Friday, March 28, 2008

i am a disaster

Most importantly, in a followup to my last post, I think I have killed 25 mosquitoes since I've been sitting here. My hands have blood stains everywhere. It's so nice to kill something after spending weeks with Buddhist monks who consider all life to be a sentient being trapped on the wheel of life. I'm not one to kill indiscriminately but when flies keep landing on my face when I'm trying for a much needed nap, I want them to die. I imagine having control of tiny little knives that I can whip through the air to cut them in half. You might even call this a recurring fantasy. If I was more self aware, I'd proabably try to analyze why my recent fantasies involve pain for things that annoy me instead of smooching girls, finding a ring that gives me god like powers or somehow getting pulled into a fantasy novel. Instead, I'll sit here and jerk my hand back from the laptop every few minutes as it shocks the hell out of me.

So what's new here. Let me look in my little black book that I constantly open. DAMN IT. If I thought the laptop shocked me, the power cable just shocked me like a knife wound. Stupid electricity, if you didn't make porn so much easier to acquire, I'd never use you again.

We had a candle lit vigil in Chandigrah, "the Paris of India", which combines the beautiful green squares and parks of Savannah, GA and the depressing concrete Soviet shit buildings of Dresden, Germany. We walked to the main mall area and I got to see all of the things I hated in America like Lacoste stores and well dressed, more attractive people.

This was my night of accidental desctruction.I put down my candle in front of me and starting talking to one of the marchers next to me, a paratrooper from the indian army who joined because he figured he might be able to shoot chinese and the indian cops don't bother him if he wears his army fatigues. Unfortunately, the canadian in front of me moved back a little bit and his shirt started on fire. It burned a decent sized hole in his shirt before he started yelling and we put it out. My apology, although through laughter so hard I could barely talk, was absolutely heartfelt.

Then, as we sat at a bar for a farewell get together for an interesting fellow traveler, Zack the gay psyhic from Florida, I started gesticulating wildly at a no doubt fanastically engrossing story and I punched Zack right in the eye. Luckily, an emergency infusion of beer helped keep the swelling down and prevented a shiner.

Earlier in the day, four of us took rickshaws over to the Rock Garden. A fascinating place. One artist working back in this place for 30 years just creating a wonderland of rock sculptures, grottoes, building for elves, swing sets wiith giant rock horses over them and I decided I want to raise my kid in this wonderful place. It's hard to describe the genius of the place so I won't bother. We walked outside and there was a camel. So for 75 cents, I rode a camel and no, he didn't spit on me but he did almost hit me in the face with his neck when he jerked back once. I didn't realize how sinous their necks are. Fact Time! India has the world's only active camel regiment in its army.

OK. much more to say but time for bed. I'm hoping for 4 hours sleep for a 19 km walk. It's good to be young, strong and immortal.

Tibet Connection interview

I'm sitting in a field trying to hack my way through an article about the march for a Brooklyn magazine. I have the blood of a dozen mosquitoes on my hands. It smells like propane is leaking from the truck next to me but I really want a cigarette. I miss the simple beautiful world of blogging. It's easy. Nobody tells me that what I write is shit besides my friends who must be only kidding. Right guys? Right?

Here's my second interview with the Tibet Connection radio station out of LA: Lex Interview
And here's their website where you can listen to the station online: Tibet Connection

I originally met the interviewer's wife (who does the audio engineer side of the work) but I just met him for the first time this week when they stopped on the way to Dehli for teachings by His Holiness (another term for the DL). It was interesting to meet someone in person after we had already gotten to really like each other over the phone. However, I do not recommend this for relations with the opposite sex. Having an intellectual and personal connection with a female is great but we need to focus on the one thing that will never fade: looks.

Wow. I just did a one handed mosquito kill. Sometimes I even impress myself (often, in fact). Oh. I just did it again. Maybe it's just not that hard.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

a checklist

Symptoms of worms:
1. Itchy butt - check
2. Eating lots of food - check

Ways to get worms:
1. walking barefoot - check
2. drinking the water - check
3. petting stray dogs - check

Good times. I just picture my dad giving worm medicine to our donkeys. They hated that more than anything else. It's quite funny to see a donkey sticking out its tongue in disgust just like a person. And in that vein, here's a donkey with a tie:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

anecdotes from the march to tibet

some random stories from the march:

A group of us took too long at a chai break and ended up far behind the rest of the marchers. Luckily, there's only one road so you they must be somewhere ahead of you. We flagged down a passing bus and they let us hop aboard. With no seats available, we all stayed standing until one kind looking young father took his sleeping four year old boy and stowed him in the overhead luggage bin. He motioned one of the girls into the now vacant seat and she gratefully accepted. We soon caught up to our group and the driver quickly waved away our money.

On my short break in Mccleod Gang between the two waves of marchers, a candlelit vigil//protest rally took place at the main temple. After speeches, a video screen showed protests from around the world as old women wailed intermittently with tears rolling down their their beautiful wrinkled faces. On screen, a reporter harassed a Chinese man about the position of Tibet until the man emphatically stated: "Tibet has always been part of China. I don't understand their problem." Someone from the audience screamed, "Fuck you China!" The anger and despair in the air are palpable. A dangerous combination.

While in the town, I stayed with my friend Xavier, a photography student from Belgium who worked with the Dalai Lama's photographer before being sent out to photograph India. He has a strange roommate. The kind of guy who won't let him borrow salt and really gets pissy about having guests although he usually has two monks crashing on the couch. However, Xavier didn't want to offend so I had to climb up to the balcony outside his window (quite an easy climb fortunately) to have him let me in the back door. The next morning, I wanted to use the bathroom but the roommate was home and I wasn't officially here. I sneaked out the backdoor again and climbed down from the balcony. A monk sitting on a nearby porch saw me climbing down and laughed gently. He really busted up and started shaking his head when he saw me walk around to the front door of the same house and ring the bell. I wonder what he guessed had happened?

