...which represents impressions, opinions and possibly insights gained during a twenty day
tour which selectively dipped into a very large and complex society.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

July 17: Arrival in Lhasa, Tibet
We fly in from Chengdu and arrive in Lhasa in the early afternoon. Prior to our departure and on the way from the airport we have received our instructions from our tour leader: 1) Tibet is part of China. 2) Don’t take pictures of the Chinese soldiers you’ll see on the streets, under penalty of arrest. 3) If anyone wants to give you a written message to take back to President Obama, don’t take it. If you do, it will end the tour and make it difficult for our tour company to ever lead tours in Tibet.
While I’m adapting to the new altitude, the first point somehow clashes with the fact that our Tibetan local guide spends much of the one hour bus trip from the airport trying to teach us new ways of saying “hello,” “thank you,” “how are you?” and “very, very well, thank you.” Bye bye to “ni hao” and “xie xie.”
But the most remarkable thing at this point is that we can see the sun, the blue sky and the big white billowing clouds. In truth we have left China and are now in the occupied territory of Tibet. Soon our bus halts and we are herded out briefly for one of those dreaded “Kodak moments,” then quickly back on the bus since we are parked illegally by the side of the road. Into the sun I shoot a few hurried shots at a herd of yaks. The results are not great, but when will I ever do that again?


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