One of the last things I expected to see on the Trip Advisor site for Bloomington was a Tibetan-Mongolian Cultural Center. I have a slight bias towards Tibet because I had participated on a 15-day hiking and camping trip with some Tibetan ethnic minorities in China back in 2008. I wanted to work in Mongolia for the Peace Corps but that didn’t happen, so I can’t say much for Mongolia, but I was pretty stoked… and I finally found the time to visit. I guess the area had a sizeable Tibet-Mongolian population since there’s a Tibetan restaurant within walking distance of campus and I heard some Tibetan spoken at one of the coffee shops I visited.
It was about a 20-minute drive from IU campus and my phone’s GPS wasn’t saying the directions to me, so I was constantly glancing from the road to my lap to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Good thing the speed limit was 30 (or 35 mph) at the most since I was going through some residential areas or it would not have been a good idea. Along the way, I spotted Feast, an awesome little eatery that had good reviews and I made a quick stop for lunch before continuing on.
First thing’s first, the grounds of this place are pretty big. Second thing: I don’t know why but it seemed like I chose the hottest day to explore outside. The buildings were familiar to me and there were strings of Tibetan (Mongolian?) praying flags hung around.
It’s an actual Buddhist temple are there are monks that reside on the grounds. I’m not sure if they know much English, but I encountered two of them. They smiled at me and continued walking up to this main building. They were holding a large pot of rice so I’m guessing they were preparing for lunch. I imagine they should because they hold classes and meditation sessions that people can join.
I walked around the grounds, looking at the stupas, praying wheels, etc. There were a ton of bugs flying about and, to be quite honest, the grounds weren’t maintained too well. Even so, I enjoyed my walk. I finally got up to the main building where the two monks entered. Here, you have to take off your shoes and it looks like it’s also a visitor center as well. I could see the main worship room within with the Dalai Lama’s large portrait hanging up (he apparently visited). I found it interesting that they also included various religious articles from other religions of the world.
Apparently, these are Americanized Tibetan-Mongolian monks, because when I was in China, there were certain rooms females couldn’t go into. Something about being “unclean” due to one’s menstrual cycle… not to mention how I was wearing shorts at the time and shorts aren’t appropriate. However, here, I was briefly welcomed in when someone saw me peering through the window and told that I was welcome to look around before left to my own devices.
It was a nice walk (and a good sweat) to break my mundane routine of working and walking back and from the hotel. Also, I got to get sustenance off campus! I sadly couldn’t visit the gift shop because they were at lunch, but it did make me think of fond and amusing memories of when I stayed in those Tibetan villages, eating tsampa, drinking yak butter tea… and not showering for days on end.
But that’s a different story.