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Kham Abiding

An archive of my thoughts and experiences while living and teaching in Western China.

Updated: 2014-09-01T12:41:12.939+08:00


The Abiding Never Ends


Because I don't know when I'll be returning to China or Tibet (hopefully by the time my students graduate next summer), and now that I'm back in Louisiana semi-permanently, it doesn't make sense to continue writing at here at Kham Abiding. On the other hand, I've made it through the obligatory readjustment period, and as such don't have a good excuse not to be writing at the moment. There's just too much goin' on, ya' herd?

That said, look for me to be helping fill out the content over at Cenlamar. The nature of that blog is considerably less personal than this one has been. But now that I'm back in the United States, I no longer have anything interesting or exotic to say about my personal life anyway, right?

If  you'd like to get in touch with me, leave a comment to this or any post and it will end up in my email account.  Or you can hit me up directly, dantsmith at gmail dot com.

Thanks for reading.

Peace like a river,

ps: "Strikes and gutters, ups and downs."

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I spent most of last night with my friend who lives at N. Rendon and Ursalines, but because I took the bike along the bayou back up to Lafitte I didn't hear about what happened last night at Pal's Lounge until lunchtime today. One of my closest friends called my brother to let him know that he'd taken off work because a friend of his had been killed in a stabbing. He had known her from their work at the Road Home program.

The incident is senseless and tragically random. For those of us in the neighborhood it is more a reminder of how fragile things seem now. It doesn't play into this larger trope of the quickening pace of homicides in Orleans Parish.

It's Pal's, and that makes it personal for all of us in Midcity, so I will leave you to get the details yourself. Maitri has more. Sinn Fein.

"Why should we leave America to visit America Junior?"


My eldest brother (not the twin) and I returned from a wedding in Canada the other night. Kusang and John were married in a simple ceremony next to a lake a couple hours north of Toronto. They had the kind of Christian wedding that gives you more faith in man than the almighty, a good thing in my book. John grew up near there, in a group of cottages that can only be accessed by canoe in the summer and not at all once the heavy snows have fallen. I've only known them from this year in Kham, but jumped at the chance to see Niagara Falls and Lakes Erie and Ontario for the first time. Here's the lucky couple before I knew them in Lhasa.Chris and I were gone for almost a week, just long enough to enjoy the comfortable Ontario weather and slight societal differences without getting used to or annoyed by anything. For me, the familiarity of bracing the dark wall of sultry air that is the exit of Louis B. Armstrong International Airport for the second time in a less than a month was most telling. I've reached the point of no longer feeling like a visitor in New Orleans again, though vainly; in two days time I leave the Crescent City for an undetermined period of time to visit family and friends in Baton Rouge and Alexandria.The blogging has been thin, as some of you have noted. Wireless internet is spotty among my Midcity acquaintances, most of whom attend school or work in the service or construction industries. The Fairgrinds and other shops would of course do, but the August sun has kept us inside on most days. I'm in fact sweating against my keyboard as I stand on the unfinished plywood that substitutes for kitchen floors in the shotgun where Chris is currently staying. I think he is bidding the tile contract to the owner sometime this week.Those're his paintings behind me. It is lazy here but not in the ennui way. We have been catching a lot of fuzzy Simpsons and Seinfeld via the antennae on Channel 38. The first week I watched as Chris put together a couple of works for his summer session studio course:Let's get a detail shot of that Chiru.Chris is finishing up his B.F.A. at UNO at the moment, making a living with the side jobs that grew out of the construction work he did in the city all through 2006. He's also sold a couple of other paintings recently:His interest is non-commercial painting, though I've heard him mention landscape architecture. That said, it may have just been a part of his Art Vandelay routine.[...]

Dancing to Music


You could say I'm back now.

My body rythms, both Circadean and otherwise, have fallen back into sync today or yesterday.

Chris is painting in the studio at school, and I'm waiting for him at the UNO library. It's the little things that are surprising about being back: being able to access Wikipedia, waiting for traffic before crossing the street, bathroom grifitti written in poor English instead of poor Chinese. Beer with hops.

I'm still going through all the foods and drinks that I missed, so many I didn't even think about but am glad to see again. The objects in this world are so many appearances, but I can't find fault in enjoying them now.

Josh mentioned this must be one of the best times of my life, being unattached with the world completely out in front of me. At the time I was dancing too hard on Frenchman Street to decide if he is right or not.

