the fishing villages of Bintan, Indonesia

next stop after over two months of flying, training, rickshawing, horse riding, motorcyling, driving and walking from city to city in India was back through Singapore and on to a two hour ferry for Bintan, Indonesia. Heena Patel, Director of The Island Foundation had heard the Earthaware QiGlobal presentation done back in October and asked if we would stop in Indonesia on the way back to the USA to run a series of workshops in their fishing villages.

The island of Bintan has seen rapid development of high-end resorts along its beautiful north coast. This development has pushed out the local people from land they have occupied for hundreds of years. In addition to the land-grab and subsequent intimidation and voilence based property transfers, the traditional near-shore fishing houseboats, called Ke-Longs, have been declared unsightly by the developers and have been outlawed within the view-scape of the luxury resorts. The families that  have historically lived a Ke-Long life have fished six of seven days per week then come into market the fish they catch on the seventh day. These folks have been sea-people for all their written history, now they are forced onto land. The local way of describing this change is they have had their fins cut and been forced to grow legs.

The newer communities formed by these shifts struggle with unemployment and education for the newly earth-bound people. The Island Foundation has setup a series of communitiy centers and after-school programs to aid in education of marketable skills, language and self-directed craft industry develoipment for export. Our invitation was to direct a program utilizing local skills and materials to create an art based learning experience for kids which would include materials available immediatley around them.

We arrived with this basic knowledge and as always began a listening mission. Before running any workshops we learned that we must meet with the elder of each village. Some of these elders were Muslim, others were Christian... an amazing aspect of Bintan is that these two religions live and work together in the same communities.

We described what we wanted to do with the kids, took a look at the trash on the beaches, 99% of which is washed in from foriegn lands, and were warmly welcomed and approved for a weeks worth of workshops.


Tong Len refugee camp, Dharamsala, India

In lower Dharamsala, lining the steep and dirty embankments of a boulder choked riverbed, lies a 1,000+ inhabitant refugee encampment. We know it as Tong Len because some of the children that live here will qualify to move to the nearby Tong Len Charitable Trust School which was recently completed and concecrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

We approached Tong Len teacher Mary Hayman asking to run an earthaware workshop for the 85+ kids that attend classes held in the encampment by volunteer teachers. We agreed to use materials found in the encampment only and set about gathering them with the children.

Again we started by drawing animals that the children could recognize: Monkey, Dog, Cow, Cat and Snake. These little ones had never really drawn much so being able to express animals they know was very exciting for them, they laughed and showed each other what they could do.

The next several days were spent making the animals and learning how to clean our materials.

The Earthaware team for Tong-Len cosisted of Ada, Leila, Nicole, Maya, Leon, Simon, Ciannait and Moy: thanks for your amazing efforts!!!



Tibetan Yong Ling pre-school

The hotel Mountview in McLeod Gang has a section with about nine rooms that juts out over the valley offering three sides of view: from the rising Himalaya to the north, around to the plains of India below to the south.  Two buildings over from our room atop that section is the Yong Ling pre-school. Every morning at about 7AM the sound of playing and laughing children made its way through prayer flags in the surrounding trees to the hotel room and provided a rainbow-sound colored transport from deep Dharamasala sleep to the crisp morning air.

On the first day of the second week, with a deeper understanding of the area and the Tibetan people, we approached the headmaster of the Yong Ling school to ask if we could run a workshop with the 85 little ones that woke us each morning. He gave us his blessing and so we set out to gather local materials: bamboo, sticks, branches and the all too easily found plastic bottles, bottle caps and bags that are seen in the ravines and low areas throughout India.

The cafes and restaurants of McLeod Gang are gathering and story-telling spaces for travelers and trekkers. Telling the earthaware story several times a day gathered a collection of caring, mostly Western souls asking to volunteer to participate on a workshop or two. By the time this first Dharamasala area event began we had over ten people on the team.

Day one of the workshop started with learning to draw animals. We made a monkey, a dog, hippo, bird and snake (a cobra of course). After an hour or more of drawing we got up and Ada lead us in yoga movement, we hopped like a rabbit, flapped our wings like eagle and quacked like a duck… fun, learning and movement all in one.

