Before I forget them. I want to write down a few other things that happened to me when visiting the Tibetian community.
On the way to the Golden temple, the german girl and I met a monk - eager to learn english. I was intially rather irked by the fact he joined us, as it meant an end to my hopeless attempts at flirting with the young lady accompanying me. However, all was not lost, as I had now made a tibetian friend.
Clearly, he wanted to practice his english - and I wanted to learn a bit about his community - and so for the 3/4km walk to the temple, we chatted... I quizzed him on the english words for body parts/vegetables for sale at stalls on the way/and random nature-ish things that we could see - sort of like an I Spy with my little eye, only used as an English lesson.
In return, he sort of explained a bit about his life there.
However, at one point, a cow that had until then, been happily chewing a random plant at the side of the road, decided to jump forward at us quite rapidly... we all reacted, jumped back, to which, our new monk friend shouted out "Shit, Cow!"
I suppose I'm used to the idea of catholic priests swearing (and drinking, and who knows what else) but for some reason, hearing a buddhist monk swear was sort of similar to hearing your grandparents swear... it's just something you never expected to hear.
The Internet in town was oh so slow.. at times, 10-15 computers all sharing one dial up modem. However, it did give me the chance to make friends with another monk... This one spoke english with an American accent, called me "Man", and as the manager of the Monestary controlled internet cafe, controlled the mp3 playlist (Eminem and the Backstreet Boys being high on his list). He had learned english by watching movies at his friend's house, and given that his language skills were quite good, he was able to explain one of the stranger sights I saw....
On my last evening in the town, on my way back to my guesthouse, I walked by one of the main Monestary buildings...in the huge courtyard, were a good 100-200 monks. It was night time, and so there were streetlights illuminating the action.
Individual monks were sitting down on blankets (which were on top of the cobblestones), while one or two other monks stood above them, shouting, and then every so often, would run forward, swing their right hand (as if to slap them), only to withdraw their hand, and slap their own left hand instead.
It was quite a sight... a hundred monks being shouted at, and clearly threatened with violence, over, and over, by older monks - quite a strange thing for a group of people that are supposed to be pacificts.
However, my American accented friend later told me that this was an exam.. each student was being asked questions, and the shouting and fake slapping was an attempt to put them under stress. If the students could keep calm, and answer correctly under such a situation, then they would pass.
Without his translation, I never would have guessed...