Friday, July 31, 2009

Fountain Design First Proposal

Biography – Phuntsog Angmo

Angmo is a ten year old Ladakhi girl who lives in Thiksey. She has attended the Druk White Lotus School since she was nursery age. Her father is a doctor and a singer and her mother is a housewife. She has a younger brother, Jigmat Dorjay, who is 8yrs old and also attends the DWLS. Both Angmo and Dorjay ride the bus to school each morning. English is her favorite subject at school and she enjoys reading books from the school library. Angmo learned Budhist prayers at school during the morning ritual. She likes the idea of having more gardens at DWLS. She especially would like to see more fruit trees and flowers, of which roses are her favorite. When she grows up, Angmo would like to be either a nurse or an air hostess. Her favorite places to travel are Durbok, Tangtse, and Leh. Her hobbies include, watching TV, bicycling, playing, singing, and dancing. Angmo’s favorite festival is in Losar. She also travels to Shey Palace every year for its festival.

Angmo and I met on the last day of school at the DWLS. She asked me if I would be her pen pal and we exchanged addresses. We then interviewed each other in English. She is quite fluent and spoke casually and freely. When I didn’t understand a word, she would write it out for me and as I wrote out the questions to ask her, she read along. For a 10 year old, like most DWL students, Angmo is extremely curious and bright. She is a great example of Ladakh’s promising future and the influence the Druk White Lotus School is having on the youngest Ladakhi generation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pergola Update

The prototype pergola is complete:

And it creates shade:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cititizen Interview

'the cook'

Punchok Namgyal has been our cook for the last three weeks of work at the Druk Padma Karpo Institute. Namgyal was born in Kargil, just Northwest of Shey. At the age of 15 he moved to Leh, leaving his one brother to care for his parents. He visits once a year with his wife and two daughters. Cooking at the school for Namgyal began upon its opening. At the age of 62 he has more energy than one could imagine, dancing and singing across the kitchen as he cooks some of our most memorable meals.

Namgyal regularly cooks three meals a day for the resident kids of Druk Padma Karpo Institute, and enjoys every bit of it. Cooking has been something he has done all his life and has learned a variety of cuisines from his mother, such as Ladakhi, Tibetin, and Chinese. Culturally and traditionally, families in Ladakh are born into their occupation. During the last two weeks of work at the school, we were served a more "exotic" menu from what the school is used to (some would say "hallelujah"). Namgyal's days would begin as early as five `o clock in the morning. Breakfast was at 7:30am consisting of bread, butter and jam, butter tea and hot water. On occasion we would get eggs, that’s if we were good. Lunch was routinely some kind of stir-fry vegetables along with Dal, a Ladakhi barley dish. Dinner was always a surprise, momo’s (similar to potstickers), breadrull (similar to springrolls), and tokpa (soup) was an appetizing way to end the day. It has been a wonderful opportunity to experience Ladakhi cuisine and culture through Namgyal. The gathering of 29 of us three times a day to enjoy this cultural experience one way or another was a way to take a break and regroup, especially after working on five independent projects.

The campus' kitchen is very extravagant, compared to what the area is used to. Namgyal loves his kitchen. To the lower right of where Namgyal is boiling water in the image above is the dish washing sink. Originally, Arup Associates (Architect) designed the kitchen sinks to be placed similar to a western sink, waist height and near cabinetry. As a result, Namgyal and the women (his helpers) weren't using the designed sink, and found other “innovative”, or practical ways to practice how they would culturally wash dishes as well as do other things in a modernized kitchen. Arup had to redesign and install two sinks that were lower to the ground in order for the user to squat on their knees and wash dishes, exactly what they were more accustom to. There are no fixed appliances in this kitchen. The stoves are single burners, individually hooked up to separate propane tanks. The most familiar feature that we can associate with is the island situated right in the middle of the kitchen. The usual activities take place here, cutting vegetables, socializing, and drinking of tea (for us, wine). Directly above the kitchen island is a large skylight. Interestingly, this aspect is religiously common in Buddhist temples. The skylight sits directly above the altar or Buddha shedding a vibrant beam of light, and creating a focal point.

