Schools prep for Buddhist Monks' visit

BY SOUMITRO SEN, The Union, January 17, 2007

Nevada County, CA (USA) -- Tibetan Buddhist monks from south India are arriving in Nevada County next week, the seventh year they've been coming as guests of the local nonprofit, Sierra Friends of Tibet.

As part of their visit, from Jan. 25 through Feb. 10, the monks will visit some schools and share their culture - sing, dance, chant and interact with the students.

Some of the institutes that have hosted them before are eagerly anticipating their visit in the coming weeks.

"I think the kids really enjoy listening to their stories," said Jody Deaderick, arts coordinator at Nevada City School of the Arts which the monks will visit on Jan. 31. "They can give the kids a glimpse into something different and open their eyes to another way of life."

Deaderick, a member of Sierra Friends of Tibet, said the students were impressed in the past by the philosophy of compassion the monks talked about.

"This year, the monks will do two assemblies for us," Deaderick said. "We will host a lunch for them. They will have lunch with our eighth grade class. We will serve them some kind of Asian cuisine. We have a parent who used to be the co-owner of an Asian restaurant in Nevada City. She will help co-ordinate the meal."

The monks are supposed to give a talk about where they're from, the situation in Tibet, and do their traditional Yak dance, Deaderick said.

Students of Grizzly Hill School in North San Juan, which the monks will visit on Feb. 7, have quite elaborate plans for the visit. The monks have visited the school in their past six trips to the county.

"We'll be designing bear flags (a secular adaptation of Buddhist prayer flags) that will join bear flags from previous years that are still hanging in the campus," said Diana Pasquini, educator at Grizzly Hill School. "All the students will receive an introduction to the physical and cultural geography of Tibet prior to the monks' visit.

"One of the classes will prepare a song on world peace to sing for the monks. We also work with a local chef to create a special luncheon students share with monks. We may also do other arts projects."

At Grizzly Hill, the monks' visit is arranged by the parent teacher club, Pasquini said.

"It (the response from students and parents) is 100 percent positive," Pasquini said. "It's so positive people look forward to their visit. It's almost like a holiday.

"The thing I've learned people praise the most is the interaction between monks and the children. The interaction is the crux of the experience for which people come (when the monks visit)."

The monks will go to Colfax High School on Feb. 2. This will be their second visit to the school.

According to Steve Rigney, modern dance and Spanish teacher at Colfax High, last year 450 students turned up on their own to see the monks do a presentation and perform a yak dance.

"Students loved it," he said. "I think students were impressed because it was so different -the costumes are different, the music is very different, their definition of dance is different."

"I'll put up little posters around campus (announcing the monks' visit)," Rigney said. "About a week prior to their visit, I'll have an announcement put in the school daily bulletin. I'll also suggest teachers offer their students - especially students studying history and languages - some extra credit for attending (the monks' presentation)."

One of the main factors that draw students to the monks, Rigney said, was the tolerant nature of Buddhism.

"The monks make it clear that Buddhism encourages people to follow their own faith," he said. "The concepts of Buddhism can apply to any faith."