October 24, 2006

Program Overview

A collaboration between Pratt and Global Learning Across Borders with support from the Rubin Museum of Art

We live in an extraordinary time. Never before have so many of the world's cultures from each corner of the globe been so accessible. But with the privilege of knowledge comes greater responsibility. At the same time, there has never been a more important moment to explore and learn beyond our cultural and political borders and boundaries.

This study abroad program is designed to address this issue by cultivating a genuine appreciation for the increasingly interconnected and interdependent nature of our world community, both human and natural. Global Learning Across Borders (Global LAB) has collaborated with Pratt to develop the Artistic Traditions of Amdo, a program that will carry students and teachers on a forty-day pilgrimage over the Tibetan plateau and to the northeast grassland region of Tibet where we will visit and study with many of the finest masters who are responsible for keeping this region's rich artistic heritage alive and well.

After a brief stay in Lhasa, the ancient Tibetan capital, we’ll continue to the cultural center of Amdo, the town of Repkong, where we will enter into home stays and begin intensive studies with individual artists. Students will be given the option to study in one of the following media: /thanka/ (scroll) painting, stone carving, jewelry making, woodcarving and printing, as well as textile weaving and design. Excursions to cultural sites as well as participation in local festivals will supplement these studies. The program concludes with a train ride across China to Beijing, including a tour of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Great Wall.

This program is offered for graduate and undergraduate credit through Pratt’s Fine Arts department and also for non-credit. Please contact your department chair for approval and information.

April 10, 2007

Chinese Visa Application & Instructions

You will find the visa application form to download as well as instructions on the Chinese consulate's website. If you have any questions, please email info@global-lab.org.

May 2, 2007

Greetings from Galen Murton, Program Director

Galen and Ngakpa friend in Amdo, Tibet.jpg
Galen and Ngakpa friend in Amdo, Tibet

Nihao, Tashi Delek, and Demo-

Just a few of the local greetings which I'd like to offer you as I write today from the town of Repkong, the very place where we'll spend several weeks together this summer. I'm here meeting many of the local craftsman with whom we'll be studying the legendary artistic traditions from this cultural center of the Tibetan world. Over endless cups of tea I've also been getting to know the local Amdo-wa families who are all very eager to meet and host us in just over two months from now.

I have spent my time over the past week putting pieces in place for this exciting program, and in addition to meeting the local Tibetan artists and welcoming and gracious grandmothers, I've been collaborating with the experienced guides, educators, and translators with whom we'll be working. We have put quite a team together, and I must let you know how very eager everyone is here in Repkong and Gomar to meet and work with all of you, and they can't wait for our arrival in early July.

Continue reading "Greetings from Galen Murton, Program Director" »

May 3, 2007

Program Itinerary

Please note this itinerary is subject to change based upon group interest, health and safety issues, and other factors beyond Global LAB's control. Any significant itinerary alterations will be posted on this website.

June 27th
Depart USA

June 28th
Arrive in Beijing at 6:00 PM, meet our local guide, Yezi, and transfer to hotel

June 29th
Morning Mandarin language primer and day in Beijing for general sightseeing and museum tours, including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the National Art Museum of China and Beijing Art Gallery/City Museum, as well Wutung neighborhoods nearby our hotel and sample some of the cuisine for which Beijing is famous.

June 30th
Today we will visit the center of the contemporary art scene in modern China, the 798 IT district (the Chelsea of Beijing). We will have the day to visit many of the galleries that are located in and around the historical Dongbianmen Watchtower, including the famous Red Gate Gallery. We should also have an opportunity to meet local Chinese art students at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. We will then make an evening departure for Lhasa by train (July 1 is the first anniversary of this train's maiden voyage).

Continue reading "Program Itinerary" »

June 7, 2007

Recommended Reading and Viewing Lists

Films: Most of these films are in Mandarin, with subtitles--those with more English are noted below.

Films About China:

Beijing Bicycle- (modern film addressing youth in Beijing- a sometimes disturbing but intriguing glimpse at life in the big city at the end of the 20th century...)

Empire of the Sun (interesting historical film touching on WW2 era and a prison camp in Shanghai) Mostly English.

Farewell my Concubine- (a depressing film that features a Chinese opera troupe and the changes they experience over time in China in the mid-twentieth century)

Joy Luck Club (provides a good context for Americans going to China, to understand cultural differences and be aware of some 20th century history) Mostly English

To Live If you only watch one film about China before you go, watch this one which portrays one family’s experience from pre-revolutionary times into the Cultural Revolution (late 60’s/early 70’s).

The Last Emperor: Historical epic portraying the life of PuYi, the last emperor of China from the early 1900s through the Cultural Revolution. Provides a good context to understand what life was like for royalty in imperial China. Mostly English

KungFu/Special effects films set in China:


House of Flying Daggers

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Emperor and Assassin (interesting historical epic with a lot of violence, but also a good background introduction to early Chinese history)

Continue reading "Recommended Reading and Viewing Lists" »

June 20, 2007

Greetings from Susan Costello, Program Director

Costello photo 2006.jpg

Dear fellow-adventurers,

I’m excited to announce I’ll be joining you for the Tibetan portion of the program this summer. Off and on, I’ve spent about six years in the Amdo Tibetan area, a fair amount of it in Rebgong. I started to do the research for my dissertation in Rebgong, but then met my Tibetan husband and changed my fieldsite to his home in Golok (southwest from Rebgong, near the border with Sichuan). I hope you’ll be able to meet him and my two year old son, who will probably join us for the homestay period.

I’m currently doing my Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at Boston University, on the relationship between cultural values and economic behavior. In a nutshell, I’m always interested in why Tibetans choose to make their living painting thangkas, for example, instead of doing business, and why they buy coral jewelry instead of health insurance.

I speak both Chinese and Amdo Tibetan, so I’ll be able to facilitate our stays in Xining as well as our homestay and our travels in and around Rebgong. I’ll be teaching you some Amdo Tibetan and also how to be a considerate guest in a Rebgong home. More details once we meet – we’re still working out where on the train ride to Lhasa that will be – and all along the way.

But now that there is just a short time before we leave the US, a few last pieces of advice as to preparations. In addition to Galen’s packing list, I have a few suggestions....

Continue reading "Greetings from Susan Costello, Program Director" »

June 29, 2007

Greetings from Beijing

Group at JFK one hour into the eleven hour delay.jpg
Group at JFK one hour into the eleven hour delay

Galen just called Global LAB's NYC office to report that after an 11 hour delay at JFK thanks to stormy weather, the group has finally made it to Beijing and checked into their hotel, where Addrienne and Michelle had arrived earlier. They will get some sleep and set out in the morning to explore some of Beijing's sites, including the city's burgeoning art district. Check back soon for more updates from Asia.

Group looking busted upon arrival at Beijing airport  (11  hours late).jpg
Group looking busted upon arrival at Beijing airport (11 hours late)

Beijing

our hotel is located in a quiet, suburban part of beijing - the pace of life seems uncharacteristically slow, relaxed. a stroll around the neighborhood reveals public enclosed showers, vendors selling produce from their bicycle carts. there is so much construction even on a small scale, building rubble everywhere from ongoing projects. it's hard to believe we're really in beijing, in china. so far everything seems heartbreakingly organized, placid, and unquestionable.

jen lim

June 30, 2007

Greetings from Beijing, China!!!

The group at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing.jpg
The group at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Since we have all arrived the group has been going at a non-stop pace despite all the jet-lag and delays! Yesterday we explored the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) and the Pearl Market (Hong Qiao). The temple of Heavan was a little touristy, but the grounds were beautifully manicured. The Pearl Market is a 3-story indoor mall with booth after booth selling anything from hand bags and jewelery to tea and small gifts. And each vendor is trying to out do the next so you can barter your little heart out!!! Today we will visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and then we depart by train for Lhasa around 9 pm. To all my foodies out there- the food in China is amazing!!! Thankyou to all who have made this trip a reality and a huge thankyou to everyone out there who have been sending there thoughts and love this way...Addrienne

Rolling to Lhasa

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The Beijing to Lhasa Train (Photo credit: WSJ Online)

Galen and Anna laugh with Big Friendly and other cabin mates  on the Beijing-Lhasa train.jpg
Galen and Anna laugh with Big Friendly and other cabin mates on the Beijing-Lhasa train

Nick and the Train.jpg
Nick and the Train

Galen just called NYC to let us know that they are all aboard and pulling out of Beijing for the long train ride to Lhasa. He reported that all are in high spirits after another full day in Beijing, including visits to Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City, art galleries, and an art supply store where students picked up extra paints, brushes, and papers in preparation for the workshops in Tibet.

John

July 2, 2007

Arrival in Lhasa

Group on first morning in Lhasa.jpg
Group on first morning in Lhasa

A text message just in from Galen:

"Reached Lhasa and spirits are soaring. Momos and thukpa for dinner, Jokhang and Barkhor tomorrow. Emails and photos to come when the shops open in the AM."

