A Tibetan town out of the blue sky
Tibetan settlements do feel like they can spring out of nowhere. We are not so far from Everest, only 50 miles away, and I wonder how people make a living here.
But actually, this is my Western voice speaking. Tibetans survive in the harshest conditions. By this I don’t just mean that they can live at 16,000 feet, which is our altitude, but they also need very little to survive.
I was reminded of this recently. This trip was taken a year ago and Tibet has been pretty much closed to the outside world since then. The Chinese government is retaliating against the self-immolations of the past year by closing the Province to all but local tourists. My travel permit was revoked for my July visit, and I only know two Westerners, our friends John and Renata, who have made it there this year.
Without tourism revenue things are undoubtedly very hard for Tibetans. I spoke to a Lhasa friend recently and asked how he and his wife are doing, how they’re surviving, and if they have enough to ear. He told me not to worry (of course, he would say that; besides the conversation was being listened on) and he reminded me that Tibetans only need tsampa, i.e. barley flour mixed with milk or tea, to survive. I do believe that’s true, and that’s what he’s been eating. He also said they have vegetables once a week, maybe for the benefit of our friendly listeners. Let’s hope that part is true.