I arrived a bit before 9am, but the festivities had already begun sometime in the wee hours the night before. Thousands congregated in the Thimphu Dzong for Domchoe, this auspicious day of blessings. The night before I heard even the Je Khenpo (the chief abbot dressed in yellow) was dancing inside the prayer hall, not outside in the plaza; and here he is (picture) starting the procession for the next round of masked dancing honoring the great Guru Rinpoche. For this sacred event, I dressed in a Kira (woman’s traditional dress….careful to wear a scarf over my shoulder and a complementary shirt under my jacket as the first time I tried to go into the Dzong I did not have these items and the clothing police would not let me in!). It was a very hot morning to stand around in thick cotton skirt and jacket, and upon prompting from other women who were plopping their scarfs on top of their head as a makeshift hat, I opened my scarf up and used it in an African headwrap style (…you can take a girl out of Africa, but you cant take the Africa out of the girl). I was standing around taking in the scene for 5 hours, averaging about 100 pics per hour! My favorite were when the masked dancers would enter the circle and the drumming would get more aggressive and the monk-dancers would start out very energetic with a lot of jumping and twirling and head circling (strangely not so unsimilar from Dogon masked dancing, only with masks of the fierce manifestations of the Guru instead of the Kanaga). The Red-faced masked joker like characters were ubiquitous, dancing and joking with the audience with their giant phallus. It is an interesting dichotomy for a culture so pronounced in hierarchy and decorum to be at ease with the wielding and thrusting of a giant phallus during highly religious proceedings. But hey, I’m ok with it if they’re ok with it. ; ) Let the festivities begin !