We had to take a taxi from the jail back to town. We found someone and agreed on 500 Rs for the trip plus one stop to pick up our stuff from last night's camp site. Once we reached the campsite, the price tripled to 1500 Rs. I got pissed and yelled at the owner over the mobile for awhile. Eventually, the Tibetan kitchen crew gathered around to see the fuss. When they found out what happened, a short and wonderfully plump woman led the Battle of the Taxi Fare. She stood there arguing back and forth with the taxi driver for almost thirty minutes. At one point, it looked like they might have come to blows. By the end, the price had dropped some but not down to our 800 Rs ultimatum. At this point, I'm pretty sure someone slipped him the difference so we would be happy. Such beautiful treachery. And by the end, no hard feelings. They politely said goodbye after he refused chai. To me, it was a battle. To them, a minor disagreement.


There's more to write but I have articles to finish. I should be posting more now that I'll be doing more writing for the march. I'm in charge of writing bios for the marchers. I've really wanted to find out the stories of all these monks and nun but felt bad making someone translate everything. Now it's my new project. Jackpot!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

night march Or: surprise! you can't finish the chess game where you finally might beat the Belgian

After some easy days of marching because of lack of available campsites and nuns with monster blisters, we made up for it last night. I was finally beating my friend Xavier from Belgium in chess when the leadership told us to go to sleep now. We had to leave at 1AM because we just got a tip from a trusted source: the police plan to stop the march tomorrow and we need to clear the state line pronto.

We've been hearing rumors of deportation for the foreigners so half the group took a truck across the border so they could support the next wave of marchers if this wave doesn't make it. I decided to march because deportation actually would fit into my plans pretty well and I get a free flight home thus making me the least brave person here.

For an exciting beginning, the 6 hour march was anti climatic. We walked fast, jogged occasionally, stopped rarely and got two shots of chai. We crossed into the Sikh state of Punjab with no incident. Now we'll recover for the rest of the day and I'll quietly drink myself to sleep. There's been lots of fun little stuff on the march I'll write as soon as I can but I might be underground again for awhile.

A day in the life: Tibetan Buddhist monk edition

My friend Leki walked me through a typical day of his life at the Gendenjantse monastery in Karnataka, India.

Six days a week, Leki and his fellow monks wake at 5AM to spend two hours memorizing Buddhist philosophy and tracts. A breakfast of tea and bread made without oil is followed by three hours of debating. Initially, you pair with a partner to debate the texts and interpretations of how to reach enlighenment. After an hour, two monks must debate a topic while the entire class observes. Sounds like hell to me. Especially because the teachers clap their hands to stop the debate to ask a question or make a correction. Some monks have thick calluses or even draw blood from all of their interruptions and can be quite brutal on mistakes.

During the lunch of cake and curry with the occasional dal (beans), the monks discuss Buddhist philosophy and practice writing Buddhist tracts in Tibetan and English. After a two hour nap out of the hot southern sun, a group of fifty monks go to a teacher's room for a lecture followed by another hour of memorization.

Dinner consists of rice, curry, dal or cabbage. Leki says the food on this trip resembles their meals at the monastery. If so, lucky guys. I think the food here rocks. I haven't eaten so well since I found the five dollar Paki food at the cart around the corner from my squat in Chelsea. It also helps that free food tops my list of favorite things along with kittens playing with balls of string, the WCW (but not the WWF!) and cactus. After dinner, debates continue until midnight tea time. Most monks then memorize and study for another hour or two before bed time and another 5AM wake up call.

The day of rest from this strict regimen comes on Monday. Monks can go into town for shopping although they have few needs: toiletries, the material to make their robes and shoes (the only distinguishing article they wear). Most monks still spend the majority of the day in study.

Only a few special events break this pattern. The holidays fall on the Tibetan New Year and a harvest festival translated as the Blessed Rainy Day. A week long holiday ensues of playing games, going into town and watching videos (only allowed during these vacation weeks).

Exams also break the routine but they sound brutal. The whole school observes a one on one debate with teachers sitting in judgement. A moderator asks a question that could fall anywhere in Buddhist philosophy and many do not pass. The monks must pass through standards (grades) like in high school and it takes 20 to 25 years to get a degree. The first 15 years get spent in your own monastery before moving between various monasteries to be tested there.

Thus Leki Dendup described his current life to me interspersed with memories of his home in Bhutan. He grew up the son of subsistence farmers who planted maize, wheat and potatoes. Everyone in the village farmed and everyone helped each other. His parents encouraged his interest in becoming a Buddhist monk and he contacted people at his village studying at a monastery in Karnataka, a major Tibetan population center because India granted this rather poor farm land to the first of the arriving Tibetan refugees. His fellow villagers said that anyone interested can join and so he left Bhutan for Gendenjantse Monastery in south India at 17. He began his studies at a late age and won't get a vacation to see his parents for four years. Letters and occasional phone calls let his family and friends tell him how proud they are of him.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Srawberry Shortcake explains the subprime mortage crisis

At Grant Miller Media:

Hi! I'm Strawberry Shortcake. Do you like to blow bubbles? I know I do. But do you know what a housing bubble is? It's when home prices rise far beyond their intrinsic value. Some think subprime loans helped over-inflate the market! It may not sound as much fun as blowing bubbles, unless you're an attorney or you invest in gold!

It's actually a great explanation: Link

the strangest reasons

Here's some of the keywords people entered into search engines and found my site:

boobes in india
jew aerosvit
the beautiful marriage photos of india
porn scientist
luscious indian woman
foma fomich summary
fucking india
tessa pelger

on the road again or: you just can't keep those Tibetans down

The secret backup wave of 44 monks just hit the road, starting from where the comrades were arrested. I'm grabbing a shower, some Western food and a bus to the action. Don't know when you'll here from me again but don't worry. I'm told to not get arrested again and stay in journalist mode. The Indian police act like media is not even present.

