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Archive for November, 2006

The snow seemed to be falling down faster now. Standing in the darkness, the old lady  just felt the snowflakes whirling around her, some springing at her and stuck on her face, melted into small waterdrops.  She could even feel the chilliness of them.
 
But she didn’t feel cold, because she knew the God had been aware where she was and sent an angel to pull her out of this deadly hook—a real angel! What he had said to her was still echoing in her ears: ” If you do hope to pay me something, then just help someone who you think needs your help… …”
 
Then, she came to realize the angel had gone and she was alone again, in coldness and wilderness.  She even felt the numbness in her legs and feet now—-she had been standing there quite a while now, with her thoughts drifting away….

She began to lurch towards the door of the car.  It took her quite some efforts opening it with her almost frozen fingers.  Slowly she reached the seat and sat in front the steering wheel.  The engine bellowed, and the car began to move in the thick snow.  It seemed Hunger and coldness attacked her by surprise and how she wished to be at her cozy home now!  However, with the heavy snow, she had to drive more carefully than ever before….especially when she was alone on this winding road among the mountains…..
 
On the road, only two bright spots were moving slowly in the darkness…..
 
When she drove out of the mountains, it was almost one hour later.   Cold and hungry, she drove a little faster so that she could arrive home earlier, although she knew it well that it did little help.. What she really needed was a place to warm herself a while and had something to eat.  However, in such a faraway place, could she have any chance to find one?
 
She almost gave up when she saw dim light at the roadside faraway from her.  It was barely noticeable but seemed so warm at such a cold night.  Delighted with what she had found, the old lady accelerated the engine.
 
To her great joy, it was a small cafe.  Though it was so late, the cafe was still open.   She parked the car, and went inside.  She was at once surrounded with the cozy warmth in the room. She saw a young lady behind the counter.  She was in her early thirties, and smiling at her kindly.
 
” What can I do for you, ma’am? It’s very cold outside, I think you must be cold. Just sit beside the stove and keep you warm….” She said, walking slowly towards her.  She moved a chair close to the stove and asked the old lady to sit there. 
 
” Would you like a cup of coffee, ma’am? It will surely warm you up in such a freezing night!  And I also have some cookies baked by myself, many friends like them very much.  Huhhuh, I’m boasting, ain’t I?Wanna try some?” She grinned at her.
 
” Oh, I really appreciate that….By the way,….may I have your name, Ms?”
“Just call me Sarah,” the sweet smile appeared on her face again,” Just let me know if you need my help, ma’am.”
” OK, Sarah…” She was greatly impressed with her sweet and angelic smile, a smile she was so familiar that she seemed to have seen it somewhere else. Her eyes followed Sarah when she was cleaning the tables and chairs.  In a few moments, Sarah stopped and patted her back with the back of her hand.  The old lady could see sweat drippling down from her cheeks.
 
Then she suddenly noticed something special.  She was carrying a baby! From her swollen belly, she could tell it was almost seven or eight months…. Oh, my God! How could she still work here when she was about to give birth to a baby? Was she having any trouble now?  But, Sarah appeared so cheerful and happy when talking with her, as if nothing was happening.  However, the old lady was almost certain that there must be something wrong.
 
That familiar voice echoed in her ears again,” If you do hope to pay me, just help someone who you think needs your help…….” Then she knew what she should do now……
 
“Sarah…?”
“Yes, ma’am?”
” Would you give me a slip of paper, and a pen?”
” Just a second,ma’am…….Here you are.”
 
“They are really nice cookies, I like them very much. Would you give me some more, Sarah?”
“Sure. I’m realy pleased to hear that…I will go get some more for you from the kitch.  I’ll be back soon.”
 
…….
 
When Sarah came back, she found the lady had gone. On the desk was that slip of paper, with the pen beside it.   She took it up and looked at it.
 
” Hi, Sarah!  Thank you for your kindness.  I can see you are meeting some difficulties even though I’ve not asked you.  I can do nothing for you but leave some money here. Hope it will be of some help to you….Don’t ask me who I am, because an angel requested to do so.   Take care.”
 
The letters on the slip gradually became blurred with her tears.  Then she gazed at the money on the table  for a moment, held it in hand slowly–it was five hundred dollars.   She lingered into their bedroom, where her husband was lying there in bed, asleep.  Walking over to the bed, she sat down quietly beside him.
 
