Just for starters, I’m eating samosa chaat prepared by a food stall at Bhat Beitani, the large grocery (Indian owned chain) store next to where I had just picked up my laundry. Two samosas smothered in chopped onions, chana masala, tamarind sauce, chili sauce, yoghurt and something crunchy on top. I’d post a picture, but it’s mostly already gone.
That was right after I finally, and after considerable research, found what must be the best deal for a hotel in Thamel: The International Guest House. Why have I been looking? Because on April 30, I depart this Sherpa homestay where I am now and must account for the rest of my time here somewhere else. Why is it the best deal? I thought you’d never ask. It’s on the edge of Thamel, enclosed in its own walled courtyard, a multi-story brick wonder secluded from the noise and traffic of the rest of the tourist zone. What is barely even a road leading to its front gate, and the dirty and disintegrating sign outside belie the wonder within.
. Beautiful greens festoon the inner gate area. The lobby, dining area, sitting areas throughout are full of carved wood in the historic Nepali style of the signature temples, Bhaktapur and Basantapur. Beautiful buddhist art adorns the lobby and public areas including tankas, statuary set in niches in the walls, a manicured garden, and the walls surrounding the garden add to the historic ambience. Replicas of famous portraits of Nepali kings line the stairwells. The rooms are similarly designed with Nepali style rugs on the floor and similar bed coverings. I could definitely spend two weeks here. And, their internet is twice as fast as any other I’ve used. One Actual Megabyte per Second ( as opposed to 512kbs). But I haven’t even gotten to the best parts. This morning I took off looking for Osel Ling Monastery near Swayambunath. The guide book says take a small road across the street from Buddha Park at the foot of Swayambu, go to the end and start climbing the steps. I climbed and climbed the steps, then the road, the rocky paths, checking with people all the way to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Finally, a half-hour later, after huffing and puffing myself up a long stone-paved road switching back and forth and climbing relentlessly upward, I saw the gate. Sure enough, Tergar Oselling. There were monks lounging either alone or in groups. A large, three story dormitory-looking building is nearing completion. There is already a three-story dorm housing 120 monks, so it appears a major expansion is underway. On the surrounding hills overlooking the valley, I counted at least four additional monasteries within view, each clearly designed as such. This was not even counting additional monasteries within sight in the city downhill from my vantage point.
I approached the main sanctuary and entered. At the altar was a picture of Mingyur Rinpoche. Of course! I did not know this place as “Tergar” until I arrived. But this monastery was built by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. His sone Tsoknyi Ronpoche was the abbot until he gave it to his brother Mingyur’s in 2010. Mingyur is a very popular teacher with a global following. Interestingly, no one knows exactly where Mingyur is right now. He has been on solitary retreat for four years now. I approached a monk for some direction, asking the names of the monasteries up and down the hills. After our chat, he asked if I would like to joint them for lunch. Well, of course. And a delicious lunch it was, rice, stir-fried okra, chili sauce, something doughy with onions and pomegranate seeds. What a sweet aftertaste.
I wandered into a side yard with my plate and sat down at a stone table with a monk who turned out to be one of the main teachers. We chatted for 15-20 minutes, he asking me about my travels. I showed him pictures of Crestone, my blog and told him of Tsoknyi’s teaching activities. He told me he has been a monk since he was twelve. He is only thirty now, but studied for 12 years, then went to Dharamsala and elsewhere in south India for 3 years before coming to Oselling 3 years ago.
Before parting, he asked me if I had a Tibetan name. I said no, I did not. He decided I should have a Tibetan name. I wondered how he could give me a Tibetan name without knowing me. He said he did not think that was an obstacle. So right out of the blue he gives me the name of Tongnyi, which he says means emptiness. OK, he’s not saying I am empty. He’s saying my name means emptiness, something that all buddhists seek to realize. But really, a sweet visit to share lunch with one of the teachers at Tergar Oselling. And I am now honored to have a Tibetan name.
But the day was not done. I traveled all the way from east Kathmandu to the west side, a 40 minute ride, to meet Aryan at his office, where I went through my entire climate science presentation with seven college students who are interning there. I got a chance to see their reactions, talk to them about their impressions and to make prudent and appropriate editorial plans. We are scheduled to present three of the four presentations to about 60 social work students on Tuesday. We came to agreement about the entire event and we will be prepared.
From there I went to Thamel, as I have already described. My day was also auspicious in that I did not hit anything or anyone. It did not rain until after I got home. I was warm. We had power. There is hot water. What more could I possibly ask?
Tomorrow I will finalize my plans for traveling to Muktinath.