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December 2017 - Update from Nepal

At the end of October early November I was able to arrange my visit to Khumbu and up to Tengboche for the Mani Rimdu festival over the full moon period of November.

My flight to Lukla was at the end of October, with the main days of Mani Rimdu, that are open to the people, being at the time of full moon ( Nov.) I had plenty of time to come up to date with my Sherpa friends in Lukla and along the way.

I was very pleased, as usual, to see all my Sherpa friends along the way and at Tengboche and with no group commitments I was able to have an extended time there assisting my friends in the Tashi Delek lodge we have been associated with since my first visit and also helping the Lama’s during the festival.

This festival is held on or around the full moon of either October or November each year depending on the Sherpa/Tibetan calendar, this year it was early November. For the Lama's (Monks) of the Monastery the festival is conducted inside the monastery for a total of fifteen days, with four final days at full moon time available to the public. These public days are very special for the local Sherpa people and many attend from the villages in Khumbu. They are also an opportunity for foreign visitors to see this particular aspect of Sherpa Culture.

I arrived at Tengboche a few days before the main ceremonies began and it was already busy with all the lodges saying they would be full for the next few weeks. Local people were also beginning to arrive and the usual traders that come at this time were setting up their tents etc. The weather was fine in the mornings with good views of surrounding mountains, including AmaDablam and Everest. As often at Tengboche it was cloudier later in the day and of course, at this altitude, cold most of the time.

These four days of the festival are made up of the first day when the Lama's practice the dances in the Monastery Courtyard, without the masks and costumes used on the main day, this is open to the public, but the Monastery at this time is closed. The second day is the 'Wong' or Blessing Day when the Ringpoche (Reincarnate Head Lama of the Monastery) gives blessing to the local Sherpa people and others at a ceremony in the afternoon outside of the main Monastery. The third day is when the Lama's perform the many dances of Mani Rimdu in their elaborate masks and costumes, these dances are to show Good against Evil and continue for most of the day. In between the dances are comic interludes that always amuse and delight the crowds of local Sherpa's as well as foreign tourists. After these dances end in the evening the Sherpa people from the local villages enjoy their own traditional dancing and singing in the Monastery courtyard until the early hours of the morning. On the last day, a fire ceremony is performed by the Lama's to dispel all the harm in the world. This tradition has continued since the monastery was first built.

My visits to Tengboche are always a special experience for me but this one was even more so, I was able to be there for ten days to cover the main Festival days, I was honoured, yet again, to meet with the Ringpoche (Reincarnate Head Lama of the Monastery) on five occasions, three of these being invited for dinner in his small house, and others during his free time. I also had an invitation to take part in a ceremony inside the Monastery at 05.30 on the morning of the Blessing Day which was only for the Lama's and some other local Sherpa people; we were all given a personal blessing from the Ringpoche. On the practice day and the main dance day I was also asked to assist one of the Lama's with ticket sales to foreign tourists for entry into the Monastery Courtyard for the dance ceremony. This ticket charge acts as a donation to the Monastery and helps with the work of the Monastery and everyday expenses etc.

In the evenings, and for all the days during and after the end of the Festival that I stayed, I was able to assist my long time Sherpa friends at the Tashi Delek Lodge, helping out as required in the kitchen and elsewhere as necessary. With tourists and trekkers returning to the Khumbu generally, and Tengboche specifically, after the earthquake and political difficulties of two years ago, it was good to see the lodges busy.

Altogether a very special time spent with all my Sherpa friends at Tengboche.

My trek back to Lukla was fine, once again meeting with some Sherpa friends I had not seen for some years, as well as the lodge owners and other friends. I had some spare days in Lukla before my return flight to Kathmandu and was able to spend them with Sherpa friends in and around the village and my long time friends in Mera Lodge who have looked after me and our groups now for many years; it is always a pleasure to stay and to share their hospitality.

Back in Kathmandu there were many things that had to be attended to before my scheduled departure on 24 November and friends to visit before I left. Generally throughout Nepal at this time, following the local elections earlier in the year, the upcoming government elections were dominating the news and many peoples daily life was being disrupted in many parts of the country.

Political situation:

As indicated government elections were scheduled in two phases for 26 November and 07 December, covering the whole country in the two phases. Later in December, after my return to UK, as the results came in on the various Nepal news media sites, it was clear that an alliance of two of the Maoist (communist) parties had received the most votes and would be forming the new government eventually. These two parties have both led the government in recent years. However as always with Nepal Politicians it is again going to be a case of ‘wait and see’ what, if any, improvement they bring to the people of the country.

Nepal Trekking in Nepal:

Even after almost two years the road works are still not finished and continue to cause problems for travel around the area of Kapan as well as many others in Kathmandu.

All is well with the family in Kapan. Kunga Doma achieved good pass results in her year 10 exams earlier in the year she has now joined one of the local colleges in Kathmandu for years 11 and 12, she has chosen a course with a bias towards business studies. There are no specific plans for what may follow these two years but we just have to see how it all works out.

Tshiring is now in the last year of his four year Bachelor Information Technology course and has been doing some work experience with a local company during this last year as part of his course. Together with four other friends, who he has been with as a group throughout the course, he is also looking to the future with possible plans to stay together after the course perhaps with some business venture. They have progressed to making websites and providing various technology services. We have to wait and see what their efforts bring in the future. However, for the immediate future, during these last six months of the course, they all have to concentrate and work hard for their final exams in a few months time.

Generally Tshiring has done well throughout his course and once again we will just have to see how it all works out.

As always we are very grateful to everyone who gives us support for our work direct in Nepal. Support both financially and with the continued supply of clothing for children and adults in the villages and in Kathmandu. This is an ongoing project and if any donations of funding or good used clothing for children, teenagers and adults (small and medium sizes are best for adults) are available please contact Denis any time to arrange. Direct funding is always required, specifically for Education Funding which I hope you may be able to assist with a donation. Our projects are ongoing and we look forward to continued support in the months and years ahead. If you can help with any of our projects, or if you require any further information, please contact Denis direct (email and phone details enclosed). You can Make a Difference.

Denis Gallagher
Nepal Trekking
December 2017