Buying the Wood


the wood frame for our structure was my favorite part of the project. We wanted to find only reusable materials so we went around town looking for piles of used materials. Somehow the locals know who to call to meet us at specific wood piles and then we negotiate prices and measure the pieces to see which would be best.

Although this process is exciting it is also somewhat frustrating. The carpenter only speaks Tibetan and so we had a translation for negotiating for wood English to Chinese and Chinese to Tibetan and back. Simultaneously, there were also loud sawing noises that made it very difficult to hear. Communicating which pieces are for what is also extremely frustrating. “THE PILLOWS! “WHAT?!” “THE PILLARS?”. Luckily we had a drawing that we could point to indicate that it was the front pillow on the top that had to be 22 cm in diameter.

On the first day we found the right sized wood that we wanted to buy but the owner was not there. We decided to return the next day with the carpenter but the wood pieces were already sold. Later, we were admiring more pieces of wood within the monastery and a monk called us back to his house. He showed us a lovely piece of older monastery wood, but the price was high. We told him that we would come back but felt deflated and weren’t sure if we could find the pieces that we needed within town.

The carpenter went out of town and thought about purchasing a full older house. Again, the price was high and we would have to transport the wood from outside of town. We tried once last time to find older monastery wood and this time we went with Palzang. After a full circle around the monastery we found the jackpot. Beautiful pieces – all the right sizes. We were elated.

Throughout this process, we learned a very important difference in Tibetan and American culture. Don’t ask so many questions. In my perspective, asking questions means that you are interested and that you are wondering about lots of different aspects of whatever you are speaking about. For Tibetans, lots of questions mean questioning their expertise and their reliability. From then on out, we kept reminding ourselves not to ask questions and to trust that who ever we are working with has it under control.


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