Peru 🇵🇪 October 2011

//Part 5 of 8 //

In almost every single town we visited, the streets were abuzz with some kind of event.

Arequipa – 18 October : a procession for Damas Descalzas

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   Puno – 20 October : The 20th anniversary of the School of Civil Engineering at Universidad Andina Nestor Cáceres Velásquez

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Cuzco – 25 October: a night procession

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Cusco – 28 October : the School of Fine Arts at Universidad Nacional de Bellas Artes “Diego Quispe Tito” del Cusco has taken over the streets     *

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Huancayo – 30 October : Sunday’s morning weekly parade at the Plaza di Armas**

30 kms from Huancayo and about 40 minutes drive, our afternoon visit to the Convent of Santa Rosa de Ocopa was delayed because we came across a procession we couldn’t bypass … and then the procession and our big bus were slowed down due to the closure of some roads in order not to damage the flower carpets that have been laid for the occasion on the tarmac of some streets. The sand carpet in the photo was at the entrance of the Convent.

💔Lima – 31 October: national day of the “ Canción Criolla” (Native Song) is celebrated with native waltzes, polkas, Creole music……for us it was another celebration, the last celebration but I didn’t take any photo🤦🏻‍♀️…well, it was our last day, we arrived to the capital city towards the end of the day after a 10 hours train journey …I was tired, running out of space on my camera’s memory card, running out of time before dinner, and practically running to cross the piazza where our bus was waiting for us. All these reasons and another factor, I call it “BTFAW” – Been There For A While – having been accustomed now to all these streets happenings, we tend to get selective regarding the scenes worth shooting and so refrain from rushing with the camera at each single flash of colour or every sound of music…🤷🏻‍♀️

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Boun That Luang Festival -Vientiane, Laos 🇱🇦 24 November 2007

// Part 4 of 8 //

It is the most important Buddhist celebration in Laos. It’s held in That Luang temple during the full moon of the twelfth month of the Buddhist calendar and gathers thousands of people from all the provinces.

The pilgrims assemble at dawn as early as 5:00 AM- to distribute alms to the hundreds of monks who converge from around the country.

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Long before reaching the temple, we had an idea of the situation inside…the crowd had taken over the street leading to the stupa and we could distinguish :

⁃ the devotees seated on plastic mats, entire families, old and young in their best attires, their offerings proudly in front of them.

⁃ the monks standing pragmatically behind the tables “entrusted “ with their offering bowls which would soon be replenished thanks to the passersby’s generosity. Some of them contained paper money, a symbol of prosperity.

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Female Buddhist monks

⁃ the offering stands where one has the choice to buy flowers (mostly orange), food (rice, dried fish, water bottles) and even birds which will certainly rejoice at being set free.

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With a central structure’s height of 45m, That Luang is the biggest and most famous stupa in Laos. Considered a national symbol, it was built in 1566 by the king Setthathirah and has relics of the Buddha. We got in through one of the 4 cardinal doors and tried to find a way between the faithful seated on the floor. We might’ve been the only tourists, however our presence didn’t affect the religious fervor of the moment. The seated crowd was oblivious to our presence and preferred to listen to the sermon and ignored our intrusion.

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At the end of the sermon, the monks took their places in a stationary row while the faithful started a parallel moving queue.

And this is how the offerings bought outside were moved from one row to the other…

Following this finale, we moved outside the temple, our senses satiated by the kaleidoscope of colours, sounds and smells and eager to start the visit of the capital…

The Novice Festival – Bagan, Myanmar 🇲🇲 February 2005

//Part 2 of 8//

A beautiful morning in the temple city of Bagan, the scheduled visit to the Nan Kaba Pagoda – VIII – near Myin Kaba village turned out to be much more than we bargained for. Once there, our curiosity was aroused by incongruously loud music 🎶.

Nonplussed, our guide was quick to explain that it should be the Shin Pyu, the festival of the novices because it’s the season 😳🤔🤷🏻‍♀️Our confusion didn’t last, dispelled by the following flood of information…we were in a village celebrating the most important event in the life of a Burmese: his entry to a monastery. As not everyone can partake in the noble endeavor of the minority wishing to become a monk, there is a way to experience the latter lifestyle: every male should stay in a Buddhist monastery as a novice monk for a certain period of time whether for a week, a month, three months or more, and his noviciat brings blessings to his family.

This important event is celebrated with a big party, the Shin Pyu. Our guide pointed out that we were lucky to be visiting during this month and witness the celebrations as February, March and April are the post- harvest, Shin Pyu season : the funds earned from the sale of the rice subsidize the costly ceremony. Sometimes, many parents- the case today – join efforts to finance their children’s pre-noviciat celebrations.

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With this acquired knowledge, we watched with great interest the adults clad in a kaleidoscope of colours and a plethora of textiles, mostly silk, parading in front of us in two parallel rows.They appeared to be the parents, carrying in front of them the noviciat’s belongings, 8 necessary objects : an alms bowl, a razor, a fan, an umbrella, a sewing needle, and the 3 items of clothing that make up the monk’s outfit.

The adults were followed by the novices dressed like young princes in rich colours, with a paper crown on their head.

After a rushed photoshoot, we came to terms with our program, and entered half heartedly the overlooked temple .

However, as soon as we exited the pagoda, we were reunited with the stars du jour, now each one riding a beautifully decorated horse and accompanied by an umbrella-holding attendant to shield him from the sun.

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A déjà vu situation: we left them reluctantly in order to resume our interrupted scheduled visits and trusted our guide to take us back later to watch the ceremony.

Eventually, much later, towards the end of the day, we made it to the party in full swing. Guided by the loud music, we reached the pandal, an erected shelter where dancing and singing were taking place. We were the only “party crashers “ i.e. non Burmese spectators, however people made place for us. We watched with great interest the novices being blessed by a holy man, observed him performing the rituals that followed. Later on, we joined in the fun, enjoyed the party, and cheered the 2 entertainers who alternated their parts on the stage.

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We left before the novices got their heads shaved, and wondering will it be here or in the monastery?