The shit's blowing up. Now, can we get the world to do anything besides bitch? Demand a pullout of the Olympics. If we ever deserved to protest an event. this is the one. I can't believe the IOC ever gave such a unifying event to such an evil regime who occupies Tibet, threatens Taiwan, exports the autocratic free model to Africa, tortures democracy advocates, Falun Gong and Christians, keeps their people behind the stifling Great Firewall of China and changes history through education. The Dalai Lama had no problem with China having the Olympics because he knew it would open up a way to pressure them. He's wily and I hope it works but we have to say something.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The spirit of Ghandi or: how to break into prison

I woke at 4:30. Today's the big day. We plan to cross the Kangra district border soon after dawn, the action expressly forbidden to us by the police on the first night. The previous evening, over the best meal of the march, I asked my friend Leki how the monks felt with the possibilities of tomorrow looming over them. He replied beautifully in a slow speech as he searched for the words, "We are ready. We have been talking about this for three days. We have no fear. They can beat us, they can kill us but we will continue until we reach our home. We are ready."

And on the next morning, their courage never faltered. We turn a corner to see about 100 police officers across the road with two police vans next to them. The 100 monks walk in two rows towards the officers and quietly sit in front of them. The support marchers sit behind them with your faithful correspondent sitting next to a monk, arms locked together. The police quickly grab the poet/activist Tenzen Tsundue and I heard it took eight policeman to shove him into a vehicle. Then the officers started to slowly separate the passive monks from each other.

It did not appear that many of the officers relished this job. The monks carried photos of Ghandiji alongside the Dalai Lama's beaming face. I think the officers respected the monks for their nonviolent resistance but they had a job to do. Some monks simply went completely limp while other hung onto each other for dear life. About twenty strongly resisted by grabbing onto anything to slow their progress and giving the officers a difficult time. Every monk sat quietly with a determined look on his face until his turn came to resist the officers.

Tibetan girls near me quietly cried. I saw in photos afterwards how they put up one of the toughest fights. Only female officers could touch them and it took them a long time to separate as they cried, clinging to each other. One of the girls dove underneath a police van as she got drug close to it. She held onto the underside until they finally forced her off and into the van.

It took quite a while to drag most of the monks to the van before they reached those around me. Officers tried to pull us apart and I lost the arm of the young man next to me. I grabbed the monk in front of me and clung to his back like a cancer. My meager wrestling skills finally pay off because the officers never separated us. They had to get a bunch of officers to carry the double body over to the van. I loved my partner. We worked together so well. As they shoved us completely into the van feet first, he planted his leg against a seat and pushed back. That allowed me to get my foot on bar and push back farther. He got his leg on the first stair and pushed us all the way out of the van again. This really pissed them off and I got a good kick to the back by one asshole. I kicked him back before yelling an apology. Nonviolence does not come to me easily. More cops came over to help with us and two people later told me they didn't get taken because so their cops left them to help force me and my partner into the van. After a lot of pinching and shoving, they pushed us in and closed the door. Eight other foreigners got put onto the bus and I can't wait to upload a video of my good friend Jim, an older man (sorry Jim) who made it tough as hell to carry him into the van, shouting peace slogans the entire time.

The monks in the bus chanted and sang while tears ran down many faces. Tears of frustration and sadness, not of fear. These young men impressed me like few others I have ever known. These warriors fought back without using the easier path of violence. Not only do they plan to quietly resist the Indian police who handle them with kid gloves, they plan on marching into China with no embassy to protect them and no assurance that they will survive. They simply want to go home and will give their lives for this cause.

At the prison, everyone quietly marched through a corridor filled with rebar (remember this for later) to the three cells set aside for the monks. Only Jim and I entered the cells because we would not leave the monks. Our cell leader quieted the patriotic chants to announce a hunger strike. I held hands with the young man on either side of me, drawing comfort from their fearlessness, as I sang Amazing Grace over and over.

The police soon came into to release me. I said not without my friends. I should not be treated any differently from them. To each visitor, I just said the same thing once and then stared straight ahead. Tara, a visiting professor from Emory who teaches Tibetan history at a university here, came in as my liaison. I know she wanted to be inside these cells as well but they asked her to be the contact for the foreigners. I'm glad because I respected her opinion. She came into to tell me that the march organizers would prefer I not get arrested but I could stay if I felt like it. Anybody in my position would have done the same. You could not have looked at the other men in the cell and done anything differently.

I kept refusing the police advances until Tara came again. She simply said come with me. I thought we might be going for registration of some sort before I would return to the cell. As I turned the corner, I saw all the other foreigners standing by the stairs to the outside and I realized I could not go back. I almost felt sick to my stomach. I did not want to leave them. Once outside, I asked Tara if the march organizers had any good reason for me to not be arrested and possibly generate a little more press coverage. She had no idea why they might want me free and she understood my feelings on being outside. Well, then if they had no good reason for me to be free, so be it.

I bought two bottles of water and waited at the entrance while the other Westerners sat outside the door to the jail to sing songs and stage a sympathy hunger strike. Once the cops moved closer to the entertainment, I sprinted through the front door and down the stairs. I took the corner fast and scared the hell out of two female officers as I almost ran into them. I sprinted down the corridor, tripped on the rebar and face planted onto the concrete. I thought they had me but nobody but the women had reacted yet. I turned the next corner and came in sight of the cells. Many officers milled around outside and I tried to rush the door to get the water inside. Some cops grabbed me from behind and I tried to whip the bottles into cell. I managed to hit the head honcho in the shoulder. I shouted my apology as I lost my shirt in my struggle to get closer to the door. I managed to grab a Tibetan hand reaching out through the officers and that's all I needed. They yanked me into the cell and rushed me back to my old seat in the corner. It felt great to be back.

Soon, two men working on the march came in to tell me that I should not be arrested. They said a journalist can do more good on the outside. I replied I'm not a real journalist and I'll sadly generate much more coverage by being in prison. I said I'd only listen to Tara. They worked at me for a few minutes before they left. Tara came in and told me that I just refused to listen to the main march organizers. She told me she understood how I felt but it's best for the cause if I came out. So, in one of the most moving moments of an emotional day, I went around and hugged goodbye to each of these fearless young men. Three friends from a farming village in Karnatka. A monk who barely escaped the chinese police when he fled from Tibet years ago. The guys on either side of me in the cell. My partner during the arrest. A young guy from Nepal with a peach fuzz mustache who can't resist giving the peace sign to everyone in sight. Many had tears in their eyes and two gave me their flags to keep safe. As I reached the stairs to the outside, I sat down and bawled.

