Rabsel had arranged to meet us for a tour of the town’s local attractions, which turned out to be the Tsuglagkhang complex, which is the temple of the Dalai Lama and includes the Tibetan museum. I’ve learnt an amazing amount about the situation in Tibet since I’ve been here and this was really the starting point.
The museum covers the situation in Tibet since 1959 when the Chinese, under Chairman Mao, sent the troops in to “liberate” the region. In doing so they destroyed temples, took political prisoners and made the cultural and spiritual landscape of the country alien to those that lived there before.
The “progress” that China has brought to Tibet is claimed to not be in the interests of the Tibetans and the influx of a Chinese population which now outweighs the native one means that those who do remain barely feel at home.
Coupled with that, it is illegal for Tibetans to leave Tibet so they have to make a perilous journey on foot across the Himalayas to escape to Nepal and northern India. Planning these escapes or any other acts deemed as “counter revolutionary” or “separatist” are heavily clamped down upon, the bloodied shirt and scarf of a political prisoner here were testament to that. Rabsel himself told us the story of his journey, only avoiding frostbite by virtue of having a spare pair of shoes to change into at night so that his wet ones didn’t freeze. Other people in his group lost their feet.
The temple complex itself consists of a couple of beautifully decorated temple rooms , one of which is where the Dalai Lama will be doing teachings next week.
There is also a Monastery there and we walked past groups of Monks practicing debating points of Buddhist philosophy. The display was quite the sight with a clap and stamp of the feet used to signify a point being won; it was highly animated. Even young children were taking part and it was so cute to see the 5 or 6 year old monks practicing while being observed by a teacher.
From there I was taken down to The Tibet Post where I am volunteering. I really had to discover and learn a lot about the situation quickly so that any articles would be relatively well informed. I started with some fairly light-hearted ones:
Dinner that evening was at a Punjab place with a tasty and spicy Veg Jalfrazi. The highlight of the meal on a rooftop restaurant though was watching the monkeys. It was clearly a well established route as we watched one shimmy across an electricity wire, on to a roof and then scuttle across before leaping to the next building and up to the next level. The second Monkey was a little bit bigger than the first though. It was overweight, actually. In fact, you could probably say it was obese. It struggled for balance on the wire before thumping heavily on to the roof and then got it’s breath back before taking a run up for the metre long jump to the next building. It just managed to grab the top of the railing with its fingertips before its belly flopped against the side. It then clambered up and fell across to the other side before taking the steps to the roof. Hardly the king of the swingers.
Later that evening, while reading in my room, I heard a pop in my bathroom and the sound of running water. One of the taps, at foot level, had just thrown itself from the wall leaving an open pipe gushing water onto the floor. Indian plumbing at its best.