The big question

There are many reasons why I am going to China in February, the majority of which I have yet to discover. Perhaps by the end of the journey, I will have a better understanding of WHY I am going, but right now I don’t. I only know that I am.

This question comes up with most people who learn of my adventure, and I don’t really know what to say. The trip is a big undertaking and in some ways quite unreasonable. I am sixty six, I have broken bones in both feet, and I speak not a word of Tibetan. My command of the mandarin language is limited to saying “I do not speak Mandarin very well” and “hello.” And, to boot, whilst I will be visiting people whom I have met, I am traveling by myself!

One friend suggested it was the extreme nature of the trip that makes it appealing. Although I have found myself in trying circumstances in my travels, I don’t actively search them out. Plus, more and more, I like things to be easy and comfortable. Another pal questioned whether it was a deeper exploration of Buddhism or maybe a sociological study. Partially. My husband said matter-of-factly “you are going to visit your friends.” While this is true, there are unquestionably more comfortable times of the year to do so.

Certainly, attending Losar, the high Tibetan holiday celebrated over a 16 day period starting February 19, is an important part of this journey. I want to be with my friends at this time when they are deep in their Tibetan world, free to be who they are — engrossed in pageantry of their beliefs. And, it will be extraordinary to experience Tibetan Buddhism in full swing. I expect it to be wild. Giant brass horns (akin to diggerydos), drums, and chanting, strange costumes and exotic dancing. So, yes, there is an interest, but I don’t think it is what drives me.

Curiosity, that old friend, has an important role (but, of course!). How do these Tibetan friends of mine live in the winter? What do they do with themselves. In summer their daily tasks are nonstop. Simply getting water is a chore. The eldest son’s wife in one family I will visit again was always up before dawn, walking to the pasture miles up the road to milk the yaks, then returning to prepare breakfast for everyone. Then back to the pasture. This is life. The butter needs churning; the cheese must be made; dung, yak and sheep, must be gathered for fuel; wool must be gotten, combed, and spun to yarn; homespun wool is sewn into sacks to carry the barley which will be ground into tsampa. On and on. But in winter it is cold…VERY COLD. In one home I visited on my second trip, I saw only a tiny wood burning stove, exhaust pipe not even rising to the ceiling, let alone through it. The stove was used for cooking, at least in the summer. But, nothing I saw could heat the great room in which the stove was pitifully central. How do they live in the cold? I will see. For this house is one where I will stay for six days.


12/24/14. Tonight I celebrated Merry Festivas Eve sharing a crab dinner with dear friends Sharon and Helen. When the conversation got around to my pending trip, new ideas merged into consciousness relating to the “why.” One is that I need to be out of my comfort zone to feel like I am alive. This is true, within certain parameters, albeit I am not certain sub-freezing temperatures are within those parameters. And the other, which resonates deeply, is that of trust. I am compelled–nay, closer to obsessed–by the desire to take this journey, and, because the passion is there, I can simply trust that it the right path.

I like this last one. 🙂


SHOPPING like a fool!!!

Shopping is not something I do well, nor do I particularly like it.  But I am so scared of the cold, that I am turning into a researcher and online shopper. Altho’, I am still waiting to see if the rain/snow pants I ordered have been lost in cyberspace!

Importantly, I finally found some boots that won’t be too heavy but I think will do the job! I have had good luck with Vasque, so hopefully they’ll fit!  Most of the contenders were three plus pounds.  Weigh too heavy!  These are one and a half.

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Oh. I also got myself a BUFF, the Spanish Merino wool tube that all the cool backpacker types use to wear in a number of a hat, as a scarf, as a balaclava….  I tried it last night as a sleeping cap (the temperatures dropped way below freezing,) and it stayed on and did the job!  Very cool…mine is red.

This is my Buff!!!!!

This is my Buff!!!!!

would that I looked like the model in it.  Instead I look a bit like a Russian grandma..

Would that I looked like the model in it. Instead I look a bit like a Russian grandma…which, I guess I am, partially!!!












And I have some Merino wool long undies…a zip top and a pair of leggings by Bergen of Norway…They are a beautiful deep lavender, and have interesting construction. BTW, I did NOT get them, nor my buff, online.  Nope, I went to The Ledge, right here in Klamath Falls.  Felt good.




Well, I have had some wonderful advice from my friend Bob Williams:

1. Start eating food similar to what I will be eating in China at least a few weeks before hand, so my gut isn’t having to deal with a whole new experience.  Hmm.  Boiled mutton????

(Ha Ha!  A couple of nights ago, I dug into our freezer and found two small bottom round roasts from Prather Ranch…extra lean, to be certain.  So I got out my recipes and found one that I had scrawled across the top RAVE REVIEWS.  It is a slow cooker recipe, and I do know that here at altitude, I often have to ad an hour or more.  So I piled in the ingredients, and let the cooker work it’s magic.  After 6 hours on “low”, I checked the meat, which should be done “when the meat crumbles into strings with the prodding of a fork.”  Well, not yet; it was still hard.  So, I let it go for a few more hours.  Same story.  Hard, like a brick.  So I turned the cooker off, and went to bed.  In the morning I turned it on again, this time to “high”.  Five hours later, it was still hard!  OMG  It is like the mutton I had last time I was in China!!!  Providence, I am certain. My chance to eat like I probably will in Tibet!  And I have a recipe!!!

