Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

SOS Children's Villages: Sponsor Uncle Just Loved Visiting His Kid in Bangalore, India

Sponsor Uncle has a lovely daughter in Bangalore, India.

Her name is Keerthana, and she has lived in the local SOS village since she was three. Keerthana is ten years old, soon to be eleven, and she has a rich life with a mother and ten other kids in a nice house. Keerthana is probably the most quiet and understated of the bunch----very appropriate since her Sponsor Uncle is a bit of a showboat.

Sponsor Auntie couldn't make the trip to Southern India, but she's proud of Keerthana, too. We had bought her a nice gift: an orange bag with crayons, pens, and a big notebook. Keerthana was very pleased since she likes to draw pictures of nature. She is good at running, too---a talent she luckily didn't put to use when Sponsor Uncle visited ...

During my stay Keerthana glowed in her beautiful dress. And so did her silly Sponsor Uncle who had a lot of fun with her great, naughty siblings. If I could, I would have stuffed them all in my suitcase and brought them back with me, but India has strict rules against that, unfortunately.

When Sponsor Uncle left the SOS Village to go back to his writer's residency at Sangam House he was moved beyond words. But his Indian cab driver soon got him down to earth.

"You pay $40 a month for an Indian kid?" he asked looking at me like I was some kind of a moron.

"Yes, and I love it."

"I can get you five kids for that price," he said and drove me into the heavy fumes of the Bangalore traffic.

Well, thanks to the many SOS Children's Villages around the world, thousands of orphans and poor kids can sleep safely at night and get an education in loving surroundings. And you can sponsor one of them as well, if you like. There are SOS Villages around the world. SOS is active in 133 countries, and you can read about it here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How I Lost My Heart to Nepal and the Tibetans in Boudha

I totally lost my heart to Nepal and the Tibetan community in Boudha. 

I was in town to do two readings at an international writers' festival that actually was cancelled, but since a lot of us had received grant money to attend, ten of us showed up, anyway, including Vikum Seth from India, slam poet Sarah Kay from New York, and my Danish colleague Sally Altschuler. 

The brilliant director of the Literary Jatra, Suvani Singh quickly arranged a lot of events for us, and to my surprise they were all well attended. Sarah Kay kicked some serious ass in Thalem, Vikum Seth disappeared from the face of the earth, and I presented The Tsar's Dwarf and my take on writing historical novels for a large group of wonderful writers, poets, and journalists at ICER college. And I read at the Storytellers' Union along with Sally Altschuler and five local storytellers.

When I wasn't working I walked around Boudha outside Kathmandu in awe, getting up at dawn to circle around one of the world's biggest stupas in the company of Tibetan monks. I loved it and was incredibly moved by the whole experience.

In Boudha I stayed at the Tibet International hotel only 300 meters from the stupa and would recommend it to anyone. The people working there were absolutely wonderful. After a few days, I'd almost fallen in love with three receptionists and with the roof terrace where there was a great view of the stupa and the snowcapped Himalayas.

Well, pictures speak louder than words (as a novelist, I hate that saying) but here are a few photos from my great week in Nepal and Boudha.

Kathmandu is a ride. But leave your lungs at home. They won't like the place half as much as you will. And the Nepalese are adorable. Please invite me again, won't you?