Pilgrim Love and Sherpa Stew

Photo by Marc Tenzin

The bus dropped the five of us exchange students at the far end of Tagong town on the Tibetan plateau. Packs on backs, wide open grasslands laid before us like our certain bright futures as Mt. Yala rose up at the horizon like a success within reach. We even helped a group of pilgrims get their wagon unstuck from a muddy patch in the field before pitching our tents atop a hill overlooking stream meanders and the monastery in town.

But the Himalayan cloud and wind descended reverently in the late afternoon obscuring our view and mostly our pride, as our Chinese-factory biscuits crumbled dryly in our mouths as we were serenaded by the violent flapping of thin nylon and the tin-can rain, ready to humble us even more. Just as we felt the first icy moisture accumulating on our socks and sleeping bags, we heard a howling that was more human than wind. Halfway down the hill we could make out a light, our saving grace and source of the friendly greeting, “Tashidelek!” The pilgrims invited us to stay with them in their communal canvas tent down below.

Not even bothering with our soaking flimsy “shelter”, we stuffed our packs and made a run for the valley, for the fire and its steaming kettle, and mostly for the transcendent kindness of strangers. We were welcomed into thick wool blankets, given hot mugs of yak butter tea, fresh flat bread with ghee, momo potato cumin dumplings, tsampa barley with honey (honey, our one, yet well-received sweet contribution) and best of all, thick sherpa thukpa stew, loaded with juicy yak meat (the first meat I’d eaten since I was nine years old) chunks of potato, doughy hand-pulled noodles, shredded carrots, cabbage, and tomatoes, and even some cedar-smoked wild mushrooms.

Warm, dry, and happy
We ate, drank, sang with new friends
Tujay Chay*, pilgrims.

*Tibetan, ‘deep gratitude’

2017, Amaya Engleking

Join the potluck at Dverse, hosted today by Toni, where we write a haibun recalling the best meal we’ve ever eaten.



  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) · March 20, 2017

    What a wonderful dinner shared… to be received with such hospitality must be a wonderful memory… and all that exotic food sounds wonderful too.

  2. sarahsouthwest · March 20, 2017

    What a special memory. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. sanaarizvi · March 20, 2017

    Oh I absolutely love this!❤️ I had to look up “Tashidelek!” 😀 which roughly means “”Blessings and good luck” or “May all auspicious signs come to this environment.” I hope it always renders true for you!❤️

    • Gospel Isosceles · March 20, 2017

      Thanks for the blessings. Yes, we would have had one cold and miserable night had it not been for those generous, warm people, ready to share all they had. Did you get my comment on your post? I sent it but it didn’t look like it posted.

  5. Victoria C. Slotto · March 20, 2017

    Wow, the experience of a lifetime, for sure. Isn’t it wonderful how people will open them homes and hearts to strangers in need.

    • Gospel Isosceles · March 20, 2017

      Although I didn’t acknowledge God at the time (this was about thirteen years ago) I now see it as an act of God. And

      • Gospel Isosceles · March 20, 2017

        Shouldn’t have been an “and” there. Just God. Alpha and omega 😉

  6. whimsygizmo · March 20, 2017

    I love the deep gratitude felt in this. Beautiful.

  7. Beverly Crawford · March 20, 2017

    What a wonderful memory. The food sounded exotic and memorable. Thank you for taking us along!

    • Gospel Isosceles · March 20, 2017

      If you ever get a chance to try authentic Tibetan food, don’t miss out!

  8. Bekkie Sanchez · March 20, 2017

    That is quite the memory and experience. I’ve never been out of the US.

    • Gospel Isosceles · March 20, 2017

      I hope you will get a chance to do so some day, although, reading and writing often comes close to the travel experience 🙂

  9. frankhubeny · March 20, 2017

    I liked the phrase “transcendent kindness of strangers”. It looks like you were close enough to them for them to see you and realize you needed help.

    • Gospel Isosceles · March 20, 2017

      Yes, we naïvely pitched the tent high on the hill above their site. I think they actually tried to warn us, right after we helped them out of the mud. But you know, language barrier, youthful arrogance, etc. And yes, experiencing kindness such as theirs does have the ability to lift us up out of the wary ways we travelers can start to look at our fellow people, based on horrors of the world. So we helped them out of the mud, but they helped us out of that spiritual morass.

  10. lillian · March 21, 2017

    Wonderful! Hospitality warms the soul as food fills the belly. Enjoyed this adventure with you very much.

  11. paul scribbles · March 22, 2017

    A delightful tale, a deep learning and some top grub to boot. I can sense the reverence.

  12. Singledust · March 22, 2017

    i could feel the cold and the smell of the yak butter tea – very vivid descriptions and the lovely haiku at the end made me want to sing along too!

  13. hypercryptical · March 22, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful life-changing journey. It gives me hope for (hu)mankind.
    Kind regards
    Anna :o]

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