The monastery is dark and smells of old wood and incense. We climb a set of stairs and come out of a enchantingly beautiful doorway. Beyond the doorway, laying across the wooden floor are a pile of boys’ shoes. They were thrown so haphazardly that one wonders if the owners would ever find his pair.
We keep climbing. At what feels like the fifth or sixth floor we stop at a hanging divide. My guide tells me she cannot accompany me because she is female and is not allowed in the high lama’s living quarters. I must enter alone. I lift the curtain and go in.
Inside, a half dressed lama is meditating in front of a vessel of burning incense. The only light comes from the tiny windows, through which one can get a glimpse of the snow capped mountains thousands of kilometer away. I wait until my presence is felt. He opens his eyes and addresses me in an inaudible volume.
With equally low volume I ask for permission to enter the temple and the high lama hands me a key. I thank him and leave him in peace. With the key my guide and I go into the main temple to photograph the priceless thangkas we came to Changgen for.
When we are done we exit and hand the key back to the lama at the front. Just then we hear the sounds of hundreds of footsteps above us. A stampede of little boys appear out of nowhere. Some dash right past us while others stop and surround us. Toby is wearing bright colours and is subjected to the most glares. They manage to blurb out a few English words like “Okay”, “Hello” and curiously enough “Nice Girl”.
When timidity give away to curiosity they begin touching and pulling things. “Hey!” I hear Toby cry out when she feels a slap on her bum. Just when things are threatening to get unruly a senior lama comes out and shouts them down. Many of them disperse, but some remain.
During the next few days we keep running into these boys. Without a common language we communicate using the most basic of human skills: facial expression, hand gesture, voice, body language and most importantly laughter.
We find out these are local boys coming to the temple to learn the Tibetan language and Buddhism. They get one hot meal per day. A third of them are orphans and have nowhere to go at night except a corner in the temple or some friend’s house.
In this world there is this piece of untouched land called Tibet. On the rolling hills of Tibet there are these innocent young human beings. They know nothing of Facebook. They know nothing of Justin Bieber. They know nothing of Playstation. But they know how to find wild strawberries. They know how to scare away wild dogs. They know which spring water is safe to drink. Moreover, they know how to be thankful for the sunshine, how to chase after happiness, how to hold a stranger’s heart. For even now they still hold mine.
It has been two years since I saw them but my thoughts never left them for a moment. What a wonderful wonderful world we all live in…
Come and watch “The Wheel of Life – A Glimpse into Tibet”. All proceeds go toward building a dormitory for the Changgen Boys.
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