Wow. I don’t even know where to begin! I know I completely bypassed any stories from Japan, but our transitions from country to country are too quick! I will be in Vietnam in two days, but I needed to talk about Tibet before I lost the time. Tibet was a truly exceptional experience. I didn’t realize how isolated it was from the world until seeing the tourist population (or, lack of) around the city. I have never felt so out of place. I stick out in China, but I really stick out in Tibet. I had people touch me and take pictures with me which I’m generally patient with but by the end of the trip I was ducking behind other people or doors to avoid unexpected pictures. Being bombarded with pictures aside, I’ve never visited a place that clings to their traditions so strongly. Lhasa had a feigned sense of modernity; highways amidst fields and cars in the middle of markets. But I didn’t see anybody in western clothing outside of our tour group or Chinese tourists. The cultural Chinese influence was fascinating. While I love everything Chinese, there is a distinct difference between Chinese and Tibetans. Going to Lhasa and seeing the impact that the Chinese government has within the city made me really uncomfortable, but perhaps I will post more about that when I’m back in the US and don’t need to worry about censorship. In terms of sight-seeing, the two most phenomenal events were going to the Potala Palace and going to the third most significant lake in Tibet (can’t read my ticket; it’s in Tibetan). I had no idea that the Potala Palace was so culturally significant. In addition to being insanely beautiful, it contains some of the most intricate designs and statues I’ve ever seen. Though I’m not Buddhist, I consider myself a student of all religions. It fascinates me to try and understand what people believe, especially with Buddhism being such a long-standing religion. There were many rural Tibetans at the palace for religious pilgrimages to the city, so it was amazing to see how they interacted with the shrines presented. Outside of the palace there were people circling the perimeter spinning prayer wheels and holding prayer beads. I found out the prayer wheels represent a constant release of good wishes and prayers for all of humanity, not just as an individual. How beautiful is that? Hundreds of people circling the Potala Palace praying for humanity in its entirety. Definitely a site I will never forget. The second most remarkable part about Tibet was the lake we visited. It took forever to get there, but it was so rewarding. We took a break on top of a hill where we were bombarded with people trying to sell us prayer beads or get us to take pictures of their dressed up yaks or dogs. I didn’t want to be sucked into the crowd so I walked up this beautiful hill accompanied by a stray dog (I named her Lhassie) to overlook the lake and Mt. Everest in the background. Easily the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The hike was probably a bad idea since we were at 16,000 feet, but it was worth the light-headedness. The picture I’m attaching is of the base of the lake. Prayer flags were tied along the side of the lake, which contrasted so beautifully with the color of the lake. I can’t wait to share more pictures! Sending all my love to those back home.