July 3, 2007

Lhasa activities

Addrienne strikes a pose atop the Jokhang Temple.jpg
Addrienne strikes a pose atop the Jokhang Temple

Tashi Delek from Lhasa-

Everything continues to go well here in Central Tibet. After a 48-hour scenic experience on the train from Beijing, we rolled into Lhasa yesterday evening to surprisingly balmy temperatures and dramatic evening skies. A short stroll through the center of town established a basic orientation to this most sacred of cities, and we became more familiar with much of the happenings here throughout today. A morning visit to the Jokhang Temple, Holiest of Holies in the Tibetan world, was followed by an afternoon excursion to the 14th Century Sera Monastery. Having visited no less than dozens of chapels over the course of the day, we are quickly becoming proficient at identifying the central members of the extensive pantheon of Tibetan iconography. Tomorrow morning we will visit the local Non Governmental Organization (NGO), Dropenling, where Global LAB Advisory Council member Claire Burkert directs women's development initiatives focused on traditional handicraft production and other cottage industries.

Beside the Kyichu river, Addrienne sits, Berkely gazes, and Robert shoots the afternoon light upon the Potala Palace.jpg
Beside the Kyichu river, Addrienne sits, Berkely gazes, and Robert shoots the afternoon light upon the Potala Palace

We'll spend the afternoon at the legendary Potala Palace before again visiting the Barkhor market and central square, the best place around for quality photography, endless bargaining, and excellent people-watching in the evening hours.

We're glad to be here and will soon have more to share-

Galen


July 4, 2007

Tashi Delek everyone

We are having an amazing journey. Please read Galen's post for the details but I wanted to say hello to all of you and let you know that we are all doing great. Traveling by train from Beijing to Lhasa has spectacular views that are so expansive they wrap around the train and go as far as the eye can see. The landscape, the weather and light constantly change inviting us all to partake in its beauty.

The train also gave us the opportunity to get to know each other, to share our hopes and dreams of why we are all here together on this magnificent adventure.

Be back to you soon on the amazing Tibetan people with their warm smiles and genuine hearts.

To my colleagues, family and friends I send my gratitude for all your help and support to make this trip happen.

With love from Tibet,

Cheryl

Greetings From the Top of the World, And Happy 4th of July!!!

After a two day, 4064km train ride from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet we arrived to by far one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring places on the planet. Matching the beauty surrounding the city are the people native to this region. They are so friendly and inviting and always smiling at us...and they are just as interested in us as we are them!!! Our first full day in Lhasa was of course a busy one...Beginning the day with a tour of one of the holiest places in Tibet- the Jokhang Temple. The Temple is filled with the most colorful and magnificent paintings, statues and carvings that I have ever witnessed. Then we were off to the Sera Monastary where we watched the Monks in their afternoon debates in one of the courtyards. This is like an oral debate between the Monks to test what they have been learning at the Monastery. The Monks are full of energy and passion and laughter...and sometimes they get all rowdy and heated that they start pushing each other around and then they all laugh and begin the process again. I think everyone here is beyond excited and it has only been about a week since we left...Since we are 12 hours ahead it is the 4th of July here in Tibet, and you can bet that everyone will be thinking about their families and friends back home throughout the day...Consider this while you barbeque, watch fireworks and have a good time...There are many people in this world that don't experience the same freedoms that we do in life. So live it up!!! Peace and Love...Addrienne

July 6, 2007

Yesterday

DSC_0055.jpg

we rode 3 hours in our bright toy bus with the caterpillar-antennae mirrors out of Lhasa and to the Drigung Terdrom Nunnery. Our driver parked the bus on a hill above the village and we all stepped off wide-eyed and stunned; the jagged rock and green hills of the mountains surrounding the village were covered in fluttering blue, red, yellow and white prayer flags. It was almost like the mountains were wearing the remnants of a tattered, fine, old, hand-made dress. The village itself was built into the canyon walls and along the bottom of the valley around the small river. Small white hermitages extend away from the Monastery Store, Restaurant, and the hot springs, and rasta-dreaded mutts chase each other around random Yaks wandering the paths.

A funny experience- we were fortunate enough to be welcome in the very holy, sacred, fabric-covered, dark, womb-like, scripture/statue/incense-filled temple where the nuns practice their chanting and meditation. Due to the low light, I needed to rest my camera on the ground or on something stable in lieu of a tri-pod. At one point I realised I was basically mooning the chanting nuns as as I bent over to get a shot of a statue on the ground. I quickly corrected myself and looked at the nuns in the row behind me to see if they had noticed. I saw a row of smiling faces, which exploded into giggles when they saw that I was embarrassed. This gave me the giggles, which made them laugh harder. Then we were all trying not to laugh, and seeing that the other was trying so hard not to laugh made us laugh even harder. The experience helped me to see that, although prayer and religion are sacred indeed, its practitioners are also doing that everyday, making friends, and can be young women who, like me, like to laugh at big butts in the air. I'd love to go back.

Berkley

July 6th, 2007...

Today is the Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama...And he shares the day with my baby sister Abigail who turns the big 2-5 today!!! Happy Birthday Abi!!! To those of you reading the blog regularily and posting messages- gratzie mille...Tell Abi to read it because I don't think she has been and she must claim her Birthday wish here!!!
Peace, Addrienne

July 7, 2007

Tiff's greetings from Lhasa

Berkley, Romy, Nick, Anna, and Addrienne rest while ascending the hundreds of Potala steps.jpg
Berkley, Romy, Nick, Anna, and Addrienne rest while ascending the hundreds of Potala steps

Like all of China, Lhasa too is arresting in its beauty, but I think what strikes me as the most astonishing thing is the spirit of the people here. Very friendly ruddy-faced children will stare, only to blow up with giggles and smiles after you say "Tashi Delek" to them. The adults too, are just as curious. They gather around and muse over braided hair- you'd think we were celebrities at the crowds we gather. Finally, once you've gotten from the Oh Dan Hotel steps (yes, all this has happened even before you stepped onto the street) the sweet-funky yak butter smell hits you. Merchants sell it for everyday temple gathers. The butter is given as an offering much in the same way oil is used in western churches. Once or twice you might get startled by a shop owner yelling to an American traveler, "HAALLLLOOOO", the universal greeting for "Pay attention to what I have to sell you!"

Once, a young girl stopped us to tell Tauska her handbag was unzipped; she didn't let us leave until she helped us to close it. This reminded me so much of the Midwest I thought for a second I was back in Chicago (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little here) but the experience was no less heart warming. There are many cool shops and galleries to lose yourself in...I think I left my mind back at one up the road...but I'm loving every minute of it! To all my friends and family, I love you! Happy Belated birthday Nikki! I hope there were lots of fireworks on the 4th just for you!

Muah!

July 8, 2007

Xining

Today a full day in Xining (pronounced "Shinning"). We boarded another trusty bus at noon and made our way to the Tibetan Medical Museum, past stores with Chinese signs, an outdoor pool-hall and a notable banner for a new, luxury apartment building that read "For the New Noble In the City". What do think Mao would have said about that?

The museum itself was a spacious two-story marble monster. Most of the signs that described the exhibits were in Chinese or Tibetan. The few signs in English managed to use many words without saying anything, such as "Medical research has approved that the history of human beings shares the same span with the medical history." We gathered that Tibetan doctors can identify 300 pulses on the body, that there is connection between medicine and cosmology, and that someone started a thangka and couldn't stop; the top floor featured a winding, colourful, 600 METER depiction of earthly history from creation to the present day. In the beginning there was not only light but exploding mandalas of Chaos, water, blood, and fire, and the rest has been variations on these themes. Like the West's Big-Bang and Darwinism, this thangka depicted something coming from nothing, a Noah's Ark water-covered world, the arrival of land, then animals, and finally monkies making pre-history romance. Then, like everywhere else, there were woman with babies and men pointing sticks, then arrows, at each other and people making fancy fur loin-clothes. The monkies evolve into humans, people tame the animals, build homes out of stone, and are granted celestial from Dieties through Kings. My head exploded at about the arrival of Sakyamuni's enlightenmight...

After the museum we piled back on the bus and tore Romy away from the crying friend she made in the courtyard...that Romy is easy to love and breaking hearts along the way. But she wasn't the only one..we went to a restaurant with the good students (and Prof. Kevin Stuart) from the university here who had given us a lecture after the museum. We spun the lazy susans on our tables and nibbled on a feast while performers on stage sang songs in bright costumes, somehow not choking on the dry ice that swirled around them. Highlights: the crew dancing on stage and whooping it up; and, especially for Ms. T, a dashing Indian man who ruled the floor with his Bollywood interpretations. Even those who didn't come here to fall in love wondered if they had tripped... :) Many thanks to the gaggle of Gentlemen who introduced us to their town. Tomorrow we leave here and then it's only one day to Rebkong and our host Families.
xo
berk

July 9, 2007

On the move...

