Archive for February, 2011


Nepalese children and education – the hope of a nation (part 2)

In the private schools of Nepal, where early childhood education is available, there ‘re some impediments to education. Especially the cost of this education is a big obstacle for many Nepalese parents. The level of education in these private schools is mostly of high quality, with the assistance of well educated teachers and with good facilitations.

Let’s do something for the poor children of Nepal. Let’s show them our care, let them have a real home, let them have back their rights to be a child of the nation, let them  experience to have school and to be educated and let us share with them our big love that they’re supposed to have.

 These children are the hope of the Nepalese nation. Let’s cherish them and make them have a good and nice living as that’s what they deserve.  It’s really nice and good to see those innocent children’s faces smiling and hear their big laughter’s. It’s good to feel that they’re in school learning and educated to have a bright vision and make a clear future.

If you want to support a poor child, to give him or her an education in a private school, you can contact my Nepalese friend Mr. Shyam Karki (see publication on my blog dated January 27th), who’s the director of the Kalyan Secondary School in Lalitpur, Nepal. If you decide to give financial or material support you can contact him. Thanks in advance.

More about this school in one of the next coming articles.


Nepalese children and education – the hope of a nation (part 1)

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. An estimated 31% of the population is below the poverty line. Up to 65 percent of the population is illiterate. The government has taken steps to address the problem of illiteracy by introducing free education from grades 1 through 6 in formal public schools, as well as committing itself to giving free education up to the secondary level.

The level of education in these public schools is often very poor. An isolated, agrarian society until the mid-20th century, Nepal entered the modern era in 1951 without schools, hospitals, roads, telecommunications, electric power, industry, or a civil service. The country has, however, made progress toward sustainable economic growth since the 1950s and is committed to a program of economic liberalization. Nepalese children daily encounter the demoralizing effects of poverty combined with the social bombardment of globalization and tourism.

In Nepal, many children suffer from malnutrition and disease, which affects their health for the rest of their lives. Intervention in early childhood through education supports building the strong foundation these children need for later life and educates their parents on the emotional, nutritional, and educational needs of their children. Despite these initiatives, there still exist severe problems within the educational system in Nepal. A high percentage of the country’s 60 ethnic groups do not benefit from free education due to social prejudice and geographical restrictions.

Additionally, the education offered is based on curricula and methodologies that are outdated. Founded on a mixture of old Nepalese and Indian systems with a strong British colonial influence, they are often far removed from the people’s needs and cultural history. More importantly, there is no provision for early childhood education for children up to age 6.

In Nepal, not all children have the luxury of attending school. From primary school age, they are often considered old enough to work and to help support their family. Girls, not considered to be of intellectual value, are often entirely denied the benefits of an education.


Pura Luhur Poten – a Hindu temple at the Bromo caldera

On the Segara Wedi sand plain sits a Hindu temple called Pura Luhur Poten. From the edge of the Bromo peak, you can see more or less in the middle of the Bromo caldera, this temple. This view gives you a good sense of how large the site is.

Pura Luhur Poten holds a significant importance to the Tanggerese tribe who scatter across the mountainous villages. As the decline of Majapahit Kingdom dawned upon these people, they emphatically moved to the outskirts of the volcanoes, which inaccessibility was their greatest asset to fend off any foreign intrusions, especially by the Muslims and Christians. Until today, the Tanggereses are isolated from the rest of the world. While the majority of Javanese profess the religion of Islam, this unique tribe still retains their beliefs from the ancient days of Majapahit. In fact, the name Tangger (used by the tribe as well as the massive caldera) was originated from Roro Anteng, the daughter of Majapahit’s King Brawijaya, and Joko Seger, a Brahmin caste, who got married and eventually established Purbawisesa Tangger region under their ruling.

The Tanggereses actually subscribe to the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, but added to that are the elements of Hinduism and Animism. Nonetheless, it is OK to refer them as Hindus because the smorgasbord of religious influences is really not worth the time to think it through. In fact, in Pura Luhur Poten, the Tanggereses worship Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa (or the Big Almighty Lord), along with the Trimurti gods (Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu).

