The Monks Debate-Sera Monastery, Tibet

dsc01371

One of the most interesting things I witnessed in Tibet occurred at the Sera Monastery. Sera sits just outside of the city of Lhasa. It is considered to be one of the three great monasteries of the Gelug University Monasteries in the country. Founded in 1419 it was once a huge complex at which over 6,000 monks resided but during the 1959 revolt much of it was destroyed and hundreds of monks were killed.

One of the things that this particular monastery is well-known for is the monk debates. The debates occur between the monks and their teachers with a prescribed set of rules. The defender(student) is asked a question regarding Buddhist philosophy by the teacher. His job is make and defend his argument. Meanwhile, the teachers attempt to trap a student into following the wrong line of the argument by creating places in the argument which can confuse the defender. The students sit on the ground, wrapped in their red robes, while asked question after question for hours. The brain power that has to be used is immense and it drained my few working brain cells rather quickly.

This is a startling place because when a question is asked of the student a loud clap is made with the teacher striking his left palm with that of his right. When the question is answered correctly the teachers brings his right hand to his left palm while sliding it down with a slap. With an incorrect answer the palm goes down and slides into the air near the student encouraging him to try again. And all of this isn’t done in a stagnant manner. The teachers arch, sway, jump and make grand body movements as they question the student in an attempt to rattle him. The noise is incredible with the slapping sounds reverberating against the walls of the courtyard and the gravel crunching under kicking feet.

Here are my favorite pictures of our afternoon spent at Sera. This is one of those times that I think I should upgrade so I could show the video I made of this amazing debate. It was one of those once in a lifetime events that makes you happily question the meaning of life for yourself while being thankful that there is no one intimidating you by the slap of a hand.

dsc01481

dsc01457

Advertisements

The Port at Bodrum-Bodrum, Turkey

One sweltering hot day in the middle of the Grecian summer we decided we needed to get away. But where should be go? Being on an island did not offer many opportunities but as our friendly hotel manager pointed out there was one place we could go while visiting a new country to boot …so we booked passage to Bodrum Turkey on the ferry and took off the next morning.

Now I live in a state known for its high temperatures and I am used to the heat. Yet, it was so hot the day we went that even the boat skipping over the cool water provided little relief. The cross breezes were so mild that blowing my own hot air cooled the air around me more than the breeze coming off the water. It was sweltering, so I took to dipping my shirt in the water to cool down; the effect not long lasting as it would be dry within 10 minutes. But the water was crystal inky blue and the birds dived along beside the boat making  for a memorable ride as the parched hills seemed to rise higher the closer we came to Turkey’s shore. But what I remember most was when St. Peter’s Castle a/k/a Bodrum Castle suddenly appear on the horizon….now that was a site! And then slowly the harbor around which it is perched came into view. Oh, the anticipation of seeing what was in this ancient port city stirred the fire in my belly.

DSC09691

After disembarking we stood in line, passports in hard, waiting to have them stamped. I guess we looked harmless enough because they let us in. Sometimes that still astounds me… that whole letting me in process. Really….me?!!!!!!

With landing completed we joined the throng of tourists also taking a day trip to this fascinating country. Boats with flags of all colors and countries lined the dock. Some were sleek, some dingy, but all were magnificent in their own way. We turned towards the castle.

DSC09698

Construction on Bodrum Castle began in 1402 by the Knights Of St. John. Each langue of the Order had its own tower and each had their own distinct style. The castle was built with plenty of twists and turns in order to keep enemy soldiers at bay. It served as a sanctuary for Christians throughout the area for over a century.

Then in 1962 the Turkish Government decided to turn the castle into a museum called the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. It houses one of the biggest collections of ancient glassware in the world and contains relics from the 12th century BC. Ship excavations are detailed and the treasures that can be found through the many rooms of the castle are truly a site to see.

images-8

Back outside the port area bustles. Tourist shops line the street, small restaurants and craftsmen ply their trade.

DSC09710

                                                         I found this sign slightly humorous

Little side streets and alleyways beckon you to explore a little deeper into the heart of the city.

 

This is a photo of an artist whose pictures we admired and bought several from him which hang in our home today.  Such a sweet, friendly and talented man!

DSC09837

You will find just about anything you want here (except really good shade) so shop carefully because undoubtedly you’ll find the same item cheaper further on down the street.

While in Bodrum we took one of the tour buses. That is a story itself which I will save for another time. But if you are ever in the area I would recommend a stop at Bodrum. In fact, if I had to do it all again I would have spent several days in and around this area of Turkey only this time I would forego traveling there during the intense heat of the summer. And because is a land where ancient and modern meet,  you never know just what surprises await you but they are sure to be memorable.

DSC09846

DSC09851

DSC09709

HINTS: This is not a cheap excursion. It costs a little less than $40 USD round trip for the ferry.

HINTS: The Museums are closed on Mondays. The entrance fee to Bodrum Castle is approximately $9 USD.

Best Neolithic Site-County Meath, Ireland

Sitting high on a hill in the Boyne Valley sits Newgrange; one of the ancient wonders of the world. It is an amazing place that sets your imagination on fire as it takes you back to a place so old that most people have never seen anything remotely like it before. Built before both the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge; this burial mound is over 5,000 years old, but like a shy maiden you would never guess her age, for she has aged well.

We drove to the site which overlooks this valley carved out of hills with running streams throughout. This place is truly out in the middle of nowhere. Traveling down a steep road we could get glimpses of the massive site through the trees as we neared the Bru na Boinne Visitor Center. Here we bought the tickets necessary to board the bus that takes you to Newgrange itself. But while waiting we viewed depicting life as it was lived so long ago by the Neolithic people. Most exhibits here focus on how the tombs were built, why they were built, and how they were used. The architecture here is superb with glass walls allowing visitors to take in the picture perfect views of the Valley. In addition, there is a small tea room to sit, take a snack, and just enjoy all that surrounds you.

After about 20 minutes of coffee sipping, we boarded the shuttle bus and were taken to Newgrange. I was amazed at the size of the mound which encompasses about an acre. Spying out of the bus windows you see enormous retaining wall that is surrounded by artfully carved kerbstones. There are many standing stones ringing the mound that add a sense of mystery to the place but it seems that they are a newer addition having been placed there sometime in the Bronze Age.

DSC05390

DSC05385

From the bus we walked quite a way to the entrance where we were met by a guide who described all we could see and would be seeing inside the chamber, which incidentally, only takes up a small part of the over-all site. But by far the most interesting thing about Newgrange is the roof-box which sits directly over the entrance. The Neolithic people designed this narrow space to align with the sun so that on December 21st (Winter Solstice) the first of the sun’s rays pass through the box, extend down the passage and into the chamber. The chamber then lites up and glows for about 15 minutes before being consumed by the darkness once again.  Both burnt and unburnt bone have been discovered here leading researchers to believe that bodies some bodies had been cremated before being placed in the passage.

DSC05387

This is a place where the spirit and the intensions of the ancient live on. It is a site where hilly ground keeps treasures and secrets buried but still “seen.” It is a place where those who enjoy the mysterious should venture. Newgrange…remember the name!