Monday, January 22, 2007

The best things in life are those that are unplanned and unexpected.My day at the Sea Festival yesterday was one of those experiences. It was the second day of the annual festival. Saturday had seen me there from 9am to set up our feed and change tent and it was already raining then. As the day went on, the rain did too but it didn't dampen the fun that visitors were there to have. It did minimise the attendance of our target market so the tent was not utilised as much as normal. But the families who did were very grateful.Originally I had planned to stay until the close at 10pm, but by 6pm the rain had turned really serious and I thought there was not much point. So I headed home leaving the tent in place under the watchful eyes of the security team.Sunday was due to kick off at 12pm so I got down there at 11am, prepared for the worst - we now had major wind gusts coming off the sea and I fully expected to be told our marquee had blown away! Well, almost! The frame was still standing, but some poor soul had the task of packing up all the sides and other equipment which were stacked neatly alongside!

The organisers were pushed to the limit as hired marquees and others like ours were flapping. They did their best to work out a solution for ours but in the end it was not to be. I suddenly found myself with the whole afternoon free to enjoy the festival: the wind died to a managable strong breeze, the rain held off and the sun even came out for a while. I could have gone home and come back at 5pm to collect the stuff, but I had enjoyed my free time on the Saturday so thought I would make the most of it.One key part of the event was the Gyuto Monks of Tibet. Six wonderful men spent the two days experiencing every weather extreme possible, from the relative safety of their large marquee. I had visited a couple of times the day before, but Sunday I was able to attend their harmonic chanting medititation and other talks as well as continue watching their painstaking work creating a mandala from coloured sand.

There was such a peace surrounding these men, especially elder monk who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Dalai Lama himself, which led to much specualtion among the crowd. However, as he sat directly below a large photo of His Holiness, I was able to compare and see tiny variations in nose and lips, but they are remarkably alike.

I didn't spend the whole day in "Tibet" as there were other tempations aplenty. Our sister city in Japan, Susuno, had a wonderful group of musicians and dancers who had also travelled just to be at the festival. The procession from the Susuno tent to the stage was a wonderful experence, and I found myself with some great positions to capture photos! I have fallen in love with one smiling Japanese who I saw often over the weekend and always, always bore his wonderful grin!Africa was not to be forgotton as the drum beat was audible above all else. Today's drummers were led by a marvelous African man, only upstaged by a young girl who may be his daughter, whose rythmic dancing held the crowd's delight. Of course, there was food! After all, Neptune's Table is a key part of the weekend! Saturday's lunch had been Indian - tandoori chicken with naan bread and a mango lassi, which as a perfect prelude to the Bollywood dancing later. Sunday I went Mediteranian with a wood fired pizza topped with goat's cheese, sun dried tomatoes and capsicum. My dessert came from NZ, in the form of icecream! Afternoon tea was a second Platypus Bill - my first the day before was apple and cinnamon, this one walnut and maple. A flat pastry cooked in oil like a donut and then smothered in the topping of choice ...... I am sure they are not low fat, but who cares?????The weather became more bearble in the mid afternoon, so I wandered down to the shoreline and indulged my inner child by paddling along the beach! I even found a treasure washed up by the storm - a golden Thomas the Tank Engine!!!!! As I walked, I realised I was leaving wonderful footprints in the sand, just like they show in magazines so I whipped out my camera and captured my very own for a scrapbook page. I sat at the edge of the sand dunes for around 15 minutes, completely alone with only the sounds of the "surf", which is meditation in it's own right. I then wandered back for a final appointment with the monks.The mandala was complete and their time with us drawing to an end. The final stage was a ritual of returning the sand to nature. After some more chanting, they swept some of the coloured sands into a ritual vase then we processed behind them to the creekside jetty in increasingly howling wind and light rain! The festival was winding up around us, but the dedicated stuck with the monks. A near miss wardrobe malfunction nearly saw their headresses fly into Kananook Creek! A bit more chanting and then the elder monk poured the sand onto the water - at which instant the clouds opened with deluge of rain! (The Tibetan interpreter - a bit of a comedian - assured us this was just the plan, as they were praying for our drought to break!) The crowd muttered a little about timing and then less elegantly processed back to the marquee for the final leg. More chanting and then some water from the creek was used to clean the surface that held the mandala, so completing the circle. We then each recieved a twist of paper holding grains of the coloured sands, now blessed with healing powers by the touch of the monks.Outside, the gods were giving us as much wind and rain as they could summon, while frantic event staff packed up! Rod and Kaitlyn arrived and we threw all our stuff into the back of the car and beat a hasty retreat home!A gloriously indulgent long hot shower and to bed! I have new Tibetan prayer flags to replace my aging set, an orange tshirt with a quote from the Dalai Lama and a wall hanging with another quote. And wonderful memories of my visit to Tibet!!!!!!

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