows up under my window around 10:30pm and I listen to him howl and pace. Superstitious or not, it's like Akela is here for me in lieu of Ollie's recent departure, and I welcome his presence under my window.
I am constantly reminded of why I am here-- in this place of natural beauty, surrounded by the contrived beauty of a few good hearts who have dedicated their lives to the higher goals of being. Here's a quote from the short story "The Lady With The Little Dog," by Anton Chekhov, which, I think, expresses my sentiments much more capably than I ever could.
"Gurov reflected that, essentially, if you thought about it, everything was beautiful in this world, everything except for what we ourselves think and do when we forget the higher goals of being and our human dignity."
I wonder, does the altitude make my thoughts as clear as it does the mountain view?
"Should I save or savor the world?"
If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world.
This makes it hard to plan the day.
This makes it hard to plan the day.