I was on my way to Lhasa Tibet from Kathmandu Nepal for the Tibetan New Year called Losar. It promised a display of traditional Tibetan costumes. Celebration Tibetan style. I also really looked forward to the journey through Tibet and the Himalayas.
It is a simple journey. You buy your ticket, then you get matched up with some other people that want to do the same thing you do. Get on a bus which takes you to a Land Cruiser which takes you to Lhasa. Nothing is that simple in this part of the world. After we started the frozen Land Cruisers and found that there were no avalanches blocking the road we were off. The trip was made easier by the fact that traveling in our group was a woman named Elisabeth who spoke fluent Tibetan.
We were in one of the little towns first night in Tibet. It was cold, at least -35ºC, I am Canadian, I am used to working in the Far North of Canada so I know cold, this was definitely below -35º C. The guest house we stayed in was not heated. We piled everyone in one room to share body heat. There really isn’t a bed for a person, more like a cushioned surface to lay your body down and lots of blankets everywhere and boiled hot water for tea. There is room for a lot of people. It is comfy in a chilly sort of way. The new altitude in Tibet had wiped me out and I was quickly to sleep.
06:00 and we are getting ready to hit the road again. It is still very cold. Quickly I change into every warm piece of clothes I own and make for the restaurant across the street. The others have the same idea. I walk out of the guest house, crisp and cold air hits me. I look to the side and what I am seeing in front of me hits harder than any cold air. I am stunned. There is a Tibetan man curled up on a stone step in a doorway. He is wearing no more than a normal sweater, some cotton pants and a toque. No mattress padding or even a box. He is curled up with a dog, not a big bushy warm dog just an ordinary hairless mut from the streets of Tibet. I am shocked, the moisture inside my nose is already starting to freeze. He is sleeping, or dead I am thinking. Tashi Dele, I say to him. He opens his eyes, stiffly starts to sit up, smiling, nothing moving very quickly. Are you OK? I ask. He doesn’t understand english. Elisabeth the english woman steps out of the guest house and sees what I see. She asks him something in Tibetan. He smiles, looks around sort of confused then back at her with an answer. Her face displays surprised and responds. He smiles and nods.
I am watching unsure of what is being said. She turns to me and says we should get him a tea. I go to the restaurant and get him a tea and bring it back. Elisabeth and the man are chatting away. She is noticably freezing the man is unconcerned about the weather. She has been asking him to come for breakfast with us. He thanks us but declines the offer.
I hand him the tea and he thanks me in Tibetan. I ask Elisabeth “what did you say?” She tells me she asked “Are you OK?” He said “yes”. “Aren’t you cold?” she asked? “Yes”, his smiling face replies, “but I will be warm again later.”