This pura plays host to the annual Yadnya Kasada ceremony. The event lasts for about 1 month, which, on the 14th day, the Tanggereses will congregate at Pura Luhur Poten to ask for blessings from the God of Mahameru (Mt Semeru). Then the mass will proceed along the crater edges of Mt Bromo where offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables, flowers, livestock and other local produce will be thrown into the deep gully.

The major difference between this temple with the Balinese ones are the type of stones and paints used. Pura Luhur Poten uses natural black stones from the many volcanoes nearby, while Balinese temples mostly have orange paints at various sections. Inside this pura, there are several buildings and enclosures aligned in Mandala composition.


The secret of Java – Mount Bromo an active volcano

Mount Bromo volcano (Gunnung Bromo in Indonesian) in East Java is the active cone inside the giant Tengger caldera, one of Indonesia’s most scenic locations destination in East Java, famous for its magnificient sunrise views and the panorama over the caldera with Semeru volcano in the background.

The Mount Bromo is a still active volcano and its peak culminates at 2.392 meters. The 16-km-wide Tengger caldera is located at the northern end of a volcanic massif extending from Semeru volcano. The massive Tengger volcanic complex dates back to about 820.000 years ago and consists of five overlapping stratovolcanoes, each truncated by a caldera. Lava domes and pyroclastic cones occupy the flanks of the massif. The Ngadisari caldera at the NE end of the complex formed about 150.000 years ago and is now drained through the Sapikerep Valley. The youngest of these volcanoes is Bromo, one of Java’s most active and most frequently visited volcanoes. Mount Bromo attracts both tourists, and Tanggereses (local Indonesians living in the region).


The sunrise on the Bromo, between five and six o’clock, when the temperature is between 0 and 5°C is a must for tourists. As you reach the top of the crater there is a constant stream of volcanic gas and ash pushed up into the atmosphere and if the wind changes take a deep breath and move out of the way. At the top you can make an offer by buying flowers, make your wish and throw them into the volcano. Believe it or not some wishes do come true.


Unsurprisingly, this fine supernatural landscape has spawned countless myths and it is said that the Tengger crater was originally dug out with just half a coconut shell by an ogre smitten with love for a princess. But Bromo is of particular religious significance to the Hindu Tengger people, who first fled here to escape the wave of Islam that book over the Majapahit Empire in the 16th century. They still populate the massif. The Tengger believe that Bromo once fell within the realm of the child less King Joko Seger and Queen Roro Anteng, who asked the God of the volcano for assistance in producing an heir. The god obliged, giving them 25 children, but demanded Dian Kusuma, was sacrificed to the flames in return. When the queen later refused to fulfil her promise, the young Dian bravely sacrificed himself to save the Kingdom from retribution. Bromo is a place where a natural beauty meets culture and history.


Siem Reap, Cambodia – Angkor Thom the great Khmer city

Angkor Thom means “the great city” in Khmer. The 12th-century royal Buddhist city is especially famed for its grand Bayon Temple, but has several other sights of interest as well. The vast area of the Angkor Thom ruins, over a mile on one side, contains many stone temples and other features to explore.

 The city has five monumental gates (one in each wall plus an extra in the eastern wall), 20m high and decorated with stone elephant trunks and the king’s favorite motif, the four faces of Avalokiteshvara. Each gate, which leads onto a causeway across the moat, is flanked with statues of 54 gods on the left and 54 demons on the right. This is a theme from the Hindu myth of the Churning of the Milk-Ocean (illustrated in the famous bas-relief at Angkor Wat). The south gate is the best restored and most popular, but also the most busy since it leads directly to Angkor Wat. The east and west gates, found at the end of uneven trails, are more peaceful. The east gate was used for a scene in the Tomb Raider movie, in which the bad guys broke into the “tomb” by pulling down a giant apsara .

The Terrace of the Elephants served as a viewing platform for royal parties and depicts elephants and garuda (a mythical bird-like creature).

The Terrace of the Leper King is a decorative platform topped by a statue surrounded by four lesser statues, each facing away from the central statue. The central figure is probably a Khmer ruler who allegedly died of leprosy, either Yasovarman I or Jayavarman VII.

Bayon Temple (circa 1190) is a Buddhist temple but retains elements of Hindu cosmology and imagery. Standing in the exact center of the walled city, it represents the intersection of heaven and earth. It is known for its enigmatic smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara and its extraordinary bas-reliefs.


