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Land of Eternal Sunshine

I bought a hat after spending twenty minutes outside - that sunshine is fierce! Then with a visor safely shading my sensitive eyes I tried to explore this historic city.

There is so much I don't understand! It can be exhausting at times (especially combined with the sun and wind). Many signs are in English but sometimes things just aren't posted well, or maybe the altitude has killed a few too many brain cells. It took me an hour to find the entrance to the Potala today, and yesterday, when I visited the Jokhang, a temple near where I am staying, between the yellow ribbons, gates, and miscellaneous signs my head was spinning. I thought one is suppose to circumambulate temples to the left but the yellow ribbons made this impossible.

All told though, besides the frustrations, it was worth it visiting those temples. The potala is insanely huge and I gave up trying to explore all the rooms open. What I did see were massive statues and wall paintings, countless pilgrims making offerings in the form of butter for the lamps, money thrown at the dieties, mantra, and prostrations. Tibetans are a physically devoted people. I wonder how the Chinese feel about this after trying to squelch it for so long. The majority of the pilgrims looked over forty and were wearing traditional clothing but I saw a few younger ones too. I think about a third of the youth between the age of twenty and forty wear chupas. However this could be a high number because we are still around the new year, when people from the country (who tend to be more traditional) come into town and when people in town wear their best (i.e. traditional) clothing. Many children under ten were accompanying their parents on their religious rounds, learning how to pray and make offerings.

The rooms themselves were all dark, gloomy, and small. Well they might have started out medium sized but between the statues and pillars there wasn't much left. The only large hall was the throne room, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama used to sit. It had sky lights but still seemed dark and gloomy. Many of the wall paintings were faided or covered in soot, perhaps from the lamps. There were countless rooms for various dieties and former kings. I wish I knew what they were all for - perhaps monks sat in each one and prayed regularly?

The Dalai Lama's living quarters were a bit more warm, with wooden floors (I think), lots of carpets, windows, and bright colors. The whole palace is builty on the south side of a hill so I imagine it is a good place to live out the winter, and I bet less windows means less heat loss.

Other things I have noticed so far:

* Women tend to wear masks over their faces (sometimes they are even decorative). I am not sure if this is for sickness, dust, or both but it occurred to me that it also helps keep your moisture in (saving a bundle on chapstick).
* There are a lot of beggars, in fact, I think there are more here than in India (per square foot that is).
* I am no expert on health but a lot of people look malnourished, their skin is dusty, their hair of poor quality, their body lacking fat and energy.
* School uniforms here look like jogging outfits (especially like those ones that middle age women in the U.S. tend to wear to the grocery store).
* There are very few westerners here
* Tibetans love to say hello to me. It seems that at least one out of every ten I pass on the street greets me this way. Frequently mothers will try and coax their little ones to do the same.
* There are tons of shops for purchasing religious objects (statues, malas, counters, phurbus, dorjes, bells...), jewlery, hats, shoes, pants, and VCDs.
* Pictures of the Karmapa, the Panchen Lama and other lamas who I do not recognize abound.
* China insists that all of the country go by Beijing time, which means that the sun rises and sets around 8:30.

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