There is a sense of place in Xiahe.  The peace is retained in the old architecture and tradition maintained for centuries, the atmosphere of philosophy, learning. Tibetan monks debating in circles, their red cloaks clashing against the umber hills behind their claps clear against the silence and mumble of passing pilgrims on kora.

Every morning at ten o’clock I joined Jamyang, a monk friend, for tsampa in his humble home.  I walked through his courtyard greeted by an orange kitten, who cried in eager anticipation of play-time.  I took off my shoes and sat cross legged on the raised platform made specifically for sleeping and eating.  The sun poured fresh light into the room.  The stove was hot, the milk tea sputtered out of the spout.  Jamyang shoveled a few spoonfuls of the roasted barley flower into two plastic bowls, then a heaping spoonful of the dried yak cheese.  He sliced off thick chunks of yak butter and offered the sugar to me.  I took what I liked.  He poured in the hot tea and breakfast was served.  The kitten waited patiently in my cross-legged lap.  He took any opportunity to bat at my hair.

Jamyang and I can hardly speak to each other and sometimes it is awkward for me.  It is strange for us to spend time with people we don’t know and yet Jamyang’s patience and grace allowed us to spend countless hours sitting, walking, existing in quietness and getting to know each other in this silent way.  And he does have beautiful grace, a humble happiness that is reflected in the simplicity of his home and the way he dotes on his kitten.

After breakfast was over and Jamyang and I spent a few minutes trying to communicate it was usually time for him to join the rest of the monks in mid-morning prayer.  I returned to Tara Guesthouse.

I was welcomed into Tara Guesthouse just about the moment I walked in.  The manager, Tinley saw my pictures from India, and the first one he picked up was of my Amala.  “Oh, I know her. She is from my hometown.”  This was not the first serendipitous moment of my travels, but it was the one that made everything possible.  We name dropped for a while and found out we knew many of the same people.  Tinley and the rest of the monks at the guesthouse were overjoyed to hear their friends and family were well in India.  I was overjoyed to have found another home in Asia.  By the time I left Tara Guesthouse I was designing a website for them, sitting behind the front desk and staying for free.

Every day ended around the stove in the staff quarters with a glass of green tea.  The monks fingered their malas (rosaries), and Tinley and I spoke of India and Tibetan freedom, the chance of us meeting and we joked.

“One day there was one foreign girl who went to my hometown and she spoke the Tibetan nomad dialect very well.  So one nomad heard her speak and said, ‘Whoah! She can speak human language!’”