I celebrated the Tibetan and Lunar New Year with the local residents of Yubeng, a mountain hamlet nestled among the scenic Meili alps of northwestern Yunnan and a stone’s throw from Tibet. It is a hard days Imagetrek away from the nearest road and neither accessible by car nor cell phone compatible – a bane and benefit to the people of this village, who share a rare sense of trust and compassion for life and companionship so distinct from the growing metropolis of my lifetime. I have neverImageseen men laugh with such galore nor children as assiduous and considerate as those in Yubeng. And when a neighbor dispatched word over a yellow Motorola walkie-talkie that someone required medical care at 2 AM on the morning of the New Year, all thirty local men set out on foot to carry the ailing to the capital of the county and over the snow-covered mountain isolating this village from hospital services.

The New Year’s festivities were a legacy of tradition and the past best described in pictures – houses adorned in colorful paper amulets with homemade adhesive, dough treats fried by hand in heaped layers at apparent random or purposely unfolded like the petals of a flower, spirited bow-and-arrow contests for the treasured white Hada scarf, Imageone of the most venerable items in Tibetan culture, and prized bushy fur hats and costumes with resplendent trimming. A steady stream ofImage salty yak butter tea and coarse alcohol was readily on-hand to moisten dehydrated palettes and rejuvenate spirits exhausted from reveling in song and dance throughout the night before welcoming the dawn of a new day.Image

Events took an unexpected turn after I departed Yubeng 10 days later in midst snowstorm via a spectacular gorge along the infant turquoise swells of an early Mekong River tributary. In fact, I had the experience of a lifetime when days of bad weather wreaked mudslides, fallen boulders, and the worst snowfall in local memory throughout northwestern Yunnan. Instead, the images below tell a different story, not of Yubeng or the immeasurable beauty of its surrounding landscape, but capturing some of my past memories and reflections – experiences for which I am immensely grateful, including from Tibet, Gansu, and Yunnan.