Oct 11, 2005

Tibet trip story: the monastic ram

In Lhasa, Tibet, I was walking around the nearly-deserted Drepung Monastery late in the afternoon, trying to return to the main entrance so I could hike the one hour kora (pilgrimage circuit) before sunset. I was still deep in the interior of the monastery and it was hard to make out which building was which. The monastery complex is essentially a small city, and it's easy to get lost.

I came across two boys around 12 years old in age, one of them a monk-in-training and the other his friend, who, using a combination of Mandarin and my very limited Tibetan, helped point me in the right direction. As they guided me through the labyrinth of narrow alleys between the monastery buildings, we spotted an adult ram, about 100 pounds or so, with long, sharp horns. He was repeatedly charging at full speed into a padlocked wooden door. The young monk and his friend immediately lost interest in helping me, the foreign tourist, and began the more exciting game of Terrorize the Ram.

The monk's friend yelled several times at the ram to get its attention, but failed to distract it. Then the boy threw some small stones at it. The ram finally stopped charging at the door, turned around slowly to face us, and gave the boy an antagonistic death-stare. The ram just stood there, not moving, staring with its pointy horns aimed at the boy. The boy interpreted the ram's angry look to mean “I want to play more”. He then ran up alongside the ram and grabbed its horns like a Texas steer-wrangler. After several minutes of alternately restraining the ram's head by its horns and shaking it abruptly, the boy let go.

The previously introverted ram could take no more abuse. At this point it angrily bounded down the stairs and started to chase the three of us through the narrow corridor, Pamplona running-of-the-bulls-style. I was motivated to keep running by a strong desire not to experience a tetanus shot and stitches in the Lhasa hospital. A stab wound in the backside from two razor-sharp horns would be rather painful.

After several minutes of running, Mr. Ram stopped to rest, and it was again time for the boy to wrestle with the ram. The boy approached from the front, in front of the ram's face, and grabbed its horns. To the boy's back was the locked wooden door of another monastery building. Unlike the first horn-wrangling, this time the ram wasn't going to take the abuse without a fight. With the boy holding on to the horns, the ram charged forward and slammed the boy into the door, over and over again, with a resounding whumph sound. The boy had no choice but to hold on tightly or he'd get horned in the gut. The strength of the ram was very impressive. It wasn't as passive and weak as I had though, in fact it was overpowering the boy. After body-slamming the boy several more times, the ram rested again. The boys sprinted down the corridor past me, enticing the ram to chase after us again. This meant that I also had to run to keep up because otherwise the first person it came across would be rammed.

This cycle of antagonizing-chasing-running continued several more times. Eventually the boy held the ram by its horns so I could get by, and I was able to escape. Who ever thought monastery life could be this exciting?


Blogger absolutED said...

are you serious????

8:05 PM  

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