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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Week One in Review

We are one week into our course and have finally reached the muddy, churning Mekong in the village of Bucan in the Tibetan Plateau. Before arriving here our days have been filled with numerous introductions and adventures and celebrations.

After leaving our orientation in Damoyu, we took an early morning flight to Shangri-La, a Tibetan town high in the hills. We spent a full day there resting, stocking up on warmer layers, and getting a soft introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by visiting the world’s largest prayer wheel.

Our next travel day was by bus. We followed the Yangtze River, China’s longest and the world’s third longest river, for much of the beginning of the drive, before climbing the mountains through groves of spruce and pine. We made a stop at Dong Zhu Lin monastery, where we spent a few hours walking through rooms and chapels filled with old paintings and statutes of Buddhist figures and symbols. Built in the 1600’s and overlooking the Jinsha River, the monastery has housed and taught thousands of monks and nuns over the centuries. It has many pieces that came from Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, and we were fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit such a stunning and spiritual space.

We arrived to Bucan in the evening on a well-paved road, passing pomegranate trees, grape vines, potted geraniums, and clumps of Cannas. We fell asleep listening to the endless rush of the river, and the nocturnal insects making themselves known. The village of Bucan will be our resting place for the next few days before climbing into the mountains.