Nick adds a katak to Atisha's wall.jpg
Nick adds a katak to Atisha's wall

Demo-

The group has sustained a pace of rapid motion over the past few days, and every one of them has been great. From our final days in Lhasa and day trips to Drigung Terdrum ani-gonpa (nunnery) and soaks in the crystal hot springs there, to morning strolls through the courtyards of the Norbulinka (summer palace of the Dalai Lamas), to cruising around modern Xining with our retinue of capable Amdo-wa friends, Phuntsok, Kunchok, Huajar, Tsering Bum (Caleb) and Jerome, we've been on the move. Rest has come in the form of enlightening lectures and discussions on the contemporary art scene in Lhasa with Emory University's Leigh Miller-Sangster and founding artists of the significant Gendun Choephel Artist's Guild in Lhasa to, as Berkley mentioned, afternoon conversations on the ethnic identities and unique religious and linguistic traditions of the Amdo Tibetan region of Qinghai Province, particularly of the Repkong area, with Kevin Stuart and his students of the successful English Training Program at Qinghai Normal University.

This will be our final morning here in Xining, a city on the north-eastern cusp of the Tibetan cultural region which stands in stark contrast to the Lhasa capital of the Tibetan plateau. After noon we'll make our way south down the Yellow River gorge to the Rongpo Valley, and settle down in Repkong/Tongren town for the night. After touring some of the thangka workshops and metal smitheries tomorrow morning we'll move in with our homestay families in the nearby village of Gomar. As independent art studies commence with this change of location, we'll also find our daily pace slow to a more casual momentum more consistent with that of the village life.

So, things continue to go well, we're glad to be here, and excited for the changes to come.

Demo-

Galen

Hello from Michelle

Group at Potala.jpg
Group at Potala Palace, Lhasa

I've been so overwhelmed by all the new experiences and interactions that I haven't had the mental space to write yet. My journal is empty as well because I needed a few days to process what I'm seeing and feeling. The trip has been amazing so far. The many cultural, political, economic and spiritual complexities of this area keep my mental space occupied at all times. Lhasa was an intense experience both for the spiritual sites we visited as well as the cultural implications of the situation there. Our visit to the contemporary artists guild was an unexpected gem. The lecture we attended there helped me to re-focus and go a little deeper into what we are experiencing here. I feel I've learned so much in such a short period of time, it's hard to organize it all just yet. I'm looking forward to the home stays and some quiet time to reflect on our past days adventures and the chance to learn about the traditional art of this region. I'm also excited to see how a family in the village lives. Our experiences so far have been the perfect balance of traditional and contemporary issues and I find this interaction of the old and the new so intriguing. Anyway, hello to my friends and family and know that I am having an amazing experience here.

Michelle

Xining to Rebkong, by Romy

The group examines the applique thankas at the Museum of  Tibetan Medicine in Xining.jpg
The group examines the appliqué thankas at the Museum of Tibetan Medicine in Xining

I am writing this from a smoky Internet cafe in Rebkong. Tomorrow we will be going to our home stays. I'm so excited and terrified. The morning began in Xining, a town three hours from Rebkong. We woke up and went to the bank. Then with one of Galen's Tibetan friends we went to a cafe for breakfast and had far too much wonderful breads and coffee. Then I wandered Xining and discovered a cute little clothing store. I needed a new pair of sun glasses because I gave my first pair away to a nun at a monastery we visited earlier (when an elderly monk asks for something you have its pretty hard to say no). Then I returned to the hotel at 12 and we took a bus three hours to Rebkong.

The Drigung Terdrum nunnery, hotsprings, and valley.jpg
The Drigung Terdrum nunnery, hotsprings, and valley

The countryside is very beautiful. Upon arriving in Rebkong Berkley and I went wandering the shops so she could find a Mandolin (it is traditionally very common to play here). I have never been so intensely stared at! We drew a crowd in the little monk owned shop we were in. People wandered off the streets to stare at us. One man came right up to me to take a close up picture!

Continue reading "Xining to Rebkong, by Romy" »

Guidelines for Living in a Tibetan Household:

Guiseppe throws it up while while Jen and Cheryl spin mani  wheels at Rongpo Gonpa.jpg
Guiseppe (Sue's son) throws it up while while Jen and Cheryl spin mani wheels at Rongpo Gonpa

Take off your hat upon entrance
Sit where the host directs you
Try to sit cross legged, taking up only a small area
Do not step over people or their clothing
Do not step over books or photographs
Gather your skirt when moving past someone or something (women)
Do not smell food before eating it
Always try to eat or drink a little bit of what your host offers
Remember: it's okay to ask for more
Do not rub your belly after meals
There are no "take outs" in a Tibetan household
Do not kiss or show open affection to the opposite sex in public or in front of elders
Do not touch people on the top of their heads (it's considered sacred)
Remember to present or accept items open handed
Remember not to point
Do not put shoes or socks near a shrine or under your pillow
Do not pass an object over a stove
Do not step on a pillow or quilt
Remember to use both hands when accepting a bowl or cup from a person
Remember: gifts are usually presented to host families as a sign of appreciation
Whistling at night= Bad!
Try to use mainly the right hand when eating

Guidelines courtesy of Joseph, a student at Kevin Stuart's English Training Program at Qinghai Normal University, in Xining China.

Tomorrow we begin the "meat and potatoes" of our course here in Tibet. We will be introduced to our homestay families and have the opportunity to live with them and gain understanding of their lifestyles. Good luck everyone and put your best foot foreward!

Love and best wishes,

Tiffany

Rob gains his merits with the momo-las in Repkong.jpg
Rob gains his merits with the momo-las in Repkong

July 10, 2007

Approaching Gomar

Morning on July 10 finds us in Repkong, in the Central Amdo region of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It has been a whirlwind the past few days, with not much time to stop absorb the culture at Lanzhou and Xining, both on the Tibet/China border. We are roughly a 5-10 minute bus ride to Gomar, the village where we will be staying with our homestay families.

As Galen mentioned, we met with Prof Kevin Stewart with the Qinghai Normal University a couple of days ago. It has been an eye opener to be introduced to the Monguor ethnicity that comprises some of the population here in Repkong. Some of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the specific distinctions between Tibetan, Hui (Muslim), Monguor, Salar, Mongolian, and Han ethnicities, which make up this region of Tibet.

The bus ride from Xining to Repkong ('Tongren' in Putonghua) yesterday was beautiful - as we got farther away from Xining which is very close to the border with China, we saw more and more stupas and prayer flags animated by the breeze. We were also able to drive along the Yellow River, which is actually a beautiful emerald color.

Here in Repkong it still feels like a mostly Chinese town, as most of the new developments have been in the past 5-10 years (according to our guide Kunchok) and in the style of the ubiquitous white-tiled building. The main monastery in town, Rongpo Gyakhar, is about a 5 minute walk from our hotel, along the main street in town which comprises of stores selling thangkas, religious items, shoes, books, and other household items. Yesterday we also met a softspoken monk by the name of Genden Phetsok who is from the village of Gomar, who also spoke fluent Putonghua.

Jen

Photos from Cheryl

1. beijing in the rain.jpg
Beijing in the rain

2.Detail of the Temple of Heaven_Beijing.jpg
Detail of the Temple of Heaven, Beijing

3.Staircase from the Red Gate Gallery_Beijing.jpg
Staircase from the Red Gate Gallery, Beijing

Click the link below to see more...

Continue reading "Photos from Cheryl" »

July 11, 2007

Homestay

This was written last night from my room at my homestay here in Gomer.

I'm at my homestay right now. Thy fed me bread and tea, and put on the french tv station, so that I'd be able to understand it. It may have been the most awkward silence ever in the history of awkward silences...especially because as far as can tell they have two cute sons about my age. Also, the toilet is a huge pit with a curtain in front of it, which is pretty interesting..to say the least..

This room is amazing. This is pretty much my dream house, and I love this family although I just met them and we don't speak a word of each other's language. They are very beautiful people, and I'm glad that I get this opportunity, as uncomfortable as it is. I ate so much dinner that I am in serious pain right now, but at least it was soup-based..and yummy.
----
I think the homestay period of this trip has been by far my favorite and most memorable time, although it has just begun. These people don't have any money, they go to the bathroom outside in a pit, their houses look like old creaky ships, and there's piles of dung along the walkway to my room. It's not a comfortable situation by any means. However, I think this is really what is making this trip a worthwhile experience for me. I'm getting the chance to see a very very different way of life, and although it's not easy, I know how important it is to learn from these people and get to know them. One of the most important things I think I've learned here is that people are just people. Whether they're monks or artists or americans or homeless, people are doing their best. I think it's important be respectful of different ways of living, and to push yourself to do without once in a while.

