In November Dorje Palmo and her husband, Dwayne, journeyed to Nepal to meet with the directors of Sama Kindergarten, an education project that the Yongey Buddhist Center is helping sponsor. Under the guidance of Mingyur Rinpoche, a kindergarten school is being built for the young children of Samagaun Village in remote Nubri Valley, the birthplace of our Guru, Mingyur Rinpoche. The Yongey Buddhist Center is sponsoring the solar power system for the school and helping to train the local villagers on solar power. Accompanying Dorje Palmo and Dwayne on this journey were Pete Gregson and Rainy Xie, who are helping with the solar power project. The following narration is by Dwayne who traveled to Samagaun.
On Saturday, the day after arrival, a meeting was held at Tergar Osel Ling Monastery with project directors, Seseg Jigjitova and Dawa Norbu Lama, to review the kindergarten project and discuss plans for the solar power system. After the meeting, we were privileged to have lunch with Rinpoche’s mother, Amala, in the family residence (Rinpoche was absent, still on teaching tour). While at the monastery, Dorje Palmo presented offerings during a break in Puja chanting on behalf of the Yongey Buddhist Center. The offerings were distributed to all the lamas and monks in attendance and others at the monastery.
On Sunday, we made preparations to travel to Samaguan to view the construction site and meet with the local villagers about their solar power. Cold weather gear was purchased and a helicopter reserved for an early morning flight on Monday. Dorje Palmo (not traveling to Samagaun) spent the day visiting the Mahabuddha Temple in Patan where she made donations on behalf of the Yongey Buddhist Center to support the temple repairs and reconstruction. Butter lamps were also lit at the Temple to benefit all sentiment beings and for world peace.
Early Monday, we departed Kathmandu by helicopter for the one-hour flight to Samagaun. If not traveling by helicopter, one faces a six-day trek over mountain passes to reach Samagaun at the base of Mt. Monaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world. On arrival, we visited the school site and viewed the surrounding mountains to verify the orientation of the solar panels planned for the school roof. Everything looked good at the construction site. The most difficult task would be transporting the solar equipment by helicopter to Samagaun.
We later visited several villagers to learn about their own solar power equipment. Pete (our solar expert) did a thorough check and provided helpful advice on how to improve their systems. However, it became apparent that the villagers had never been trained on solar power and were installing their equipment improperly and inefficiently. It was felt that the best way to improve the solar power situation in the valley would be to train one or two local villagers on solar systems, and then have them train the others in the village.
While at Samagaun, the head villager, Bir Bahadur Lama, took us on a hike up the valley to the site of a future hydro-electric plant being constructed on the river. This project will be beneficial for the village, but is several years from completion. On the way back we visited the historic Pema Choling Gompa monastery that is over 700 years old. At this site, an enlightenment stupa has been built to commemorate Lama Tashi Dorje, the grandfather of our Guru, Mingyur Rinpoche. The stupa is most beautiful with the surrounding mountains in the background.
After spending a very cold night at the local guesthouse, we woke to snow flurries and heavy cloud cover. It appeared that we would not fly out on Tuesday as planned. To make things worse, Seseg was sick with the flu… Rainy had altitude sickness… and Pete was coming down with salmonella poisoning. I, Dwayne, was just COLD. However, by afternoon, the clouds had cleared and the helicopter was on its way to pick us up. We quickly packed our bags and hustled down the valley to the landing zone. The flight back was quite bumpy and will be my LAST helicopter flight.
On Wednesday, we discussed plans for installing the solar power equipment at the school, and how we could help the villagers with their own solar power. It was decided to do both by bringing two villagers, Dawa and Bir, over to the states for extensive training on solar systems at Pete’s factory in Ukiah. After which, they would return to the village to help install the solar power equipment at the school, and then use their knowledge to train others on proper solar power systems for their homes.
In appreciation, Dorje Palmo and Dwayne, want to acknowledge the care and attentiveness provided by Khenpo Gyurme and Lama Lekshey at the monastery and also Pradeep and family who made every effort to ensure our visit was most enjoyable. We also wish to thank Seseg and Dawa for a memorable trip to Samagaun.
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