I must point out, I am not trying to paint myself as brave for running back into the cell. I simply wanted to see my friends again. I know I am almost untouchable here. With my American passport, I can't expect worse than deportation. These men jeopardize their relationship with one of the only countries in the world that will accept them. They have everything to lose and boldly walk forward, heads held high, proud to be on their way home. All I did was pull a silly stunt. These young men are the truly brave peaceful warriors.

Of course, a large curious crowd gathered as the police drank chai, the foreigners sang and the chaiwallah makes a killing. I spent most of the day by myself. I did a radio interview for a station out of LA that focuses on Tibet issues. After a long day of waiting, as my chapped lips kept bleeding with every smile, they finally transferred the prisoners to the court where they initially got detained. As the support marchers followed the imprisoned monks, I returned to Dharamsala with a few others so I could produce the flurry of posting you now have to digest.

Here's some coverage of the arrest:
The excellent CNN video of the arrests taken by one of my new friends with a camera. CNN has several more videos but I think the lack of voiceover makes this one more powerful. Don't worry. I'm not in any of them. All you can ever see of me is a swarm of cops. There's not one good shot of me from the whole day.

Here's two links for my radio interview where I like the sound of my own recorded voice for the first time (as for my own live voice, I've been told lately that I might be addicted to it):
Link MP3
Link online radio (requires registration)

Lhasa

It sounds like chaos in Lhasa, Tibet's capitol. The Chinese police have the three "pillar" monasteries sealed off as the monks inside stage hunger strikes in protest of the occupation. Two monks remain in critical condition after slashing their wrists in protest.

Here's an account from a foreigner in Lhasa on March 10, the first day of protest. Things have escalated since then and it's hard to get reliable reports.

Pons’ Dilemma

Pons has never seen two things in his life: his one year old niece and his homeland. His mother cries and tells him to see his niece first. He replies that she has seen his homeland and he needs to see it as well. He marches with one hundred other Buddhist monks to the Tibetan border. They plan to return to their homeland where they face death or imprisonment. He has no embassies to help him. He may never be heard from again. Will anybody notice? That’s my dilemma.

A day on the march to Tibet

Marching orders:
Wake at dawn unless planning the midnight crossing of a forbidden border (but we’ll come to that later). Eat a breakfast of beans and puri, a wonderful soft bread with a light sweet taste. Enjoy the black tea and wash all your dishes under the water pump. Listen to a speech interspersed with energetic exclamations of solidarity. Start walking. Talk, talk, talk. Be pleasantly surprised at how you enjoy talking to everyone on the march. How often does that happen?

Break for a lunch brought by magic fairies. Assume no other creature could make such wonderful food so quickly. Swim and bathe in the beautiful river by a rocky cliff. Marvel at cuteness of giggling children who slowly creep closer. Watch a cow take a dump. Notice who cares that a cow takes a dump. Recite Jabberwocky poem to win a toddling Tibetan’s heart. Receive reward of one cookie.

Start walking. Discuss the history of Tibet, what do when constipated in the woods (hint: it rhymes with linger), learn that Thais climb into trees for their morning constitutional to prevent the pigs eating directly from the source, argue about best superpower and the crimes it could enable, discuss how to form an objective moral code (hint: the answer lies in evolution), learn Tibetan words, compare and contrast things you have lit on fire, find out an easy way to get kicked out of Princeton, listen to the pros and cons of freelance journalism and subtly (hint: probably subtle as a swift punch to the jaw) pump everyone for information and stories.

Stop for another magic dinner. Talk to the monks who walk silently in a row all day. Count the number of giant smiles that pass in one minute. Think about nature of happiness. Sleep alone on top of hill for desired effect.

Monday, March 10, 2008

a personal high point of my life with an ending you won't want to miss

I met up with some of my fellow march staff members, including the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress who left his family in the States to come here and serve his country. We meandered our way down the hill on the long switchbacks of the hill country to the Tibetan settlements where the monks planned to stay the night. I was told to get lost during the meeting since I have yet to brush up on my Tibetan. I tried to take a nap in a field but a pack of friendly yet persistent dogs with wet noses found the beef jerky in my pocket. I laid down out of sight next to a truck and the driver came over in a few minutes to move it ten feet. I gave up on sleep only to discover a large number of interesting Westerners to chat up.

I met an Italian MP who leads Hands Off Cain, a movement to eradicate the death penalty. I personally am fine with the death penalty and could pull the trigger, with no qualms, for any child molester if positively knew of their guilt. However, I do not trust any legal system to be able to make such important decisions. Far too many cases recently have been overturned with new DNA evidence. Some of them have been too late.

He came with two other Italian men who will run for seats on the nonviolent radical ticket. One surprisingly young guy, Matteo Mecacci, represents Italy at the UN and lives in the Lower East Side. His friend, Marco Perduca, covers issue concerning Cyprus on his blog, Perdukistan, among other things. I also met people from all over the world supporting the march through various NGOs (non-governmental organizations). I'll introduce them as the march goes on.

The monks started to wander back from their building. An intense looking man I noticed earlier came up to strike up a conversation. After awhile, he asked my name and I looked at his name tag. Tenzin Tsundue. Bam. It's because of this guy that I'm here in the first place. He pulled an amazing stunt a few years ago when he climbed to the 14th floor of the Oberoi Towers in Mumbai and unfurled a gigantic Tibetan flag while the Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji, addressed a conference inside. My first impression was correct: he's an intense man.

I slept upstairs with the monks in an unfinished building. The guys around me didn't speak any english but we managed quite well to convey our friendliness to each other. They even gave me two of their extra blankets to keep because I figured I could do without. I just planned to sleep in all of my clothes I brought on cold nights. I mistakenly thought I had to carry my bag each day but it turns out they have a truck to carry bags and supplies. Too bad. I've never packed so light: three pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear (who keeps stealing them? seriously, fess up, I'll figure it out eventually and then you'll get it), my dad's old flannel shirt, my only pair of pants, athletic shorts perfect for my morning constitutional, a scarf, three books, a notepad, various electronic chargers, two packs of beef jerky, a pillow case that functions as a towel and dirty clothes hamper simultaneously, one chess board and a coil of rope which I will be delighted when I find a use for it.

