Roberta Rich, an Inspiration

I attended a Gibsons Public Library special book club event on Saturday afternoon. Roberta Rich, author of the brilliant historical novels The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife was a guest speaker. Her description of how and what she researched for her two books stimulated my creative juices and I wished I had brought pen and paper with me.

Roberta’s research was extensive, first about the Venice Jewish getto, then for her second book, the Muslim communities of Istanbul. It covered everything, from daily life, to celebrations, to Harem culture, even down to the beauty products the women used. She even addressed the topic of writing about what you don’t know about, contrary to popular advice, as she did.

My next venture will be into the area of fiction, a short novel about a Tibetan nomad girl who escaped to India in her early twenties, diligantly pursuing her English studies, then eventually emigrating to the United States. Because fiction is a new landscape for me, other than a children’s story I wrote in 2009, I will be part of a writing group here Gibsons.

On another topic, we had a lovely welcome celebration for our latest Tibetan arrival, a young male artist, yesterday at Roberts Creek Cohousing, where some of our sponsors live. Three other new arrivals, also young men this time, came over from Vancouver for the event. As our co-ordinator spoke briefly, then Lama Tsundu welcomed each man with a khata scarf around his neck, amidst lots of clapping, I felt my heart open. This is what it’s all about I thought – cultures coming together, people helping each other.

We’re beginning our preparations for our India visit next year, travels in Tamal Nadu, then volunteering and soaking in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala’s amazing energy. Then back home and onto our next sponsorship.

Contact me if you live on the Lower Sunshine Coast and are interested in learning more about sponsoring. We’ll be hosting an information evening next month.

Cheers

Ellen

 

Lifechange: Sponsor a Tibetan Family or Individual

FlagsIt’s been an amazing summer here in Gibsons and we’ve been relaxing into it, with swimming, Music in the Landing and friends over for dinner on the deck. Our Tibetan family is settling into their own lovely home, where Tibetan flags flying outside the house greet visitors and a beautiful altar gives their living room a tranquil feeling.

Our five year Tibetan Resettlement Project is past the halfway mark now. Of the 1000 people who won the lottery in Arunachal Pradesh, fewer than 200 have settled in Canada. Many of those waiting to come will not make it: time is running out and Canadian sponsors are few are far between.

Arunachal Pradesh, where all the applicants for this resettlement project come from, is the northernmost of the six Indian Tribal States, nestled between Myanmar and Bhutan, and south of China. China has laid claim to more than half the state, although it is still under Indian Army rule.

Life for Tibetans living in this remote place is harsh; His Holiness the Dalai Lama considers that there is no future for them there. Families are very poor unless the breadwinner works away from home, as is the case in many families. Even then money earned is quite limited. The main jobs available are in the Tibetan-Nepalese regiment of the Indian Army, where Tibetans are paid wages lower than their Indian counterparts.

In order to get a decent education, Tibetan children are also separated from their families, attending Tibetan boarding schools farther south in the state of Himachal Pradesh, if they are fortunate enough to have sponsors.

Don and I are looking to form our second sponsorship group, to sponsor a Tibetan couple who will live in our home, beginning in the latter part of 2015. We need three committed sponsors who live in the Gibsons area to form a group.

I can assure you, that although the commitment is a big one, what you will get back far exceeds what you put in. If you are interested in joining with us in Gibsons, or working with others in the Sechelt area, we would like to meet with you. I’m sure the Tibetan families now on the Sunshine Coast would be happy to speak with you also.

Tashi delek (Tibetan for blessings)

Ellen

 

 

Summer, Time to Kick Back

Summer is a time when we enjoy kicking back, doing the things we’ve been putting off. We thoroughly enjoyed a neighbourhood potluck in the park yesterday evening. It’s a two minute walk from our house & overlooks the ocean & the beach where we swim in the summertime.

Word of mouth is quite amazing here in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast of BC, & just two emails brought about about 40 people! There was even entertainment; our nextdoor neighbours, ages 11 & 15, on keyboard & fiddle, along with two younger girls also playing fiddles. They’ve been playing at the new Gibsons Public Market  & are very good.

Our *** Tibetan sponsorship family *** has moved into their own home & are now learning the bus routes & so on. So the bulk of our work is done, now we just need to help them with the final parts of learning to live in Canada.

