Thursday, July 22, 2010

quest for the dalai lama

Had another early morning. We got up to join the monks in the temple at 5:30. I had a nice meditation in the company of the few monks that showed.

Another long day in the car… first to Tongren to see a thangka museum. I guess it was cool but after a while they all look the same. I do admire the artists though. They must devote so much time and concentration- but what else do they have to do after all?

I was unaware of this but supposedly our very original plan was to hike around ending up at the Dalai Lama’s birthplace. It wasn’t until a week before we left that Jimpa changed the itinerary for safety reasons. So today we decided to try to get there by car anyway. The DL’s home and village have been completely taken off all maps. It simply doesn’t exist. He’s been marked as a terrorist in China- thus his departure to India, where he is now.

I was told to disguise myself as a Muslim, trying to wrap my noticeable, blonde hair into a hat. In case we were stopped, we had this whole story of trying to get to Xining via the country roads etc. Jimpa removed is front license plate- we had another story for that too. The road up there was treacherous, hardly suitable to be called a road. Every couple hundred meters we’d have to get out to lighten the car so it could get over these concrete bumps. Then we’d have to run back in so that the villagers hopefully wouldn’t see us.

Jimpa dropped us off to walk the rest of the way up the house and drove around the corner in case we needed a getaway. The 3 of us walked up to the huge wooden doors only to be turned away a woman who we suspect is one of the DL’s cousins. She wouldn’t let us in and she kept trying to say ‘police’ in English. From what I could see, the inside was beautiful. But we reluctantly turned away- it wasn’t worth risking. The landscape there was beautiful! Big, green, steep mountains with fields of a yellow flower (we think sorghum) and farm plots. I never knew that pea plant flowers taste just like peas!

We decided to head directly to Xining instead of camping as planned due to the fact that foreigners are totally not allowed. On our way, Jimpa showed us one of his favorite Rampi places- a dirty stand on the side of the road. I couldn’t watch the woman prepare it because the place was just disgusting, but the food was great! Go figure.

We kept driving through several fields only to get a closer look and realize they were marijuana plants. Right on the side of the road! hahaha

sweet mother of ganja!

Xining is a much prettier place city than Lanzhou.

The first real stop we made here was a sauna/spa. Like I had expected- lots of stares, laughs, naked Chinese women running around. They would all talk at me at once getting progressively louder as if I would be able to understand them if they spoke louder. I couldn’t wait to take my braids out and wash my hair! But, in the shower, I couldn’t tell what was shampoo or body wash or conditioner. It all looked the same. I tried watching other women, but that wasn’t helpful. I ended up putting any and everything all over. I couldn’t get clean enough. After more harassment I was given paper clothes to wear into the big massage/lounge room. Mostly men in there- big men smoking and reclining in these beds watching TV. I met up with Tim and Joel and we got our nails trimmed by a large, very sharp razor. I just couldn’t watch- made me too nervous. They kept asking if my hair was real and if I would sell it to them. I like this place! They think my hair is actually pretty! But, my fear of balding has increased tenfold. I’ve never had so much hair come out between the showers and massages. We did get head massages so hopefully that will stimulate hair growth! My hair if finally blonde again now that it’s washed after a couple weeks. Gross!

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