Apr 21, 2010

A Taste of Tibet

This really isn't my blog entry to post. But this is my taste of Tibet, lived vicariously through my husband, who just returned from 12 days in Tibet and China. He was visiting one of his best friends, Josh, who has been living in Chengdu, China for the last year. Chengdu is on the border of Tibet, so they decided to also visit Lhasa. Tone and I take trips every year to someplace unique in the world to experience new cultures and places. This year, we had planned on China and Tibet, but things turned out differently for me, and so this year I was only able to "travel" there through the pictures and stories brought back.

If you take the train from Chengdu to Lhasa, it's a 42 hour ride. Tone and Josh spend the whole time in a smelly, stinky, loud sleeper car with views like this out the window. Steep desert mountains, broken occasionally by the appearance of a small village made of mud and concrete houses. The ground was still pretty frozen, but apparently the tracks are an engineering feat, with water pipes frozen underneath, so in the Spring thaw, the heavy tracks won't sink into the mud. At it's highest point going over the pass before dropping down into Lhasa, it's around 15,000 feet up!Upon arriving, they visited Patola palace where the Dali Llama used to live. He has now been forced to live outside Tibet and now it's just a museum and place of worship. At several thousand feet up, they suggest you don't even try to climb the many stairs until you are acclimated to the altitude. Tone and Josh, of course, did.When I visit different cultures, what fascinates me the most is the people. The clash between culture and government, ancient and modern, church and state, and the intermixing of the two. Here is a man with a prayer wheel, making his circuit around the palace, with guards marching in the foreground.The palace is a sacred place with people coming from miles around and prostrating themselves before it.
Here is a little Tibetan boy. Isn't he just adorable? The day after Tone and Josh arrived in Tibet, there was a massive earthquake close to the border with many casualties. People crowded the temple and palace to make their circuits, praying for the victims they had known.

The day after visiting the palace and temple, they traveled far up the mountain to see a high water lake. Tibetan culture was seen on the way with colorful prayer flags put out in certain places.
Nomad tents could also be seen on the way up. At the summit, they were at 5190 meters, or just under 18,000 feet. I would have passed out I think!
The lake was still partially frozen in places, and there are pictures of Josh walking out on it.

And no trip to Tibet would be complete without a little yak riding! This picture of the two of them on the yaks has to be one of the funniest I have ever seen.
Lunch could be bought at the lake for the whopping cost of 50 cents. Tibetans drink yak butter tea. Tone says it tastes just like that. Strong tea with melted, fatty butter in it. Sounds nasty to me, but when in Rome......
Being the smart boys that they are, they skipped the train ride on the way back and took an airplane back to Chengdu. Back in Chengdu, they visited a panda breeding reserve. One of the largest of it's kind in the world. Tone took tons of pictures here and they all looked so adorable.

And don't forget about the Red Panda, another type of endangered panda that lives in China.
All in all, the boys seemed to have an enjoyable time. I'm going to be honest, my idea of a vacation involves more warm sandy beaches, but being able to see and experience cultures like this is just so amazing! Once again, Tone was able to fly first class for free to China and back, and enjoy more of the wonderful people in the world. We are so fortunate that Tone has the job he has and allows us the opportunity to do this.
In my experience in seeing the many places I have, it always takes me off guard, how fortunate I truly am in my relatively large house with a yard, two cars, clean water, and excellent education available. Then I look around and I see many differences between the way I live and the ways others around me live in the world. Basic differences, such as cleanliness, personal space, faux paus, clothing, politeness, education, the way I speak or look at a person, all vary so very much. My first instinct is to think, "how rude and ignorant!" But then I'm humbled because I understand that they often see me the same way and think, "how rude and ignorant!" All around the world, people are different, not wrong. It's in the traveling that an understanding emerges, that though I may be fortunate, I am not better or more right. That culture is beautiful in the many forms it takes, and though I may not ever understand it, I can always appreciate it.

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