3/12/11 Back in Dhasa


Somehow, I’ve been here a week already. I’ve been gone for eight months, and coming back, I just gazed on all the new construction, how many new buildings can a mountain top hold?

My college sociology classes came tumbling back into my head: what is this doing to the rent for the locals as more tourists flood the streets, the people who built this town – who crossed mountains on foot to follow their beloved Dalai Lama into exile, are slowly being edged back down the hills where the cost of living is not so high.

There’s a new ‘nightclub’ in town, which I heard from friends over dinner doesn’t let Tibetans in. This past week was Tibetan New Year, Losar, and also the annual anniversary of the uprisings in Tibet 52 years ago. I’ve been watching the news – there are stories of crackdowns in Nepal against peaceful protesting, ballot boxes being stolen from the Tibetan community; there is also an election going on for the new Kalon Tripa, or Tibetan prime minister, and two days ago, the Dalai Lama announced he would stand down from State duties, and defer totally to the Tibetan Parliament. The change is dizzying.

There is a video from a young Tibetan hip-hop band Yudrug, “New Generation.” It captures the angst of life under a repressive regime – yet its sounds are so Western. I’ve been thinking lately how this video is the perfect representation of the collision between Tibet’s ancient culture, and the modern one it has been forced into within the past five decades.

As I’ve been walking around the streets, finding old friends, learning who has ‘gotten papers’ and left for the West, I feel like I’m in a blender, on high speed. I’m working on the tattoo project, looking both for the tattoos of former political prisoners, but also the tattoos of the young people here. I see so many of the young boys; many sporting home-made tattoos, and fashions that rival downtown New York or Tokyo.

Change in this small mountain town is accelerating.

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