A Travellerspoint blog

A New Year and Random Thoughts

So, the new year has finally arrived. And, while it came with more pomp than I am used to, the circumstance was less than ideal for me. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time dancing, chatting and doing a little drinking at the newest, and second, disco in Lhasa. However, New Year for me is always spent with my family or close friends, at home. Sounds a little old fashioned, I know, but it works for me.

This year, I spent it out. As I said, I was at the new disco in town, the Tang Club. It is a bit smaller than the other disco, Babila, the music is a little slower, making it a smidge difficult to dance to all the time, and since it is new, it is packed like you wouldn't believe. The dance floor is so small and the tables so close to it that you end up bumping people who are sitting, while you are dancing. The lights and the lighting are nice though, and overall it was a fun time. They have a giant screen behind the dj table that usually displays various colored lights, but with five minutes to go until midnight, it turned into a giant countdown clock.

I was home by 2am, and went right to sleep, something I do a lot--come home early and go to sleep. Anyway, it was nice, I enjoyed it and met some nice people, with whom I spent the evening.

All right, so the week between Christmas and New Year was a bit interesting. I have started teaching English to a nice man, a Khampa (meaning he comes from the Kham region of the TAR/China) who teaches Tibetan to children living in Shangrila. Yes, it is a real place, and I have heard it is beautiful. It is currently located in Yunnan province, China, but the people there are ethnically Tibetan. This guy I'm teaching is only in Lhasa for two months, so we have class 5 or 6 days a week for an hour or two, or three. He learns fast, studies, and is quite respectful even though I am a bit younger than he is.

We had an interesting discussion about tipping. It is not a common practice in the TAR or in China. In fact, when I was in China two years ago, a friend of mine tried to leave a tip at a fancy restaurant we had eaten at. However, we had just crossed the street outside the restaurant to visit a nice little teahouse, when our server came running out with money in hand to return the small amount my friend had left. The only places here that refer to tipping are the hardcore tourist places. They usually have a tip box on the front counter, but I couldn't say for sure how often people leave tips. I did hear that when Colin Farrell was in town, he left a 300 yuan tip at one restaurant, which was probably almost 100 times the cost of his food.

Anyway, the first week of teaching went well, minus two days. One day, I lost my voice. Why, I don't know. The only time I have ever lost my voice was when I spent too much time screaming on roller coasters, and that only happened once. The second day that teaching didn't happen for me was Saturday. During the day on Friday, my eye swelled up and was oozing. I won't go into too much detail about that. It was not better on Saturday so I asked Rachel, who has excellent Chinese, to go with me to the hospital to see a doctor.

It is an interesting point that there is no such thing as private practice here. You either visit the hospital, or you go without treatment. So, Rachel and I hopped in a cab at 10am and made our way to the military hospital on the other side of Lhasa. I had heard that it was the best, and Rachel had been there before with our friend Lauren. Earlier in the semester, my Japanese friend Minako had been hospitalized for what the doctors thought was appendicitis. In fact, they were going to operate, when it turned out not to be appendicitis at all. She was in the hospital for three days, and some of us went to visit her. I vowed then that I would never be sick enough to have to stay in the hospital. It was dirty, had public toilets that smelled horrible, and people were smoking all over the place.

I would like to say for the record, that the military hospital is not like this at all. It is a large compound, no cobwebs on the ceiling, minimal dirt on the floor, the toilet facilities did not smell, there was almost no smoking and the people were super nice.

So, we arrived at the hospital and asked a couple of people where to go to check in, since they were doing some moving. We found our way to the check-in counter, I paid 5 yuan to get a little gold card and a visit book and then we had our own personal helper. One young woman who worked there took it upon herself to make sure we had all the help we needed. She took us back to see the opthamologist, who was a very pleasant Chinese man. He took a look at my eye and then prescribed two different eye drops and an antibiotic ointment. Apparently, I had developed a bacterial infection, which seemed similar to pink eye. Rachel did a wonderful job translating. Then, we took the prescription to the pharmacy counter where we got the prices of the medicines, took the prices to the counter, paid, got a receipt, went back to the pharmacy and picked up the medicines.

