Intoxicating India (August 15th)
When I met the French family at the Thiksey Monastery I had no idea how significant it would be. I could feel a big connection as we were speaking, but as I was feeling so poorly that morning I just presumed it was because we were all seeing the Tibetan Medicine Man.
When they invited me to dinner at ‘The Apple Garden’ I presumed it would be easy to find. I did not make it for dinner as I was held up at Saskia’s Monastery. I hoped to catch them the next day somehow. I have this habit of having in depth conversations and not doing introductions with names. Not all that helpful when you are trying to locate people later.
We had made a plan during our chat at the monastery for the 14th August, but as it got later in the day on the 13th I did wonder how we could possibly connect. I had tried during the afternoon to look for ‘The Apple Garden’ but no one had heard of it.
While I was at the cash point I saw a sign for a local lady giving beauty treatments. I wandered up to have a chat with her. What a beaming sunshine called Savita greeted me. I instantly felt comfortable with her, and booked in for a pedicure. The place was very basic, and simple. Savita was very confident in her work, and was from Nepal. She explained that herself and her husband traveled to Leh for the season from Nepal where they also had shops. This time she was really missing her daughter who was aged 8 as she had stayed behind with Savita’s mother in Nepal as to not miss her studies.
We giggled and chatted a lot. I have to say she gave me the best pedicure I have ever had. I felt like I literally had new feet. The pedicure cost just $18. Savita is only 25 and has an 8-year-old daughter. Savita explained she would only have one child due to the cost of schooling, and life generally with children. She had an arranged marriage, but seemed very happy with her husband and life generally. I booked in for some waxing, and a massage the next day
The lovely guide who took us to the monasteries the other day had arranged to pick me up and take me to Shanti Stuppa for sunset. I had a feeling somehow it would work out with the French people but was beginning to wonder how?
It was just so beautiful to be at Shanti Stuppa for sunset meditation. High above the city, and yet not far to travel it was great to see the city from a birds eye view. The snowy peaks, setting sun, and ambience just felt so affirming.
The guide knew I was trying to locate the French people but had also not heard of The Apple Garden. As we drove back along Chogram Road, he suggested I try somewhere called ‘world café’ I thought it was pretty strange, as I knew that was not the name of it! Anyway I went inside, I asked the guy about the Apple Garden and could not believe it when he said it was two doors up. They had changed the name but not the signage so no wonder I could not find it!!
I went in and as it was early I planned to leave a message for them. I realized I did not even know their names and as there are so many French people in Leh I realized it was a long shot. The mum had told me they eat in there most nights around 8 – 8-30pm. It was only 7pm. I asked the guy behind the counter and literally got tingles when he knew exactly who I was talking about, and said she was sitting at the back.
When I went over the French lady was so excited to see me. It was random she was there early that day, as she was meeting a Chinese lady before dinner. She said she knew somehow we would connect in time to have the day together on 14th. Wow I was blown away! Leh is not exactly a small place, and the chances of this coming together were pretty slim!
Clearly meant to be. We had a plan to meet the next day for tea at 10am before we took off.
For as long as I can remember I have had a ‘thing’ about Tibetan people, and especially Tibetan children. I think I read a book about their plight with the Chinese horrific situation many years ago and felt sickened that such a thing could happen at all. It just seemed so completely wrong on all levels. When I think about it I get a fire in my belly.
When we arrived at the orphanage I was feeling in awe of the French family who had travelled to Leh to visit a child they had been sponsoring the education for, and to take on supporting another child. The mum was so excited to see this little boy, as were the dad and son Valentine.
Another opportunity to give back had well and truly landed in my lap. As we sat in the office the manager handed me a folder full to the brim or profiles of children that needed sponsorship. I wished I could just take them all on, but knew it reality I was not in the position to do this. Yet.
The Tibetan SOS Children’s Village in Ladakh immediately stood out as incredibly well run and organised. I had heard from the French couple how reliable and happy they had been since there involvement. They received regular updates, and had been continually impressed with all. It was so amazing to hear 65% of the staff working there had all been students in the past, and were passionate to give back. The center had been started when HH The Dalai Lama had given 10,000 rupees in 1975. They had started with just 35 children. Today there were 2035 children being educated and a better chance in life. HH the Dalai Lamas sister has a big involvement with this orphanage.
