Wednesday, August 30

the last of the Tibet pictures

Of course, I have many more, but these are the last of the ones I picked out as the best.

This is the way many families heat up their water. The sun is so strong that all they have to do is reflect some of it on the kettle in the afternoon and they have hot water! Ingenious, huh?

Some women outside a temple in a small city on the way to base camp. They are each wearing a colorful striped apron that represents the fact that they are married. My friend and I each bought one of these aprons as a sort of "self-fulfilling prophecy" we hope.

This little boy was sitting on his parents' fabric selling booth in the market. He was so cute that when I took the picture, I said out loud "oh my goodness!" and he repeated me. So cute.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this woman with a prayer wheel in one hand and a watermelon ice cream in the other. I wanted to get closer, but she was already giving me a questioning look and turning away.

These guys were watching my friend give out pencils to kids who were begging in one of the villages we ate lunch at on the way to Everest Base Camp.
Monks (notice their great visors!) walking the prayer/shopping circuit around the temple.

A small island building at the summer palace in Lhasa.
Muslims sitting in front of the entrance to the mosque in Lhasa.

I couldn't resist sharing these two (of the many we saw) great uses of the English language. On the menu, especially notice "squeeze the vegetables" and "fragrant bowel". The other sign was actually a warning that they had a guard dog, but we thought we were back in Northeast China for a second, where dog is a popular dish.

Tuesday, August 29

a colorful nation

"You are called to go to the nations. Be sent to the continents and the nations of the earth. Let the cultures, the peoples, the tribes and tongues of the nations now color your soul and change how you look at this hurting earth."
This is an introduction to a CD that I own. I was listening to it on the train ride from Lhasa to Beijing last week and all the sights that I had seen in the past week were impressed on me again. These people are so open, so needy, so friendly, so wonderful. If I hadn't already felt like I was called to another place in the world, I might pack up and move to Tibet.

The Potala Palace, the (former) home of the Dalai Lama and the government.

The Jokhang Temple, the center of Lhasa. At the end of the day, from a nearby rooftop.

In front of an image of Buddha at the temple, a box of milk (served with straw inserted), some fruit, potpourri, a little money, and bowls of water are presented.

Mending a tent roof at the Summer Palace.

more Lhasa pictures

I thought this lady's hair was great. Maybe when I'm old and gray, I can be cool enough to wear braids, too. She's selling some vests and stuff at the market around the temple. The guy on the right is turning a prayer wheel.

Yak oil candles inside a small temple.

Lhasa smells like yak. Maybe all of Tibet does. It's not exactly a good smell. (One member of our group thinks that smell is the reason we all lost weight while in Tibet. Maybe she's right. Maybe we could start the Lhasa Yak Smell Diet or something.)
If you want to buy some of this Tibetan favorite meat, you can find shops like this one easily. Most of them have at least one piece of meat that still has the hair attached (like you can see in the bottom right). I guess to help you understand how fresh it is? That it's not processed? That you're not buying lamb? I don't know.

Large prayer wheels lining one side of the Potala Palace. These line every major temple so that you can pray as you walk alongside.

Extra large prayer wheel outside the Jokhang Temple. You can also see one guy bowing. There were actually many people doing this. They use cardboard on their hands to make sliding all the way onto their stomachs easier. Very hard to watch. These people need the truth.

Sunday, August 27

still base camp

I accidentally deleted a picture and then couldn't get it back into the last post, so one more...

Gathering stones at the river at base camp. (Cheap souveniers.)

This camp was originally chosen because it had springs for fresh water.

Our dinner that night...cucumbers and cup noodles. They sell food in the tents, but it didn't look good and is outrageously expensive since it's your only option if you don't bring it yourself. We were happy we had our cup noodles.

Inside the tent where we stayed at base camp. The guy to the left is fueling the fire for heat and his dinner with animal poop chips. The little guy on the right is his younger brother. They stay up here from May-October, then it gets too cold and they go back to their village. The little guy is just visiting until school starts again for him.

