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