I didn't take this photo, but you get the idea.


Four Easy Steps to Khampa Machismo


(image) Step One: Grow Mustache

(image) Step Two: Rustle Yak

(image) Step Three: Acquire Large Sunglasses

(image) Step Four: Cultivate Belly

I have these pictures and others from this year up at Picasa.

Independence Day


Today I worked hard to get off the job as quickly as possible, like A Good American.

I finished giving the exam at 10am, had it graded by 2pm, and turned in the students' scores by three. I cleaned and dicked around for an hour, and then went to say goodbye to the students and turn in my key.

The students had already begun their computer exam, so bag on my back I only saw them from outside the room. None of them noticed me. I didn't really give them a proper goodbye after their exam in the morning, but a part of me felt it was better to slip out when their minds were on other things. A lot of the girls cried at our year-end party the other week, and I didn't see any reason to uncork a small river before their examination. I returned my key, negotiated my phone bill with the building manager, and found a car to Kangding.

Besides, I've always kind of sucked at goodbyes. I get reminded of change fairly often, but have difficulty expressing the right emotion at the right time. I am most sentimental in periods of great comfort, ingenuous when parting, and usually don't realize how much people mean to me until after the situation has changed.

I'm feeling, again, the regret that comes from making the right choice.

I now have a bus ticket to Ganzi, halfway to Yushu (Qinghai Province, a part of Amdo) where another Bridge Fund teacher Jon and our old friend Meg are to meet me. After spending a few days with them, I'll drop back down into Kham and see a few more students before starting the long journey back to America. I'll try to be on my email from time to time.

Upon boarding the bus from Chengdu yesterday, a very outgoing Chinese man dressed in sweat shorts and a red fleece bordered by gold cloth began talking with me very directly. I felt he was probably a Rinpoche, and he confirmed this after some time. He was recognized seventeen years ago, when he was in Beijing. This Rinpoche is not Tibetan. He had a broad smile, unhinged and young for his age. The burst blood vessel in his eye gave him an impressive countenance.

He blessed and gave me his mala, small prayer beads made of yak bone. He told me he counted five different prayers: Guru Rinpoche Padmasambava, Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Green Tara, and one other that escapes me at the moment. He told me he declined to say the prayers for wealth that he usually offers Chinese people. I gave him the black plastic mala given to me by a student in return, and a Kalachakra Mantra sticker I bought as a gift for someone at home.

Rinpoche had been to Europe and was clearly very hip to Western youth. I've had a question on my mind, and I told him that I have been thinking of getting a tattoo of some Buddhist iconography. I'm afraid that my motivation is not correct.

He immediately began performing a mo (ritual divination) in his bus seat, and after some time he told me that he had visualized Manjusri, with his blue sword and red lotus, and that if I liked I should tattoo the sword on my right shoulder and the lotus on my left.

The sword cuts through the obscuration that prevents us from understanding the wisdom of compassion. This thanka is for that Rinpoche, and also for my students, whose thirst for knowledge may never be matched by the apparitions of our world.

Bridge Fund Dot Org


I hope to complete my final report tomorrow morning, though I still have a tutorial, three classes, and a test to get through before I can really say I'm finished. Even then I'll need to incorporate the scores into my report, and I haven't even started the thirty-odd student evaluations I need to write.

Now that I'm wrapping things up, it's nice that the Bridge Fund, an organization for which I am technically only a contractor, has finally gotten its website running (please take heed, those of you who have followed the link in my sidebar and found only a picture of a yak-hair tent and an "under construction" notice).


I really encourage you to look through the new site if you have time, especially the photo gallery. They really did a remarkable job.

Worm Food


Tom and Kendell came back through this weekend and I think they had a pretty excellent time during their week-long stay in Kham. To chronicle their trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, they have set up a blog aptly--though unfortunately--named Transsibirskayamagistral.

Here's a picture of theirs that I quite like. It is the entrance to what is probably a special sanctuary for performing the Tantric arts, the left-handed path that propels practitioners to powerfully realize the emptiness of form.

It's worth clicking to view the paintings of skinned humans and decaying faces in detail.

Thanks Mike


A couple of young travelers came through Kangding County on their way to explore Kham for a week or so. One of them brought me a gift from the twin on the south side of the Himalaya.

I hadn't worn a real t-shirt in ten months.



