Monday, December 6, 2010

Field Trip to Tibet

You might not know that Bloomington, our hometown, has a special place in its heart for Tibet. The brother and some other family of His Holiness the Dalai Lama live here, which means that not only does he visit pretty often and we get to see him, but we have a kick-ass Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. The other day, a group of Gomang monks visited the cultural center, on a teaching and fund-raising tour from their own monastery in South India, and homeschoolers were invited to spend the day with them.

Does that sound amazing? It was.

When you meet someone who genuinely loves and understands children, you know it, and your children know it. My girls LOVED the monks, and the monks seemed to love them, too. Sydney was not at all taken aback the first time that a monk scooped her up into his arms--she understands that being the center of one's attention is her rightful place in this world. Nobody attempted to scoop up Willow, who's a little more of a handful, but the monks, not many of whom could share many words in conversation with her, seemed to appreciate how seriously she took each of the projects that they all did together.

They made little prayer flags together:
Sydney ended up wearing hers, and this was acceptable:
The sand art was a huge hit. This one monk in particular took Willow aside and spent the longest time focusing with her on the technique involved in the practice, and my usually VERY prickly around strangers little girl just soaked it all in contentedly:
My most favorite part of this day, however, is checking back in with Willow several minutes later and finding her, lesson concluded, studiously drawing away with her sand tools and her instructor, like any proud mamma, snapping photo after photo:
Sydney also got the hang of sand art:
The girls also got to try "butter sculpture" with the monks, although thankfully they used play dough instead of butter.

Guess who made these?
Not us! Although the monk who created the horse, above, did give his creation to Willow at the end of the day. She was THRILLED. Of course, I like the horse that she created even more:
After the exciting morning, there was a break for lunch, after which the monks intended to do some chanting and dancing and other performances for us. I contemplated leaving at lunch, because chanting and ceremonial dance can sometimes be a little, um...slow.

Ultimately, I opted to stay, which was a VERY smart choice, because among the performances that the monks wanted to show us was something called The Snow Lion Dance. First, a monk enchanted the children with a description of the mythical snow lion. Then, from out of another room and into the performance space, danced--
--The Snow Lion!!! All the children were absolutely hysterical with delight (I thought it was pretty awesome, too). The Snow Lion danced around to the music of the drum and cymbal, then as the music slowed down it lay down and was about to fall asleep. Just as its eyes drifted shut, the music hit another crescendo, and the snow lion shot awake and bounded up to dance some more. The children laughed so hard at this that the snow lion repeated these moves several times.

All the children were sitting in a large group on the floor of the hall, with adults around the perimeter. In the next part of the dance, all of a sudden the Snow Lion leapt and danced right into the middle of the group of children. The children scattered, shrieking and laughing and tumbling all over each other, only to race right back when the Snow Lion settled down amongst them and almost fell asleep again:
The children patted the Snow Lion as it drifted off, but then the music hit another crescendo, and the Snow Lion leapt to its feet and scattered the children again. The children all shrieked and ran around as the Snow Lion danced blissfully in their midst. At one point Willow couldn't get away in time and I watched the Snow Lion turn in a circle, Willow directly underneath it doing her best duck-and-cover between its front and back legs.

It was basically the best time that they'd ever had in their lives.

We don't do as much "peace work" together as the girls did at Montessori, and I'm not a good peaceful role model: I scream, I blame other people for my own faults, I don't give money to beggars on the street, I rarely make eye contact with those with whom I am not intimate. But I want the girls to be peaceful, and to want peace for others. I want the girls to hate war, to fight injustice, to love peacemakers. I want them to be able to find Tibet on the map:
On this day, I did a good job with that.


Kimberly said...

Wonderful post, Julie.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry we had to miss that field trip, but thanks to your post, I feel like I was right there. :) And I love your last paragraph!

Phyllis said...

I couldn't believe it when I read this post. We are studying Tibet the day after tomorrow! Talk about !! We shall definately look at this together and I shall link to this post when I make my post. This is so awesome.

Stephanie said...

Wow and wow and wow, huh?
So, so awesome.

kate of here we are together said...

Oh wow, that looks so much fun!
Love the sand art!

Phyllis said...

I have just made my post about Tibet and have a link in it to this post.

julie said...

You guys did awesome stuff in your Tibet study! We're definitely going to explore more Tibetan art, especially the sand art that the girls were so thrilled by.

Harper Cosper said...

Seeing the monks play with the children is really great. I liked the about the description of the Snow Lion dance. Wish I could also see that live.

Tina said...

That's funny that you posted this on Facebook. In my human geography class, I just learned that when the current generation of Buddhist priest are gone, that many Buddhist traditions will be lost in Tibet due to the Chinese Communists. Made me sad, even though I don't know much about the religion.

julie said...

It makes me really sad, too. Perhaps it's because of our town's ties to it, but I have a LOT of strong opinions about Tibet and what China did to it.


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