Tibet Trip: Hospitality

Throughout my trip one thing that stood out was the hospitality shown to me and my friend. Hospitality is one of those things that makes or breaks a person’s impression of a country or its people. Luckily, for me most of my Tibetan friends’ families back home have always been extremely warm, inviting, and more than happy to have you sit down for a cup of cha.

Stove heated with yak dung.

Our tour guide was very nice about giving us the opportunity to have many unique experiences, such as this night when we were invited to a friend or cousin’s house for dinner. We happened to be in the area and they served up a delicious Tibetan hot pot along with many other foods and a lot of tea.

Inside the home.

We were constantly told to eat more, eat more. I’m the kind of person who will nibble here and there and just keep accepting tea until I feel like I’m going to burst. Mostly, because I know the people in front of me have just spent so much time preparing this meal.

Yak butter.
Tibetan hot pot.

The hot pot had an assortment of cuts of meat, including chicken feet. I’m not a fan of chicken feet as I haven’t acquired the taste for them yet, but I’m pretty good at trying most cuts of meat at least once and learning how to eat around it or avoid scooping it into my bowl so I don’t offend anyone if I do not eat it. The hot pot was really spicy and delicious!

My cup of cha.

I drank a lot of Cha( Milk tea) throughout my trip. Sometimes I had black tea, but mostly it was milk tea. I remember my friend, Tenzin, taught me to cover the top of my cup and say no three times if I don’t want any more tea. So that knowledge came into use when I was full from drinking tea.

Tibetan breakfast. Cha with butter and Tsampa.

The family from the night before was so nice that they offered to have us over for breakfast the next morning as well. I haven’t eaten a traditional Tibetan breakfast before so it was a nice chance to have. The breakfast is Cha (milk tea) with butter and Tsampa (ground roasted barley flour) which you mix together and eat with bread or by itself. The consistency ends up being close to oatmeal and is pretty yummy.

Another day we were driving though and met one of our Tour Guide’s friends from India, whose family was happening to have a ‘picnic.’ I came to find out that it was actually a family reunion and we were invited to join. There were two elderly women present and the rest of the women weren’t seen around so I asked where they were and was told that in the summer they are busy. So in the winter women have their reunion. There was lots of food, drinks, like the snow lion beer above. I didn’t take a picture of the spread since I wasn’t sure anybody would like their picture taken. It was interesting to have everyone pay attention to how much I was eating, but also to have the opportunity to see a family reunion.

On the day we went to Machu, originally we were going to visit the Tour Group Owner’s Parents and  maybe ride a horse since they have horses. However, when we arrived my tour guide said that it was going to rain soon so there wouldn’t be enough time. Regardless the two of them were very kind and inviting. As soon as we sat down they served up a cup of tea and we chatted with them for a bit. The next day we came back and brought some fruit with us for them. Seeing the lady talk reminded me of my friend Tenzin’s Amala who is always smiling, laughing, and talking.

Yummy momos.

When we arrived in Barkham we met our Tour Guide’s Aunt who then helped check us in to our hotel and she took us out to eat Tibetan food. She was a very kind woman who picked out a little food for us to try and also wanted to know if there was anything we needed. That night on the way back she kept on asking if there was anything we needed such as fruit or the like, and we kept refusing that we would be okay. She told us to come for breakfast the next morning and that is exactly what we did.

The hospitality extended to us on our last day as well when the same friend from the family reunion met us in Chengdu and him and our tour guide paid for drinks at one bar. It wasn’t expected at all as I always come prepared to pay for myself or treat others to at least a round, but it was a welcome gesture.  Throughout the entire trip people welcomed us into their homes, gave us food, and showed us their kindness.  I can’t say whether I was shown more kindness, because of connections, or if that is just the nature of people and part of Tibetan culture. I can say though that to experience as much hospitality as I had in two weeks from others was very unexpected and it makes me want to be a more hospitable person to others.

Whether that be in the form of crashing on my floor or in my bed, if I feed you or treat you to a coffee, I feel like it might just make the difference in someone’s day. I still look fondly back on the hospitality and I wish I had asked more questions so that I could have gotten to know the people who were so kind to me better. Next time, I will ask more.

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