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Road Blog AheadJanuary 19, 2008

Are you looking for something to read? Something interesting and real and exotic and inspiring?

I have been ADDICTED to Joy's blog, Road Blog Ahead. I can't even remember how I got there, probably via a comment or something, but it's truly something else. Originally from Oakland/Bay Area, she's been living in Rewalsar, India for the last year or so, and she and her partners get up to SUCH INTERESTING THINGS. Seriously, for the first time ever, I'm starting at the very beginning of her blog, when she was still living in my 'hood, and moving toward present day.

If you have a minute (or several, it's a loooong entry), you should read THIS entry. It's a good intro to who she is and what they do.

And lifting shamelessly from this post, I'll share a bit that made me howl. Joy is making a birthday cake for a friend in the village. She is making it in a stovetop tandoor on a propane stove, using cobbled-together ingredients. The power goes out, so she lights a fire, and struggles with the second layer in the dark. She accidentally mixes the wet with the frosting, and forgets the flour, so she and her wife Lena kind of fix that, and then struggle to frost it.

At some point during this, Lena, who is trying to fill in  rapidly growing craters, looks over her shoulder, gasps and says to me, “Joy quick, put the cat out!!” This cat is a pain in the ass as he is lactose intolerant and we’re constantly on guard against him getting into milk. Thinking he’s found some cream, I look around and ask, “Why? What’s he got into now?” She points to my feet and goes, “”No no, Put it out, put it out! His tail is on fire!” Sure enough, Mr. Leopard has gotten his backside too close to the blazing hearth and is so busy hunting hunks of spilled butter that he hasn’t noticed that his tail is now smouldering. He gets really indignant when I grab his tail and put out the glowing red ember simultaneously smothering it in the chocolate icing that’s all over my hand. I hope there’s no cat hair or ashes in the final product.

Or, then there's this post, from back when they were living in Kathmandu, Nepal last year during the demonstrations for democracy. Joy says, "Yeah, old activists don’t die, they just move to Nepal and get in trouble there."  A little scene-setting: Joy is taking shelter in an internet cafe as the soldiers are arresting people and "moving" them to "safer" places, foreigners included. Lena is bound and determined to take pictures, so she's out in the melee, in her element. 

A half hour later, Lena comes in as I said above. I can tell by her hot, dusty, sweaty face that she’s been running.

“Over two walls,” she grins, dropping into the chair beside me and fanning herself with her hat. “Through a hotel, out their back door, over the wall. The hotel guys saved my ass. The soldiers were chasing me and two others. I ducked into this little hotel and said, 'You got a back door?' Once the guy realized what was happening, he was pleased to help. He showed me out the door into the dead end alley and said, 'Can you climb?' I nodded and he gave me a leg up over the wall. I almost landed in a poker game on the other side when I dropped down. The guys there got it immediately. One fellow picked up my hat and said pointedly with a smile and averted eyes, 'I don’t see you.' 'Right,' I said and ran, scaling the next wall, down and alley and back around to the main street from the other direction."

I do believe, from what Joy's said that Lena is probably over fifty (forgive me if I'm wrong, Lena), and I have a new goal: to be that fucking cool at her age. Dude. You can see the pictures she took that day at the gallery here, under the Kathmandu section.

Lena is the doctor to a Tibetan Buddhist guru (a close friend of theirs for many, many years), who lives with his cave-dwelling community at the top of a mountain. I mean, really. What a cool sentence that is.

They maintain the Tso Pema Medical Emergency Fund for the people around them, and this one in particular really moved me.

On the topic of gifts and the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to single out one particular story. We have received several donations to the Medical/Emergency Fund. I thank each of you whose compassion and kindness have led you to write to me privately or to click the PayPal button so that we can continue to help people. This week, Catherine donated some money to the Emergency Fund (see sidebar) with this note:

“This is a gift from my family … to a family in Tso Pema (whoever you think needs it) in the spirit of the holidays. … I think it’s cool that you are providing this little link between us in Maine and everyone in Tso Pema, way up there in the mountains, on the other side of the world."

Lena and I knew IMMEDIATELY who this will go to.


I may have posted this photo before. The woman’s name is Tashi Paldron and her daughter is Tenzin Zomkyi. Tashi Paldron escaped from Tibet on foot while pregnant and the birth was terribly difficult. She and her daughter are all the family each other has.

