Of masks and swords

Lopen's famous masks cast from mud

The highlight of my student’s cultural program early last month was a performance of the traditional Buddhist Mahakala chaam dance. I had seen the boys practicing but had no idea how elaborate the costumes and show would be.

Also known as the “Dance of Drinking of Blood,” the Mahakala is performed to eliminate obstacles in the Buddhist path.

The dance circle

More photos below.

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Starting the day

Morning prayers

Each school day starts with an assembly of Buddhist prayers and a recitation of India’s national anthem, Jana Gana Mana.

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Walk jane chahiye!

My 2nd-year Albert (orange) leads Anurag and Phurba along.

I love that my kids are excited to go out for a walk in the woods. When I shout “walk jane!” no fewer than two dozen kids come running. They’re a bit like puppies responding to that command.

It’s also taught me appropriate crowd control measures. 1) Delegate to an older child who will be drunk with power and help you keep the younger ones in line. 2) Force everyone to hold some else’s hand. 3) Take toilet breaks. 4) Buy candy half-way through the walk; do not distribute until end.

It’s our chance to get a bit of exercise, singing and maybe some education together. Once we spotted copulating frogs. Another time, a flying squirrel. And I typically rail against litter whenever we’re out and about.

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Eat your chickpeas

Not exactly Wheaties

Each day, I took breakfast with the kids. Every other day involves a bowl of chickpea soup. It’s actually fantastic and perfectly healthy.

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Adam’s in the kitchen with tongba

The best local hooch I've had

One of my last nights in Sikkim, I paid a visit to a neighbor family that serves up alcohol from time to time. I sat and sipped tongba (above), a local “cocktail” made from fermented millet.

The millet is served in a bamboo mug with a bamboo straw. You keep the whole thing warm by constantly topping off the drink with hot water.

My hosts were enthralled with the fact that I was enthralled with the whole affair. One of the best nights I had there.

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I’ll miss that dog

Asleep. As always.

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Mist shrouds the woods of Sikkim

Foggy days

Sikkim is a wet, misty place this time of year. Monsoon apparently struck early.

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Village markets, small economies

Waiting for dad to buy dinner

Wednesdays are market days in Bhuriakop. That means a few merchants set up shop in the misty valley and locals stock up as much as they can.

Usually there’s a vegetable vendor or two, a clothing man, a spice wallah and a few other sundries. Otherwise, shopping takes place in larger towns which are half an hour or more by jeep.

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Pillar of living salt

Little bastard

Sikkim is infamous for its small black leeches. I’ve been attacked by one and ripped one of a student’s clothing. I’ve also seen a large one removed from a dog’s nose. Horrific.

Above is all that remained after a teacher found and salted one.

I know it’s God’s creature, too, but I have yet to come to terms with the leech.

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Saturday night = momo time

Oh sweet Jesus

Every Saturday afternoon, the kids gather in the kitchen to crank out momos for dinner. It is a glorious sight, these traditional Tibetan wonders.

The students taught me how to properly fold a momo, to get that crescent shape and the bunched edge. I’m particularly bad at it, and they frequently laughed at the momos I made. More pictures below.

Mmmm....


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