An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Eman H. '20

We started off today with an adventure trekking through the forests at the base of the mountain near our village. Our goal: to collect pine needles. Here in Tibet, many of our host families use these pine needles for fertilizer. So, as our local leader Tenzin suggested, we gathered some of these pine needles as a way to give back to the families that have been so kind and welcoming to us.

However, the adventure started long before we started hiking. For Lucie (my roommate) and I, this adventure started last evening when we explained to our host sister what we would be doing today and asked her if we could borrow some baskets to strap onto our backs. Since we forgot to ask how to say “basket” in Mandarin, this involved a lot of gesturing and walking around our house to find things to help us explain what we were looking for. We eventually overcame this challenge when we found out that our host grandma had gone up to the mountain earlier that morning to collect mushrooms and had left her basket conveniently by the door when she returned. So, this morning we grabbed our baskets and started trotting up the road over giant muddy puddles and hills that seemed like mountains, all with grins on our faces. However, nobody smiled quite as much as the host grandma of the leaders’ house who was leading us through the forest while carrying both the largest load and the brightest expression on her face. At least for me, it was truly inspirational how she managed to do all this tiring work with unruly teenagers while never complaining or letting her exhaustion get the best of her. The example she set for us helped us all get through the two trips we took up to the forest with relatively high energy.

Nevertheless, by the time we returned to the village for lunchtime, all of us were ready for a yummy meal and a break. What we got was even better, a 4th of July celebration! We took the normal concept of a special Independence Day meal and adapted it to Tibet by learning how to make two traditional Tibetan dishes: momos and shapalep. These two dishes were a popular favorite on our trip to Shangri-La when we ate lunch at the Silent Holy Stone Restaurant, so the entire group was really excited to learn how to make them ourselves.

We started this second adventure by chopping and mincing all the vegetables. While this was a struggle for many of us initially, we got significantly better until some people felt that they were ready to challenge the master chopper, our local coordinator Tenzin. This attempt at a coup failed miserably but ended with lots of laughter and some tears from dicing the onions. We then watched as Tenzin put together the fillings for the momos and taught some of us how to make the wrappers out of the dough as the rest of us waited in the next room to put together the momos. Our nimble fingers were quite adept at pinching and rotating the dough wrapper over the filling in the middle, and we quickly finished the task over random conversations and music from different languages playing in the background.

Now that the busy part of our day is done, we’re all sitting around the stove in the living room in the main house, with the delicious smell of the momos wafting over in our direction. Hopefully our cooking tastes as good as it smells!