31 October 2011

Taj Mahal

I am not ashamed to admit that the Taj Mahal has been a significant part of the draw of India for me. Ever since I read and reread Kathryn Lasky's rendering of Jahanara's diary during my historical fiction kick as a child, the story of the Taj has had an irresistible pull on my imagination. Happily, it did not disappoint.

Once inside the temple compound, we face an imposing red entry gate. 

A young, college-educated Indian man eagerly pounced on us, promising that his tour guide services were perfectly free and immensely useful. We reluctantly agreed, and we were fortunate in that he never did insist on payment. He regaled us with tidbits about the symmetry of the building,

24 October 2011

A Chinese Feast

I got home from a long day of research one evening just in time for Trisong to get a phone call from his friend. Tam Kho was preparing dinner, and it was nearly time to eat. When Trisong hung up, he said,

"Do you want to have dinner with my friends?"

I said, "Well, yes of course!"

And so Tam Kho turned off the stove and put the lid on what was now to be tomorrow's dinner. We put on our shoes and headed across town to a tiny Chinese restaurant near His Holiness's temple. There were about 30 people there, but we couldn't even eat all the food. Every person but me was Tibetan, and we were all eating Chinese food.

Here's the thing: Panda Express is not what Chinese food tastes like. Nothing was sweet and everything was hot. I got a bit nervous when I noticed that everyone was using chopsticks, but when my bowl of rice came there was a spoon instead, and Tam Kho was kind enough to use a spoon, too.

20 October 2011

15 October 2011

Learner-Owned: Digital Civilization

Calla Lily Unfolding What is self-directed learning?

I enrolled in Dr. Burton and Dr. Zappala's Digital Civilization course because I knew the course work was self-directed. It means that you get to shape your education to your own interests, major, and goals. I enrolled in the class as part of my preparation for my field study to a Tibetan community in India, intending to read and blog about Tibetans as I learned history and technology in the class. My first post, Tibetans and More, connected the ideas of Thomas More's Utopia with the exiled Tibetans' relationship to their homeland, and my addendum mused about the Utopian ideas of classroom technology--iClickers, Blackboard, and websites. Later on, I took a poll of a few classmates to discern their digital literacy and put together a working definition for my research.

For part of our course requirements, we were supposed to become familiar with new technologies and try using them. I started using Skype and ended up chatting, just through text, with Norbu Jinpa, an administrator in the school where I was hoping to conduct my honors thesis research, and with an exiled Tibetan blogger. I posted these conversations on my blog where they generated more conversations with classmates and other peers.

One of the most useful posts was my research grant application draft. I simply posted the entire text online and asked for feedback from anyone and everyone. Several people responded with thoughtful suggestions, including one woman whom I'd never met, and I ended up with a good proposal that received funding.

08 October 2011


"Today, I did a whole lot of meditation and yoga."

This is how I began my 23 July entry in my personal journal, but it could have begun most of my entries in McLeod. We--that is, Rachel, Megan, Elizabeth, and me--decided to take an intensive training course and become certified yoga instructors. It wasn't just yoga, though--no, we are also certified in pranayam, or breathing exercises, and several types of meditation.

At first, it was hard to keep a straight face. Om has a rather eccentric way of speaking English, and some of the postures are quite amusing.

As the class went on, though, it became more and more apparent to me that much of yoga and meditation is wrapped up in Hindu worship. We began and ended each class with a "silent prayer for God," which was just fine for my Christian beliefs, and then Om would sing a Sanskrit mantra. We did a bit of reiki, natural Indian healing, sometimes, which consisted of holding our hands over our eyes to self-heal. (Mahinder, our massage teacher, would also do a bit of reiki, believing that our bodies have natural energy to heal ourselves and others.)