This is Ugyen, a beautiful young Tibetan man who crossed paths with me once in the journey of life. Here is our story.
In 2009, I travelled alone to China. My Brother was celebrating his 60th birthday in Xining – a god-forsaken industrial town right in the middle of nowhere China, on the border of the Mongolian Plateau. I discovered that Xining is where the “new”, “fast” overnight train leaves for Lhasa, TIBET. I had always wanted to go to Tibet so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I bummed around China for a bit – down the Li River to Yangshou, up Mt Huangshan, up the sacred Buddhist mountain of Jiuhua, down into the pits to see the buried army of Terracotta Warriors outside of Xian and up AND down Shanghai and Beijing and finally to Xining to celebrate with my bro and to catch the overnight train to Lhasa.
Tibet of course was OCCUPIED by the Chinese. There was palpable fear, palpable sadness and palpable frustration. It was both a joyful and heartrending experience. The only way you could visit Tibet was to be accompanied continuously by a licensed government guide. I chose to have a Tibetan guide and I ended up with Ugyen who was quickly christened ” WORLDS BEST GUIDE” – and that is how I address him to this day – usually it is abbreviated simply to “best”.
Best taught me so much, shared so much with me. As my guide he led me through the Patola Palace, The Jokhang Temple, The Sera, Ganden and Drepung monasteries and to Norbulinka, the Summer palace of the Dalai Lama, patiently waiting until the Chinese guides, with their large groups, had stopped screeching through their megaphones, so that he could tell me quietly and gently about his depth of feeling for his religion and his cultural heritage.
Of course I spent hours scouring the stalls of the Barkhor Market searching for hidden treasure. I bought some wonderful golden charms but of course THEN I wasn’t a budding, Internationally famous Jewelry Designer HA! I only bought enough for ME! Recently, I desperately wanted more and the only thing I could think of was to ask WBG to go to the market and buy them for me. I sent him money via Western Union and a digi-pic of what I wanted…..he got it WRONG! He also got it VERY, VERY, RIGHT, as the pieces he sent me (in vast quantity – his bargaining skills being WAY superior to mine) were even more lovely than the ones I was asking for. Go Best!
I hope next time I run out of “Lhasa Charms” I can meet WBG in Lhasa and buy them, with his help of course, in person!