It's going to be a very long Wednesday.





windows to a dream


  • While taking in the river from John's fifth-story window some days ago, I watched as a young Chinese student clambered upon a rock beneath the wall that separates the back courtyard from the water. It was night and she surely felt alone. She threw a folded piece of paper over the wall, and shouted inaudibly over the waves. Its jejune babbling appeared indifferent to her swallowed cries. In 2046, we are told
    Do you know what people did in the old days when they had a secret? They would climb a mountain and find a tree. They would carve a hole in the tree and whisper the secret into the hole, which they would pack with mud so no one would ever hear it.
  • Friday afternoon I shared a taxi to Kangding with a young and modern Tibetan woman. When she realized I could basically understand her Sichuanese, she invited me to go for beers. I didn't meet her until Sunday, determined to make good on her challenge to outdrink me in spite of the school night. I caught a car in the rain, and as we approached Guza a techno song repeated the chorus, "I don't want no small dick boys." I saw her waiting through the window. She had a face like a wolf and, as I discovered when the evening drew to a close, a boyfriend.
  • Using a volleyball and a basketball last week in my tutorials, I demonstrated how the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the sun gives cause to the seasons. I also explained the reason different hemispheres and seasons see different stars, and why the moon waxes and wanes though the face of the man (or rabbit) never changes. For kicks, I showed them Google images of the relative size of the moon to the Earth, the Earth to the sun, the sun to the Milky Way (Silver River), and the Milky Way to the "rest" of the universe. After they took in the pictures, I drew the curtains for dramatic effect to reveal towering mountains and a swollen river. In Thursday's group, Karma Sonam exclaimed
    Oohh! Life really is a dream!


So Fresh It's the Anti-Freeze


I guess the logical thing would be to avoid brushing my teeth for the next six weeks.

(image) From Forbes:
U.S. health officials warned consumers Friday not to use toothpaste made in China because it may be contaminated with a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent....

The FDA identified the following brands of toothpaste from China that contain DEG ad are included in the import alert: Cooldent Fluoride; Cooldent Spearmint; Cooldent ICE; Dr. Cool, Everfresh Toothpaste; Superdent Toothpaste; Clean Rite Toothpaste; Oralmax Extreme; Oral Bright Fresh Spearmint Flavor; Bright Max Peppermint Flavor; and ShiR Fresh Mint Fluoride Paste....

The FDA has seized tainted toothpaste at a DollarPlus store in Miami, Fla., and from a Todo Un Peso, a store in Puerto Rico.

Kham Kampo Association


A couple of weeks ago at the Bridge Fund office in Chengdu I met a young man from Bathang, and engaged him slack conversation for a couple of minutes before realizing that he had been preceded by his reputation.Lobsang Gonbo was a student in the well-known Xining English Training Program, where he learned to write grant proposals in English. Xining is the provincial capital of Qinghai (roughly Amdo for the old-schoolers). A proposal to replicate the program in The Tibetan School in Sichuan had the following to say:The concept of the ETP originated with Kevin Stuart and Robert Lindstrom, both American foreign teachers of English at Qinghai Education College in Xining City. They wrote a proposal in 1991 requesting support for an English language-teaching program targeting Tibetan youth. The proposal eventually elicited interest, and consequently the program has been supported over the years by a number of different organizations such as the Trace Foundation (New York City), The Bridge Fund (San Francisco), Good Works (Idaho), Misereor (Germany), and the Ford Foundation (Beijing/New York City).The Xining ETP also inspired the Bridge Fund to create the classes for which Tenzin and I teach. In Xining, students earn the equivalent of a vocational associates degree (dazhuan), whereas our students are younger and are studying for a high-school diploma (gaozhong biye zheng) or a vocational degree (zhongzhuan). The National Committee on U.S. China Relations highlighted the Xining ETP in a recent newsletter:ETP trains Tibetan students to teach English in their own communities and to create community development projects. One student completed thirteen projects, benefiting more than 20,000 people, in medicine, solar energy, schools, libraries, and distribution of second hand clothes; several other students set up local, grassroots NGOs; and another is involved in language preservation.I'm not sure, but the student mentioned in the above may have been Gonbo. It was Satina and Kat Cooley who first told me about Gonbo and Kham Kampo Association, the NGO he started. Kat is a close friend from Chengdu working for the international NGO Ecologia, and she and Satina had returned from KKA's solar cooker factory highly impressed. The former Education Director of Kham Aid John Geschek (sp?), a friend through Tenzin, called Gonbo an hardcore example of grassroots capacity building.So needless to say I was stoked to meet Gonbo randomly in the Bridge Fund office that Friday afternoon. Gonbo gave me his card and the next weekend I taxied up the mountain to the KKA office in Kangding.Gonbo is my age. He graduated in Xining only two years ago. He has another couple of young Tibetan men from the Xining ETP working with him, and has also hired a girl of twenty from the first Bridge Fund class out of Kangding Middle School (Tenzin is teaching the second class, preparing to take their examinations next weekend. My students are the third class.) The KKA does a lot of good work, like installing running water systems in towns, distributing small solar panels, and rebuilding primary schools like this one in Bathang County:Although foreign teachers taught them to start an NGO, these smaller non-profits have no foreigners working for them (and rightly so). Except for an American in Beijing, us English teachers are the only foreigners in the Bridge Fund in China, and technically we're only contractors. I went to the KKA office to see if I could help them out with any English polishing. I met a woman from the aforementioned National Committee on US China Relations who was already volunteering for the week on that task. I'd finally gotten the opportunity to help and learn more about a local grassroots non-profit (wh[...]