I slept well for two reasons:
1. I only slept a few hours total during my previous two days of travel
2. Buddhist monks apparently do not snore. Perhaps there's an inverse ratio between Enlightenment and sawing gourds.

We woke at four to eat a hearty breakfast and climb into two trucks with our Tibetan flags. As we pulled out of the compound into the strengthening dawn, the flags began to snap sharply in the wind and the sight of these men so excited to venture forth towards possible death or imprisonment moved me profoundly. I began singing "Marching Towards Zion" softly. It felt just right.

We unloaded to walk through the silent town and took a path through the forest of evergreens and deciduous trees among mandalas carved into the stones and monks sitting by the path to recite their prayers quietly, never noticing our presence. Prayer wheels lined the entrance to the temple. In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the prayers written on the outside have the same effect whether spoken or spun off the wheel. We went behind the temple underneath an immense number of multi-colored prayer flags to watch the end of the dawn and talk quietly amongst ourselves. I practiced my interview skills with a nice kid from Bhutan whose been a monk for only a few years. The arduous intellectual life of a monk fascinated me and I'll write more later.

The monks gathered to sing a morning prayer and throw flour into the air for good luck. Here's my best picture of the day and a video of their prayer:



The monks filed out of the temple and up the road to the town while I ran around looking for good photos. As we approached the march kickoff, crowds lined the roads, cheering wildly. I joined the line on monks as the only foreigner. It turns out a few other foreigners will march the whole way and only monks were supposed to be in the line. Nobody told me and the people kept shouting thank you at me. The monks sat tranquilly in front of a podium while crowds filled the square behind them. As politicians, movement leaders and the Italian politicians gave speeches, I handed out pamphlets outlining the goals of the march. I found dozens of foreigners in the crowd from across the globe wearing signs of support for the movement.

We also saw another leg of the torch relay for the Tibetan Olympics, a protest Olympics for young Tibetans being held in May at the Tibetan capitol in exile: Dharamsala, India. Intense looking young men.

After a final prayer, the monks filed out solemnly in their red robes and I jumped into the middle of the line carrying my messenger bag with a Tibetan flag sticking out of it. As we moved out from the cheering crowds, older Tibetans stood quietly by the side of the road with tears in their eyes. I cannot imagine the pain of being forced from your home and never allowed to return.

The monks and I quietly walked down the road single file followed by a howling mob following the torch. Reporters rushed by us to stop and take pictures and video before running to their next vantage point. I could look up the mountain side and watch a roaring crowd fill the last two switchbacks of the road. We walked from the tourist town of Mcleod Gang to where we stopped for a rally in a square packed with people.

The air crackled with energy as I climbed around the podium to take pictures of the patriotic crowd. Leaders shouted phrases and the people roared their responses. The monks slowly filed through the crowd to continue their journey as everybody shook their hand and wish them good luck. You could see the heart of the people go with them.



We stayed at a university/monastery the first night with a basketball court for a Tibetan/Westerner basketball game. In spite of the small stature of the Tibetan team and the presence of girls (the kiss of death in sports), we saw quite a competitive game.

Unfortunately, then the first hint of trouble arose. A police squad arrived with orders that the march could not continue outside the borders of the district two days march from here. After hours of arguing, nothing changed and we went to bed apprehensive for the future. I naively thought the march might be over until Tenzin Tsundue marched into the office and loudly said, "It's just begun. The march goes on." He's now being quoted in almost every newspaper article: "Now comes the fun part." Quite a guy.

Since I'm writing this several tumultuous days later, my initial worries seem ever sillier. However, the leadership warned us of possible arrest, deportation and imprisonment in the days to follow. My chances of legal troubles appeared slim but I think it’s important to elucidate why the Tibetan people deserve this sacrifice. So hop on the train to Imagination Land, wooh wooh.

Imagine China invades America with no provocation and flimsy claims of a former colonial status that I’ll delve into at another time. They sweep across the land, brushing aside all resistance, until they reach Lancaster, PA. The People’s Liberation Army halts to demand immediate negotiations. President Obama has no choice but to send a team to Beijing. Under duress and without authorization, the negotiation team signs a document that establishes China’s historic claims to America and our submission to their rule. The army completes its control of the country. Our invaders initially try to win the will of the people with a Communism propaganda campaign and paying well for all army supplies.

Scattered resistance with outmoded weapons (OK, this part is just not American, we probably have a better arsenal in our homes that in our barracks) quickly folds as the occupiers respond with overwhelming force. Thousands dead and ten thousand wounded, some states virtually empty of men. Think about that one again. Almost no men left in a state. I simply cannot imagine a world like this and I will never know how lucky I am to have seen anything like it yet.

Within a year, the army’s payments for food cease and government stores empty. The troops begin seizing houses and food. They come to my friend, John Hess, to take all of the hogs on his farm and seize his house. All of his siblings and their families move into the one house remaining between them. As this repeats itself across the country, famine spreads through the population and the troops. Finding food becomes paramount but the search becomes harder as the troops begin seizing vehicles. Churches get destroyed for building materials.

Popular discontent rises as life over the years as life becomes intolerable. Americans again take up arms against the People’s Liberation Army and freedom fighters take control of parts of the South and creep closer to DC. The tipping point comes when the Party invites our beloved President Obama to a show at the Ford Theater but order him to leave his bodyguard.

As word spreads through the people, thirty thousand people throng the White House, refusing to let the President leave. They beat the bloody hell out of any official who they suspect of collaboration. After camping on the Mall for a week enjoying the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum (well, that’s where I’d be at least), the people hold a conference and officially repudiate the false treaty of subjugation to declare their independence. The President regretfully flees to Canada disguised as a soldier and the revolutionary mob in Washington blockades the city to prevent reinforcements. The People’s Liberation Army attacks the crowd with machine guns, killing 86,000 people to rival the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in our history (Real Times Express: and this in a country with a much smaller population). They fire mortar shells at Congress and the White House before proudly delaring the end of the rebellion led by the remaining members of the American aristocracy. They simply cannot admit to a popular revolt boiling over after nine years of suffering.

