Monday, February 25, 2008

The hollow people

At first glance the tibettans are a wonderful joyous people, content with their circumnstances and happy with life. Sure, their life is hard, real hard - not just the fake stuff; Its cold up there on the roof of the world, there's wind that cuts through you, dirt everywhere, early mornings and late nights. Life is gamble on the whims of the weather and nature. A good year will bring prosperity, a bad one, full of wolves, foxes and storms may bring them to the brink of disaster. But still, they seem happy.

Unfortuntaly, whether they realise it or not, it's just a facade.
A strong man hurt but trying to look brave is still in pain and someone with depression may put on a happy face but inside their heart bleeds sadness. They can tell themselves they are ok, they can even convince themselves, but in the end there is a pain behind the mask. You can only see it in glimpses; look into their eyes at the right moment and you will see the pain.
Look into the eyes of a tibetten at the right moment and you will see nothing, an empty shell of a person. Nick was the one to see it, at a temple he looked into the eyes of a woman devoutly spilling her prayer wheen and saw nothing, it's as though they're "hollow people", he said. We say, "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." They fulfill acts of merit, they fear death. Spinning prayer wheels, enduring painful prostrations, sending prayers to heaven on the back of flags, its all an attempt to make an escape from this place, so this death will "be their last".

Tibettan buddhism is apparently "the peaceful religion" but its really a trap, the mindset of a cycle that claims that life is pain and you need to escape it. There is no hope to be found here. Dig deeper and you will find a black underbelly full of posession and human sacrifice. If you dont beleive me, or dont want to, talk to the lammas, to the rempuches, if they dont know then talk to someone who is higher. Or talk to someone that has already earnt the trust and done the talking. Just dont beleive its all about peace, there's more.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Being back in Beijing has given me a chance to explore the city a little more.
Its intricate network of winding streets, full of street vedors selling all forms of colourful clothing, desperate at times for a sale. They shout to get your attention, they show you things, they grab you and hold you. Breaking free only leads you onto the next vendor, into the next set of hands. Coming from a small place in the north of norway, the contrast is huge, (before anyone compains and tells me to get my head straight and remember im an Aussie, i know, but i left for china from Engavaagen....). Some cant handle it, they hate the big crowded spaces when there are people to bump into everywhere. They breath on you, its its hot they'd sweat on you and if you're unfortunate they will spit on you, by accident ofcourse, not out of spite, you were just in the wrong spot at that moment in time...

The food ventors fill the steets with their wafting aromas, if your lucky enough it will overpower the local putrid smell that hangs over the city. Their delicacies might be tasty, but they are usually scary to look at, sampling them can be a risky buisiness but usually well worth it. Pancake fill with vegies, like giant flat springrolls, or filled with meat, like pasties. Or the men at the side of their shops that barbeque meat over hot coals and paste the most rediculously hot, but very tasty, sauce over the top, sheep shanks for 6 quai (90cents).... mmmmm....
Men on tricycles cart round tasty lumps of fruit and nuts, all glued together with sugary goodness, selling it by the jin (1/2 kg)

To cross a street you sit back, take a deep breath, open your eyes and ears, and then walk slowly... dodge the cars, wait on the lines that divide the lanes, hope the cars will see you and miss, then keep on walking. To drive is worse. Its like you're in a video game. Anyone played need for speed? Taxi's take the racing line, cutting lanes and corners, they turn infront of oncomong traffic but its all in slow motion, you cant drive too fast with rediculous driving like this happening everywhere.

We visited the markets and faught tooth and nail for a bargain, usually getting one. Its frustrating here, haggling starts out fun, trying to get the cheapest price, then your consience kicks in. You dont want to get a deal soo good that they cant make a living out of it, but at the same time they try and rip you off. At times I wish they could just give you a straight up price and if your lucky you could get 10% off or something. when they start ripping you off on food its even more frustrating... they'll dish it up then change the price sometimes, tell you you said more than you did. just walk away i guess...

We've walked through tienamen square, and the forbidden city, the seat of chinese power for hte last 600 years. Its amazing, massive and mindblowing. Centuries past have seen the stones that paved the massive courts worn down and crumbling. The doors are all painted red, but underneath lies solid stone. throne room after throne room hint at the grandure bestowed upon the emperor.

more than that however, as we wander the streets usually lost, we are reminded of the common people, we live in tiny cramped boxes, stacked one ontop of the other, with views of other tiny cramped boxes.
Thankfully after each day we have a place to crash with a little bit of space away from the hustle and bustle of the city to sit back relax and well... sleep.

saying goodbye, again.

