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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 29.65, 91.1
I am in Tibet! We flew in from Chengdu early this morning, watching stunning views of the Himalayan mountains and distant high, snow-covered pointed peaks as we approached Lhasa. Tibet! On the bus ride from the airport to the city our guide told us he spoke from his heart; I immediately liked him, his gentle nature, his insights into the Tibetan dilemma. But he couldn't say everything I'm sure he wanted to since every tour bus with ten or more people is accompanied by a Chinese policeman. For safety, is the explanation, as many cars and buses go too fast. I think it's for a very different reason.
Lhasa is the "City of the Sun." Its elevation is above 12,000 feet, so frequently people get high altitude sickness; we were cautioned to take it easy the first day, and to drink plenty of water. It was also recommended to wear sun protection since the air is so thin; sunburn can happen quickly at this elevation with such a pure blue sky. Instead I chose to wear a hat with a visor and a light silk shirt to block the sun's rays. The Dalai Lama lived here until 1959, when a revolt broke out against the Chinese re-establishing their sovereignty; at that point the Dalai Lama was forced to leave Tibet and to live in exile. For political reasons he has never been back to his country, but at almost 80 years old he continues his struggle to save the Tibetan culture and works to promote and to safeguard human rights. I met him in Boston a couple years ago; MIT has a connection with the Dalai Lama, and every few years as a part of this program he comes to Boston to speak to huge audiences, offering his understanding of how each one of us can make the world a better place. He is humorous, witty --even when using a translator-- and offers ideas for simple actions for people to do that could potentially have enormously positive results for the world. Go to hear him if you ever get the chance! You will not be disappointed, and will come away with new ideas, new understanding.
But today, all of the rest of the group chose to sleep the afternoon away, but my energy remained high. After lunch I decided to go out exploring, immersing myself in the Tibetan culture, as we see it in this part of Lhasa. I thought I was keeping the streets I walked in order in my mind, and went quite far from the hotel, probably two or three miles or so. After over an hour I decided to turn back, but somehow I made a critical error and probably walked a mile beyond where I should have turned onto another street. Tired now, hot, plus my heart was racing from the lack of oxygen, nothing looked familiar and I didn't know what other street to take. Of course I didn't have a map with me; I had asked for one at our hotel, but they didn't have any. Since no one speaks English in Lhasa, I couldn't really ask another pedestrian or shop person where my hotel was, but I saw a police kiosk and went there, miming "I'm lost!" They did not speak any English either and I have only a miniscule bit of their language (and no Tibetan dictionary), but very luckily I had brought the hotel information with me. They had a good laugh, then one young man walked me to the regular police station. They all laughed there too, but I think it was in good nature. Two policemen indicated I was to get in their car, and they drove me in that police car right to our hotel. I was extremely grateful, as the hotel was not close at all to where I had been. I was also glad none of our group was leaving the hotel as I was alighting from the police car, but what an adventure on my first day in Tibet!
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