Thursday, July 15, 2010

yak yak yak

I ATE MEAT. My first piece of meat in about 5 years. It was no filet mignon either… it was yak. We got a very early start before the sun rose. Still cold. I don’t think I ever really fell asleep between the cold, the sisters talking/laughing, the mule squealing. (Turns out that wherever we were camped used to be some burial site and the sisters didn’t want to sleep because of the ghosts there.) Still no water either. It was quite a climb to get to where the festival was on top of another mountain. 

Occasionally, we were passed by some Tibetans wearing business suits or blue jeans, loafers, and carrying umbrellas. (Apparently the other men rode motorcycles up to the top. Cheaters!) Meanwhile, we had packs, hiking gear, and were dying climbing up, even Jimpa. How embarrassing. The whole hike, you couldn’t see much further than 20 m in front of you, at best.

Jimpa told us there’d be tea for us at the top, which kept me going, considering I was dying of thirst. But, when we got there it was butter tea and milk tea. They boil yak milk and put some tea leaves in it. It’s not bad once you get past having to sift the tealeaves through your front teeth. But the butter tea- disgusting. Foul. The nomads were milking the yaks right outside the tent.

We hiked all this way to experience an annual ceremony to pay homage to the mountain gods. Most of the village men came up but the only other women there were the sisters who were only there to bring out stuff. The men first put up lots and lots of new prayer flags all around the spear shrine. They built and lit a fire puja with wood, bread, tea, scarves, barley, and all sorts of stuff. We all threw millions of prayer papers up into the winds while chanting/screaming. Once the supply of papers ran out, we sat in a large circle while they chanted and prayed and offered alcohol to the gods. 

Of course it doesn’t just end there- they get to enjoy the alcohol and bread too. We proceeded to walk down from the summit back to the tents where we sat in another circle and were served yak, broth, and bread. Joel is a vegetarian too, but we decided to finally eat some of the yak out of respect and thanks for the invitation to be a part of their special ceremony. They don’t understand how we physically survive not eating meat. But what a feast! Needless to say, I will be just fine not eating meat again. My stomach hurts and it was just not easy to eat. We figured that the meat probably came from a yak that lived a nice life with the nomads up in these mountains. (Only later did we discover that the meat was bought from the Muslims- so it could’ve been anything.) Then of course everyone got back to drinking the Baiju and having a good ole time.

back to meat (and yak of all things) after a 5 year separation was not so pleasant

Now I’m sitting with some of the villagers that decided to stay. They insisted that I come over and have tea with the. Of course I don’t understand a word they’re saying to me but they keep trying. So I think they must be talking about me because they’re all staring right at me. Awkward. But what is cool is that we can all laugh and it means the same thing. Anywhere you go, people can laugh. It’s a universal language. It’s contagious!

So it appears that everyone has come down with the plague. Fevers, headaches, diarrhea, you name it. Uncle Tim, Joel, even Jimpa. I feel fine but I would really prefer not getting sick way up here where the cure is to scrape a bone comb along your back until it’s red and nearly raw.

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