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!

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