Ma Janchu, Kathmandu
Bholi parsi aune chhu
Ma doctor ba ne ra.
Ma Janchu, Kathmandu
Bholi parsi aune chhu
Ma doctor ba ne ra.
Yesterday afternoon, as I was waiting for my luggage to arrive, I scouted online for some things to see in Singapore. I ran across a very brief comment about a temple here that was on someone’s MUST DO WHILE YOU ARE IN SINGAPORE lists. It was the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temple on Waterloo street. It was mentioned that wishing something in here makes the wish come true and that there is a fairly complicated process for paying your respects here (at least complicated for the uninitiated, like me). I made a mental note to check it out at some point and then called a cab to take me to Bugis Village.
After walking through the mosh pit market I found myself on, what I thought to be, a quieter, but still quite populated, part of the market. And then I literally looked up and discovered I was right in the presence of the temple I had just read about. I sat and watched what people did on the outside of the temple for a while before deciding I would go in myself. I did not see a single other westerner approach the temple at any time…but something inside me was dying to go in and see for myself. I went to a woman selling lotus flowers nearby and purchased one that I assumed would be an offering of some sort. The flower was so beautiful that I wanted to take it home. I have never seen a lotus flower in person before.
As I entered the outer vestibule of the temple, I followed everyone else in picking up joss sticks (an incense stick) and walking over to the fire to light them. A kind man there, who was lighting his own sticks) literally lifted mine away from the fire and told me in the sweetest voice that I needed three, not two. That only three would bring me the luck I needed. I thanked him and brought a third back and he showed me the correct way to light them and, once they lit, told me to hold them and how to pray and place them before entering the temple. Which I did. I did not realize at the time that I was praying to Quan Yin.
Once I had placed the burning joss sticks into the sand in front of the temple, I entered tentatively. The place had hundreds of people, inside and out. A stunning golden statue of Quan Yin stood at the back of this temple behind a wooden counter filled with flower pots. I followed everyone else to the front, bypassing the large red carpet positioned in front of the goddess on the floor…filled with prostrate worshippers.
At the front, I noticed a donation box and put in my donation as I placed the lotus flower in one of the pots nearest to me. I then did as everyone else did and walked over to men behind another counter with brass containers holding maybe 100 wooden divinations sticks and red divination stones of some kind. Then I turned and walked over the carpet, on a side just a little less populated than the one I had entered on. I stood and watched what the people did and almost decided to return the sticks and red stones, when a female official of some kind approached me and said “I will help you.”
Here I am. Clearly a clueless westerner, and this kind woman offer to teach me what to do. I remove my shoes and kneel as she instructs in broken English. “Now you pray, in your heart, to her. Tell her what you want and what you want to know. She will answer you.” And pray I did.
Being in a room with so many clearly faithful people fills you with a reverence that is hard to define. Their prayer was intense and focused. Their hearts were reaching out to this goddess of mercy. I felt her there. I did not have a problem praying to her.
Once I felt sufficiently connected, my guide in the process instructed me to shake the box until only one of the sticks fell from it. This is more difficult than it sounds and, while other more accomplished worshippers completed the task in moments, it took me some time. Finally I felt the motion and a stick dropped out on the floor before me.
I gathered my things, as instructed and headed to the same counter where I had picked up the sticks in the first place. I handed them the stick that had dropped before me and they handed me a piece of paper with the goddesses words for me. The counsel I got was perfect, but less important than the entire process had been for me.
I walked out and crossed the street to sit on a wall and witness the people coming out. I had stumbled into another world and I was not quite ready to return to the bustling mayhem of Bugis Village. I took the only picture you are allowed to take of the temple, which is outside…but the statue of Quan Yin is etched in my brain. She was that beautiful… infused with the wishes and dreams of millions of devoted who had bowed before her.
I felt lucky to have been a part of this. The details I share here are really not sufficient to deliver the impact of the experience of entering a place of mercy, a place packed with the faithful and being gently guided through the process of seeking your own answers. I believe I got mine in the faces and love shown to me in the process.
I am blessed.
The caves were strange, funny, interesting, and magnificent. (WARNING: this is picture heavy.)
This is the first thing you see as you enter the side gate:
This is Hanuman. You see him first as you enter from the station. Another very good reason to not take the taxi. You could easily miss him altogether and that would be a shame. He is worth seeing.
I think I took nearly 100 pictures here, I will only put a few. But it is a shame to see it piece meal like this.
Here are some pictures of the characters in the epic battle told here.
Here are the 272 steps, straight up, to the caves.
The giant golden statue to the right of the steps is Lord Murugan, the Hindu Diety, proudly standing guard to the temples dedicated to him. And the pictures do not do him justice, of course. He is so imposing that I did not notice the shrine to the left of the entrance until we descended from the caves.
I’m not gonna lie. The walk up was intense. These are not gentle slopping stairs and the hike up is not for the delicate. I went anyway. 🙂 But at the top is an impressive cave, with ceilings 100 meters high and temples and shrines scattered about. There is also, oddly, a substantial souvenir stand. Selling all kinds of shrine souvenirs as well as general KL souvenirs. In this moment, I am kicking myself for not having purchased one of the insane pieces of wall art, featuring any one of the deities represented in the shrine in a plastic frame with lightning bolt lights blinking around them. What was I thinking?
