There comes a time in every trip, every journey, every story where you’ve reached the limit of things you can absorb. I still can’t wrap my mind around Carnival in Brazil (February), Dancing in Mauritius (March), Volunteering at a school for the disabled in Vietnam (April) and I still have things to see.
Poetically, just when I thought I had nothing left in me to oooh and ahhh over another temple, synagogue, world heritage site or church…we head to Nara. At this point I was fighting off the germs the students had brought back to the ship in China, coming out of denial that this voyage must end, and that the end is coming sooner rather than later.
On the day when I most wanted to stay in bed, drinking orange juice, writing in my journal and sorting through the thousand pictures I’ve taken, I grabbed my Nikon, my iPod and hit the road. Mostly to spend time with Professor J and some students, and to soak up some of the springtime sun. It would be an understatement to say that I’m glad that I did. In that one day, I saw the oldest wooden temple on earth and the largest wooden temple on earth (pictured).
You have to walk a little way to get to the main temple. Through a maze of long-haired deer, so tame that they literally eat out of your hand. I was walking with my head down, full of the thoughts of all we’ve done and all we’ve seen in almost 4 months of circumnavigating the globe. Feeling like there was nothing left to surprise me and again, I was stopped in my tracks when the temple came into view. You can see from the scale of the picture how small the people are in comparison to the main building. I was so stunned that tears sprang to my eyes. All you can think about when you see the place is how many people, worked how many years, with how much wood, to build a shrine that encloses one of the largest Buddahs in the world.
One of the most fun things about going to all of the temples and shrines was seeing all of the school kids, dressed in matching outfits or hats, learning about their culture and history. The students were so excited to practice their “hellos” and “nice to meet yous” that we couldn’t resist delaying their education a bit and engaging them in the timeless game of intercultural introductions.
It was also fun watching them climb through the Buddah’s hole of enlightement.
We also visited a Shinto shrine that was a brilliant orange and the perfect place to watch the sun wane. I got to try a Shinto cleansing ritual, trying to remember to do each step in order to avoid offending any of the local people tending to their spiritual tasks.
I learned long ago, that I will never regret pushing through when I know I can, sitting still when I know I must, but it feels good to know that I know the difference between the two.