Our early to bed camper.

camp and the peak

I couldn't get more than five pictures to post on the last one, so here are a few more.
The entrance to a tent at base camp, enticingly named the Eingush Hotel ( I think it's meant to say English). Before we went up, one member of our group said "Let's stay in a nicer place tonight since we saved some money last night." I was a little bit scared, because I thought there could actually be some pricey hotels at base camp. (I had seen a picture of one in some Chinese brochure.) When we got up there, though, there were only these tents with Tibetan style couches around the perimeter for sleeping. There were only outhouses (some of which were dangerously near their limit of what they could hold) and no showers (or any running water other than the river). So, it was kinda funny to see the response on my friends' faces. It got very cold at night, and they had plenty of blankets, so once we got under about four of them and let our body heat warm them up, we were OK. We talked later about how often the blankets were washed, and we decided that we'd be surprised if they were ever washed. I asked the big guy upstairs if he would keep lice or anything else crawly off of us as I was trying to go to sleep. He did.

Base camp at night (or maybe early morning.)

One of the best views of Everest that we got, the next morning. The tallest peak you see is it, with just a thin skirt of clouds around the middle. We didn't get a completely clear view, but were still quite impressed with this one, and glad to get it just before we had to set off back down to meet our driver again.

trip to Everest Base Camp

We took a four day trip from Lhasa with Everest Base Camp as our goal. I might post some pictures of the other days later, but here are some pictures of days two and three when we got to see Everest. This first picture is our group and our Landcruiser driver. He was a really nice guy. Our student got to talk with him quite a bit, so we learned more about him. In peak season (July, August, September), he only gets to sleep one night at home in between his 4 or 5 day trips to base camp and back. The peak of Everest was actually visible from this spot (the first place we got to see it), but I don't think you can see it in the picture.

Rongphu Monastery, the highest monastery in the world. We went on up a little further from here to base camp. Only special cars are allowed up from this point, I think to reduce the pollution around base camp (and probaly to make more money).

We took the horse ride up to base camp. I sort of wanted to walk. It wasn't a hard walk, but when we got up there and I climbed a little hill, I was glad I hadn't walked. We had to get adjusted to the altitude again here and anything other than walking on level land made us short of breath.

A sweet dog that reminded me of Stella, my black mutt in Dripping Springs. When I walked down from base camp while the others took the horse again, this dog followed me the whole way.

This is the little hill we climbed that made us realize how high we were again. Everest is seen through the prayer flags, but at this point, we couldn't see much of it through the clouds.

Our first view of Everest from base camp. It's behind the clouds, just to the left of the ravine in the background. (Behind the one peak in the back on the left that can be seen.)

new look

I'm messing around on a Sunday afternoon (is this more productive than taking a nap? probably not) and got a new look for my blog from here. Now to post a few more pictures from the trip...

Friday, August 25

finally back

I understand how this guy (at the market in Lhasa) felt. I'm tired.

After leaving our hostel in Lhasa early Wednesday morning, a 48 hour train ride from Lhasa to Beijing, a day in Beijing (mostly spent at IKEA after checking our stuff into a youth hostel for a day and showering), 4 hours spent at the airport waiting for our plane to take off to Yanji, then two more hours on the plane, we got back early this morning (Saturday). Great trip in every way. Will try to post something interesting after I get a little more coherent.

Boarding the train in Lhasa.

Dinner at the airport last night. We had to take it with us instead of eating at the restaurant because of expected bad traffic (and too much time spent at IKEA).

My two travel buddies with all our stuff, checking in at the Beijing airport last night.

Tuesday, August 22

back safely

We are back from Everest Base Camp and leaving tomorrow for Beijing on the 48 hour train! I have so many pictures to post, but right now it's almost time to go meet up with the rest of the crew for dinner, so I'll probably post when I get back to Yanji on Friday or Saturday. It was amazing. Beautiful. Majestic. I can't believe I actually got to see Everest from the Base Camp!

