Sunday, February 10, 2008

Still In Saigon

Another day in Samsara
Kathmandu, Nepal

That was always my favourite part of Apocalypse Now - the opening shot. Willard wakes up staring at the ceiling fan, and for a second everything is fine. Then he remembers where he is.


I'm trying to remember a morning when I didn't wake up feeling that way. Like, if I could just get the mission over with, I could go home.

"Home," in this case, isn't Tennessee, or America. It's escape from Samsara.

Sorry for the not-posting thing. It's just that I've had a blinding migraine since Tuesday and can't get rid of it. Ibuprofen, paracetamol, the original Otis & Carla duets on the Stax label....nothing works.

Shangri-La behind concertina wire - this photo sums up the current mood of Kathmandu.

I feel like I'm reading the same newspaper every morning. Editorials by distressed, hand-wringing liberals saying things like, "The Maoists must stop their high-handedness, must cease and desist their abductions and extortionate ways and the rule of law must be restored." But they're not going to, and it won't be, and everyone seems to know that but no one wants to say it out loud, particularly in a country where so much of the economy depends on tourism.

Losar (the Lunar New Year) has just ended. Boudha was full of Tamang people in various forms of regional dress, singing and dancing Tamang and Tibetan folk songs around the Great Stupa. The Tamang are just one of the myriad ethnic groups (mostly Tibeto-Burman) that have lived in Nepal long, long before the "Hindians" invaded about 300 years ago.

Tibet and Tibetans have such a hold on the popular imagination, most people don't realize that Boudha is a Tamang neighborhood, and the Boudha Stupa is a Nepali stupa, built by Nepali Buddhists - Tamangs and Newars.

The Tibetans, though they have always come through the area on the old trade routes, became residents later, post-exile.

Tamangs still paint most of the Buddhist thangkas for sale in India and Nepal, carve the wooden chham dance masks, and make the mind-numbingly intricate metalcraft used in the Tibetan Buddhist rituals - all stuff that is associated with Tibetans.

Burning brains
Many people think the shrine immediately in front of the stupa entrance -- a ferocious, pot-bellied silver deity snacking on entrails - is the Tibetan god Mahakala. Other people have told me it's the Nepali god Bhairav.

It's actually not a god at all, but a local goddess named Ajima (Grandmother).

And if this migraine doesn't go away, I'm going to offer my brain to her in a skull cup, an extremely authentic one. My cranium feels like a short-wave radio jammed with conflicting frequencies.

Here are a few more images from my past week in the land-locked insurgency-wracked power-starved isolated Himalayan former kingdom.

--Oh sh*t, it's not uploading. I'm still here, all right.
Here, watch this space while I go bang my head against a 5,000 year old brick wall.

1 comment:

Linda (Sama) said...

have always loved Otis, but I can't watch that youtube -- those clowns creep me out too much -- UGH!

watch my space on friday for some "new" old school soul, lady....

be safe!