Her eyes fell on his  exhausted and tired face.  The sight made her heart ache so much.  She knew he was still worried about the financial problem.  It seemed to have been torturing him a long time for his failure to find a better hospital for their coming baby. They could not afford it….Now, she was so delighted that God had sent someone to help them out.  The lady was so kind and knew so well about our difficulty.
 
Bending down and looking at her husband in deep sleep, she said to him quietly,” Honey, don’t worry about it any more. God has sent her to help us….a real angel. Just take it easy, I love you, Steve…..”
…….
 
Outside the room, the snow had stopped, the ground was covered with a silver white.  In the dark and cold sky, several lonely stars were twinkling…..What a wonderful night.

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In fact, I’ve long been thinking about writing this story down but hesitated every time when I began to write it.  I was so moved by it that I just feared I couldn’t convey everything in it to you by my weak manipulation of words.  Another reason is that I have not figured out a good title for it till now.  However, I am too eager to share it with you now, regardless of taking that risk…… I’d like to do so in the wish that you buddies may give me a hand in giving it a good title.  If you could give me some input……oh, that’ll be……… terrific!
 
It took place in  a small county in the west of the United States.   The hero’s name was Steve.
 
What does this story touch me most? The affection, the love, for the beloved one, and other people.  Love always brings about miracles, I believe!
 
 
*****************************
 
A car was moving slowing along the winding road among the mountains.  It was late afternoon and the sun had set down behind the mountains earlier than before.  Darkness was gradually reigning everywhere.  On the mountains along the road, thick snow could be seen on the slopes, reflecting the last  ray of daylight .  Finally, everything was devoured by overwhelming darkness.
 
Driving the car was a man in his early 30’s, his name was Steve.  After a whole day’s hard work, his face looked pale and emaciated with tiredness.   He had planned to get home before darkness, but was detained due to some urgent issues. Now how he wished to get home as quickly as he could, where his beloved must be waiting anxiously for his return.

Thinking of his wife, his face darkened. It seemed that something was gnawing him and he really felt the hurt.  From the deepest of his heart, he felt so sorry about his wife that he hadn’t offered her wife a cozy and comfortable life since they got married. While other buddies left the county to other big cities for more opportunities, he chose to stay here to herit something left by his parents.  But the business was not good, and life was really tough for the poor couple.  And what tortured him more was, she seemed always very happy being with him. Every time he went back home, she was there, smiling at him, and giving him a warm hug.  She never complained anything.
 
Without being noticed, the snow was falling from the dark sky. The snowflakes were dancing with the wind, falling on the road ahead and the windshield. Steve had to pay more attention though he seemed troubled with something. The snow was heavier and heavier, and he could hardly see the road.
 
At one turn of the road, the light of the car casted the far end of the road. Suddenly, he found a vague figure in the snow.   He stepped on the accelerator.  He got closer and stopped his car. When he got out of his car, he saw an old lady standing beside a car, trembling with coldness and fright.  He came up and saw a wrinkled and scared face.  Then his eye fell on to the car.  It was a nice and luxurious  one.
 
He came to the lady and asked,” what’s the matter, ma’am?  May I give you a hand?”
“OH….oh……my car broke down here,…and….and I..don’t know what to do about it…….” The lady said, while stepping backward a little.
 
” I’ve been here…..for about 2 hours now…, but no one passed by…”The old lady said in a broken voice, and Steve could feel her tightening her body and trying to stop it from trembling. Maybe out of coldness, hunger,…or fear..
 
” Mind if I have a look?” Steve said.
” …Sure…”, there was a trace of overjoy in the voice.
 
Then he began to check the car.  It was not a serious problem and he fixed it after about 15 minutes.
 
“OK, ma’am. It’s ok now.  I think you can drive it home now.” Said Steve, ready to get into his own car, while the old lady came up to him suddenly.
” Sir, thank you for helping me, but I can pay for what you have done for me. Please tell me how much you want. Ok?”
 
