More Losar. Lots of dragons and dust...
Trip Start Jan 21, 2008
8Trip End Feb 12, 2008
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yesterday was the day the visit nechung monastry, where the state oracle used to sit. the dalai lama used to visit on this day, so all the tibetans head out there as well. we got to the site at about 11am, and there were thousands and thousands of people waiting in line to go into the temple and be blessed. people where waiting about 3 hours in the sun to get in, the line stretched all the way down the hill. it was a really cool atmosphere, even though the place was crawling with chinese police again. it was a bit like a carnival, there were big incense burning stoves around, and everyone was buying prayer flags to hang on the mountain. by the end of the day there was just a wall of prayer flags up.
i didn't want to wait to get into the monastry, because we visited it the other day, and waiting 3 hours in the sun wasn't my thing. instead i met a tibetan family who had already been in, and they took me up to drepung monastry, which is up a kora path behind nechung. so we headed up there, and they took me around the monastry, which took hours, because it is the biggest in tibet. all the monks from the monastry had gone down to nechung, but started returning in the afternoon, and the pilgrims came up as they finished at nechung. it was really crowded. the monastry has associations with the demons as stuff that are in nechung, and everyone was bringing offerings of alcohol for them. except for the dragons, who were being offered small cartons of longlife milk for some reason. so there were piles of milk cartons in front of all the dragon statues. but later on i saw alot of the really little monks, like, the 5-7 year olds, drinking the cartons of milk. obviously, when the dragons show no interest in it, it goes to them. it was pretty cute.
i was so wrecked by the end of it, the monastry is all hills and stairs. also, it was a balmy 15 degrees yesterday, which is extra balmy when you are dressed for -15 degrees and climbing hills in the sun. but when i headed back down to nechung at about 4pm, the line of people was still stretching all the way down the hill, they would have been waiting in the sun for hours.
i have the cough to end all coughs now. it was bad from the gunpowder and dry air, but 10x worse after the dust and incense at the monastries. but we had been invited to go to a tibetan new year party, so i carted myself and the cough off to that. it was a really fun night, they were serving tibetan homebrew barely beer called chang to everyone. it isn't all that strong. but there was sooooooooooooooo much of it, and as soon as you took a sip someone would refill your glass. then the women started singing, and while they sang you were expected to down the glass of chang in front of you so that they would refill it. by the end of the night, chang was being served out of bowls.
so today i feel a little rotten, what with the effects of chang and the cough that prevents me from breathing. the air today is really dirty, i think a duststorm came through last night, there is a fine layer of dust on everything, and you can barely seen the mountains around lhasa. i now have some strange chinese cough mixture, so hopefully that will allow me to get on the plane without being dragged off by chinese authorities as a suspected SARS case...