Another interesting observation in the kitchen is the use of the floor as a drain. The transport of large heavy hot pots to the nearest drain is a struggle for an average five-foot Ladakhi. Instead, they use the floor to drain rice, water, or left over pots of soup-based foods. They then take brooms and sweep the excess out a 1” diameter hole in the wall, which then drains to the outside irrigation. Plumbing is scarce, there are no septic tanks, instead they irrigate the greywater out to the street, creating a stinky smell. (potential sustainable system, minus the smell) The same goes for disposing of trash, it is collected in a pit right outside the kitchen and left to burn. Although these practices are foreign to what we are used to, it is a way of life for people in Ladakh and a means of living, given the available resources and knowledge at hand.

*Warning – The use of "us, we, I" refers to the group of 29 (+/- 1) students that have shared in thoughts and conversations related to the topic. Do not be disturbed, alarmed, nervous, or take otherwise.

Superheroes teach kids in Ladakh

In addition to thinking about architectural solutions at the Druk White Lotus School, we're also trying to help teach ecological technologies to the kids. The school is using some great sustainable strategies such as solar panels, trombe walls, and composting toilets. For our greenhouse design, we also added compost bins to help close the food loop. What better way to explain the science behind these designs to the kids than to enlist the help of Batman and Spiderman? Max and Hussein have been storyboarding, drawing, coloring, and compiling informational books and posters and tailoring them to be specifically about the school. They're looking fantastic and we'll put up more images of some of the raw drawings and the finished pages soon. Here's a sneak preview....

Citizen Interviews

Shoe Shine Boy

Rakesh, a shoe repairer and shiner at roughly fifteen years of age, is from the Punjab region of India. He has been traveling place to place making a living for himself and his family for 6 years now. Not an expert at first, he used a black polish brush on a German man’s white shoe. Needless to say this customer was not pleased as his white shoes were ruined. Rakesh since then has perfected the art of shoe revitalization and is confident that he can “make like new, any shoe”.
This young boy’s family is currently living in Manali. There, both his mother and father sell glass products such as bowls, vases, cooking tools etc. There main market is tourism and is there for suffering as the global economy endures a recession. Rakesh is pleased to have three siblings, one brother and two sisters of which one is married with three children of her own. His other sister is very ill, he expressed while pointing to his head, but remains hopeful that one day he will make enough money to repair her head.
“I school one month…no learn anything” he declared. Rakesh attended school for no more the one month; there he felt his time wasted because he was not making money to support his family. Abruptly after leaving his less important education the child became a begger, but his mother was very unhappy and demanded that he work for his money. Learning English was vital for his capacity to earn a living, without a teacher this task proved challenging. He only new some words like hungry and food, but more interaction with tourists supplied a larger vocabulary and was soon speaking fairly fluent. Rakesh can speak English but can not read or write it. He told me a man from Canada attempted to teach him once, but became frustrated with his progress and gave up. The young man, although illiterate, is capable and desires to learn one day.
The little shoe shiner lives in roughly a 4’x 5’ room with two other individuals that seemed to be family but I think are just friends. Within the room there are blankets and other tattered fabrics covering a dirt floor, out of respect one must remove their shoes upon entry. All along the path to the small room are curious obstacles: crying children in corners, steps made of stone that seem more like a broken ship ladder, duffle bags filled and pilled five high, a hallway with a deteriorating floor waiting to collapse to the level below, and large buckets filled with feces waiting to be disposed of off site. The two story building contains no electricity or plumbing, all lighting at night is from candles and all water is brought in from an outside source. For this the three pay 2000 rupees for one month which currently is about 40 U. S. dollars.
Rakesh aspires to be a trekking and or tour guide. He says that “no one want shoe fix” there is more opportunity for guides. At some point he guided a British lady and her group and was compensated with 5000 rupees. This is obviously more lucrative than fixing and polishing shoes at 100 rupees a pair, so in this part of the world being a guide is like being a doctor.

