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Topic: My Friends Here in Leh!< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 16 2003, 11:28 am  Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

3 or 4 Storytelling posts ago, I posted a story about people here in Leh, Ladakh in Kashmir. These included the Ladakhi groups of Buddhists, Muslims and Christians, as well as the Sikh, Nepali and military groups. I also would like you to meet some of my friends and other individuals of which I have become acquainted with during my year here. So, I will do so at this time. Next week, I hope to post about the war between India and Pakistan, assisted by a close friend who lived near the line of control.

ELIJAH GERGAN. I must mention Elijah first, as he is my principal at the Moravian Mission School, and the man who invited me here to teach three years ago. Elijahs background itself is amazing. His great grandfather was an important official in Tibet in the mid-1800s. The Dalai Lama at that time (the 12th) was assassinated, and Elijahs great-grandfather was named as guilty by the mystic oracle. He escaped ahead of the lynch mob and moved to Ladakh. His son, Joseb (Elijahs grandfather) converted to Christianity and translated the Bible into Tibetan. If you read the book God Spoke Tibetan, it tells this story. Anyway, Elijah is no less remarkable, and I have more respect for him each time I talk to him. At the school, Elijah shows his love for the children from age 3 all the way up through grade 11, yet runs a disciplined school. He supports the teachers, and Ive never had a disagreement with him on any major issue. At the church, he draws a packed congregation most weeks, so that they have plans to expand into a larger building. His messages are good, Bible-based ones, and we have several converts, especially among the Nepali community. Although the Christian community here is very small in relation to all other groups, Elijah is well respected. On Christmas Day, I spent the day at his house, and the parade of people calling on Elijah was like a whos who of Ladakh. One military general, I found out later, had called on Elijah last year when Pakistan tensions heated up to ask advice!

MEENA GERGAN. Elijahs wife is Meena Gergan. She teaches grade 5 at the school, and runs the Nepali service at the church, as she speaks that language. She is originally from Shilliguri in northeast India. Meena was my first keyboard service here, and is still one of the better students. She has told funny jokes. My favorite is the one about missionaries and tea in India: The 1st term missionary when a fly lands in the tea, throws away the tea and pours a new cup. The 2nd term missionary takes the fly out of the tea and drinks the same cup. The 3rd term missionary catches a fly in the air and PUTS it into the tea!

ANDREAS GERGAN. Andy is the oldest son of Elijah and Meena. He is currently attending college in the Moravian college in Pennsylvania. He is a good artist, and is a well-balanced person that I love visiting with.

REUBEN GERGAN. Reuben is the second son, and just graduated from high school in Mussorie near Dehra Dun. He is the musician in the family, and plays the saxophone I brought over here for him last summer.

ISAAC GERGAN. Isaac is the third son, and is still in high school. I dont know much about him, other than that he is good with languages and speaks 4 or 5 languages.

DAVID SONAM. David is the dean of students here at the Mission School, and an excellent person to run the school during the many times when Elijah is out of town on school or church business. He is also very well connected in Ladakh. In fact, more people know David up here than Elijah. Whenever I go to remote villages and mention the Mission School, more often than not people will bring up Davids name! His father was a doctor who saved the people of the Zanskar area 50 years ago during a plague. He hiked into there in winter with typhoid anti-bodies and immunized everyone. David organized the ice hockey tournaments when they started here years ago, and knows people everywhere. It is David who helped me with some of my treks, including hooking me up with the porters and guide for my winter trek on the Zanskar River chaddar route, as well as probably the best folk singer here in Ladakh for my research project on traditional music. At the wedding I attended last November, it was David who filled me in on everything that was happening that evening, and enabled me to post that informed story back then.

NAOMI SONAM. Davids wife. She is one of the administrators at the school, and also teaches older students. She speaks fluent English, Ladakhi and Urdu, and will be announcing my play next week for Parents Day at the school. She is very pretty and is also doing quite well on the keyboard.

SHIVA KUMAR. Shiva is perhaps my closest friend here in Leh. He is from Bangalore, and speaks 7 languages fluently, including Hindi, English, Russian, and the state languages for 4 Indian states. He is the one who showed me around Kerala and Tamil Nadu last January. Shivas specialty is computers, and he is teaching the computer classes in the new lab at the school. In the evenings, he is forever helping places like this internet cafi troubleshoot and fix internet or equipment problems. He will be setting up a computer repair shop. What I like best about Shiva is his common-sense approach to everything. He is the most practical person I know here, except when drinking. Shiv is also the best cook I know up here, and I will be getting several recipes to take back to the states from him before I leave (as well as pirated computer games). Shivs apartment is upstairs also and two over from mine.

