Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta monastery. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta monastery. Mostrar todas las entradas

jueves, 18 de agosto de 2016

The monastery

   The poor creature did it al by itself. It had carried the body of a lost hiker after almost dying in an avalanche. The donkey was exhausted and collapsed after crossing the gate of the monastery. Monk Yato was crossing the yard in order to get to the kitchen and was the first one to see the poor animal and the person it had brought to them. By the touch of his fingers, Yato noticed the donkey had died. It was probably due to exhaustion. As far as the man was concerned, Yato and other monks carried him to one of the rooms.

 He was in some kind of coma for almost a week. Every so often, monks would check on him and realize that he was doing great except for the fact that he was fast asleep. But life in the mountains went on, no matter how interesting it was to have someone from the outside so close by. The younger monks were the most curious ones, whereas the older ones hadn’t cared yet and had decided not to visit the tourist at all

During that week, the monks held a small vigil for the soul of the donkey, which they had buried near the main temple of the monastery. They all appreciated a lot what animals could do for humanity and had a tremendous respect for any kind of life that was lost during accidents in the mountains. The men from beyond didn’t seem too convinced by this but the monks believed it with all their hearts.

 One week after, the hiker woke up in the middle of the night. His name was Greg Emerson and he had been climbing almost every single mountain nearby. It was very dangerous as some of the mountains had special regulations but it had been clear he didn’t care about it, at all. When he woke up in the small room they had put him in, he instantly thought he had been captured by some foreign force from beyond the mountain range. He had no idea of monks or their beliefs.

 The halls were being watched and his bedroom’s window overlooked a large chasm with no apparent bottom. The morning after, when one of the monks decided to check on him, Greg committed the mistake of being excessively aggressive. He thought he was too strong, so he released the man in order to stand up and run away. But the monk had not being that injured and jumped at him, tacking Greg to the ground with ease.

 He was locked up in the cell once again and no one came to tell him anything for a whole day. It was very late when he noticed the movement of a light behind his cell’s door and then some steps. He trusted he was going to be released real soon. When the door opened, it was the Grand Monk, a very small mall that seemed to move his legs really fast in order to move at a normal pace.

 When he entered the cell, he told Greg that he knew who he was, his full name, his job in the city and why he had come to the mountains. He even knew that that his reason for wanting to get to know the mountains and nature was false and that’s why he had been confined to that cell until he got better. Now that he was, they had to check if it was in their best interest to release him or if it was better to keep him for a longer time. He complained, saying it wasn’t legal and ethic to retain someone against their will but the Grand Monk clarified he could leave his room but not the monastery.

 The following day, he noticed the Grand Monk’s orders had been honest: no more monks came to check into him and the door of his cell was now wide open. He could walk all around the various levels of the monastery, including the dining room where all of the monks gather at night to have a very sensible and small dinner. Greg missed the real foods from the city, sometimes being hungry for a hotdog and other times for some pasta with meatballs. In the monastery there was only a lame kind of bread with nothing on it and some goat cheese.

 One day, a monk showed him the burying site of the donkey that had brought him to the monastery. Greg remembered that creature and thanked him on his grave for having saved him. As far as he could remember, he had been riding the donkey for a while through the mountains just when they had been caught by one of those awful storms that sometimes happens deep in the mountains. During that awful weather, he had been knocked out and the animal had done everything by itself. 

 Weeks after being “released” from his room, the Grand Monk ordered him to participate in the various activities that the monks did all around the monastery, as he was one more of them for at least a while. So they decided to try him in various areas. The first one was the garden, a small hydroponic plantation overlooking the chasm. He wasn’t very good with plants so he did not do a great job. Besides, his hand were not at all delicate and he was always distracted, looking over at the view or being apparently immersed in his thoughts about how he would return to civilization.

 The next place they tied him on was the goat pen. It was really simple: he only had to fee them twice a day and let the roam around the main yard for a while. The ideal walk for the goats would be to go beyond the gate but they couldn’t let him go with them there so the monk had to tolerate the goats being all over the place now and Greg being useless when feeding them. He only gave food to a couple of them and then he just got distracted when looking at the snowy mountains and imagining what his loved ones were thinking right then.

 His last opportunity was in the kitchen, where a big Monk called Hitso, taught him about how to make the simple bread they ate and how to do some other dished with the vegetables they grew in their small garden.  They didn’t have any modern appliances, only an oven that used wood but there was no wood nearby that they could use. Beside, Hitso explained to Greg that the monks preferred not to eat things that were cooked, instead eating everything raw.

 In the kitchen, Greg really felt he was a little bit happier. Maybe it was the fact that he was serving the monks and that gave him some kind of purpose or it may have been the fact that he had stopped thinking about how to escape and about his loved ones in the city. He just realized that the monastery was his reality at the moment and that it was best to use it in his advantage instead of always being distracted by other things.

 Greg began to enjoy the company of all the monks and even tried to meditate like they did but he wasn’t that calm yet. In his spare time, he would look at the chasm and wonder what marvels laid down there, beyond the light of the sun. Monk Yato explained to him that the monastery had been built right there because their religion believed an ancient evil slept beneath the darkness of the chasm and that it was necessary to have prepared religious people nearby in order to defend the world once whatever lived down there emerged.

 It was a very nice story and, of course, Greg didn’t believe any part of it but he respected the fact that the monks were dedicated to their beliefs. He began thinking that maybe that was something he was lacking. He didn’t believe in anything except fame and fortune and going on to the next thing. Greg was very impatient and had always been like that. He wasn’t the kind of person to wait patiently to see what happened. No, he was the one “creating” his future. Now he was doing the opposite angle.