Written by Ralph Loielo

Citizen Interviews

Standing in the courtyard starting at the water fountain, a small group of girls starts to crowd around our group. After several minutes of giggling and avoiding eye contact, one gains the courage to speak. “Excuse me ma’am.” We all turn around curious as to which one of us they were actually addressing. The small group of girls looks and me and moves nearer. In a whispered voice one little girl asks me “Do you want to do friends?” Being familiar with this trend that was quickly spreading over campus I knew what she was really asking was to be pen pals. After a few minutes of exchanging names and address, standard protocol for pen pals, I decided to take this opportunity to really get to know some more information about my new “best friend”. They call taking your introduction and that is exactly what we did. Here’s what I found out about my new friend.

Name: Tashi Chorol
Birthday: May 12
Age: 13
Hometown: Igoo
House name: Hor
Mother: Yanchan Dolma, occupation: shopkeeper
Father: Tsering Paljor, Driver for Tata Mobile
Brothers: Stanzin Namdol, 10 years old, and Jigmat Chostop, 1 year old
Sister: Jigmat Norzom, 17 years
Favorite pastime: watching TV
Favorite TV program: Tom and Jerry Cartoons
Favorite Summer Activities: Swimming and Sports
Favorite Sports: Football and Skipping
Favorite School Subject: English. She really enjoys learning to speak English.
What do you want to be when you grow up: a teacher for little kids
Favorite Colors: Red and Pink
Favorite Animal: Dog
Pets: Cat named Dolma, Dog named London (He was named by her older brother, Stanzin.
Favorite Flower: Roses, especially red.
Favorite thing about DWLS: changing classes
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor (Softy flavor): orange
Favorite number: 16
Favorite movie: Cinderella
Favorite food: sandwiches
Furthest you’ve traveled: Jammu & Srinigar
Dislikes: Snow, it’s too cold.
Likes: Wearing suits and playing inside. She also likes her family’s garden. They grow turnips, carrots, sunflowers, lilies.
Best friends: Padma Angmo and Tsering Angmo. They are 12 year old twins.

After the questions, she wanted to take my introduction as well. We sat on the sidelines of the ongoing cricket game in the blazing sun. I was surrounded by a group of 8 or 9 girls all anxious to hear what I had to say. Tashi asked the questions although there were several suggestions that came from our audience. Some of my responses evoked confused faces while others, especially if we liked the same things, evoked giggling. After spending a little more than an hour, Tashi left school and was gone for two weeks of summer vacation. Shortly before leaving she had promised me that she would be back the next day with a small gift for my birthday which had happened the week before. I thanked her and told her I’d see her tomorrow. The whole time I was thinking this would never happen. Yet, there I was the next day, standing at the same water fountain when I out of the corner of my eye I see two figures enter the courtyard. It was Tashi and her mother, Yanchan. They had brought me a birthday present afterall. I was completely caught off guard and surprised. I had heard stories of how generous the Ladakhi people were but hadn’t really encountered it first hand. Yet, here in my new “best friend” I was able to experience the openness, honesty, and generosity that characterizes the region.

Written by Laura

Leh Water System

The water system in Leh is much different than what we students, living in the U.S., are used to. It is extremely rare that I turn on a faucet and not have a steady stream of clean water flow out. There is a chasm separating my understanding of my tap water, clean enough to drink, and the source from which that water originates. Leh’s water system is not as simple as the ones we have become accustomed. Often the turn of a knob brings only gurgling sounds and a spatter; if you have running water at all. Many families in Leh do not have running water in the household, instead they must head out multiple times a day to retrieve water from…water trucks, community wells,…?. Hot water is another luxury in Leh. If you are able to have a hot water source, it is often sporadic and unpredictable. Municipal water, and the city’s irrigation poses an entire other set of concerns. The town of Leh is not equipped to treat their water, so the water that is distributed to the public is susceptible to many health hazards. The following is an account of my research and observations into Leh’s water system:

-Leh’s water comes from two sources; well water, and snow melt. Wells are dug at two depths. Private residences that have their own water wells, usually dig theirs to a depth of 15 ft. This is the channel for the local snowmelt that travels beneath the ground’s surface. The city digs it’s municipal wells to a depth of 80-90ft, at which depth it can access the local aquafir.