It seems to be a common thing in the past year, saying goodbye.
I said goodbye to my family and freinds in August last year to begin my journey that has taken me half the way around the world to meet many people. I met a few backpackers during my days in oslo, some might say you only get aquaintences in 2 days, but as they left I said goodbye to my freinds.
With that the goodbyes continued.
Meeting new freinds at base, shortly after, bidding farewell to half as we go to different ends of the globe. Meeting more freinds and new families over christmas, for but a breif moment, but long enough to have to say goodbye.

A few days ago on a crystal clear day, the clearest i had seen, I said goodbye to the lake, the frozen covering with snow that flowed like liquid. I said goodbye to sechen, my greatest enemy, the mountain behind the school that reduced me to an out of energy drooling heap of exhaustion. To the Yaks, the goats, the sheep, the locals, the students and their familes that treated us as though they were our familes, goodbye. I left Tibet. The crazy hitchiking, colourful people with their rosy frostbitten cheeks, their big smiles and open hearts, their heart felt welcomes, "Demoo, demoo, demoo, choo demoo!".

It is now, but a memory.
I figure this is the worst kind of goodbye, the one that really means it. All the other times are mearly a short interval in my freindships, a few moments apart in the grand scheme of things, there will be time again in the future to eat, drink and laugh together, to share experiences. I'm not sure if I will get that chance to return, to say g'day to Carl and share a yak dung stove for a little warmth, to eat sumpa and boiled, dried meat off the bone. To meet michael, jason, harry or christina again.

So I guess my memories will have to suffice, that and a load of photos, its great to bve surrounded by camera happy people....

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Went for a hike today,
walked past a monistary,
We walked left (Harms and I) while the rest went right.
Came across a nomads home and he invided us in,
we ate sumpa,
drank yak milk tea, ate gou ri.
His dogs were very old, sick, but his family very nice.
We had never met them but were treated as old freinds.
we left, crossed a frozen river of melting ice,
scaled a ridge, went to the peak.
We sat, felt the sun trying to break through the clouds as we drank.
Photos were taken, moments stolen.
Decended the ridge, more photos taken.
Chased unenthusiastically by three dogs,
threw a rock, shouted, they left us alone.
Walking past the town we found some hot springs,
Running water and steam ouside in the tibetten winter... Sweet.
Met some ladies washing their colourful clothes in the springs,
bring red, green and orange.
Their coats so elegantly emboided, highlighted with their coloured sashes.
They laughed as we sank into the mud while crossing to meet them,
we made them smile at least.
Found a locked room over a spring, maybe a hidden bath house,
that would be nice...

At home at last,
It was a crazy day.

very late first impressions...

so, we dont have computer access up at the school by the lake so i wrote down some things to type up into a blog, i forgot one, i think this is the one i forgot... also, i cant access my own blog only add to it so i cant actually check if this is already up... so... if its doubles my appologies! and man smokers sitting next to me blowin cigarrette smoke in my face suck!

The air is thinner uyp here.
The first 20 steps of a midmorning jog leave your lungs burning as though you've just run a 5km time trial, and tahts just the beginning of the pain. Hiking up the small (the only rise to a hight of 4500m - about a 1200m verticle gain) mountains behind the school has my legs thinking they're rowing a 2km course at race pace.
Now, dancing to ska music (if you can call it dancing... at times its more like flailing) is odd at the best of times. An arm here, a knee there, elbows flying everywhere. Why people do it, im not sure really, it looks awkward and usually ends up with someone getting injured, hit by a flying body member, theirs or someone elses.
It's somethere out here that the kids had never seen, untill the other night. I cant really say they got the full picture of it either, as what is usually a high energy activity was reduced to 30 second burts, followed by a quick collapse onto the floow to catch our breaths. Besides, none of us can actually ska dance, we just jump around like fools.

I am currently living with my group at a school on the Qing Hai lake, QingHai provence, China, helping to run a 3 week english camp. we are on the high plateu of tibet surrounded by grassland, yaks and many other creatures. We're living at the newly built (by newly built i mean we're still bashing holes in the walls for chimeny pipes (the builders screwed up)) guest house we are surrounded by out students (crazy huh? i have students!) we live upstairs, they downstairs.

