Wednesday we picked up my long lost roommate Liz, who was living at a Buddhist monastery for the past week. It didn’t take very long for the air to turn from the thick pollution of the Kathmandu roads, to the cool, crisp and most importantly, clean air of the Himalayan foothills. We got out to stretch and take in some of that fresh, country air about halfway through the drive – (which, evidently, still looks like we were in the city…)
I felt that we were riding the little train that could, slowly trying to make our way up the hills. The road was no wider than that of any bike path you’d find at home, and we’d pass other vehicles by balancing on the ledge of a cliff. It was a pretty exciting drive if you like steep inclines, rocky cliffs, squiggly roads and high heights. Nerve-racking if you don’t. I fit in with the latter. I braced myself for most of the journey; trying my hardest to enjoy how beautiful the green country side was with its forested mountains and tiered, rice patty valleys. Oh, did I mention the cows in the road?
The monastery itself is as young as the monks and nuns who reside there. Surprisingly, nobody is over the age of 20. Liz was surprised too, since she was expecting to interview nuns that were reaching their 60s and 70s.
Instead she had 9 year olds to play with and 18 year olds to talk to about their lives there and why they came to the monastery. Most of them came from small villages where education wasn’t important. The girls had had family members who were monks or nuns, and had found the monastery that way. All of the girls seemed very bright and are incredibly talented! We were given a special performance of singing – they sang the Nepalese national anthem, which was beautiful (and no, Lou, your 10 minute interpretation is nothing like it =).
And we also caught a glimpse of a drawing class – I definitely couldn’t draw like that when I was 14! According to Liz, the monks/nuns can only draw the Buddha once they have mastered drawing, so that when they draw the Buddha there isn’t a single imperfection.
After a tour of the nun’s half of the mountain, we headed back to the monks’ side, where we got to catch the ‘debate,’ where the monks practice arguing their beliefs.
It’s really fun to watch, despite not understanding the language! Every time they make a point the yell and do this full body, crocodile clap.
After debate, they go inside and do their prayers and chants. Their chants and beating of the drums are mesmerizing and uplifting – same with how colorful their buildings are.
We also got to witness the acrobats of the monks – I saw one run up a rock and do a back flip – so we asked him to do it again, only this time he flipped right over a different rock. Clearly the next karate kid:
It was kind of depressing to be back in the city, deprived of fresh air and peace and quiet:
It makes really excited to go to Pokhora to trek the Annapurna curcuit up in the mountains!