7th Grade Assessment – Unit 2 – RI.7.1, RI.7.2, RI.7.3, RI.7.4, RI.7.5
Read this article. Then answer questions 1 through 7.
On the Roof of the World
by Benjamin Koch
A few summers ago, I was lucky to travel to Tibet, the “roof of the world.” Tibet is
a small country surrounded on all sides by gigantic snowy mountain peaks. For
thousands of years, these towering mountains acted like a fence, keeping people from
entering the country. That’s one reason why explorers and writers have called Tibet the roof of the
5 world. It’s hard to get to. The other reason is Tibet’s high elevation. When I climbed
mountain passes over 17,000 feet above sea level, I gasped for air. I was more than
three miles high!
Years ago, the people of Tibet
were nomads—people without
10 permanent homes. The ground in
Tibet is much too rocky and thin to
grow crops, so Tibetans centered
their daily life and survival on the
yak. The yaks provided the nomads
15 with nearly everything they
needed—milk, butter, meat, and
wool for clothes and ropes. Even
yak dung was used for fires.
Tibetan nomads would lead
20 their herds of yak and sheep across
pastures, valleys, and mountainsides
in search of the best grazing lands.
They did not live in permanent homes
made of wood, brick, or stone.
The yak provides the nomads with food and clothing.
25 Times are changing in Tibet, and more and more people live and work in villages and
cities. But there are still nomads who survive on the high plateau just as their ancestors
Becoming a Modern Nomad
Some friends and I were traveling with our teacher, Dudjom Dorjee, to Kham, in the
eastern part of Tibet. Dudjom was born in Tibet and lived the first years of his life as a
30 traditional nomad. Because of political problems, Dudjom’s family had to flee to India
when he was still young. We were following Dudjom back to his birthplace and getting a
taste of that ancient, nomadic way of life—with a few modern updates.
We had the advantage of automobiles—a luxury that nomads have happily survived
without. When it comes time for a nomad family to move, they pack all their things into
35 large backpacks that they strap over their yaks. A typical family might need from 30 to
50 yaks to carry all their supplies. My friends and I had more than 50 bags to carry. We
stuffed them into a bus, while we piled into four-wheel drives.
Problems Along the Way
When it comes to crossing rough country, yaks are the true all-terrain travelers. Many
times, the nomads have to cross raging rivers. For the loyal and determined yaks, crossing
40 is not a problem. But when we had to cross a river, our four-wheel drives turned out to be
not so loyal and reliable. We got stuck in the muddy banks of the river, and it took at least
a dozen people pushing to get us out.
When nomads arrive at their destination, they are so skilled at setting up their large
yak-hair tents that they have them up in minutes. My friends and I, with our fancy super-
45 modern tents, weren’t quite as quick. At one campsite, I remember wrestling with one of
my tent poles trying to pass it through the loops of my tent. Some smiling nomad kids approached and
had me set up in no time, though they’d never seen a tent like that before.
It’s Cold Up There!
The weather in Tibet is cold, and the brutal wind seems to show no mercy. Sitting inside
a nomad tent, though, you’d never know it. With a warm fire burning in the mud
50 stove and the snug black walls of the tent, you are as comfortable as can be. This was not the
case in the fancy modern tents my friends and I slept in. I remember shivering through my four sweaters,
three pairs of pants, and blanket, listening to the chill rain hit my tent.
Having the Right Attitude
On this trip, I learned that it takes
55 much more than snug tents and thick,
hearty tea to survive. You need the
right attitude. Everywhere we traveled,
the Tibetans were generous, happy, and
curious. It might be a monk
60 warming my frozen hands in his fur
robes. It might be a family of nomads
taking a break to dance and sing in a
circle, or a handful of kids watching
me with beaming smiles.
65 Though their lives are full of challenges, the nomads never take their day-to-day
problems too seriously. They know how impermanent things are, including their homes.
We modern nomads learned some of these lessons. Perhaps when we cross the raging
rivers or face the cold bitter days of our lives, we’ll do it with a lot more of the right attitude—the same
attitude that shines from the bright smiles of the Tibetan nomads.