Friday, March 30, 2012

Ten Facts about Tibet -- Writer's Poke #376




The website FreeTibet.org illustrates that the fight for who controls the idea of Tibet is not yet resolved. China might have assumed political and military control, but it has yet to win all hearts and minds. Following is the link to an interesting page on this website that lists ten facts about Tibet. All the facts listed are political and connect specifically to the mission of the website. (http://www.freetibet.org/about/10-facts-about-tibet )


For facts of a more trivial or fun nature, check out FunTriva.com’s Tibet facts page: (http://www.funtrivia.com/en/Geography/Tibet-15031.html) Below are tidbits of knowledge about Tibet that you will gain when you make your visit:

Q: What is the average altitude of Tibet?

A: 14,000 feet. Covering an area the size of western Europe, Tibet consists of a vast plateau at an average altitude of 14,000 feet. It is one of the most sensitive and unique environments on Earth.

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Q: In greetings, Tibetans honor guests by placing a decorative cloth around their neck. What is the name of ceremonial scarf?

A: Kata. A kata can be white or yellow. It’s often decorated with symbols or Tibetan prayers, but can also be plain. They often give these as a greeting but also to honor performers whom they enjoy.

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Q: What is the most common Tibetan funeral method?

A: Sky burial. In sky burial, the body is left on a mountain top. The birds come and feast, thus the lifecycle continues.

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Oh yeah... sometimes Buddhists like to set themselves on fire. It's a method of protest.

How difficult would it be to learn 10 facts about every cultural/country/religion in the world? How might making that commitment matter to our “everyday lives”?

“I’ve been to Nepal, but I’d like to go to Tibet. It must be a wonderful place to go. I don’t think there’s anything there, but it would be a nice place to visit.” – David Attenborough

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Borders -- Writer's Poke #375



Nepal, a country that was never colonized, was only “opened to the outside world” in the 1950s.


Closed societies aren’t all that uncommon throughout history. At one time, Japan and China were “closed” to the West. Today, of course, North Korea is a closed country, although it apparently is toying with the idea of promoting its own brand of cruise-ship tourism.

But what does it mean to be a “closed country”? Are such countries simply xenophobic? Elitist? Scared of strangers? Correct in trying to protect themselves, just like individual homeowners are correct when locking their doors and windows?

Countries, like people, probably have a variety of reasons for building walls around themselves. China built a Wall to keep the “barbarians” out, and so the mindset seems to be that bad guys come from “out there.” Close the borders, and keep out the bad guys.

Nepal and Tibet only has one legal border crossing; only opened in the 1980s, it was commissioned by the Chinese, who dubbed it “the Friendship Bridge.” According to Michael Palin, the Chinese border guards at the Friendship Bridge aren’t all that friendly, but the people he meets in his travels – in Nepal, Tibet, and elsewhere, almost inevitably are friendly. They never exhibit any animosity to him. Hospitality is still a virtue, even in countries with the highest fences and tightest border restrictions.

So perhaps the question is: Why are governments of closed countries so scared of their citizens meeting foreigners?

What are your thoughts about national borders? Are they just lines on a map? What real value and significance do they hold?

"Globalisation has made us more vulnerable. It creates a world without borders, and makes us painfully aware of the limitations of our present instruments, and of politics, to meet its challenges." -- Anna Lindh

"I'm competitive with myself. I always try to push past my own borders." -- Tyra Banks





Monday, March 26, 2012

Butting Heads -- Writer's Poke #374


From Pakistan to India to Nepal, one link in the travels of Michael Palin’s Himalaya experiences is human conflict. Palin doesn’t necessarily dwell on it, but it’s always there, just underneath the surface.
Sometimes the conflict crosses borders, such as the battle over Kashmir, but other times the conflict is internal, such as the Communist insurgence in Nepal.
It might be a stupid and cliché question, but I’ll ask it anyway: Why can’t people all just get along?
In Pakistan, the people who seem to get along best are the ones, like the Kalash, who are completely isolated. But I’m sure that even the Kalash have their issues.
What affects this region? Poverty, illiteracy, lack of resources. Are these, or like reasons, explanation enough for why human conflict is inevitable? Is it the difference in religions practiced, philosophies held? Is the Himalaya region really all that much different from any other region of the planet in terms of human conflicts? In other words, it’s probably not the region itself that produces conflicts – it is the inhabitants themselves. Perhaps, then, it is fair to suggest that wherever humans exist, so will conflict.
What are the most productive ways to handle conflicts? Why are human beings not always so good at handling conflicts productively? Can conflict be considered “healthy”?
“A conflict begins and ends in the hearts and minds of people, not the hilltops.” – Amos Oz