For breakfast we had fresh bread(half a loaf set in front of me, the other half in front of the rest of the family), and milk tea (which I even tried to slurp a little, as much as it pains me to do so).

I'm thinking of my friends and family, and looking forward to whatever comes my way next.

-Kat

Squatters 101

so i came to Tibet foremost to see what i was really made if. i fancy myself culturally capable. i have been involved in peace organizing that has allowed me to travel all over the world since i was 11. China has thrown me a curve ball...and i think i caught it! The toilets here are WILD! don't think I'm a red neck just because I'm talking about the bathrooms. it's just the only thing that has really freaked me out so far. They have presented themselves in very different versions.

The general public restrooms in restaurants etc. are stalls with or without full walls and with or without doors. never with toilet paper provided. they have a porcelain fixture in the ground that has foot grips and a hole that flushed. designed for basic squatting...I've learned the closer to the ground the less likely you are to pee all over your feet.

The bathroom at the Nunnery-Hot springs was by far the down fall of the day. it was a wooden room with three holes to the ground. the woman using that room had bad aim!!!!

The facilities at my home stay are rural. there is a packed mud walls. there is a huge pit that has one plank across and three short boards perpendicular to that on...so it makes a little squat perch. the room has ash from the fire to sprinkle over your business. it keeps the smell down. it's my favorite!!!!

so for all of you back in the states enjoy those western toilets!!!!!!

Anna

Romy's 1st Night at the Homestay

Last night I spent my first evening with my host family in the small village of Gomar, ten minutes from the city of Rebkong. I arrived at my home at about seven and met the elderly woman of the house (who my host sister explained is her great aunt), as she was the only one home at the time. It was a very strange few hours before the rest of the family arrived. This woman who I am told to refer to as "Aunti" does not speak any English or read any Tibetan. We communicated through my poor knowledge of Tibetan and hand gestures. She walked me through their large lovely garden where they grow cabbage, green onion, and have numerous pair trees. My host sister, who speaks English surprisingly well, explained that they grow more veggies behind the house. I watched as Aunti fed the cow and despite her advanced age knelt to sweep the house and re-stack the hay. Then she fed me cherries picked straight from their garden, butter tea, and bread.

The next to arrive home was the youngest daughter of the house. Her name is Lim So Chi and she is about nine years old. Although she does not speak any English we got along very well. We practiced both the English and Tibetan alphabet. She taught me to say household words in Tibetan and I taught her to play tic tac toe. The Ama (mother) of the house was the next to arrive and proceeded to feed me a delicious soup and bread until I could eat no more. The eldest sister of the house arrived while we were eating. She just graduated from high school and is awaiting to hear from Universities in China. Her English is very good and it was relaxing to feel like I could explain my thoughts for the last few hours. After dinner we watched a dvd of a popular Tibetan concert in Rebkong.

Sue explained that the home I am in is very traditional in that it consists of two main rooms; one of which is a bedroom the other is a kitchen/living room/bedroom. I am sharing this living space with my host sister. It is interesting to be in such close quarters without a private space. I feel as long as I am not impeding on their space it should be fine. I am glad I have such a friendly host family. I hope that through our daily Tibetan lessons I will eventually be able to communicate a little more and help with the chores. It is very different to be in a place that is so alien, but I am
sure by the 10th day it will feel like home.

July 12, 2007

Beetles & Buddha heads

The home stay in the village of Gomer has been really nice so far. I really like my family. The boy, Gonpa Tar, is about 9 years old and as eager to learn from me as I am from him. The first night we stayed up until midnight going over Amdo/Tibetan, Chinese, and English words from books we both had. There are large Beetles he likes to grab and fling out the door like a frisbee. The beetles don't like it much because they want to be near the light (and they vocalize this with a shsst sound!) but I'm so glad to be among people who don't kill bugs! Gonpa Tar's mother, Soba, is just a little older than me and very sweet and beautiful. She tries to feed me too much but I'm glad she lets me do my own thing too. I woke up this morning and did yoga and then she let me meditate in their altar room. I'm learning and growing so much. We had our morning Thangka lesson with Drukwa this morning. He taught us the proportions of the Buddha head. He told us that the proportions came from someone measuring the Buddha's shadow when he went to the water. This afternoon we will go to Peng Chou's house to draw, he loves to practice his English with us. Well, that's all for now. De mo!

Michelle

More Photos from Cheryl

1. Lhasa_market.jpg
Lhasa Market

2. Young Monks at Sera Monestary Dialetical Debating.jpg
Young Monks at Sera Monestary Dialetical Debating

3.The Barkor Shrouded in Insence.jpg
The Barkor Shrouded in Incense

Voicemail from Galen

"Hi John, this is Galen calling from Gomar village. We're doing well here, other than being stymied with the international phone service, but seem to have found one that works. Everything is going quite well, people have now spent a couple of nights in homestays and are enjoying them. We have commenced various art projects, including thangka painting, metal working, wood block carving, stone carving, and some other independent initiatives. We're in Tibetan class this morning and then will be breaking into various groups for art projects this afternoon. Group health is good. Spirits are high. All's well and we'll have some more blog posts and photos coming soon. Talk to you soon."

July 13, 2007

Morning

It's morning at Sue's compound in the village - everyone is animated except for Guiseppe (Sue's son), who is his usual taciturn self. The sun is shining beautifully, and apparently the stars were brilliant last night against a clear sky.

Life in the village has been simple, naturally-paced, and peaceful. Mud walls, floors, walkways are of the same color as the earth. The various components of home life meld into each other; there aren't such vast distinctions between private and public, clean and dirty, inside and out. The lack of a shared language between my homestay family and I has highlighted the importance of a pure and direct smile, unclouded eye contact, and use of a few simple words.

Jen

July 15, 2007

Update from Gomar

Hi-

The update from Gomar is that everyone is doing well and thoroughly enjoying (if not being occasionally challenged, in a good way, by) life in the village. Our various artistic projects are well underway, with thangka students gaining the skills to properly and proportionally draw the Shakyamuni Buddha at an impressive pace and the stone and wood carvers and metal smiths well on their way to producing truly stunning images. The local artisans and teachers with whom we've been working in the village have time and again expressed their astonished joy at how quickly our Pratt students have gained such refined skills, no doubt attributable to their experience and background from home.

Yesterday many of us spent the afternoon at the dizzying Kalachakra Chorten of our neighborhood Gomar Gompa, as well as touring the chapels and assembly halls of the monastery. Today we walked across the Rebgong Valley floor to the Mango Sengeshong monastery, and again took in enough stautes of bodhisattvas and murals of Buddha-lands to exhaust even the most seasoned iconographer.

We will be taking a break from the village routine this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, when we'll make a short drive to the nearby Khamra National Park for a day of hiking and a night at the local and important Namdzong nunnery. Following this change of scenery we'll then return to Gomar on Wednesday evening for 4-5 more days of art studies and homestays. After this we'll again head out on the road for a tour through the nomadic regions of northern Golok, visits to significant monasteries of this region, and finally, commence our trek from Labrang back to here in Rebgong. But that's not until July 26, so there'll much to share before then.

Stay tuned-

Galen

Eat Bread!, Drink Tea!

Food in the village of Gomer has been quite an interesting experience. It consists mostly of bread, bread, bread, and noodles...and tea. "Go-rey so! Ja tung!" are the phrases I hear most, which translate to "eat bread! drink tea!"

The people here eat bread products of all sorts at amazing speeds, and they seem to be somewhat frustrated that I don't eat quite fast enough for their liking. I'm convinced the town has a competition going on over who can make their guest the fattest by the time they leave, and my family is set on winning. It doesn't help that the food tastes very good. There is fried bread and milk tea or steamed rolls for breakfast. More fresh warm bread and tea at our afternoon class, and noodle soup for dinner. "Jak ta! Jak ta!" I say again and again, trying to convince my family that "I'm full!" but they never seem to believe me.

I'm dreaming of steamed vegetables, coffee, and dark chocolate.

-Kat

July 16, 2007

Past, Present....Future

Anna with her 22st Birthday cake, featuring the Old Man Yogi, Puple Yak, and Spotted Dog.jpg
Anna with her 22st Birthday cake, featuring the Old Man Yogi, Purple Yak, and Spotted Dog

On July 13th the group plus a few resident villagers went out for a big family style dinner to celebrate Anna's 22nd Birthday. We dined at a restaurant that served the Tibetan equivalent of a fondue style dinner called "Hot Pot". The evening began with an explosion (literally), some spillage of liquids, piles and piles of food to throw in the pot and people shouting and standing and grabbing cooked food to shovel into their mouths (manners were checked at the door).

