Today at Manasarovar Academy was quite singular for me. We arrived at our usual time of 9ish knowing that the French reps from Graines d’Avenir, the main charity NGO supporting the school would be coming for a visit and that the students would be performing a dance for them. We knew that it would be a very important day for Bijaya and Tsultrim and that our teaching expectations should be nil. I just didn’t expect the range of emotion that I was privy to all day.
Upon arriving I asked what I could do to help prepare the students was whisked away to class #1 where no less than 25 girls were costumed and ready for their make-up! The colors!! Silky Tibetan dresses of every color combination imaginable filled the dim room. The girls were calm and excited waiting their turns as I (Mmm Hmm) powdered and colored each lovely young faces with colors to rival any spring blooms! Hold still…close your eyes. Open. Wider. I chanted as I applied eyeliner to their shapely eyes and bright color to their soft lips. The joy was palpable in the stuffy room, but what I noted with surprise was the complete lack of nerves. No anxious giggling, no edgy commentary. Just pure happiness to be where they were, and to be giving a dance to the French visitors. I also couldn’t help noticing that there were no parents in the room. Now this is no surprise here in Nepal of course, but the parents where I come from would NEVER have let their kids perform in any kind of show without their presence. But this show was one of the first times that I have really noticed how the kids really owned the presentation themselves. No doting, fussing parents here to take credit, hold expectations, give advice or set up their many tri-pods and video cameras in the aisles. Even when the boys came into the room to paint on their mustaches, the mood only got sweeter as the boys praised the girls with genuine admiration and maybe even a little awe at their new appearance.
The visitors were a bit late, but no matter for the kids. They were patient and very gracious when the important guests arrived. There were brief greetings, the ceremonial gifting of "kata" scarves, and then everyone took seats and the show began. Music played by a gentleman on Tibetan stringed instruments (called ???) accompanied the dancers who were truly flawless in their renditions of traditional dances. I could almost picture the farmers harvesting as the kids whirled their long silky sleeves and twirled their skilled bodies past one another in moving formations on the plains of Tibet. As I was noticing every kid confidently moving in unison and feeling moved by their cultural resurrection, I glanced up to the 3rd floor balcony to see two smiling, toothless, old onlookers in maroon robes gazing down on the spectacle. I thought they were pleased with what they saw from the looks on their faces. I imagined that they were feeling moved as I was by the students’ rendition of the dances. In fact I felt them watching with memories flowing from some far away time and place where maybe even they themselves danced these same patterns. And maybe they were even feeling grateful for the fact that these dances were part of a great act by the teachers and students of this school to keep Tibet alive in tangible ways like music and dance and costumes. The way the kids owned these dances made me even more sure that these elderly spectators could not have missed these truths folded in to the event. My own tears made the kids sparkle even more than their make-up.
There were 6 or 7 dances by the junior and senior dancers and then 2 kids from class 5 did their own Bollywood solo performances and were quite good. The kids showed their respect and approval at the end of each and there we were. Full of chai and the emotion of a heart felt gifted performance. I felt it was a gift. Straight from the kids and teachers.
Paul was feeling sick and achey, and went home after the show, to everyone’s disappointment. (they LOVE him there of course) but the rest of us including other volunteers Melissa and Keiran, Olivier and Leika and kids, our kids, the French delegation and their friends – 2 Tibetan ladies, were all escorted upstairs to the boarding floor where a long table was fashioned from desks and chairs (from who knows where). The food was plentiful and delicious! There were momos, soup, bitter gourd, greens, more momos and chili sauce, the gooey fruity balls that I love so much, and curd. What a feast! All tasty and hot served by class 5 who carried all the items up & down several flights dark stairs to make it a special luncheon. I felt really honored to be there… More than at any 5 star restaurant, in the most elite company. These women really worked to make it wonderful. And again, without any visible stress. Just warmth. I am so touched…