August 3, 2005
One question that keeps coming up via email is "How in the world are you getting internet access?" Believe me, it's strange for me to. In this part of the world modernity/technology is a mishmosh. All day long today we passed great stone Tibetan houses with satellite dishes on the roofs. The people in those houses work in the fields with horses and yaks doing hard manual labor (and use outhouses) and yet they have cell phones. Some nomads have solar panels which they use to power TVs and radios.
Internet access is limited to medium sized cities like the one I'm in now. Let me describe the where I am: The room is dark and grimy and has about 60 computers crammed into 3 rows--old no-name PCs with even older 13-14 inch monitors, all different brands. The chairs are plastic, again none matching. There is a forest of wires on the walls and ceilings connecting everything together. Most of the people in the room are kids playing Warcraft. Over in the corner there is a young monk playing Half-Life. 2 of his monk friends encourage him over his shoulder. One guy silently surfs porn. Another watches an anonymous Charlie Sheen movie. Most of the guys in the room are smoking. Outside men in cowboy hats roar past on motorcycles. An old woman leads 2 baby yaks down the street and lots and lots of monks wander around with their hands behind their backs. There is a heavy police presence. The PSB guys generally tool around in SUVs with music blaring from the windows. Sometimes nomads from out on the range peer in and stare, but they are more interested in the Tibetan movies playing on TVs in virtually all the restaurants here.
In the next few days I imagine we will be beyond the reach of the net. We will be staying at monasteries and in some very small towns. But you never know. Today we spotted a monk with a camera phone receiving pictures from one of his friends who was out on pilgrimage.
. . . . .
We had a very nice drive today. The road from Xinlong to Ganze follows a river up the mountains and all along the way are villages of massive stone houses. Each village had it's own particular architectural style and each was spectacularly situated, one more impressive than the next, over gorges, on mountainsides, or hanging over the river. Near the end of the day the valley widened out into a huge plain full fields of wheat and barley. Women worked in the fields and I was reminded of Millet's painting "The Gleaners".
Ganzi the town has changed a great deal since my last visit. Most of the log cabin style homes have had concrete facelifts, but the town maintains it's funky appeal. Up in the mountains above a huge modern monastery rebuilt on the ruins of the old one destroyed during the cultural revolution. My favorite part of the day, visiting the school where the monks "fight" with each other. In a big courtyard full of fruit trees about 100 monks were "fighting"... they were in pairs one on the ground the other standing, and would shout and try to intimidate each other with superior arguments and forceful gestures.
We had many other adventures today, but I'm tired of this keyboard (many of the keys are not in the standard place so typing is a pain)... Time for a beers in another Tibetan disco.