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Missing Tibet (part one)

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Do you want to be missed? Not as a friend who couldn’t make it to a birthday party, but as someone who makes another person’s life incomplete if you were not there. To be missed as an important puzzle piece in the grand mystery that is life. I miss Tibet like that.

Tibet is made of three things: land, people and culture.

Tibet the land. Land in this sense encompasses the natural environment. Tibet is the old part of Asian continent. Her rolling hills are giant, smooth mountains by most people’s standards. Her skies are as wide and grandiose as your lungs and your heart allow it to be. Her rivers are rumbling and fierce like an angry teenager lashing out against the cliffs on its side.

We settled into a hotel late one night. When I woke up I looked out the window and thought the sky was dark. It was only when I walked outside that I discovered we were in the shadow of gigantic mountains. Blue skies and white clouds are way up at the tip of the mountains but I have to strain my neck to see them.

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On our drive up we pass a summit that is five thousand meters above sea level. The freezing wind instantaneously rob you of your breath. From the top we were surrounded by mirror-like pools and black yaks munching their way through the barren landscape. Faraway we could see an ocean of clouds rolling over the mountains like a blanket. The sun is trying to peek through somewhere but all we could see is her pink and orange glow.

At a place called miracle lake our driver lets us off to rest. I didn’t have to ask why the place is named such. The grassland was lush and wild flowers were in bloom. This natural carpet extended all the way to a crystal-like lake. The water is calm like a mother’s gaze upon her child. No wind, no sound, just the breathing of a mother and child. Far in the distance is a majestic yet peaceful mountain giant. Like the strong and reassuring shoulders of a father, it loomed over me from afar. I could not help but to cry, like a newborn I cried. This is a world I forgot still existed. I hope I would remember it forever.

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Tibet the people. If your life is written on your face then a Tibetan’s face is a book without cover. You can see every minute thought and every slight emotion immediately on a Tibetan visage. Their faces do not lie. On an old person, every wrinkle has a story and every hair deserves an audience. If one wants to win a photo contest, Tibet would be an excellent place to start.

Tibetan women are timid and shy. Their long black hair is their most defining feature. Clear, round faces and high cheek bones make them beautiful like a Mohican chieftain. Their high nose ridges give them an air of proudness that no amount of subjugation can erase. Tibetan men are usually dressed like cowboys from the outback. Knotted hair, olive skin, cotton jacket, amber bracelets, and a piercing stare that makes you feel self-conscious. Once you get to know them you will realize that they are just as curious as you are. They are thirsty for the outside world.

Tibetan children are dirty little monkeys, in the best sense of the words. For one thing, Tibetans do not esteem the value of washing as much as the rest of us. A thin layer of grease and dirt keeps the bugs away and retains body heat and moisture. Water is also a luxury in most homes, so most of the children we see are in need of some heavy soaking followed by rigorous scrubbing. Whenever we stop by a monastery, a group of rowdy pre-teens would emerge out of nowhere. They would poke and tug at anything they have not seen before. In our case this is EVERYTHING. A couple of times they even slapped my wife’s butt. They have not seen a white woman before. So why not?

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What is refreshing is the Tibetan children’s clear souls. They have not been corrupted by the rest of humanity. They do not spend hours on their phones and complain about one another in social chat rooms. If they like you they will laugh, dance and joke around with your. If they don’t like you they will go away. If they despise you they will spit on the ground and show you their fists and teeth . They look like precious flowers that have too short a season. You treasure their every smile, every cry, every triumph and every failure. You treasure them just the way they are. They are imperfect and perfect at the same time, just as children should be.

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To be continued in Missing Tibet (part two).

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