Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Journey of a Lifetime

We were brought from the airport (see pic on Blog) directly to Lam Rim Monastery in Ulaan Baator, where my lama - Panchen Otrul Rinpoche - was given a mighty welcome with conches blowing, yellow hats, parasols and crowds of monks and lay people. I didn't move fast enough to get behind him and so ended up squashed to death in the good-natured crowd trying to get into the temple. Luckily I had Rinpoche's bag with me so I held it in front of me like a relic and kept saying "ootch la reh (phonetic 'excuse me' in Mongolian) Rinpoche bag" and they kept squeezing me through the press of bodies until I was literally spat out into the temple. Rinpoche was sitting up on a high throne and saw me ejected from the crowd and burst out laughing. I was laughing too. Apparently he told his monks to go find me but I got there first. Now in the first photo here you see us having lunch in a ger - Mongolian tent, do not call it a yurt which is a Russian word, they are a proud people and now free from Russia - with Rinpoche in the place of honour. As his attendant, I am always placed near him. How cool is that? Honestly, I keep pinching myself to be sure this is real. The second picture shows a ger from the outside. This is a traditional Mongolian home, easy to pack up and move on a wagon or horse or camel or yak. Sadly the nomadic herders have been coming in thousands to the city as the bad winters (tsud) have been killing their livestock. These shanty towns or ger cities lack basic amenities like electricity and water, schools, hospitals etc My lama's charity ASRAL ("care" in Mongolian) strives to help these people, especially the children, with hot meals, clothes, health clinics, educational programmes and so on. I am proud to be assisting him in this work. (Photo credit: Ueli Minder)

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