Then it was on to self portrait time as the camera slowly made its way around our huge table of 20 plus people. This is a tradition I started in my family years ago and it always provides tons of laughs as everyone fumbles with the camera trying to capture their choice facial expressions in the moment-and someone always wants a do over. The evening couldn't have gotten any better but then the lights dimmed and everyone began hootin' and hollerin' as a HUGE specially ordered cake rolled out with a yak on top!!! Everyone sang Happy Birthday and gave Anna plenty of gifts with special meanings attached (some of the gifts included lizard skins, pickled chicken feet and string cheese-SO Anna). I think Anna's real B-Day wish was answered about 12 hours later back in the states (then July 13th) when her family was blessed with its newest edition a baby boy named Gabriel...Awe!!!

Today Jen and I went on an early morning hike to the west of the village into the foothills. After a short climb we found ourselves atop what appeared to be a field or some sort of terraced plateau that offered amazing views of the village below. The sun slowly peaked over the hills to the east as smoke began to rise as the village awoke to their daily routines...At the moment I am sitting in the Net Cafe after downing 2 cups of some kind of fresh yogurt (could be cow, could be yak, I don't know or care). What I do know is that it was delicious (Tibetan= Shimbo rey) and tasted like a cross between cottage cheese and Greek yogurt. Yummo!!!

Tomorrow we depart on a little overnight road trip to the Kharma Nat'l Park and then on to the Namzong Nunnery where we will spend the night. I'm sure this trip will offer plenty new stories and challenges as each day usually does!!!

Shout outs- What's up to all my family and friends...I miss and love you all tons...
PS- Guess what Nat...I figured out how to braid my own hair!!!

Ciao, Addrienne

Tiffany's Tale

Ting, Ting, Ting, Stop.
Ting, Ting, Ting, Stop.
Ting, Ting Ting OUCH!!!

Metal working in the town is something else! At first, I had trouble holding the tools. Every five seconds, the tip kept skidding across my piece or making little zig- zag dance marks on blank areas. Just think, that was my attempt to make a straight line! Because I kept hitting myself with the hammer, Galen offered me a band-aid to wrap around my finger.....After three days, the skin underneath became pale and slimy. It was begging for air. Somehow, I believe that was my lucky band-aid. True, it became just as gritty and dirty as my hands after several hours, but maybe it helped me to adjust to learning a new skill. My lines didn't seem to dance as much, and I even mastered etching a circle into copper. The second day, my metal instructor asked me if I'd done "this work" before. I laughed and said "no". I was beaming for the rest of the day.

By day three, a form started to arise. In the back of my mind I started to wonder "Did I do that?". I had officially earned my stripes. My fingernails are black-a trait I was appalled by at first, but now have come to embrace it. I have true "workman's" hands. Right now, I think the lucky band-aid is in some mixed stack of garbage and hay....no matter. It served its purpose. I no longer hit my self with the hammer anymore...knock on metal, uh, I mean wood.

Hello Everyone!

It's nearing the end of our first week in Rebkong. At the core of the city are market streets, selling Nirvana T-shirts and other clothes, fruit, slabs of meat, homeware etc. Walking from one end to the next you can smell apples and peaches, laundry coming out the side of the building, exhaust, urine, and the steam from dumplings in brown baskets. Just off the main street there's a hospital where elderly people sit on benches with IV's hooked into the top of their hands and motorcycles parked in front of the examination room windows. Beside that is a tailor shop were two women sit beside an old, Singer-style sewing machine between walls of fabric. There are barber shops, stands selling watches, and shops run by monks that sell prayer beads and neon-backlit images of Lamas. The market-economy seems to be the heart of Rebkong.

Several of us are working in a metalsmith's shop just outside of the city core. We're practising on copper slabs, pounding out designs either borrowed or created. A highlight for me was watching the men melt some sort of lead-alloy in a cast iron pot over a fire by turning up the air flow under the fire to make it burn hotter and using a blow torch on the top of the lead chunks. It looked like silver butter melting. When it was liquefied I was able to scoop it up with a long ladle and roll it around like a bead before one of the metal smiths poured it into a sand mold he had created in a pile of sand.

In the shop and the apartment above, where we're working, two little girls decorate our faces with stickers and laugh hilariously after saying "hello! Hello!" to us. The younger of the two, who's about four-years-old, always wears a red, plaid hat that matches her skirt. It covers her short hair, which is kept that way until little girls are old enough to care for their hair themselves.

Tomorrow the majority of the group will go on an excursion overnight to a nunnery, but several of us will stay to focus on our work here. I'm looking forward to spending more time in the village and with my family here. Last night my two younger host sisters walked me to Tiffany and Tauska's (the father insisted), and after the visit there (the house features a courtyard filled with plants and a giant, two-story golden Buddha in the altar room) my sisters and I sang, danced, and giggled all the way home under the stars. Since they don't speak English and I don't speak Tibetan, our interactions are based on smiling, hand gestures, and imitating each other, but that hasn't stopped us from getting to know and love each other.

lol,
Berkley

De mo to all from Rebgong

I have to admit, I thought I would not be around a computer doing email, but Tibet is more modern than I had expected. We talk about our romantic visions and I see women walking down the street in Rebgong that would fit suitably on the streets of New York. We also see the nomadic folks in more traditional dress as well, which is a great style. I see them and look at my own unstylish duds and wonder what they think of us. It is all very curious.

As Galen mentioned, the students projects are really coming along. Their teachers are amazed at the speed at which they are picking up technique. Pratt, and Ringling are serving our students well.

I am a little behind preparing photos to send, but I have been shooting alot and will keep the photos coming. Keep in touch.

With warm regards to family and friends,

Cheryl


1. lhasa view of the barkor.jpg
View of the Barkor, Lhasa

2.addrienne_dierdra.jpg
Addrienne & Dierdra

3.artist at Gendun Choepal.jpg
Artist at Gendun Choepal

4.artist and jen.jpg
Jen and artist

5.deirdra at GC metal shop.jpg
Deirdra at GC metal shop

6. robert in Lhasa.jpg
Robert filming in Lhasa

July 17, 2007

Time in Tibet...It's 10:30ish, maybe Monday, maybe Tuesday...

This morning we woke up expecting to leave the village around 9am for our over night rode trip to the National Park and Nunnery...An important lesson to learn when traveling in foreign countries, Tibet in particular, is to be flexible with plans and anything that revolves around time. The morning brought a steady rain that literally mudded on our parade. As we gathered at our usual meeting spot we learned there was a mud slide near town which prevented us from leaving at our original departure time. Fast forward- at about 2pm we loaded up (plenty of bread in tow thanks to our homestay families) and set off on a 45 minute ride. Fast forward- at about 6pm we almost made it to our final destination and landed somewhere near the park or nunnery or somewhere in Tibet. After a hole lot of giggling at the situation we found a swank hotel, western toilets and all (Thanks Dad, AKA- Big G AKA- G-Money). Had too much food, as usual, and tomorrow we will wake up and try the whole thing over again (except this time we are much closer to the park, we think).

Lesson Learned- while in the land of Nomads tell time like one...Where time is relative, bread is plentiful and holes are deep!!!

Anna & Addrienne

July 20, 2007

Feasting

The Pratt-Global LAB group enjoy a festive hotpot dinner with  Gomar friends and teachers for Anna's 22nd birthday.jpg
The Pratt-Global LAB group enjoy a festive hotpot dinner with Gomar friends and teachers for Anna's 22nd birthday

t.jpg
Waste not, want not--Galen dutifully finishing up the hotpot

Romy carves stone

Romy learns the art of stone carving.jpg
Romy learns the art of stone carving

Art Projects

Tauska learns the art of stone carving.jpg
Tauska learns the art of stone carving

Nick, Addrienne, and Jen practice the art of drawing thangka.jpg
Nick, Addrienne, and Jen practice the art of drawing thangka

Anna learns wood block printing with Samtar.jpg
Anna learns wood block printing with Samtar

Language Class

Sue gives a morning Tibetan lesson at Aku Drakwa's house.jpg
Sue gives a morning Tibetan lesson at Aku Drakwa's house

Gomar village at sunrise, 1.jpg
Gomar village at sunrise

Cheryl's latest batch...

1. nun_drigung_terdrom_nunnery (Large).JPG
I had a wonderful exchange with the nun in this photo. I took the shot and she wanted to see it and invited me over. She liked the photo and wanted the camera so she could take some herself. we laughed together. It was a special moment.

2. berkley_tibetan_women (Large).JPG
Berkley and two Tibetan shop keepers having a happy exchange in Lhasa.

3.dinner_dancing (Large).JPG
Our last night in Lhasa we went to dinner with entertainment. Some of our group joins the dance.

4.Temple at the NorbulingKa  (Large).JPG
This is one of the Temples at the NorbulinKa, the Dalai Lama's summer Palace.

5a. Wall carving (Large).JPG
We stopped at Ney Tang, a face of a mountain, carved and painted to throw Katas for blessings.