Discover Kham Tour


One of my students is arranging tours this summer, and I agreed to pass the information along. Dorje is standing in the background at right. His mother is grinning as she offers conifer branches to the buddhas. Cath Marsh, one of his former instructors, is helping him arrange the tours.

15-day Discover Eastern Tibet Tour
July 1 and Aug 1 2007

Dorge invites travelers to join personalized small-group tours to western China’s exotic Tibetan prefecture. The tour will begin and end in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, with ten full days spent in Kham (Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), offering a glimpse of one of China’s largest cities, insights into Tibetan culture, outdoor leisure activities and relaxation in peaceful environs.


• Chengdu: Panda Research Base
• Kangding: Tibetan-Chinese border town.
• Tagong Village and grassland
• Tibetan monastery visits and introduction to Tibetan Buddhism
• Day-hike or horse ride to mountain hot springs and lake in the lower regions of Mt. Jara (5,200m)
• Tawu, where we will enjoy a stay at Dorge’s family home - a rustic Tibetan farmhouse built in the traditional architectural style for which the town is renowned.
• Zhaba: a remote village home to a small community of people whose unique language and culture are on the brink of disappearance.

Tour group size is 5-6 persons.

Kham is a developing area and though we make every effort to ensure guests are as comfortable as possible, this tour is not for the faint of heart. Facilities in the remote areas we visit are basic and hot showers not always available. Mild high altitude discomfort is also a possibility.

Tour dates: July 1 – 15 (book before June 8)
August 1 – 15 (book before July 1)

***Tour prices: We have designed 2 travel options and for each tour will arrange whichever there is more interest in.
Comfort Travel (4-WD Land Cruiser transport and 3 star hotels in cities)
US$1,350 per person
Budget Travel (Van transportation and hostel accommodation) US$850

Prices include Chengdu airport pick up, transport, accommodation,
interpretation and tour services, and 2 meals a day.