A wave of repression sweeps the country and soon defeats any armed resistance. The last vestiges of the armed resistance soon retreat to secret bases along the Canadian border. Eighty thousand escape on foot across the border, hunted by the army, along an extremely perilous seven day route across the towering Apalachians.

With the country safely in hand again, the Communists collectivize the land resulting in intermittent famines and chronic food shortages with 342,000 dead. They begin a Cultural Revolution to rid the country of influences against the Revolution. Young Red Guards dismantle the remaining churches for building material or convert them into barracks and government buildings. Of the six thousand churches in America, eight survive. The priests and priestesses of America suffer a similar fate. In two years, their population drops 85%.

Initially, the Communists work closely with the American aristocracy but once they outlive their usefulness, the Cultural Revolution singles them out for public class-struggle sessions. Party members parade the former elite through the town with dunce hats while “victims of the aristocracy” beat and torture them. The survivors go to prison.

They even subject Vice President Bill Richardson (fingers crossed) to struggle sessions. He initially works with the Chinese but soon grows disillusioned. In the na├»ve belief that the Chinese really want to reform, he wrote a long secret memo detailing problems in the Party’s administration of the United States. He goes through two public struggle sessions before simply disappearing for twelve years. No more Vice President. 100,000 die in the public struggle-sessions with another 173,000 dying in prison.

“Create the new by smashing the old.” The Cultural Revolution focuses on the destruction of American culture (although some may argue its already committed suicide with reality TV). Everyone must wear drab green uniforms and keep their hair short. Three hundred years of American culture gets erased as the Red Guard destroys paintings, books, murals and architecture. The language of America slowly becomes Chinese. English names get “sinizied” and higher education can only be Chinese. Young Americans, taken from their parents, get shipped deep into China for school. When they return, most only speak Chinese. During the Cultural Revolution, half a million to a million people die.

In the final chapter of America’s history, China encourages Chinese emigration to America with hefty subsidies. To make it easier, they even build a bridge across the Atlantic (in engineering and costs terms, the train to Lhasa, Tibet might rival a trans-pacific brigde). The new arrivals get preferential hiring while highly trained Americans wait tables. They plan to simply flood America with these foreign occupiers to overwhelm and destroy the native culture.

I hope this might someone identify more the plight of the Tibetan people and make it clear why these people deserve any help we can give them. I hope they would do the same for us when the above scenario occurs.

long travels

On Friday, I got on a train. I spent 23 hours on the train, 2 hours waiting at McDonalds, 12 hours on a bus, one hour on another bus, one short night sleeping and one day of marching across the Himachal Pradesh countryside and I still haven't taken a dump. I'm a frickin' machine. When I start long journeys, I can simply shut down my bodily needs. Maybe it's a wrestling thing. I eat little and drink less to avoid the hassle of climbing the luggage racks like a monkey to reach the bathroom and most importantly, face the possibility of losing my seat. I simply put my body into hibernation mode. But enough about my budding anorexia.

I found a new source of income in India: selling seats in the unreserved cars. I've never seen this before because I've only gotten on in the middle of the line. This train started in Bombay so I figured I could get a seat in the empty train. I throw myself into the mob around the doors and found a bunch of empty seats with men standing on them. I try to sit down but he demands money. Well, stubborn lex isn't paying for a seat when he already bought it once. Every row had someone standing in it and I finally get mad. I throw myself onto a seat and two guys bum rush me off of it and I almost come to blows with a round little man and his smug little mustache. The other guy smiles and tells me to try the same thing with his competition in the next row. That made me laugh and we shook hands. However, I gave up, annoyed at a system where these men pay baskheesh to railway workers (I assume because nobody gets a sweet gig like that for free) and get to double charge paying customers.


I squatted in a corner morosely until someone inevitably struck up a conversation and I got to learn the life story of someone else in India (although I can't remember anything about this one except that he's an accountant, maybe the latter explains the former). I actually had one of my best unreserved rides in the country. I spent the first night on the floor alternatively talking to strangers and taking copious notes in my history of tibet book. I did get slightly molested by a hijra. I wouldn't have minded so much if it wasn't the masculine fat one instead of the one that I still maintain was a real (and cute) girl in spite of the differing opinion of my new friends.

By the morning, I made it onto the upper level of seats and made everyone laugh by reciting some of my hindi words for the body and ending with the word for elephant followed by my terrible elephant pantomime. Gets 'em every time. In turn, a man quite impressed me when he took a thick blanket and somehow tied it through the strong chicken-wire like mesh behind the upper seats and a handle on the wall, making a hammock for himself above everyone's head. When he got in, I would have bet twenty bucks it'd hit the floor in two minutes but he spent the night there quite peacefully while his wife had to stand up every time someone went to the bathroom. I guess she should have brought her own blanket.

After 23 hours on the train, 450 pages of Tibetan history and one ten rupee gold chain, I finally got to New Dehli and rewarded myself with a small mouthful of Cheezit dust, the only item left from my wonderful parent's box of goodies. I'm saving this Cheezit dust for special occasions like the end of hard journeys, first marriages and the birth of male children. I ride the new New Dehli subway over to the bus station, extremely impressed by their metro which rivals the best I have seen in the States. After asking a dozen people where to get the bus to Dharamsala (and getting two liars who say there's none left, take mine tomorrow morning), a friendly taxi driver helped me. When it looked like the tickets might run out before we got to the front, he gave me his money and shoved me up. Luckily, they took my gora (foreigner) money before anyone else and we hopped on the bus. By the end of the overnight ride, I got invited to two weddings for that night, drank half of the weakest bottle of mixed vodka (I think it was one shot into a bottle of lime soda) and totally misread the situation when an old man got onto the bus. After his eyes lit up upon seeing me, I thought he wanted to sit between me and my taxiwallah friend so he could get to know me better. Turns out he just wanted money because he "lost" everything that night. Oh vanity.