6. Museum of Tibetan Medicine, Xining (Large).JPG
Museum of Tibetan Medicine, Xining

7.Phuntsok_Deirdra (Large).JPG
Dierdra and Phuntsok

8. Bus Xinging to Repkong (Large).JPG
The bus ride from Xining to Rebgong

9. view of the yellow river (Large).JPG
View of the Yellow River

10. Giuseppe (Large).JPG
Sue's son Giuseppe and I getting to know each other.

July 22, 2007

Last day at metal shop

It's our last night with our families before we embark on our trek. We've got donkies to meet and monasteries to explore, and it's time we have some nights under the stars to freak ourselves out with ghost stories and reflect on all that we've done and seen so far.

Today was a good one at the metal shop, everyone got their projects finished; Tauska left with her belt piece adorned with stones, Tiffany with a bold, patterned, copper bracelet; Romy with her PERFECTLY fine elephant in a circle; Anna with her giant, shield-like ode to her beloved dogs in copper; and me with my silver faces, each depicting one of the five mental poisons (Ignorance, Anger, Attachment, Envy, Mental Darkness).

Our experience at the shop was so wonderful, Tashisamten and his beautiful family welcomed us, made fun of us, pounded out final cuts in the metal for us, and let us explore every action and item in their Thangka-filled metal store. He comes from a line of metal workers, his father being a great master. Near the end of the day, all the people at the store/shop + extended family and us ladies crowded together for some group shots on their request. Then we all crowded around the cameras and checked out our poses; looking good, looking good. We've got that rare-shower, constipated, blow-torch look down pact baby.

While there, I was sitting alone upstairs in the apartment where we work when a stranger came into the room and blatantly stared at my work as I pounded away, as is often the case. He was an old man in traditional clothing, thumbing over prayer beads in his hands. He said something to me in Tibetan, and we had a small encounter. I thought he was trying to suggest something to me. I was afraid that he was going to take my hammer from me and work on my piece, something some of the men like to do. And it can be a long time until you get that hammer back and your piece might be different from the one you handed over. Anyways, I was relieved that he didn't try to take it, but instead stood up and walked across the room to the window when Galen came in to see how I was doing. As the old man walked out the door Galen said, "So that's the master, that's the grandfather who's picture is framed downstairs." I had no idea! His was the work I've been copying and admiring the entire time here. And I was sitting by him for 15 minutes as I worked...just goes to show how little we can be aware of and how wrong perceptions can be. It also brings up the issue of our language barrier with so many interesting people here. It kills me! There are so many things I want to ask and to talk about, but with most people we can't get too far past the hand-gesturing. I guess the next step is to get studying that Tibetan...

Tashi Delay,

Berkley

July 25, 2007

(on the bus, from repkong to hor)

the air has an almost sharp smell when i get a first whiff of it - laden with rain, unrestricted motion, suffused by the bright blue skies overhead.

we are driving through expansive grasslands - green, contours of hills modeled by patches of light streaming through large billowy clouds. yaks appear as dark clustered splotches, and nomads' tents are bright white triangles.

--jen

July 26, 2007

Update from Galen

Following our fantastic visit to Hor and Terton Chogar Gompa, as well as an interesting overnight in Tso and tour of the Milarepa Lhakhang yesterday, we made the final leg of our drive out of the grasslands and into the narrow valley of Labrang. Yesterday afternoon some of us toured the massive Labrang Monastery (one of the Big 6 Gelukpa Gompas) while other members of the group went on a day hike and meandered the town's main strip. We had a fun dinner over pizza prepared by a fellow American hailing from Oklahoma City and discussed what's in store over the next five days. Everyone is excited for and well prepared for our five-day trek, and greatly looking forward to the opportunity to stay amongst the seasonal nomadic encampments which we'll reach this afternoon. We will return to Rebgong by Monday afternoon and will be in touch again then.

--Galen

Nomadic

Today we leave behind the contemporary travelers lifestyle for a taste of the nomadic life. Everyone in the group has been anticipating this time for a little self reflection as well as a bit more physical activity. Throughout this journey we've had high points and low points followed by plenty of unexpected obstacles. We've laughed together (a lot), cried together (but not too much) and just about everyone has been ill together (boo)...Nevertheless, we have come out on top of every situation as a group, a make-shift family if you will. So I have faith that regardless of our differences each of us can learn a little something from one another and recognize the similarities we all share. This trek will be a true test of character- not only challenging how we function individually but also our abilities to work within a group.

See you on the Flip Side...Addrienne

July 28, 2007

Cheryl's Photos

1. stone carvers first day (Large).JPG
The first visit to the stone carver's house for instruction.

2.stone carver showing Tauska the technique (Large).JPG
Stone carver showing Tauska the technique

3. master woodcarver (Large).JPG
The master woodcarver instructing Berkley, Anna, and Romy with translation by our friend and guide Kunchok

4. kats first sketches (Large).JPG
Kat's first sketches for thangka painting.

5.Sue_Giuseppe (Large).JPG
Giuseppe has boundless energy and was not quite happy with this arrangement to start, but it is a cozy place to fall asleep.

6. Jen_in Giuseppes chair (Large).JPG
The little stools we sometimes use as seats can be quite hard during our Tibetan lessons. Jen found Giuseppe's carseat worked a bit better.

7.Akuh  Dukwa (Large).JPG
Akuh Dukwa is one of our master thangka teachers and a beautiful soul as you can see.

8. Gomar partial view of our village (Large).JPG
Gomar partial view of our village

9. Puntsok (Large).JPG
Puntsok is our other master teacher for thangka painting.

10. Addrienne playing paddy cake (Large).JPG
Addrienne playing paddy cake

11.Addrienne drawing (Large).JPG
Addrienne drawing

July 31, 2007

Life in Gomar, living & creating art (Cheryl)

1. my_cozy_room
My cozy room

2. the_gomar_chorten
The Gomar Chorten

3. berkley_wood_carving
Berkley wood carving

4.berkley_detail
Berkley detail

5. rob_drakwa_tunes
Rob and Drakwa sharing some tunes

6. jen_thangka_folks
Jen working on her thangka

7.typical_breakfast
Typical breakfast

8. tiffany_metal
Tiffany practicing metal work

9. berkley_little_girl
Berkley being shown excellent technique by the metal worker's daughter.

10. addrienne_stretching_canvas
Addrienne stretching canvas

What is 5 days to you?

5 days to me was an ipod play list (reggetone, Billy Idol- thanks to Emily Lange- Outkast and some R. Kelly). 5 days was the beautiful rolling landscape, sudden rainstorms that can make one stop in a matter of seconds to dig for an overcoat, a poncho and an "umbrella-ella-A-A-A" (Rhiana, you've started something that won't stop). 5 days was also an opportunity to see how vast and rich the world actually is. Green isn't as green until you've seen blades of grass up close, sat in it while resting; all the while fighting a state of delirium and reminding yourself that you HAVE to go on. Black isn't as black until you pack up your tent in the morning only to discover that you've spent the night sleeping on top of a charcoal colored Caterpillar who is now rolled up dead because of your body weight-horrifying, yes, I know.

Language isn't such a barrier anymore when you've gotten your point across- No, I don't want to follow you back to your tent, you young attractive Tibetan man...and the list goes on and on. 5 days makes you think of all your goals and aspirations in life. It makes you start to realize that the picture is way more gargantuan than you've ever expected. 5 days makes you loathe those who can walk faster, jump further and bend more easily than you. 5 days makes you crave for cheese, apples and peanut butter at lunch time. 5 days makes you feel even less than a donkey or mule--the two of you have the same distance to go, only they have more weight to carry and somehow, they always arrive before you do. 5 days makes you rejoice at the sight of the city you left about 7 days earlier...

congratulations, you've made it!

Love Tiffany

Dust and Donkeys...

Trekking Day 1- Leaving the city of Lebrang the crew headed west on a gradual incline that quickly turned into a steep mountain face that still burns the inner lining of our lungs. This was our first taste of what Galen referred to as 'rolling hills'. Reaching the top of the pass left everyone breathless- literally and figuratively speaking. Soon after we met up with our posse of 16 Donkey's + 2 mules and the 'Horse Men' that would keep the wily beasts in check. Down the mountain our odd looking caravan puttered...After lunch and more trekking some of the crew stopped for one of many snack breaks. (Picture this if you will- A big group of Westerners on foot rolling through a nomadic region where the choice means of transport are either yak, horse or motorcycle- not typically your own two feet) Back to the snack break- There we were chillin' when a masked nomad rolled up on a motorcycle, tea kettle in tow, only to find one red headed man surrounded by about 8 very diverse women. Who was more confused??? Was this some harem traveling with their red headed Buddha??? Where was this masked motorcycle riding nomad going with his tea kettle??? Some questions are just too difficult to answer in one lifetime...On to our first camping destination. We find ourselves in what appeared to be a peaceful and expansive valley, complete with a nice stream. Up the tents go and everyone happily moves in to Casa del G-Lab all the while the nomads were getting really close and personal. We think Romy accidentally got married- There was some exchange of a pendant and some dude said I do, we think...We were about to have our first dinner in camp when the yak dung hit the fan. Apparently, we were camping on private nomad property, we missed the do not camp sign back a t the masked motorcycle nomad- we must have been distracted??? The problem was that the nomads were concerned that our 16 Donkey's + 2 mules might eat too much of the grass on the 455,000 acres on which we were residing. After talk of Donkey theft and much negotiation we reached an agreement of some sort and the nomads left with a couple of bucks and we kept all the 16 Donkey's + 2 mules. We then sat down to a now cold dinner prepared by Mr. Song (AKA the Karaoke superstar) and our Donkey's and mules ate all the grass they could eat.