Steve felt as if his face had been clapped heavily. He slowly turned around and gazed at the lady for a moment. Finally, he said, calmly but firmly,” Ma’am, when I did it for you, I didn’t expect you to pay me.  You were in trouble, and I helped you out. That’s it. Frankly speaking, I feel insulted by what you said just now.”
 
” But, I really hope to thank you and do something for you, sir. Sorry if I offended you….”
 
Steve smiled at the lady, ” Ma’am, if you do hope to thank me, then try to help another one who you think needs your help. That will be your pay for me. Safe journey home, ma’am.”
 
The lady stood there, seeing the car started, running forward along the road, and finally disappearing at the turn ahead….
 
It was colder now, but her heart was filled with warmth…..
 
( To be continued)
 

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Giving A Hand

Here’s a story I heard over the radio tonight and would like to share it with you.
 
Sandy Greenberg was an excellent student and was enrolled in the famous Columbia University. He came from a poor family and had to continue his study on scholarship. The competition was fierce and Sandy worked very hard.
 
When he was a sophomore, however, something happened to the poor boy.  He contracted an eye disease that eventually was diagnosed as glaucoma, a disease that made people blind.  And it was already too late when the disease was diagnosed, Sandy could hardly see anything in the end. The colorful world around him seemed to be going farther and farther away from him. You can imagine how difficult the situation was for Sandy then.  How could he go on with his study without his eyesight?
 
Then came the miracle.  Since Sandy was blind, his roommate, also a young boy from a poor family, gave him a hand. Every night, you could see the boy sitting beside Sandy and reading the textbook for him. And he kept doing so for Sandy till they finished their study in the university. 
 
With the help of his roommate, Sandy graduated with honors  from Columbia University and was ready to go to Oxford University for further study.  He was still very poor then, but he managed to save $500.- for emergencies.
 
One day, Sandy received a call from his former roommate.  “Sandy, I am really unhappy now. You know, I love singing so much and don’t want to be in school any more. I just want to try if I can succeed in music.  I’m planning to form a band with another guy, but first we have to make a promo record. That will cost %500.- and I just cannot afford it!”
 
Hearing this, Sandy told his roommate immediately,” Don’t worry,buddy.  I believe you will be somebody in music some day.  I have $500.- and I can give it to you now!”  What he didn’t tell his roommate was, ” You’ve helped me create my life, and it’s my turn to give you a hand now!”  With that precious $500.-, his roommate finally released a record, with the title of The Sound Of Silence.
 
Now you may have known who Sandy’s roommate was.  He was the well-known singer Art Garfunkel, who formed a band with Paul Simon.   Many of their songs have become classics now:  Scarborough Fair, Mrs Robinson, El Condor Pasa,…….
 
It was the selfishless help that Garfunkel had rendered to Sandy that led him to success, and the kindness was finally reciprocated.  It is easy to help others once, twice, but it really  tests your patience and perseverence when you help them for a long time.  And it also reminds me of that saying,”  A friend in need is a friend indeed.”……….
 

Note:
 
The background music:  Scarborough Fair
 
   By Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

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Its was quite a different experience visiting Norbulingka compared with the Putala Palace.  In Tibetan, Norbu means “baby”, and “lingka” means ” Park”.  Nowadays, many Tibetans still call their little kids “norbu”. Norbulingka was Dalai Lama’s summer palace,where Dalai Lama used to stay in summer. The road connecting the Putala Palace and Norbulingka was called ” the Holy Road”. Every year, the common folks woshipped and had a chance to meet their living buddha there.  Covering an area of 360,000m2, Norbulingka has now become a national park in Tibet.
 
We visited the 14th Dalai Lama’s palace. It was built during 1954-1956. After its completion, he stayed there for 3 years and fled abroad since 1959.  The palace was a two-storey building.  There was a meeting room on the second floor where he used to receive local officials. The chamber next to it was a study adjoined with a meditation room. Curiously enough, we even found two radios made in Russia and Germany.  Now almost 50 years have passed since he went into exile. How time flies!
 
Walking along the road in the palace, we were amazed at the beauty of the park. The chilly wind was blowing, yellow withered leaves fell off from the trees, and the road was soon covered with a thick layer of golden leaves.  However, the bamboos along the road to the gate were still so exuberant, green with inexhaustible vitality…

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The next day after our arrival, we went to the Putala Palace. I had seen it many times in magazines and TV documentaries and had been admiring its grand magnificence for a long time.  I really  wished I might have a chance to be here one day. Now here I was.
 
