Saturday, May 31, 2008

Free Tibet

Though only 6pm, it has been a wonderful day today already.

I think we’ve whipped the jet lag already. At breakfast we compared our sleep from the night. Brittany and I slept fitfully after 1am, waking several times until 7am but at least we managed to keep in bed until then. Hannah has had no problem and slept all night through. Very impressive.

After breakfast we walked to the Ason market, a traditional marketplace which was busier than usual because it was Saturday. We walked around, did some filming, some of which was staged and caused a great deal of embarrassed laughter on the part of my co-stars. It’s really fascinating and thrilling to be in the midst of all the action. The market seems like no market at all, in economic terms, as every other store seems to be offering the same goods. So it’s left to you, the buyer, to barter and work and be patient. I’m sure there’s a proper economic term to describe this but I teach English.

We walked from Ason (with a brief stop in the Kathmandu Mall for refreshments—blazing hot today) to another market near the bus park. I don’t know its name but it’s comprised of what has to be nearly two miles of aisles underneath blue tarps stitched together and held in place by wooden cleats and used tires. Down here it’s more of the same in terms of goods but you get the feeling the sales are (even more) dismal. I thought it would be interesting to see these places to get an understanding of the economy, particularly the fact that Nepal produces very little in terms of goods (except agriculture), relying almost wholly on China and India to provide materials. As the US and Europe found out, it’s very difficult to energize or build your economy when you don’t make anything.

We grabbed a taxi to Thamel for a short lunch and then continued to Swayambhuanth, also known as the Monkey Temple. It’s situated on a hill on the west side of Kathmandu. (Readers may recall that I made my mother climb all 385 stairs to see this back in January. Go Carole!!!) We made the climb quickly because it appeared that a rain storm was approaching from the south. Swayambhunath offers great views of the entire Kathmandu valley, which Hannah and Brittany seemed to enjoy. It’s also a holy site for both Hindus and Buddhists, featuring many icons and structures of both faiths.

We made a couple trips around the top and then entered a Buddhist temple where some monks were saying prayers. Hannah made conversation with a gentleman who explained the worship process such as the bells (for good luck) and the large horn blasts (so God can hear it). Photo taking was allowed so Brittany snapped some pictures. A few of the younger monks sitting in the back rows hammed it up for her benefit.

Then we walked to the back side of temple and made our way down to the alternate entrance. On the way down the hill, a man motioned our taxi to stop. On the hillside above us, under a large tent, sat 50 or more Tibetans who have been fasting (today marked day 49) since the Chinese crackdown in Lhasa. The man asked us to sign a petition to free Tibet. We agreed and got out of the car. It was incredibly moving. As we walked to the table, all the demonstrators made Namaste and peace signs at us. They were chanting prayers, some of the women were twirling prayer wheels. What really amazed me was the age. Some of the women looked to be 70-80 years old. And I thought how incredible it was to see people with that sort of commitment and the incredible lengths they were willing to go to support a principle. Something you don’t see much these days.

Tomorrow I have to go to the Nepal tourism office to get a visa extension. Because of my brief visit in January, my current visa will not cover the length of this stay, so I’ll need to pick up another sticker for $30. I wish there were an easier way. So Brittany and Hannah will be on their own in the morning and they plan to shop and find gifts for people back home.

Brittany and Hannah have been really wonderful—their spirits are high, they’re interested in everything and ask great questions, and, best of all for this kind of travel, they’ve been endlessly patient and sensitive to the new environment. It’s been so much fun having them along. Everything I’d hoped. I only wish Jenny Rothchild were here.

Pictures below. Thanks to Brittany from sharing. Hannah has some too. I need to get them off her computer.

In the meantime, for an alternate view, please read Brittany’s blog. She’ll have pictures as well.

And a quick fundraising note, people in the Cleveland area, please stay tuned for the date of our upcoming summer fundraiser.

Life is good. CB

A member of the Young Communist League celebrates the new republic (and the impending departure of the king).

Hannah among the journalists and riot police on Durbar Marg (though not Durbar Marg anymore, as previously explained. New name forthcoming.)

Worker places bunting around the top of Boudhanath stupa.

Hannah and Brittany with monks at Boudhanath.

H & B with the sadhus at Pashupatinath.

Inside the monk's prayer room at Swayambhunath.

Tibetan demonstrators at Swayambhunath.

Inside the tent.


Jells said...

Hi Chris and Crew -

Thanks for the updates, lot's going on over in Nepal right now, but it seems positive. Stay safe and keep the updates coming.


priti said...

hey chris ji,
Ason is the real market of Kathmandu in old pointed out it is significant in economy and culture. It is also mentioned in Samrat Upadhyays "arresting..

and i think you figured the shorter way to Swayambhu this time..haha

and kingsway is getting new name?? good to know that.. nice updates