Trekking Days 2 & 3- Not as eventful as day one...but a lot of really nice scenery, some peanut butter, stale bread, cheese, a couple of snickers bars, a few really constipated westerners and a hole lotta rain...

Trekking Day 4- Lots of hills and A LOT OF SUN...Since we were so good at packing up and moving out in the mornings (apply sarcasm here) at the suggestion of someone, we decided to stay at a house in some village about a 2 hour walk from Rebgong, our final destination. So our huge caravan of about 20 people- give or take a few, 16 Donkey's + 2 mules and a TON of equipment roll into a house that had no idea what was about to hit it. It felt a little bit like a house party in high school. Despite much exhaustion everyone managed to give the double dutch jump rope a try- even Mr. Song and some of the 'Horse Men'...but Kunchuk definitely took the title. We had our final trek dinner complete with a bootleg stand-in for apple pie, prepared by Anna...After 4 and a half days of trekking it didn't matter that it tasted more like yak butter than apple pie. After Dinner we had an impromptu Karaoke party with t he 'Horse Men' in whoever's living room. We sang a little Madonna, Sir Mixalot, Dixie Chicks and the theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The 'Horse Men' followed up with songs in Tibetan and Chinese and Mr. Song even pulled out some sweet moves. After a hilarious evening of entertainment and food a few of us retired to the roof to sleep under the light of the full moon. We are pretty sure Anna burned a hole in her sleeping bag due to the gas of 4 very constipated days.

Trekking Day 5- 12 Westerners, 1 Kunchuk, 5 'Horse Men', a lot of equipment strapped to 16 Donkey's + 2 Mules and 1 large dust cloud stumbled back in to Rebgong. We were greeted by the looks of many bewildered locals. Needless to say we all took really hot showers and slept in soft, well, sort of soft like beds and some were seriously happy to sit upon those things we call western thrones. All in all the experience was our favorite part of the trip...A little hard, a lot of fun, a whole lot of dust and donkeys!!!

Can we get a Tashi Delek!!!
Anna & Addrienne

Update from Galen

Sending some quick news from here in Rebgong, which we returned to yesterday afternoon, on foot all the way into our hotel (where our donkey caravan met us with our baggage). We had an open afternoon for showers, shopping, and email which was followed by a fun birthday dinner for Cheryl with outstanding gifts and an excellent cake. Today we went in shifts to the Laru festival being held in Saji village just above Rebgong town. Tomorrow we will again attend the festive events, but have a choice as to which village to visit. Tomorrow is also Kunchok's birthday, and we plan to have a bowling party for him (much to his chagrin, but no choice, really) in our hotel lobby (yes, there is a 3-lane bowling alley there).

On Thursday morning we will depart Rebgong for the final time, returning to Xining for one last day there. And then on Friday we'll be flying to Beijing and will have a day and a half until the end of our present program's run.

--Galen

Cheryl's photojournal continued...

11. michelle_preparing_canvas
Michelle preparing canvas

12. romy_first_up_the_mountain
Romy first up the mountain on our short trek to the nunnery.

13. sue_guiseppe_made_it
Sue made it up with Giuseppe on her back. kudos to her.

14. tauska_on_the_ferry
Tauska on the ferry back from the nunnery

15.drakwa_canvases
Aka Drakwa preparing some of the canvases on the second level of our home.

16. anna_metal
Anna's metal work

17. berkley_metal_tibetan_garb
Berkley working her metal in some local tibetan garb

18. tauska_metal
Tauska working her metal piece

19. romy_deep_in_concentration
Romy deep in concentration

19a. detail of romys piece
Detail of Romy's piece

20. thangka_folks_working
Thangka folks working

21. kat and her work
Kat and her work

22. nicks work
Nick's work

23. our house and ama
Our house and Ama

August 3, 2007

Back in Beijing

We reached Beijing this morning by air from Xining. Took in a tour of the 798 art colony today, which was interesting enough to draw the entire group back for tomorrow afternoon as well. Half of the crew will visit the Great Wall in the AM, while the others plan to do some shopping in the painting supply area. We'll then all convene at 798 for some afternoon gallery gazing and then a final group dinner with some of our friends from the art school here in Beijing.

All's well, wicked busy, and I'll be in touch again as soon as time avails itself.

Galen

August 5, 2007

Beijing Wrap Up

Yesterday we made a good trip to the Great Wall while some others in the group went to one of the painting supply districts. In the evening we stayed in the 798 art scene, had a deorientation and return to home talk, as well as a discussion on the art projects and final show to be held at Pratt Manhattan in October. After a nice dinner together we took in a digital multi-media show at 798, which evolved (or devolved) into a dance party with Addrienne acting the DJ and our crew the center of the circle.

Today was a bittersweet morning while sending everyone off with kataks and demos and 'until next time in NYC.'

Galen

August 6, 2007

Best from Berkley

How many of you have, since returning: made yourself a cup of hot water, hesitated before dropping your toilet paper into the bowl, swam in the softness of your bed, reveled at the quantity of clothes in your closet and at the quality of your shampoo, the pressure of hot water in your shower, the seemingly endless parade of tall men, the regularity of the dial tone on your phone, and the art/pictures/books in your apartment?

Gone for now are the plates of garlic cucumber slices, noodles with yak meat, rice drenched in oil, squatters, the toilet paper in your pocket, Galen's gold-toothed smile, violent Chinese films playing in Muslim restaurants, the children yelling "Hello!" at you and laughing, multiple monks on motorbikes, Cheryl's orange-pants and encouragement, Sue's super-swing of Giuseppe onto her back, the smell of burning juniper and dust, little stools (the ones you sit on, not the ones that some of use rarely passed :), cheap clothes, red mountains decorated with prayer flags and wooden poles, and people giving you the thumbs up to mean anything to do with "I like" and "Yes".

Although the trip was difficult at times, especially health/endurance wise for some of us, it's from here at home, or closer to it than we've been, that all that we've seen and done can start to sink through us, clearing the murk and helping us to see through to the bottom of this shared experience.

I send my best wishes to everyone and will be thinking of you often,

Love,

Berkley

ps- lol and safety to Adrianne who continues on!

Tashi Delek

Today most of the Global-Lab Crew will return to their homes in the U.S. I have to sit and wonder what will be the most challenging part of their integration back into the lives they all put on hold to take this trip? In my case part of the challenge is the journey home. At the last minute I decided to stay an extra night in Beijing. I also thought that I may extend my trip and go on to another country from here. Why not, right??? I realized, in actuality that the anxieties I am experiencing have been brought on by feelings of not wanting to let go of this journey just yet. After you spend countless hours co-existing with 15 other people and their opinions and their voices in your head it's jarring when suddenly you are granted the space to just be alone with your own thoughts. My thought process went from- 40 days is such a long time to be with all these people, to- I wish it was longer than just 40 days!!! Saying farewell to the group yesterday in the airport brought me to the realization that the proper salutation is never goodbye but rather until next time. Maybe I am being a little sentimental here but I am really going to miss my crew. On the flip side is the undeniable fact that I have a bunch of new friends that understand- on some level-what I just went through.

So what can you learn from 40 days on the other side of the globe??? It brought me back to the basic elements of the experiential senses- sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Everyday over the past 40 I tried to stay very present to each situation we encountered and how I interpreted them through each of the sensory organs. I would try to focus on one or two things at a time otherwise it would quickly become overwhelming to the point where it numbs you. (Being a New Yorker teaches you how to build an invisible wall that is impenetrable by too much stimuli) So I released that mentality and allowed everything to seep in. I think it's similar to the way we experience as children where each day brings a million curious things to explore.

40 days also taught me to travel lighter, consume less and allow for the loss of material possession. When you pack up and take off for a trip like this, if you have never done it before, you may think to yourself," I packed really well, got everything I need." Then as time goes by you wish your bag was lighter and you figure out what you really don't need to survive. I also had to ask myself several times during shopping excursions, "Do I really need this object, or can my experience, memories and pictures do the trick?" I think everyone learned a little bit about the difference between want and need when it was necessary. (Of course I did purchase some pretty cool souvenirs!!!) And then at times many of us were tested by breakage, loss or just general malfunctions of our tangible objects. On the last day of our trip -somehow- I lost my camera. Even though I was obviously upset all I could do was put my hands up, shrug my shoulders and say, "what are you gonna do!!!"

