Heading to Shangri-La

On my second trip to Asia, Michelle arranged to have me travel with a young student of hers, Dawa Drolma. Extremely intelligent, she was, of course, equally provincial. From a small village in Qinghai Province, she graduated from Qinghai Normal University* in Xining, a very large city in the far west of China, but she had no travel experience. She did, however, speak English very well.  It was a tough job for her in many ways.  The Chinese spoken in the regions where we spent much of our time was difficult for her to understand, so communication was exhausting. As her main task was to function as translator, it must have been quite frustrating.  Also, we encountered some strange happenings that could only befall illiterate strangers…us!  But those stories will come later in the story.

Yunnan Province is rich with the remnants of many indigenous cultures.  In China, there are 55 ethnic groups co-residing with the predominant Han Chinese, and 25 of these can be found in Yunnan. Wanting to see  cultural diversity, the trip was planned accordingly, dipping south west into the lowland rice and tea regions, where the Yi, Naxi, Bai, and Mosuo societies can be found*.  Bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, this canyon-filled landscape is verdant and lush, with the vast diversification of natural species gracing a habitat that has plenty of water and sun.  But in the northwest, Yunnan borders the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the place most of us call Tibet. It is this part of China where we find the Diqin Plateau and mountains soaring to the heavens.  Kawagebo Peak ascends a mighty 22,110 ft (6,740 m).

On my itinerary of “must sees” was a town called Shangri-La, basking at an altitude of well over 10,000 ft. It is supposedly the paradise James Hilton referred to in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, but I was attracted to it because of its historical Tibetan town.  As it turns out, Dawa Drolma’s very best friend from college lives there. Visiting Dolma turned out to be life changing


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Three weeks to go.

Departure time is drawing near. I think that I have most of my thing in order now. The list is realistic, albeit, a bit long. Which can be interpreted to mean: I have more than I was hoping to take. The big space taker is, of course, my bed. But I feel safe, and that is good. The little mattress is insulated, and full length which is an improvement over the 3/4 version from my last trip. My new Nemo sleeping bag is “so far, so good”. It is made for side sleepers, and I am trusting it will be more comfortable for me than the semi-mummy, which freaked me out! Claustrophobia. Not good.

I will be putting the suitcase in the belly of the plane, which is always a risk. But, I just couldn’t fit my bed AND spare boots in my carry on. Winter make a difference, even though I will be wearing my snow boots and carrying my coat. Not having everything with me means packing my little back pack differently. I need to rearrange a few things to accommodate a possible delay in the arrival of my big bag. Hmm. Long undies and an extra shirt, all medications, and of course, hat gloves and cameras.

Speaking of which, I think I will bring the two little guys: the lumix wide angle and the Fuji stereo cameras. If I have room, I’ll add the Canon with the 200. It is so hard to travel light!

I bought some Chlorella/Spirulina, which should help out with the possible lack of greens, and I have some turkey jerky for nibbles. I suspect it may be difficult for me to eat out on my own. My dietary restrictions will undoubtedly create a challenge or two, not to mention the language barrier. (I could make myself nervous and cancel the trip if I think much about this!!!)

The things that I am missing are the gifts. Kid stuff I have, but the important presents for the adults I don’t.  What to bring?

the iPad

So, I think I am finally near the end of the shopping spree.  Just the sleeping bag stuff left to get.  I’ll make a list before I go, and then it will be fun to see what I actually needed as compared to what I thought I needed.

At this moment very moment, I am futzing with the final toy — an iPad. This is a big deal. A lot of consideration went into the decision to get this thing, with serious thoughts about going over to the enemy.  There is a PC pad that is really a computer…and the benefit is that I could download my photos to it, play a dvd etc.  Still, I am a Mac person, and the workings are familiar.  So the iPad it is.

I will need to figure out a few things, like redo and undo. (Where is my command z?) And how do I move the cursor using the keyboard?  But this is trivial. That I can maintain my writing while on the trip is key. I will be alone a lot, and in a place where no one speaks English; it is important for me to have a “job”. Writing it will be.

Hmm. I think I will put a few of the DVDs I did for the western folklife center on the iPad.  Then I can show my friends OUR traditional herding culture! Fun