It was indeed the adventure of a lifetime! I can’t actually believe that we were in China and Tibet, we climbed the 400 steps of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, survived a short hike at 17,500 feet, and made it home again.
Truman had it pretty easy, although Jim came home with over 6,600 pictures. (I even took over 1,000 with my point-and-shoot.) Use of Truman wasn’t always easy, since we shot a lot in crowded areas or on the move. It turned out that our bus had plenty of room for him to relax and acclimate.
In China, we spent some time at a VERY salty lake, Chaka Lake by name, where we all put waterproof bags over our shoes and waded out to join the myriad of Chinese tourists enjoying having their photos taken. Truman wasn’t too enthusiastic about getting his legs wet and salty, so he remained safely ensconced on my shoulder.
Chinese people, it turns out, have little sense or need of personal space, so we had to learn to adjust to being pushed aside or nudged out of the way. July is high tourist season in China, and we encountered many people stopping to take pictures in fields of yellow flowers – pretty though it may have been – since they don’t see many plants in the cities where they live.
Crossing 15,000 foot+ passes invited stops and shots, and it was especially interesting to see the small markets that spring up in such unlikely places. Most amazing was the realization that the shop keepers actually set up tents and live in the high places for the summer. As William, our guide, reminded us, they only have three months to make their living for the year, so they do what it takes.
Speaking of William, he had the most amazing tripod that weighed next to nothing, and had fancy plates and attachments way beyond Truman’s capability. Fortunately, we’ve decided that since Truman is a member of the family, we will keep him and tolerate his extra ounces
Tibet was a dream-come-true for all of us. We were greeted at the airport by Dorjee, our local Tibetan guide, who presented us with katas, the long white silk scarves that represent affection and celebration. I hesitated to ask for an extra one for Truman, but I’m sure he felt as welcomed as the rest of us.
We weren’t sure about spending time at 12,000 feet and above, and it was rather amusing when we checked in to our hotel, to find a “High altitude reaction treatment center” in the lobby. The good news is that only one of our little group of seven required oxygen for a short time, and he responded well for the remainder of the trip.
Lhasa presented so many opportunities, and we spent hours touring the Jokhang Monastery, Norbulingka (the summer palace), and The Potala Palace, the iconic palace on the hill that is the symbol of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. Seeing the Dalai Lama’s quarters in each of these places made it seem real to me, since I’ve done quite a lot of reading about him and his story of exile and compassion in spite of all.
Truman made the trek one evening with Jim and the rest of our photographing group to a viewpoint for the Potala. For the first time in his short life, he encountered “combat photography.” Not only did he have to contend with trying to find a spot to sit, but he was continually crowded out, stepped upon, shoved aside, and otherwise abused as dozens of people tried to occupy the space that would normally fit just a few.
Our 15-year old grandson, Evan, brought his camera and iPhone, but his experiences were somewhat different from the rest of us. He’s 6’4” with a size 14 shoe, and it appeared that he was the tallest thing in China. Everywhere we went, he was asked to pose for pictures with small groups, babies, monks, feet, and in any other position you can imagine. It was so amusing following him down the street, and watching people’s reaction to him –pointing, whispering, laughing, or gently stopping his progress. He made some memories that he’ll never forget, nor will we.
Truman, on the other hand, kept a low profile and spent hours just enjoying the fact that he was on the other side of the world, in a place unlike anything he’d ever encountered, with wonderful people, and experiences of a lifetime!