I was a bit sick that morning due to the mountain sickness. Dizzy and a slight headache. Such easy matters as  climbing the ladders at the hotel might become really something. Sometimes I even thought my veins might be burst out  as if somebody was pricking my head with a sharp knife. So did other fellas. My friends suggested me to do everything slowly, then there should not be any problem. So I did, and I felt better.
 
We went to the palace in the afternoon. It was a sunny afternoon and the sun was shining brightly. We had to put some suncream to prevent from sunburns. It was only about 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel to the Putala, and I could actually see it from the balcony of the hotel the night before.

There standing in front of us was the Putala Palace, with overwhelming grandeour. It was built at the foot of a mountain( In fact, most of the palaces and monasteries in Tibet were built among mountains). Its construction started from 17th century as the winter palace for Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetans. It was a 13-storey palace and was said to have 1000 rooms or chapels altogether.

The chapel was divided into two parts: The Red Palace and The White Palace. The Red Palace was the place where Dalai Lama held religious ceremonies. Here were also enshrined most of the Lamas, whose tombs had been built with gold. Interestingly enough, the amount of gold used for each tomb vaired with the contributions of its owner to Tibet and the religion. Another key factor was the financial conditions at that time. Of all the tombs, the 5th Dalai Lama’s tomb was the largest, using altogether 3721kgs of gold. The tomb was brilliant with an awesome height of over 12 meters and every worshipper was filled with deep veneration before it.

There were several chapels where Dalai Lama used to pray, everything was laid out as if he had used it just now. Another chamber used to be the place Dalai Lama received the foreign envoys. It was a rectangular shape room, Dalai’s chair was on the right end and the envoy’s on the left. On the chairs were some mattresses embroidered with traditional Tibetan and religious patterns.
 
We climbed up the stairs very slowly. On the 11th floor, we found ourselves in a large square. There was a two-storey building in the middle. The square used to be a stage where the traditional Tibetan opera was performed, and there was a room in this two-storey building where Dalai Lama enjoyed the performance from one of the windows.

The White Palace was the place where Dalai Lama handled his daily political affairs. Most of the rooms were closed and we couldn’t see what was inside.
 
As Tsizhon our tourguide told us, the Palace was always a holyland for all the Tibetans. Every year, thousands of pilgrims from all the country and the world paid their worship for their god. Till now, many Tibens still regard Dalai Lama as their real spiritual leader. It was a pity that politics and religion seemed to become twin brothers that influenced eacher profoundly. As she said, the political stability in Tibet always precedes over its economic development.
 
About two hours later, we came out of the palace. The sun was shining above, but we could see tiny snowflakes falling from the sky. What a wonder! And I felt I was getting better with the mountain sickness. 🙂

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Our hotel was in the center of the city, but it was actually a family inn. It was a small courtyard with 3-storey rooms on the four sides. Facing the gate was a fountain with a shrine on its top. The rippling water added a lively touch to this small family inn. Small as it was, it was built in very typical Tibetan style and every room was laid out and decorated with Tibetan patterns, and they charged a higher rate than others.
 
What made it really distinguished was a spacious balcony on the top of the building, which was connected by wooden ladders. Tables and chairs were randomly scattered here and there. When the weather was good, you could sit beside a table, having a cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of beer under the bright moon. The night breeze was a little chilly, gently fondling your face. The moonlight, pale and bright, sprayed on the tables, the chairs and the ground. Though it was in the centre of the city, it was so quiet here, as if secluded from the outside world.

There was no TV set in the room, I was surprised that I could still survive without TV programs and internet now. I was used to walking outside in the streets, sitting on that balcony, and staying in bed writing something about what I’d done during the day.
There was no central heating system in Lhasa, and we used an electric heater to keep the room warm. Sometimes the heater was so noisy that it woke me up at midnight. Then I began to write sth in my notebook till I was sleepy again. The bed, the quilt, and the towels…..everything in the room smelt of yak butter, and it took me quite some time to get used to it.
 
But my favorite was the balcony at the top. I liked sitting there, feeling the gentle night breeze, enjoying the company of the snow-capped mountains, and bathed in the chilly bright moonlight.
 