The classes we run are an odd mix of formality and Fun. I am asked "excuse me teacher can you help?" and all stand as the head teacher walks into the classroom each morning, "goodmorning teacher" they all chant. But its not all strict formallities as teh classes range from written to spoken english, sheet work to word games.
In fact class doesnt really ever end up here. They leave teh classroom but we're still around so its off to the soccer field of basketball court (each a rock filled dirt patch). We cant speak tibettan (its a crazy messed up language that though beautifully written, takesmany years to learn, even then the spoken language differes from person to person, family to family adn place to place). So the speak english. On top of this, every second night we invite them all to our place for a chance to hang out, have fun, and get a little help with their homework.

I guess that;s where my little rant about dancing comes in. We taught them some more western dances. They taught us some of their traditional ones. Truth be told "they" consisted of 2 to 3 guys that wern't too shy, the rest sat around and laughed as they watched us all make fools of ourselves.

As teh weeks have worn on we are slowly breaking through their shy exteriors and getting to know the fun, joy filled young people they are. They no longer hide behind the nearest doorway as we walk by in teh coridor. Rather they will venture up to our plac, ask questions and call after us with our names. We're beginning to discover their characters, each eager to learn about our world and languages. By the time you read this i will be heading off to their houses for two nights, to experience their world, sleeping on their beds with them and their families, eating their meals and probably herding their yaks (actually thats already happened, i've been super slow to type this up and am still just copying what i wrote, except this little insert ofcourse)

Ultimately, I dont think i can really be sure how lasting an impression we will leave with them, but for this timethey are smiling with us, happy. Is it ok to know all you have done is brighten up 4 weeks of their lived. I guess that depends on the bigger picture, over which i have no control.

so this has gone up so late that im leaving the school in 2 days! its been great, i've experience soo many thing that i wish i had a better memory as over time im sure i will forget most of it! its an amazing place, tibet, and an amazing people, so welcoming so happy, so content with life.
one of the guys, michael i think, let out a sigh one afternoon, i mention 'life is hard is it?', his reply, "no, its not" - a young man with nothing to us in the west who has to work hard all day with his animals to survive, so content with his life, maybe we have a bit to learn form these guys.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

hitch-hiking tibettan style

I woke up this morning to a beautifully clear day, there was, for the first time, not a single cloud in sight and i could see clear across chinas biggest lake to the snow capped moutanins the encircle it on the other side, well not straight across, thats a long way. It's a stark contrast to the usualy fog that covered the area, threatening to rain but never really letting anything out, a little snow here and there but thats it. Distances are hard to judge when the air is so thin and clear, mountains that rise 1200m seem small and the foothills that roll out from the peaks seem like a few hundred meters. In reality its more like 1000m to the base.

Yesturday we went wandering the town, its not really a town, more a community sprawled over a 15km radius around the lakes edge. at each home, we visited about 5 homes, we were ushered in, sat down and poured tea and offered deep fried bread. It's rude to refuse hospitality as everyone is excited to have a visitor. For us however, it's really strange, they sit us down on their beds/dining tables and serve us food and bread then stand and watch us eat and talk. There is very little communication between us and them. I'm told its because in Tibeten culture women cannot really speak with men, the order it is said is... Man, his donkey, then his wife.
We walked from house to house, wandering the tibettan plateu amongst Yaks, sheeps, goats and horses that were grazing the tufts of grass. The Bright sun was shining, making life very pleasant indeed, a little exercise and fresh air never hurt anyone.

Have you ever seen one of those television programs that show an icy, snowy tundra that the wind blows across. The wind makes the ice sheets look like their flowing as whisps of snow float across it in the streams of air. I can tell you now that it takes a fair wind to do that. Though the sun was out and warming our faces as afternoon went on the wind picked up and quickly stole from us what hte sun had so generously given. it was freezing to say the least. a day that would not have been much colder than -3c, quite nice to walk in if your rugged up with 5 layers, scarf and beanie, quickly turned into a frozen, hellish experience. Well that may be a bit of an overstatement but it was cold!

