The black-neck crane may hail from Gyalthang but it lays its eggs in the pastures of Lithang – so the saying goes.
You could say the same of Lobsang Tenzin. Born and bred in the Lithang pastures, Tenzin and his wife Lobsang and daughter Kunjam have made a home in Gyalthang. Before co-founding Khampa Caravan, Tenzin spent many years as a monk in Neygo Monastery in the sacred valley of Mt. Genyen in Lithang, until he became the personal attendant (Tib. Sopun) to the abbot of the monastery.
In the fast-changing 1990’s, Tenzin left monk-hood to ply a few trades. Tibetan medicine herbalist and caterpillar fungus/mushroom trader are among them. Selling his herd of 120 Yaks he set up shop in the cowboy town of Lithang. The mushroom and caterpillar fungus trade brought him to Gyalthang, where he subsequently discovered adventure travel and its potential benefits to rural communities such as his. But he has not shed some of his nomad traits. In argument, he is still prone to recite nomad proverbs rich in animal-lore to score points. When he starts on the elephant-and-ant story, however, it is a sign that his mental fortitude is weakening.
The green vales of Mt. Genyen in Lithang remains entrenched in Tenzin’s heart. His nomad community in Genyen look to him for support and guidance in these trying times of change and cultural pressures. Tenzin has been actively helping the Dramla Village Primary School with valuable support from many Khampa Caravan friends. Situated at the confluence of two rivers in the Rakok district, the rivers have inflicted serious damage to the school building, besides destroying a bridge that is vital in holding the village together.
Funds raised will go towards building a new bridge, more dormitories and classrooms, and repairing of existing school facilities, and the people of Dramla will contribute their labor in all construction. He also has plans to repair the school’s basket ball court. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are household names here! At Neygo Monastery, Tenzin is also looking for ways how he can help in establishing a home for a group of homeless elderly nomads who have taken shelter there.
Tenzin looks forward to spending the next six months in the US to improve his English language skills and also to see the world outside, at the University of California, Davis. He has received valuable support from Khampa Caravan’s friends. We look forward to hearing his views of (student) life and culture in America when he returns next summer.