Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tortured for Beauty!

Head held high, she walked with poise and confidence, aware of the admiring glances from the passersby till she reached the department. Greeted by her friends, with the same look of admiration for her beauty and elegance. She walked into the classroom, spellbound by her looks, the student's could only utter a word "beautiful". Contented in the way she was able to mesmerize her audience by the sheer look of her beauty, she went about in the classroom trying to provoke her students interest in studies.

Little did they know the throbbing pain in her feet that swells up to her head. A surge of blood rushes through her body like a tidal wave, burning her cheeks and raising the temperature of her body. She was able to conceal the look of pain in her feet and legs. "If only I could rush home and change my shoes," she contemplated. Four hours of such a torture, would she survive the pain inflicted by the new pair of shoes she bought at a discount from a renowned shop. She wished she could take it off an ran home with bare feet like she used to do on some Sundays after church when she could no longer bear the pain in her feet from wearing a stiletto heels . She was too proud to loose her face in the midst of a few hundred onlookers. She gathered all her senses and walked home skillfully disguising the pain in her feet, not showing even a hint of discomfort in her body. All for the love of beauty!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Driving in our city

Our city is known for it's chaotic traffic situation.  It's always a challenge to cross the roads on a busy day. The street lights doesn't always control pedestrians nor the people on cars. Sometimes I find myself following a crowd only to find that I went through the red light and had to stop right in the middle of the road with all the cars passing by. 

Today I saw two cars almost head-on-head with each other. From a distance I thought that they had head-on collision with  each another. On closer look I found that both the drivers just didn't want to pass each other in spite of the wide road. Instead of making way for the other both the drivers got off their cars and waited outside for the other to give way! Then I thought about our traffic back home. Even though its such a small and narrow road, people have consideration for one another and try to make each others driving life easier. How I sometimes miss my people!! Sometimes these kind of things really annoy me.............I really need the grace to understand the people. 

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A glimse of the Yellow River in Lanzhou

Regarded as the Mother River by the Chinese, the Yellow river runs through the city of Lanzhou the capital city of Gansu province, our next destination.  We arrived at the city around 4:00 o’clock on the evening of October 2, 2008. This river is also popularly known as the cradle of the Chinese civilization. If it were to be in India it might be a Holy river where people take holy dip to cleanse themselves from their sins even though it’s dirty and so muddy.

We were taken to a place on the banks of the river where they erected a statue called the “Huang he muqing xiang” or the Yellow River Mother Sculpture.  The sculpture was placed at a very prominent place on the bank of the river. 

Not very far from the sculpture was the Water Wheel Park. The water wheel was an ancient device that uses flowing or falling water to generate power. We had a brief stop at the park and visited a shop that sells carved gourd of various shapes and sizes. They were finely carved with the landscapes, animals, portraits, calligraphy and poems. Some of the carved guard were priced 900 RMB. The price of the gourd pinched me a bit. 

Another striking attraction in Lanzhou was the Sheepskin Raft. At first I was a bit uncomfortable at the sight of it because it looks like a pig (hope I didn’t offend anyone). The sheepskin raft has a very long history in the Chinese culture.  It is an ancient mode of transportation used in the Yellow river. Today motor driven boats are mostly used  for transportation, but there are quite a few sheepskin rafts to be seen near the river. 

Our Last and final destination was The White Pagoda Mountain Park. We had to cross the famous bridge called Zhongshan Bridge in Lanzhou to go to the Bai Ta Shan (White Pagoda Mountain).  I was surprised to find that it cost only 6 ¥, while Ta er si cost 80¥.  Me and one of my colleague climbed up the mountain and we found that it functions like another business centre. We were not so impressed so we decided to go back and not walked all the way up.  From the side of the hill we watched the river smoothly running along the city and enjoyed the view of the city from above. 

We had dinner in one of the best restaurant (I assume) in Lanzhou.  We then went to the train station to board the Xi’an bound train that was supposed to leave at 9:58 pm. We were a bit early so we sat outside the entrance chatting away with my colleagues.  

That ends the story of my trips during the National Day Holiday.  It was a nice get away from the busyness of life in our city. 

Temple Experience - Ta er si (Kumbum Monastery)

The second day of our trip on October 2, 2008, was our ritual visits to a Buddhist temple. It's a bit like traveling in India visiting temples everywhere we go. We set of at 8:00 in the morning and rode to one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries in China called "Ta'er Si" or Kumbum Monastery. It was about 25 km southeast from the capital city Xining.

Former home of the exiled Dalai Lama, the monastery is famous, for it was the birth place of the Tsong Khapa, founder of the Gelukpa Sect (Yellow hat). The Panchen Lama also lives in this monastery. It’s recognized as one of the most important monastery by the Budhhist community in China along with the Ganden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries in Lhasa, the Tashilhunpo in Shigatse and the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe.

The first temple open to the public was the Dharma Protector Temple. Photography was not allowed unless we sneak. The ornate on the roof was said to be made of a 40 kilo pure gold. On the second floor of the temple veranda were stuffed animals arranged in sequence. It is said that the Budhhist monks collected the animals that die of natural death and they would remove the inside organs then stuff them with leaves. The stuffed animals were said to be more than 200 years old. In the temple courtyard instead of burning the popular incense they burn the pine leaves which is said to be a special ritual of this temple.

The second temple that I visited was called Longevity Temple. People came to pay respect to the statues of the Budhha and they would stick money in every possible place with the hope that Budhha will give them long lives. I found the temple a bit spooky and unhealthy looking.

The third and the last one that we’ve visited was called Yak Butter Scripture temple. I went in alone and found the temple smells yakky so I decided to come out as soon as possible. I met my colleagues outside and thought I might have a second look. But at the entrance the electronic ticket machine would not accept my ticket for the second time so I had to give up the idea.

The Temple Facet

Photography not allowed: Inside the temple photography was not allowed and some of us tried taking our chances. One of our colleagues not realising that it was not allowed even outside the temple made a mistake of taking a shot. She was slapped by the monk who just happened to stand close by. Our tour guide and the monk confronted with each other because he was the one who was supposedly meant to be taking care of the foreigners and to see that they break no rules!! Apparently the monk confisticated our tour guide’s license and he had to spend sometime trying to convince them to give back his license.

We were a bit upset with the incident. You would think that a monk who was meant to be teaching and practicing non- violence and be an example to other people would do such a thing! Perhaps it spoils their business as most of these settings are cash-cows for the community’s economy. I felt so let down in a way with what I heard from my friend about this incident.

Yak Butter dough

Yak is the life giving animal for the Tibetans. They used the yak dung for firewood; eat yak meat, blood, butter and cheese. They used the yak skin for clothing and even shelter. Yak butter serves as oil for the lamps that’s lit inside the temple 24/7. The monks knead the yak butter dough for use in their daily activities.

The pilgrims

We met a few Tibetan pilgrims who came to this temple to pray in order to gain personal benefits in order to reincarnate as good human beings and to honour Buddha. They were praying very hard lying on top of a cushion made for this purpose and a hand cushion that will help them when they kowtow or lie prostrate for a hundreth times. They had their beads in front and at each round of prayer they counted the beads.

Vegetarians or not

There is a common believe that most Buddhist don’t eat meat. While were were outside standing at the temple compound, a black Ford V6 car came carrying a person who seemed to be a distinguished figure in the lamasery. He was followed by a group of monks carrying things that I have no clue of their uses. The last man was carrying the carcass of a headless lamb joining the queue of the other monks who went after the Panchen Lama (I think he is the one). One of our vegetarian colleagues was quite upset seeing them carrying the carcass.

The sad thing about this experience is that it’s the reality of life. We are all hypocrites by nature which is manifested in our lives even in the most religious places

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Stroll Along Qinghai Lake

(Picture source:
Known for its size, beauty and fauna, Qinghai Lake is one of China's most famous tourist destinations. The lake not only attracted scientists and adventurers from across the globe but also people who find comfort in immersing themselves in nature’s beauty. The lake is an attraction to people of all races and classes. 

We arrived at the capital city Xining, in the morning of October 1, 2008 amidst the husle and busle of the city. People from every corner of the country flock to the city to find out what the city has to offer. We were herded to a restaurant to have our fill of the typical Chinese breakfast; mantou, rice soups, eggs and pickled vegetables. Soon after, we headed towards the Lake which was about 2 hours away from the city. 

I found myself strolling along the beautiful and majestic Qinghai Lake on the National Day Holiday 2008 along with a few of my colleagues. The lake was beautiful except for the usual touristic set up which sometimes spoiled the natural beauty. I felt rather disappointed that the entrance to the lake was too organized that it spoils the essence of beauty for a person who finds attraction in its original nature. I was also let down by the fact that all these tourists spots are always a haven for business enthusiasts that it almost provoked displeasure in seeing the activities along the side of the lake. 

On the brighter note, it was such a refreshing feeling to feel the cool breeze on the skin; seeing people having fun along the lake; looking at the lambs grazing along the lake; the blooming yellow flowers along the road; bargaining with the Zang minority in their traditional attire and to walk in the company of fun loving people.  

The few experiences that I had in the past traveling in these touristic places gave me the impression that the funness depends a lot on the company of friends. The trip was the first of its kind since we started the new semester. People were not yet familiar with each other and therefore found myself a bit lost.  I was able to find my share of fun on my own most of the time. 

I was able to take a few not so worthy shots in spite of the fact that my photographic mood was lost!

The train station at Xining. People from all walks of life flocked to this city for various reasons. 

Military personals getting ready to move. This is probably a regular drill around this area considering the issues of secession in the region. 
1. Tibetan yak butter tea. 2. Meat on a skewer, one of the favorite snacks in China. 3. The Zangs (Tibetan) set up their business tables at the side of the lake. 4.  The lady in the picture came with her lamb to start her business by taking money from people who are excited to see a lamb and a lady with her traditional ethnic dress.  
1. A tibetan lady with a prayer wheel. 2. We were warmly welcomed at a tibetan restaurant,  with their white cloth hung around our neck and a peg of their traditional wine! 3. The tibetan girls perform for us while we were eating our dinner. 4. One of our colleague's husband wearing the tibetan traditional costume for males. 
After dinner we were entertained by the tibetans with dances and shows.  A bonfire was set up for the customers at the end of the show and people danced around the fire enjoying the music and the flavor of their lifestyle.