Day 15 - 17
The climbing team finally makes it back to Namshe Bazzar. We sleep over night, trek down to Lukla, and are to stay another night then fly to Kathmandu… if we’re lucky. Planes are cancelled in Lukla on a regular basis when the weather turns, sometimes several days in a row. When we arrive in Lukla, a group of trekkers at the teahouse we’re staying at are agitated. They keep getting bumped from their flights and now they’ve been waiting for a week to be boarded on a plane. When their guide informs them they’ve been bumped again, two women start crying and one begins to furiously argue with her guide. Finally their guide leaves in a huff. We’re watching from our own little table while drinking tea. Tim just shrugs; he’s seen this so many times doing this trek for so many years. Then suddenly the other guide runs back and frantically waves the women to follow him. He’s just secured their seats on the next plane. Now they are all huggy and kissy again.
We are lucky. We catch the plane we are scheduled to catch, and finally we’re back in Kathmandu. We are to stay a few more nights then fly home. (Tim wisely suggested we book a few days grace in case we were bumped in Lukla.) We have all lost weight on this adventure, and have become a little wiser. Especially Jason. He tells me he was surprised and appalled by his reaction when Will began throwing up and stopped the team from summiting Lobuche. Jason was willing, no wanting to leave Will for 4 hours in the falling snow and cold… just so he could reach the summit. After he came to his senses, Jason realized that he was actually going to selfishly leave Will in a life-threatening situation, and he was disturbed by that thought for days. It’s called Summit Fever, a common psychological condition people get when trying to summit Everest or any extreme mountain summit. They abandon all care for others and themselves to summit at all cost. And people die from it. Tim had to drag a fist-flying, verbally abusive, incoherent man down the mountain who was going to die in the death zone on Everest if Tim left him. It was a good wakeup call for all of us on what the mind can do to you, especially Jason who will be attempting to summit Everest in May.
Today I am to meet the Bon Po Priest. We walk though the back alleys of Kathmandu, away from the tourist district past people washing their laundry in pools of water that drain from broken pipes, past crumbled buildings still not repaired from the earthquake.
We go through another alley and upstairs into a small dark room where the Bon Po is sitting lotus style on a platform-type chair with three people sitting on the floor below him, their backs against the wall as they line up for healing. The Bon Po lives in this room and his tiny bed is pushed up against his chair. He is a young man, in his 30’s, I think. He wears the saffron robe, but also ornate rings on his fingers and has hair on his head rather than a shaved head as Buddhist monks have. Even his beads that are draped around his neck seem flamboyant. He almost looks like a hippie version of a Buddhist monk.
Each person takes their turn for first a “reading”, then followed by a healing session through blessings and recommendations for diets, or adopting new habits or ways of living, etc. As they take turns to sit in front of him, their heads are level with the Bon Po’s feet and he has to bend over his folded legs to touch their heads or place ochre on their foreheads. One woman, I learn through my interpreter, has digestion problems. Another woman’s son doesn’t want to go to school. The third seeker is a man on a return visit for sore knees.
For the first woman the Bon Po chants as he lights a twig with fine branches and fans the smoke across her faces. The sparks fly into her closed eyes and when he’s done, she rubs her reddened eyes. He then searches into his cache of herbs and takes a root for her to eat. For the second woman he flicks holy water at her head and shoulders followed by a blessing, then pours some of the holy water into her cupped hands that she drinks. During the man’s healing session, the Bon Po’s mobile phone rings. The Bon Po answers his phone and chats while holding the phone with one hand and massaging each bead on his string of prayer beads with the other, then (while still on the phone) dig through his bundle of herbs. I’m a little amazed watching, not even my friend’s teenage daughter multitasks with her mobile phone so well! The Bon Po then hangs up and taps his client on the head with what looks like a miniature broom.
Then it’s my turn. I sit in front of him, and new people enter and line up behind me. I’m not allowed to video or take pictures of the Bon Po, but I am able to talk about anything I want through Visey, our interpreter. The Bon Po explains that the Bon Po, at least the sect he belongs to, are similar yet different than Buddhist monks in many ways. One difference is that they can grow their hair, and a big difference is that they believe in shamanism when sometimes a deity enters their bodies. During this time, the Bon Po channels the god or goddess to cure illness or expel demons. Many become Bon Po because a deity lures them into the forest where they remain in isolation and meditate for months on their own to eventually become a priest with shamanistic powers. This particular Bon Po didn’t have that happen. For him, another Bon Po saw that he had special powers and recruited him. I learn that his sect of Bon Po believe in black magic and demons, and they even have a Book of Black Magic, but I must never read it, as it’s very dangerous.
Now it’s time for my reading. The first thing he says makes the women behind me giggle. I look at my interpreter and he says that I’m the major decision maker in the house… or that I should be, then gives my husband who sits behind me an apologetic shrug. I just smile and think, I’m going to like this reading! The Bon Po does some more personal attributes, then moves on to my film project. Visey asks for me if the Bon Po will bless our film project and the Bon Po answers by talking for a long time. When he is done, Visey looks at me as if amazed. Visey tells me that the Bon Po says that the film will be successful if we make the film follow a particular storyline. What amazes Visey is that the Bon Po has repeated the exact storyline that I told Visey the film would follow. We’re on the right track!
Finally the Bon Po blesses me. He burns a twig and waves the smoke over me, then takes the tiny pitcher of holy water and pours some into my cupped hands for me to drink. Finally he takes red ochre and with his finger, dabs it on my hairline.
He wraps a small amount in newspaper and tells me to take the ochre with me and put it on my hairline just before I’m about to direct a film. If I do this, it will give me power and success.
I take it and put it right beside my passport. Hey, in this industry, you take whatever help you can get!