Miracles, prayer flags and Tibetan dogs
July 7th – We get our luggage and a little miracle
It’s about 5:30 in the morning on Saturday. Today we leave. There are so many early morning sounds from our 14th floor room. Did I ever say that there is a large lake with multi-colored rubber boats, dragon boats, amusements and a zoo just below us? The first morning we woke up here, Jeffrey pulled me into his room and pointed to a stripped animal pacing back and forth just below. It was a Zebra! Large birds make amazingly harmonious cries to the sleeping world every hour or so and there are hyenas that seem to howl. Last night there was a lovely female entertainer that sang until the fireworks started. It was like a finale that never would end!
One of our little miracles: We had hired both a translator and a driver for our journey. Tashi, our translator had been with us every moment, but the driver, who we’d never met, was becoming more and more disgruntled as the days went by and we still hadn’t received our luggage and couldn’t begin our long drive. Finally, I said we would leave on Saturday morning no matter what. We went to the tour agency office to meet our unhappy driver and I knew when I saw him that he could not make this trip with us. He was the wrong person and yet there was nothing I could do. I felt sick.
Friday night our luggage was found and delivered! Saturday morning Tashi arrives with the car and driver and was loading luggage, when he casually introduced me to our new driver, adding, “our old driver Mr. Chin was in a small accident yesterday and cannot drive due to damage in his car”.
Jen Sui was perfect! Our team was ready. We began our 26 hour jeep drive through the steep mountain passages. All of us in the backseat had our malas in hand, softly reciting our mantras – finally on our journey to this unknown place atop a barren mountain.
So now I sit here in the back seat of our 4-wheel drive car typing away. Next to me is Chuying Lama on one side chanting a constant stream of wonderful mantra. He is a dear man. On the other side is our Tashi – so excited to be returning to Nangchen where his wife, 6-year-old daughter and family are. Finally, our journey has begun and the city is leaving itself behind as the vast expanse of mountains welcomes us into a new chapter. I am so grateful!
To leave the very crowded, overbuilt and over stimulating city of Xining and to enter the vast Tibetan plains must be like leaving this monkey mind of constant chatter and to find oneself resting in the state of pure awareness. It is expansive, mountainous, endless. There is nothing but pure mountainside, and then there is a tent of prayer flags joyfully blowing in the wind. Yaks cross the gravel highway at their own pace and herds of sheep and goat intermittently enliven the countryside. Tibetans works alongside Muslims doing what seems like an endless job of either repairing a road or building a road. We all become silent, sans the stream of prayer next to me that I want to inhale deeply inside of myself. After hours of driving, Tashi puts on a Tibetan CD and enthusiastically sings lively Tibetan songs. We stop for lunch at a small Muslim restaurant and have delicious noodles with yak meat and raw garlic. We feel so strange – as though we are from another planet. Afterward, I squat in a rectangular hole – the first of many to come.
Prayer flags to the Gods at 16,500 feet!
With every peak of mountaintop we pass, Tashi lets out a great yell and sprays the small square Tibetan prayer flags into the air for protection from this particular mountain God. We see 2 accidents on the road – curves and potholes abound!
We reach 16,500 feet! It is a celebration as we climb out of the car and stand under the multitudes of prayer flags above. We all join in on the Tsa Tsa Tsa, throwing the small paper prayer flags into the air. We all take pictures and laugh and enjoy to sense of freedom and exhilaration that comes with feeling like you are on top of the world!
Prayer wheels, butter lamps and Tibetan dogs
We arrive in Yushu about 8 pm or so. Still light out. We stop by the temple on the way in. As we step out of our jeep, all the children came over, saying “hello” in the most perfect English. They are beautiful and laughing and playful. The prayer wheels in front are huge and we turn them one by one as we wait for someone to come with the keys to let us inside. Chuying Lama is amongst his friends and devotees – there is great joy for everyone. Soon the keys come and we go inside this large square room with one very big golden prayer wheel – bigger than all the ones in front. Butter lamps fill the walls below and thankas fill the walls above. We all join in the turning of the wheel while Jeffrey videotapes and takes pictures. Chuying Lama is so very open and loving with us and seems happy for our joy. I, of course, could barely hold back my tears.
We arrive at Tashi’s wife’s parents home around 9:15 – so late for our supper! The roads are all dirt and very bad. We park the car above, then walk in the dark on stones, and through mud puddles, to their home. Inside is cozy and warm, lit by one hanging light. It is a large, colorful kitchen with one electric burner on which his wife cooks such a delicious meal for us. We drink salty Tibetan tea, and then make our farewells as we head to Tashi’s home.
We are met with the same dark and precarious walkway, this time with four chained, loudly barking Tibetan dogs. We are greeted with great welcome and hospitality and shown to our room where Mr. Jain, Jeffrey and I will all share a room. To get to the bathroom, we have to walk past the pesky dogs, but thankfully, Tashi’s cousin often goes out with an old broom to quiet them. Truthfully, it doesn’t help much!
My prayer at this moment is that I don’t have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, which would mean walking outside, across the dirt yard, past the scary barking dogs and up the stairs to the dark outhouse. Note to self: drink just enough water to survive!
Posted by Celedra Gildea at 9:07 AM