Published: September 18th 2004September 18th 2004
Ok this will bwe my third attempt..last night I typed for 45 minutes before the power went off and I lost everything..then tried again and lost out after 10 minutes.
So,I am going back to the school visit which was so extraordinary and made me think further about the world of 'tashi delek'. Of course, I realize that we were two American professionals who were being driven around in a Jeep with a driver and guide..yet..and of course, they want to get the word out about their good works..yet..they were glad to see us, the teachers were glad to be teaching there and most of all, the children showed gladness in their fun and smile briming faces. After I did the rope trick to much amazement we looked in on the school rooms and immaculate dormitory rooms and were invited for tea. On the second floor of a traditional Tibetan home, the wooded floors gleaming, we were served tea or coffee or tibetan yak buttered and salted tea, with cookies and a very unexpected bananna that slowly became roast duck, grilled yak meat, curry (Mrs Rabgey is from India) yoghurt, brined bean curd,rice of course and much serious and playful discussion about how the presence of this school is already transforming this rustic valley. Mr. Rabgey remonstrated when I appologized for using a fork. 'When you are 72 you don't have to apologize for anything.': and we compared wounded right hands, his arthritic after years of factory work and mine with thumb damage from an unwise pillow fight in the wonderful, experiental therapy years in the 60's. We exchanged things fathers talk about, not all happy,some sad...
I thought back to my epiphany in Varanasi with Eva when I felt everyone there had a right to be their and spontaneously began saying 'I am so glad you are here.' In Kham, the Tibetan greeting is 'Tashi Delek' which my survival tibetan handbook translates as 'all the best !.' The minute that greeting is exchanged there is a blossoming of warmth and relationship, a lighting up in the eyes which are fully and directly looking into yours. I experience the moment as one of recognition: I am glad you are here. From that may develop a conversation, a mutual, respectful examinationo of jewelry each is wearing, a joke, a touch an inquiry. I feel bathed in a community of souls ready to be glad...at the school the feeling was that they were glad we were there..and we responded by being glad ourselves.
There are two people I want to put in the same sentence to be exemplars of communicating 'I'm so glad you are here": the Dalai Lama and Mr. Rogers. Think about it. It seems the genius of the Tibetans to glow with this welcoming feeling. So many Westerners respond to this..in our current trip, Pam Logan, Prof. Niman, the Rabgeys
some of the many trying to protect this society.
After leaving the school, we went to Litang, the location of fabulous horse races that take place in summer. Here I learned that the absolute limit of my adaption to altitude was no more than 14,000 ft,and Litang is at 15,000 ft..one of the highest communities of its size in the world. While supplemental oxygen had kept me going, in Litang, continous supplemental oxygen only got me as far as being a crub on the curb. I walked a little then, winded, sat on the curb. As people walked by , they were like ants to a crub. Disturbed by my presence, baffled by me, moving me here and there with no apparent purpose or goal..the next morning we moved on to Xin Li Shi where, at 10,500 the air was rich and creamy and ever so nourishing. The road kept rising to 15,000 ft heights and I thought I would never escape that elevation...each pass in sight of truely high mountains over 20,000 ft. A day mostly of travel as happens..
I promised a note on hotels: We look for cleanliness, space ( we have a fair amount of stuff), hot water for showers, Western toilet ( nice but not essential)..the top range is about $22. a night. There are government and private hotels in this class. You can bargain with the private hotels, but not the government...there are bevys of young girls in hotel uniforms of the thirties who will carry your bags to your room and any guilt I may feel at watching them is amply compensated by my relief that they are doing it...
The government hotel staffs are strict and severe. At the Golden Yak Hotel in Ganzi, on our first stay, a lamp over my head fell off the wall almost hitting me. I put the pieces neatly on the table, but at check out time was told I must pay for damages since the lamp was alright when we moved in...much excited palavar ensued, we did not pay. On our return to Ganzi, all was well until check out time...I was summoned to the reception desk. There, in the middle of the highly polished wooden reception desk, in the shining marble floored lobby, with its gleaming copper clad columns, under the sign that says 'appropriate dress only', pointed at by the severely dressed 40'sh manager with her starched uniform and sensible low shoes was ( warning: graphic language follows}: was my rumpled washcloth, stiff with dried blood and snot. Only the Great Navigator knows how I was caught in this desperate night use of my washcloth to stem an altitude caused nosebleed. But there it was, my shame exposed in public and they wanted 3 Yuen for a replacement. At first I wanted to ask if they were going to charge me for creasing my sheets..but I thought..Here in China I can make restitution for a sin for a mere 3 Yuen (36 cents) and benefit from China's economic policy of freezing the yuen so that she is a huge economic engine ( much of what we have with us is made in China)and resisting international pressure to tie the yuen to world financial markets, which, if she succumbs, will surely ruin the kind of economies we can make as we choose first rate hotels for $22, a night and eat out for $1.25 each, and royally too..For a mere 3 yuen I can absolve myself..wondering if there is any chance I could absolve myself od OTHER sins at the same rate....I paid.
must go again..more monastery adventues ahead and an encounter with yaks...