-Ground water is pumped into the city’s large water tank. This tank is placed at the foot hills of the mountains, at an elevation above most of the city’s population so as to allow gravity to feed the pipes below.

-Walking around Leh, I see large water tanks hovering from beyond the parapet of the buildings. These water tanks are fed by personal pumping systems that pull the well water into the tank.This allows water to be stored high and gravity fed, which allows the residents to have a steady supply despite the inconsistent power supply in Ladakh.

-Municipal water spigots are few and far apart, and often placed along the city’s streets. On my short walk from our hotel to the breakfast restaurant next door, I regularly pass by four or five locals standing with a line of water jugs beside them. As many houses do not have their own water supply, they must walk to this spigot multiple times a day, buckets in hand, ready to fill and carry it back home. These spigots are often simply pipe sticking out of the ground with a faucet attached. The water pressure is low and so the simple task of getting water takes a significant amount of time to accomplish.

-Another significant source of water is water trucks. Often waking me up before my alarm, these trucks sound a distinctive horn around 6am. These trucks bring tap water from Chanspa, a neighboring town, and sell it to local residents.

-An additional source of water is local wheelbarrows with metal tanks of water covered with a plastic sheet. Looking down from my hotel window in the morning I see men wheeling these carts around on foot. Residents then come out and dunk their buckets into the water, and he moves onward.

-Irrigation canals wind throughout the entire city. These canals vary in the composition; some appear to be small creeks, some are paved out of stone, and the newest are formed from concrete. The canals that run alongside the busy streets are sporadically covered by metal grating.

The streams twist between the backs of houses and sometimes cross beneath streets. The water source of these canals is usually snowmelt. This means that water may be scarce, if the day is too cold or overcast, or that it may rush and overflow the roads on a particularly warm day. Although these are meant to feed the city’s greenery, residents have found other ways to utilize this free and constant water source. Many residents can be found doing their laundry, or washing their dishes in this water. The lack of municipal protection of this water source allows for multiple avenues of contamination. Animals such as dogs, cows and donkeys can be found bathing and defecating in these streams. The residents themselves sometimes channel their sewage to these open canals allowing for serious health concerns.

-The excess of this water is eventually fed back into the Indus River. There is no municipal water drainage system set up and so the water, mostly contaminated, travels beneath ground, downhill, and finds its way to the Indus.

Global warming is also having an impact on the region the local rainfall has been steadily increasing. Although this seems to be a positive change to such an arid climate, the city cannot support increased rainfall. The earth itself is unsuitable for rainfall, and drains poorly. It is so dry and compact that the water does not fully absorb to nourish it. Instead it just travels superficially across the surface and leads back to the Indus. The irrigation canals have started to overflow with the increase of snowmelt, as they were not created with room for increase water flow. The local construction methods are also not conducive to moist climate. As the buildings are almost entirely made of mud brick, the ever increasing amount of rain and snowmelt will eventually lead to the degradation of the city’s architecture as well as its urban topography.

Written by Angela Previdelli

Tensile Shade Structure


The Druk White Lotus School is located in the high altitude desert of the Ladakh region of the Himalayas, being perched at an extreme height and having little natural relief from solar exposure, the summer months experience high amounts of solar gain. Treks across the school grounds and between buildings are long and current outdoor courtyard space is underutilized due to the daytime heat and high amounts of direct solar exposure.