I have to say it was quite a pleasant experience. I was surprised. Even better though, is that two of the medicines I received are in fact Western imports, and less than four days later, the condition is almost gone. Thank goodness.

In the way of random thoughts, there is one thing I have noticed since I have been here. It took me a while to figure it out. In China, when you leave, you say "zai jian" and so does the person you are leaving behind. In Tibet, there are two phrases, one for the person leaving and one for the person staying. The person leaving says, "ka le shu" which means, literally, "stay slow", but means something more like "stay well". The person staying says, "ka le peb" which literally means, "go slow", but means "go well".

A few weeks ago, I noticed a taxi driver say, in Chinese, "man zuo" but did not understand what he said (I was a little drunk and it was about 3am). Sometime later, I heard a Chinese woman, a sales clerk say the same thing, and it being the middle of the day, I finally figured out what they were saying. It has become customary for Chinese people here to say "man zuo" when a person leaves, rather than "zai jian". I bring this point up because "man zuo" literally means "go slow", the same as the Tibetan phrase. There is some degree of reverse cultural assimilation going on, and this is the first linguistic bit of evidence that has presented itself to show this.

Now that I have said that, I'm going to end this entry.

Posted by michab3 17:38 Comments (0)

Christmas on the Roof of the World

Well, Christmas has come and gone. I should start this entry a little before Christmas. Our final week of class until March 4th was the 18th through the 22nd. During that time, the university decided it would be good for us to have exams. As it turned out though, most of the "exams" ended up being "homework". Most of the people here are not here to get credit from a school at home, and so, most of us didn't need formal exams.

In my class, the only one with full contingent of students, many having already gone traveling or home for the break, we had two sets of "homework" and one real exam. It was just a little nerve wracking not knowing exactly what to study. It wasn't as if we were being tested on specific chapters in our books, but more that our basic knowledge was being put to the test. There was very little vocabulary, things mostly involved grammar points and making sentences. For our actual test, we were required to write a story and then we had an in-class exam. There were no specific instructions given for the story, no length or required structures, just that we were to write a story. After Wednesday, for all intents and purposes, school was over, all the exams were finished. However, unlike a university in the West, we still had class until Friday.

Friday evening we planned a small Christmas party, dinner and a gift game. Rachel made baked potatoes with chili and I made cookies and peanut butter fudge. There should have been chocolate fudge as well, but due to the lack of a candy thermometer and a bit of over-anxiousness on my part, I didn't cook the fudge long enough and it turned into a semi-solid goo. Through luck or something, the peanut butter fudge came out wonderfully and was quite popular.

Anyway, we decorated the lobby downstairs with a small tree with lights and ornaments, more lights around the chairs and paper snowflakes. Regarding snowflakes, I think there should be a remedial class for older people on how to make them. The last time I made snowflakes I think I was maybe 7 or 8, and the skill is hard to remember. Lauren's Tibetan friend did a better job of making snowflakes than she and I did.

So, after the lobby was decorated, we ate wonderful baked potatoes with delicious chili, cheese and ranch dressing. After everyone was finished, we played a gift game. Everyone had brought a wrapped gift. We drew numbers, then each person went in turn, either taking a new gift from the table to unwrap or stealing a previously opened gift. It was quite a lot of fun, even though some of the gifts were clearly unwanted while others were stolen many times.

The only snag for me was an unpleasant stomach bug I picked up on Thursday night. I spent most of the day Friday trying to keep my stomach under control, but lost the battle after eating that fantastic baked potato on Friday night. It is only today, Wednesday, that I have been able to eat without repercussions of any kind.