Day two we broke into groups of 10-15, took our materials and formed the animals we drew the previous day. Starting with the flexible bamboo we made rings that represented ribs. Then using the stiffer branches as spines we taped and tied the ribs on to form bodies and heads, even a fish form. Next we “skinned” the bodies with plastic  and burlap vegetable sacks, leaves, ribbon and bark. Last we added legs, heads, flippers and tails of bottles and braided plastic bags: then it was play-time! Animals got names and sounds, were lifted, they flew about, they got chased, they screeched and  barked and howled. Six teams with six very different animal forms.

Day three we worked as one big team making a big animal-hippo-rabbit-thing that the kids could not just play with but in as well. Some of the animals from day two were used for the head and old sneakers were used as the feet. The kids lined up and took turns playing inside and rocking back and forth. We did not understand the name they gave it but they ran around yelling it for days, we were still awakened to the sound of them calling and playing with it a week later.

Many thanks go to the fantastic Earthaware volunteers of Yong Ling: Paul, Frank, Juan, Marcella, Niusia, Anna, Leila, Ada, Leon, Raj, Melissa, Kat, Beth, and Jennie


Dharamsala Dreams

The Tibetan culture in exile from Chinese occupied Tibet exists throughout Nepal, India and beyond however the spiritual center, governance and education foundation for these amazing people rests in a small town clinging to the steeps of the Himalayan “foothills” called McLeod Gang, above better known Dharamasala in northwest India. Earthaware arrived in McLeod as the snows began kissing the higher peaks and the bulk of pilgrims and tourists departed for the on-coming winter. The days were all sunny and bright with moderate daytime temperatures and chilly evenings.

We began as we always do when arriving at a new destination where we intend to offer the earthaware program: we slow down, listen and engage the local community in conversation on what they need, how they perceive the world around them and ask them how things might be done better. From a week or more of such interaction we look to the background and knowledge we have then approach local schools, community centers and orphanages offering a program.

In the early 1950’s His Holiness the Dali Lama worked with thousands of fellow Tibetan countrymen to establish a system and culture where fleeing Tibetans could find peace and a life away from their homeland in the adjacent host country of India. In that process a comprehensive K-12 school system was established. Today known as the Tibetan Children’s Villages (TCV) the system across India and Nepal comprises 5 full villages of from 1,500 to 2,200 full time boarding and day students, 7 residential schools, 6 day schools, 9 Day care facilities, 4 vocational training centers, 3 youth hostels and 3 homes for the elderly. Additionally there are 7 frontier camps where fleeing refugees are brought in and immediately given guidance, shelter and education… an amazing system supporting over 16,000 now 3rd generation post-invasion children today.

We were granted an audience with TCV Education Director Mr. Tenzin Sangpo and spent more than three hours with him discussing the history of the Tibetan people, the challenges of living in exile as an adult and as a learning child, issues of Chinese oppression and the state of the environment both back in Tibet and in the Dharamasala / McLeod Gang area. Through our delightful conversation we sipped on three cups of tea and came to an accord by the end: Earthaware will write a curriculum for integrating environmental awareness into the overall TCV extended systems curriculum for consideration by Mr. Sangpo and His Holiness the Dali Lama. This is our highest honor and responsibility.

After this humbling request time was spent letting the request sink in, letting it settle and what surfaced from that reflection is the current activity: write a simple curriculum that can be modified and customized to all peoples and cultures the world over. Start with the Tibetans and then through the learning’s of engagement and specific modifications there offer the platform to peoples the world over… now off to work on that.



Ganges Clean-UP Ramana's Children's Home and Primary School

In the Hindu pilgrimage and holy town of Rishikesh, India earthAWARE runs a four day workshop using discarded plastics, gathered organics and kid ingenuity to create colorful drawings, full size monkey forms and a multi-personality scarecrow for their organic garden.

We started the workshop by climbing down the banks of the Ganges River to do both the school laundry in the river and to fill five large sacks with plastic bottles, bags and caps... We found plenty. Next we went into the stream Ed area next to the school and trimmed trees and shrubs for branches the diameter of pinkys and thumbs looking for ones that are Henry and pliable.

With the materials needed and with the able help of volunteers Toby from Australia, Claire from Russia, Alexandria from France and Paolo from Brazil we set about making a monkey first.

We formed ribs by bending the most pliable sticks into a circle, doubling the stem back on itself to hold the form. With 20 or so oft ewe ribs assembled we strung them together with other sticks and some twine to form a tapering cylinder. More sticks were then bent into the cylinder to hangs it into a torso shaped orb. With this being the body we then added a head, arms, legs and a nice long tail. The kids thought the monkey was hungry so they fed it leaves by stuffing the hollows inside the head and body giving the monkey a bit of green color.