Anyhoo back to this morning. we took a trip to Chapcha (that is definately not how you spell it but if you read that out loud you'll make the right sounds!) We were planning to hike over the mountain ridge and along the road here, about 30-40km in all and up across 1 peak. however, as the perpetual cold wears our team down slowly and health begins to fail we decided it would be smarter for us to get a ride.
hitch-hiking here in tibet is quite simple. walk to the road, start walking in hte direction you want to go, wait for a car to honk ferouciously at you, wave it down and jump in. just pay a few kwai (about $1aud) and you're on your way. though its interesting to get to here you're going when you cant speak the language, we just repeated our intended destination and hoped for the best. Oh and thats not to mention who else will be in the car with you. Chinese, tibetan, sheep? we were fortunate enough to get a ride with 2 tibetans and the fresh hide of what appeared to be a goat, head still on... they also cram you in like sardeans. Chinese cars are small and cheap, we still managed to fit our team of 5 largish westerners into a car that was alread containing 3 people. we jammed people in and sat them on the floor. piled bags on top and hoped for the best. It didnt quite beat our record of the previous day though, 13 people in the same sized car.

Chapcha is a great place. Its the trading hub of the area and full of markets selling fresh fruite, piled up tea and spices, tibetan clothing (their coats area amazing) and a pile of fireworks (chiense new year is coming up in 2 days!) we met some of carlsons old students who showed us the streets and have just been resting and catching up on some much earned downtime! its a refreshing break.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Tibetans are amazing people, so happy and eager to meet you. They will usher you into their homeand before you know it a pot of freshly brewed rea will be sitting infront of you. It will usually sit ontop of the cast iron stove, fired by yak dung and coal that is sitting infront of you, but thats another story.
I was fortunate enough to meet Akapunsik the other day. An ex-tibetan-buddhist-monk that was forced to give up his practises as the age of 14, around the time of the cultural revolution I think.
Now an old man with a face weathered by time and an extreme environment he heards yaks. Sending them out each morning only to bring them back slowly but surely each evening, chasing them down form the graying pastures on the mountain ridges each evening with his bowed legs.
I was on my way down from a hike amongst the yaks upon one of the ridges to a tibettan prayer flag -a totem of faith to the gods, palced there by the lovals in a hope to earn some merit and save themselves from a horrible rebirth- when i ran into the school headmaster, our host. A freind of Akapunsiks, he invited me to come and drop by and say G’day. One of his extended family members is sick at the moment and in hospital so the rest of his relatives, his usual visitors, are away looking after them.
I was ushered into the square walled propert with various rooms lining the outer wal and a central courtyard that came complete with piled up Yak dung. Akapunsiks home is a small two room dwelling, if we had to write it up for a real estate magazine it would probably go something like this... “A small two room dwelling, easy to maintain in traditional Tibettan style. A must see for all those looking for that ‘rustic charm’ – rustic maybe, but charm would definately be bending the truth probably to the point of breaking, so much so that, if truth were an object you would be picking it up with a dustpan and sweeper whilst hoping not too many of the small bits slipped under the pan, you know those bits that just wont get in there! People here live a simple yet contented life.
He was seated quietly in his livingroom/bedroom/dining room, smoke lightly enveloping everything around and beam of afternoon light shining though a small window, resting gently on his face casing shadows across his worn down facade. The scene was quite surreal, something i had heard alot about but still didnt know fully what to expect of how to behave.
As we sat around the stove I watched as Akapunsik slowly rose and begun to prepare the tea ducking in and out through the curtained door that divided the two rooms of his dwelling withough even asking if we wanted any, tea is a given, you will always have it. Tea leaves that crumbled like thy were held together with dirt were the first in the kettle, left to slowly bubble away. Next came the nilk, I must have looked a little nervous, i was bracing myself a little, ‘would htis be my first taste of the fabled yak butter tea’; something most western visitors dread. I was reassured though that this would just be tea with Australian millk (the milk is actually imported from Australia, and we dont have many yaks back home) by my fellow guest.
As the old tibettan slowly made our tea he wiped his his hands with a cloth encrusted with dirt, our bowls recieved te same treatment. The cloth was presumably cleaner than our bowls but I’m not sure you would ever be able to tell.
To be honest it wasn’t too bad an experience to say the least, the tea was refreshingly warm for this cold world. We sat, they talked about hte smaller things in life, enjoying long stints of silence, not awkward (for them at least, i was the new comer), just the silence shared betweeen good freinds.
As Lars would say, ‘this was nice’