To Christopher George! (This was to be my blog of April 17 but I was way under the weather)
In honor of this your 31st birthday a Lama arrived from Pangbouche and preformed our Puja ceremony. The Sherpa will not climb until a Puja has been preformed. A Puja begins as a solumn affair with prayers and blessings for mour climb. The Lama blesses rice which is thrown on the stupa, a sort of stone altar that our Sherpa erected before we arrived. It is prominent in our campsite and is the first item built after shelter. Rice wine is blessed and poured on the top of the stupa which is adorned with prayer flags and khata (shawls or scarves of cream satin) and every where the stones are dabbed with Sherpa butter. We sit crossed legged next to the Lama who has an alter at his feet with wine, water and something red in which he dips an ostrich feather and sprinkles it on the the stupa and on us. It is a wonderful, emotional ceremony. Our climbing Sherpa, Dawa jumps up and in the center of the stupa erects a pole much like a May pole with hundreds of colorful prayer flags spinning in all directions. Theses strings of flags are suspended over the entire encampment. This was followed by load chants and all the Sherpa were involved. A special string of flags was added to the pole, the prayer flags the kids from Mr. Cleere’s class made for me. The now proudly fly over our tents as paret of our Puja ceremony.
Along with the prayer flags all our climbing equipment, axes, crampons, harness rest next to the stupa. And! a pile of Boston Red Sox ball caps! Incense burns, rice is thrown and out comes the Jack Daniels! It was offered in capfulls so I was able to put my finger in it and not have to partake in too m uch. Somehow between the flu and altitude I think I would have been a wreck!
Ah but ours wasn’t just any Puja! Our Puja lasted well into the late afternoon with singing and dancing and a new record for the longest Puja. Obviously others drank way more than that original capfull! Newcomers to the celebration were decorated with flour on their shoulders and faces””May you grow old enough that your hair grows long and your beard is gray!”
The Lama had long since returned to his village but our Puja was held on this particular date, April 17 on purpose, in honor of my Christopher so the ceremony ended with a huge crowd all with beer in hand yelling to the mountain top!!! “To Christopher George!”