"On your way to mardi gras?"
He smiled that little smile I usually save for people who ask for free coffee.
"It's a religious symbol, actually."
I sputtered apologies, but he simply nodded and strolled away, looking like the most stylish mothereffer to ever rock a sacred penis necklace in a neighborhood coffee shop. Point of this story is, religion is a fascinating thing. What looks strange to one person is the height of sanctity to another.
So while I could snark about these monks' sweet hats, or imply that those dhungkar conch shells(? google is unclear) are full of booze, I can only imagine how it'd feel to watch the rite in action.
Because I'm in Chicago.
Okay, no, seriously. Back when I was an occasional world traveler I got to check out a Buddhist ceremony at a Japanese temple at, oh, 4:30 in the morning. And despite the fact I'm nominally Catholic and mostly too fond of pornography and swearing to be actually religious, I could sense how sacred the experience was. The devotion of the monks. Their dedication as they chanted. The collected awe of a group of college students who'd, moments earlier, bitched about removing their shoes in chilly fall weather. Of all the postcards I've gotten so far, I think I'm most jealous of this one.
Especially because of the WEE MONKLETS! Experiencing a lengthy sacred ritual on a freaking mountain: awesome. Watching young monks have as much fun as they can while still sort of adhering to the tenets of that lengthy sacred ritual on a freaking mountain: AWESOMAZING.