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Loving Losar

Have any of you heard complaints about how there is no "rite of passage" for young folks in the U.S. these days? Sure we graduate from high school and if we are lucky maybe even from college, and there is always our first paycheck, but none of those are a solid, confidence boosters. In many cultures when a person is ready to enter adulthood he or she faces a test that may be more difficult than most of what an adult actually faces, thus after passing, they know themselves better and feel able to deal with what ever lies ahead, with out resorting to drugs or other escape measures.

I just realized that for young Tibetans a month (or close to month) long trek over some of the coldest, highest mountains is their right of passage. Some do this when they are children, others when they are teenagers and some come when they are in their twenties. They do this in order to get an education (and we think going thousands of dollars in debt is bad - at least it isn't risking our lives), some do it because they want to become monks, a difficult task in the PRC today, and a few just do it because their parents tell them to. Men and women face this challenge, it is not limited by gender, only by physical fitness.

The result of this challenge is that now there are lots and lots of youth with out family in Tibet. Sure some of them have an uncle or a distant cousin, but most just have each other, the family they met while they were in school or on the journey over.

Having just spent one of the most important holidays with these youth, I felt much like I have during past Thanksgivings in Minneapolis. In the U.S. many of my generation are also unable, for various reasons, to go home for the holidays, so we gather together, emulate what our parents taught us and celebrate as a family, just a young one. Last weekend was very touching, especially since as another youth with out a family any where nearby I fit right in. The whole time was filled with food, drinking (lots and lots of drinking), talking, hanging out (it got kind of boring after awhile), visiting other people and dancing.

The holiday was Losar (Tibetan New Year)
The food was Tibetan, Chinese, and Indian.
The drink was soda, salty butter tea (I have finally aquired a taste for this), whiskey, Indian beer and Chaang (a mild Tibetan beer from barely that tastes similar to Zima)
Friends visited from all over and finally we went to my friends old T.T.S. school, what he calls his second family. He lived there for two years when he first escaped from Tibet. At the school we payed our respects to several teachers and the headmaster before finally joining all the students on the basket ball court for dancing.

The dance was amazing, the energy of these youth was boundless as they moved and grooved all over the court. The music bounced between popular hindi, classic and pop American and Tibetan. The kids danced the same to most of it except the Tibetan stuff when the would kick up their heals extra high and lift there knees to astonishing proportions. I wish I could describe it better. Actually it was just the men who danced so exhuberantly, the women tend to be more shy and discreet. When they weren't doing line dancing (to Hindi music - a very popular thing here) they would gather in a large circle with one or two dancers showing their stuff in the middle. The center dancers would join the circle, making room for new people and new moves. When the circles became large very few women felt inspired to take the center, the men however love to show off. I found this quite amusing since in the U.S. girls practically have to bribe most guys to dance.

It was a wonderful way to end my time here - I am going to miss this place! Tonight I leave for to Delhi, Thursday to Bangkok and hope to finally arrive in China on Sunday (yeah, I know that is a long transit time). Hopefully I will be able to find some internet cafes along the way.

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