Second part of three. Please go >here< to go to Part 1
Blessed Relief. I slept well with no nightmares, visitations or illnesses occurring. Phew! Must have been down to the hundreds of prayer wheels I span in place of actually finding an open monastery to exorcise my guilt.
It’s a bright crisp dazzling morning with one of those high altitude electric blue skies. As I pass the gate to the Kirti Gompa I realize I’m already out of breath, a reminder that Langmusi is three thousand three hundred metres above sea level and that the shades and hat need to stay firmly on for the day.
The monastery occupies the valley on the Sichuan side of town consisting of numerous temples of varying size, colour and age. The village-like community of small white houses follows the road towards the Namo Gorge and its breath-taking scenery is often compared to the rural Alpine areas of Austria. Nice!
There are large stone ovens dotted across both sides of the area for burning juniper. On the crest of the hillside, from the vantage point of one of the small temples my ears pick up on a strange sound. Through the smoke haze, across the other side, at least a hundred monks are outside one of the main temples all shouting and hitting themselves. Indeed you can hear the distinctive slapping clearly and it’s one of the most bizarre sights you’ll ever see.
Making my way down, I get a closer look peering around the corner of one of the out-buildings. It’s a truly fascinating spectacle. I’m later told by some of the locals that they are actually debating particular words and text in Buddhist philosophy. They aren’t hitting themselves, rather it’s a sharp slap on the arm or clap is meant to grab the attention of the listener.
Finding a comfortable wall some ways off, I’m able to sit back and take in the site from a distance. The morning is however, suddenly interrupted by a large number of Chinese tourists in day-glow outdoor gear, who flock to the monks like a heard of sheep. They then proceed to snap away with their cameras, mobile phones and tablets at point blank range with absolutely zero consideration for their ‘subject matter’. Some of them have telescopic zoom lenses which they shove in the faces of the monks who continue to with their debate as if the tourists aren’t there. I know for a fact though that nearly all the monks strongly dislike this. Well who wouldn’t?
To see the monks in action (from a distance) check out my short vid on YouTube >>click here<<
I must say that I hate this behaviour with a passion having coined the phrase ‘TWAF’ or Taking (photos) Without Asking First. For a previous detailed analysis of this crap behaviour check out this post Are You a TWAF? >>click here<<. This insanely unthoughtful and shameful attitude to photography was already on full display in Xiahe when I observed a single woman in prayer outside a temple surrounded by TWAFs shooting a couple of feet away from her.
This is however, a golden opportunity to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Standing up I remove my camera from its bag and move towards them looking for my first target. Approaching the pack, I pick out a guy who is down on one knee level with a monk at head height and start taking photos of him.
“No!” he shouts, gesturing for me to move away.
“What you don’t like it? Ni bu xihuan ma?” I laugh continuing to take photos.
Standing up he moves away and repositions himself though is clearly hindered by my following him. At one point I get really close taking several shots before moving on to the next victim. By now, having clocked at what I’m doing, the group has dispersed in attempt to get away and continue shooting. I pick out another target who is holding up her tablet and get some excellent shots.
“No!” she barks, looking really pissed off. At this point I’m really enjoying myself and even a couple of the monks smile at me. Maybe they haven’t seen anyone doing this before. And so it goes on. Since this time I’ve had several quality gold star moments involving TWAFs and have been able to analyse their behaviour via video footage. Hilarious.
Be careful if you’re snapping away when I’m around mate I can tell you.