Rishikesh, India thoughts

arrived in Rishikesh yesterday, have explored the town (really a set of five hamlets each with their own personality) and have settled into a week or more of writing, painting, hiking, yoga and meditation. during this trip the platform for earthAWARE has expanded from simple co-creation of sculptural structures to a comprehensive Arts program.

in Ranchi we saw the return of merging art with sport as was done in 2010 in Jerusalem, Israel... a few weeks back in Singapore we revisited drawing combined with making as was done at the Buckman Elementary school earlier this year.

It has come into focus that earthAWARE is a program which begins with learning about form, moves to 2 dimensional drawing individually and together then leaps into 3 dimensions in the weaving and assemblage of the sculptural forms all the while discussing materials sources and environmental impacts.

the next project, the most comprehensive yet, will deliver all these facets to hundreds of bright eyed children

Ranchi, India YUWA girls soccer league

from the QiGlobal conference and the project with the littlest ones T the Singapore German European School we head to outside Ranchi, India to work with Franz Gastler and his NGO called YUWA. this is an ongoing project that offers a national level soccer league to girls and young women in exchange for them attending school, the soccer is the worm on the fishhook. traditionally girls are required to do manual labor and are married off usually at 13 or 14. YUWA provides an alternate route for the 250 currently active members ranging in age from 5 to 18.

EarthAWARE was invited by partner Nike and their association woth WavesFourWater to join in a week of on-site support in the soccer league, distribution of a water filtration system and running the earthAWARE arts program.

we slept in the mud and dung structured homes of these tribal people, ran with them across the roots of trees in the surrounding jungle and ate veggie and mutton meals properly with our right hands, a week of unique experience for westerners, another week in India for the girls.

The art part of the week saw harvesting of the plentiful bamboo which grows everywhere, cleaning and grading the stalks by size, then starting with the heavier gauge material we crammed up soccer goals, wove lighter gauge sticks in and finished by "netting" the frames with the thinnest yet most pliable material.


as is our mantra at each project site we train the trainers: teach the teachers: now Franz, the YUWA team managers, team captains and hundreds of soccer girls know how to use materials that are free, immediately available and easy to gather to make portable soccer goals, team benches, shade criers and who knows what else their imaginations will create.

Singapore German European Nursery School

We started our Asian projects at the invitation of parents of children at the Singapore German European School. Singapore sits just north of the Equator and so is mostly jungle: ample fodder available everywhere for an organic Earthaware project.

the class of 18 little ones was already learning about shelters and what a hut, house, castle and skyscraper are so we decided what better than to make a jungle igloo from the sticks and branches we gathered.

We worked for a few hours then then went inside to draw what we had made, adding sun and trees and animals and boys and girls to the pictures as we went.

Once we all drew our own special version of the igloo we made songs and sang about what we learned that morning.

as always the best is the playtime and sharing!



good morning Singapore

The 24 hour, two stage flight from SFO to TKO to SIN was uneventful, plenty of rest and the fluffy white filled food that is available at 40,000 feet, except the amazing sushi during the layover in Tokyo. I awoke at 6 this morning after about 4 hours of sleep in the very clean and comfortable room the good people of QiGlobal provided me here in Singapore. I rubbed the travel from my eyes, washed my face and strapped on my running shoes then headed out to East Coast Beach for some movement.

The weather here feels like Hawaii in winter, about 80F at 7AM, high humidity and an ocean breeze. hundreds of tankers and cargo vessels in the bay, the skyline of downtown to the east with the equatorial sun warming the low clouds.
There are groups of elderly practicing Tai Chi everywhere in the shade of the palm trees just in from the beach, moving in unison as one with nature and each other, people stretching and jogging, all healthy in physical form and calm in energy, just wonderful to see.
From the airport to the BMW limo service at midnight to the immaculate streets I contend this is an urban tropical paradise. am looking forward to seeing all the people at the QiGlobal event tonight!

I have a day to explore the city before presenting at the QiGlobal conference.

The city is very clean and very modern with some outrageous buildings in the downtown area. The Sands Casino of Las Vegas has constructed a building consisting of three identical 53 story towers that are capped by a curving boat-like structure that joins all three, a huge pool atop, several restairants and an incredible view of the city.

the journey begins

two months of international travel and projects begins with a seed for openness, growth of acceptance and the blooming of opportunity to build earth awareness through community art workshops with new people.