On Saturday, not much happened. Sunday, Christmas Eve, the Italians had planned to party and had told everyone they were planning, but in the end, did not invite anyone, but rather ate dinner together, which seemed a little strange to everyone, but they are Italians, after all, and have some strange ideas about what is acceptable. For example, it is not uncommon for two of the girls and the guy to spend an hour or two arguing in the hallway, shouting at the top of their lungs. In fact, that is how they spent a great deal of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

So, Christmas Eve, under the presumption that my stomach was better, (it wasn't), I went out with Doris to a nice restaurant to eat some Indian food. The owner had planned a little party. All the guests at his establishment had free mulled wine, which was absolutely delicious, and his male waiters were dressed as Santa. It was a bit humorous to see skinny Tibetan guys dressed as Santa, but they were enjoying it. He had a tree and there were colored light globes spinning, adding to the atmosphere. When we left, we received gift bags filled with cookies, candy and a few small trinkets. After that, Doris went out to party and I went home. For Tibetans and Chinese, Christmas is merely an excuse to party hard and drink themselves into oblivion. They have only received the commercial aspect of the holiday, and I mean that in the strictest sense. Most of the holiday decorations are provided by beer companies, such as Budweiser, and are more advertisement than anything else. They also don't normally give presents or spend time with their families. But, that's ok. Many of us Westerners are not so into the religious aspect of the holiday, but it is wonderful to spend it with family.

Christmas day came. Instead of dinner, us Americans planned a brunch. I thought it would be nice to do a ham for dinner and even bought a pineapple and some maraschino cherries from the import store, but in the end, I was too tired to go to the butcher, argue over the cut of meat and then cook the pork roast (since a ham is either cured or smoked, and they don't seem to exist here) for eight hours in my slow cooker. Anyway, I made eggnog, two kinds of quiche and coffee cake. That, in addition to fruit salad and orange juice, were a little bit of heaven. While they don't have ham, they do make bacon here, and it is what I would term, super-delicious.

After brunch, which ended up happening about 2pm, the rest of the afternoon was spent just relaxing, and of course, I thought about home, a lot.

That night, I borrowed "It's a Wonderful Life" from Rachel and watched it with Stephanie, who, being from Switzerland, had never seen it. Afterwards, I called my family. It was the perfect way to end the day, in lieu of actually being home for Christmas.

Posted by michab3 01:27 Comments (1)

An Old American Tradition

Thanksgiving rolled around, almost too quickly. Unfortunately, not all of us were able to celebrate properly on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, a group of us planned a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the weekend after, December 2nd.

I have to say that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Aside from the eating business, it is really about being together with family or close friends. Since I started college, I never went home for Thanksgiving. Instead, I made dinner for/with my friends who were also staying in town. There are few things I enjoy more than cooking for a group of people, and it was really exciting this year. Us Americans had the opportunity to introduce our new European, Japanese and Tibetan friends to Thanksgiving. In fact, Rachel and I were so intent on having a traditional meal that several weeks before Thanksgiving we purchased an imported turkey at a ridiculous price.

The only catch with the turkey was where to cook it. The ovens here are tiny things, about the size of a large toaster oven at home. It was going to provide quite a challenge, but we were determined to find a way to make our turkey. The alternative to baking a turkey is, as everyone knows, the Southern tradition of deep-frying. The week before our party, I took the turkey down to the kitchen to make sure they would have a pot large enough in which to submerge the turkey. They assured me that it would be no problem and to bring it back on Saturday.

Saturday rolled around. We split up the cooking, so I was in charge of the turkey, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (made from cranberries mailed from the US, that lasted two weeks in a box!) and brownies. Rachel was in charge of the pumpkin pie, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and gravy, and Lauren was making the green bean casserole and a veggie tray.

Lauren and I hauled our 16lb turkey down to the kitchen, only to have them tell us that they didn't have a pot, but we could use a wok. Now, let me say that this was indeed an enormous wok, but there was no way that the whole turkey was going to fit, even in this economy-sized, Costco-worthy wok. So, we hauled it back upstairs where Lauren and I managed to cut the turkey into pieces, season it, and brought it back down to our heated oil.

I had never deep-fried a turkey before, so I was a little worried about cooking time and how it would taste. At home, I use a roasting bag and it comes out perfect every time. There we were though, outside behind the kitchen, deep-frying a turkey in a wok. I knew it would take a while, but it took almost an hour for the breasts to cook, and then, while the legs and thighs were cooking, the kitchen shut down and they turned off the electricity we were using to fry the turkey. Needless to say, we were a bit upset that we couldn't finish cooking our bird, but there wasn't much we could do about it at that point.