My new friend got me onto the final bus that took me to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's residence in exile. Unfrotunately, not much to do there so I took a short bus ride up to Mcleod Gang which now ranks high on my list "Places that I do not like in India because they're just tourist traps and I want to be the only white person walking around because it's my country now, bitch"(I think my list names get a little wordy). It's a fine place for a tourist. I just can't stand being in places like that. I do not want an easy packaged version of this country with hawkers and their trinkets everywhere. I finally met up with the media team and we headed off to the beginnning of a great adventure.

But more on that later. And an apology: posts are going to be quite rushed for the foreseeable future. Internet may be hard to get and I need to concentrate on getting articles and press releases written. I'll just brain dump everything out with no review and hope you want to wallow in it.

the traveler's t-shirt has everything you need


Link
From an anonymous comment

Friday, March 7, 2008

Don't mess with Texas

from Grant Miller Media (quite a funny website, he always makes me laugh)

Texas poll results:

  • Clinton captured nearly 65 percent of all cowboys.
  • Nearly 55 percent of registered desperadoes supported Obama.
  • Train robbers favored Clinton while bank robbers supported Obama. Stagecoach robbers and cattle rustlers were evenly split between the candidates.
  • Lone gunmen supported Clinton by a 2-1 margin although Obama narrowly won the elusive lone gunmen in a clock tower vote

cute tattoo

i-love-even-though-you-are-tall.jpg

via ModBlog

and here's one so bad, it made me cringe a little, utterly NSFW (Not safe for work)

no blogging for a little while

I'm spending the next two days on trains and buses to reach Dharamsala. Luckily, this should give me time to read my two excellent nonfiction books on the history of Tibet and essays about the current conflict. I'll also bring along the perfect fiction companion to this adventure: The Grapes of Wrath. I hope that my story will end like this one, dying in a cave while suckling milk from a new mother to try and survive(do you think any possible career in politics is now officially dead?, I hope so, I'm purposely shooting myself in the foot now so I'll never consider jumping into the nastiest game in town).

hijras

Astrid and I went for free HIV tests at a wonderful place called Humsafar Trust, an NGO dedicated to the gay and hijra (eunuchs, yeah, the ones missing the pipper) community in Mumbai. Their motto: "a holistic approach to the rights and health of sexual minorities and promoting rational attitudes to sexuality". A helpful staff gave us well written literature about HIV, sexuality and the services available at Humsafar Trust. They encouraged people to come and simply sit in the lounge to watch TV. We got invited to the Friday night gathering where they have fashion shows, dances and other entertainment.

I don't know much about the hijra. I have to admit a certain animosity because of how the ones I met make their money. They're said to have the evil eye and that's quite a profitable thing. I see them on commuter trains in Mumbai and working cars at red lights but the true cash cow seems to be the long distance trains (maybe because Mumbaikers simply aren't that superstitious). On the trains, you see two or three hijra enter a train together. They dress in saris and some have obvious five o'clock shadows while ones with more effeminate features appear quite attractive. They apparently also work the oldest trade in the world but I really don't know anything about that. In the trains, everybody gives them ten rupees to ward off the evil eye but, on the other hand, they do provide a healthy dose of entertainment on an otherwise boring ride.

I struggle with this because I detest them making money off a silly superstition but what else can they do? There's no job for them unless they hide their sexuality. Nobody will hire someone in a sari with a gruff voice and an adams apple. It's a tough situation. On a more positive note (though still superstitious), they get hired for weddings, baby showers and other happy events to ward off evil spirits. Apparently, clients have the right to make sure they have a true hijra and woe to the person faking. So there's the little I know. Exploring this world sounds like a great story to me. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bjork pisses off China or: the new Pravda

Bjork, the elfin Icelandic singer, recently performed her song Declare Independence at a concert in Shanghai. At the end she shouted "Tibet! Tibet!". Of course, the official news organs never mentioned this but now the video is on YouTube and causing quite a stir. The comments under the video have somehow become a childish india vs china flame war (definition time for people who don't spend hours "researching" on the internet via ipowerweb: An argument or ongoing sequence of hostile communications between two or more people in a public forum on the Internet).

Many chinese get upset about Tibet because their history books tell them that Tibet has always been part of China. Last month, the
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said "Tibet has been an inseparable part of Chinese territories since ancient times, which is universally recognized by the international community." If by inseparable part, you mean consistently kicking China's ass since ancient times. That's the truth every historian knows.

The government effort to change the past has a striking similarity to the work of Stalin. That's one thing (of many) that scares me about China: the brainwashing of Soviet Russia combined with the power of the free market makes for a dangerous animal. By the way, they just announced 20% of their budget will go to defense spending (still not america's 50%) and that's just what gets reported. The military spending has been high for ten straight years. They maintain they need a large army to pacify Taiwan, the tiny island that keeps almost declaring complete independence. Give me a tiger, a really big catapult and 4 amazon warrior princesses and I could pacify Taiwan. It worries me.

Here's the video of the song and a link to the Guardian article (via BoingBoing)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

the march 4th debacle and a nerd's take on the canidates

If Hilary gets this nomination by playing the delegate game at the convention (see Hunter S Thompson's masterful Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail for a how-to on playing the underhanded delegate game), I will be seriously pissed. The Democrats have such a lousy system in place that it drives me crazy.

Also, when this election started, I was not a Hilary fan but I would rather see her than McCain or any of the nutballs he defeated. After watching her as a leader on this campaign, I strongly dislike the idea of her in the White House. She's a continuation of the partisan politics that have strangled this country. I do not like most of McCain's policies but he works well across party lines, supported the immigration bill that should have passed (receiving hell from Rush and his "America for Americans" band of cretins) and strikes me as a straight shooter. Hilary has led a decisive campaign and showed terrible judgement throughout her campaign. Obama's message of hope is powerful but he had a lot of help from mistakes.

And now for my favorite find of the week via India Uncut: an animated conversation between Hilary and Obama, stolen from Neil Gaiman's classic comic series, Sandman (for those in the know, it took place between Morpheus and Choronzon in the "A Hope in Hell" series)
Link

i'm in

Dharamsala, here I come. I'm an official member of the four person media team for the March to Tibet. I have to leave Friday and so I'm frantically kissing all the girls I haven't kissed yet and using my newspaper contacts in the city to see if I can get some articles published (or even better, a weekly column). I have a meeting with a Hindustan Times editor today and am trying to get something with the Times of India through my two contacts there. We'll see how it goes.

