Today we ventured outside of bustling Lhasa, and into the countryside, where we visited Jama, the village in which our guide Yixi had lived until age 20. After a 1.5 hour drive outside the city, we turned onto a bumpy road and then down through a gate. The gate had very low clearance, so that buses and trucks could not enter the village. Our tall van barely squeaked through. We pulled up outside a Monastery from the 10th century. Now only inhabited by two nuns, the Monastery was peaceful, especially in comparison to the other Temples and place of worship that we had previously visited. After glancing around inside, we made our way to the Temple. One of the Nuns who lived there welcomed us in. After touring the Temple, we made our way back outside to go and explore the village further.
Cow wandering the village.
I wanted to use the bathroom before we continued, so Yixi pointed me in the direction of a public bathroom behind the Monastery. Upon further examination, I realized the bathroom was permanently closed, so Yixi then pointed me to go to the field behind the bathroom. Reluctant, I made my way through the animal feces and trash that littered the ground. As I turned behind the building, I saw a dead yak lying of the ground. I gasped and felt immediately sick to my stomach. I ran back to the van, and Yixi, confused by my fears, explained that we can go to his brother’s house and I could use the bathroom there.
We made our way to the home of Yixi’s brother. While his brother was not there, his brother’s daughter, Yixi’s niece was.
She welcomed us in and let me used the bathroom, which was literally a hole in the ground. We then entered veranda of the house, full of flowers and gorgeously decorated. Yixi’s niece served us all a cup of the classic Tibetan butter tea. Made from yak butter, yak milk, water and salt, the taste is incredibly unique. Upon the first sip, I hated the tea. But I had to be gracious, and forced myself to finish the cup. As I drank more and more, the taste began to grow on me. In fact, when Yixi’s niece refilled my glass, I didn’t even protest.
We sat for a while, chatting, with Yixi translating between us and his niece. As soon as I finished a glass of tea, it would be automatically refilled. After 5 or 6 glasses, maybe even more (I lost count), I finally said enough, and we went to tour the house. Upstairs, was the home Temple, which “everyone home has,” Yixi explained. Unlike the temples in town, pictures were allowed here, so you can get an idea of what they look like.
Yixi showing Sam the Temple.
Downstairs, there were two bare rooms filled with bags and bags of barely and back up food. In addition, there was a bag of Kufsa, which we all sampled. Made from barely, and then fried, it was absolutely delicious! As we said goodbye to Yixi’s niece, she gave us a bag of Kufsa to take on the road.
Only half of the barley stored at their home.
Before heading back to Lhasa, we stopped at a 1000 year old Stupa.
Yixi at the Stupa.
In any other place, this Stupa would regarded with more importance and value, but here, it was like any other building. After climbing the Stupa, and taking a final look at the village we embarked on the journey back to Lhasa. On the drive back Yixi explained to us how much the infrastructure and life in Tibet has changed in the last few decades. The government has helped the farmers and people living in the highlands move to more sturdy houses in town. In fact, the quality of the infrastructure and life in these Tibetan villages shows to be far superior to villages I have seen in other countries such as India. Tomorrow we will go to Yamdrok Lake, reaching an elevation of over 16,000 feet!