In the inn there was a lovely husky. She had white and grey hair and a sharp nose. She was so friendly that she always greeted me  standing on her two hind legs  every time she saw me.  I liked to feel her    My Dreamland Tibet(4): The Hotel     2006-11-11 15:31:42
大 中 小
Our hotel was in the center of the city, but it was actually a family inn. It was a small courtyard with 3-storey rooms on the four sides. Facing the gate was a fountain with a shrine on its top. The rippling water added a lively touch to this small family inn. Small as it was, it was built in very typical Tibetan style and every room was laid out and decorated with Tibetan patterns, and they charged a higher rate than others.
 
What made it really distinguished was a spacious balcony on the top of the building, which was connected by wooden ladders. Tables and chairs were randomly scattered here and there. When the weather was good, you could sit beside a table, having a cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of beer under the bright moon. The night breeze was a little chilly, gently fondling your face. The moonlight, pale and bright, sprayed on the tables, the chairs and the ground. Though it was in the centre of the city, it was so quiet here, as if secluded from the outside world.
 
There was no TV set in the room, I was surprised that I could still survive without TV programs and internet now. I was used to walking outside in the streets, sitting on that balcony, and staying in bed writing something about what I’d done during the day.
There was no central heating system in Lhasa, and we used an electric heater to keep the room warm. Sometimes the heater was so noisy that it woke me up at midnight. Then I began to write sth in my notebook till I was sleepy again. The bed, the quilt, and the towels…..everything in the room smelt of yak butter, and it took me quite some time to get used to it.
 
But my favorite was the balcony at the top. I liked sitting there, feeling the gentle night breeze, enjoying the company of the snow-capped mountains, and bathed in the chilly bright moonlight.
 
In the inn there was a lovely husky. She had white and grey hair and a sharp nose. She was so friendly that she always greeted me  standing on her two hind legs  every time she saw me.  I liked to feel her soft hair, and to scratch her neck gently. She just lay herself flat on the ground with complete contentedness.

Small as it was, the inn was the most special hotel I’ve stayed before ( a local friend told me we could have stayed in a five-star hotel at the price we paid here, but we could not find what we’d found here in a five-star hotel). What was more, the people were so kind and trying their best to provide the best service to us ( though there were intermittent power cuts during the night). I do believe it may be one of my privileged choices when I come here next time..

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After about 6 hours’ flight, with one-hour stop in Chengdu, we were finally above the city of Lhasa. Through the thick clouds, we could see the bare mountains, withered bushes and zigzagging rivers among the valleys. The ground temperature was about 17 celsius. Not bad.
 
After the plane touched the ground, we collected our luggage and went out of the exit. Our tourguide, Tsizhon(次珍),a nice lady with a tyical Tibetan’s look, were already there meeting us.
 
The ride from the airport to the downtown  was about 2 hours. It used to take about 5 hours before a tunnel was drilled. On the way, Tsizhon introduced Tibet and Lhasa in fluent English, which made me fully relaxed because I needn’t take pain interpretting everything for the guests with such an excellent tourguide with us.
 
With about 4 million population, Tibet is a wonderland for many Chinese people and foreigners. Now, nearly 500 thousand people live in Lhasa, about 70% of whom are Tibetans.
 
Our van was running fast on the blacktop along the Lhasa River, a river which is regarded as a holy river by local Tibetans. The  river is abundant in many kinds of fish, but the local people don’t catch them for food because they worship the fish as holy creatures, and used to put the bodies of children who died before 8 into the river as sacrefice.
 
The snow-capped mountians were just behind us, and the tree of withered leaves were retreating as quickly as they could. High above the sky, the grey clouds were gathering, and a heavy rain was threatening. Almost in no time, the rain poured down and the road ahead was wet. The weather in Lhasa was so volatile.
 
Here we were in the downtown of Lhasa. It was nothing different from an inland medium-sized city: small, crowded, narrow lanes, and the ever-going noises in the streets.  However, you may find some differences if you look further and more carefully.  Most of the people in the streets were tibetans, and every corner of the city was pervaded with the smell of yak butter and incenses. Only then did I realized I had come to a mysterious holyland.

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