Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tidrum Nunnery

After we arrived at Reting we had a decision to make. Losang announced that unless we wanted to stay there overnight we would have to leave after only an hour and a half. After driving for about 5 hours in our cramped jeep none of us were eager to leave so soon, so we took a look at the monastery “guesthouse.” It was pretty bad- it made Pelpung’s guesthouse look downright luxurious. The real problem for me was that the beds were too short. I could sleep on anything, and didn’t care how cold or dirty or hard it was- I had brought my sleeping bag anyway- but if the bed was too short I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Erica also preferred going on, but Kirk really wanted to stay. He was sick to begin with, and waiting for half an hour in the cold in the morning and being stuck in the car for most of the day hadn’t helped. In the end, however, he relented.
As we got in the car to leave Losang’s brother also started getting in.
“Isn’t he staying here?” I asked Losang.
“No, of course not, he’s coming with us to Lhasa,” Losang replied matter-of-factly.
I wasn’t sure if I had misunderstood Losang before when he asked if his brother could come, or if Losang and simply blatantly tricked us. I explained the situation to Erica and Kirk. There was nothing we could do, of course, but we did decide that I should tell Losang that we were upset.
“So do you mean you want to leave him here?” Losang asked after I told him what we thought. He said it as though he was trying to make us feel bad, which I found annoying.
“No, no, he can still come with us,” I said.
With that the five of us piled into the jeep and set off. The road to our next stop, Tidrum Nunnery, was pretty bad. At one point we got stuck behind a convoy of maybe fifteen trucks that didn’t want to let us pass. By the time we got to Tidrum we were starving and exhausted. After taking a quick look at the beds- pretty much the same as at Reting except I could fit into them- we had a quick dinner of overcooked noodles at the nunnery’s restaurant and then immediately went to sleep.
The next day we all felt much better. We had slept for a long time- maybe ten hours- and were ready to get out and do stuff. First we checked out the nunnery, which the nuns were whitewashing. They found pretending to throw whitewash at us endlessly hilarious. After that Kirk and I did a hike while Erica tried out the hot spring next to the nunnery. We decided to do a hike along a stream that went us a small valley. Except for one part where we couldn’t figure out how to cross the stream- luckily a nun who was hanging prayer flags nearby came to help us out- the hike was pretty easy. At one point the stream went underground, and we were enveloped in total silence. There wasn’t even any wind. I had never experienced that kind of quiet anywhere else in China. The hike ended at a very small monastery set where the valley split into two. With no roads leading there and no people other than the three monks who lived there it felt supremely isolated and peaceful. The monks gave us some yak butter tea, showed us around and then saw us off. On the way back we ran into an elderly couple who also treated us to some yak butter tea. The husband appeared to be an official as he had a Jiang Zemin poster on his wall. Kirk took a picture of their house and they demanded a copy; I had to explain to them that he couldn’t give them a copy right then because it was a digital camera. I’m not sure they really understood.
As we walked Kirk and I discussed Tibetan Buddhism. We both agreed that Buddhism in Tibet has little to do with what people usually imagine Buddhism to be. For Tibetans like the pair I met at Ganden the usual Buddhist concerns like enlightenment and Buddhahood seemed less important than pacifying spirits that inhabited mountains, rocks and even the wind. The priesthood is a bit different, as they focus on studying Buddhist texts and meditation, but even they have practices that non-Tibetan Buddhist monks would find shocking.
That night was somewhat eventful. In the middle of the night I was woken up by a crashing sound, followed by dogs barking. Kirk suddenly yelled “what the hell!” For a second I thought the wall had collapsed and Kirk was hanging off the side- considering how rickety the guesthouse looked it wasn’t totally implausible. It turned out that a rat had jumped on Kirk and then he jumped up about a foot in his bed. The rat made an appearance again later in the night, but I was tired enough that I didn’t care.

No comments: