Monthly Archives: May 2017

Seven Days in Tibet – Mount Everest

On the second day of our road trip, we finally arrived at Mount Everest, also known in Tibet as Mount Gomolangma.

It was nearly sundown, so we stopped at the Rongphu Hotel, our home for the night.

I use the term “hotel” loosely.  It’s really just a building near the Rongphu Monastery where tourists bide their time waiting for the weather to clear enough to get a good view of Mount Everest.  The monastery is the highest monastery in the world at about 5,000 m (16,400 feet).

We had 1 room for the 5 of us (including Bow).  When our guide told us that we would all be sharing a room for the night, I jokingly told Bow that our family liked to sleep naked and that I hoped she didn’t mind.  She giggled nervously at first and then realized that I was totally kidding.  Sometimes I forget that American humor doesn’t always translate.

And this was our room.

There was no heater (it got as cold as -10 C/14 F at night), no running water and the “toilet” was just a hole in the ground out back (don’t even get me started on the toilets in Tibet, the only dark spot (pun intended) in an otherwise delightful country).  It was so cold we slept fully clothed in our jackets, gloves and hats.  Good thing we were only staying one night!

There was a small restaurant that had a yak dung burning stove, though.

So we camped out here until it was closing time.

Finally the moment we had traveled all the way here for…. Mount Everest base camp.

Before sunrise, we got up and piled into our car.  No, we didn’t hike the last 4 km up from the monastery.  We didn’t want to miss the sunrise over Mount Everest and it’s a good thing we didn’t attempt it because the last 100 feet which we had to walk up about killed me.  We were at an elevation of 5,300 m (17,500 ft).

If you look closely in front of the mountain, you can see tiny tents.  There was a team of climbers who had arrived the night before and they would camp here for a few days to acclimate to the elevation.  It would take them 6 weeks to make it to the summit of Everest.  Here’s a close up of the camp.

Yep.  This is what we came here for…lots of pictures of Mount Everest.

Now being a slave to fashion and hyper-aware of everyone looking at her (which, of course, no one is), Webley refused to wear a hat or pull her hood up.  That’s why she looks so miserably cold.  Benjy and I took off our hats for the photos only, which explains our terrible hat head.

Now this is a funny story.  This random Chinese lady in another tour group asked Webley and Aaron to take a photo with her.  We had never seen her or spoken to her before.  I guess she thought a shot of her with two half white/half Asian kids at the base camp of Mount Everest was photo-worthy.  The photo bomb of the guy in the back cracks me up too.

So that’s another item checked off our bucket list.

Seven Days in Tibet – Sights and Sounds

We went on a hike outside of Lhasa up in the mountains near this Buddhist monastery.

As we hiked around the mountain, we encountered these pilgrims doing the hike as well, only they were worshiping.

On the rocky trail, they would take 3 steps, bow down and fully prostrate on the ground and then stand up.  They did this the entire path, which was about 2-3 miles long, rocky, steep in places and dusty.

Along the way, there were countless prayer flags flying in the wind.

We happened to be at the monastery when the monks were having a special ceremony of offerings and prayer.  There were lots of people there to see it.

The monks had colorful robes on and

they burned offerings,

and chanted scripture.

We took a tour of the Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  That’s our lovely travel companion, Bow, who was the only other person in our travel group.  She was so sweet and fun to be with.  She is from Thailand and had to endure Team Woods for the duration of our trip.  Poor girl.

We weren’t permitted to take pictures of the inside of the Potala Palace, so there were lots of pictures of the outside.

We got to see the inside of Romache Temple.

This is the kitchen where the monks prepare their daily meals.  I thought it was so ancient looking with the huge copper caldron and firewood. Aside from the fluorescent lights and electric fan, it was a scene straight out of the Middle Ages.

And then we began our 2-day journey to Mount Everest Base Camp 1.

No, we didn’t hike up.  We drove.  I know that seems unexciting and a bit lame, but I honestly don’t think I could have hiked up like you have to do on the Nepal side of Mount Everest.  It’s not that I’m terribly out of shape, but I’ve never lived anywhere but at sea level.  The altitude made any physical exertion feel like I was a coach potato who had spent the last 10 years on the sofa.

It took us about 12 hours to get there driving at the maximum speed limit of about 25-30 mph, which is strictly enforced by the Chinese police.  It felt like Chinese water torture driving at such slow speeds in the middle of nowhere with no one else around.  But, we did have gorgeous landscapes to look at as we made our way up.

and more temples.

Next stop, Mount Everest base camp!

Seven Days in Tibet – My Favorite Things

For our spring break (yes, homeschoolers get spring break), we decided to head north and explore Tibet.  We landed in the capital city of Lhasa which is at an altitude of 3,600 m (about 12,000 ft.)  We would be staying in Lhasa for a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude.

Our hotel in Lhasa was a restored home of a Tibetan Lama.  It was stunning!  Traditional Tibetan décor is so colorful and unique.  I really loved our accommodations.

The hotel had a rooftop porch with views of the city and the surrounding mountains.  Almost every Tibetan home has these prayer flags flying atop.

We also had a great view of the Potala Palace, the most iconic structure in Tibet.

My most favorite thing about Tibet is its people.  They are physically beautiful, with their high, rosy cheekbones and smooth complexions.

They have easy, bright smiles.


They are gentle and kind, even though the harsh environment requires them to be rugged and tough.

Still, they maintain their sense of humor and sweet disposition.

I love how the women weave bright colors into their braids.

They are also very devoted Buddhists.  Buddhist pilgrims flock here from all over the world to worship.  This is the Johkang temple, the holiest Buddhist temple in the Himalayas.

