Sunday, August 14, 2011

Surmang Clinic

Today I woke up in our relaxing clinic in Surmang (苏莽乡).  The clinic is in a little house in a remote town near the border of Tibet.  Surmang is just outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.  The Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is a designated part of China that is strictly controlled by the Chinese government.  All the people in Surmang are Tibetan though this is just outside of the TAR.  We are located at 12,500 feet above sea level.  At this altitude, just walking up the stairs leaves me panting.  My body is slowly adjusting to the high altitude. 

The clinic is heated by burning yak dung.  In the village, you can see piles of yak dung drying in the sun.  Ladies in traditional dress roam the kitchen and stairs of the small clinic.  Everyday the ladies bring water up from the river to the house and store water to be boiled for sanitation.  They carry the water in big buckets hung on a stick of bamboo which they drape over their shoulders.  In the morning, I have a bowl of oatmeal to start the day.  Some of the Tibetans eat tsampa which is mix of sugar, barley flour, salt, yak butter, and water.  I have tried tsampa, and I had trouble getting it down.

The first action of the day was Dad leaving to see a patient in a neighboring village.  He road on a scooter, driven by a member of the clinic who would translate for him.  Mom and I then went to the stupa, a spiritual place for Buddhists, located next to the clinic. There is a circular path around the stupa.  Buddhists walk around this path, chanting and spinning prayer wheels, or holding spiritual beads. They walk at least three laps around the stupa and place stones on the stupa to count their laps. This ritual is called the khora and some Buddhists walk this daily and on special dates.  At the center of the stupa, is a series of large white crafted stone monuments with Buddhas looking down on you.  Also along the path, there are colored flags that people hang all over the trail.  On the flags, prayers are written in Tibetan script.  We finished up the khora with five laps and continued with our day. 

Dad returned from the patient’s house which turned out to be in the TAR.  Then Dad and I went back to the stupa and did some water colors.  There was a pretty stream right next to the stupa where we sat and painted.  Then we went to a bathing pool on a river next to the town.  Around the pool were two monks and horses.  The river was dammed forming a small muddy pool.  The water was very refreshing.

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Tomorrow I will talk more about Surmang and the Clinic.       


  1. Hey hey!

    Where to start? 12,500? Very cool. Globin globin globin, making hemoglobin, Rohan's hemoglobin is high! (to the tune of Rawhide is case anyone forgot)

    Heated with Yak dung? There are sooooo many ways to hit this. Maybe later...

    Tsampa - how close is this to cookie dough? Is the Yak butter bitter/rancid?

    Googling 苏莽乡 left me with nothing :-( . And when I googled Surmang, I just got the entire region (like the size of Texas or bigger). But, Mom sent me some coordinates next to Xaiosumangxiang (how did she know?). Xiao is little, Sumang (mandarin pronunciation of Surmang I guess), and Xiang is township/region.

    Googling "小苏莽乡, Yushu, China" hit Mom's coords. Really, how did she know??

    Bathing spot - In other rural areas in China, Svet and I saw places where the locals had organized water usage - drinking water first, then clothes washing downstream, and bathing furthest down. Sound similar?

  2. Rohan,
    I am glad you are settling into Surmang and I much enjoyed reading about the your time there thus far. Also enjoyed reading Andrew's post.
    Seems as if Andrew didn't realize that his Mom, the awesome nurse researcher, also is an awesome researcher for other topics! I'm wondering why he wanted to know the Surmang coordinates. Maybe he is planning to visit you and, if so, I want to come with him.
    By now, you are probably adjusted to the 12,500 foot altitude and maybe able to tolerate tsampa.
    You may be hearing from someone you don't know to whom I referred your blog - Patricia Kneten.
    Love, Grandma

  3. Find Xining on the map of China, then go southwest to the town of Yushu (which is on some china maps). We are south and a tad east of Yushu, about 10 km north of the eastern corner of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

    Tsampa is a lot like cookie dough, but yak butter..... Rrrrrrrrrancid!

  4. Thanks a lot for passing on the word, Grandma!
    Rohan Geographic