Personal Journeys

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

June 19, 2005|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Meeting the in-laws in remote China

By Kirk S. Nevin

Our daughter Heidi and her husband, Tsultrim, called to say they had found cheap airline tickets to visit Tsultrim's family in China. "Why don't you guys come, too?" she asked.

Tsultrim's family, whom Heidi had not met, lives in a tiny village in a remote river valley in northwestern Sichuan province. Before 1950, the area was an autonomous kingdom in Kham, part of traditional eastern Tibet.

Normally my wife, Susan, and I would have spent months before such a journey learning some of the language we'd need at our destination. In this case, that seemed futile. In our in-laws' village, Chinese is the official language, Tibetan the language learned by Buddhist monks and Gyalrong the local language. Gyalrong, an unwritten language, is spoken only in the river valley and nearby mountain villages.

Fortunately, we were traveling with three linguists. Heidi and her sister Liv speak Chinese; Heidi and Tsultrim speak Tibetan; and Tsultrim speaks Gyalrong and English. We would survive.

The journey took six days from Baltimore, via San Francisco, Hong Kong and several bumpy and sometimes frightening van rides into the mountains and valleys of Sichuan province. We were exhausted late on the sixth day when we crossed a narrow footbridge over a roaring river and were graciously welcomed into the family home by Tsultrim's parents, sister, nephews and niece.

Our meeting with this wonderful family was an emotional one. Heidi was formally introduced to her husband's mother, Tashi, and father, Yungdrung. Tears flowed freely. Later, we were treated to a delicious multicourse vegetarian dinner from the family garden.

Tsultrim's parents and sister live in a comfortable barn-like stone structure. Until recently, the ground floor housed the family animals, a collection of yaks, pigs and chickens.

The upper floors are museum-like, with walls, windowsills and cupboards beautifully painted in glossy geometric patterns of reds, blues, greens and yellows. The fourth floor is a Tibetan temple, complete with two Buddhist monks who slept and ate there during our visit.

Tashi started each day by burning incense and lighting dozens of lamps. The monks' chanting is an important part of the spiritual aspect of our in-laws' home.

We were guests there for a week. We slowly became accustomed to the 12,000-foot altitude of the Tibetan plateau. We explored the nearby town of Barkam, reveling in the hot baths of a fancy spa and enjoying the calm quiet of a traditional Tibetan teahouse.

Our kind hosts then escorted us on a two-week tour of the mountains and villages of their region. Our delightful journey is one we hope to repeat.

Kirk S. Nevin lives in White Hall.

My Best Shot

Jill Hettinger, Lutherville

Driver, beware!

On a trip to Ireland, my husband and I were trying to navigate our car on the left side of the road. We were already anxious from the driving when we spotted this sign at the Cliffs of Moher. As you probably guessed, we stopped.

Readers Recommend

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Margery C. Sleeper, Baltimore

How many Americans know where the most eastern point is under the American flag? On a recent trip to St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, one of my most memorable sights was this view of the monuments at Point Udall, on the eastern tip of the island, marking the most easterly spot in the United States.

Tulum, Mexico

Eva P. Catedral, Woodbridge, Va.

The gods must have been pleased when the Mayans built them a temple in Tulum, Mexico. The ancient ruins, constructed on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, are impressive. They resemble Egyptian pyramids but on a smaller scale. These monuments were arranged in different shapes and sizes -- a macrame of stone puzzles beside the sea.

We Want To Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you; about the nostalgia a certain place evokes; about a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. Include a photo. (Cash value: $150.)

Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail to Travel@baltsun.com. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.