 Months after arriving in the temple, the Grand Monk called Greg to his room and told him he was ready to go back to the outside world. The young man nodded but then he knelt and asked the old monk to let him stay with them and become a monk like them. He wanted to learn their ways and be calm and a better person.


 But the Grand Monk said that couldn’t be. He had to go back to the outside because he had unresolved business there. Greg had to attend to that and, if he still wanted, he could comeback afterwards and join them. Greg left that same afternoon. He would never come back to the monastery but would always remember what he had learned and try to pass it on.

sábado, 27 de septiembre de 2014

Mount Athos

My name is John Tiberius Johnson. I was born in Exeter (England) and from a young age, I've loved to explore: I had a tree house built by my own hands, I had small canoe in which I explore calm rivers and their banks and I always had the company of Akakios, my labrador.

Thanks to my parents and my persistence, I went on to study anthropology and archaeology. I love ancient civilizations as well as contemporary ones, just watching how people have had different solutions for the same problem and even the same solutions, being separated by thousands of kilometers.

Working for the British Museum, a dream of mine that was fulfilled by a "enlightened" thesis on the customs of the North American peoples, I got to travel a lot, all around the globe.
I saw the Great Wall of China, the pyramids in Egypt, the massive forests of Indonesia, the majestic Machu Picchu and so many more.

But this time I want to tell you about a small part of the world. Many, won't even know it exists. It is called Mount Athos.

Resting on one of the "fingers" of the Chakidiki peninsula, Mount Athos is a strange place. First of all, it's an autonomous region from the rest of Greece. They have a different way of doing things there.

Second, the place is filled with monasteries, all around the peninsula. Beautiful forests unite the sites.

Third, one must get a special permit to enter Mount Athos. It is called a diamonētērion. And, most curious, only men are allowed there.

Preparing for my journey, I travelled to Thessaloniki and applied for my permit, which would allow me to stay and the Megisti Lavra monastery for as a week.

I decided to walk all around the city, waiting for the permit. On one of those outings, around an open market, a strange gypsy woman almost threw herself and me and asked to read my hand. I refused but she insisted and I was bored so I complied. After paying her 5 euros, she grabbed my hand and told me I should avoid facing God soon, as death was near.

A bit annoyed, I went on with my walking. Coincidence or not, a old man looked at me with crazy eyes and spoke fast and loud in greek. Being rusty in the language I could only understand two words: "avoid" and "danger".

Looking to forget all about these weird encounters I went to my hotel and had a nice calm dinner.

After a week of my request, they called me to say the permit had been approved. So I went to pick up the strange sheet. There, I was told to travel to Ierissos, where I would board a ferry to Mount Athos.

I have to say the boat ride was even better than I imagined: the view was not to be missed. Mount Athos, the actual mountain, looked massive but calm and peaceful from the boat. I was traveling with two others: Alex, a photographer for National Geographic and Cedric, a french travel journalist.

When we got to the dock, a small wooden structure on a rocky beach, we were received by a lonely young monk who told us to follow him. It was short walk to Megisti Lavra, as the place rests just above a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea.

We were shown our bedrooms and the bathroom we would share and told us we could only remain on the monastery or inside its boundaries. Alex then intervened, saying he had been authorized to go hiking, in order to take pictures from the mount. The young monk asked him for his permit, read it for himself in whole and then gave it back. He bowed and then left them in their rooms.

Day one, I went to the main temple and asked to see the manuscripts. They were held in a small library, feeling a bit uneasy as a monk was asked to guard my stay in the room.
I was baffled by the writings, and then by codices. They were a treasure I had wanted to see for long. I took notes for work as well as some photographies, although my guard didn't seem to like that.

Then, a scream. A truly awful, heartbreaking scream. I carefully put away the codex that I was making notes about and went out the main courtyard with my guard. He then indicated me to go to the monasteries main entrance. The place was beautiful, adorned with olive trees and small hedges.

Then, we saw: Alex was running towards the gate. The monks let him in and he fainted in front of me.
Hours later he woke up and told us he had seeing a body laying in the road to the mountain. A group of monks left to check it out. When they left he told me that the man he saw did not have a face, crushed by rocks or something. He was trembling so I accompanied him until Cedric came back from the a stroll down the shore.

Then the leader of the congregation came and asked us to remain in our chambers for the day as something had occurred. Then Alex asked for the body and the man told us that it appeared to be an assassination. They had even found a big rock tainted with blood.

During the next few days, I had to accompany Alex, with two monk guards, to take his pictures. We ascended part of Mount Athos and, although astonished by the beauty of the place, my mind was still wondering about the killing.

So it was a surprise when we came back to the monastery and they told us we were going to stay under lock and something had, once again, occurred. 

They had arranged a large room with three beds for all of us and the leader of the monks came again. It had happened they had found another body, this time on the water, just floating by the monastery. They had voted to enclose us for our safety and because we were considered suspects.

 - We were on the Mount!
 - Mr. Cedric wasn't...
 - I was walking with one of your guards!

But then the monk pulled out something from his pocket. Kept in a white cloth, he showed us an object and I recognized the knife immediately: it had been a gift by the director of a museum I had been to in China. A dagger made in times of the Tang dinasty. The only difference was that this dagger was tainted in blood.

And blood was the thing that drained out from my face, as I realized I was trapped here, no way to get out.