Teaser 319: Meeting Lobsang With His Change in Plan

Entering the tea shop, greeted by the voices of customers and workers alike and the pungent but pleasing smell of tea and incense, there was but one monk toward the back of the shop, perusing the packages of tea on shelves before him and holding one to his face to smell it. Turning toward us the monk smiled contagiously, placed the package in its space on the shelf, and clasped his hands together and bowed to us once. We both returned the gesture. Walking toward us, the monk engaged a man who appeared to be the shopkeeper, spoke to the shopkeeper and bowed, and that gesture was returned by the shopkeeper. He was but feet away when he looked to Chodak and spoke.

Chodak glanced to me and softly said, “He said, 'Come.'”

I turned as the monk passed us and gestured for Chodak to follow and I followed both out the door. Onto the walk the monk turned right, opposite where we had come, and we walked in an unhurried manner, often watching others reach us and clasp their hands and bow as we passed, and we returned the gesture. We crossed several streets until, before us, was a courtyard, like a small park, with six monks gathered, most sitting on the ground with legs crossed, talking, some laughing, of various ages, all with hair most recently shaved and behaving, generally, with childish exuberance. There were others in and around the courtyard, some engaging the monks, but it was all carefree with many smiles and laughter all around. The monk led us to the group of monks and we were greeted with clasped hands and head bows, Chodak and I returned the gestures, and one of the monks sitting, whose withered face seemed both ancient and infant, smiled as he gestured for us to sit next to him. We did so with Chodak between us.

The ancient one engaged Chodak and spoke in Tibetan, just as the others had spoken in Tibetan. Chodak turned to me and translated, “He said he is pleased to meet the miller.”

There was a pause of a few moments until the ancient one stared into my face and using careful English remarked, “The one called 'Hess.' Long have we awaited the miller...Years we have awaited his return.” He glanced all around at the other monks and Chodak and spoke in Tibetan, which caused them all to laugh uproariously, even Chodak.

Chodak gathered his composure and translated, “He said, 'You don't move very fast.'” I laughed and smiled at the ancient one, who was smiling quite deviously.

“I am Lobsang,” the ancient one addressed me. He pronounced it “LOW-song.” “Tomorrow we meet here after your morning meal.” He spoke to all in Tibetan, resulting in much laughter again.

Chodak translated, “Lobsang said, 'We wait patiently. The miller moves like turtle, deliberate but very slow!'” I certainly felt in good company, the butt of endless jokes.

The ancient one spoke and when he finished, Chodak translated, “Tomorrow Lobsang will take you to Sera to meet the lama, Tashi.” Immediately when Chodak was silent, Lobsang spoke one more time. Chodak, listening intently, turned to me and stated, “Lama Tashi travels often to Kirti Kalari Gon Tashi Lhundrub.” Yes, there are lots of names which have essentially the same meaning in Tibet and what used to be Tibet. Kirti Kalari Gon Tashi Lhundrub, to me, meant Gerdeng.

Lobsang laughed and the others joined him. He engaged my inquisitive gaze. “Now, the miller has plan. Even turtle can reach Ngawa.” He smiled infectiously, clasped his hands and bowed his head as I returned the gesture. I was slowly learning, like a turtle, monks love a joke and they can turn a metaphor with the best. Chodak and I rose and left them all smiling and displaying their endless exuberance as we walked back the way we had come to the hotel. There were, along the way, quite a few Chinese in various uniforms, and you can see them as frequently as you can see monks. The Chinese in uniforms don't smile as much. You notice it right away.

- Just Desserts, Segment FortyTibet Calling” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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