Monday, December 26, 2005

I'm dreaming of a working disk drive

...just like the ones I knew in Kathmandu....

Feeling slightly less crappy now that I am hopped up on a combination of aspirin, coffee, ginger tea and ayurvedic cough syrup. A blot of Tiger Balm under each nostril ensures I can breathe. Paracetamol kills some of the pain of having what feels like 2 golf balls in my throat.

As I sat in the hillside Takhyil Peace Cafe ("we boycott all products made in China") I saw a near-continual stream of dressed-up Tibetans. They were mostly older folks all in their traditional finery, with those off shoulder fuzzy robes and braided tassles in their hair. Some even were wearing the special headdress with chunks of silver and coral. One girl's head was so covered in nobs of amber and coral she looked like a pincushion from Mars. They were all carrying 8x12 manila envelopes. I could see by the way they carried them that the envelopes contained something precious.

A young Tibetan man at the table next to me asked me what the word 'Boycott" meant. "It means Do Not Buy," I explained. I took that opportunity to ask him (through my croaking, raspy non-voice) where all the dressed-up people were coming from. They were new arrivals from Tibet, he said; all new arrivals get an audience with His Holiness and are given 8x10s of The Buddha Avalokiteshvara and of His Holiness. I felt somewhat cheated that I had missed such a ceremony; even to photograph all the dressed-up people exiting the Tsulagkhang clutching their packets would have been great. Of course, I have an excuse - I am sleeping off laryngitis and what feels increasingly like strep throat. Stirling says it's the Full Himalayan Flu. Maybe Toto (an Indian nickname) will make me another hot toddy using his 100 Pipers whiskey. His family has military connections so he always gets the good, imported stuff.

The Gu-Chu-Sum (former Tibetan political prisoners') program needs English speaking conversational partners. They get together every day but Sunday at the LungTa Cafe at 6.30, just to chat with native speakers and help the program members learn better English. I would love to do this - as soon as I get my voice back. Don't think I'd be much help right now.

I couldn't speak at all at last night's impromptu Christmas pissup at McLlo's, so I got to overhear an amazing story. This young man at the holiday gathering had just spent a month in Tuva and Mongolia learning Tuvan throat-singing and living with a herding family in outer Mongolia. He even got to meet Ondar, who is like the Tuvan Mick Jagger, and Huun Huur Tu, who are like the Tuvan Rolling Stones. I have 2 Huun Huur Tu albums myself so this excited me tremendously.

Their village was 2 days' drive from the nearest town, which was a three hour flight from the nearest city. They all lived in the yurt and he helped with the herding, riding horseback every day. That part sounded awesome. What wasn't so awesome was the food - he said it's mostly sheep fat, and they would make sure to save the most prized part of the sheep - the upper butt back - just for him. He had to scrape the sheep lard off the roof of his mouth with his index finger after every meal. The good part, he said, was that he got so frustrated with the situation that he would run off to a hilltop and write in his diary every day. He wrote an entire diary in 2 weeks.

Ginger-lemon-honey in hot water has got to be the best drink in the world. For everything. So why can't you get it in America?

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