October 11, 2014

Welcome to India

India is estimated to have one third of the world's
poor, defined as earning less than $1.25 USD

 per day (by the Indian Planning Commission).
India is crowded.  There were about 60 people
on this bus!  With only 2.8% of the world's land,
 India has 17.5% of the world's population.  They're
expected to take over China as the most populous
nation by 2025.
54% of India's population is under the age of 25 -
that's a whopping 550 million young people.
Literacy in India stands at about 74%, well below
the world average of 84%.  By sheer numbers, India
has the largest illiterate population in the world.

All public computers in India use Microsoft Windows -
English Edition.  Internet can be slower than

watching cows graze.

Most Indians speak Hindi, far fewer
speak English, although the number of
English speakers is increasing with each

Cows in India are sacred, and beef is never on the menu.
Hindus believe that if you kill a cow, it is equivalent
to killing 64 gods and goddesses.   Cows roam
the streets and highways, aimlessly munching on
garbage.  As a result, much of the the milk supply
 is tainted with toxins and chemicals.
India does not excel in modern food distribution.
They lack food chains, refrigeration, trucks and
stable electricity in many areas.  As a result, as
much as 40% of food produced is wasted.  The
Indian Parliament has this on their to-do list as
the growing population needs a stable food supply.

The weather was warm in
October, but India seemed
to have a near permanent
haze from agricultural fires
and vehicle emissions.

India is home to several of
the world's worst cities 
for air pollution.
We saw scenes like this all over India.  The women's
long sarees flapped in the breeze as though they
were going to catch the tire at any moment.

Motorcycle helmets are very rare.

Cricket is the national uniting passion of India,
with nearly three centuries of history.  Cricket
players are among the wealthiest of Indian society.

This was a rare moment of spontaneous recreation.
Clean drinking water is inadequate by international
standards.  We didn't drink the water in India,
which can cause severe diarrhea or "Delhi Belly".

Food and Prayer in Lhasa, Tibet

Devout Tibetans spend hours a day spinning a
prayer wheel, a metal cylinder on a handle with
a small weight attached.  Inside is a scroll with
Buddhist prayers, and they believe that by spinning
the wheel, prayers are sent out automatically.
Morning incense at Jokhang Temple, the holiest
temple in all of Tibet. 

Some pilgrims prostrate themselves all the way to
the temple, up and down, moving only feet at a time.
It can take years for them to travel from their home
towns to Lhasa.

Our fascination with Tibetan food wearing thin,
Mike was SO excited to find a western restaurant
with a menu he could get excited about!

The local cheese monger, who wears a face mask
to protect himself, but has no protection for the cheese.

This decision is a no brainer.
Instead of sheep's head, we decided on a Tibetan
Hot Pot and yak meatballs.  I really don't think
anyone in our group will miss Tibetan food.

October 10, 2014

Dalia Lama's Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet

Potala Palace is supposed to be the home of the
Dalai Lama, who escaped Tibet in 1959 before the
Cultural Revolution.  Amazing that the Chinese
Government, now so involved in limiting the lives
of Tibetans, honors them with this image.
Mountain wear and outdoor dealer North Face got
their name from the North Face of Everest.

Such a beautiful calm night for a photo shoot.
This model was a trooper - truth be known, she
was wearing waterproof boots and had a very
drippy veil by the time she was done.
Potala Palace as reflected in the pond across the

Seattle quality coffee in Tibet!
The park near Potala Palace. An inspiration.

Debating monks in Lhasa, Tibet.
Handclapping - point made.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

October 9, 2014

Tibet on the road...

Yak. Butter.  Candles.  We saw a few!
At Yamdrok Lake in Tibet.  Yes, I'm riding a yak.
It's what you do in Tibet!
Gods can be fierce in Buddhism.
This one is fighting the god of death.
The Tibetan canon is a loosely defined set of sacred
texts, saved on paper, in shoebox sized tablets.
The contents are written in Sanskrit under each
of the fabric tabs.

At a cushy 14,000 ish feet.  This is about the elevation
of Mt. Rainier - no problem!
Sheep crossing during rush hour. Both
clothes and a meal, right before your eyes.

Mike anticipating some Tibetan
watermelon.  Fruit has been a
 luxury item on this trip - such
a treat! 
In Buddhism, snakes are known as the "persecutors
of all creatures".  Yech!
Observing a water powered barley mill.  The owner
was very proud to offer us a pinch of freshly ground
barley flour to chew.
Our last view of the Himalayas.  With yak!

October 8, 2014

Buddhist Monasteries in Shigatse, Tibet

Yak butter candles at Rong Pu Monastery, the
highest monastery on earth, next to Mt. Everest.
I'll never forget how they smelled, or how they
warmed the small room. 
Rong Pu is a sacred spot to pray before making
the arduous Everest climb.  We climbed down
vertical stone steps into a cave to see this tiny shrine.

Monastery of the Panchen Lama,
who has a sacred reincarnated
lineage, is a scholar and the one
responsible for finding the
incarnation of the Dalai Lama.
Unfortunately, the Chinese
government has taken it upon
themselves to appoint the latest
Panchen Lama, violating Tibetan
Buddhist traditional belief.
Swastikas are not an uncommon sight in Buddhism.
Note that the arms go clockwise, in the opposite
direction of the Nazi swastika.

Since the Panchen Lama is known as
a scholar, prayers from students are
frequent before exams.  They are
typically given with money and a pen.
Monks accepting donations for the temple.

The Panchen Lama's monastery was founded in 1447,
and today is home to thousands of monks.  Two thirds
 of the buildings in this massive complex were
destroyed in the Cultural Revolution, but a few
beautiful original doors remain.

Small amounts of money are tucked
everywhere at monasteries.  The
sheer volume taken in must be far
beyond the amount necessary to
feed the monks or run the temple.
The Chinese government takes
any or all donations as they wish.

October 7, 2014

Children of Tibet

Strike a pose, girl!
Children work in Tibet.  We frequently
saw them in the fields.  Organized child
labor is discouraged, but many family
operations use their children.

Ready to watch mama do the washing.

No TV or smartphone to distract this
kid, who made a great toy out of a
string, a shoebox and some bells.

Young boys between the ages of 6 and 12 are recruited
by monks.  Long before they have the maturity to
accept a life of monastic celibacy,  they start on years
of prayer, meditation and sparse food.   Some,

 like our guide, don't become monks, but
 continue to teach others about Tibetan religion.
But even he admitted that many monks have lost
their way since the Dalai Lama left Tibet in 1959. 
Heavy  corporal punishment and sexual abuse has
been repeatedly reported.
The granddaughter of our bus driver, who said,
"Bye bye!" and blew me a kiss.  My heart melted
like a tub of yak butter.
Tibet's children face a life under oppressive Chinese rule.
Even if they know no other life, they are losing their traditions,
their language and their dignity.