Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lhasa Sunshine

We flew to Lhasa, Tibet and were so excited to see smog-free blue skies and sunshine. The air, however, contains less oxygen than I require to function normally, and I could feel the effects of the high altitude (13,000 ft) right away. I was woozy,and walking very slowly - had that "in a dream" feeling. I looked at my family and saw that they weren't faring much better. Mike and Anna's lips were turning purple. Charlie was looking at his shoes and walking like an old man, and everyone was very quiet. I followed them off the plane and through the airport, trying to guess which would be the first to faint. Luckily we all made it to baggage claim without a face-plant.

Our guide Lo Sang greeted us in the traditional Tibetan way, by placing a white silk, scarf around each of our necks. He then told us some history of Tibet as the driver took us to the hotel. 95% of Tibetans are Buddhist. Buddhism first came to Tibet in the 8th century B.C. through a woman, the Indian wife of a Tang Dynasty king. Prior to that Tibetans practiced a religion called Bon. This was a shamanistic religion, and according to Lo Sang quite brutal. The followers believed in human and animal sacrificing, and would burn the pinkie finger of their hands as an offering to the gods.

We went straight to the hotel and just lay around feeling headachy, tired, and nauseous - like a hangover without the preceding party. Altitude, like heat, makes me stupid – Mike too. After going to the market just across the street, he and I wandered back to the hotel and walked from room to room in sort of a daze, having no idea which room was ours, and not clear on a way to find out.

In Anna though, the symptoms came out in a much more covert way. It took me awhile to recognize what was going on. She started to get very whiny and unreasonable, picking at everything that her brothers did from where they put their shoes were to how loudly they were talking. It finally dawned on me to ask if she had a headache or felt sick to her stomach. I gave her the altitude medicine that our doctor prescribed (very cool syringes with no needles. You squirt the balm on your wrists and rub them together) some Tylenol, and within 30 minutes she was herself again.

Tomorrow, body willing, we would see the largest monestary and the summer garden of the Dali Lama.

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