Day 22 (McLeod Ganj)

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July 26th 2011
Published: August 2nd 2011
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Had an early night last night. Today i got up around 11am and headed down for breakfast. After a few minutes Steve and Keenen came in and i had breakfast with them.

I stayed with them for a few hours and then headed out to find lunch, i found Caitlyn in the hotel restaurant and we got talking to an American guy on the next table, he had just come from Richikesh and we were chatting about what we did there and who we met, after a few minutes i realised he was talking about Steve and Ilona. Apparently Steve was still in Richikesh. He also told us about a weekly event at the Tibetan refugee school. Once a week the school invites a Tibetan ex-political prisoner to come and talk to a group of people. The aim is to raise money for the small school and raise awareness about the situation in Tibet. We decided to go and we also wanted to go to the local cinema to watch a film. After this we split up and agreed to meet at 6.30 to go to the talk.

As we headed down to the talk we ran into Josh (the American guy) and a few others heading the same way and we all walked down to the school together. The school was tiny, one small room with two small rooms off to one side. There must have also been a kitchen somewhere as before the talk started two English girls went round offering noodles, i got myself a plate and soon after the man started talking, he spoke little English and so there was a translator there too.

The man started talking about what Tibet was like when he was a child and then a teenager. He worked on a farm for years and then decided to go to a monastery to study Buddhist philosophy. He talked about how while he was studying the Chinese police would raid and search the rooms in the monastery, looking for illegal items (such as photos of the Dalai Lama) which were confiscated and the owners were often arrested. Even if they didn't find anything the constant interruptions would disrupt their studies and make it more difficult to learn. Tired of the constant harassment a small group of 3 or 4 people, including the man who was speaking to us, decided to stage a protest. He said that none of them really expected to survive it.

The protest lasted 10 minutes before Chinese police and military arrived to break it up, arresting the four and throwing them into jail. 8 months passed before they he received his sentence and in that time he was beaten and tortured, he described some of the things they did and it sounded dreadful, often involving electricity and nails. After he received his sentence (5 years in one of the worst prisons in Tibet) it took 6 months to transport him, he moved from prison to prison receiving more beatings and living in inhumane conditions. He told us about an uprising that occurred once he had reached the main prison, the guards responded by releasing attack dogs into the crowd of protestors, leaving blood stains all over the compound. After this he told us about his release, after returning home he was always being watched and so he escaped to India without trouble.

He finished by telling us about the current situation in Tibet, he says that conditions seem to have improved if you look from the outside but raids on monastery's are still common. He also said that the Chinese government offered everyone in the monastery's TV's and satellite dishes. These he said were presented as a gift but were actually intended to further disrupt study by distracting students from their learning. The ultimate aim seems to be to disrupt and distract in order to destabilise Buddhist teachings.

After the talk we needed a bit of cheering up so Caitlyn and I headed to the cinema and watched Hangover 2 :-) The cinema was made up of a few office chairs on what looked like a home made platform, they used a projector but it was instantly obvious that the movie had been downloaded, luckily it only flickered a bit (unlike the new harry potter, which i have been told was filmed with a handheld camera at the cinema, complete with people finding their seats at the bottom of the screen).

After the movie i went to meet Steve and Keenen, Steve wasn't about but Keenen and i played a few rounds of chess and had a few drinks, Steve turned up after a while. It was pretty late so i decided to head home.

It was about 1.30am and the streets of McLeod Ganj were deserted, i saw a few dogs and the odd cow but i reached my hotel without seeing anyone. That when i found out that my hotel locks the gates at night. As the hotel is run by monks i decided to to shout and wake someone up, instead i headed back down to Steve and Keenen's room. The walk back was a little tense, the number of dogs seemed to have doubled in the 15 minutes i had been walking and a few were growling as i passed, i managed to ignore them and got to the guys room pretty fast. I was able to sleep on the floor, luckily Keenen had an inflatable sleeping mat.


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