Yesterday we went to our friends house up in a village a few kilometers from the park entrance. It was gorgeous day with no clouds and a bright sun that made it nice enough for me to walk around in a t-shirt. I couldn't believe how warm it felt, but at 8000ft above sea level you get a heck of a lot more intense sun and yesterday it was a blessing. It was also quite nice to get out of the flat and and see friends. You see where we live at the bottom of a narrow valley where two rivers intersect there is not a whole lot of direct light during the day. Going up into the hills just a little bit results in a vast amount of light to make you feel a lot better.
Our purpose for going up to the house couldn't have been any better, our friend's mother the patriarch of the family lives there and takes care of the grandkids during the weekend when they are not in school and we wanted to go up and see her and bring a gift. There are three boys in all ranging in ages of three to eleven. Whenever we go up there on our bikes the two older boys always want to ride our bikes around so we thought it would be a wonderful treat to give them their own bikes. It turns out their father was wanting to do the same thing and so we decided to split the cost. One of the main reasons for getting the two older boys bikes is that their younger cousing, the three year old who lives with the grandmother at the home stay gets lots of gifts from the tourists who come and stay. We felt that it would be nice to get the brothers a gift as well.
The bikes which are nothing special by most standards are very sturdy and the smallest that we could get in adult sizes. We got them at the French sports Megastore in Chengdu along with some tools and spares to keep them on the road. Also we got them helmets, in China not many people wear helmets on motorcycles let alone bicycles. As it turns out A'ma (the grandmother) was afraid of the children being on bikes and very much appreciated that we bought them helmets. In fact she wants us to get one for the littlest boy as well. The bikes have been sitting in the back of the Citroen (aka the beast from the east) for about a week anticipating delivery.
When we got to the house we set the bikes up and as it turns out the two boys were at a party across the valley. They came home about a half hour later wearing their Tibetan robes from the party. They came in and looked at us thanked us with their eyes wide open and proceeded to run back outside. It took them a second to figure out that it might work better to take off their robes before they tried riding the bikes and put on the helmets. They kept looking at me like "are they really ours, can we really ride them". It took them about 30 seconds to want to go to the party and show their dad the new bikes. The older one asked me if it was ok to ride them to the party and of course I said "yeah, they are yours, ride the hell out of 'em". The three year old not wanting to be left out decided he wanted to ride his bike over as well. Well not really ride the bike since he can't quite get the pedals all the way around in a full stroke, so he and I walked his bike down the driveway and up the road to the party following his cousins who haven't quite learned the technique of shifting yet. Walking at the pace of a three year old really does take some getting used to. It's been a while since I was that small and have definitely forgotten what it is like to have everyone towering over you, but I could tell that he was happy and kept smiling at me the whole way.
After coming back from the party A'ma invited us to stay for dinner, do we have a choice not really. While waiting for dinner the boys decided to spend the time on their new bikes but this time they did so in their robes. No doubt Grandma told them they would catch a cold if they didn't put them on in the cold. If you are unfamiliar with Tibetan style robes they are like thick long jackets that come down to about the knee on men and to the ankles on women. They are very bulky on top, good for storing things, and tighter around the waist and legs. This makes getting on and off the bike a little difficult and quite comical to someone looking on. Over time I'm guessing these kids will be the best in the village at riding their bikes in robes but it may take some time to get used to it.
Dinner was amazing, as usual, very simple starting out with fried potatoes and pickled vegetables, followed by fresh yak mixed with red peppers and sautee'd and a cabbage dish with pork. The potatoes were so good, I forget how good simple fried potatoes with salt can be and the yak (which is very similar to beef) tasted great. A'ma also brought out some fresh bread still warm and some tomato soup that Amanda and I ate up with the bread. Of course A'ma told us not to get to full on the bread and soup but then went and got us more soup. Apparently Kieran taught her the soup recipe and she has made it her own by spicing it up a bit.
After spending the afternoon with the family we were off to the orphanage for what will likely be the last time in a long time. We decided to show them a movie two days in a row this week since we missed last week. We showed them "The Black Cauldron" a favorite of mine from when I was a kid. Unfortunately it was not dubbed into Chinese but they didn't seem to care and opted to see it with the Chinese subtitles. I have never seem them so intent on watching a movie they were very involved in watching it and really enjoyed it. In fact in the last minute of the movie the power went out turning off the projector but leaving the laptop on and all of the kids crowded around the little screen to watch the end. Twenty kids around a 17 inch laptop screen is an impressive study on human density.
The power came on and off a few times over the rest of the night but we had decided to snuggle into bed and read with our headlamps on since it was warmer in bed anyways. It was a good cap to a good day.
Today we are going into the park to see if any new ice has formed on the waterfalls.