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Published: March 11th 2009
1 month, 3 countries, 4 cultures and 14.5 books. As I sat on the stairs outside the house in the Tibetan Village yesterday, reading, listening to folks interact and watching the occasional cows wander past, it struck me that today marks a month since I left the U.S. At some times, it feels like much longer, particularly when I think of all I've seen already or try to recall the feel of working, other times, much shorter, probably given that I've yet to do any hiking and thanks in large part to the connectivity created by email.
March 10th, the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising in China, also was the official day of "Holi," the Hindu Festival of Colors, which helps mark the start of warm weather. For the Hindu festival, people throw many colored paints at each other, usually its a powder mixed with water and then delivered either via water balloon or large bucket. In the days leading up to Holi, many kids, up through late teens/early 20s, throw water balloons, without color, at random passersby - although foreigners do seem to be a preferred target, particularly if female. I actually managed to avoid all but one of the balloons pointed my direction. This was in part, because I was on the look-out, if you spot kids before they throw the balloons, they often (although not always) hold back since the element of surprise is gone. In fact, the one time I did get hit was largely my own fault. I was walking to the Dunbar Square in Patan (where I visited a fantastic museum, which I highly recommend to anyone ever here), and noticed three boys on the roof of a 2-story building, all with water balloons and eyeing me. I stopped, waved and gestured them to throw the balloons, holding up my hands to catch them. With this invitation, they went at it - I either caught or deflected the first two but the third, I partially caught, which was just enough to burst it right over my head. luckily it was sunny and I dried quickly, but in those few minutes of being wet, I got many grins, often sympathetic, from the locals that I passed on the street. The irony was, I was only at that corner because I had gotten slightly lost and was retracing my steps to the correct location. (Getting lost, particularly on the motorcycle, has led to seeing some interesting "non-touristy" areas, really local residential areas where a tourist would never be without being lost.)
Most everyone had the 10th off because of these holidays. Unless you want to be caked with various paints, its actually best not to go out to many areas as its a bit of a free for all. Within the village, some of the kids had paint to play with, but largely used it to paint their faces and hands and stuck to throwing water. Many of the adults also threw water, by the bucketful, from various balconies and I got damp twice and soaked once - all with grins and in great fun. (The guy who soaked me was good - he dumped the first bucket when I was walking in front of the balcony but I managed to dodge most of it, but then as I was rounding the corner, thinking I was out of range and that he was out of ammunition, he managed to launch an entire bucketful over my head - great arm!)
Overall, there was no significant Tibetan demonstrations on the 10th, in large part due to the heavy police presence. There were about a dozen uniformed police and probably another half dozen at the entrance of the camp most of the day. There was some speculation that they would not allow anyone to leave the complex during the day, but that did not occur. (The fact that that was even imaginable, however, really said something, as that seems impossible at home.) One group of residents had rented a minivan to go on a pilgrimage and their van was accompanied by the police until it had passed the popular demonstration sites. Several hundred Tibetans did manage to converge at one religious area, however, for prayers and a demonstration, although they could not access the front of the site. It sounds like they were outnumbered by the police, who, after a few hours, detained about half a dozen of the demonstrators. The rest agreed to end the demonstration and disperse if their comrades were released, so all seems to have ended peacefully. I was happy to read that there were large demonstrations in the U.S. and about the resolution introduced in the house.
Today, I went with Jampa, his parents, sister-in-law and nephew to visit another holy site and lama. This monastery/temple complex featured several items. The first, is a stone statute of Ganesh that is growing out of the rock, on its own, and continues to grow larger in size over the years. Farther up the hill (farther enough up to make me realize I'm in trouble when it comes time for trekking!) there is a cave where a guru meditated many years ago and left his hand print on the rock outside the cave. People travel there to touch the print as it will help assure their ascent to heaven/nirvana.
The ride today to the monastery, about an hour, was gorgeous. We went over the first string of mountains surrounding the valley and up a fair ways. The haze/pollution from the valley cleared and there were some fantastic views. What not to look at, however, was the edge of the road/mountain as you pulled over for buses, etc. to pass. The many sharp curves and narrowness of the roads reminded me a bit of some of the back-route way that Jaimee and I travelled from Boulder to Denver, where, after about 15 minutes of my driving, she made me pull over and switch places because I was driving so slowly/wimpily (much to my relief, even though older siblings sometimes dislike admitting that a younger one can do something better, although I've had a lot of practice at that😊 So, happily, here I am only a passenger.
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