|1. View of Potala Palace, Shangri-La|
|2. Yak hair curtains|
Nema and his wife are old friends. Nema was my personal sherpa four years ago when I went to Everest base camp. But he has had bigger challenges than me. He has summited Mt. Everest 10 times and was sherpa to the sons of Edmund Hilary, the first person to summit Everest in 1954 and his sherpa, Tensing Norgay. when they attempted successfully to duplicate their fathers' climb in 2004. Nema always smiles and always grabs my arm or elbow. Sometimes I have to say, "I can do it." Because, most of the time I can. He has, though, stopped me sliding off many a narrow rocky path en route to Everest base camp. And he was the one who made sure we hung the prayer flags I had carried in 2008 made by girls in detention and the precious classmates of my then first grade granddaughter Megan. Now we have a bag loaded with new prayer flags from granddaughter Caroline's St.Mary's lower school to be hung on the Tibet side of Everest base camp - and some at the holy Mt. Kailash.
|3. Mean protector god|
In many rooms you are greeted by enormous blue faced scowling monster figures - these are the protection gods - warning you to get your karma right before you bow and offer gifts. And in this Palace, a museum of the history of 14 Dalai Lamas, giant thrones (the size of chair-and-a-halfs, almost small beds - they sit cross-legged no matter how old they were) abound in each Lama's chapel, a cape neatly folded into a triangle like a witches hat and placed in the seat which the current Dalai Lama would occupy if he could be there.
|4. My Rocky dance|
There is so much information about Buddhism eagerly spilled out by our guide Tashe who has such a brutal accent I cannot understand much, I began to fade by the end of our time up there wandering in order through each segment. Finally I could get a bottle of water. I felt like Rocky when I got to the very top and then again when I got back to the bottom (since we couldn't take a photo at the top.)
Our day started early getting to the Palace. We were diverted because every morning thousands of pilgrims and worshippers dressed in their Tibetan native costumes and carrying prayer wheels and prayer beads, daily walk the 8 kilometer route around the Inner City, which is the holy part of Lasha. It's impressive. Most of them are old. Many do it prostrating themselves. They ignore the stacks of tourist (mostly Chinese) lining up for their entrance into Potala. Of all the visitors, I saw one group of retired Americans carrying hiking sticks, a group of Russians, and a pair of Germans. All the others were Chinese, it seemed. I'm told 70 per cent of all tourism in China comes from their own citizens. There is much to see in beautiful settings.
|5. Jokhang Temple|
|6. Prostrate pilgrims at Jokhang|