KIMA. Kima is gone now. He was a 4th grade teacher, as well as the assistant pastor at the church. He had been here for 3 years and, in fact, I was actually here when he was installed at church back then. While walking back to Main Bazaar from the Shanti Stupa, I had checked out a new route that I didnt know. While on this route, I went past his house and he recognized me from church and invited me in. He offered me tea, which I refused. He looked at me and said If you are going to consider living here for a year, you will have to learn not to turn down tea. So, I had tea! I liked that part of town, and as it turns out, I ended up living right above Kimas apartment this year. Besides being a good speaker in Hindi and English, he also plays guitar very well and had an excellent rapport with the kids in Sunday School. He will be missed here.

KC. KC is one of the administrators at the school, and is in charge of scheduling. He is from eastern India, and also teaches math. He is good, and has many students at his apartment before and after school for math tuitions every day. KC is in the end apartment downstairs, and has his wife and two children here also. He is the only teacher in the staff quarters with a family there. KCs wife is a great cook, and it is a treat when she brings up food.

SALIM. Salim is a Muslim friend of mine who has the downstairs apartment on the far end from KCs. He teaches history and geography at the school, and runs the library. Talks with him about Americas wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been interesting. I tried to defend Afghanistan, and he simply brought up the collateral damage. I said that we tried to keep it to a minimum, but he simply asked me how few casualties is okay? He understood Americas need to do SOMETHING about 9/11, but he thought we could have taken a better course of action. We were on the same side of the Iraq issue. But whereas my disagreement with the war was based on our lack of justification, Salim was against it because he said America was being hypocritical as we put him in power in the first place.

MRS. BASU. Like Salim, Mrs. Basu taught in Dehra Dun before coming up to Leh to teach at my school. She lives in the apartment next to Salim, and has a nice garden going outside. I helped her plant some wild Iris that was growing out a ways. She is in charge of the English department at the school, and under her guidance, the school has gone to a total immersion program in English. This is actually working out okay, as the younger kids are doing better with the language than the class 3 and 4 kids who started out when the classes were taught in Hindi. It is remarkable considering that with Ladakhis, Ladakhi is their first language, followed by Hindi/Urdu. And with the others, (military kids), it is their states language followed by Hindi/Urdu. In both cases, English is the THIRD language.

DORJAY NAMGYAL. This is our Bodhi teacher. He is the guy who has been helping me translate the folk songs Ive researched into English. And, he is excellent. He is giving me background on things like articles of clothing that most Ladakhis,even if they could read the word, wouldnt be able to tell me what it was. Dorjay is also coaching me in the Ladakhi (Tibetan) alphabet. Ive got the four vowels, and half the consonants memorized under his guidance. My goal is to be able to read (Ladakhi, not English) a goodbye message to the students in August. I wont be speaking the language, but think I will be able to at least read it, even if I dont understand everything I read. Dorjay plays guitar, and is always teaching the older students Ladakhi pop songs.

ZILLA. This is an old Ladakhi lady at the church. She remembers ALL of the hymns that were translated into Ladakhi before the missionaries were kicked out of here in 1948 when Independence and Pakistan troubles began. She, along with her nephew Phillip, are helping me fix errors in the organ music and fill in missing gaps, so that by the time I leave, I will have a complete 237-song songbook of the hymns with fingerings and chords that will be playable by the 4 church adults and 2 youth that I have been teaching keyboard this year. When I leave, at least 4 of the 6 students will be ready to at least play the melodies of the hymns.

CHEMNET PALJOR. She is the nursery teach at the school, and a good friend of mine, as well as one of my strongest supporters here. Chemnets two girls are both in my music classes, and Julia is one of the 6 keyboard students who I hope will take over when I leave. Angela is an excellent recorder students, and has one of the singing solos in my Parents Day program.

WAPANG. Wapang is from Nagaland, and remembers me from 3 years ago when I visited. He helps out at the school, and preaches when Elijah or Kima are not here. He is also the best guitar player that I know here. But, he plays by ear. Ive been teaching him how to read notes, and he has been doing pretty good at sight-singing songs now. After Shiva, he is probably my closest friend right now. He has a very good Bible study that I attend.

NAWANG TSERING. Nawang is the caretaker at the school, as well as the night watchman. He has the largest key ring Ive seen, as all the rooms have padlocks. Nawang helped me sew a cloth package for a parcel to America. In India, parcels have to be sewn into white cloth to be sent overseas!

INSHA MOHAMMED. Insha has turned out to be my best keyboard student at the school, and last week passed up the furthest adult student from the church. She has been coming in 4 days a week lately to play and pass songs, as she realizes my time here is limited. I wish all students were as dedicated.

UFRA AND ASRA SHOWKAT. Two more keyboard students who are sisters. Their father owns the best Kashmiri restaurant here in Leh! They are both also doing very well.

