Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Concerto: Basan Part 9

Kamba-la Pass takes us south beyond Lhasa to an elevation of 4794 meters above sea level. Yaks eat grass in the distance, their herdsmen specks in along the horizon.
"From here," says Genevieve, "the yaks look like overgrown ants."
At Yamdrok-tso (Blue Lake), we stop for another rest. Yamdrok, Tibetan for the color blue, is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. According to mythology, the lake is a transformation of a goddess, so nobody is allowed to set foot in the waters. I guess the yaks that feed along the water do not count. A Tibetan ornament merchant woman hounds me as I hike up a little hill to get a better view of the lake. "Two for sixty" starts the merchant, dangling necklaces and brooches in front of my face, forcing me to walk around her. By the time I make it down back to the car, she yells "two for ten" in my ears.
Nangartse is a small village more than a town. Downtown is made up of two streets interseting in a T-shape, with the highway to Everest cresting the streets' outer edges. After a dinner of cheese-stuffed dumplings and rice with yogurt, we go for a walk, avoiding the skinny starving dogs that lay passed out (or dead) along the street. A few minutes later, light rain mixes with the dust-caked road, evolving into sizeable drops. We hug the building walls, the colorful banners over doors doing little to protect us from the rain.
We proceed down the street and come across a family huddling inside a fabric store. While Genevieve and Jeff take pictures, the teenagers and children inside the store look in wonder at their cameras. Genevieve hands her digital camera to a curious girl, teaching her how to press the capture button. The girl runs around the front of the store, taking pictures of the little kids eating snacks, pictures of the adults smiling in wonder at the strange little device that freezes their faces for a moment in time, pictures of old housewives with their children looking at Jeff and Genevieve, seeking money in exchange for the pictures that they are taking. I have never seen anyone so fascinated by a digital camera.
As we walk back to our hotel (which, albeit providing thick blankets for the night, offers communal concrete bunkers with holes in the ground for toilets), I hear thunder cracking the air. The rain falls harder as the clouds seem to roll and coagulate over the town faster.
"Did you see that?" Jeff asks.
"What?" I ask.
"The rocket."
"I heard thunder."
"That wasn't thunder - that was the sound of cloud-seeding."

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