Friday, August 18

a few pictures

We tried to go inside Potala palace yesterday, but I guess there are so many tourists that you have to reserve a day in advance. At that time, we thought we'd be leaving for Everest Base Camp today, so we didn't make reservations. Then we had to postpone our trip a day, so we could have gone. Anyhow, it's more than twice the admission to get in than any tourist spot in Beijing. Crazy! Of course, we would have paid, but now it looks like we can't go. Walked around and took some good pics of the outside, though. Will post those later.
I asked for a card reader and finally found it on this all Chinese machine, so here are some randomly chosen pictures.

Woman with prayer beads and prayer wheel walking the circuit around the temple

"Beijing" street in Lhasa

A common way to decorate windows in Tibet.

Monks carrying packs of I don't know what. Walking in front of the temple in the heart of Lhasa.

Prayer flags decorating a courtyard, with the familiar bright and strong sun and blue skies. We saw a few clouds today, but it's so bright here normally that almost everyone wears long sleeves and hats.

Tonight, we go to check out the Landcruiser we rented to go to Everest base camp and other cities along the way. We leave tomorrow morning, so probably no updates for about 4 days. May find a computer room somewhere, though. Stay tuned.

OH! Last night at midnight, we got train tickets from Lhasa to Beijing on the brand new railway. We are more than excited. It will take 48 hours. We leave Wednesday morning and get into Beijing Friday morning. Should be an adventure!

Thursday, August 17


We got to Lhasa yesterday around 1:30pm. A graduate of YUST met us at the airport, which was really nice. Everything has been a lot easier because of her. We took the 1.5 hour bus trip into town (Lhasa airport is supposed to be the furthest municipal airport from its city.) Our friend had reserved us a hotel. We checked in and went up to the third floor. That's when we first really felt the effect of low oxygen at high altitude. After three flights with my luggage, I was dizzy. It only seemed to really affect me, though, when I climbed stairs. It's also quite dry here, so we've been going through a lot of water.

One of our group decided to rest for the afternoon and adjust to the altitude. Two of us and our friend decided to go out for something to eat and to get a feel for the city. I can't post pictures because this computer doesn't have a hookup for my camera, but I will post a lot when I get back. The city has so much character, even though a lot of Chinese influence has come in, there is a lot of Tibet still here. The markets are amazing. Endless alleys full of prayer flags, beautiful clothes imported from India and Nepal, jewelry, monk attire, incense, yak butter.... There are a lot of tourists, but no lack of interesting locals walking the Barkhor prayer circuit around the temple, fingering prayer beads or swinging their round prayer containers (not sure what you call them).

We are headed out in two days to go to the Mount Everest base camp and other sites along the way. Very exciting!

Tuesday, August 15

in Beijing again

We arrived in Beijing this morning about 11:00 after a 23 hour train ride from Yanji. It was a nice trip because we had sleepers and got a pretty good night's rest. We are staying tonight in a nice little youth hostel near Wangfujing Street, the big Western-style shopping street in Beijing. We spent all day shopping on that street. My two travelling mates bought quite a bit, but I just bought a pair of sunglasses (are you happy, Laura?) and a new (charged) camera battery because I left my battery charger at home. Could kick myself for that, but I guess an extra battery could come in handy. It was marked as 56o yuan, but we bargained it down to 100 yuan. Can you believe it? Ah, China.

So, tomorrow we catch the plane to Lhasa. I can't believe it!

Sunday, August 13

one more story before i head out

Laura and JM left Beijing for their long trip back to Kentucky on Saturday morning. Dad and I left just a half an hour before they did for Yanji, my city. We didn't do anything too exciting in Yanji. Just shopped for a microwave (Dad's gift to me) and ping pong paddles (Dad's gift to himself). We went to a bath house, a Sunday meeting, and to a few different restaurants to get a taste of Yanji.

