Leaving early in the morning, we got into a team of 4 vans, and we were seated with a group of local teenagers. Apparently it was back-to-school for these kids, so for the next 7 extremely bumpy hours, we had some interesting conversations with one particularly interesting teenager.
The kids were a bit rowdy, but they were extremely friendly, even treating us to two bottles of coke! Their mandarin wasn’t great, and our Tibetan is non-existent but they were very nice to the both of us. We feel that we are getting pretty well acclimatized, as one of the kids actually had pretty severe car sickness from the bumpy road!
The van though, was pretty shady. I now understand why some cars are so cheap…. the chassis of the van is actually 5 pieces of metal binded together like a kit kat bar… W T F?!?!? How did I find out? Well, because 1 of the pieces kept protruding out of the car and they stopped every 30minutes to hammer it back into place…. It wasn’t the van I was in but didn’t make me feel any better as we zipped up and down mountain roads with no guard rails….
We stopped at the top of the mountain at above 4500m, and everybody got out of the car to conduct a Tibetan culture of scattering scriptures (风马）into the wind as an offering to the mountain. The mountain is actually a ‘saintly’ mountain to Tibetan buddhist practitioners (despite having a road blasted along the side).
One of the teenagers spoke fluent mandarin, and was very talkative. He didn’t look like the other kids, carrying a more fluid motion of someone with lots on his mind. Speaking softly and confidently, he surprised us when he said he was only 17….
He would enthusiastically inform us about the details of his culture (he’s Tibetan), and within his voice you can feel a sense of uncompromising pride. Several times he would suggest to us that, spending a year or two to learn the Tibetan language, and help the locals improve their standard of living would be a gracious thing to do. We asked him what he’d do after graduation, and he spoke softly, without thought, “I’d like to improve my language skills, and continue to learn Buddhism. This way, I can promote both my religion and my home land to the world.”
Coming from a 17 year old, with such conviction…. especially when all his friends were throwing tree moss around, it was a pretty impressive sight.