Friday, February 9, 2007

But you don't sound like an American

I have to pass through the courtyard of the monastery's compound on the way to school and this morning I ran into Phuntsok, a 27-year old pictured in a previous entry, Preparing the Drawing Surface. He's become my informant on things happening around the monastery as well as all things Bhutanese. He is such a gracious and charming young man, always fetching my tea at break time, answering my questions, and showing me around.

This morning there was a big bustle about the monastery that Phuntsok informed me was preparation for a ceremony to welcome a Rinpoche to Boudhna, a Rinpoche being a master of Tibetan Buddhism, and Boudha being the large stupa around which the exile Tibetan community has settled and where I am living and studying. Phunsook said they had to be there at 8:00, so I thought I'd hang around to see what was happening and miss the first hour or so of school to take a few photos.

I should have known better.

I hung around with some of my classmates in front of the monastery while they got themselves ready and had the opportunity then to meet the only foreign monk in residence, who let me know that the ceremony in question was in fact a funeral procession welcoming back the body of the Rinpoche after it had been around to several temples. The French monk also said after we had talked for a while and got around to my having been born in the US that I didn't sound like an American. Not more than an hour later I ran into another foreign monk, this one an American, who said exactly the same thing.

After all was ready, we all trooped out to the main street just outside the front gate of Boudha and the monks stood shoulder to shoulder lining the street. More monks began to show up from other monasteries and soon the line of monks stretched for at least a kilometer. This was all in place by 9:00 or 9:30. And then everyone waited two hours for the body to show up.

Once it did and the procession made its way to the main gate, there was a mad crush to get into the very narrow street that surrounds the stupa and in the melee I not only got more familiar with a few Nepalis than I really cared to, I also lost my minidisc player.

Not only that, I missed an entire morning of school just hanging around on the streets. I did get quite a few good pictures, but getting them uploaded here is such a time-consuming hassle that I'm only going to upload these two. You'll have to wait until I get back to Japan to uplaod the rest.

I saw some of my classmates after I'd had a bit of lunch and they informed me that school was cancelled for the afternoon session. Perhaps my Buddhism class is as well. I need to go find out just now.



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