Holy Porridge

namgel-12Nomads on horseback herding sheep clockwise around our tent woke us with the gentle tinkling of their horse’s bells. I gazed out from our storm-battered tent up into cloudy heavens that were casting dark gray shadows across the teal blue sea of lake Koko Nor. The grasslands in between shone a luminescent green, salted with sheep and peppered black with yaks. This was our kitchen in which we would prepare our first holy porridge –  ground  already scared when the  pre-buddhist Bon still spun  prayer wheels backwards and  pilgrimaged widdershins around lakes and mountains.
A demon from Lhasa created Koko Nor from from an underground tunnel, reported travel writer Peter Flemming on his Tsampa fueled journey through what was in 1933 called Tartary.
“Just south of Kokonor”  was also where Sonam Gyatso, a Gelugpa Lama travelling from Lhasa met and taught the feared Mongolian Altan Khan, descendent of Ghenghis, to adopt a peaceful life of Buddhism. Gratefully, the Altan Khan who had been searching for a dramatic and  face-saving way to retire peacefully,

bestowed on him the Mongolian honorifc Dalai Lama –  meaning Vast and Oceanic  –  and began the conversion of the worlds most violent culture to one preaching non suffering.

triptych

Namgel our driver had immediately hurled kata scarves into the lake on our arrrival the day before. Jamian puntsok had prostrated then danced a jig on its shore, and now I was mentally drawing the holy waters of the lake in which to simmer our oats whilst simultaneously in the physical realm of what some would call reality pouring bottled Nongfu mineral water from the Xining Square supermarket into the pot, on a gas burner which i had sheltered with a mani-pile of luggae from the wind that was whipping accross the lake.

The gas burned hot and the oats in this mini universe of a pot melted into gloop just like the windows on the monasteries on the lakes western shore where the early comunist overnemnt had tested their first A bomb.
Chunks of banana created crters as i dropedd them from height. saltanas rained down. I was the god of the porridge cooling the damage with a gentle rain of ultra heat treated milk.

A nomad on a motorcycle had come to inquire about our colourful tents storm worthiness, if we had the latest Harry Potter translated into tibetan, and if we would like a decent breakfast.

I decanted the porridge into porcelain bowls decorated with auspicious Tibetan symbols. “Get your laughing gear around this ‘ere flaming pearl-decorated bowl of Scotland style tsampa,”  i offered the visitor.
“Gua den che, mergoo” – thanks but no thanks,  he politely declined. Three times he said no, so we knew he really didn’t want it.
Us westerners slurped with relish. Jamian Punsok and Namgel, feigned an enthusiasm whcih reminded me of my own first forays into Tsampa. They declined seconds.
A little honey might charm their pallates, i thought, wondering where on this big wide grassland one might find some bees.
We washed the oats down and the bowls clan with coffee – namgel and JP preference for the sugary 3 in 1 instant sachets of nescafe, to my plunged Movenpick springwater swiss espresso backed up my suspicions of a stokholm sydrome at work on their tastebuds.

Reluctantly, we packed up our bowls, waved to the yaks, the sheep and gave thanks to their nomad masters leaving the grasslands for the tarmac and our next porridge adventure.
“Stop” I yelled, just as we had gathered speed.
“Honey! Look, its everywhere!”. It was as if the lake, or the buddha, (though hopefully not the demon), had answered my request. Road side honey sellers with boxes of bees buzzing in the flowering grasslands, lined the road.
“You are going to love tomorrows breakfast I promised Namjel and Jamian Punsok, as we began our ascent of the first pass from Kokonor, accross to the great desert plain toward the Holy Mountain of Amnye Machen.

namgel-10

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