I have decided on my official purpose for the march: to raise awareness of the Tibetan occupation and bring attention to China's many human rights abuses through writing. This stems from my official pithy phrase for the march: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? There's a lot of dedicated people who worked to make this march a reality and the possibility of nobody even hearing about it makes me sad. I will do my damndest (great word, better for conversation than print though) to make sure people hear about it.

In that vein, I have one more request that I consider a long shot but why not? It'd be very helpful to have a laptop for this mission. Honestly, it's not a must have for me because other people have them (and I don't want to carry the damn thing anyway) but it would allow me to be much more productive. If you happen to have an old but working laptop or even feel like sending me the money for a new one, let me know. Also, now that I'm officially going, I repeat my call for media contacts. Any paper, big or small.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How to stop a 500 foot monster or your mother in law

Wired's Danger room has a great post about our possible options if King Kong attacked New York today. He knows his military hardware and his classic movie monsters.
Link

america, you call to me a little bit or: I want to be home for a black and an atheist

Two reasons I would like to be back in NYC:

1. To be able to read the New York Times and watch this amazing dog and pony show election that might just put someone outside the establishment into office

2. Richard Dawkins starts his God Delusion tour. He might be the only male where I would be so embarrassed that I would get tongue tied and then wet myself.

Also, there's that group of amazing friends who I miss so much but they're not famous (yet) and so don't count

Monday, March 3, 2008

His and her diary or: dear lord, now i'm posting email forwards, what has this blog come to?

HER DIARY

Tonight I thought he was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a bar to have a drink. I was shopping with my friends all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no comment.


Conversation wasn't flowing so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed but he kept quiet and absent. I asked him what was wrong; he said nothing. I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said it had nothing to do with me and not to worry. On the way home I told him that I loved him, he simply smiled and kept driving. I can't explain his behaviour; I don't know why he didn't say I love you too. When we got home I felt as if I had lost him, as if he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there and watched TV.

He seemed distant and absent. Finally, I decided to go to bed.. About 10 minutes later he came to bed, and to my surprise he responded to my caress and we made love, but I still felt that he was distracted and his thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep.

I cried. I don't know what to do. I'm almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else. My life is a disaster .


His Diary:
Today Liverpool lost, but at least I got laid .

a call to arms or: where the fuck is tibet?

An opportunity has arisen I've been considering and the timing seems opportune. For various reasons, I don't think I'll continue to live in Mumbai once my lease runs out in June (stop staring at me, for the love of all that is holy, I don't want to be a rock star anymore). This puts me in the odd position of what to do with myself. Through a friend of a friend, I found out about the March to Tibet(website works about half the time, a good sign).

In protest of the Chinese occupation of their homeland and the Olympics in Beijing, a large number of Tibetan refugees will march from Dharamsala (northern India) through New Dehli and onto the India-Tibet border. The march begins on March 10th and should reach the border August 8th to coincide with the first day of the Olympics. They demand an end to the occupation of Tibet, a return of the Dalai Lama and a release of all political prisoners. They also ask the International Olympic Committee to take the games away from China.

Now, do I think any of these demands will be met? Of course not. However, anything that brings China's various abuses to public attention is a good thing. I personally believe China to be one of the foremost threats to world peace but I will save those rants for another day. Luckily, the chinese seeem to be more concerned about world opinion than ever before.

Also, I'm trying to be a writer and it's a good story. Here's the part where my faithful readers (currently around 75 a day) might be able to help: put me in contact with any media outlets that might be interested in this story whether it be newspapers, magazines or Playboy (I know it should technically count as a magazine but it's like the Michael Jordan of the biz, I only look at it for the articles though). Also, in case any potential editors read this, I can write real articles without stupid jokes and parentheses. It's just hard.

And finally, here's a video about the march. Of course, I can't watch it so let me know if it's any good:

Warren Buffett comments on nudity or: gallivanting financial institutions ruin a day at the beach

via the Old Man (who probably does not want his name on this website although it might take a rewrite of the will to keep the best stories off the presses)


In comments on his profitable year, Warren Buffett earns my prestigious BSI award for funniest statement concerning the US housing market this week:

Buffett ladled blame on lenders who weakened their underwriting standards in the false belief that housing prices would go up and keep going up. "Today, our country is experiencing widespread pain because of that erroneous belief," Buffett wrote. "As house prices fall, a huge amount of financial folly is being exposed. You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out -- and what we are witnessing at some of our largest financial institutions is an ugly sight."- Reuter's

Can't you just picture all of those naked financial institutions out in the ocean somewhere off the Jersey shore (maybe Rehoboth Beach, it's a very financial institution friendly place), their faces flush with embarrassment as they frantically try to cover their financial private parts while multinationals cover the eyes of their smaller holdings who stopped building shell corporations in the Caymans out of sand to see why all the stock brokers started screaming like six year old girls? What a glorious sight.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

old photos or: those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it (bring back the corset!)

from Goligorsky's excellent design blog Perpenduum:

He points to oldpicture.com, a themed collection of photos covering many topics. Some of the diverse themes include lots of Civil War collections, portraits of Bedouins, beautiful castles, Eqyptian stateman and various Native American tribes. A wonderful collection.

President Lincoln at Antietam

Lincoln at the battle of Antietam (the bloodiest day in American history)

Emigrant child

a child at Ellis Island

Eisenhower Speaking to Paratroopers at D-Day Invasion

Ike addressing the troops before D-day

Apache Papoose

an Apache child in a papoose

political compass test

As my friend Mark Storella put it, this is a good way to waste ten minutes at work. The political compass test asks you some questions and then rates you on two scales: economic and social.

My scores:
economic: -1.75 (slightly left, I'm a free market guy who hates any protectionism and wants to see a hefty dose of regulations to keep companies from exploiting workers)
social: -5.74 (don't bother me, keep governments out of my affairs at all costs)
I'm proud to say that the closest men to me on the scale are Ghandi and the Dalai Lama.