Thursday, June 23, 2011

And the Relatives Came to Stay

George's cousin Bonnie Sorensen and her daughter Vanessa heard we were in China and came to visit. The stay with us for 2 weeks. They spent their days seeing all the wonderful sights in Beijing. We were able to spend Fridays and Saturday touring with them.

The Great Wall

Eastern Qing Tombs

Panjiayuan "Dirt" Market


Tibet is a Semi-autonomous Region of China. We first learned about Tibet from a television program about Lhasa and prayer wheels. We were intrigued and George began to make plans to visit. In order to vacation in Tibet you must first receive permission from the Chinese government to enter Tibet. George worked with China Cultural Center Tours and we were approve for a 9 day visit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Our first stop in Tibet was Lhasa. We were pick up at the airport by our tour guide Tsewang (his English name is Shawn). It was a great comfort to have a tour guide. We managed touring Europe on our own because even though we did not speak the various languages there was commonality between the languages and the written alphabet is the same. With the help of maps we could we could get ourselves from one place to another. There is no common ground between English and Chinese or English and Tibetan. We were grateful to have an English speaking Tibetan guide.

This is the Potala Palace. The first Potala Palace was built in the 7th century but was destroyed by fire in a thunderstorm. This Potala Palace was built on the same spot by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century. Each successive Dalai Lama has added to or renovated this palace. Tibet used to be a theocracy. The present Dalai Lama escaped from here to India in 1959. Since that time the palace has become both a vast museum and a memorial of Tibet's rich and devoutly religious culture. Many of the past Dalai Lama have their stupa's here.

Sera Monastery

Potala Palace

Many Tibetans walk with prayer beads in the left hand or a prayer wheel in their right hand. We were impressed with the continual devotion and attention to daily prayer and worship.

The drive to Gyantse

We left Lhasa in the morning and drove to Gyantse. We made several stops along the way. We enjoyed the scenery. Tibet is unique in all the world. The climate is harsh, the terrain barren, the people resilient. It has challenge our outlook on what is truly important in life.

One way the locals make money is to hire out their animals for photo shoots. Ruth is posing with a yak, a most clever, versatile, dependable beast.

Daily life seems a burden, yet the women is willing to carry her burden. Maybe it's her love of family, or her love of the land that gives her serenity and the will to keep moving.
This is Yamdrok Yutso Lake. Our guide provided a boxed lunch for us which we ate near the shore of the lake. We never seen any quite as beautiful as this lake.

Lunch was quite tasty. There was a shepherd out with his sheep who noticed us munching away. We he noticed that we were cleaning up, he ran over and the driver gave him the uneaten sandwiches and fruit.

Drive from Gyantse to Shigatse

Before leaving for Shigatse we visited the Pelkhor Chode temple complex. Monks and Tibetans were going about their normal routine. There are cars on the street, but most people seem to be walking. The city seem quaint with many wearing traditional dress that goes back centuries.

This is the Kumbum. It is in the shape of a mandala. Actually it is a 3-dimensional mandala. Mandala are a sacred diagram of the universe. They are both simple and complex. Most mandala are painted on silk.
We asked the Monk if we could take picture of his
apprentice tending the yak-butter lamp.

Pelkor Chode Monastery

The drive from Shigatse to Tingri

Tibetan landscape is beautiful

We feel like we have gone centuries back in time. Farming in Tibet is a family and community responsibility. Everyone works together.

Children everywhere are cute, even when dirty.

In addition to prayer wheels and prayer flags you can buy colorful paper with prayers written on them. You throw them high into the sky confetti style. A celebration of the spiritual. Joyfully we have a Father in Heaven who answers prayers.

Mount Everest Base Camp

We are so very excited! We have entered the heart of Mount Everest Nature Reserve. The highest spot on earth. Everest or Chomolungma is 29,029 feet or 8,848 meters high. The air is noticeable thin. Our tour guide has an emergency supply of oxygen but we won't need it.

Spectacular! Awesome! Amazing Grandeur!
Mountains are Temples.
Ruth & George
True Love!

George wishes he could climb on up.

Travel from Everest Base Camp to Shigatse and then Lhasa

We back in the jeep heading for Shigatse where we will stay the night. The following day we will drive back to Lhasa. Traveling by car is a marvelous way to see the county. We continue to be amazed by the glorious yak. Yaks can do everything.

The country side is barren yet villages are nestled near the foothills and crops are painstakingly nourished.
Another yoke of yak working in the hot springtime.


We are stretching our legs while our driver has a break.


The Norbulingka was once the summer palace for the Dalai Lamas. Now it is a pleasant park and memorial containing several palaces of different Dalai Lamas each with chapels, throne rooms, meditation rooms and halls. Thangkas and bright murals are everywhere. The grounds are filled with magnificent ancient trees.

Norbulingka was founded by the 7th Dalai Lama in 1755. In 1959 the last Dalai Lama escaped from this palace disguised as a Tibetan soldier and made his way to India.

Prayer wheels captured Georges imagination. One of the reason's we came to Tibet was to see the prayer wheels. Prayer Wheels come in many sizes and contain written sutras. As you circumambulate around the monastery or stupa you spin the wheels and your prayers are rocketed up to heaven.

We bought and help box up a prayer wheel for each of our children.

A Star of David and a Swastika encircled together? How ironic is that? We wonder what the symbols mean to Tibetans.

Our Tibetan trip exceeded all of our expectation. We have been enriched by the unique traditions, lifestyle, creativity, culture, devotion and faith we have seen.