Like I mentioned before though, we did visit a nature reserve that's about 5 hours away by bus. In most tour books, Yanji is only mentioned as a gateway to this nature reserve, Chang Bai Shan. When Dad found out that it was five hours away, he suggested spending the night. The tour book said that buses leave from Yanji at 5.30 am, but it's a little old, so we thought they might have added a time since then.

Anyhow, Monday morning, we packed a little bag (me thinking we would likely stay in Yanji that night and leave the next morning) and went to the bus station to find out what times the buses left. It was still just that one time. Dad was obviously not ready to give up. He looked for other towns we could go to. In the guide book, it said we could go from a small town named Erdaobaihe near the reserve. So, I asked again and got tickets on the next train to this town. The lady didn't speak Korean, so this was a challenge in itself. We used our remaining time to get a drink and some supplies for the next day's hike.

On the bus, we ended up sitting next to a girl who had come all the way from Nanjing (South China) with her friend to hike up the mountain and see the Heavenly Lake. Dad struck up a conversation with her while I took a nap. The two friends from Nanjing ended up being very friendly. When we got to our destination to stay for the night, we followed them to a small hotel where we stayed for only 20 yuan (about $2.50) a night per person. I don't know if we could have gotten that rate on our own or not, but we were happy about it. We went with the girls to a Korean barbecue restaurant and had a nice dinner together before going to bed early.
We got up early on Tuesday to meet a driver connected with our hotel who took us to the entrance to the reserve. The two girls and a Korean couple were with us on the bus. Once inside the reserve, we had to take another bus to the hiking trail up to the waterfall and the lake.

The hike is mostly up a LONG flight of stairs next to a waterfall that is partially enclosed in a tunnel. You can see the stairs as the light brown line to the right and above the waterfall in this picture.

It took us about an hour to make it all the way to the top where there is a beautiful clear volcanic crater lake. When I came here last summer, the weather was pretty awful, which made the hike more slippery and the view less spectacular. This time, though, the sky was beautifully clear. You can see how clear the water is with pebbles on the bottom.

We ate our lunch (packaged sausages, a cucumber, and an apple)next to the lake, took in the view as much as possible and headed back down.

At the bottom, we stopped at the natural hot springs where they boil eggs and heat up sausages and corn to sell at high prices. We bought eggs and they were tasty!
Dad opted for a bath in the hot springs bath house and I, the cheapskate, waited. The price to get in was eight times what I pay in Yanji, so I didn't think it was worth it.

The bus we wanted to take left at 4:00. I started to get restless when it was around 3:15-3:30 and Dad hadn't come out yet. So, I asked the guy at the desk if the tall foreign guy was still down there. He said he was and he was on his way up. He came up around 3:45. He had forgotten that we had to take a bus to the entrance of the reserve to catch the bus home. So, we missed that bus, and we were both sort of resigned to spending another night in our little hotel.

The guy who had dropped us off in the morning was back, waiting for people to take back to the hotel, and I asked him if there were any buses to Yanji that day. I was speaking Chinese, which I actually don't speak in sentences, just words. Somehow, my intention got across to him and the next thing we knew, after speeding down the road a little too quickly for comfort (I'm past the idea of being comfortable when anyone in China drives anyhow), we had caught up to one of the buses headed to Yanji. We got on, took the last two seats (one guy got on after us had to sit on a bucket) and settled in for an uncomfortable ride home. Dad had to sit sideways since his legs are quite a bit longer than the average Chinese. I fit, but had bruises on my kneecaps the next day. We had told the two girls that we would see them again on the bus, but since we missed the bus and then caught up with some random tour bus, we missed seeing them.

Back in Yanji, we got off at the first stop the bus made, found a place for dinner, and took a taxi home. We spent the next day hanging out on campus and got a surprise call in the afternoon from our two friends! Dad had loaned one of them medicine for a burn and they had found us (based on what little information we left them with) to return it. We had a fun little reunion in my room sharing pictures and chatting before they had to go catch their train home.

