The show around me is beautiful. I am watching the small Tibetan boy tucked in to my left, his arm resting on my leg, pouring lemonade from the can he has been given into a glass.
He watches it carefully, lets the bubbles subside, pours again.
The little Tibetan girl to my right is eating her dinner carefully, not a grain of rice spilt. She notices something spilt by another child, takes a paper napkin from a glass, perfectly cleans it up, folds the napkin and pushes it back in the glass. She is about six years old.
It is beautiful to watch these polite, interested children looking after one another, just as they are being looked after by Dolma.
For they are orphans from the Dickey Orphanage on the outskirts of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.
Their parents may have died or they may simply have been abandoned.
Before opening the orphanage in 2002, Dolma was a businesswoman, running her own restaurant, but she could not ignore the plight of the orphaned children begging on the streets.
She took in four. Now there are 73, 30 of them girls, the youngest three months and the oldest 18.
She gives them names, and they all share a birthday in September which is the anniversary of the opening of the orphanage.
They go to public school, with lessons including three languages, and stay at the orphanage until they find jobs and can support themselves.
Before this year, the orphanage ran with no government support, simply relying on donations. But the government has now recognised the work with a stipend for each child, and three of the children have done so well with their exam results that they have received scholarships for further education.
It is a triumph for these children, but also for Dolma, who has devoted her life to them, and also to her son Rabter, who has joined her in the selfless work.
If we are fortunate, when we travel, these are the lives that we are sometimes privileged to witness. Lives that make me humble.
And so, back to that show I started telling you about, with the row of us tourists with 10 of the orphans interspersed between us, watching too.
As part of my visit to Lhasa with Travel Directors, we have been taken to the orphanage by tour leader Tony Evans. He has a close connection to the people at the orphanage - and his care of them is clearly reciprocated. Travel Directors prides itself on giving authentic and personal travel experiences and, though we have eaten good local food, and met other local people, it is hard to beat this moment as an example. There is no tokenism here - the connection between Tony, Dolma, Rabter and the children, and now us, is personal.
Tony invites Rabter and 10 of the children to join us at the Himalaya Hotel Cultural Show that we are to see this evening, and they turn up in a small car, with four of them in the boot. "It will be the biggest thing of the year for them," says Tony.
It is a good show - local instruments, traditional dress, dance and a lovely, humorous scene where two yaks are milked. But the children around us are as interested in the players on the side lining up for the next scene, in their food, and gently in one another. I had been led around the orphanage by a sweet little girl, whose picture you see here.
I ask Rabter to write her name in my notebook. Usually in Tibet, people have only one name, but Rabter writes "Tsering Dolma".
Travel Directors have a number of itineraries that include Tibet, mostly with Nepal and China (and other parts of the world). Travellers may be in a coach, four-wheel drive or even on a motorcycle. All include authentic experiences. Phone 9242 4200, call at 137 Cambridge Street, West Leederville, or see traveldirectors.com.au.
Singapore Airlines flies from Perth four times daily until March 30, with direct connection from Singapore to Beijing. I left at 4pm and arrived at 7am the next morning, local time. Travel agents and singaporeair.com.Stephen Scourfield travelled as a guest of Travel Directors and Singapore Airlines.
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