You can see the pilgrims worshipping outside the temple.  They prostrate fully face down on the ground and then stand up again.  We saw these little old ladies doing this over and over again.

As a believer in the One True God, a part of my heart breaks for them that they do not know Jesus.  But I found their devotion also to be indicting and inspiring to me and it made me reflect on my own faith and the outward demonstration (or lack) thereof.

You can see in these ladies’ hands the prayer beads they hold as they continually recite their prayers.  Our tour guide also held these beads and I could tell when he wasn’t speaking to us that he was murmuring breath prayers.

As I go through my day, I don’t think I pray continually as the apostle Paul instructs us to do (“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Instead, I get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day life.

These are prayer scrolls which have scripture written on them.  As worshipers walk by, they spin the scrolls as if to release the scripture into the atmosphere.  Some pilgrims walk around with miniature versions of the scrolls.  They are mounted on top of a stick and the holders whirl them around as they go about their day.

It reminds me of the scripture scrolls that Orthodox Jews wear on their foreheads (“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9).  I don’t think I need to wear scrolls with scripture on my forehead, but I certainly could do a better job of memorizing more scripture so that it is more “on my heart.”

Now, I know Jesus instructs us not to pray just for the show of it or to yammer on and on (Matthew 6:5-8) and I am not advocating that, but I certainly think I could be more conspicuous about my faith.  I’m always too afraid of offending or making people feel awkward.  But, our tour guide, who was a devout Buddhist, openly said he would pray for us and he asked that we pray for him.  I wasn’t offended when he said those things to me and I didn’t feel awkward.  I just said I would pray for him; and I did and I do.  I want to be more bold like him in sharing my faith.

Another thing I loved about Tibet is the ubiquitous yak.


The Tibetans rely so heavily on this animal for their daily life.  Yak meat is a staple in the Tibetan diet.  It tastes like a mix between beef and lamb.  I quite liked it.  We enjoyed yak burgers.

The milk of the yak is used to make butter…

and cheese

Yes, that’s cheese on a string and it is hard as a rock.  Seriously, when I first popped a chunk into my mouth I tried to bite down on it and nearly cracked my tooth.  Our guide told me that I needed to suck on it for awhile and it would get soft.  It did…eventually.  It had a sweetish flavor and it reminded me of parmesan cheese.

Yak butter is used in a popular Tibetan drink, butter tea.  The tea is creamy, but salty.  Webley describes the taste like a liquid pretzel.

Tibetans even use the yak’s dung to heat their homes during the cold winters.


I watched as shovelfuls of the stuff were dumped into this stove.  Surprisingly, it doesn’t stink and it certainly makes a warm fire!!  Nothing goes to waste in these parts!

Tibetans also make offerings of yak butter at the temples.

The scent of burning yak oil permeates the air inside the temples.  I enjoyed the smell of it, but Benjy and the kids weren’t so keen.

Isn’t this yak beautiful?

Back to Phnom Penh

From Siem Riep, we took a bus to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.  We went to visit 2 Christian ministries, the Joy of Cambodia (JOC) and Children at Risk (CAR).  Unlike last year, we didn’t lead a short-term outreach team from our church.  We mainly wanted to love on and encourage the people who run these organizations.  They pour their hearts and souls into what they do, all for the Kingdom.  It can be exciting and exhilarating doing the Lord’s work, but it also can be exhausting, stressful and discouraging.  In the past when we have been part of short-term outreach teams, we have focused more on serving the people that JOC and CAR serve.  The purpose for our visit this time was to care for, encourage and bless the JOC and CAR team members.

Our first stop was JOC’s Jehovah Jirah Center.  The center ministers to the children who live near the center, many of whose parents work at the city’s trash dump.  JJ Center provides tutoring for the children and a hot meal each day.

We spent our time hanging out with the kids.

We ate lunch with them.

And helped them do some painting.

In addition to the JJ Center, Joy of Cambodia has a women’s ministry called Dorcas Women’s Ministry.  DWM employs women and teaches them to make jewelry and accessories from the inner tubes of old bicycle tires.

Webley and I were able to join in on a class and were taught how to make some of the accessories.

It’s actually a long process and not easy to do, but the results are so cool!

That evening we enjoyed a Khymer dinner with the Joy of Cambodia team.

Next we spent some time with Children at Risk, a YWAM mission organization.  Tim and Mel Chan are the leaders of Children at Risk.  They so graciously opened their home and hosted a barbeque lunch for us.

Children at Risk began their ministry reaching out to children who were at risk of being trafficked.  Over the years, it became clear that the ministry needed to broaden and address families as a whole.  Keep in mind that during the reign of terror of the Khymer Rouge, one-fourth of Cambodia’s population was killed.  The family unit was destroyed.  Because of the genocide, only 3% of the population is over 65 years old and over 60% of the population is less than 30 years old.  The people of childbearing age are in great need of mentorship.  So Children at Risk now not only provides care to children, but also builds homes for families, provides guidance and mentoring on parenting and includes a sewing business that designs and produces fair trade clothing for Recreate Store, an online store based in New Zealand.  You can see what they sew at the store’s website.  Here’s one of the dresses sewn by Tim’s and Mel’s team.


This is Mel.  At 19, she came to Cambodia from the U.S. as a YWAM missionary and never left.  Her husband, Tim, is Khymer.  She is a fellow homeschool mom and was homeschooled herself.

And this is their precious team!  Mel’s husband, Tim, is standing next to Benjy.

Please join me in prayer for both of these ministries, Joy of Cambodia and Children and Risk. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesian 6:18