Basically it was a celebration of their guru.
This was my first time meeting anyone but my beginner class teacher and my fellow beginner class students. Everyone was of course kind and friendly. Once it started most of it was in Tibetian, but had English translations. At first, especially with the singing of the prayers and the drums and the bells, I felt like it's had crossed the line into too much ceremony. I felt like all those time I'd attended a church service for a chruch I had no connection to. The feeling of "rightness" had left. The bells and the drums and the singing were an interesting combination and I would love to read more about what each is trying to do. I almost felt like it was trying to occupy as much as the brain as possible by using language, sound and rhythm to occupy more brain processing.
But as things went along and the translations got closer to my personal feelings of wanting the world just to be a better happier place for everyone and that I want to develop compassion and patience, I started to feel a little more comfortable.
About halfway through I understood one bit of confusion. The description had said to bring an offering, so I brought two apples. I thought the offering was for the guru. However, after they had us dip our finger in a liquid and taste it and then take a morsel of something that tasted like beef jerky, but couldn't have been since buddists are against killing for meat, everyone opened up a paper bag. My neighbor, who was more experienced, opened on up for me and they passed out all the offerings to everyone. I missed the memo on "enough to share." It was kind of like a healthy halloween, with a bag of fruit, cookies and nuts to take home with you (not a place for someone with allergies.) They also poured out some lemonade (yes, the "drink the kool-aid" thought did cross my mind.) I think I understood the purpose this part of the puja. You had the happiness of giving the offerings, the pleasure of receiving the wide variety of tastes and flavors (especially to me, since it was completely unexpected to be receiving) and then you were supposed to put some of it back, after having a quick taste, so you got to give again freely.
We then switched to English and sped read the remaining prayers which were mostly dedication prayers.
I still have a lot of mixed feelings. I think when I understand the benefits of the cerimony it makes me better so after I get a chance to ask my beginner class's teacher about some of the things I might enjoy he whole thing more.
I then talked to someone for while about myself and what brought me to the center.
I had very blissful thoughts in the car as I drove eating the fruit and thinking about how lucky I am to have such bounty from a group of people who are dedicating their life to making the world a happier place. Somehow each bite was a reminder of generosity, rejoicing and happiness.
EDIT: it really was beef jerky.