I've been having odd dreams here— it's as if my subconscious is running at a different speed. The night before last I dreamt of a gleaming mountain above the clouds, and that I was walking with a monk in the woods. He told me what my name meant, but as dreams typically tease, I had forgotten what he told me as I awoke.
When Lama S.T. asked if I'd like to go to Namo Buddha with him and some SMD students and staff members, he was barely able to finish the question before my "yes" burst out. My experience at Namo Buddha a few weeks ago had left such a profound impression on me, I was thrilled at the chance to return. I packed my bag full of paper and art supplies with the plan of sketching the exquisite, colourful shrine room which had so deeply moved me.
Heavy, dark clouds threatened a downpour, but graciously kept their rain for our journey. The road to Namo Buddha was as mucky as ever, our jam-packed jeep swerved and spun but proved no match for Lama's cool driving. We bumped and lurched our way through the forest until the familiar golden roofs of the monastery appeared, like a break of sun in the clouds.
Upon arriving, we came across a long line of people in all colours of cloth, waiting for a visit with the free clinic's doctors, whom our own group came to see. While they waited for their check-ups, I was taken by a young monk to the staff room at the monastery school, where I met Lama K.S. After a cup of coffee and a brief chat about where I come from and what I was doing in Nepal, he lead me to his classroom, where a small group of teenage monks were studying Tibetan. As we kicked off our shoes and entered the modest room, Lama pointed to a cushion at the front, indicating my place, and sat down with his students.
"Ok. Teach us what you know." he commanded, with an encouraging smile.
I could feel my face turning red. I was handed a dry-erase marker, which I twisted nervously in my hands, avoiding the blank stare of the white board at my back. Eager eyes and grins surrounded me. I fumbled through an awkward demonstration of one-point linear perspective, realising I wasn't making any sense. I laughed. We laughed. I put down the marker, deciding to show the monks my sketchbooks instead, and sat down on the green cushion, the monks gathering around. As we flipped through every page, I recounted stories of the people and the buildings I had drawn, of what I had been thinking and feeling during each sketch.
"You can draw one of us, then we can learn through watching you." suggested Lama K.S. The monks agreed this was a good idea. After a brief warning about my ability to perform under pressure, I got out my pencil case and displayed my tools, explaining their various uses. I cracked my knuckles, generating laughter.
"Ok. Here we go." More laughter.
I felt surprisingly at ease despite the small crowd around me. I explained my movements, what I was aiming for and my general process. We talked about adding details after mapping out the general shapes. We talked about light and shadow, value and line.
When the 'lesson' was over, Lama K.S. lead me back up the hill to where Lama S.T. and the SMD group were having lunch. A shy breeze rustled through the trees around us. Lama asked my name.
"Samantha, Samantha..." he repeated. "In Sanskrit, it means 'respect'."