For inquiries and a detailed travel itinerary, please email Cath

Practising British English


Please excuse the following, as it is an intentionally pretentious downer written to salvage my mood.The water of the Dadu River, the sonorous flowing of which outside my window puts me to rest each evening, has risen considerably in the last week. The water has swallowed a number of large boulders, ingesting all but an impressionist's stroke of swirl and eddy.In Kangding this weekend, Tenzin read to me a CNN Asia story about a pair of mudslides in Ganzi Prefecture, where we reside. Soon he discovered that rains along the swollen Dadu had caused the mudslides. In Shimian, a county a couple of hundred kilometers downriver,rains caused a rock to tumble down a hillside and slam into a bus, knocking the vehicle off the road and killing nine people.People have related stories to me before about encountering blood-soaked buses crushed by falling rocks. I've only witnessed such automotive fragility in its less natural form: leaving Chengdu a queue of bus passengers milled about looking dazed; a hundred yards away one the form of the driver hung twisted and exposed from the mangled chassis of his small car.This evening due to a certain ennui and latent frustration I left my flat before the usual suspects from my class came to accompany me to a dinner of egg and tomato noodles in the canteen. I walked to Sunshine Island, a nearby restaurant, with Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls in my hand.They served my beer cold in a fluted glass, which almost allowed me to ignore the derivative flavor of the hop-less rice appellation. I chuckled through passages, Gogol's humour carrying through (though certainly diminished) though it must have been impossibly difficult to translate. I am finding this satire to be a sarcastic respite, though it's strangely difficult to point to a specifically funny passage. The first of a trilogy to rival Dante's The Divine Comedy, Dead Souls held the place of Inferno. Gogol burned the text corresponding to Purgatory in a fit of insanity. Before he could write the companion to Paradise, he died in spiritual asceticism shouting, "A ladder! Quick, a ladder!"The book has been my only cause to smile today, save the four Tibetan girls to whom I explained why we observe seasons. A volleyball represented the Sun, and a basketball the Earth, the bisecting black lines of which lent itself to a facile illustration of the way in which the Northern Hemisphere leans away from our star in winter.As I ate fried potatoes and braised tofu (the final day of the Saka Dawa fast is Thursday), I beckoned to a black cat facing away from me. As it turned, I realized what I believed to be a child's toy in its mouth was indeed the soulless remains of a lizard. Small pink sacs bulged from beneath its tail. My students don't understand why Christians believe animals have no souls.That image and a number of others--cacti budding among sheer cliffs, the warm dry wind of the valley, a crude stone edifice nearby concealing a pisser--coaxed my memory to dwell on New Mexican summers past, a sentimental trope to which my idle mind has resorted for the latter third of my life. Even as a child some remarked on the curious way that I stare at nothing when consumed by thought or fantasy or the mind's bare qualia (if such a thing were possible), dissociated from the stimuli of an observable world.I do consider myself a patient man. Travelling for days on a bus or plane or train is not so terrible, and I've been known to forget to leave the house for days. Accordingly, the knowledge of everything that must be done before I finish teaching in five weeks has not so much made me anxious but has merely broken my will. I feel a little dishonest wishing to be in another [...]

Situ Rinpoche


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thirty-three seconds

Catching Patois


My class and a group of second-year students in Yushu have been penpals since last term. One of their teachers is a guy who taught here at Kangding Teacher's College three years ago. Jon and his girlfriend were congratulating Tenzin and Maowei on their marriage when I met him at the Hemp House in Chengdu.Jon taught here with Tenzin (who is now in Kangding proper) and Satina, whose picture is prominent two posts below. Jon kept an exquisitely eclectic website while he was here. Among other things, he writes heavily about the unique language derivations of this area on the aptly titled Catching Patois[Patois / pronounced patwa / n. (pl. same / pawaz) regional dialect, differing from the literary language].I found the notable following:Thanka PaintingBeyond Good and EvilJon's firsthand account of a street protest in Chengdua weird story by a certain Wez Mond about eating pot a Post-Colonialist reduction of the Orientalism of The Dao of Poohand such incisive prose assun got big 'gain today. warm enough to go without the long underwear that's been on everyday all day for some four months, and so the cool noon breeze rolls in through my sweater and loose button-up. a sweet feeling; like that time planting trees and awoke in mid-night, stumbled down in darkness to the cold lake, undressed and dove in. and the water rushed over my body and balls and in between the toes.andThere is a realm of cannibal spirits, where ogres wander about feeding on each other. And there are Buddhas with wide eyes, fire in their hair and skulls tied round the neck. I find comfort in the thought that these are gods too and might sometimes have their time, and better days are not far away.andTom and Jerry speak Sichuanese too, and right lively like. And children crowd around a tv on the street to see the show and hear the words they use at home, and in their dreams and with their pets. And the older generations enjoy it too; there are few other television programs in a language that many of them understand.At the top of July I hope to visit Jon in Yushu, where he pulls his water from a well each morning and has holidays to allow the nomads to dig the medicinal fungal hosts of dead caterpillars.When July ends I will be celebrating my older brother's Golden Birthday in New Orleans. I intend to be sopping with Abita-laced sweat.[...]

Click the Pretty Pictures


A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I had contributed an article to the second edition of Sichuan Travel Magazine.

Matt sent me these layout captures before he had finished editing, so please excuse any errors. In the article, I recollect the highlights of celebrating the icy Lunar New Year in the log cabins of my nomadic students. I never made the time to write about that experience on the blog, so I'm glad I put it in an article. The photo below is of the monastery in Daofu, taken by Kiwi Cath Marsh.

(image) Click the pages to expand them large enough to read the type.

