Yak Butter Memories MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   We didn't understand Tibetan and they didn't understandEnglish. All the same, we felt like part of their community, subject to the samesupernatural beliefs and unsolicited smiles. The grandmother - who could havebeen anywhere from 50 to 90 years old - knelt beside the fire, placing buns in abasket and melting yak butter in a copper pail while my friend Christina and Iplayed with a child in the hut. You can play in any language, I realized, andeat, drink and understand. You can also belong in any language,too.

Suddenly, the three guys from Colorado from our group appeared in thedoorway with the young monk who had beckoned us up the hill to this settlement.All five of us had offered to help the villagers who were building a housefarther up the road, but only the young men were welcome. The monk invited us,though, and we all ended up in the courtyard just outside of Langmusi, a tinyhamlet straddling the border of the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Gansu.

We sat on split logs around a fire with the sweating men as they sharedtheir yak butter, tea, curry rolls and noodles. It was a midday feast, and anexpensive one at that, for there was meat in the noodles, and these people werenot well-off. The food they shared was worth more than a week's work and weappreciated it, if not for our hunger, then for our sense of itsvalue.

The value of community is something I have come to understand.During my freshman year, I felt unchallenged and alone. One of my definingcharacteristics, though, is not being unafraid to take action. I realized thatsense of community was lacking in my life, so I set out to develop one.

Iwas very fortunate that my school offers an alternative school-within-a-schoolprogram that meets my needs perfectly. Its slogan, "Satisfaction is afunction of participation," is the philosophy by which I strive to live mylife.

My encounter with the Tibetan workmen in Langmusi was not anisolated incident while I participated in the experiential education program toAsia called "Where There Be Dragons." Its philosophy is that throughthe study and experience of foreign cultures, young adults can learn aboutthemselves and their communities. By tackling the unknown, we are able to form acohesive unit and explore the inner workings of our small community. Through ourtreks and mere quotidian existence, we realize that each individual contributesthe most significant part of him or herself to the community.

Ienvision my life as a continual struggle to carve community out of the isolationof modern American society. After college, I plan to join the Peace Corps.

Wherever life takes me - to Asia, Europe or even right back here at home- one thing will always be certain: as long as I am participating in theestablishment of community, I will be satisfied.

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