Archive | December, 2013

Bad happenings in Tibet

30 Dec

Neither China nor GoogleMaps acknowledge Tibet as an independent country. The people who live there are scared and the people who have escaped from there are sad. And – I’m so sorry to say – this story does not have a happy ending.
This is, without a doubt, not a funny blog:

Tibet is not allowed -by China’s decree- to have its own country, religion, culture, or language. If the people protest (peacefully), send any kind of email abroad, or use the phrase “human rights” they’ll be severely beaten. You run the risk of jail time merely for knowing a person who has committed one of these ‘crimes’.

This has been going on since 1959 and it isn’t getting better.

To get out, people have to escape. At dire personal risk they cross the Himalayas into Nepal (occasionally bringing video footage). It takes months and worse yet, when they arrive in Nepal, they’re still not safe. Because of Nepal’s relationship with China the Nepali government sends any new (traumatized) immigrants that they catch back into China for certain death. A Tibetans best hope is to continue on into India.

they're just kids.

they’re just kids.

But even then! There are Chinese spies and Nepali and Indian and maybe even Tibetan spies who have ‘sold out’ in exchange for protecting their families. When a Tibetan refugee camp has new arrivals the top officials are exquisitely discreet because once China (via the spies) finds out that a Tibetan has escaped, all of the refugee’s associates and their family who are still in Tibet are subject to extreme torture and executions. China uses these people to set an example:
Running away from Tibet is not an option.

Another time I practiced my montessori skills under a picture of him.

Another time I practiced my montessori skills under a picture of him.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting over 100 Tibetan refugees while visiting their camps. I don’t think I had ever met anyone from Tibet before. Except the Dali Lama, that one time. And that wasn’t really a meeting so much as several thousand of us in an auditorium listening to him speak.

Alright, so I’d met one other person from Tibet before and now I was meeting 100+, looking into their faces, hearing their stories, and seeing their pain.

[I'm unable, for security reasons, to write names of the people that I spoke with. There is a (very real) threat of being imprisoned when speaking out for Tibet. In Nepal, it is illegal to protest (or mildly badmouth) the super-insecure bully called China.]

[I’m unable, for security reasons, to write the names of any of the people I spoke with. There is a (very real) threat of being imprisoned when speaking out for Tibet. In Nepal it is illegal to protest (or mildly badmouth) the super-insecure bully called China.]

Most of the Tibetan people that I met were educated; speaking 4 – 6 languages and having completed a college degree. But yet they were unemployed. Just like America’s economic crisis. But worse. In Nepal, Tibetans can’t get papers (and their kids can’t get papers) which makes it tough to land a job. Or to travel. Instead, several entrepreneurial types have opened up tiny restaurants or shops. But mostly what is happening is far more depressing: they give themselves over to menial, degrading work like hawking souvenirs to tourists.

The Dali Lama (an all around stand-up guy and the Tibetan’s leader), like most people, wants Tibet to be free, although he insists that the only way to do this is through nonviolent means #martinlutherking. It is beyond admirable, but the sad truth is that in the 55 years since Tibet has been occupied over 50 other countries have already achieved their independence. But the Dali Lama maintains that “There is no need for violence…using force is not a sign of strength but rather a sign of weakness.” He has threatened to step down if Tibetans resort to fighting.

1 out of 114 real people who have drank gasoline and set themselves on fire.

23 years old, killed by a self-ignited fire

So, with compassion and awareness, young Tibetans are taking their non-violent stance. Making a statement. They are participating in the ultimate self-sacrifice while attempting to bring attention to the monstrosities happening in Tibet; they are setting themselves on fire.

Lighting yourself on fire?
Things must be

“…Telephone and Internet lines were cut, likely to stop news from spreading.”
I mean, What?

It’s terrible.

114 Tibetan people have decided to make a statement by dying calmly by fire.
China does everything it can to retain censorship and repress news. They’ve installed cameras on the streets of Tibet’s capitol to quickly and effectively eliminate any insubordination the moment it appears.

Is it possible to vist Tibet? To see some of this stuff for ourselves?
Here is a picture of me:

is that really how I look  when I run?

is that really how I look when I run?

Those are Tibetan mountains.
It basically looks like I could have Sound-of-Musiced my way over there. In fact, I visited the border but it’s quite a process to actually get in. And silly expensive. You need permits, there is paperwork, and you are required to be on an organized, toured-around-by-a-Chinese-government-official-the-entire-time, trip. You must travel by private vehicle (maximum group of 4) and only with people of the same nationality (?).

An orchestrated, cost-prohibitive, only-what-they-want-me-to-see Tibet?
You’ll understand why I decided not to go.

So what can we do?

I have no idea.
Meditate? Put a Free Tibet bumper sticker on your car? Donate?

I’ve tried all three.

Grateful for freedom, liberty, justice, and an uncensored Internet,

use your horn

16 Dec

Last night I forgot to check how hard my mattress was before picking which lodge I was going to sleep in. Huge mistake, I slept on a piece of plywood #likeanovice.

Here is a photo of the computer I’m using to type this to you all:

those are cobwebs.

top right, those are cobwebs.

that is a tiny leaf-blower.

and that is a tiny leaf-blower.

