Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It was good enough for Tintin.

The idea settled a month or so ago, and grew over the course of the Olympic Games, and in the middle of nightshift as I sat watching the closing ceremony, a big and harmonious and united party, I decided that fuck yes I'm going to Tibet.

Because I was sitting in the office at 2 o'clock in the morning that meant I had to start research RIGHT AWAY.

(Don't ever made decisions on nightshift, else you find yourself signing leases on city apartments and doing other fundamentally life-altering activities.)

Tibet is open to tourists, something that only occurred in June and which I entirely missed at the time. Already I've picked out a tour, a long thorough and grueling one that goes over Sawa Daga next year, and ends at the Everest Base Camp. It's within my price range, and so are flights to Kathmandu (don't try to fly straight to Lhasa, the price is three thousand dollars extra), and I've already budgeted how much I'd need to save to cover that, rent, and sundry other expenses.

I should not be doing this, to say the least. The 'grueling' aspect is a slight worry, as even if I start training now I'm still just a slovenly office worker, although this is not enough to put me off the idea.

So I did some research on the political situation and what being a tourist there really means.

Leaving Fear Behind is a video about Tibetans, made by Tibetans.

The idea of our film is not to get famous or to give entertainment. But at a time of great difficulty and a feeling of helplessness, it is for us to show such a film to get some meaningful response and results. It is very difficult [for Tibetans] to go to Beijing and speak out there. So that is why we decided to show the real feelings of Tibetans inside Tibet through this film.

Nowadays, China is declaring that they are preserving and improving Tibetan culture and language. That’s what they’re telling the world. Many organizations and offices have been set up for these things. What they say and what they do are totally different, opposites. If they really want to preserve and improve Tibetan culture and language in Tibet then they should withdraw Chinese people living in Tibetan areas. Tibetan culture and language has to be practiced in all Tibetan areas. If it’s not practiced, how can it be preserved?

The desire to demonstrate against the Chinese hosting of the Olympic Games was strong in me since long ago and I think I will still do it... I think I need to stand up for the Tibetans and this is where I need to go. Staying away from my children and family is one of the hardships, if I live on.

-Dhondup Wangchen

Dhondup Wangchen and his assistant were arrested shortly after filming was completed, and to this day have not been released. I found it very hard to watch. I cried.

Over at ICT I found Interpreting Tibet: A Political Guide To Traveling In Tibet, a PDF going into specific detail as to the current political, cultural and religious stomping that is going on. Monasteries contracted out to become tourist traps, nuns and monks who cannot teach and so cannot pass on their knowledge, 'Tibetan' goods imported from China, it goes on. It's sobering, sickening, and gut-wrenching.

And some part of me is more determined than ever, and some other part of me is certain this would be very bad for me. Initially I wanted to visit Tibet as a contrary reaction and because the wilderness would be wonderful, but I don't think I could enter a nation in the process of being gutted and look the other way, and I don't think I should.

The question is then, what could I hope to achieve? What am I trying to prove?

Mum is trying to convince me that Paris is a better option. She may be right.


  1. From what I've heard,
    Paris is much more fun.
    (in terms of mischief making)

  2. Anonymous27/8/08 11:56

    Tibet has been high up on my to-visit list as well, and I actually just two weeks ago decided to start working toward it for summer 2010 (I figure it'd be a good stop-off point en route to worldcon *g*).
    The intent isn't to do a tour, but rather to get a group of 3-6 people together to make it affordable to hire a local guide and four wheel drive(s) to take us wherever we want to go, as independently as possible within the limits of whatever the visa and permit situation will be by then.
    I have a friend from Ireland who's almost certain to come along, am pretty certain I can talk my brother into it (heh; I suspect I'd have to beat him off with a stick if I didn't want him to come along), and have two other friends (one from the Netherlands, one from Melbourne (don't think you ever met her)) who're maybes.

    You're further in researching the reality of the political situation there, then I am, though. For me my main guiding line has simply been that the Dalai Lama has asked people to visit Tibet, and witness.

    Anyhoo, if you'd be interested in possibly joining that tentative trip, let me know... (Don't really have much information to offer yet; plotting has barely started, and I don't even yet know how feasible it all is going to be. Just know that I don't like tours, so that this is probably the best bet for visiting "independently", and that it's the same kind of crazy idea which stands at the start of all my travels.) :)

    'course, if you choose Paris, that's a pretty short train ride away from the Netherlands...! The correct answer for what you should do then becomes: "BOTH!" *nods decisively*

  3. Anonymous27/8/08 22:16

    A few months ago I had a conversation with a man who operates tours in Tibet. He said the food is awful, sanitation primitive, and the going tough. He also said that if you want to see the place, go now or soon, as it's changing rapidly (though admittedly it's in his interests to persuade people to go there).

  4. I daresay you're right, ~, but I'm a lame little square, mischief isn't my specialty.

    Aanimal, I was thinking of going sooner, as in mid next year. Can't wait too long for a holiday.

    Kirsten, that's the opinion I've been developing. Still, it's a complicated ponder.

  5. Anonymous28/8/08 16:51

    Well, in that case I'll demand insanely detailed reports during your trip, and advice afterward on all the best places to go and just which mountains are the pointiest! ^_^