Chimpu Hermitage Tibet 12.04.11
(Pictures at https://picasaweb.google.com/109837841352688899289)
It had been another cold night last night Selka the Chinese girl had pulled a brilliant stroke the night before. I’d asked the Nuns if there was anywhere to get washed and they just looked at me in a strange way, that I took to mean ‘the English aren’t very manly are they’ and laughed, as usual. They told Tashi they got washed down in the river. But it had been really late and the water there would have probably killed me rather than cleaned me. The Chinese girl had understood and while we were all sat around the wood burner stove in the darkened kitchen she whispered for me to follow her. So I did, around the back of the monastery in the darkness to a tin shed that smelled of smoke in the still, fresh evening air. She unbolted it whispering “Shhhhhh” to me I followed her in, it was pitch black but surprisingly warm, I tripped up “Shhhhh” she said again. There in the corner was a wood burner and she had a filled a kettle full of water, she flicked a lighter on and off to show me a plastic bowl, but she told me I’d have to wash outside. It was very sweet of her. I had been wearing the same clothes now since Lhasa and had not been able to have a proper wash since we’d left as there had been no hot water at Samye first night and no water at all the next and following morning.
I went back to the kitchen for half an hour, Tashi and Sotim were all raised eyebrows, and Sotim was being cheeky.
Where have you been” the asked
“I told you girls would know where hot water and a good place to wash” I said, they both looked very puzzled but I was sworn to secrecy. I’ve no idea how she knew. Everybody went off to bed and I tiptoed back around to the shed got the steaming kettle and walked back around to where the cold water tap was in the little square in front of the tea room, there was no water in the pipes so now all I had was hot scalding water, just then out of the darkness the Selka appeared with a flask
“Cold water” she said and poured it into the bowl I had and disappeared. It was remarkable. So there I was in a nunnery stood in the square with my underpants and trousers around my ankles splashing away under half moon my pale blue white skin I was sure was luminous and very visible, if a nun had come around the corner in the darkness there could have been outrage or at least stories of a strange spirit seen running though the precinct on a half moon. It felt good to be clean again though and I was very grateful.
We’d also been given a flask of tea from the Nuns to go to our room with, but they had put salt in again and I just didn’t fancy it. So when I got back to the room, Selka had found another bowl, bossed me about, sat me down and poured the hot tea into the bowl and told me to put my feet in it. It felt like such a luxury in that freezing room. I went to bed with cozy warm feet that night. If the feet are warm the rest is good.
Next day I woke late made my way shivering got to the kitchen just as the Nuns were going into the morning service. It noodles soup with peanuts for breakfast again and Chinese tea again in an attempt to warm up which I sort of did, but not really, then went into the service again. I think I have told the story of how Buddhism was introduced by the Indian master Pema Semboa who was invited by the great king Tsongtsen Gampo. Pema managed to subdue and amalgamate the ancient Bon gods and spirits and convert them into Buddhist protective guardians. I have just been sat and witnessed a ceremony and although Buddhist prayers and sentiments it is almost certainly the sound of the ancient Bon. It very definitely has the overtones of Native American rhythms with its drums and the melodies and vocal harmonies and has made me wonder time and again if there is some sort of connection. I sat and watched all morning as the striking looking farmers and Nomad pilgrims came into the hall during the ceremony full of reverence and wonder. Leaving their butter offerings and a few notes to the nuns, who write their name in a prayer book and will later pray for them and ask for blessings and healings. I really loved it there.
Tashi and Sotim had gone ahead up the mountain the Selka the Chinese girl and her friend were nowhere to be seen. So I set off and although my fuel tanks were on low I dug deep and hit the steep slopes almost running. Now it could have been that I was simply tired or even the altitude or perhaps I have a point. But I found myself getting really upset again about the amount of rubbish that has been tipped down the mountains by the 2 or 300 hermits who live up above the nunnery at and around the monastery. Their supplies have been carried up and so why haven’t the plastic, tins glass and other non bio degradable rubbish been carried back down. Tashi said it is due to education and maybe he has a point. But I counter that with the fact that the nunnery has litter bins all over their compound so they are aware. Throwing your garbage down the side of your holy mountains, from my point of view is missing the point. I came to the conclusion that human beings are a dirty thoughtless species. You buy the pre wrapped bacon from the super market I’m afraid the plastic is your responsibility you carry the supplies up the mountain I’m afraid it’s your responsibility to carry them back down, it is how it is, or of course how it should be in an ideal world
I slipped at one point and put my hand right into something suspicious. I wasn’t amused. It sure gave me the extra fire and I blasted off cursing and pretty soon I was way above the monastery and what I called ‘the garbage zone’ though I had stopped to have a look in but I was mad at them and in no mood for incense and prayers . Live how you want live but take care of the land and major, take care of the water.
The mountain top at one point looked way out of my reach and my head was spinning and light from the altitude. I had to stop every 20 or 30 yards to get my breath, though I was enjoying the feeling of my lungs being cleaned. I looked across at the massive rocks that looked as if they had ruptured the earths surface a long time ago and were now slowly dissolving, huge chunk of rock were falling back down the mountain side towards the river. Because of the snow the day before the soil was wet and slippery with only the thorn bushes to get a hold of and no real firm ground to push against. I considered going back down, but of course cussed myself for such thoughts and new that I would call myself a Jessy for ever more if I did.
It must have been an hour later when I, heaving chest and dizzy reached the top and was well within the snow line. I had to really suck in any air that was available up there. Apparently it was 6000 meters up and I was quite please with myself later when I found out. I sat on a huge rock over looking the valley below, the river weaving its way east, the Samye Monastery and the holy Mountain and behind it all a seemingly impenetrable range of snow capped mountains. I talked to my Dad of course and got his usual “Bloody great Micky boy” which always makes me laugh out loud. I sat there on the very edge of the sheer drop with my legs hanging over. My stomach was butterflies as I attempted to meditate and kept leaning ever so slightly over every time I went a little deeper, after while I thought it probably best to move. So I lay down and I think slept for a little while.
Coming down was a whole different story I literally hopped skipped and jumped all the way, I couldn’t believe how quickly I got down to the monastery. I entered the garbage zone cussing again I stood for a while to be sure I wasn’t exaggerating. I wasn’t, and from there I came down in a bad mood if the truth be told. perhaps I was tired but maybe I have a point. Then I’d come around a corner and there would be an gnarled old man or a withered old lady resting on a stone or against a wall on their way up and of course I melted every time “Teshi Dele” I’d say and they would light up as always. Tashi had surprisingly brought the subject up with the nuns and told me later that they had in fact tried to clean it up but it was the Pilgrims who dropped most of the rubbish. He’d apparently said if they didn’t do something soon in a year or two it would be a mountain of rubbish. I suggested they put up signs saying ‘do not to drop litter’ but was told that many of the farmers and the nomads in particular were illiterate so couldn’t read signs. But they could always use picture signs or in fact just tell people. But I left it at that as it wasn’t my place.
Later that night after I’d arrived back and had had my noodles and peanuts which I had now got up to the standard off being able to pick them off with chopsticks, we sat in the kitchen for a while with the cooking Nuns. While up on the roof right above us in the darkness the great horns sounded out across the valleys and as there was no glass in the windows above us it sounded like they were in the room with us. I asked why they were playing so late and was told the horn section were practicing for a big day tomorrow. I sat back and listened, it was just random blasts out of the blue or black as the case was.
The nuns in the kitchen seemed to be a little different from the rest of the place, though I suppose I never got chance to mix with the others. They were bright, funny and very sweet and because I couldn’t join in with the banter I was able to just sit and watch as their personalities became a little clearer. People are people and no matter what you try to do to disguise it, it will emerge. In a monastery I supposed the idea is that all is uniform, heads are shaved, identical robes are worn so the personality subjugated and becomes part of the group, but as we sat there slurping and smoking you could most certainly see little touches of a character as they passed by, a little pair of pink slippers, a hat worn slightly cock eyed a little neck scarf just little touches, ands a couple were very definitely sassy and cheeky and though it was freezing damp cold, I loved it there.
Tashi and Sotim were very attentive with them and with me. When ever I wanted something they would be there before I could move, it has taken a little while to get used to it, but I have appreciated it as there is no chance for me to communicate with the Nuns except to say hello and thank you. Later that night the Selka Chinese girl was out again with her hand translator. Tashi and Sotim have been making fun of me, Sotim I think was a little jealous of the attention, but he got over it when he realized that I was there to write and I meant it. A Chinese guy who had walked 4 days across the mountains from Ganden to Samye also decided to join us so though I had really wanted to write, it felt a little rude as they were both sat on the other bed across looking at me and Selka kept passing me questions and smart ass comments on the translator. I gave in and chatted with them, played them a few songs and then as Selka and I had touched on energies yesterday I gave them both some healing and we talked about it via the hand translator. It was a laugh and though I didn’t get a thing done, I wasn’t a hermit and the universe had thrown me together with two people from a different world and so it was a good opportunity to gauge one another and perhaps learn something. It was a really good night and Selka turned out to be very smart and very funny, a brave girl a long way from Beijing all on her own, though if your Chinese you are free to travel through Tibet at your leisure, but still a good on here I thought. I was the perfect gentleman of course and enjoyed that about myself too. Though why she’d insisted on sharing the room with me was still a puzzle, perhaps she just sensed that she was safe.