In the past, high winds that travel lengthwise through the valley have rendered past solar shade structures in the classroom courtyards useless, minimizing their lifespan and usefulness. However, it is a goal to transition the entire DWLS campus into a functional living classroom. Two professional specialists in the field of tensile architecture, Sarah Bonnemaison and Christine Macy joined the design team, leading the student designers in a series of studies, generating design solutions that were simple translations of the basic rules of tensile forces and proper construction techniques. A scaled model of pinned, stretched, and sewn pantyhose was generated based on these studies while creating a geometry that responds to existing freestanding structural elements, resulting in a proposal for a shading strategy appropriate for intermediary courtyard spaces found between buildings throughout the campus. This model was translated into full scale pattern pieces, which lead to the creation of a life-size prototype of one third of the larger structure that was erected and tested for its structural integrity in the nursery courtyard.

Design details are based upon the use of local fabrics and the modernization and re-appropriation of traditional tying techniques like those found in re-bo design, the traditional handmade nomadic tent of the region, while also borrowing layering techniques from contemporary sail design. A pattern consisting of local canvas and jute fabrics from Leh are matched and designed in order to match the five colors of the mandala, a Buddhist form that has been respected within the masterplan of the entire school by lead designers, ARUP Associates as requested by His Holiness, the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa.

The fabric canopy is designed for easy adjustability and mass production, employing three repetitive geometries to be raised and lowered dependant on season. The raising of the canopy during summer months creates usable space for an outdoor classroom, and is intended to be lowered during winter months when harsh outdoor temperatures render uninsulated outdoor space unlivable.

Mass production has begun on the final shading structure to be in place by the end of our tenure here this summer with the help of local tailors, and has involved such battles as nightly sewing circles in order to produce the pattern prototype, as well as severe rug burn scenarios while cutting hundreds of final fabric pieces down to form in due time, frying of power outlets after hours of ironing, and severe pinpricks, and dye leakage. The canopy is to be erected on Friday; a Kingfisher beer garden is scheduled for its initiation on Saturday.

Written by Jersey Wicks

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tashi Lamo

Tashi Lamo is a seventh grade student at the Druk White Lotus School with a love for learning and a contagiously positive attitude. Tashi, sixteen, will be starting her sixth year at the school as she enters the newly established eight grade.

Living in Leh, Tashi takes an hour long bus ride to and from school everyday. She strives best in languages as she is fluent in English, Ladakhi, and Hindi, while well understanding Nepali and Tibetan. From her time at the school she has developed a deep appreciation for the schools close connection to his Holiness and the sponsor program, and admires the thoughtful materials of the architecture.

Looking ahead, Toshi would love to be a flight attendant. Even though she has never flown in an aircraft or even seen an airplane on the runway, she has no greater passion. Her love started from a consistent supply of airplane magazines that she read to help her learn English. With her imagination driving her romance with flight, she one day hopes to finally see Ladakh and its incredible size from overhead.

When asked what her favorite place was on the school campus, she drew directly to the center stage of the Mandala. With her outgoing personality and light hearted spirit, Toshi enjoys seeing everyone in a performance. Every chance she can get during a regular day, Toshi and her friends will sing songs in and language and every color. Even though she is a bit shy, her enthusiasm for the spotlight draws her to the center. The one class she would like most to be added to the curriculum would be one on singing.


This week the green house team has been focused on promoting the greenhouse as a fully functional design for plant growth, but also making it a suitable classroom for the school children.

Shelving for seedlings and other utilities was finalized and constructed. Shelving was able to span between supports notched into the existing wall and structurally supportive willow branches on the outside. The wood used for the shelving is reclaimed floor boards that would have otherwise been thrown out for their imperfections and the willow branches tie into the aesthetic of the schools existing material pallet.

Top soil was brought in and the garden beds were dug out to a final depth. With the greenhouse team only consisting of two people at the time, additional local labor was provided to help with the rock removal and soil preparation.

Once the garden beds were at the appropriate depths and squared off, a new team was asked to assist in the mixing of the earth and finalization of the beds. They were young Drukpas with an expertise in greenhouses and farming. Here's a link to their website if you would like to learn more about them and what they do:
With their knowledge and assistance, the mixing of the new earth and spreading of it was done with a cultural perfection and beauty.

