day before thanksgiving post

i've sat down several times over the last two weeks to concoct a post for you all to read. but each time it goes little further than a few trite lines. the reality is life here is life anywhere. i get up, i eat, i study tibetan and chinese, i conduct research, and i see friends. life. to me it seems unextraordinary. so i don't post. but the truth is that life is really worth telling about. but life is not real life unless it is lived, and life lived only exists when the catalyst is the revelation and following of the Savior.

thus, life is good! and those of you that really know me know how i like to live this life, on the move, perhaps afraid of settling for too long in one place. i like newness, change, adventure, fresh pictures for my mind's eye. that is what i am about to get too. this coming saturday--but not before celebrating what happens to be my favorite holiday, thanksgiving--i will leave moleville for a time and half, making my way through three continent going from and to, europe, north america and then back to asia. till today i had not really accepted that i was traveling again. but not because i did not want to. it just did not feel close, or real yet. perhaps tangible is the best way to say it. moleville is my tangible reality now, and leaving it even for two months took sometime to set back in. just like when you read of strikes in france or hear about a cyclone in bangladesh it seems surreal. today, however, something struck me. 'i'll be in london in 9 days,' i thought. then i realized hong kong and macau were before that. then i got excited and ready. the tangibility of my return stateside came to me, and gave me comfort. friends. family. pumpkin pies with whipped cream. my mom's king ranch chicken. grandma's house for christmas. texas bar-b-que. late night conversations with my brother. warmer weather. a game of pool with my dad over a drink. and a culture that understands me.

but back to my original point. this life is meant to be lived in communion with the divine. and so, i can not wait to tell you all of my stories of doing so. my feelings of loneliness wane in the face of being known by Him. He travels with me, He eats and dances with me (most of you already knew that i love to dance), and most of all He inhabits me, never leaving me to view a wonderful himalayan sunrise or beautiful tibetan face alone. so, that is the life i live. one with the eternal Spirit within me, making all things new.


my weekend away, day II

rising well after my alarm sounded i turned over, realizing the extent of my stiffness. sleeping on a kang--an elevated bed platform with a fire underneath--is wonderful for keeping warm, but it does a number on the back and legs. this kang was uneven too. i did stay nice and toasty, though. i should know since i woke up at least every hour. but i cannot complain, my friends aunt and uncle gave me this kang to sleep on so that i would not get cold.

breakfast consisted of tortilla-like flat breads and piping hot salt tea. it's better than is sounds. it was quite good, particularly for warming up. after a slow breakfast we set off for a full days activities. first, down to the bottom of the village to see the families old home, now turned into a walled orchard/garden. then we slowly made our way back up the hill to the temple. we had been told the festivities began around 10am. so, being fashionably late we arrived at 10:30 to a nearly empty temple yard.

in the temple's kitchen women busied themselves preparing for the afternoon's feast, while men ran to and fro about the kitchen's business. on the dying grass of the temple yard a small group of children played a game of tag. around and around they went, tiring, then reinvigorated they darted off again. i stood on the temple platform watching over the movements of the people below, letting the droning of the chants seep out over the scene. they rose and fell like a soundtrack to the liveliness below, but one that did not quite seem to capture the pace i saw, but that nonetheless fit and elevated my experience.

as i gazed, probably wide-eyed and slack-jawed, my friend saw old mates, picked up nieces and nephews, and was questioned by inquisitive relatives. he also interpreted for the 'curious george's,' explaining who i was and what i was doing there.

right about noon one of the holy men emerged from the temple and yelled out for the women to bring the food. it was time. the stream of people had arrived just in time for a free lunch. there were more that 100 people. just think of all those sunday night potluck dinners. it was much the same. my friend and i were ushered into the temple keepers home to eat. as we rounded the corner into the inner room i saw a table surrounded by aged men, all at least 60, one pushing 80. all but one was a holy man, likely retired since they were not in the temple with the others. the other was completely bald.

they scooted around and made room for the two of us. it was easy to tell that we were interrupting their old man talk, but they politely chatted with me a few minutes and then returned to the subjects that old men around the world continually ponder: the lack of rain for crops, the degeneration of the young generation, what to do about the village economy, and how to repair the dying culture of the village. they did not mind us listening in, every once in a while turning and smiling at me, and encouraging me to eat more. really i could have seen this exact same thing in florence, or beijing, or paris, tx. they laid hands on each others thighs, leaned in close to tell their stories, grabbed shoulders to pull attention back to their point, and ran fingers through (or over) their hair when unsure about a point. i sat there somewhat in awe of their accumulated experiences and knowledge. they were the elders of their communities.

after lunch the awaited festival began. benches were pulled outside for the musicians. people lined up and found good seats, pulling entire tree trunks if necessary. and inside the dancers donned their elaborate costumes, those same ones their fathers and grandfathers wore and danced in.

it began with a procession of all the holy men, and the three boys in training, marching down into the temple yard while playing instruments and chanting. they wound around in a circle towards the middle then back out again and back into the temple. then the dancing began. they emerged from the temple doorway, a raven and a bird of prey that looked more like a tiger. bouncing. undulating. spinning. down the steps, and out among the people. around and around they went, bouncing and bouncing and bouncing. one representing a bad omen and the other a good omen. to be honest, after a minute or two it all looked the same to me. but the dances tell stories, they tell of the past and how to navigate the future. i just was just illiterate to that aspect. for the villagers it's a time of renewal and indoctrination of the youth. this is where they learn their morals.

for the next 5 hours these holy men danced. some dances included skeletons, others dragons and fabled deer, others lords of the underworld and demons. the mythology of tibet spilled out into that temple yard for all the villagers to learn and take in. it was remarkable to see. it was also boring. to my untrained, and non-buddhist eyes, each dance looked more like the previous as the day wore on. the high altitude sun beat down on me and left me wearied. after my friend's uncle's final dance we departed from the scene.

at home we lay down and took a short rest. after all, there was still a round of visits for later that evening. another aunt and uncle, and more milk tea, then his brother's. thankfully, these visits were short, as they were really to busy to bother with us anyway. sitting back to another cup of milk tea the day wound to a close with a family dinner of carrot dumplings. delicious! i ate till i was stuffed. then we lay back on the warmth of the kang, ready to doze off.

a few more shots from the day:

young boys learning to play the famous tibetan horns

man from the village

village boys awaiting the festivities

a truck moving across the high tibetan plateau