The magazine is designed and edited by Matt Vegh. Matt also administers, a forum on life in Chengdu. This page from Chronicles of the Shu Kingdom (especially the lower panels; click to view in detail) demonstrate his skill as an illustrator.

(image) Do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?

Good Idea, Bad Idea


  • Good Idea
I met Satina Anziano a number of weeks ago, though I first heard of her from a community publication in McLeod Ganj last summer. Satina used to be a teacher out here, and had written an article about life in occupied Kham for the English language Indian rag put out by the Louisiana Himalaya Association. She returned to Sichuan to aid with the natural home-birth of the half-Tibetan daughter of a mutual friend from Colorado, also a former teacher.

Experienced in the area in which I live, Satina has written a fascinating and beautiful account of the birth titled, "An Ex-Pat Birth Experience: Having a Child in Rural China."

  • Bad Idea
A friend pointed me to a travel journal written by a young Christian missionary somewhere in Tibet. The young author and his companions misunderstand and willfully belittle the native religion of the local people, who seem to be nothing more than good hosts for the travelers.
The third building we went to was the most satanic sight I have ever seen. We entered while one monk was in a ritualistic chant banging on a metal cylinder and we walked around the room about the size of a 2000 square foot house. What we saw was again hard to put in words but without freaking you out too much we saw pictures of bodies split in half, eyeballs popping out of eyes, blood streaming out of flesh, creatures with multiple heads, men with bodies of animals and the entire time the boy that was with us was saying what peaceful God's he worships (sorry might have freaked you out). Man how blinded these people are. I have never been in more intense prayer in my life.
To be honest, he has freaked me out.

Out of Pocket


I finished grading the midterm this evening. I made it difficult so I could see where the students are, and as usual, I'm pleasantly surprised with two-thirds of them and disappointed with the rest.

Tomorrow begins a week vacation. A few students whose hometowns are within a day's journey of Kangding have invited me to spend time with their families. I'm looking forward to sitting around on the grassland again. The days have promised to be sunny and the nights still.

It's been busy but good times of late. Tenzin and I went swimming in a heated pool outdoors yesterday afternoon, protected from the rain by a cheap awning. He told me it snowed the day before. We drank some beers and swam laps. The place was nearly empty.

Returning from the holiday will bring a real reorientation with respect to the class. My students, the Tibetan Department, and the Bridge Fund all know I'm not planning to return next year. Before the term ends, I will have two solid months of class (six days a week), which isn't too long to begin counting the days until I turn in their grades and submit my final report to the Bridge Fund.

I'm feeling good about returning to Louisiana. At this point I'm more confident about living deliberately than I have in years. In spite of that, I can't help feeling that rebuilding an American life is going to be more difficult than I remember. It's like I'm starting from scratch, and I am free.

Just Relax, Take it Easy, You're Still Young, That's Your Fault


This picture of Maowei and Tenzin is merely a pretty image for you to appreciate. It does not relate to the following.It took me all week to catch up with school after going to Chengdu last weekend. Chengdu was being resistant, and my lame errands felt especially difficult to accomplish. China's beginning to get to me in that way again. I'll be happy when I'm back in Louisiana. America is inefficient, but in much more familiar ways.Last semester, when I used the middle school books, we had time for decent activities and casual explanation. This term's high school books are solid, but with four months to teach a year of material there's never enough time for fun stuff. Every week they read newspapers, writing letters, essays, rewrites and diaries, and the first ten minutes of class is devoted to speeches. It was getting to be too much even for me.I realized on my first break from class since the semester began that I wasn't being efficient enough with the student's time. The term is over in two months, and it's basically my last chance to pull some of the lower students out of a slump before I leave. Some of them have gotten so much better since I came, and some of them act as if they haven't learned a thing.That said, I've shifted most of my blogging energy to Cenlamar, where I hope to raise the profile of interesting stories and issues relating to Central Louisiana. I am also receiving a week off for the People's Labor Holiday next week. I'll be traveling west to a few students' homes for the vacation.Yesterday I taught a unit on musical styles. It was nice to have fun in class again. The listening tape for the book played a few American songs for the students, including John Lennon's So This Is Christmas and Father and Son by Cat Stevens. I had them listen closely to Cat's words on the second listening, which also got me listening closely to the song's lyrics,But take your time, think a lot,Why, think of everything you've got.For you will still be here tomorrow,But your dreams may not.The backs of my eyeballs began to get hot. Named Dekji lowered her face to hide her wet eyes. These students, especially my girls, think a lot about their friends, families, and what will happen after high school graduation. They open up to me in their diaries in the most amazing ways. They're Tibetan, but they always remind me of me (us) at that age.Now that Blogspot is not being blocked at the moment, I'm going to begin posting student essays. It will give them a big kick to see their words online in English, and the rest of you will be able to get a glimpse into why I've grown so attached to these teenagers.[...]

