Tibetan massage therapist takes over Breck business
April 4, 2009
BRECKENRIDGE ” A Tibetan exile ” who moved to Breckenridge after falling in love with an American woman in India ” is the new owner of Sol Impressions Massage Studio.
Wangkho Cheme and his wife, Julie Anya Friedman, have a vision for using the business to ultimately help the people of Tibet.
“The Tibetan culture is dying now,” Wangkho said, adding that the oppressive Chinese government has clamped down extra hard since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Born in the Amdo region of eastern Tibet ” birthplace of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama ” Wangkho escaped the country of China on foot, climbing through mountains during a 26-day journey.
He’s been practicing Tibetan Ocean Massage and offering Tibetan astrology readings since early November 2008.
And less than three months ago, Julie gave birth to their son, Tashi Kho.
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“He’s a little bit Asian, but (with) a little red hair,” Wangkho said.
The parents and baby went to Denver early in March for Tibetan Uprising Day. Wangkho said Tashi Kho may well have been “the youngest protester in the world.”
“I’m sure he’s going to be a freedom fighter,” he said. “This is my big goal.”
The child’s educational opportunities in the United States, combined with his Tibetan heritage offer “the best qualities” for a freedom fighter, he said.
But when Wangkho talks of fighting, he doesn’t mean violence.
“Tibet is one of the nicest, warm hearted people in the world,” he said, holding up Tibetan prayer beads made of sandalwood. “This is weapon.”
Asked whether he expects his son will ever meet his extended family living in Tibet, Wangkho said the future is uncertain. Things could change in as little as five years.
“Everybody’s hoping that way, nobody knows,” he said.
Wangkho got a good deal on the massage studio he purchased from Ramee Hyde, the former owner. He has since decorated with some items from home.
Once the business becomes profitable, Wangkho and Julie plan to support Tibetans through sending clothes and other goods. They plan to send Tashi Kho’s baby clothes, once he out-grows them.
The couple would also like to start a Buddhist center, where they could share Tibetan culture with the community.
“Our dream is a house with land and a garden,” Julie said, adding that Tibetans would be invited to come and stay there.
Wangkho is well-versed in the ways of Tibetan culture, having become a monk at 5. As a young teenager, he lived three years in a cave where he studied meditation, massage and Yoga.
After leaving Tibet, he went on to study Tibetan astrology under Sherab Nyima, a renowned Tibetan scholar. There, he also learned to write in about four alphabets and how to use black astrology ” which pertains to humans and past lives.
He opened the Traditional Tibetan Ocean Massage Center in Dharamsala, India, which continues operation.
Wangkho is unable to communicate via e-mail with his family in Tibet because there are no Tibetan language programs available. His mother has only seen her grandbaby through photos sent in the mail.
Since moving to America about five months ago, Wangkho has enjoyed hamburgers and The Daily Show with John Stewart.
Back home, tsampa ” ground barley with yak butter ” was the main dish. Wangkho said it’s funny how on television one can hear President Obama is doing well on one channel while people on another channel say he is doing poorly.
“OK, who’s true?” Wangkho said.
He said Chinese are similar to Americans in that most of the media focus primarily on issues regarding their own country. In India, news from across the planet is readily available, he said.
Wangkho sometimes offers free massages in the arcade at Downstairs at Eric’s ” which is directly below the studio on Breckenridge Main Street.
“People from Minnesota say it changed their life,” he said, adding that it’s nice having the “opportunity to help people.”
The massage studio offers free meditation sessions Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 a.m. For more information, or to schedule a massage, call (970)453-2085.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or