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Eastmorelanders remember Tibet trip in haiku book

by: Rita A. Leonard, This book of “yak haiku” was created by Eastmorelanders Clara Gustafson (with toy yak), Kathy Schroeder (who took the photos), and Anna Gustafson (with Tibetan prayer wheel).

An Eastmoreland family has commemorated their trip to Tibet by publishing a book of 'yak haiku', with photographs describing their adventures. The release party for 'Yaku' will be held at Wallace Books on Friday, February 8th, from 5:30-7:30 pm.

'Eight is a lucky number in China,' explains mom Kathy Schroeder, who took the photos for the book. Daughters Clara and Anna Gustafson, now students at St. Mary's Academy, wrote the haiku poems.

Tibet is not entirely an unknown part of the world to these travelers; their dad, Tom Gustafson, has worked in the wood business in China for over 20 years. From 2005 till 2007, his family decided to join him for an overseas adventure.

Daughters Clara and Anna, and son Peter, spent two years in a Chinese boarding school, and are now fluent in Mandarin Chinese. On the vacation trek to Tibet, they learned the importance of yaks to the Tibetan people.

'Yaks are central to the nomadic way of life in Tibet,' says Schroeder. 'They are used for transportation, as well as for food - both meat and milk. Yak hair, bones, and dung also have their uses. We were inspired by the Tibetans and their yaks, and wanted this book to be both educational and entertaining for its intended audience: Children ages 7 and up. We chose February 8 for our release party, because 8 indicates prosperity in China, and the date is right after this year's Chinese New Year.'

Clara Gustafson explains, 'Yak bones are carved into combs and ornaments used on prayer wheels, while yak butter is used for offerings at the temples. Yak milk is also turned into cheese, which can be sculpted into art forms.'

Her sister Anna adds, 'Yak meat is eaten fresh, or dried as jerky. Yaks have various layers of fur, and their hair is turned into felt and yarn, which is used for clothing, blankets, hats, and prayer flags. Yak horns are sometimes carved with Buddhist prayers.'

Yak dung is plastered against rock walls to dry, and is later used as fuel for warmth and cook fires. Yak hides are turned into leather for straps, backpacks and storage bags. The strong and sure-footed beasts of burden also transport luggage, goods, and occasionally small children. Yaks are well adapted to the high plateaus, where thin air, cooler temperatures, rough terrain and a sparse food supply discourage other large creatures.

'Yaku' can be purchased at Wallace Books, and other local bookstores. Self-publishing the book has been a new experience for the authors, who are also making available related materials: Note cards, postcards, bookmarks, and toy stuffed yaks from China. The family says that the book is dedicated to the nomads and yaks of the Tibetan high plateau, and 'celebrates the life and culture of a unique people'.