I first stop in San Francisco for a quick bit of decompression and time with good friends. I must also obtain my India passport visa while in SF, a process with a timeline set to prepare me for the country: molasses slow.

this is the inbeteeen, not home, not abroad. I'm thankful for so many wonderful friends: Jen Gately, Ashish and Heaven, Andrew, all the Bachanalians and the city itself.

a new connection for earthAWARE revealed itself at a dinner party in Berkeley with Brooke Deterline and her Heroic Imagination Project, we hope to find ways to merge our leadership training programs for select clients in 2012.

HaitiHANDS wrapup

Our week of Earthaware teaching, RED campaign, PepsiCo, Nike support and incredible local community involvement wraps up with the co-creation of a huge public sculpture and memory wall at the Parc St. Pierre public roundabout/fountain in Peitonville, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

We arrived, spent a week coordinating things, found five great project directors on the street, were given use of a public park by the city Mayor and Police Chief, were issued a contingent of 27 Nepalese UN soldiers and saw the participation of over 1,000 people, most of whom are part of the 7,000+ people who live in the tarp village covering the rest of Parc St. Pierre.

We gathered rubble, including rebar, from the earthquake damaged buildings, found organics from the jungle and plastics trash which covers the city streets: we cleaned the area and our materials then organized it all and got to work. We also recieved donations of materials from a local Sisal company, Pepsi, Nike and several local contractors.

Without having a firm plan we let the event form itself by beginning contruction on a ceremonial arch built aside a tree. From there work proceeded to include two hut-like structures, a wall of nests, a wave form that wrapped another tree and numerous small openings for viewing and kids to play through.

The greatest Haitian Creation came towards the end when mostly the women decorated the 80 foot diameter structure with flowers and weaving, all the while singing and dancing and chatting away.

We also made toys from thge materials and has adhoc playtime. We learned about the materials we were using, the effects of man made materials on our environment and ways to reduse the use of wate genterating products and packaging

We look forward to an annual return to Haiti to spread the Earthaware teachings and revisit the friends we made there.



HaitiHANDS = co-creation magic!

two of two thousand HaitiHANDS we met and created magic with

our first Haiti earthAWARE project has met with amazing success in Port Au Prince. with the full backing of the new Martelly government we were given use of a sizeable corner of the Place Saint Pierre park in PeitonVille, also is home to over 6,000 people living in tents and tarp structures. over the course of a week we worked with 800-1,000 kids, youth and adults, most of whom are living directly in the park, to co-create an artistic sculpture made from locally gathered materials.

we used sticks, branches, sisal, rebar from the rubble of the earthquake, leaves, plastic bottles and bags and most of all Haitian know-how, creativity and love. during the building we sang, told stories, played soccer, made toys and generally enjoyed each other and the co-created sculpture we made together.

during our time together we talked about the environment, the meaning of recycling and how that plays a part of a healthy life and a healthy planet. we discussed rebuilding and heard stories of the challenges and hardships brough on by poverty and the earthquake.


we found that the haitian people have many skills and crafts to offer the world, some were demonstrated by women weaving the loose sisal into lovely flowerettes.

after working together as friends we had to fly back to Portland however the people continued to build, continued to create and add to what we had made together. now the park has a new place of sharing, of inspiration and of story.


we plan to be back in Haiti in December to begin a new community co-created sculpture as a memorial to those lost in the earthquake, we call it AitiSONJE (HaitiREMEMBERS)...


HaitiHANDS 2011 on the ground Port Au Prince

we arrived in Haiti on Wednesday

the arrival scene was of a cracked airport, discarded planes and trucks and part of everything strewn about everywhere. it was a documentary unfolding before the eyes. through customs in a breeze then we were ushered into a SUV and off into the city. poverty, street merchants, trash everywhere, amputees, potholed streets, flattened buildings roll past mile after mile...

first stop was our hosts Foundation project called OASIS CAMP, a site for orphaned girls to live, learn and be safe from abuse.

Lunch next at Visa Lodge where we met Anne Pressoir and Lionel Stewart. Anne scheduled with us for the next day ...

STORYpod laceUPs

today we placed the sixth laceUP STORYpod at Bluehour in Portlands Pearl District. We have ten more to be placed in the next days leading up to our month end event at the Memorial Coliseum where they will all come back together.