I’ve been relaxing on our deck when time & weather permits, reading a lot, even for me. Here’s what I’ve been looking at:

The Circle by Dave Eggers: Found this long novel quite compelling & read it in 3 days. It takes social networking & the gathering of personal information to the nth degree. Scary but fascinating!

Sing You Home by Jody Picoult: Her writing, on a vast variety of subjects is always captivating, & her plots excellent. Not for the faint of heart though or if you’re looking for upbeat.

Big Jack (Sequel to Hot Rocks) by J D Robb: Found these in a used book store, then ordered them from a library in the town north of ours. Not one of her best, but still fun (maybe I’ve been reading too many of hers lately). Eve Dallas & Roarke are pretty cool to ‘watch’ always.

Nine Parts Desire by Geraldine Brooks: This one just showed up in my house, no idea how it got there. A true tale about Muslim women in many countries, through the eyes of a journalist who has travelled there. Much of it is anecdotes about real Muslim women she met.

***

Canada’s Tibetan Resettlement Project is halfway through (2-1/2 years), & only 200+ of the 1000 exiled Tibetans who won the lottery have arrived from remote northeast India. We need more sponsors, housing & donations.

 

 

 

In Praise of Nature

I had what was probably the best sleep of my adult life on the ground in an out of season campground outside Salmon Arm, BC. It was many years ago, I was hitchhiking with my partner from Vancouver to Medicine Hat,  where we would catch the train to Toronto, our home. On the grassy field, right out in the open, I slept like a baby, so deeply immersed in my dreams that I had to be shaken awake in the early morning when the rain came.

Most of us spend much of our time indoors, unless we’re fortunate enough to have outdoor jobs or to have finished our scheduled work careers, grabbing an hour or so when we can. I find I’m drawn to nature more each year, and this year I have the urge to sleep in my ‘outdoor room’, the sixth room of my house in summertime. But I like my creature comforts like memory foam bed and I must admit I’m more than a bit nervous of the night time visitors that often trigger the sensor light outside our bedroom window.

Coyotes…not so bad, but bears, now that’s another story. We know they don’t look for confrontations, but when a roly poly bear cub runs right past my studio door, a mere four yards from the back door of my house, in broad daylight, I’m expecting an anxious mama bear to come stomping right behind. The animal control officer in Victoria (they’re on duty 24/7 BTW), after hearing my description, told me that this was a yearling, not a cub. Bears that weigh from 50 to 80 pounds are about a year old, and are autonomous or semi-autonomous by then.

So after all this excitement, I guess I’ll soak in nature during the daylight hours, on long walks along the waterfront or meals and reading on my deck, erring on the side of caution!

The Sunshine Coast, Where the Living is Easy in the Summer

Roses in Ellen's GardenIt’s been a busy time here over the past six months. The launch of An Indian Sojourn segued into the arrival of our Tibetan sponsorship family from Arunachal Pradesh in remote northeast India, (between Bhutan & Myanmar), in mid December. They spent their first Christmas in Canada gathered around our dining room table, a traditional Canadian dinner of turkey with the trimmings, plus curried vegetables to tempt their tastebuds.

As we help our family settle into this welcoming community, walk them through bank visits, ESL classes and so on, we find our work very satisfying. It is a pleasure to assist people who are appreciative  and whose soft Tibetan Buddhist energy uplifts us.

Thanks to you, Rock for Tibet, our first major fundraiser to help bring more Tibetan people from Arunachal Pradesh, was a rousing success. We look forward to other events in the future.

Spring is beautiful this year and the summer will hopefully be a warm one. I’ve finished my deck gardening, vegetables and flowers in huge planters, and am still working on the flowerbeds, raking, then feeding the fowers. Summer on my “outside deck room” is something I look forward to all year, to the hours spent puttering, eating my meals, reading and entertaining friends.

If you would like to be a sponsor in the Tibetan Resettlement Program, provide housing or donate funds, please contact us.

https://www.facebook.com/TibetanResettlementProjectSunshineCoastBc       or

ellen@ellenbesso.com

As private sponsors, we are responsible for the settlement of our families or individuals as well as financial support for up to 1 year: $11,000 for 1 person; $26,000 for 4; these amounts include non monetary ‘in kind’ housing & donated items).

I hope you enjoy your summer, wherever you plan to spend it.