With the mixing and spreading of the earth only taking half of the day, the rest of the day was spent formalizing and weeding the beds. Channels were dug for the water flooding and drainage and appropriately sized beds were moulded for the children. In the center of the greenhouse an area remains for a class of 30 students to gather and learn about the plants in a classroom type setting.

The idea of the greenhouse being more of a classroom as a greenhouse has motivated many of the new aspects of the design. While meeting with some of the science teachers, it was well conveyed that an area in the middle for class size gatherings was very important. This allowed the students to be learn in a group and then disperse amongst the plants to learn about them in different ways. Keeping with the new classroom setting, a chalkboard will also be hung inside the greenhouse for class teachings and illustrations.

The documentation of the greenhouse has been accumulating, this has been done through photographs, hand sketches, and digital modeling. Shown below are a few of the latest documentation items that are being finalized this week.

Axonometric drawing

Summer wind and sun conditions

Citizen Interviews


Changa is a man full of smiles and laughter. He lives everyday of his life with the mantra of “Shanti, Shanti” which means peaceful. He’s shop keeper who has been coming to Leh for 8 years to sell the goods of his people back home in Kashmir. He learned his trade from his father who has been sharing the crafting skills of their people for over 55 years. Changa spends 3 and a half months of his year in Leh during the peek summer season when over 150,000 people from around the world visit Ladakh.
Sadly he only spends 1 month of his year back home with his family in Kashmir because of all the tension on the border between India and Pakistan. He doesn’t want to living in a place where people are always struggling to live peacefully. But he does desperately miss his mother, father and 3 sisters back home. Since his father is now retired Changa is the main financial support for his family and feels the burden of supporting them.
Being the Indian hippie that he is, Changa spends most of his year in Goa, a laid back, paradise of a beach town in southwest India. He sells his Kashmiri goods at two different shops there but, mostly loving life and taking it easy.


Having met Bilal while shopping in his shop in Leh on Old Fort Road, we sat down at his glass counter showcase filled with chunky pieces of turquoise and silver jewelry. He is a tall man, with dark hair and an impressive grasp on the English language. Born and raised in Kashmir, Bilal is a shop keeper in both Leh and Dharmasala. He first visited Ladakh as a child with his father who was a traveling merchant. He visited Leh annually alongside his father, following the tourist season. Eventually Bilal became a trekking guide in Kashmir. This profession matched two of his greatest passions; nature and people. It was during his five years as a trekking guide that Bilal came to understand how much he values connecting with new people, while being able to create a significant change in their lives. As political tension rose in Kashmir, it became evident that it was no longer safe to work as a trekking guide in an increasingly dangerous land.
Bilal then moved to Dharmasala to become a merchant. His main residence is still in Dharmasala. Living in one of the most religious parts of the city, he cannot imagine a better place to live. In his father’s footsteps, Bilal now travels to Kashmir and Leh annually. He spends his summer in Leh at his two stores, then spends a month in Kashmir visiting family, and finally returns to Dharmasala for the majority of the year. His passion for connecting with people during trekking has translated into his life as a merchant. Being a jewelry maker, Bilal is able to not only sell his goods, but his personal investment in his products allows him to connect more intimately with his customers.
While happy with his life as is, Bilal has plans do to greater traveling with his jewelry. He is currently registered as an exhibitionist. This license allows him to gain visas with much greater ease than a tourist or worker. He plans on taking his crafts to Los Angeles and Rome this year to participate in international craft exhibitions. Bilal’s love of crafts and people has created opportunities that most local shop keepers may never see. As we finished our interview Bilal insisted that I return soon so that he may take some time to teach me some jewelry making techniques. Bilals spirit towards his customers is warm and welcoming. He prides himself on his craft and enjoys the simple pleasures of travel and friends.


