Famed as ‘City of Sunlight,’ Lhasa has over 3,000 hours of sunlight on average each year. Emphasis on the over, I’m certain it’s much more. Cloudy days, especially during the winter, are quite rare. December 30th, the day we headed to the countryside, was no exception. As we waited for bus route 17B at approximately 11a.m., the sun was already brilliantly bathing our skin. With each bus that passed by, I shielded my eyes from the sun’s intense gaze to make out the numbers, thankful for the spf70 I now had generously applied to my face. Some Tibetan women stood next to us, clearly talking about the three foreigners in words we couldn’t understand. I’ve gotten used to this.
Eventually, the correct bus hissed and halted before us, so we climbed into the vehicle that would transport us thirty minutes West of Lhasa to a Tibetan friend’s home. At some point in the journey, it was necessary to change buses and the second part of our trip was considerably more bumpy. I pondered the fact that a public bus system runs all the way out to these countryside homes, only costing one yuan per ride. My appreciation for public transportation has been greatly bolstered since my move to Lhasa.
We jostled past warehouses, dirt fields and not a lot else. However, when we had almost reached our destination, a rather newly built middle school materialized in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. My Tibetan friend informed me that more schools are being built out in the countryside, set up like boarding schools. Because farming families are so spread out geographically, they must send their kids to these boarding schools starting at a young age.
When the bus would go no further, it was our turn to get off. Hopping down onto the dirt, we took in the quiet of our new location and gazed at all the similar, grey brick constructed homes. Setting off down one of the dirt drives we walked past several homes with yak dung stuck to the exterior walls. This is so it can dry in the sun and later be used for burning fuel.
Near the entrance of our host’s home, a mother cow and its calf were nestled close to the wall.
A guard dog was yelping and pulling hard against its chain just to our right. Many Tibetan families own large, intimidating dogs for protection. Some of the Mastiffs could be mistaken for bears. Here’s a good example of one.
Heading into the courtyard through the gate, we were greeted with a beautifully painted porch and tea cups were already out, ready to be filled with sweet tea, ཇ་མངར་མོ་ (cha-nga-mo). Our hosts were incredibly kind, even though we were only able to communicate with a few words. They also brought out some butter tea, བོད་ཇ་ (pö-cha ), potato slices, peppers and Tibetan cheese (chura). This particular cheese was a bit crumbly and tasted sugary. One bite was about all I needed, nice gesture though.
Mostly, we just enjoyed sweet tea and conversation on a warm, sunny porch with quiet all around. Perhaps someday I’ll own a porch and paint it in vibrant colors, I think this has become a small dream of mine. Porches are like stages upon which life, thought and conversation unfold. A variety of environments may surround these stages, depending on the location. But I’m thankful for the moments I was able to spend on that particular stage, engulfed in all its uniqueness and simplicity.