from Namche to Thyangboche
of the Khumbu
that got us there
I'm awakened in my absurd cubicle by the sound of strange chants, horns and gongs. Freddy Blume snores away, oblivious, but my interest is piqued. Looking out the lodge window I can see a couple of red-robed, head-shaved monks actually hanging out a second-floor window of the monastery, shouting in that strange way they have, blowing those Bronx-cheer horns and banging a small gong. The sky is a crystalline blue, and I'm thinking this could be good.
Later that day the rinpoche of the monastery, the head holy man, agrees to see and bless the members of the expedition. We're first led into the ornate main hall of the monastery, elaborately painted in Buddhist motifs and dominated by the two story high Buddha. It looks like what a Buddhist monastery high in the Himalaya should look like. A monk hands each one of us khatas, into which we put a couple of hundred rupees and fold them up. Everyone antes up, it would make no sense to gyp the rinpoche when he's offered to bless the hazardous climb ahead.
Next we are lead by a monk into a small chamber where the rinpoche sits at a throne-like chair behind a spindly, ornate table. Two old but clearly subservient monks sit on cushions before him. One by one, the rinpoche greets us, takes the khatas from us, and shakes each one until the rupee notes fall out on us and then to the floor. The rinpoche then places the khata around our necks. Next he produces some red string, blows on it, and another monk ties it around our necks. The rinpoche then claps his hands sharply, twice, and we are dismissed.