The picture above is of me with my friend from Amherst Chelsea (on the left), and new friends Carina and Keila on the Lhasa Kitchen balcony overlooking the city!
So we just got back to Tibet and it was absolutely incredible! The scenery was amazing, the culture was shockingly different, even from Beijing, and the experiences we had were unforgettable. And since we had so many experiences, I am definitely going to have to do more than one post on Tibet. Since we are back in Beijing and about to start orientation activities, though, I won’t be able to make videos for the posts. So, I was thinking I would just do a write-up and a picture. I hope that at least gives everyone a taste of the trip!
While in Tibet, I kept a journal so that I would remember everything that we did and what I was feeling at the time. So I figured for my entries onto the blog, it would be most interesting to copy down what I wrote at the time.
“Today was our first day in Tibet, and if I thought Beijing was foreign, this is a whole new world. People stare constantly at us, and me especially. I frequently hear “gao,” which means “tall,” or “laowai,” which means foreigner. These people seriously have no shame! One man even came up to me and very obviously measured his height in comparison to mine. I’ve also caught a few people blatantly taking pictures of me. To start from the beginning of the day, my roommate and I overslept and therefore arrived to the bus 15 minutes late, which ended up not being a big deal. The airport, as one should expect in China, was insanity. Lines aren’t a concept here, people just push and shove until they get to the front. Because we’re foreigners, we were the optimal people to cut in line, so it took us especially long to get through security. We did make the airplane, but only just in time. When we arrived in Lhasa, I could immediately feel the altitude change, as Lhasa is about 14,500 ft. We were picked up by our tour guides at the airport, and given Katha, which resembles a sash and is a Tibetan Buddhist way of saying welcome. Otherwise, we just hung out today, had two authentic meals (which consisted mainly of Yak meat), and went shopping/bargaining in the market. Bargaining is really interesting, and requires a certain amount of skill that I have yet to acquire, but hopefully it will get better! One last observation for today: the security in Lhasa is crazy. There are police literally everywhere we look. We have to go through security screenings whenever we enter the main square because I think the Chinese are worried about self-immolation – they pay particular attention to lighters. We’re not allowed to take pictures of them, and if we do, they’ll yell at us and come over and watch us delete it. They definitely seem to be more worried about people who look Asian though, because when we approach security they usually just let us through. It’s been really interesting so far, I’m excited to keep observing everything!”
“Last night, I suffered some from the altitude, but not nearly as much as some people. Yesterday a lot of people had headaches and felt sick; I haven’t had any of that, but I did have trouble breathing. But anyway, today was really fun! We left the hotel at 10:00 a.m. and visited two monasteries and a nunnery. We ate lunch at the nunnery, which was simple but still good. To get to the first monastery, we hiked about an hour uphill with amazing scenery. We got to witness the monks and nuns chanting scripture, which was interesting. It was kind of awkward walking two inches in front of people so focused on Buddhist study – I felt like I was intruding. At the second monastery, we witnessed monks debating, which was interesting but only remained interesting for so long as everything was spoken in Tibetan. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and then went to eat. And let me just say, everything is incredibly cheap here – it makes me eat a lot more! My meal would be converted to about $7.00, and that was expensive! It included, soup, a meal, dessert, and bottled water. Tomorrow we get to see Potala Palace, which is probably the most well known aspect of Tibetan culture. I’m excited!”
I’ll hopefully post about days three and four in Tibet sometime soon!