Wise Guys


I usually don't post about this kind of silliness (especially when it's already been hyped here and here), but if you have two minutes to kill you might find this amusing.

Mafia Name Generator

I put in "Daniel Smith," and was duly dubbed Lonely Guy. That describes me fairly well, but it's kinda non-specific. I wanted to give it another try, so I entered "Dan Smith."

The nickname generator divined to the sky and bestowed upon me a new handle: The Yak. I was floored. Not only am I always with Tibetans these days, but I am also a stalwart, gregarious, and hairy beast of burden.

This website must have been coded by the Oracle herself.



We can but hope he's in a heaven of his own design.

(image) When I finished 1984 in 1997, my heart was seared by an unpredictable world of overwhelming cruelty and indifference. Some years later, the ending of The Sirens of Titan taught me to triumph in spite of that world, and healed a scorched heart.

(image) $0.35 in 1959, First Edition

(image) Dad's copy, which I read

Fluff and Filler


I've been busily preparing for a trip to the provincial capital this weekend. My mind is incessant with the details of class, internetting, and plans for home. In the interest of getting at least one post up this week, I offer the following pictures of some class guests and me. Yes, these are the most flattering pictures I could find.Meg, to whom I owe this job, as she passed through from Chengdu to QinghaiThe illustrious Tenzin Mullin, son of Tibetologist Glenn MullinStoically SocraticCath Marsh, the New Zealander who taught the class last year, during one of her hip-hop seminarsCath's depiction of a DJ[...]

Sunday Casual Reading


On some days every link begets two or three more, and soon my Firefox tabs are overflowing (a lot of my recent posts are really just research archives.) Let's just say it's been yet another educational morning.I finally realized that WireTap Magazine is the youth section of I'm also starting to see why everyone's switching from Blogger to Wordpress. The way that block quotes and pasting screws up the format in the new Blogger is pretty aggravating. No matter, in four months this blog will be finished.WireTap Magazine, "Bigger than Hip-Hop." This article describes the current hip hop political movement: "So, culture, class issues, consumerism and varying degrees of complacency all divide African Americans, as much if not more than generational differences. In fact, to reduce the fragmentation of black politics into a generation gap is to play into the hands of the right.""Shinin' the Light on White Privilege." A detailed history and time-line of the institutionalization of racial oppression in the United States."The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB), is a national and international collective of anti-racist, multicultural community organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social transformation." This group has roots in New Orleans.Letter of the People of New Orleans to Our Friends and Allies: "The South has been traditionally underfunded and often exploited by institutions, including corporations, the labor movement, foundations, and the federal government. We have faced the legacy of centuries of institutional racism and oppression, with little outside support. And yet, against massive odds, grassroots movements in the South have organized and struggled and won historic, inspiring victories with international relevance." The list of signatories at the end of the letter is a Who's-Who of the New Orleans grassroots social activism community. New Orleans Network - Web Resources. A database and calendar of social activism in New Orleans; possible model for the new CenLamar.Southern Human Rights Organizers' Network: "The primary goal of the network is to develop innovative and practical methods of organizing across the region. Another important objective is to strengthen the capacity of civil rights and social justice organizations in the Deep South."INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. Their most recent publication, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, is described as follows: "In this landmark collection, over 25 activists and scholars describe and discuss the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC)--a system of relationships between the state, the owning classes, foundations, and social service &social justice organizations that results in the surveillance, control, derailment, and everyday management of political movements." This group has been particularly active in New Orleans.Wiretap Magazine, "New Orleans: Continuing Crisis:"For many in the nonprofit field nationally, post-Katrina New Orleans has been an opportunity for career advancement. While local residents have been too overwhelmed by tragedy to apply for grants, a few well-placed national individuals and organizations have not hesitated to take their place in line. Although some have no relation to New Orleans, they often have previous relationships with the foundations, as well as resources that translate into easier access to funding, such as d[...]