Friday, October 13, 2017

Yaks And The Sera Monestary

Today was an interesting day. In the morning we excitedly boarded our small bus and went to the Sera Monastery. The afternoon we drove an hour outside of Lhasa to a small community where we were treated to a warm welcome by a group of families giving us a bit of insight into rural Tibetan life...and Yaks. Nasty, smelly but delicious yaks.

The Sera Monastery was built in the 15th century and it is here where monks from all over Tibet converge to have daily philosophical debates. Of course it was something we could not witness but standing outside the great hall we could hear spirited conversations. It is not the oldest or largest monastery in Tibet but I was told its importance could not be overlooked.

The monastery was active but not busy. There were quite a few monks and worshipers and like every temple or monastery I have been to in China the large walls created a sound buffer to the outside world. It was quiet aside from the odd bird singing, a bit of muffled chanting and feet shuffling along the well worn stone paths

We had spent about an hour inside and taking pictures were forbidden but some of our group stealthily took photos inside. I chose to put my camera away, listen to our guide explain the meaning of various rooms, Buddhas and artifacts. I am getting better at stopping, listening and viewing in real life.

Our guide was Tsewang Rinzen. He seemed a bit shy and reserved for a tour guide but he relaxed as the day went on. The Tibetans are a quiet and reserved people so this was normal which I appreciated, instead of loud babbling guide who liked the sound of their own voice. He was a devout Buddhist, quiet and confident. As the tour progressed he was quick to give us his political views on the Chinese and the historical context of the Chinese occupation.

Important dates were 1950 when Chinese troops invaded Tibet. 1951 an agreement was formed. 1959 is when China quelled an uprising and formally took over Tibet. This is the time when the Dalai Lama fled to India. 1979 was a time of religious reformation and 2008 was the latest uprising against occupation. Make no mistake about Tibet. This is a peaceful and beautiful place but the Tibetan people have an independent passion. They are not yaks being lead to slaughter.

Have you ever been charged by a yak? Take your average dairy cow, make it larger, meaner, more aggressive and with long sharp horns that could impale a tank. That is a Tibetan Yak and one did not like me very much. Naturally if someone is going to get charged by one of these demonic beasts it is going to be me. He looked at me, snorted, stamped his foot and ran 4 strides staring at my deep red t-shirt (if that had anything to do with it). I ran 10 feet and he immediately stopped thus recognizing it was a turf war. He won!

There were 32 in our group. We were divided into 2 groups of 10 and 3 groups of 4 in what looked like age brackets. I ended up in a group with three others  and that was good for me. Touring around in a smaller group is easier as far as I am concerned. Philip and Sophie were French Nationals living in Shanghai. She was a professional photographer and he was an engineer for the automotive industry. They lived for 5 years in Mexico so we go out Spanish grove on. Alan was an American living and working in Xiaman. He had a PHD and specialized  in studying river flows and river deltas. This bad boy knew his geology, geography and weather. He has also lived in some of the oddest places. Bangladesh, Papau New Guinea and Myanmar. We were as different as any group could be but immediately hit it off. I think it was a combination of our collective lives living and working globally plus nobody was needy. We all just did our  thing.

The final member of our group was our driver, Namgal. Arguably the best desert driver on the planet.
The was no question he was the most insane and aggressive drive I have ever put my confidence in. His best quote "why cross the bridge when we can go through the river. I wash my car it's OK. Just take pictures". I liked him immediately.

Spending time on a family farm was a great way to spend the afternoon. My breathing had stabilized, as had everyone's so a short hike was in order. The views from behind the farm were great and the area was littered with the enemy yaks. As for the attacking beast well I had the last laugh sort of. Yaks are traditional food for the Tibetans. They are so beloved that in the winter the animals are penned inside the family home. All parts are used and there is zero waste.

Today we were learning to make momo's. A traditional dumpling stuffed with meat and spices and steamed to delicious perfection. As I filled my first one and began pinching the ends I looked up at the bad boy that I had a conflict with.  I held the dumpling high above my head for him to see and I a pretty sure I saw him run into the hills screaming. Who has the last laugh now yak boy! 

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