So as I read the story of a little girl called Shakila something just connected with me. She was in fact not Tibetan, but when I read how hard it was for her to get a sponsor at all as she was Muslim I knew she was the one for me. Shakila is just 4 years old. When I think of my own little sunbeam called Archie who is 5, I realized how lucky he is to be in a position to have two parents who love him to the moon and back, and are passionate to support him and his dreams as he grows up.
The other little girl who shone out for me called ‘Karma’. Karma is also four years old. When I heard the cost of supporting a child through their education I knew that just by dropping a couple of habits in Australia (for example coffee) I could make a big difference for these two little girls. As we were flying out of Leh the very next day the manager said it was possible for me to meet them both before I left. Wow, what a surreal experience.
When Shakila came into the office she just looked so tiny. Her eyes darted around, and I could see it would take a little while for this precious little being to trust the world and what it could offer her. She presented me with a silk scarve, which is a sign of respect. I promptly presented it back to her, which seemed to amuse her slightly. At just four years old I wondered if she even had a clue what the heck was going on. I fell in love with her instantly and could imagine sending her parcels of warm clothes for winter, and toys to help her smile more. It can hit minus 50 in Leh in winter. That is seriously cold! I took some photos of her, and showed her them, which again seemed to slightly amuse her. We said goodbye, and I felt so good about my decision, and so grateful to have met the French couple that introduced me to this amazing opportunity.
Next we headed to another part of the orphanage to meet ‘Karma’. As soon as I saw this sweet little thing sitting all alone and looking a little ‘lost’ in her classroom I just wanted to scoop her up! Again she was very introverted, but the French lady explained the Tibetan children are often shy, and it can be very much their nature. A lot of the children in the classroom were very playful, particularly the boys. We played for a while taking pictures, and showing them how they looked which seems a bit of a winner. They were so excited we were there. To be honest they are all absolutely gorgeous.
Next we travelled to another part of the school to meet the French families new addition. It was just so emotional to see these beautiful people meeting this absolute gem they were about to sponsor. It was an honor to witness and share this experience with them. Such a genuine and authentic connection and the little girl had such a bright and calm nature. They made a plan to head back to the orphanage after they had been trekking to take her and the little guy (Tanzin) they had already been supporting out for lunch and to go shopping in Leh.
We checked out the library, which was unbelievably well equipped. A group of children sat quietly reading magazines in English. I would say they were about 8. They were all so well behaved, even if our arrival did cause a little excitement.
Finally we went to meet Tanzin (the little boy the French family had been supporting for a while). He was such a little sunbeam too. Just looked so cheeky and happy to see them. He recognized them instantly, and asked them if they received the pictures he had made for them. Tanzin said he would love to try ice cream. Unreal – our kids growing up in the west truly don’t realize how lucky they are! Seeing the emotion in the eyes of the French family upon spending time with this little guy brought tears to my eyes. The sincere connection between them was just beautiful.
We met the headmaster of this section; he was another one of those gorgeous Tibetan souls, oozing peace and mellow vibes! He was so very proud of his school and all of the children. Typically there can be up to 35 children in a class, with 3 teachers. The classrooms are very well designed, and looked well equipped.
For anyone interested in sponsoring a child from this particular orphanage please visit the website at www.tsb.org.in, or feel free to ask me for more details.
Wow it would be amazing to see the folder they gave me to look at the profiles of children being empty. This is just one of the millions of good causes around. I guess we just need to trust the places we are taken too, and know that that is where we are meant to put our energy.
The recommendation from the French family gave me a lot of confidence in the organization and quality of this establishment. All in all I felt blessed to have met them, and to have been able to meet the children I would sponsor. It had been a very special day.
I felt so excited to return to Leh as they grow older, and send them parcels of clothes and toys. To know I would be part of them receiving a good education and hopefully open up more opportunities in their future was just amazing.
My husband embraced the concept, and felt very supportive and positive about the whole thing too – phew! Little seeds now firmly planted to return to Leh and visit the girls, take ourselves trekking up in the mountains and much more. All in all what an amazing day! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
Next plan is be ready to leave Leh at 5am. We fly to Delhi then onto Udaipur to see a totally new area. Leh – I have loved spending time with you! Brilliant. So onto Rajasthan we go – known as the land of kings!
For more, see Intoxicating India