October 11, 2014

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.

October 6, 2014

Trying to sleep at Base Camp

Sending postcards from the highest post office in
the world!  

We're trying so hard to look warm!  Also discussing
the merits of drinking water at altitude, vs. getting
up at night to use the pit toilet with a headlamp.
Our room for the night, courtesy of
Rung Po Monastery.

Our "suite" for five, which created a little extra
body heat in this freezing room.  At least we were
protected from the wind.  None of us slept a wink,
it's very hard to sleep at this altitude with a racing pulse.

We used our own sleeping bag liners
 and pillowcases in this less than
sanitary room.  One positive thought:
It's way to cold for bedbugs to survive! 

Kathy spinning the prayer wheels.
Tibetan wild sheep wearing a luxurious coat.