The old van, gears grinding and tires bald, struggled through deep ruts of rain soaked clay. The serpentine line of vehicles–barely moving–suggested the road ahead would not be any easier. Five American women, of which I was one, and our Chinese driver approached the Chinese guarded checkpoint with pseudo-calm. Beneath our facades of placid disinterest, we were churning. If we made it past this patrol official, weâ€™d be able to reach Kangding, the gateway city of the Tibetan region of Khamba. Behind us another equally decrepit van carried the remainder of our group: five American men, one Canadian gent, and their Chinese driver. The possibility of time in Tibet would be decided in a moment… and by the mood of the stern looking guard wielding a form-stacked clip board like a weapon.
Dianne Aigaki offered three Tibetan tours in the summer of 2011. The goal was to bring much needed supplies… computers, water filtration, children’s clothing, and educational materials… into the area. In return, Americans like me would have exposure to the wonders of the Tibetan land and people.Â Weâ€™d also have a deeper appreciation for the Tibetan peopleâ€™s struggle to retain their identity and country.Â Their plight is soberingly real, and far too often shrouded by the silence of political maneuvering and pressures.
Earlier in the month of July, 2011, several attempts to gain access to the Ganzi region by Dianne Aigakiâ€™s tour group were thwarted as the Chinese Government shut down Tibetan borders. The reason? A group of Ganzi nuns, peacefully protesting Chinese occupation, had been severely beaten by order of Chinese officials. Â It was imperative that such violent police actions be kept secret from the rest of the world. Would our tour leg also dissolve in the darkness of officially mandated hush-ups?
In December, 2012, Dianne was invited to give a Tedx talk in Napa Valley, California. I am pleased to bring you the link, and the chance to hear, in Dianneâ€™s own words, the pain and the resiliency of the Tibetan people. The link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofX5vInwJGA
Did we make it into Tibet in 2011?Â Yes. It is a sordid story that involved bribes, bad roads, bad weather, worried travelers, and a Chinese government* I fail to understand.
It was also a story that gave me the chance to meet Tibetan people…jaw-droppinglyÂ inspirational souls… who will remain in my heart and memories until the end of my days. If you have about 18 minutes, please do check out Dianneâ€™s talk.Â This past fall she published a fictional novel set in Tibet called The Dream of The Turquoise Bee,Â that is recommended reading.
Dianne is woman I’m proud to call my friend. For all the good deeds she does in this world, she expects so little in return. Hear her words, please.
The more we learn about others, the more we learn about ourselves and our place in the world. Learn, my friends.Â Consider, and do good. We need each other.
*(I would like to make it clear that I found a distinction between the policies and actions of the Chinese government, and its people. The majority of the Chinese citizens I met were kind, gracious, and delighted to meet visiting Americans. Our drivers were extraordinary young men, and extremely helpful in our Tibetan journey despite the dangers it posed to their own livelihoods.