Hello, Dalai. . .

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Flag of India  ,
Saturday, June 10, 2006

Funny to see so many westerners around, but after a few days I get used to it and don't stare anymore like an Indian small village dweller. Speaking proper english again usually takes a couple of hours.
Dharamshala is the home of the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan Government in exile, if you don't know the story, basically china thought they might like to exploit the relatively peaceful Tibetan's resources, and tempered by war with the japanese, they rolled over the first line of defense, one of the officials burned the ammo dump, leaving no choice but surrender for the Tibetans. Eventually the Maoist indoctrination got too heavy, and the Dalai Lama was spirited away over the mountains to Dharamshala in India, where a government in exile was formed.
The Great Red Machine still continues to control the territory of Tibet, making anything remotely Tibetan, including the language, be pushed to the back burner. Thousands still flee each year, and many die in the high Himalayas making the trek to one of the many Tibetan settlements in friendly India. It seems that India and Tibet have a common enemy in many ways.
China does not play Mister nice guy in such cases, people are made to wear the chinese clothing style, the population of Lhasa has been completely supplanted by Chinese, the tibetan children are taught chinese only, as a first language, many religious and traditional practices are banned.
Tibet has been a free country, more or less for over two thousand years, so the Chinese invasion under the auspices of "bringing Tibet back to China," is more just a ploy to take the resources for an ever growing chinese appetite for such. Deforestation and strip mining are happening on the land, and metaphorically in the minds and the hearts of the Tibetan people as well.
Tibetans who live here, many of whom have never even been to their home country, are required to have special permissions from the Chinese to even visit their homeland. That is if they are lucky enough to be granted that, even. Most are just denied outright. I have heard many of their stories, and one cannot help but feel their despair at the seemingly impending loss of their cultural heritage, not to mention the very land upon which their ancestors walked.
Hundreds of buddhist temples have been destroyed, or turned into offices of storehouses for chinese supplies. Many many tibetans were outright killed, and many others thrown off of their own lands by the invaders. The second highest Lama, second only to the Dalai himself was taken into "protective custody about 6 years ago, and has not been seen since. He is now seventeen.
If the spirit moves you, do what you can. I am generally not extremely political about such cases, but listening firsthand to some people's accounts, I could not help but be moved by the determination of Tibetan people to have what is theirs back again, and for all time.
Another damn good reason not to shop at Mal-Wart at all.

In my own view of the chances of Tibetan Independence, it will be a hard fight, and will only come about after a mass consciousness raising on the part of most people in the world.
Governments are historically extremely slow to move on the wishes of the majority of people, so this takes time. Tibet cannot count on too much pressure from the US and many other consumer nations, as cheap chinese goods are a staple of the retail economy, and none want to mess with the balance. It will be close to impossible for Tibet to become soverign once again, but that is not altogether impossible.
It will only come about as a grassroots movement in most of the countries in the world, as the governments that depend on cheap imports from China will not want to jeapordize the massive profits being made by retail giants such as Mall-Wart and K-Mart and such. Of course, if you are sensible, you buy quality items that can be repaired anyway, not low-cost goods that are just thrown out after they do not function anymore, and replaced with another.
Of course, this is not my fight, in the end it is up to China, who controls, to give up and give back. Of course with the economic boom there now, it is a little more fashionable to become somewhat Westernized, and I hear now that many Chinese people themselves are taking up the cause and believe in Tibetan independence.
But, then again, we all remember Tianenmen Square.
Anyway, there are some of the politics, read more on this if you are so moved--it is a good cause.

More on Dharamshala later, tomorrow I head over the pass and into Manali, at the foothills of the high himalaya, then, prepared, go over some of the most dangerous road in these parts for a two day 500 km ride to Leh, the largest city in the eastern half of Kashmir. I will have to go over two passes, each more than 15000 feet, and prone to unpredictable weather changes and patches of washouts, with potholes that could swallow a man, make my camp in a hopefully somewhat sheltered and not-too-cold place, and go on again.
This will be the toughest ride yet, but after 9000 km in India, I think that it has all led up to this moment, this journey.
There may be an entry or two as I pass through Manali, though the further one gets out, the more the internet access costs, becoming 120 rupees in Leh, which I will not be able to afford, so it will be a week or so after that when I reach Srinagar until I will be able to upload more pictures and tell the stories accumulated, winding the road along the Pakistan border, which is subject to infrequent shelling by both India and Pakistan.
I came to find adventure, and this is as real as it gets, I guess.
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