"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.

E.B. White

Thursday, April 2, 2009


To inspire laughter and appreciation for my new mundanes and universals; a few re-occurring themes with slim chances of re-occurrence in the States.  

1.)  Got evaporation?  Even leaving my Sigg water bottle open for an hour will deplete my clean water supply by an inch.  I have to re-fill Ollie's water dish on an hourly basis, not because he's guzzling down his H2O, but because the air is as dry as sandpaper, and I wake in the morning to an edge in the back of my throat like a new continental shelf... minus the underwater feel.  

2.)  The nightly chorale of dogs.  This would never fly at home; the calls and complaints to your local authorities for "disturbance of the peace" would have the phone lines tied up from here to.. well, wherever.  It's so weird; all day long you don't hear so much as whimper from these huge canines, and then night falls and on cue they start doggie-telegraphing.  It ends around 3:30-4:00am, and the silence sleeps over the town for a couple still hours.

3.)  COVER YOUR MOUTH (and the never-ending story of the loud and proud coughing society at SGH).

4.)  Monks, monks everywhere and not a seat to spare.  It is normal to walk into Shangbo's kitchen at any time and find a couple monks in robes of varying ochre and red hues lounging on the long, carpet-covered bench, drinking milk tea and thumbing their prayer beads.  There is no distinction between the "holy men" and the lay-person; we interact as peers and their garb seems no more unusual than the average blue or white collar.  

5.)  The hunt.. for red october.  I mean, toilet paper.  This might be distasteful, but I have to laugh about it to you because there is really no avenue for appreciation here.  The toilet, as I have mentioned before, is a hole in the ground above a large cesspool of waste.  It is enclosed by four low walls, no roof and is thus completely exposed to the weather and to the average passer-by when you stand up from the obligatory squat.  (You just nod and say hi).  But all of that is off-topic; because the bathroom is outdoors, there is no Cottonelle hanging from a brushed nickel toilet-paper holder and I actually haven't seen evidence of toilet paper being used for anything other than facial napkins, fire-starter, or tissues.  So, I grab a roll whenever I can and hoard it like it's my last high ace in a game of Holdem.  

6.)  To bathe or not to bathe.  It's a choice between the lesser of two stages of unhealth; try and sponge-bathe while not moving into no-man's land outside the 1 square foot of heat thrown by my space heater, or say screw it and curl into a fetal position under my covers and let that extra layer of grime do its best to preserve precious body heat.  I'll let you choose.  

7.)  Tsampa thing.  There's no need for a 12 step program here; tsampa is pure nutrition and there is the satisfying, five-year-old fingers playing with food allowance that makes it taste that much better.  Admit it, we all like to squish stuff.  

8.)  Om Mani Padme Hum; Chanting.  The sounds of fifty girls intonations fill the hallway and drift out into the cold-air courtyard to mingle and shiver with the snow.  Every morning they wrap still-sleepy voices around the syllables of Tibetan grammar, ending with a chorus from their favorite Tibetan opera.  At night, kneeling on their sleeping pads, palms pressed together, they resonate and harmonize, weaving vocal temperatures into a soothing stimulation.  

9.)  Now Hiring:  Chiropracter, Position To Be Filled Immediately.  The problem is that everyone (females especially) bend at the waist and put all of their weight on the lumbar region, placing huge strain on those lower back muscles, thus creating a perpetual 45 degree angle tilt in older women.  I'm noticing the same tendency in myself, whether it's stooping to wash my face at night, or leaning to the table to sip an over-full cup of milk tea.  I consciously remind myself to bend at the knees, using my legs to support my weight, but somehow the culture caters to the sore back I find myself with at night.  

10.)  lots of locks of love.  I probably could have furnished enough hair from my head to supply a wig that would make even Beyonce jealous.  It's probably a combination of diet/sleep/basic culture changes, but it's getting a little unnerving.  Hopefully I'll still have something left on my head in a couple months.  

11.)  Hellogoodbye.  No, not "Here In Your Arms," this is the motif of walking past the individual girls or groups of their chattering selves, and being aurally assaulted with "Hello Teacher!" and then closely followed by "Goodbye Teacher!"  

12.)  stop staring, it's impolite.  You know that's a social rule followed to a fault in America; we are all masters at the discreet backward glance, the faux elbow cough, the dark sunglasses.. two words to describe my new cultural interactions:  NO SHAME.  

Like appetizers, these anecdotal morsels make the reason I'm here even more satisfying.  

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