So here it is. The end of the Pratt in Tibet trip. I think it will be really interesting to see how each of us will now offer our individual interpretations of this collective experience through our work. A diverse group of artists went and infiltrated Tibet thinking we may leave some kind of lasting impression only to have the richness of this country, its culture and the people embed its way into our hearts forever!!!

To the Pratt Tibet Crew- Than you all for being you.
Tashi Delek
Addrienne

August 7, 2007

Welcome Home from the High Country

Dear Kat, Anna, Michelle, Rob, Jen, Nick, Tauska, Tiffany, Addrienne, Romy, Deidra, Berkley, Cheryl, and Sue-

I hope this finds all of you well and returned home or at least somewhere familiar and comfortable in New York.

I made it to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan this afternoon, after a long night of air travel through western China and another round of too little sleep. Fortunately, the weather and pace of things here is as nice as can be, and walking the streets this evening I was inclined to go visit the dentist where I got my gold tooth several years ago (however, I held off on getting a new left-side fang). Also, my friends here have been unable to access the ATM thus far, so the Bank of Galen continues, internationally.

While I did say so at the airport and/or sometime along the ride yesterday, I wanted to thank all of you again for playing your part in making our program in Amdo the success which it was. While there were of course the inevitable bumps in the road, your willingness to experience the new and ability to handle the unexpected made things work as well as they did. We learned a lot, made many great friends, and lived in a way that transcended boundaries of language and culture (despite the situation often being about as different as possible from our lifestyles in North America). This is an amazing thing. And while I know that although some dimensions of the program might not have met or exceeded all of our original ambitions, I trust that you all learned more than you imagined possible about the Tibetan world and their artistic traditions as well as a new thing or two about yourself.

It is indeed my hope that you will continue to learn about Tibet and practice the skills which you gained in our time together in Gomar. Moreover, I greatly look forward to joining you for the Show in October, and just having some time to kick it in NYC.

As we talked a bit about in the cafe at 798, please share as much as possible about this trip with anyone and everyone that is ready to listen and look. New layers of insight and understanding will invariably reveal themselves to you in the coming days and weeks, and with that your experience gains to grow all the stronger. But, and be prepared, there will also be those times that despite your desire and need to talk and share no one will be around (or interested enough or well able) to hear you. If and when those times arise, please feel free to contact me and let me know about whatever's up. I like to talk, and have been in that very position many times before, so write or call anytime.

Also, thanks to those of you who were able to get me the evaluation forms before departure. For those of you that didn't have time to complete them but would still be willing to finish them up, please do so. You can then send them (and/or any photos on cds that you'd be kind enough to share with me) to my home address in Maine.

Finally, feel free (and you're hereby encouraged) to continue to contribute photos and thoughts to the blog. It is a great resource for us to use as long as we desire, and will be an excellent link for getting word out about our computer-based service project as well as the Pratt Show developments and initiatives.

And lastly, if you go out for pizza or sushi in the coming days, please have an extra bite for me, as I'm still eating lots of bread, noodles, and mutton, but now instead of o-cha it's kumys (fermented mare's milk). Yeah.

Be well, keep in touch, and Demo Demo Gwa Te Chay

Thank You and Tashi Delek-

Galen

August 23, 2007

Our Service Project --Sue

We all are so grateful for the hospitality the residents of Gomar village showed us during our stay there, we were very enthusiastic about finding a worthwhile service project we could make a significant improvement for the village as a whole. Tibetan custom, however, ruled out any simple show of gratitude via physical labor – to allow honored guests to perform physical labor of any type would be extremely embarrassing for our hosts. Other options were limited due to the timing of our stay – just when we were settling into the village routine, the village school started its summer holiday. Teaching a little English there thus wasn’t an option, although in the second stretch of our homestay, a number of our students did teach English to a few local students after the morning thangka lesson.

After consultation with the village leader, Uncle Lembum – who my homestay grandma proudly assured me was a very good speaker (a high compliment in Tibetan society) – requested that we help the village school. He explained that there were about 350 students from the about 450 families in the village’s elementary school, and that their future was the future of the village, the village government and the village monastery. Without the foundation of a broad education, future village leaders, monks and monastery leaders would not be able to make good decisions. He further explained that what Gomar’s village school needed most was computers. They had requested and received money from the local government for building a computer laboratory and two computers. But two computers were not enough to teach a class full of students how to use computers. Uncle Lembum also explained that other villages around the valley had been luckier in finding donors for such things, as their monastery’s lamas had made good connections in rich Han Chinese areas of China. So his earnest request to us was to help with the funding or supply of enough computers for the school’s computer lab (about 30).

Continue reading "Our Service Project --Sue" »

September 9, 2007

Trekking

1[1]. rainbow_at_start_of_trek.jpg
We were hiking up our first mountain on the first day of our trek when Kunchuck, our fantastic guide, looked back and brought this rainbow to our attention. A magical and wonderful moment.

2[1]. treking_view.jpg
This was one of the very pleasant hikes through the "rolling hills in the grassland region"

3[1]. stream_crossing.jpg
Mr. Song, our cook, carries Giuseppe and helps Sue, Kat and myself across one of the many streams, some quite challenging.

4[1].trek_donkeys_nomads_moving.jpg
The donkeys are still with us on this misty morning after last nights situation with the nomads. This same morning all the nomads are on the move.

5[1].deirdra_addreinne_nomads.jpg
Deirdra and Addrienne with the moving nomads.

6[1].berkley_romi_prayer_flags.jpg
Berkley, Romy and I hiked up to the top of this mountain to add prayer flags Galen had given us. Our flags are the ones on the right and a bit low. The two Tibetans, or Prayer Flag keepers (sitting on the right) didn't seem happy with our work, so one of them climbed the very high pole and raised them up for us. It was a funny interchange.

6a.prayer_flag_helpers.jpg
Our new Tibetan friends. ;)

7[1].colorful_tibetan_nomad.jpg
The Tibetans nomads are beautiful and colorful people.

group.jpg
The group gathered at our hotel in Labrang, just minutes before commencing our trek into the mountains straight from this spot.

September 12, 2007

Did that really happen?

I am sitting here denying responsibility, talking to no one while my singing bowl from Lhasa adorned with Tibetan inscriptions tells me of a city far away on the other side of the world where people don't have to meet deadlines for studio projects or come up with a concept for a piece of furniture that is functional, yet stylish, that serves two different purposes all the while having a presence in whatever room it occupies....phew!

Welcome back to Brooklyn, welcome back to buses & the MTA. Welcome back to prepackaged bacon (if you're into that), concrete fences, barricades and the idea of the modern, industrialized, metropolitan city. Reality is coming to a halt as I am visited at various times of the day by fond memories of instances my mind tells me only happened a short while ago, but seems more like some far off distant dream-state I've only read about somewhere while thumbing through a vacation magazine on an American Airlines flight from Laguardia to O'Hare...

Did all that really happen? Did I really go to the other side of the world as my first introduction to international travel? (Sorry Berk, Canada is disqualified in this running)... "How was the trip?" So many people want to know...the truth is, it was fine, amazing, wonderful, peachy, hard, annoying, exhilarating, terrifying, unique, arduous, hot, tiring, full of anticipation, scary, fun and just plain old great...all at the same time. How do I convey this? I don't. I usually give the default answer "fine" and just humor folks when they say the want to see "my pictures"- little do they know all
1,500 are waiting on my 12" mac Powerbook G4 in slideshow form just for them, something not even my parents could handle....they retired to bed about half way through.

Tibet was amazing. Actually I have been back since. I know you're saying "but how?", Well not too long ago, I was in Tashisamten's jewelry shop upstairs banging away at my latest piece. They kids were running around eating pickled chicken feet. As usual it was the same old same old. The tassel on the beaded prayer bracelet A-Kuh Drokwa gave me was becoming dingy, so I clipped off the nasty parts...the next day I saw him smiling his same old bright monk smile... a couple of weeks ago I was at the master stone carvers home with the student monks absorbing knowledge and sunshine simultaneously...

Tibet has taught me one thing, that thing is that time and place is idealized and contextual all at the same time- it exists and yet it doesn't exist. These previous instances happened both in what one might refer to as "real life" as well as in a dream state...the "dream-state is what I mention as my second excursion to Tibet-never the less both
instances happened.

I think of my sister in the same sense. I was able to spend the time I did with her here in the earth but now that she is gone from me physically, she comes back to visit me now and again in my dreams...at the end of both sessions either Danielle or about Tibet, I wake up with the same question about the reality and the dream on my mind:

Did that really happen?

--Tiffany