I took lots of pictures. Here are two of them.
I am dying to know if this is Kali. If she is, she looks quite different than I have seen her represented. But she is clearly standing on a man…
It was at the top of the stairs that I felt a twinge of disappointment. All these beautiful, reverent pieces around and still I am disappointed. Because there were no monkeys. Not one. Perhaps I had come at the wrong time of the day…but I read nothing of this in the descriptions of the place. Perhaps they had been chased away. Perhaps what I had read was old. In any case, I looked and looked and did not see a single one.
We descended and at the bottom, it began to sprinkle just a bit and we were about to leave when I decided I wanted just one more shot of Lord Murugan. As I began snapping shots, Dorothea, the German student I was exploring with, whispered, “the monkeys.”
I looked up and there they were. Bananas in hand, they sat among the shrines that told the stories and scouted the crowd to see who was the most likely “mark.” I was mesmerized.
The trip was full, more than I could have anticipated really. So I was ready to go. The sky had become more threatening, and, to be frank, as cool as it sounded, I was not that excited about going to the bird sanctuary as I had planned. I scoured the map the hotel had given me and found a place called the “Malaysian Craft Cultural Center” which was described as a recreation of a traditional Malaysian village with traditional Malaysian crafts being demonstrated and sold. Why had no one told me of this? I changed my plans. I would head over to this place, despite the threatening weather. I said goodbye to Dorothea, who was heading off to kaoroke with her friends, and set off on my next adventure. Starting in KL Sentral Station.
This is Moose.
OK, he is not actually a bear, but it took me a minute to make sense of his size when I first encountered him. This was not my first time meeting a Bouvier de Flanders (a very formal name for the very bearish moose to be sure). I have loved them since I first laid eyes on one…years and years ago.
As Tina finished getting ready to go to breakfast that first morning in Wimberley, I took my camera outside to see what worked in my baby photographer’s eye. I thought that surely this place would make me feel like a brilliant photographer. Surely here I could just swing the camera around and capture magic in every image. Ha.
Magic was there, though. Only not in my lens. As I stepped off the front porch I saw the movement of something large and black behind the car. I froze…not in fear, but curiosity. How was it possible that a bear cub was here? A black bear cub, no less. In Wimberley? Then a very timid Moose peeked out from behind and I fell in love.
Clearly unaware of his impressive size, Moose timidly approached me as if it were me that was all muscle, teeth and black eyes peering from behind mounds of hair. When I reached out to pet him, he backed up as if I would strike him. In my eagerness I had forgotten the dog-approach rules. No eye contact…let them smell you first…no smiling (showing teeth)…raise hand, palm up, to nose for approval. When he approached again, I was ready. We became fast friends.
In fairness to Moose, who is a gentle soul, the picture above was taken as Moose played by the creek. He followed me and Tina down as we strolled down to sit in chairs and listen to the wind. Moose played in the water and ran around and around like a wild thing. I took many pictures. This is one of my faves because it is so out of character. The dog in this picture would scare the hell out of Moose. My skills at photography were quite challenged by moose. He is so dark that many pictures ended up looking like a mass of fur. The best pictures I got were with him playing with Tina.
Tina said at one point that, in order to get into my pictures that weekend, she had to be standing next to Moose. And, while it is true that I was just a little obsessed with this gorgeous dog, I took lots of pictures of her as well.
Almost a year ago, Tina and I had just returned from our latest trip to the desert. I was preparing mentally for surgery and the weeks following when I would be on “bed rest.” It was a strange time for us, to be sure. And into the mix came Mondo Beyondo.
Mondo Beyondo is an online course in dreaming big. Over five weeks, Jen Lemen and Andrea Scher walked us, and 300 others, through the process of reawakening the parts of us that imagine amazing lives full of adventure and rewards. For five weeks, we focused on what is possible, as opposed to what is probable.
Something shifted for me during that class and the past year has been a wild ride. At least internally.
It never occurred to me to go through this exercise with the kids for some reason until Jen suggested it to us recently. She gave us the process and we sat down with our kids this past weekend and had them make their own list of the possible, not probable.
Here they are making their lists.
The results were stunning.
I promised them I would not share them with anyone without asking, but trust me…they have some really cool stuff on them. I shared some of my list with them too. So did Tina.
Our conversations have changed as a result. I am regularly finding myself in discussions with them now about cool things they want to do. And not things like “Go to Disney World” (which was noticeably absent from all three lists). More adventurous things like travel to exotic and remote locales and adrenaline rush type of physical activities. I am finding out more about them every day. And man, they are cool.
I am hoping all their Mondo Beyondo dreams come true. In any case, we are dreaming into our future together. And it feels better that way.
P.S. If you have not taken Mondo Beyondo already, get on it. For 99 bucks you can find out for yourself what big dreams are lurking in your heart.