P.S. I just changed the comments so that anonymous users can comment. You don't have to have a blogger account. I don't know if that is keeping anyone from commenting or not, but now there's no excuse!

sunday night

It's Sunday night. I'm listening to some jazz I have on my ipod and finishing off a lemon chiffon pie I made last night. I found lemons in the fruit market (most of the year, they're impossible to find) and found this recipe from a blog on blogger's blogs of note. It was meant to be, because I was able to find lemons, I had a graham cracker crust mix that someone gave me from America waiting to be used (although I am sure the suggested ginger snap crust makes it all that much better), and I snatched up the last two cartons of "whipping cream" (in quotes because it's found on the shelf, not in the fridge, but it still works okay) from the supermarket. I made it last night and took it to lunch at another teacher's house today. I snuck a few bites of the leftover filling last night and was in love. I might consider putting a stop to my prs for a husband if this pie were made and delivered to me, oh, a few times a month or so.

Back to the jazz. If there is a perfect night to listen to jazz, it's Sunday. I think this my preference because of Dr. Jazz on KACU FM. I got in the habit of listening to him on Sunday nights when I was in college. Now I'm relegated to my own meager jazz collection, but it works fine, too. Another good Sunday night memory - going to Mezamiz (anybody remember that place?) after home group and working on puzzles or chatting, usually with Rich or Randy. Ah, the college days.

So, I'm getting ready to go to Tibet. Another teacher had planned to go home, but then couldn't get any decently priced tickets, so we made plans to go somewhere together in China. Another teacher is joining us and I'm putting off my Korean study plans for a 10 day or so jaunt to the other side of this fair country I live in. I'm quite excited. I was very happy to see Beijing again with my family, but I also wanted to make it somewhere I hadn't been yet. I thought I'd be all alone here for the last few weeks of summer, but it turns out that I'm not. We are taking the train to Beijing and then the plane to Lhasa. We had hoped to take the new train from Beijing to Lhasa, but it's all sold out. We haven't made travel arrangements coming back yet, so maybe we can still experience the train from Lhasa.

Wanted to post some pictures from the Lama Temple, the last place we visited in Beijing. It's a Tibetan temple, so I thought it would fit as I get ready to leave for Lhasa via Beijing tomorrow. But, blogger is not letting me post the pictures for some reason. So, pictures will have to wait!

Friday, August 11

more on beijing

We got into Beijing late Saturday night (early Sunday morning). Our first place to go was the Panjiayuan market, in Southeast Beijing which took quite a while from our hotel in Northwest Beijing. We still got a good amount of shopping done at this market that's only open on weekends. After a few hours of browsing and bargaining, we saw one vendor who had a McDonald's cup. This was our first day in Beijing, so I was all about McDonald's since we don't have decent hamburgers in Yanji. (Laura and John Mark were all about it too, but their interest in McDonald's didn't wane the rest of the time we were in Beijing. We ended up going everyday.) So, we got directions and found that glorious airconditioned mecca of cold drinks and familiar tasting food.

That same day, the Temple of Heaven (where the emperor used to go to ask for a good harvest) and more shopping at the Pearl Market.

We overall had great luck with transportation, but the first night found ourselves in the right area without more than a general idea of how to get to our hotel. Here we are trying to figure out the little hotel map that was only in Chinese.

Day two was a lot of rain in the morning and the Forbidden City in the afternoon.
Day three was the beach.
Day four was the Great Wall. You've seen those pictures, but not the picture of how we got down the Great sliding on the toboggan chute! That proves we didn't go to an isolated section of the Wall, but we had a great time.

Day five was the Summer Palace, where we met Rachael (a friend of mine who taught at YUST last year) and her sister Bekah. Rachael and I had been there on New Year's Eve last year, but we had missed a lot of the sites because it was cold and one of the friends who was with us was sick. So, we enjoyed seeing it again in the not too unbearable heat.

Day six was the Lama Temple, a Tibetan temple in Beijing. It was interesting, but sad to see how people give such devotion to the statues there.