The girl is in one of the government boarding schools and it’s hard for them to be separated. The mother, who has taken nun’s vows, is living in a small damp, cave just outside town. It had a bad case of fleas last time we were there.

For a while, someone in Denmark sponsored them, sending subsistence living money a couple of times a year. Then they stopped. This spring, we thought we’d found them another sponsor but that person never wrote back. So they’ve been pretty stuck. My own daughter, Veronica, who has stepchildren the same age as Tenzin Zomkyi, pulled what she could out of her family’s Christmas budget and sent it so that the child could get a bus ticket home to Tso Pema for the winter holidays. Tashi cried with relief.

Catherine, I’m giving your gift to them also, so that they can eat and keep warm for the next month while they are together. There are a lot of needy individuals and families, particularly in the cold of winter (it was 9 degrees this morning) but we felt that these two, right this moment, have the greatest need.

There are more stories of this kind of help in THIS post from which I lifted this bit, and all over her blog.

I have the biggest blog-crush I think I've ever had. And as you've seen from the above, they're out there, doing good. I'm heading over to the Paypal link (accessible from the front page HERE) right now, to give a little money. They're at $7,959 of a goal $10,000. You wanna help me get them nearer that goal? I can't afford much, none of us can. But I know what happened with my boy, Digit, and how small and heartfelt $5 and $10 dollar donations added up into all his vet expenses paid in full. What could that same response do for them?




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Thanks Rachael for giving us a stepping stone into these wonderful people's lives. I've been reading avidly for the last half an hour and just love them, and the incredible things they are doing there. I hurriedly hit the paypal button but forgot mention to Joy that I'd found her via your blog.

brilliant! This blog seems familiar to me - i too must have gone there from a link or something. Thanks for pointing out the opportunity to help them out - hopefully my little contribution can make someone's life a bit better. *mwah* right back atcha!

You're a good woman.

I stalk Joy's blog relentlessly and wait with eager anticipation for every entry.

Way cool.

I've been reading her blog for awhile now, too. I wonder what it was that got us all headed over there? I loved the birthday cake post, shared it with my family.

I absolutely love the way the dogs recovered, and the story of moving the room divider in...

Blogs make the world smaller, and our hearts larger.

Thanks for pointing me to this fascinating blog.

Thank you for this link! I can't wait to read back entries, and I'm about to see what PayPal can do about this -
What a treasure you are!

Chances are you found Joy through my blog as I've linked to her a few times for this very purpose. Nice job.

Indeed. She is very cool.

OMG! What a fabulous blog! Thank you for linking to it.

MWAH back atcha you lovely and talented creature you. And my deepest gratitude to you and all who have made donations, linked to the blog so others can find out and offered words of support and encouragement. I'll try to keep up a little better and keep my stalkers happy!

And we connected when I wrote you asking a question about the pattern for the hot water bottle cozy - I was wondering if hot water bottles in the States were the same as the ones here (in case you're wondering, they appear to be close enough as makes no never mind.) We loves our hot water bottles in this weather ('twas 7 degrees INDOORS this a.m.) One thing we've done with the fund is buy a handful of hot water bottles for the sick and elderly who have no heating. Of course the cats are also in competition for them.

Back to the weirdness... and knitting another pair of Fetching in the moments between power outtages. Wish there was some way to type with fingered gloves. Brrrrrr


I love it! There are some amazing people out there in blogland.

Sounds like a great read. I'm going to check it out.

And I gave you an award sweetie. It's on my blog.

I love Joy's blog (also Nyondo's blog-o-licious)! I think I first found it through Claudia's blog.
The story of the cake baking was the funniest thing ever. I cried with laughter reading it. Sometimes I cry for other reasons reading her stories.
Thank you for posting about the fund. I give a little every time I can. And every little does make a difference.

I found Joy's blog from reading her posts on the Ravelry forums. Her descriptions of life in India really make you appreciate what she has given up and how lucky we are here.

Hey thanks for the links to Robert Ullrey's podcasts. I did run a go go last year and set goals for myself again this year. All my miles have been walking though. I listed to Robert's podcasts and decided to see how it would go. I'm half way through week 1 and very excited about it. Thanks for the inspiration.

Thanks for sharing this amazing blog.
I've put in a bit for the donationtally, would you mind reminding us again in a few weeks?

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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