The power outages have gotten bad in Nepal. Ever since that election in November — Congress won. My American mind can not even fathom a world where Congress might not have won — there’ve been daily power cuts. Nepal sells that ‘saved’ power to India.

Last week I went to 8 different petrol stations (I wish I was kidding) and none of them had gasoline. The 9th one did but the electricity was gone – India probably had a party – so I spent the next 6 hours waiting, drinking tea, and feeling grateful for flexible travel plans.

More about the aforementioned election:
There was a 10 day strike prior to Election Day in Nepal. It was Kathman-dated that no one was allowed to drive which didn’t make any sense (the strike not the pun) because there was already going to be an election, why the need for a strike? I’m fairly certain Maoists had something to do with it; I read a book (an entire book) on Nepal’s history and politics and I am still not clear.
Le sigh.

I took a kickboxing class from a guy who only spoke Nepali. He talked my ear off with – I’m assuming – advice. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Everyone in the gym could, though, and watched me flagrantly disobey him while passionately not improving; those who’ve wrestled with me can imagine.

I am running on a treadmill. Barefoot. On rolling pins covered by rubber. With no power. And a red 'safety' strap.

This is me running (in conservative attire) barefoot on rolling pins. Ouch.
The red thing around my waist is a safety strap. Notice that there is no way to turn this ‘machine’ on.

Elliott, the only person in the world I know who’s into cross-fit (and that kid from Dover) might appreciate The most ghetto treadmill in the world.

English is hard.

Easy mistake

To be fair, it’s only a 2 letter difference.

I spend a lot of time wondering what all these signs say.

If this were on a t-shirt, I’d wear it.

Life is full of daily challenges, I spend hours trying to figure out what signs say and then failing; simple activities can take me days to complete. If I’m out of touch more than you’d like, I’m sorry, it’s harder than I make it look. But, you know mi, I’m keeping things positive, really positive. In fact, recently I hosted 4 rousing laughter yoga sessions in-country that refreshed my spirit.

Keep your gas tanks full, you never know.

sun salutations

9 Dec

Namaste travel lovers,

Recently some new people have signed up for my blog! To an author who views 60 site visits as encouragement 4 additional subscribers is a bonanza.
Welcome, I’m honored 🙂

Right, so I’m back in Nepal. Getting across that Indian border without the appropriate paperwork deserves its own movie — unfortunately I don’t have the time (or resources) so I am taking a page from my clever friend Seth, jotting down a few notes, and trusting my memory:

humanity, border guards with guns, dust, tea time, 5 re-gifted friendship bracelets, 2 bunnies — one blue one red, an orange chain of flowers (for scooty), and then I found $50.

My high-school math teacher taught me to add that last part. I think it helps.

To compensate for being cryptic here is a photo of me from a different epic day:

Several hours old (left) and really happy about my new shirt (right)

Several hours old (left) and really happy about my new shirt (right)

This picture was taken when I was on my way up (up up) a mountain to reach the Lama of Timure, a memorable experience which included peeling garlic for 4.5 hours and giving me a notable penchant for the stuff. Several weeks later I was in Pokarah, ironically reading Breakfast of Champions (for those of you who care), and casually chewing on raw garlic when a beggar approached me asking for food. I offered her the garlic in my hand which she scoffed at disgustedly and proceeded to ask for something else. But, like my father says, “if you’re not hungry enough for carrots than you’re not hungry enough for cookies”. Or, fire up the barbeque and throw down some fritos, I like mine with grill marks on ’em.
That last joke’s not for everyone.

Here is another weird/poor-person thing I did with food:

Natural hot-springs?  I brought my own oatmeal.

Natural hot-springs? I brought my own oatmeal.

To change the subject entirely, and falling under the only-relevant-if-you-know-me category, I have decided to be an elephant (possible name Elefurnt?) at this years convention. You know the one. I started putting together my ears this morning.

k, that’s all I’ve got.
Life is what you make of it and I’m making myself an elephant.

That is so Indy

5 Dec

I rarely enter a situation with the intention of getting rejected which is exactly how I am writing this post from India:

it looks like imagined

just like I imagined,

plus I have a private bathroom

but with a private bathroom,

This goat is wearing a shirt

and this goat is wearing a shirt.

My plan:
Out of proximity and interest I was going to drive MV Augusta F4 (the casual name I have given to my rented Japanese scooter) to the Nepalese boundary line and then, well, that was as far as I had planned because clearly I was going to be denied entry; India requires a notoriously hard-to-procure visa.

I won't look a gift horse in the mouth

I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth

At boarder patrol I stopped my bike.
“Namaste,” I smiled.
The guard with the gun said something in Hindi as I cocked my head to one side, “What?”
Another smile.
“Go” he stated in what had to be English.
I nodded as if I expected this.
“Go?”, I confirmed, turning on my scooter
–he waved me on.

Soooo, new plan, I’m in India. It’s been 24 hours and I don’t expect to stay long but — if I’m being honest — I think this elephant wants me to stay.

As always; when I’m done surprising myself I’ll let you know what happened.
for realz,