Karma works just down the block from the Yak Tail Hotel where we are staying during our stay in Leh India. Born and raised in India her family resides in a Tibetan refugee camp six hours outside Delhi in Derudune. There she resides in her little time off with her mother and father. However, much of her family still resides in Chinese occupied Tibet and even though it is just over the mountains she is unable to return or even visit due to the continued conflicts between Tibet and the Chinese government.
Sitting in the small shop she explains that she works here from morning to night for salary of just 2500 rupees a month. She sells refugee made goods that help support the Derudune refugee camp and other affiliated organizations. It is a wash of Tibetan prayer flags rolled with careful precision, a minimal jewelry display under glass, and an assortment of metal Buddhist deities.
She smiles when I ask if she will ever go back home. Apparently this is as close as she will ever get witho
ut a miracle that is a visa and or passport for an Indian Tibetan. Still she is surviving with her husband in Leh during the tourist season and in Delhi during the winter season selling clothes to tourist and locals. She explains how her and her husband must take a loan of units of clothing, usually around 25,000, to sell and hopefully make a profit. Currently though, the small shop has seen a significant decline in tourist money. She agrees with me when I mention the shaky internationally economy.
Finally diverting the conversation away from work I inquire about her life in Leh. A continuous cycle of work there is little time for her husband and her to venture outside the walls of the small refugee shop. At night she must return home each night outside of Leh to cook and eventually sleep. Still, her Tibetan Buddhist roots have led the couple to visit the many monasteries in the area during the full moon. Unbeknownst to me, is an important Buddhist event.
As our conversation winds down I tell her my reason for visiting Leh and as I ask to take her picture. However, when she discovers it will be on the internet she shakes and smiles. Apparently that is too far. Either way, picture or not, I thank her for her time, she thanks me for supporting the shop, and leave through the l
ow hung door.

Tsering Rhutsak

Tsering Rhutsak is a 35 year old thanka artist from Ladakh. He was born in a Tibetan family of nomads, spending his early childhood living in a typical nomadic tent from the Ladakh area, called a “rebo”. His whole family consisted of artists, where he learned the skills of traditional painting and crafts. He left the insecure life of a nomad in his early twenties and moved to Choglamsar village near Leh, after being asked to paint the monasteries in t
he area. So far he has painted 48 monasteries in Ladakh, as well as wooden statues and stone stupas. In 2005 he founded a program to teach thanka painting to Tibetan youth, as well as to foreign exchange students.
As many Ladakhis, Tsering speaks several languages: Tibetan, Ladakhi, Hindi and English.
Tsering’s life
became even more interesting when a film crew came to Leh to make a movie about Ladakh, asking Tsering to be a part of it. This was just one of the many roles he has had in various movies. Here are just some of them: “Doskal Ladakh Film”; “Zonglu Ladakh Film”; “Life of Jesus” (in which he plays Jesus himself), “V
alley of Flowers” and “Seven Years in Tibet”, where he had a role of a mercenary. Tsering is currently working on an autobiographic documentary called “Tsering Rhutsak Documentary”, that should be in the Ladakhi theaters in fall 2009.
Besides being an artist, Tsering is a devoted family man. He married in his early twenties to a Tibetan teacher at DPKI; they have four children, three young boys and one 13 year old girl, who left Ladakh this year to pursue her studies in southern India.
Even though he is used to a static and more secure life close t
o the city, Tsering’s big wish is to return to the peaceful nomadic life when he turns 45

Jigmet Palmo
Jigmet Palmo works at Dzomsa, an eco-friendly store located in the center of Leh, Ladakh. Dzomsa caters to trekkers and tourists, providing purified water and ecologically friendly laundry, among other services. Dzomsa means ‘meeting point’ in Ladakhi.
Jigmet is from Ladakh and is 23 years old. She grew up in Miru, a small town 60km from Leh on the road to Manali. She has been working at Dzomsa for two years. Jigmet started school at age six and finished up her schooling at age 21. She then started working at Dzomsa. Jigmet’s family is still in Miru. Her mother and father maintain a livelihood as farmers there. She has one older brother who works as a driver in Leh. She also has a younger brother who is still in school in Miru. Jigmet usually visits her family in Miru every few months.
By Timothy Cooke

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