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. 🙂