Gotta say, it was so hard, one could build a house out of it!  Even Tupper couldn’t eat it. But I salvaged the damn things by slicing (sorta) them into dog sized bites…and guess who thinks all that work was just for them?)

2. If possible, start adjusting sleep habits to China time.

3. Do NOT drink alcohol or caffeine on the plane.  It dehydrates the body, and the recycled air is already doing that.  DRINK DRINK DRINK water.

4. Boost the immune system.


I am totally preoccupied at the moment with the physical nature (read “cold”) of this trip.  My mind is on clothing and bedding. But Bob brings up some very good points.  Preparation really must be taken seriously, and it must include me getting in the best physical shape I can be in so as to ward off the adverse conditions of airplane travel, altitude, change of diet etc.

After I deal with the clothing list, it will be time to consider things like medications.  I have learned, from my world traveler friend, Merrill, there are some high altitude pills, and some emergency respiratory ailment pills…and of course tummy trouble pills.  I think it is time to make an appointment with my doctor.  While pills are just about my least favorite thing to consume, I have yet to go to China and NOT get respiratory problems…once very serious.  I’d rather have them and not need them, that is for certain.

Stay tuned.


Clothing and more

Well, I am still working on getting the correct clothing, and keeping my luggage manageable. Gotta say shopping online is tedious, and so touch and go.  Have had to send so much back because I got the wrong size FOR THAT PARTICULAR SHOP.  It is definitely not standardized.

Now I am looking at woolen trousers.  Seems like the right thing, with a rain/windproof pant to wear as needed.  Pendelton may be the place to look!

So, what I have are my fabulous coat, silk long johns, cashmere sweater, fleece, turtle necks, mittens, woolen hat, undies, silk sock liners.

Plan to get woolen long johns, boots, those little hunters’ heater dealies, sleeping bag.  I have been advised by my pal, Mr. Williams, that it might be better to use regular boots sized to accommodate thick woolen socks over silk liners.  Better for walking than the sorrel type boot with the felt.

I probably should think about goggle style sun glasses, too.  What else? what else?

Beijing Shop-Girls

On foot, I made my way to the quaint Beijing art and antiques shopping street and of course got pulled into an antique store by a charmingly persuasive, youngish shop-girl, who came out of her store to “admire” the necklace I had on. Good ploy! I was treated to tea, which is a lengthy and ritualized affair and met her assistant, who kept bringing objects for me to look at while I was savoring the tea.  It was actually quite lovely, and the shop had some nice things. In fact, several of the objects I purchased there remain my favorite mementos of that whole trip.

“Joan” spoke very good English and Mai spoke a little.  We got into a lengthy chat about San Francisco, California, and America. Upon taking my leave they asked if I would like to join them for dinner, to experience hot pot in the non-tourist part of Beijing where they live.  Yes indeedy, say I.  Well not really.  I probably said, “Yes, thank you very much.  I would enjoy that immensely.” And off  I went.

The July evening was not too hot, tempered by a slight breeze, as I retraced my steps to the shopping street, wondering if they would really be there. They were waiting for me and I was greeted by genuine smiles. I reflected that they were lovely young people.  Curious, ambitious, well-mannered, and fun. We got along well, and I fantasized that we could put a great Beijing tour together.

The hot pot place was teaming with Chinese people. Not another Caucasian in sight.  We sat outside midst the throngs, grabbing an open table with the peculiar hot pot cooker in the center.  Excellent guides to hotpot etiquette, they revealed the magic of this tasty Chinese cuisine. In due course, they asked about my travels.  When I told them I was headed to visit some Tibetans in the West, they were both taken aback.  Why would anyone want to visit Tibetans?  Then Joan cautioned me, “Tibetans are filthy and disease ridden.  You must have your shots up to date if you are intent on visiting with them.  But,  really, they are deplorable, and you shouldn’t go.”

I thought of the words from the song from South Pacific, “You have got to be carefully taught.”  And I thought about my own biases, not the least of which were the negative notions I had about mainland Chinese in general.  Different, but much the same as Joan’s in terms of disparaging prejudice.  Remember, China was the country I loved to hate during the Olympics.

The footnote to this experience is that two years later, in a different part of Beijing, I actually recognized Joan on the street!  Amazing as that is, her story was even more wondrous.  She had taken the new fast train to Lhasa, and loved it — both the train and Lhasa.  She now has Tibetan friends, with whom she stays in touch via the internet…and “yes” she plans on returning. She also proudly sells Tibetan trinkets in her store.  I spent quite sometime looking at pictures of her sojourn and it was clear that the trip was special and she had a wonderful time.

While there are plainly conflicting feelings about and probably motives for the train, it certainly opened the heart of one young Han Chinese woman.