I wasn’t unaware of my surroundings, I just welcomed and profited from the solitude. Once the rain stopped I did plenty of exploring, but I had little interaction with the Tibetans. I made a few friends and started exploring the culture, but before I had a chance to get immersed in it, I was on my way back home.
This stay is completely the opposite. Almost from day one I’ve been working in a Tibetan office; teaching Tibetans; learning more from them than I could ever teach and engrossing myself in the most exceptional community in the world.
There are a few situations that are similar to the Tibetan predicament, but since the fall of the Soviet empire there are much fewer. The Palestinians live in a similarly precarious national situation, but both they and the Israelis have always resorted to violence for quick and obviously non-permanent fixes. The Kurds have fought for their capitol and, although they don’t have a sovereign state, they do have autonomy in the new Iraq. The Gypsies have been floating from town to town in Europe, but their in-fighting has been their own undoing. As Europe gets less racist (believe me – Europe is MUCH more racist than the states) and the Gypsies are more accepted in the local communities, their situation will get better. As horrible as the American Indian saga has been, the US government and all rational Americans recognize it was a tragedy and are willing to help make amends; however miniscule they may be in lieu of what was lost.
But the thing that makes this situation exceptional is that it has all been done in peace. They were forced from their homeland in a wave of violence, but the only leader this community has ever known refuses to raise a fist.
This, of course, cannot be said for their adversaries, the Chinese Government. I don’t say ‘The Chinese’ because the Dalai Lama is widely revered in China. Due to horrible propaganda campaigns, as well as restrictions to the Internet and almost any form of free speech, most Chinese citizens are left in the dark as to what is taking place. For the past fifty years there have been waves of mass murder throughout Tibet that have only slowly been made public in the west.
I’m not breaking this story by any means, but since arriving in Dharamsala one story has gripped me more than others. It’s the story of the 17-year-old nun, Kalsang Namtso. In 2006 Namtso was crossing the Nangpa La pass from Tibet into Nepal when she was gunned down in cold blood by a Chinese sniper. It’s impossible to say how many others have been gunned down because the Chinese military isn’t exactly releasing figures.
Fortunately for us a Romanian Journalist, Sergiu Matei, caught them red handed:
I saw his documentary on Tibet TV and went to work the next day shaken by what I’d seen. I told my coworker Sonam I’d seen the documentary and he nonchalantly told me he’d made the same trip as a ten-year-old.
When I got home this is what came out of my guitar: