"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

Sunday, May 3, 2009

question of caterpillar fungus

I survived the 22 proof perils of terrible Chinese wine (it tasted the way I imagine fermented envelope glue would) and the Tibetan drinking games associated with it (never thought I would play drinking games with win
e), and I am able to unstick my tongue from the residual grape-slime to say hello and welcome to my readers, new and familiar.

Big thanks to Jennifer Moore and her popular blog, Pink Heels (http://pink-heels.blogspot.com) for featuring my blog and project! I encourage you to visit her online and find a wealth of pertinent, current information for women, from arts and entertainment to spotlights on up-and-coming entrepreneurs who have something to say. You can also follow Jennifer on Twitter @pinkheels.

We recently had the pleasure of hosting two visitors, Lynne and Julie, both of whom live in China but are natives of the US and Australia, respectively. Lynne and Julie were visiting as potential financial donors to the home and came bearing material gifts in the form of a well-stocked backpack for each girl, containing new shoes, hygiene products, hair products, and academic supplies. Obviously it was like Losar (Tibetan New Year.. akin to Christmas) a million times over as the girls anxiously lined up awaiting their pack.

I was assigned the job of writing down each girls name and age, as well as corresponding a number for their mugshot wi
th the new treasures proudly displayed. It was a test of my teaching to ask each girl "what is your name" and "how old are you" and hear them respond in clear tones, "my name is Rintsin Dorma" and "I am 9 years old." I was a proud momma.

It was a delight to meet Lynne and Julie, and they left me with a share of their Easter chocolate in the form of delectable Cadbury Eggs, a roll of toilet paper (prized above the chocolate), and plans for me to visit them when I return to Tibet in a year.

I am pleased to say that Lynne (via Julie's NGO) will be donating a substantial amount of money that should cover a year of expenses for 40 girls, and she is also committing herself to fundraising for the home and maintaining a sustainable relationship in the years to come.

Julie Colquhoun is the co-founder and direct
or of the NGO, Captivating International, which is based in her homeland of Australia. It's a wonderful organization that caters to the health and well-being of children everywhere. Read more online: www.captivating.org

Lynne and Julia's presence, while resulting in financia
l support, highlights the remaining need for materials and volunteers. The library is key; it will stimulate not only the intellectual development of the girls here at the home, but also the greater community since it will be open to other students. Books, computers, educational material, finishing products-- if you or anyone you know would be interested in committing themselves to the completion of a part or whole, please let me know: gmwilgus@gmail.com

We also need a nurse! This is a tremendous opportunity for a volunteer to stay for a summer month in Tibet to educate the girls about ba
sic sanitation, healthy eating, appropriate medical treatment for minor issues, puberty, sex and their impact on each other's health through the decisions they make every day. This is not a hardship post and will have immediate results that will ultimately lead to a healthier community and world. Please contact me for more details or with a recommendation of a nurse who might be a good candidate: gmwilgus@gmail.com

I fight dirt like I'm on my own episode of Cops. If I had flashing red lights, a megaphone and handcuffs, I'd use them.

I'm like a recovering addict with anxiety attacks while my body responds to its deteriorating state of cleanliness; I frantically twist a q-tip around my auditory canal as the only controllable element to my hygiene regimen. That's how bad it is. I'm reduced to buffing my ear drums like the alcoholic who steals sips of the forgotten Absolut in the freezer while the rest of my body is lapses into
.. well, I'll spare you the details.

At least I can say that I will arrive home without a speck o
f earwax. I'm satisfied; it's one of my pet peeves to casually glance at my neighbor and be visually assaulted by the sweaty candle growing in their ear. Sick.

It's that caterpillar fungus time of year again! Every spring, the 6 week window of mid-April to mid-June is filled with nomads kicking off the summer travel season by picking the valuable Cordyceps-infested caterpillar
. Cordyceps is a fungus that grows in the Sichuan and Qinghai Provinces, as well as throughout the Himalayan region, and when the spores infest the caterpillar that lives at that altitude, the result is a dead caterpillar attached to the fungus which is seemingly growing out of its head. The caterpillar fungus, or Yartsa Gunbu, is highly medicinal and is even used to protect lab mice from radiation.


Wikipedia says it better: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetable_caterpillar

We lost our cook and her husband to the picking-season, and now have our stunt double from one of the 600 cousins people seem to procure from thin air. No one knows her name, and the girls just call her "annee," meaning "aunt."

I have received encouragement from various people to post bios of the girls, and I am happy to oblige. Expect several more from week to week; I can't get them all, but will write about some of the stand out performers here.

Mumid Tsomo is 13 years old, and comes from the Sichuan Province where she was number four in a herdsman family with 5 children. Mumid Tsomo was not allowed to attend school due to adherence to local custom and belief that education is not beneficial for women, and because all available funds were going to the care of her mother who had breast cancer and the father who had an unusual stomach illness.

Mumid Tsomo is the back, left

Mumid herself also suffers from chronic bone pain in her legs that has remained undiagnosed. Because of Mumid's condition she could not work and was an economic burden to her family. In 2005, her family willingly gave her away to SGH.

Mumid Tsomo is one of my favorite girls here; she is as sharp as a tack, she is clearly the best English student, and is one of the monitors in charge of the other girls' grades and scholastic performance. She has a low, raspy voice and pretty smile, and a laid-back personality that has a calming influence on some of the more excitable girls here.

I will miss Mumid Tsomo's zest for learning, and obvious intelligence. I cannot wait to see how far she goes with her education, and I know that she will have many opportunities presented to her through SGH.

As Saint-Exupery's Little Prince so aptly said, "It is a question of discipline."