After a winter/holiday break … including the Tibetan New Year … the children are back and continuing to work on their English, Chinese, Tibetan, and daily life skills. It is important for them to be active, to know how to care for their bodies, and how to interact when in the company of others. Through the activities, field trips, and learning environment afforded them at Kiki’s Kids, these children are excelling in comparison to the other scenario where some were sitting at home, or sometimes tied to a place so he or she would not wander off while their parents were at work.
I was truly fascinated when Kyila showed me around the Center for the Blind in 2010 …. before she created Kiki’s Kids … she moved around the place so fast I forgot she was blind! It reminded me also of blind, American mountaineer, Erik Weihenmayer on the trek to Everest Base Camp when he clicked along on the trekking trail with his hiking poles somewhat faster than those of us with both eyes wide open!
Photos of students playing, washing, and visiting a monk while on a field trip:
In 2001, I bought my first prayer wheel in Nepal. I was fascinated by the cylindrical, rotating action as I moved it in its required clockwise direction. The inside of it is filled with mantras (I hope mine was filled correctly.) The mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is the most powerful mantra, while there may be many other Buddhist texts on the paper roll. When the wheel is set in motion, the praying is done automatically! I bought my next prayer wheel in Tibet in 2010.
In Nepal and Tibet there are also larger prayer wheels, some set in motion by water or wind. Others will be moved by pilgrims as they circumambulate in a clockwise direction at a stupa.
May we hope for harmony in our environment, increased compassion, a peaceful state of mind, and enlightenment … only then will many prayers may be answered.
Ever since I was in Nepal in 2001 I have been fascinated by prayer flags. In Tibet you will see them in many different places. You can also read lots of information about prayer flags, but here is my synopsis.
There are vertical and horizontal presentation of the flags. I personally have the horizontal “wind horse” style with the 5 elements represented: blue – water, white – metal, red – fire, green – wood, and yellow – earth. At important times in my life I string a set on a tree by my home. The flags remain there forever despite their ultimately ragged, wind-blown look years later. Each flag has mantras written on it and, if you wish, you can write your own messages of hope and peace or whatever on a flag too! The flags are usually set outdoors so the wind and its energy or chi will carry the messages. Some people state this as a spiritual vibration to be carried around the world.
When in Tibet I had seen the horizontal flags in many places too. I will let you know the prayer flags I bought in Tibet have lasted the longest! (Remind me to buy more this year when in Lhasa.) There are also many vertical pole flags, especially in the rural areas by lakes. In this posting, I have included photos of prayer flags in different locations in Tibet. An exception: one photo is of prayer flags placed at the chorten for Rob Hall near Everest Base Camp in Nepal. A Sherpa and I put them there in 2001 to remember Rob and the other climbers who lost their lives on Mount Everest in the 1996 tragedy.
This year, no three day train travel from Beijing to Lhasa as I had done before in 2010. Although it was a good and unique experience meeting predominantly Han Chinese and a few Tibetans, it is a long ride! I remember deciding what food do I want to eat? I would simply look at another person’s plate (the menu was in Chinese), and point to his or her plate and give a thumbs-up for my choice. This year I will fly and arrive in Lhasa in 4 hours and 50 minutes from Beijing; can do!
In 2010, when we finally had availability to CCTV at the hotel, news about the earthquake in Yushu became known. The 6.9 – 7.1 magnitude, dependent on your source, quake did not affect the rail tracks, but did take at least 1,144 lives from the difficult to reach 12,000 foot elevation-lying area. A couple of years later, Kyila became aware of a child from Yushu, an orphan after losing both parents during the quake, and the child does eventually join Kiki’s Kids. Having had observed all the open landscape out my train window for the 3 days in a row, I could easily understand how any rural area with wood-earth buildings would provide no protection for its inhabitants. The plateau is so rural with few roads, just like Yushu, it would also be a challenge to get emergency workers in to help. I understood this did affect the medical emergency help for the Yushu area too.
In 2010, my exit from Lhasa was by plane to a city, Xian, to see the terracotta warriors. This next time when I arrive in Lhasa and drive to the city center I hope to again see the painted Buddha stone carving. Isn’t it interesting what we remember? Here is a photograph of it:
For three days the train traveled from Beijing to Lhasa. I recall an occasional station stop; met a guide who provided a snack and guided short walk of the particular community. Between the second and third day I received some local medicine for altitude sickness, hong jin tian, since this next night we would have oxygen pumped into our sleeper cabin to be ready for the higher elevation of Lhasa, 11,975 feet. Some mountains on the largest and highest plateau in the world are 16,000 feet … and let’s not forget Mount Everest at the southern border between Nepal and China/Tibet with a peak at 29,029 feet! Viewing all this landscape makes one understand the Tibetan plateau being referred to as the “roof of the world”.
Here are pictures of the small villages and land beyond my train window.
I want to take this moment to recall the creation of the Center for the Blind. Kyila attended this school in Lhasa so many years ago as a 12 year old. The center was begun by Sabriye Tenberken. I have never met her, but I can only imagine her as a tour de force!
Her book, My Path Leads to Tibet, is worth reading. Kyila is mentioned in the book because she was one of the students attending the center and surely has benefitted from knowing Sabriye and, her co-founder of Braille Without Border’s partner, Paul Kronenberg.
Sabriye guided Kyila in her formative years and as all educators/mentors we never really know what impact is being made upon a young person’s mind …. but Sabriye did help create another tour de force. Kyila has built on Sabriye’s creation with her program: Kiki’s Kids. Kyila’s students learn daily basic skills, English, Tibetan, Braille, etc. to be ready and successful when they do attend the Center for the Blind.
Wherever I travel in the world I think about how I can help, even if in some small way. It may be a person, a community, a school. Pencils, paper, etc. can easily be handed out to children, although they may have wished for candy or money. Follow-up packages have been sent to schools when I returned home. Typically I can always find one person to accept the package and to distribute the items where needed. I think this small action helps the world go round.
In 2010, when I was in Tibet for my first time, I met Kyila, a young blind Tibetan woman who was the organizer at the Center for the Blind. We talked. I asked her about her dreams for the future. As a result, I promised her I would support her energies in establishing the first Tibetan kindergarten for blind and sighted 3 – 5 year olds. In June 2011, the kindergarten was named Kiki’s Kids and located in Shigatse, Tibet.
Today, I am still supportive of Kyila’s efforts, which you can read about in my blog, Blindsight in Tibet. My challenge for 2014 is to return to Tibet, visit Kyila, her staff and students with hopes to photograph all the good things that are happening at Kiki’s Kids and to share them all with my readers, friends, and fellow supporters.