Padaung: a hill tribe in the Golden triangle


Although they are a small minority hill tribe in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, no description of Thai hill tribes would be complete without mentioning the Padaung, better known to the world as the tribe of the long neck women. Most people have heard of the Padaung hill tribe as the giraffe women. The Padaung hill tribe, where the women wear huge brass rings around the neck are not a individual tribe but a sub-group of the Karen hill tribes. The famous giraffe women are located in the Mae Hong Son province of Northern Thailand, just at the border of Myanmar (Burma), in a small secluded valley right outside the provincial City “Mae Hong Son”. Of the 7000 members of the Padaung hill tribe in Burma, about 300 fled to Thailand, to escape the Burmese repression. With the help of the Thai government, they set up a refugee-village in a small valley of Mae Hong Son province.

Nowadays, the small refugee village of the long necked Padaung, is completely geared towards visitors and tourists and is seemingly on every tour agency’s day-trip list. The women of the Padaung hill tribe wear heavy brass ornaments around their neck and limbs. These ornaments look like separate rings but are really a continuous coil of brass that can weigh anywhere from five to twenty-two kilograms and measure up to 30 meter in length. The quantity of visual rings (in reality, the length of the brass coil) is increased every year, according to the age of the woman. Young Padaung girls start wearing rings from the age of six, adding one or two more coil-turns yearly, until the age of about 16. Once fastened, the rings are for life, to remove the full coil of brass would cause the collapse or even fracture of the woman’s neck.

It is a myth, that the brass rings have elongate the neck of the wearer. Any orthopedic surgeon will tell you that: lengthening the neck would lead to paralysis or even death. The reality is, that the appearance of a longer neck is a visual illusion. The weight of the brass rings has over the years pushed down and deformed the collar bone plus the upper ribs, to such an effect that the collar bone appears to be part of the neck. Despite the obvious discomfort and the daily task of cleaning the brass ring coil, plus other handicaps, like having to use a straw to drink, the Padaung women say that they are used to their custom and are happy in continuing the tribe’s tradition. The women are able to carry out a somewhat ordinary life: they can marry and have children, and they are able to weave, sew and do light work.

The origin of the ring-wearing ritual in the Padaung hill tribes remain unclear. Padaung legends say that it is done to prevent tigers from biting their neck when roving in the jungle. It is also claimed that it was used to make the women look unattractive so that other tribes would not capture them and sell as slaves. The most common and also most acceptable explanation, is just the opposite: An extra long neck for a woman was considered a sign of great beauty and the brass a sign of good wealth, this in turn would attract more men, so to have a bigger choice to select a husband. Their houses stand in small, neat squares made of woven and split bamboo with palm leaf roofs. Each home has a spacious, open terrace where the Padaung sit in the shade in front of their looms, spinning and weaving cotton textiles, blankets and tunics.


The beautiful scenery of Tibet in autumn: The side of Yarlung Tsangpo River

There is a Galaxy in the heaven and a Sky River on the earth, which is Yarlung Tsangpo River. In Tibetan, Yarlung Tsangpo River means water flowing down from the crest. Found in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as ‘the roof of the world’, the Yarlung Tsangpo River is the biggest river in Tibet and also holds the position as being the river found at the highest altitude across the world.

 Yarlung Tsangpo River originates from a glacier on the northern side of the middle Himalayas, over 5,300 meters (208,661 feet) above sea level. It runs across the south of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau from west to east, through India and Bengal, and finally flows into the Bay of Bengal. Altogether more than 2,900 kilometers (1,802 miles) long with a catchment area of 935 thousand square kilometers (361,006 square miles), it is the fifth longest river in China.

Yarlung Tsangpo River Valley is rich in forest resources, owning 2,644 thousand hectares’ of virgin forest. Rare and unique plants and animals along with a natural treasure house of wildlife. The coniferous broad –leafed trees here appear in different colors in different seasons, green spots in spring and summer, and red, yellow, green in autumn and winter. It is well known as “five colored forest”. With the coming of the autumn, the golden autumn scenery attracts eyes of the tourists.

Water resources
Though people lack not wealth,
They cannot afford to breathe clean air,
Rains and streams cleanse not,
But remain inert and powerless liquids
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

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February 2011