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Lhasa love

Upon arrival at the brisk base camp I was surprised to find it deserted except for a few Tibetan entrepreneurs who set up tea houses in large canvas military tents marked by cutsie handwritten signs. If only America would turn military bases into chai camps. As I ventured past the tents I found myself spending the day alone with the tallest mountain in the world. Not to belittle the famous mound but the base camp is already 15,000 feet high and instead of a gigantic pyramid crashing into the heavens Everest looked more like a majestic, snow dusted running shoe. Incredibly inspiring despite the Nike-like configuration.
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Tibet wasn't on my itinerary yet there I was crossing the vastly hued Himalayas heading to Qomolangma or as the British coined it, Mt. Everest. Upon arrival at the brisk base camp I was surprised to find it deserted except for a few Tibetan entrepreneurs who set up tea houses in large canvas military tents marked by cutsie handwritten signs. If only America would turn military bases into chai camps. As I ventured past the tents I found myself spending the day alone with the tallest mountain in the world. Not to belittle the famous mound but the base camp is already 15,000 feet high and instead of a gigantic pyramid crashing into the heavens Everest looked more like a majestic, snow dusted running shoe. Incredibly inspiring despite the Nike-like configuration.

I've seen the T-shirts and listened to Richard Gere but as far as I can tell Tibet is as free today as it will ever be. The Chinese government is spending millions on roads, railroads, and tourist area rehabilitation which ironically includes many of the monasteries it destroyed in it's cultural revolution. Although the Chi-gov will probably continue to warp the Tibetan culture with the population influx convenient transportation brings, many cities will benefit from a needed infrastructure. Tibetans greet you with the words "Tashee-delay" which means "good luck". Turns out the rest of the sentence is "finding a toilet". Sometimes it seemed like a whole town was sharing one restroom which was just a hole in the floor. I felt like Captain Kirk, I just wanted to go where no man had gone before.

The colorful ancient monasteries are all up and running but the population of resident monks is down to just ten per cent of what it was when the Dali Lama sat in Tibet's spiritual throne. Except for the illegality of possessing or posting a photo of the Dali Lama, Tibetan Buddhism is openly practiced with passion by a majority of the citizens. The multi colored prayer flags are hung everywhere; bridges, mountains, rivers...From a distance it seems like God is always having an auto sale or a grand opening. The grand opening of the spirit perhaps.

The true backbone of Tibet is neither the Dali Lama or the people's republic of China, it is the Yak. This long matted hair version of the cow is the Tibetan people's greatest resource. They all eat the Yak meat, drink Yak butter tea and use the butter to keep all the candles in the monasteries eternally burning. The hair is used to make clothing, and rope to tie down the tents which are made from Yak hide. The horns are used as a Buddhist amulet and the bones are used to make jewelry and hand held prayer wheels used mostly by the elderly as they chant OM MANI PADME HUM to procure blessings for their future. Hundreds of pads of Yak dung are stuck to the walls of the villages to be dried by the sun and then used to fuel the stoves for cooking and winter heat. The Yak itself is used to transport goods but is recently being replaced by bright blue or orange trucks.

Unlike the Vietnamese who would net your aquarium for the days catch, the people of Tibet do not eat fish. Mostly for religious reasons which takes into account one of their six modes of burial which involves placing the bodies of deceased children into the river. If you thought seaweed on the hook was annoying...

The Tibetans are truly friendly people who adorn themselves with turquoise, red coral, bone, and silver. With only a shovel both the men and the women of the mountain tribes propagate multi-acres of barley which is made into flour to become one of their main staples called TSAMPA. When working in groups the people are united in song and seem to convey that the stone walls they build in positive spirit will hold that spirit to enrich their lives. The Tibetan word for "very good" is "Yabadoo" and seeing how much rock is used to build all the rural villages you get the feeling that they are just one daba away from being the modern stone age family.

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