Daerji’s Family

Women were doing thread-making in front of the tent. The sound of the very basic but clever “machine” — which consists of nothing but a few pieces of wooden board and sticks, along with bottle caps and strings — could be heard from afar. Daerji’s daughter was the puller by the machine, and three older women, one of them Daerji’s wife held the yak hair bundle and fed them to form the threads as the machine spin them. Nowhere else I saw such things. It would not be possible without a big open space — the women gradually walked backwards as the thread became longer and longer. One bundle of hair could feed out to about 30 feet. One machine could spin as many as three threads. On a full working day like the day I arrived, three were there threading at the same time.

Daerji’s youngest son was riding a horse, and came back to greet his father and made me take a photo of him holding their big guard dog, a really handsome looking dog. Women chitchatted. I was free to film. Finally filming something! And thread-making is very pretty to film, with good sound too.

With only a brief meal break, the operation went on all day long. At dusk, the boy herded their yaks back and the wife and the daughter tied them in and milked a couple of them. Good sound with yaks mooing, but not so much visual, even my fastest lens wasn’t bright enough.

Herders’ meals were around their work schedule. Here, dinner doesn’t happen until all the night chores are done, and after dinner people go right back to sleep. With the tractor where my blankets and covers were on still in repair, I had to share the ground blanket with the daughter.

A good night of sleep surprisingly. The wife was already up working when I awoke. Very pretty fog in the valley. Not so much desert around Daerji’s immediate surrounding, but plenty on hills near other families in his group. Women at herder’s family are really working machines. Picking yak dung, spreading, drying, milking the yaks — that would take a good part of the morning nonstop from day break. After a meal around mid morning, it was butter making then more thread-making. No helpers came in the morning, so the wife let the boy be the puller. Sitting there pulling strings for a long time wasn’t very fun for the boy, I did a little bit of that when other distractions got him.

Some time during day two of my stay, I realized the stupid video gain was turned on. F!@#$%^&! those shots would be so washed out they would be nearly useless. F!@#$%^&!

The family sells snacks in the nearby tent — that explains the soft drinks on the tractor. Somehow a basketball hoop got shipped in as well and young herders came to play frequently.

Daerji also fixes motorcycles. Black Tent Moto Repair would be a fine name for his shop. With roads so bad and herders seemed to be riding so recklessly, Daerji got quite many customers.

The wife became quite playful once my stranger affect subsided. The daughter, who went to high school in town and only came home for short summer break was quite modern — wearing western clothe and having her hair braided differently than the traditional ways. They put on modern music later when they made thread. Some kind of Tibetan rap music. Yak hair tent, making thread, drying cheese curds, fixing motorcycle, rap music — the combination of those are fascinating to me.

The second son came for a brief visit at dinner time. The family prayed every night before going to bed, with the prayer wheel passing from one person to the next while the men recited scriptures. I filmed some, and participated as well in the praying circle.

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