As for the delicious factor--it was just like home! We even had whipped cream for the pie and ranch dip for the veggies. Aside from the location, and the fact that it took three people and a wok to do the cooking that could normally be accomplished in one kitchen by one person, it was a piece of America. I think there are some photos floating around. I'll see if I can round them up and post them.

After dinner, a few of us went out about 10pm and just danced at the disco. On that note, I would like to add that there are now two discos--that's right, two--in Lhasa. I haven't yet been to the new one, but I'm sure that day is coming.

Posted by michab3 00:37 Comments (2)

The Potala

I'm am such a bad blogger! I apologize for not writing in a month. I've slipped into Tibetan time, which is not always a good thing. For those who don't know, Tibetan time is a lot like owning a watch that is at least half an hour slow. If someone says they will meet you at such and such a time, chances are he or she will be late, or that he or she will call you to say that there is no time to meet today (your preset meeting day) and could you meet another time, or the opposite happens. You made a date at, say, Friday, 5pm. Instead of being satisfied with this, your Tibetan friend calls and says, there is no time on Friday, could you meet right this minute instead? Time here is very convoluted, and I have fallen into the time warp that is Tibet.

So, the last time I wrote, I was going to go to the Potala. (Those pictures are posted, by the way.) That morning started out with a trip to the post office. I'm not sure if I have mentioned this before, but if I have, oh well. When you go to the post office, usually, you just take the things you are mailing. You buy a box there for your things. Then, you take the box of stuff to the customs counter where they have you write on a little sticker-form what is in the box. After that, you stand in line for the man who tapes the box. No, I'm not joking. If you tape the box yourself, you still have to have the man tape it for you, because, heaven knows you didn't do a thorough enough job. I have never, in all my life, seen anyone use as much tape on a box as the Chinese postal service, (this includes my stepbrother, Matt, well known for being able to make tape disappear). So, you are standing in line for the man to tape your box, and he is good. This is all he does all day. When he is finished taping up the box, it is covered, literally covered, with green China Post tape. So far, you have stood in lines for about 25 minutes. Now, you take the box back to the customs counter where they put on the green sticker that you filled out earlier, with the contents of the package. You are not allowed to actually put the sticker on yourself. It must be done by the customs agent. Then, you take the box to the next counter, where it is weighed, you pay, fill out another form, and finally, if you are lucky, and there are no problems, your package is successfully placed on a pile of other boxes being sent out of country, and it only took somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour, if there were no problems.

That is how the trip to the Potala started out. My friend Doris was mailing a package home, and we were almost late for the tour because of all this line-waiting in the post office. I'm not really looking forward to mailing out my Christmas presents (which will be quite late, by the way.)

When that was completed, we ran across the street to the Potala, where we met our teacher and other classmates. We entered the Potala through the front gate, which is something that is normally reserved for locals, and of course, the most of the tourists were gone at this point, so most everyone uses the front now.

The Potala is beautiful. The original building, so Tibetan history goes, was a small place built by King Song-tsen Gam-po, the 7th century king that brought Buddhism to Tibet via his wives. Inside, there is a small room that is said to be the place that he built. The rest of the Potala was constructed by the Great 5th Dalai Lama and later, after his death, the regent Sang-gye Gyatso. He kept the death of the 5th Dalai Lama a secret for 15 years while the palace was completed. It is a bit over 100 meters high and over 300 meters wide, with exactly 1000 rooms.

To tour the Potala, one climbs up the steps at the front of the building and then works down from the top of the palace looking at what few rooms are open to tourists. Many rooms have been destroyed, either during the Cultural Revolution, or through neglect. Photos are absolutely not allowed inside, and there are cameras and plenty of security to make sure that non are taken.

Now that all the basic info is here, I can say how beautiful it was. While we only saw a few places inside the Potala, perhaps 10 or 15 rooms out of the 1000, it projected history and tradition. We were able to see the official throne room of the Dalai Lamas, various rooms for meditation and teaching, chaples dedicated to Avalokitesvara, and the most impressive of all were the rooms with the three-dimensional mandalas, which are representations of the universe or the abodes of various deities, and the golden funeral stupas of the Dalai Lamas. This type of stupa and funeral is reserved for only the highest lamas. These structures are about two storeys high, covered in gold leaf, turquoise, red coral, mother-of-pearl, they are incredible and not to be missed, if anyone comes to Lhasa.

