Monday, January 31, 2011


Wednesday, March 28, 2007 LHASA, TIBET

The dancers last night were great except that I’d had beer with my dinner and between that and the medication I was taking.... I was really feeling under the weather. But the dinner was special in that we had a choice of a Yak Burger or Veggie Burger with French fries. We had the Yak Burger and it was really good. Dessert was candied bananas.

After another sleepless night; everyone is having problems because of the dryness of the air along with the altitude. Our sinuses are giving all of us problems. At 6 am I sure didn’t feel like hiking up 400 ft this morning. But, after two cups of coffee and bread, the Motrin and Sinus medication kicked in and I was good to go.

We left at 9:30 am by bus for the short drive to the Potala Palace and our scheduled visit. They require reservations for large groups to control the number of people. Wednesday is an especially popular day as the current Dalai Lama was born on a Wednesday. In Tibet it is against the law to have a photograph of the current Dalai Lama since 1989; but he is still much revered as he is still considered the spiritual leader even though he has been in exile in India since 1959.

All but three of our group of sixteen made the climb together; weather was cold but the sun was very bright and not a cloud in the sky. Yesterday was cloudy so we were glad that our appointment was today. We were allowed to take photos outside as we climbed but once inside the cameras had to be put away. Our guide Tassi was very knowledgeable and explained everything as we walked through. Got to see where the Dalai Lama lived when the Potala Palace was his home from the time he was designated as a small boy until he left in 1959. Also saw many tombs of previous Dalai Lamas and enough Buddhas to fill a lifetime. Tassi is especially good as his brother has been a monk since he was a small child and is now a Lama. He’s allowed to come home once a year to visit his family and it is considered a great honor for the family to claim a Lama as a member of their family.

After completing the tour of the Potala Palace we drove to a restaurant near our hotel where we each ordered our own lunch and dessert. Walked to the hotel afterwards for a rest before heading out again on the bus.

Our first stop was at a private home located in the city. Four generations live in this home and make their living from sewing. Much better than the farmer’s house that we visited unannounced yesterday; but standards are still very low. Interestingly, they had a photo of the Dalai Lama in the Buddha Room; it is allowed because he is seated next to Chairman Mao in the photo. The host family had prepared several Tibetan foods: Hot Yak Tea, Tibetan Beer and a selection of about ten different things, many of them from Yak butter that we all shared.

From there we drove in the bus to a private orphanage called the De Ji Orphanage that is supported by the Grand Circle Foundation. There are eighty-two orphans living in very poor conditions: two children to a bed and eight plus beds to a room. No heat. There were about two dozen younger children there during our visit. They sang us several songs and then each took our hand and some of us had one on each hand while they showed us their home. All of the children are being taught three languages including English. My charge took me to the classroom and using the one piece of chalk that was about a quarter of an inch wrote the alphabet for me. Makes one really think about how fortunate our children are in America. We asked about adoptions and Tibet does not allow foreigners to adopt Tibetan children. And, in this particular orphanage the children are being raised as a unit by the founder and her family and there are no plans to offer them for adoption. Many of the children had runny noses but they did carefully wash their hands as we arrived.

We’re back at the hotel now. Dinner will be at 6 pm and then at 8:15 tomorrow morning we head for the airport and back into Central China and our three day boat trip down the Yangtze.

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