Today we celebrated Losar, the Tibetan year year, here in Phortse. In reality, there are several Losars falling on several different dates due to local customs (and apparently some reasons related to a long ago Tibetan king of some sort). The new year celebrated in Phortse is Sonam Losar. With all the various starts to the new year pin-pointing a specific date can be quite challenging. So, some Nepalis are not certain of their actual birth date (whatever “actual” means) so passport applications can be challenging. For simplicity sake, I’m going to call today Wednesday, January 21, 2015. The most unique aspect of our celebration today was that we had chang porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast. Chang is the local homebrew “beer” made from rice or millet. I like the stuff but seriously doubt I’ll ask for it specifically on porridge in the future…
We had another puja, or blessing ceremony, today outside near the ice climbs. The local Lama made the long walk to the climbs to perform the ceremony. Today’s ceremony was essentially the same as the one we had at our opening on day 1. On that first day, though, the puja was held at the monastery and asked for protection and forgiveness from any transgressions that occur in the local area. The puja today was to ask for protection and forgiveness in the area around the ice climbs. We also were able to stack much of our climbing equipment at the site so that it, too, was blessed during the puja.
There was a lot of chanting by the lama and other Sherpas. As I normally do, I sat with them during the ceremony although I don’t really know what’s going on. As the ceremony concludes, we eat a lot of food that is served: coconut crunchies (cookies), half and orange, small pieces of fry bread, and a Hall’s cough drop. The most unique food involved is phamar, a type of cake made of flour, butter, sugar, and a bit of salt. The cake is used in virtually all Sherpa ceremonies: pujas like today, weddings, funerals, etc. The cake is brown in color, shaped as a cone or mountain, and quite firm. It is cut into small pieces that are eaten by hand. The pictures show the phamar at the puja as well as being cut into pieces by one of our students. I’ve included a close-up specifically for my friend, Keith, a Gerber knife designer, who worked with me to produce a KCC Gerber knife for our climbing instructors. The KCC logo has been laser-etched onto the blade. Our instructors love the knives and are extremely appreciative. Thanks, Keith!!
Another ritual, rather light-hearted, is the smearing of flour or tsampa onto to everyone’s faces. This is to encourage everyone to “live long enough that your beard grows white”. Perhaps it began with all men but women are included, too.
Actual climbing began today and everyone was excited to get going. As everyone returns to the village late this afternoon I can see that they had a good time but are a bit tired, not a bad thing. Tomorrow will be another full day for everyone.
All the best,