The view from the Potala is wonderful. It is possible to see the city, nearly from one end to the other, and there are a number of tiny monasteries and retreat houses on the mountains facing the Potala. Beautiful!

This tour took us a total of two hours, one hour longer than tourists get. (We lucked out because we are students.) While the tour can certainly be done in an hour, it was nice to have the extra information provided by our teacher as we went along. And of course, it is nice to just spend some time looking at things, being there, in the space. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be going back. It is 100 yuan to visit the Potala, if you are a tourist, and I don't think dyeing my hair will get me a Tibetan price. Admittedly, 100 yuan is only about $13, but that will buy a lot of toilet paper and thukpa (noodles).

It's late here, so I will end this entry and I will write another tomorrow. Thanks for being patient!

Posted by michab3 04:03 Comments (0)

Dancing here is an experience...

This entry is going to be a catch-up on the last couple of weeks. My friends and I went to Drikung for the second time, let me think...four weekends ago, since it is already well into Monday for me. Since then, I have had a few interesting experiences.

After we returned from Drikung, I discovered that I had an allergy to some food that I had eaten, so I spent the better part of that week covered in an itchy, welty rash. This is interesting because at home, I have yet to find anything I am allergic to. I have a guess about what it was here, but no firm decision was made.

So, aside from that, the week was uneventful. The weekend, however was another story. On Friday night, three of my friends went out on the town, such as it is here. They returned home at 3:30am, quite drunk, and consequently spent the day lounging in bed. I declined the invitation to go out, since I am not really into that kind of thing.

Saturday night, we were sitting in our favorite restaurant, eating our food in the dark (more on the darkness later) and Stephanie and Doris decided they wanted to go out again. I said I would go with so that there was someone to keep an eye on their things while they were drinking and dancing.

No problem there. It was still relatively early when we left the restaurant, so we found a little place down the street and I had a Sprite while the others had a beer. Finally, at about 11:30, we hopped in a cab and went to a nangma. Now, nangmas are an interesting phenomenon. We think they have evolved out of the Chinese love of karaoke, and the natural Tibetan inclination to sing every chance they get. Inside the nangma we went to, the first floor was filled with people sitting around tables and on couches, drinking and listening to the performer. Upstairs were more tables and recessed couches, but all providing a decent view of the stage. The performance is somewhat like a variety show, with an emphasis on the singing and some instrument playing. Every so often there is a production number or a comedy piece. For the most part, however, the performer sings two songs, and during this time, people from the audience walk onto the stage and present katas (ceremonial scarves) to the performers. The more katas a performer has, the more popular he/she is, and the more songs they perform, up to perhaps 5 songs.

Every so often, there is a break, maybe every 30-45 minutes. During this time, the people in the audience all come up onto the stage and dance. Now, unlike in America where everyone dances with their own style and separated, the Tibetans at the nangmas prefer to begin the dance as a kor-shay, or circle dance. Everyone knows the proper feet and hand movements, and everyone dances in a circle, until the young guys get a bit enthusiastic and go crazy on the dance floor.

This continues for a while, perhaps 10 or 15 minutes. Then, the performance begins again. This goes on and on, while the people get drunker and drunker. We aren't really sure what time the nangmas close. On this Saturday night, we left the nangma at 3:30am, after Stephanie and Doris had jointly consumed eight beers. But, we did not go home.

Instead, we went to Babila, the only dance club/bar in town. Unlike the nangma, there is no traditional music, only modern dance music, with a dj, a small dance floor, and a lot of booze and flashing lights. It is like a transplanted modern club from the States, or from Europe. Everything is mirrors and metal. The choice of alcoholic drinks is quite limited, however. Either a person may have beer, or he may have Chivas Regal whiskey. Unlike in other places, though, you may not purchase a shot of whiskey, you must purchase the entire bottle, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $50-$60. And then, one still does not drink straight shots, but rather, the whiskey is mixed with Chinese iced tea, a drink so sweet that it makes the teeth hurt when consumed alone. When it is mixed with whiskey, it is actually acceptable to drink.

