Sweet Innocent Killer and the Final Cut
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
334Trip End Ongoing
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The Sweet Innocent Killer and I drank bai jiu together at the Potola Cafe. "I need to have a child," she said, "to respect my parents. I'm their only child and they want a grandchild."
"But you don't want a child, so shouldn't they respect that?"
"No, I need to do this for them... I don't want to get married now." Tears rolled down her face.
Thus is the burden of this only-child generation.
The other burden of China lies with Confucius. Within Chinese hearts is the quest for unity under one benevolent king--not just China, but all of East Asia. The Japanese supposedly feel the same way. The Sweet Innocent Killer and I talked about that, too:
"The United States is the the only thing preventing war in Asia, by maintaining the balance of power." Scary thought.
Flashback: as I ate stir fry in a small local dive, another World War II movie was showing the Japanese being beaten back.
Actually, I should call the war by it's correct Chinese name: "The Anti-Japanese War."
But Confucius spoke of peace and of kings and dukes declaring their allegiance to a benevolent emperor. "That doesn't exist today," I said. "Doesn't this seem a little too much like Star Wars?"
Sweet Innocent Killer is her name translated directly from Chinese into English. Western names, their meanings diminished over the years, seem boring by contrast. Killer was not so sweet and innocent, but more intelligent, charming, and athletic. Somehow she was one of those people who was the best at everything, yet you felt comfortable with her at the same time. She was here for two weeks and, getting along so well, we ended up doing most everything together during that time, including watching Scene, Song, and Dance Medley of Shangri-la (see photographs).
Killer had just begun working with WWF and was planning a conference on ecotourism. She was here to learn more about the issues: the politics between conservation groups, the projects in the villages, the tourists and what they want, and more.
Since it was the Golden Week, the May Day holiday, everyone was relaxed. Tenzin, a Tibetan composer living in Beijing joined us, to compose and to gain inspiration from the area. Soon, his music would be performed in Beijing. Everything Tenzin did seemed to be musical.
One night, with the new WWF director, his wife, and the entire WWF gang together, we sang at dinner. The Tibetan crew spontaneously broke into song, as is common for them. Often lyrics are created on the spot, as people sing about the beauty of nature, the people, and Buddha.
Tenzin, like Tashi, often liked to test me in agility games or wrestling, but he was usually to eager and predictable with his competitive nature, so he lost.
When wrestling, Tashi was less predictable and much heavier, so I had to rely more on strategy, but we always ended quickly--out of breath--at this high altitude.
Tashi the monk, my housemate, represents Tibetan Buddhism in a quirky way. His behavior (see photos) makes you wonder whether he is truly on the path to enlightenment, or is just staying a monk until his mother dies. Leaving the monastery is considered disrespectful to your family, even though you had no choice of becoming a monk to begin with.
Most people in the West would probably associate Buddhists with peace, calm, and self discipline. Perhaps that is only one facet of Buddhism here as anger, goofiness, and pushing the boundaries of being a monk also apply. This aspect of Buddhism seems just as real and human, maybe even more so.
Tashi became angered because Killer wore a Mao pin on her jacket collar. "I respect Mao," said Killer. "Mao was decieved by people who did bad things. His heart believed in the people, the peasants, the workers. Now he would not like what he was seeing in China." In her heart, Mao represented a pure and sacrificial human being.
"After Tiananmen, students at Beijing University (the instigators) had to stay their freshman year confined in a remote place, to learn about what it means to be a good Chinese person. We had to sneak out to see our friends and family. One of my best friends was taking a taxi back from her friends and was raped and killed by the taxi driver. After that, we refused to eat at the cafeteria and boycotted classes, until the government allowed us to return to campus."
After ten years of propaganda boot camp, the students of Beijing University freed themselves through peaceful protest, in part thanks to Sweet Innocent Killer.
I continued to edit The Real Shangri-la, one year in the making, creating a Rough Cut for everyone to see and critique.
At the same time, the new WWF director and staff met about the future of the projects here. The meetings were comforting after the previous director really did some damage to the projects.
We also met with the director of Baimaxueshan Nature Reserve. Over lunch, I mentioned the Yunnan Golden Monkeys: "Xiao Lin and I went to film the monkeys, but the villagers were driving them down for tourists. I felt that this was wrong and believe and hope that you and WWF will be able to reach a good solution for the monkeys and the villagers."
He replied: "I also feel that this is wrong and have decided that the monkeys should be allowed to roam freely. Tourists will be able to hike with guides through the remote forests, but the monkeys will not be driven to them."
As I slowly approached The Final Cut, Sweet Innocent Killer provided me with much needed breaks, laughs, and philosophical conversations over dinners.
Yesterday, Killer left with the rest of the WWF staff for a conference in Qinghai. Tomorrow, I will finish The Final Cut of The Real Shangri-la and will leave Shangri-la, like Conway did in James Hilton's Lost Horizon.