|Scenes of life|
Yesterday was probably the most important celebration in the Buddhist calendar - the Saga Dawa -which honors the day Buddha reached Enlightenment. It is in the Tibetan Calendar the fourth month's full moon. In the small area of Mt. Kailash, this was major. About 10,000 mostly Tibetan pilgrims - and a few foreigners (you could tell by their trekking gear) - arrived at the place by foot, by motorcycle, by land cruiser which was where we actually set off for the Kora. There a giant pole of prayer flags was lowered to remove the old ones (which become relics people can pick up to protect them from evil) and then, in front of the most important Lamas from the local monastery wearing extraordinary huge round red hats, a brief worship service and drumming and omming and the pole is dressed again in new prayer flags and raised til it is perfectly straight. That's it. Of course, everyone brings along prayer flags to toss onto the new hope and the ceremony was over in about two hours. The wind was freezing and clouds bonneted Mt. Kailash and I sat wrapped in my fur Tibetan skirt in the car. I guess presence counts.
|Pilgrims of all sorts at Saga Dawa|
|The Lamas at work at Saga Dawa|
|Fixing the pole - Saga Dawa|
|The pole rises at Saga Dawa|
|Women Pilgrims at Saga Dawa|
That was quite a send off for the beginning of the homeward trek, which means a return to Kathmandu to see friends, and then a bite out of luxury for a few days in Thailand. We ate a Chinese lunch of vegetables - how can someone be so skilled with a wok?? The best eggplant, cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage and fried potatoes one can experience, home cooked on the spot in a small Chinese dive across from the rest house where we had lodged twice. The smiles are bountiful there.
It dawned on me that none of the Tibetan people are fat. For one thing: they don't have dessert or sweet snacks. Those Snickers bars are out there for the tourist like me. There doesn't seem to be seafood of any sort in this landlocked nation. They don't eat bread as a given. Maybe a thick pancake like bread called just that, Tibetan bread at breakfast. Mostly it's white rice and noodles in broth. When you sit down at any table anywhere, someone hands you a paper cup with jasmine tea leaves in it and then comes with a big fat thermos painted with flowers and pours boiling water in your paper cup. Tea is the thing here.
I believe their weight secret is that Tibetans are always walking, they are always doing a Kora somewhere - it could be around Stupas or Chortans or monasteries or temples - or even "old towns" as in Lasha. There are no tennis courts, golf courses, gymnasiums, football fields, that I saw. Tibetans do it simple. They walk and walk humming prayers, chanting, carrying whirly prayer wheels, fingering long prayer beads, and focusing always on their faith. They always walk clockwise even when they pass some instantaneous monument on the road side. Go left. Always go left of a sacred icon. They walk briskly and with determination and are always covered up. There is nothing brash or over-exposed about women. In fact they load on the clothes, probably because it's cold at high altitudes. But they wear long wrapped jumpers (wool) with silk blouses, and layers of sweaters and Down jackets and coats, comfortable walking shoes (you rarely see anyone in high heels - if so, it's a youngster) - some are red hand sewn wool boots, and always an assortment of hats (everyone's is pretty much the same style) and scarves (a group of yak women caretakers puts on a shocking pink head scarf) and always that face mask that keeps out the smoke, sand and whatever. It's hard to see expression. But somehow you feel a sort of delight as they go about their prayers and life. They move briskly even if bent with bad bones.
|The dogs at night|
I miss plants. There are no flowers anywhere, really, but some sort of roadside purple thistle-like that grows in the Lasha area. Nothing of color grows in the areas in which I traveled. No trees. Not one tree. In some areas along rivers, the government has a massive tree planting project but they are all saplings and no forest has arisen yet. Probably the most invasive sense in this part of Tibet is that constant odor that kind of clicks on a "yuck" when I walk out the door. It's the odor of Yak dung burning for warmth, mixed with incense and bowel movements from those outhouses, and smoke from cigarettes (there's no "no smoking" in these parts) and probably the odor of animals and men hard at work. Perfume could do wonders but the point is, live and let live. This is life at its purest.