Now, I am not really the kind of person to get drunk and dance--certainly not dance. However, we met some acquaintances of Stephanie and Doris' from the night before, and he (the other man was drunk, passed out on the table) insisted on paying for drinks, something the men always do here, and offered me some whiskey while Doris and Stephanie were dancing. I politely declined, but he insisted, so he and I drank some whiskey together, and before long, I was indeed, drunk, having done several shots of whiskey on an empty stomach at 4:00am. By 4:15, I was dancing, and at 5am, we decided to leave and do circumambulations around the Jokhang, since it was only a couple of hours until 7am when they unlock the door to our building. (The curfew is 11:30pm--this just means they lock the door with a chain from the inside and we must wake up one of the reception girls downstairs so that she can unlock the door.) It made a lot of sense at the time...

So, off we went to the Jokhang, and we did circumambulations until a little after 6am, but by then, we were too cold to stay out, so we made our way back to the dorm. Luckily, though, we did not have to wake anyone up to get in the building. One of the kitchen girls was already awake, and she was kind enough to let us in through the kitchen.

The next day, Sunday, was our first pot luck in Tibet. Another American, Rachel, and I planned it and invited our teachers, and anyone who wanted to come. It was set for 3:00pm, and I had had a yak pot roast cooking in my slow cooker for an entire day. I will say this about yak--it smells terrible, both raw and while it is cooking, but it tastes just like beef. Rachel, Lauren and I had gone on Saturday afternoon to buy the roast, and managed to get a reasonable discount out of the butcher because we are students, and because Rachel begged so nicely while batting her eyelashes. So, the pot roast was ready, and with the help of Stephanie and Doris, we made mashed potatoes (Doris took off part of her finger nail with the peeler) and fried apples.

When we went upstairs for lunch, it was wonderful. Quite a number of people attended, and everyone brought delicious food, including our teachers (except for one teacher who brought some really unpleasant cheese that had been mixed with butter and sugar. Normally this would be tasty, but when made with yak products, it is pretty yucky. I did try it though...) Over all, the afternoon was a great success. Some of us stayed upstairs until almost 7pm, just chatting and enjoying ourselves.

The next week passed without much of importance happening. On Friday, the culture class went to Sera monastery (which I have a few photos of that I must post.) Sera is an important monastery just on the edge of Lhasa. It was mostly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but has been rebuilt. There are, however, significantly fewer monks than there used to be. It was quite beautiful, as monasteries tend to be here. Unfortunately, we were unable to take photos inside of the temples, unless we paid. (Sorry, guys. I didn't feel like paying, and it is a bit strange to take pictures in holy place, anyway.) There was one particularly interesting note--there was one particular chapel in which women were not allowed to step foot. They said it would offer some offense to the deity within.

That Friday, a large group of us went to Namtso, our favorite restaurant, for a little farewell party for a fellow classmate, who had visa trouble and was going back to the States. After dinner, a bunch of us decided to go to Babila (mostly it was Ingrid. She had a bad day. It's a bit of a funny story. She received a package from home, Norway, containing all kinds of presents and an Advent calendar with chocolate, but the package was mistakenly delivered to an orphanage, and they took out half of the contents, meaning presents and chocolate, before returning it to the post office. No one at the post office could tell Ingrid what had happened to her stuff, and when the director of the orphanage showed up to explain, she had already been crying in the post office for a couple of hours trying to get a straight story. Now, when she found out that orphans had possession of her things from home, she felt bad that she was so upset about her stuff. At the same time though, no one offered her compensation for her stolen items.)

So, we went to Babila, and even though it was only about 10:30 when we got there, it was jam-packed with people. Palden, whose party it was, got us a table upstairs and promptly paid for drinks all around, meaning a bottle of whiskey and the tea to mix with it. Until somewhere around 2:30am, we were there, dancing and drinking, and for some inexplicable reason, my dancing, such as it was, was quite popular. I also had a stalker friend, a rather middle-aged Tibetan man who would not leave me alone. I told him I wasn't interested. In fact, I told him I only like girls (a blatant lie, I know) just to get him to go away. It didn't work. It took about three hours of ignoring him before he went away.

