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Happy Tibetan New Year!

NEPAL | Sunday, 14 February 2010 | Views [330]

The plans that we had made for Saturday were wrecked by our illnesses. Yes, Kathryn was sick too, although she was not hit as hard as I was. I spent most of the day curled up in bed wishing for death, but I did make it down to the market to purchase some crackers and bananas so that I wasn’t completely without nourishment. The trip was exhausting and the produce guy made me haggle (may he burn in Hell), but it was worth it to have a little something in my stomach so that I could feel better this morning.

I found out that Holly had not gotten ill. I attribute this to one of two reasons, because she had pasta, whereas the two of us had rice, or because she had drank a Coke with her meal and the coke that is bottled in Asia is said to be so toxic that it kills off any malignant bacteria in the food. It will remain a mystery to me until my dying day, but I was happy that at least one of us escaped the poisoning. Kathryn was feeling better today and the two decided to keep their original plans of going to the Tibetan New Year celebration at Boudanath.

The white stupa at Boudanath has been an important pilgramage site for Buddhists for centuries. It is so old that no one is sure how the thing came to be built. It is said that the remains of Buddha himself are at this sacred structure and it has become a gathering place for Tibetan refugees that have made their way over the Himalayas to Nepal where they are safe from Chinese oppression. The best times to go are in the morning and at dusk when the monks walk around the stupa while chanting their mantras and setting the prayer drums to spinning.

By 3:00pm, I was feeling well enough for an outing and Holly assured me that their were many cafes around the stupa if I needed to rest or use the bathroom. I really didn’t want to miss it and I am glad that I didn’t because, unlike at the Shiva festival, the atmosphere here was less chaotic. Maybe it helps that the custom is to walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction so everyone is following the same path. There was quite a diverse crowd here today and I enjoyed just looking at the different faces as they paid their respects. Most people whether they were Tibetan or not had a peaceful glow about them. I wondered if I gave off the same emanations. The crowd increased in size as dusk approached and the monks came out and chanted as they walked around the stupa. A group of Tibetans gathered and began to make their way around the stupa as one of the group members held a picture of the Dalai Lama. They did two laps chanting with the monks and then they regrouped in front of the offering of popcorn and sweets that had been made to honor Buddha in the new year. People lit candles and they sang several Tibetan songs and then they cheered several times. That was it. The crowd scattered and some left while others continued in their paths around the stupa. I was a bit curious to see what was going to be done with that big pile of popcorn and sweets. The local urchins had been making cow eyes at it all afternoon. I wondered if it was going to be distributed to the poor, but exhaustion won out over curiosity. I found the others and we caught a cab back to Thamel. We decided that we were finished trying new restaurants, and so we stuck with an old favorite, the Curry Kitchen.

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