NAWANG LUNDUP. Nawang owns the internet shop that I use the most here. His computers are usually pretty good, although the server is slow today city-wide. On Friday this week, he will be getting married, and Ive been invited to his reception.

MASOOD. There are many Kashmiri shop owners here selling carpets, jewelry, pashmina, and paper mache, among other things. But, Masood is one of the honest ones, and my best friend among this group. His attitude is not one of trying to pass off inferior products as the real thing in order to get as many rupees as possible under the premise that he will never see the tourist again. Instead, he says that if this is done, it degrades the items like pashmina in the eyes of tourists. I visited Masood, as well as many other shop owners while in Goa last January.

FAROOQ. Farooq is another Kashmiri shop-owner friend, and the one man I did buy a carpet from here. His prices are reasonable, and he too is honest. When I showed up last summer, this is the one man who remembered me from 2000 and was truly glad to meet me. In the middle of Main Bazaar, he ran up to me and hugged me. And, this was 3 months before I bought that carpet! He is interested in me and my family, and will listen to problems that are happening with one family member back home and offer advice.

DIN. This the third shop owner who is my friend here. In 2000, he was able to help me get small bills, when both banks wouldnt. I did buy some small items from him, but he isnt after my money. While in Goa, he cooked me an excellent dinner.

BASMATI. This is the fourth and final Kashmiri shop owner that I consider a friend and trust. He, along with Masood, has excellent jewelry here, and I bought four pieces with garnet and opal (7 stones each piece) 3 years ago for $110. He is the one shop owner last summer that never complained, but kept a positive attitude despite few tourists due to India-Pakistan problems.

AHMED. Ahmed is another of the shop owners. He is a friend of mine, and Ive been at his shop many times for tea, as with the four above. But, with Ahmed, I dont always feel I can trust him. We will be having a friendly conversation, and all of a sudden he will be trying to sell me something or at least hinting at me possibly buying.

THE KEROSENE MAN. A nice man on Main Bazaar with a very small shop. His supply is limited, but I get whatever I can from him when shopping for food. 3 years ago, it was his shop that we always bought kerosene from because we knew it was clean and wouldnt clog our MSR stove.

CHUN YEON. This Korean lady has been around here awhile, and plays excellent flute. She has been here long enough that she knows how to speak some Ladakhi. I will miss her, as well.

HENK THOMA. The person I most envy here. Henk is from Holland, and gave up everything back home to move here. He has been here almost 10 years now just freelancing whatever he wants to do. Whatever money he needs he makes by organizing and/or leading treks. Although Ive done more miles of treks than almost all Ladakhis, Henk (along with David Sonam above) has done more than I have. Henk has helped me out with the trekking class I have going at the school, and is the one private individual who actually has topo maps of this area.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 18 2003, 3:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

Ahmed, the sleazy shop owner who is my friend, invited me over for tea this week when he returned here from Srinigar. He wasted no time in asking me to please loan him 2000 rupees ($40 or so). He said it is to fix his roof in Srinigar, which collapsed in the rain. But, it is probably for getting a supply of hash, or else this month's "backsheesh" for the police so they look the other way. I may offer to send it to his wife in Srinigar. I have no doubt, though, that he'd pay me back in 3 weeks as he said, but I don't like supporting his illegal activities.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 25 2003, 2:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

I forgot to mention my good friend Ali. Ali is a Ladakhi muslim, and one of three that invited me to his house for Id in December. I have had lunch with he and his family several times. Ali managed the Padma Ling hotel when I was in Leh 3 years ago. This year, he is managing the Lung Se Jung hotel (great food there!). The other hotel wanted a large cash deposit in advance before the tourist season began and he had any money. Outside of the school and church, Ali is really the only friend I had that was here year-round, except for the internet shop owners!

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 25 2003, 7:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

burntfoot, you have some great friends. It's fun to see your impression on them both the trustworthy and suspicious ones. What an adventure you're having. How long has it been that you've been gone?

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 26 2003, 2:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

I've been here since July 4th last summer. I finish teaching on July 4th this year. Then I'll trek for a month, spend a week in Delhi, and return to the states on the 14th of August.

Yes, whether I trust them to give me a good deal or not, these shop owners are still my friends. Yesterday, I gave out photos I had taken of their winter shops in Goa to six shops here, and had tea six times! And then, Ahmed and I ate dinner at a great Kashmiri restaurant run by the father of those two keyboard students I mentioned in the original post. I may not buy much from Ahmed, but am not against paying 2/3rds of the price of dinner for us.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 27 2006, 6:39 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic.    QUOTE

I'm bumping all of these India stories to the top, so they won't be lost when the new software kicks in.
Keith

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2014, 9:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm bumping all of these India stories to the top, so they won't be lost when the new software kicks in.
Keith


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