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Sikkim and Odysseus

April 30, 2013

I went to Sikkim to visit The Taktse School where an old student of mine, Pintso Denjongpa, is the headmaster. When I arrived at the school on the first day there was a cow in the courtyard. The school is on a farm and there were new born puppies in the barn.

The school itself is newly built. It’s tall, white and beautiful, with a rounded bank of windows in the second floor library. There’s windows everywhere and a magnificent flight of stairs up to the front courtyard where everyone sits for morning meetings. There are around 200 students, from kindergarten to grade twelve.

It’s a curious thing to have a student old enough to be a headmaster. I watched Pintso discuss school issues with the teachers, run meetings, and discipline students. At dinner, he and I talked about religion — Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism. He talked about what it feels like to be from two worlds, two cultures, to be half Sikkimese and half American.

When I first met Pintso, he was fourteen years old and in my Humanities class at the Waring School. He went by the name Peter back then and never mentioned Sikkim. We were reading The Odyssey and some of the students (not Pintso) told me they thought Homer was boring. I was horrified and decided we had to put on a full scale play, telling the story so everyone could understand it. But we needed an Odysseus. An ordinary audition did not seem right, and so we came up with a three pronged test: you had to solve a riddle, win a race and jump the highest. There was a three-way tie: Pintso and two others. What should we do? We decided to have three Odysseuses. Each student would would play a different stage of Odysseus’ life. We came up with an elaborate ceremony that featured a red handkerchief to show the audience that a new Odysseus was taking over.

When I was in Sikkim, I found myself looking for Pintso’s red handkerchief. I remember he wore it knotted around his neck and around his forehead.
Pintsothe mountainsThe librarythe staircasestudents

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 5:16 pm

    Hi Charlotte,
    I love your blog as usual! I love the way the words seem to float and yet are very anchored. I wish I could write as you do! Love Laurence

  2. Meg Alfoni permalink
    April 30, 2013 6:27 pm

    Charlotte, so glad to see you popping up on my Facebook feed. Hope all is well and that your are happy and continuing to thrive!

  3. michael koran permalink
    October 12, 2014 12:22 pm

    You Hue

    radiating
    beauty
    you’re like leaves
    whose green dies
    so
    more hues
    can be seen

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