Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day Six: Monkey Temple

Thursday, April 4. (Written on Day Seven: Friday, April 5. 12:30 am.)


Monkey Temple, Swayambhunath.
I missed yesterday's entry, but I think I have a good excuse. We have been working long days, taking breaks for lovely meals. I've been averaging about 5 hours of sleep a night, but I feel amazingly focused and clear. I guess I have adrenaline to thank. The human body is an amazing thing - I haven't even been sick at all. I'm sure I will crash at home. (Note: And I did.)

Feral dogs (they are playing, not fighting).
So. Yesterday morning we woke early again (6 am) and went to the Monkey Temple with M and B. The weather had cleared overnight and I felt a mix of annoyance at not being able to sleep in and relief that we would get to see the temple (glad we went!) While driving in, the road is quite narrow, dropping right off down the mountain. This wouldn't be so bad if there weren't so many people making a pilgrimage to the temple on foot, crowding the edges of the road. 

Prayer flags.

Climbing monkey.
The temple is massive, like a small village. Lots of shops, smaller temples and a few monasteries inside the grounds. When you enter there is a gold plated statue of a standing Buddha in the middle of a small gated pond. You toss coins and try to get them to land on the platform at his feet for good luck (apparently none of us are lucky).

Wishing Buddha.
Beautiful Buddha.
Prayer wheels.
To enter, you climb a bunch of stairs to the main section of the temple. There are trees and vegetation all over, old stone walls, vendors, prayer flags, and, of course, monkeys! They are quite large, golden and cheeky - not scared of tourists at all, but none bothered us. Mostly they use the temple as their own personal jungle gym (pun intended). The vendors are more reserved here and not as aggressive as in Thamel. They sell all kinds of statues, door knockers, marionettes, masks, statues, and more elaborate jewelry than I've ever seen (I wanted one of everything!) - gotta curb that Western materialism. 


Monastery doorknocker.
Some people sat selling incense wicks and small candles in clay pots that they reuse. We lit some candles, spun some prayer wheels (always clockwise - turning them counterclockwise undoes someone else's prayer) and said some prayers. There are lots of stray dogs here, too, of course, and I thought more locals than tourists. The main attraction is the hub - a huge dome with a golden tower on top with the distinct eyes of Buddha. So big I couldn't even get it all in one photo. On our way out, I asked Bindi about a pile of stones piled at the base of a statue. "What is the meaning behind these stones?" "...That is construction." Oh. M stopped at a stand and showed us a decorative knife that Gorkha's use - everything is incredibly ornate and just so gorgeous.   

Bamboo scaffolding.
Maheswor with a Gorkha knife.

Then we went back to the house and had a lovely breakfast outside and then straight to work. We did tons of sampling, working with six-eight women (a few of the same from the day before). We started out in a huge conference room, sitting on the floor, and then moved to Bindi's office since it was more cozy. It is really frustrating sometimes trying to explain something to them, because I never know if they understand what I say. I don't quite get the head waggle, but I think now that it mostly means yes. Bindi tells me later that there is an "angry" head waggle, but I don't think I saw that...I guess no one was angry with me. We still accomplished a lot. 

We broke for lunch and dinner and played with the kids a bit. Like most little boys, they loved tickle fights and knew lots of English songs in Hindi (like Three Little Pigs). I decided it was time to join the adults again when the game changed to "Pull Down Kelly's Pants" (thank God for drawstrings). I tried to stay up late to get some work done. I was so sleepy at first, my head nodding down over my needles until I remembered that I had my new MP3 player (I finally upgraded from my discman, which still works, but was just too bulky - and embarrassing - to bring along) and some upbeat music helped. Looking forward to new adventures tomorrow.

Monkey meditation.

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