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Rachael Elliott is a Dominican/LINES Ballet student, Class of 2010. She chose to spend her study abroad experience in China. While studying abroad and learning Chinese, she traveled around the Asian continent. She particularly enjoyed Tibet.
What follows is an excerpt from one of Rachael's blog posts. To read this post in its entirety and follow her adventures in China, visit her blog Meeting the Sun Where It Wakes.
On April 23, 2010, I wrote, “I may be absolutely the luckiest person in the world.” These words were written as our bus drove through the majesty of rural Tibet.
The time we spent in Tibet was filled with mixed emotions for me, but every time I found myself surrounded by the natural world, every negative thought vanished from my mind.
How can I possibly have pessimistic thoughts when I am standing, unbounded by seemingly endless mountain ranges and blue skies? I often forget how incredibly lucky I am to be able to experience life in China, and over this past week, Tibet.
We began our trip in Lhasa by visiting the POTALA PALACE. This majestic structure is one of Lhasa’s most popular tourist destinations.
The Palace’s grandeur makes it quite a desirable location, but for the practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, it is much more than this.
The Potala Palace houses thousands of shrines and statues still used for worship by believers on their pilgrimages. I was quite surprised to discover such intimate worship inside the palace, as it was bursting with throngs of tourists and their expensive cameras. I encountered this phenomenon at each monastery we visited.
Another surprise I encountered was the nature of the employees and monks of the monasteries. The employees of the Potala Palace are just “normal” citizens. Why am I surprised? Though I do not share the same sentiments about the monasteries in Tibet as those practicing the religion, I am well attuned to the sacredness of each monument.
I expected that everyone affiliated with these sacred spaces would be quite serious and focused on their task at hand. I was surprised to find that the employees were so—for lack of a better word—ordinary. Now that I look back on it, this thought seems quite naive, as The Potala Palace is, in fact, a museum.
However, because this site is still used for worship, I expected to observe a much different approach. The employees taking care of the burning yak cheese were dressed very casually and wore slapdash attitudes. I also encountered this nonchalant attitude at the Monasteries we visited. Again, I expected the monks to be quite serious, in meditation, in prayer. What I found was young boys on their cell phones, lounging around outside the various entrances.
One of the most special experiences for me was the hanging of the PRAYER FLAGS. We purchased traditional prayer flags from the markets in Lhasa to take with us to LAKE NAMTSO. We all had a chance to write our thoughts, prayers, names of loved ones, really anything we wanted on the flags. When we arrived at the pristine lake a few of us climbed to the highest point in Lhasa to hang the flags. I can’t even begin to describe the majesty of that experience. The wonderful people in my life will forever be flying in the beauty of Tibet’s landscape.