After about 2:30, some of our group was ready to go home, so several left, and Stephanie, Doris and I stayed until 4:30am. This time, when we returned to the dorm, one of our friends was still awake and she was kind enough to sneak down the hall and unlock the door for us.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful. Monday came, and during lunch time, I went with Stephanie, Michael, and Mr. Hong to visit one of his masters who lives in town. He was a really nice man, and we sat in his sitting room drinking Tibetan sweet tea, eating cookies, and chatting in a combination of Chinese, Tibetan, and English. We left his place about 4pm and went around the corner to the place where they make the wood blocks for pecha (Tibetan book) printing. Unlike some more traditional places, this publishing house has lasers that make the wood blocks.

After that, we went to the Barkhor so that Mr. Hong could find some mandala paintings to send home to his monastery in South Korea. There were some disappointments before he found what he was looking for at the price he wanted. He stood, arguing with a woman for the better part of an hour, while Michael, Stephanie and I made friends with the stall-keepers around.

During the course of our chatting, a young man walked up to me, pulled my hand out of my pocket and stood holding it, while he said how much he liked me, how pretty I was, and when Stephanie asked if he was married and he said no, he promptly told me we should get married. I can honestly say it is the first marriage proposal I have received, but unfortunately, I had to turn him down. After all, he was only 23, and I found out later, already married. I have heard from others that marriage proposals to Western women are rather common here, so perhaps there will be more eligible proposals in the future...

Other than that, I did spend the week doing some Christmas shopping. It seems early, but it takes about a month for mail to make it to the States from here. So, I went shopping three days in a row last week, and say many beautiful, but expensive things which I could not buy and many things which I would not buy because of the low quality. It is quite frustrating to shop here sometimes, because there are no real mid-priced, mid-quality goods. The majority of things are either high-quality, high-price or low-quality, low-price (for those who know how to bargain, not for the tourists.)

This weekend, though, I decided to try my hand at baking at this altitude, which I have heard is quite difficult. I made chocolate chip cookies, using dark chocolate Dove bars as chocolate chips. While there was some difficulty removing the cookies from the trays, texture- and flavor-wise, they were a great success, and I think I will be making more for Thanksgiving.

On the topic of Thanksgiving, I would like to say that while we won't be celebrating it this week, we will be celebrating next weekend, complete with a turkey! Rachel heard of a man who imported turkeys for Thanksgiving, and we went down to his shop by the Potala, and sure enough, he had a 16lb turkey in his case, which we bought. He only had two turkeys, the other only about 5lbs. So, now we have a turkey, which we will be deep-frying, because there isn't an oven large enough to bake a turkey. Also, if the box from my dad comes through ok, there will be cranberries to make cranberry sauce with, and if my sister can find it, there will be Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving special as well. Of course, we will be inviting our teachers as well, after all, part of this experience is cultural exchange.

Now, onto the subject of weather. It is getting progressively colder, as is to be expected during the winter time, however, the problem is with the heating. The Lhasa electric company does not produce enough electricity to power the entire city during the evening time. Consequently, there are rolling blackouts, and the university is not allowed to turn the heat on until 11:30pm. It is quite interesting to be walking through a city that is half dark. The other night, Stephanie, Doris and I were returning from shopping, and the power was out in the part of the city we were walking in. That did not stop us, however, from eating stick food in the Muslim quarter. A good friend told me that I should not miss the potato balls, and man, was he right! Imagine mashed potatoes, formed into balls, deep-fried, and covered in salty, spicy goodness. <sigh> They are really, really, really good. Luckily, there was electricity at the university, but because they don't turn the heat on until 11:30, it is frigid when you go to sleep, and they usually turn it off pretty early in the morning, so it is frigid again when you wake up. It's pretty difficult to shower when it is 35 degrees in your room when you step out of the bathroom.

So, we are trying to get used to the cold, and everyone is wearing more clothing, and drinking more hot water, but having to deal with fairly regular power outages, or, like the other night, no gas, because our maintainence man doesn't always pay attention to his job. Anyway...

That's pretty much it for the last two weeks. Let me know if there is something specific anyone wants from Tibet, so I can get it and ship it with everything for Christmas.

Posted by michab3 23:27 Comments (3)

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