Dalai Lama showered with birthday wishes
Denver & Post[Monday, July 10, 2006 11:52]
Boulder, July 9 : A few showers were not going to ruin the birthday party for a holy man who's been in exile for nearly 50 years.

"We lived through an invasion in China. A little rain's not going to stop us," said Tenzing Gyatso, president of the Tibetan Association of Colorado and the Dalai Lama's niece.

Under a steady drizzle Saturday, the association celebrated the 71st birthday of the Dalai Lama during the fourth annual World Tibet Day Festival at Central Park in Boulder.

The chilled lemonade stand to raise money for children in Tibet did not fare so well. But the station selling cups of hot sweet tea and steaming dumplings saw a steady stream of customers during the festivities, which also included Mongolian dancing and African drummers, Gyatso said.

Tibetan dancers swirled and stomped on a covered stage, as traditional singers provided the soundtrack. The cultural performances were broken up by on- stage prayers, and speakers reminded the audience of the Tibetans back home who could not commemorate the occasion.

"I feel like I'm representing the Tibetans who live in Tibet, who have to celebrate his birthday secretly," said Tsering Chodon, 44, a Boulder resident who left her home when she was 19. "We have to celebrate big because we're the voice for them as well."

The Dalai Lama, who was not in attendance, is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and a 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He has been in exile since 1959, when the region was reclaimed by communist China.

His birthday was Thursday, but the association always celebrates the following Saturday.

There are fewer than 200 Tibetans living in Colorado, Gyatso said. World Tibet Day is the biggest event put on by the association, and provides the community with a chance to come together to remember their heritage, said Losang Gyatso, who emceed the celebration, and is Tenzing's husband.

"First, it's a big birthday party," he said. "But it's also a day to celebrate our survival of the worst, an affirmation of the fact that our culture has withstood an onslaught."

World Tibet Day, which is celebrated in nearly 60 cities worldwide, is also serving as a kickoff party this year for a series of Tibetan events, including movie screenings and art shows, that will culminate in the Dalai Lama's visit to Colorado in September.

He will be speaking at the Pepsi Center on Sept. 17.

"We're so busy with our own lives," said Yanki Lama, who Saturday was working the dumpling stand, but who normally works in tech support. "This is something very cultural for me that I don't get to do very often."

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