Family Life: A Day on the Grassland

Gling-rgyal, AKA Langjia, an agricultural area, is where my family gathered and started the trip in the morning.

Gling rgyal or Langjia, an agricultural area, is where my family started the trip in the morning.

 

A day on the grassland with my paternal family—the biggest family reunion I’ve ever attended.

Fifty-six families, 180 people total, from two distinctive worlds (agricultural and nomadic), joined together on Mgar-tse’s grassland in Rebgong, Amdo region. They included farmers, animal herders, educators from elementary school to university, small business owners, doctors, students of all levels, and government officials.

The majority of my family members come from an agricultural area, where we originated. Most of us still grow crops such as wheat, barley, flaxseed, and rapeseed; whereas my aunt, Lhamo, and the families of her eight children, live on the grassland of Mgar-tses. It’s 2700-meters above sea level, and they herd exotic yak and Tibetan long-legged sheep. Although these two areas are within a 45-minute drive, they offer two very different lifestyles.

A road view to Mgar-tse.

On the road to Mgar-tse

 

The seven siblings of my father have a few opportunities each year to meet during special occasions, including Losar (Tibetan New Year), Klu rol (Lerol) dance festival, weddings, donations honoring one’s life or religious ceremonies. However, they’ve long dreamed of an extended family reunion to introduce younger generations, meet newcomers and socialize at a greater level. And my second aunt’s passing a year earlier energized them to put into action a plan for a gathering this summer. I’m grateful my visit home occurred a few days before this amazing family rendezvous.

Simply natural and beautiful grassland.

Arrived the simply natural and beautiful grassland.

 

We chose to gather on the nomadic grassland because we wanted to pay respect to my aunt, Lhamo. She is the aunt that my great-grandfather, a firm Bon[1] believer, gave up for adoption in mercy to an elderly, childless nomadic couple. Also, there is no place in the summer more beautiful than the Tibetan grassland. It’s capped with wildflowers in yellow, white and blue that yak, sheep, and horses kiss and munch at their leisure.

Almost everyone dressed in traditional Tibetan robes, which some youngsters shed as the day’s activities progressed. We sang songs, danced in Tibetan folk processions and played games, as well as shared old-time and sometimes tearful jokes. We greeted, chatted, photographed, and entertained one another all day long.

Enjoying Ko for brunch

Enjoying brunch.

 

From an overloaded Tibetan-style tent, we started the day enjoying brunch: ping sha–a full-bodied brothy stew made of mutton, bean noodles, radishes and green vegetables, paired with famous Rebgong bread that my farmer cousins baked. We sipped milk tea and fruit juices, while admiring the natural beauty of this magical place.

For lunch, we had herdsmen’s fresh mutton and sausages of all sorts: meat, bean flour and blood. Our grass-fed meat fairly oozed with wholesome and robust flavors. Some had fruits like grapes, nectarines, watermelon, and summer pears while others opted for dri (the female yak) yogurt to complete the meal.

We enjoyed some more meat for supper as well as freshly made wheat noodles soup with leafy greens swimming in the savory mutton broth. Simple yet satisfying.

Of course, there was more singing and dancing. Even my 80-year-old aunt, Shawo, sang a Tibetan folk song. As the sun ready to hide behind the mountain to the west, my father, uncle and other elderly men performed a goodbye in a circle—blending their voices in sync, hands in the air, feet crossed with another in dance forms, to say ‘so-long’ and close the day.

My trip from the Western world to the East was beyond worth it, just for this one family day.

[1] Bon or Bön, an early religion of Tibetan highlands, existing before the first diffusion of Buddhism in the 7th century. More about Bön

 

 

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21 Responses to Family Life: A Day on the Grassland

  1. Robyn August 13, 2014 at 10:51 PM #

    Lovely. I hope you are having a wonderful trip. The pictures look beautiful.

    • Todd Fry August 13, 2014 at 11:27 PM #

      That was a joy to read and the pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

      • Jolma August 14, 2014 at 12:25 AM #

        Thank you, Robyn and Todd. I’m having so much fun.

  2. Steve O'Brien August 13, 2014 at 11:10 PM #

    Thank you for sharing your life, family, and homeland with us, Jolma. What an amazing place and a fantastic day. Your blog is helping me keep everything in perspective – what could be better than sharing time and fantastic food with family.

    • Jolma August 14, 2014 at 12:29 AM #

      Thank you very much, Steve. Life is about experiencing and gaining perspective. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Kris August 13, 2014 at 11:39 PM #

    Your photos and descriptions make me feel like I am there. Beautiful photo of you and your sister, sister-in-law & nieces too.

    • Jolma August 14, 2014 at 12:30 AM #

      Thank you, Kris. They are a bit out of focus but I still like them. 🙂

  4. Dunes August 14, 2014 at 12:03 AM #

    Great photos, looks like a beautiful, fun day. I wish I could have been there, but the images make me feel like I was. Please tell everyone I say hello!

    • Jolma August 14, 2014 at 2:31 PM #

      I will. Thank you.

  5. Patrick August 15, 2014 at 1:00 AM #

    This is a wonderful beginning to your project. The reunion was a very rich experience and aperfect lace to gather stories to share in your work. I especially appreciated the brief discusion of the locale. The pictures help but I want to see MORE of the wonderful landscape.

    • Jolma August 15, 2014 at 10:05 PM #

      Yes, stories around family, Patrick. And thank you for being a big supporter of my project. I have added landscape images and will share more pictures of the grassland in upcoming posts.

  6. Gail August 16, 2014 at 2:55 AM #

    Thanks for sharing! Wonderful photos. I love all the variety of hats. As a bread baker, I would love to learn about the Rebgong bread, possibly a recipe and photo?

    • Jolma August 17, 2014 at 1:12 PM #

      Thank you, Gail. I will feature a story on Rebgong bread, of course, with photos. Bread recipes will also follow and be shared with you.

  7. Steve VL August 16, 2014 at 5:04 AM #

    Absolutley beautiful photos! And I appreciate the stories behind the images. You help make the world a bit smaller–thanks for that.

    • Jolma August 17, 2014 at 11:22 AM #

      You made me very happy, Steve. Thank you.

  8. Eric Olive August 18, 2014 at 8:32 PM #

    Jolma: An extremely well-written post. What a treat to read about such an important day in your Tibetan adventure and to view photos of your beautiful family and the amazing landscape. Thank you for sharing.

    Eric

    • Jolma August 22, 2015 at 11:52 AM #

      Thank you very much, Eric. I surely enjoyed sharing.

  9. Sue August 19, 2014 at 8:16 PM #

    Beautiful Jolma. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jolma August 21, 2014 at 12:33 AM #

      Thank you, Sue. 🙂

  10. Sara Kingsley August 24, 2014 at 7:34 PM #

    Thanks for sharing your trip in photos. What a beautiful place!

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