Saturday, October 10, 2009

Oddly familiar

I start to leave the cafe , buttoning up my jacket , and find myself being drawn to a table nearby with a not quite familiar object on the table : a conical piece of cucumber , adorned with jellybeans and other sweets .. and two small paper flags. Sort of a postmodernist torma.

Grasping for words I see the same puzzled expression mirrored from the other end , looking at my side buttoned wool jacket* " .... have you been to Mongolia ? "

Short but nice meeting with Altansukh Demberel , who had just set up his exhibition in the nearby art gallery.

* Honestly , this time I was going for normal , but in the end it was so much easier having a unchu sewn up in Manju ka Tilla , than slogging in to the center of Delhi finding a new fleece jacket .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Exotism 2.0

Exotism 2.0

Momentary displacement : I wake up with a corner of the bhikkubag grating in to my face. Three narrow shafts of light . A black helmet floating under under white globes suspended from the roof. Right, that´s it , I´m back in the prison again.

Three hours later a mindgrating peppy wake up call erupts from a bed across the room. Bald guy in opposite bunk erupts in to a frantic Homer Simpson pantomine , flapping blankets, elusive cell phone and all ... and lands in perfect lotus position and holds it for twenty minutes. Books. Covers. Etc.

Later I sift through sound clips from Ladakh , sitting in one of the walled in pie formed walk yards that now is part of the youth hostel cafe.There is surreal shift between two different perspectives in the reshaped environment of the prison : prison culture puns ("captivating accomodation" "cellphones ") , and Beagle Boys outfits sold to the visitors , mixed with a museum of social history. This is also the end point of Swedens history of capital punishment in 1910. I guess that´s also exotic in a way. Interestingly enough it meant Sweden in actual practice preceded Tibet, but not in law : the death penalty was not banned in the Swedish constitution until 1921 , whereas the second major decision of the 13th Dalai Lama was the abolishment of the death penalty in 1913, and later a clause against cruel and unjust punishments. *

I´ve had a few of these alienated moments lately , seeing my life as it would be presented in a guide book . I guess one of the starting points was when I saw a recent edition of Lonely Planet Scandinavia , with a cover shot of the Northern Lights over the mountain hut in Låktatjåkkå : home ground turned in to post cards.

Came out of work Sunday , walked by Gammlia museum grounds , went to buy fresh bread : white cotton dresses swooshing over the wooden floor boards , naked feet with nail polish , the unleavened breads dancing in and out of the stone oven , paralell conversations over cellphones and IRL : picking up kids , teenager boys first girlfriend.... I guess this is our competing shot with the Non-German Bakeries.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


The view from behind Dalai Lama´s throne at the new Sakya monastery in Kaza.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Waiting for Kundun

Waiting for Dalai Lama to arrive for the teachings at the new Sera monastery in Kaza , July 10th.

Monday, July 06, 2009

always ask..

Beginnings are worst times. Which of the eleven trails , all heading in about the right direction, is the right one ? Or just run it staright from the map ..
Asking gives me everything I need to know from an old lady plus an offer of second breakfast.

Going up I have moments of doubts : why leave the green valley for another rock strewn pass. Lokking down at my feet i just see rubble. Lifting my head I se the shocking transformations from greay to purple to pink. Big rhubarby leaves hanging from sheer sides , with growths I suddenly realize are to become the white , round leaves that comes out so beautiful onthe Himachali hats. The smell of not quite mint , not quite juniper I associate with Spiti. Big bees with jet black wings, thumb thick bodies and narrow bands of yellow.

Around 3900, after it has started to get really steep , I gett buffed by high winds which I take as a good sign : surely the pas must be really near. It comes out as not 3950 as on my map , but 3986 according to the GPS. At the time it felt important.

Nice lhatse with prayer flags ... that looks off in some way. Coming closer I see flags with triangular form, no images and names .. european names. After a short moment of disbelief the knife comes out .

Later i bring it up in Rizong monastery and gets a friendly tap on the shoulder " Don't worry , this is not a problem. " This is of course right in the religious perspective : nothing becomes undone by covering the lhatse , but does remain a problem for the communities involved , both travellers and Ladakhis.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Boyle´s Law

Chips bags are the unofficial altimeters in the Indian Himalayas, this time seen above Marhi (3300-ish ) , headung towards the Rothang La.

(Boyles´s law is the rule governing exploding shampoo bottles in Nepal , drinking champagne in deep mines and the care of patients with pneumothorax in airplanes : "For a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, P [pressure] and V [volume] are inversely proportional (while one increases, the other decreases)" )


Food package

I was walking down de road (actually , the narrow maze of alleys in Manju ka Tilla that put definite limits to your BMI and karma , or both ) the other day when I was blessed. It came in the form of a white polyethene bag being closed with a snapping move, handed over by one of the the guys in shorts and flipflops near the temple square.

" Here , you take this."
" ?..."
"It is a blessing."

I peer in to the mixed blessing , balloonish from the trapped air . The only thing I can make out is a two centiliter pack of Frooti Juice. No one else is being blessed at the moment , no clues in that way of how you actually handle white poly bag blessings.

Thanks is not the answer , shorts man clearly doesn't want the act polluted by gratitude : "You take it " is the only answer to my question. Move along.

Later , waiting for the bus to Manali, I break it open . First thing is a real blessing , a perfectly ripe sunwarm mango . One cut pole to pole with the knife , and a gentle tug makes a perfect bowl where the slices gently fall : that goes to the nun next to me. Less perfect deal with the kernel half : I've always been the messy one.

(Mundane matters : twentyfive minutes from the wheels hitting the ground at IGI airport in Delhi to loading my pack in the cab , ninety minutes to hitting the bed in Manju - including bucket shower. New glasses , a wool unchu for the cooler nights that probably won't come , bus out the next evening to Manali , some twelve hours. Sleeping in Vashisht, 2098 meters. )

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Stay with me now : this is the Tibetan rap band Namchak , playing together with vocal trio Ache Tsendep. The later have a thing for elaborate hats , both traditional and white cowboy model.

The lyrics .. seems to contain some longing references to Lithang , which would point to Tsanyang Gyatso , the Sixth Dalai Lama. ( Edit : "white crane , borrow me your wings " - The Sixth talking of coming death , and home sickness )

On top of that there is a distinct Hindi accent breaking through in the body language , the famous head wobble going trans-himalayan.

The later may seem the fruit of my imagination , but Hindi and Nepali has been a part of the Lhasa street scene for a looong time. Bollywood films are a staple item in stalls around the Jokhang. The love songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama are loved by all sections of Tibetan society , and frequently republished. Bilangual editions easily found in Dhasa , Manju ka Tilla etc. Stallion On A Frozen Lake is one the most intersting new(ish) translations.