We returned for lunch to the Tibet Caf¨|, and afterwards entered our homestays. I met my homestay mother and her daughter-in-law, and they were kind enough to let me take a nap until dinnertime. I was exhausted. The house was big and drafty, and was built in the traditional Tibetan style about seven years ago. I slept under the thickest, warmest blankets I have ever seen.
That night, I met my host father and the couple's son. They were very nice and we had a funny conversation about America. The women speak only a little Mandarin, with a strong dialect and accent - my room-mate Eddie, who is nearly fluent in Mandarin, can only understand some of what they say. The father speaks good Mandarin, and told us that he likes the Rambo movie "First Blood" with Sylvester Stallone, and thought it was strange that Arnold Schwarzenegger could be elected governor. He also asked if "Clinton's wife" was really running for president. It was an interesting night.
My homestay mother and her daughter-in-law had long black hair braided and kept up under colorful caps that they wore the whole time. They also had vests that they wore. It seems to be the traditional costume for Tibetan women here.
April 9: More interesting conversations with host father, with Eddie acting as participant and translator. Something was said about Germany, and I mentioned that I have relatives there. "Wo jia zhu Deguo," I said, not certain whether or not my Chinese made any sense. Apparently it did, because the host father's face instantly lit up, and with a big grin, he thrust his right hand out, holding his palm up in the Nazi salute, and said enthusiastically, "Heil Hitler!" Eddie said he didn't think the man was a Nazi; he simply didn't know anyone else famous from Germany. We decided not to tell him that besides being German, I am also Jewish.
Earlier in the day, we had one of the most interesting experiences of my life: we took a twisting mountain road to a village a few miles outside of Zhongdian. The road was perilous at parts, twisting around the mountainside, on cliff's edge many times, and going through water in some spots.
First, we visited a school in the village. I was a bit uncomfortable watching the children work. Brian gently nudged me to go interact with them. I started talking to one boy about a drawing he was doing. Mostly I just pointed, because my Chinese is so limited. A few minutes later, we went outside and talked for an hour or two with a man named Trashi Dorjee. It was fascinating. He owns the Tibet Caf¨| and has gone through five trucks in 10 years, visiting a number of similar villages, where he starts schools and tries to encourage eco-tourism, helping villages transition from environmentally destructive logging practices to less harmful means of income, such as tourism.