We arrived in Dzamthang Village (may have another name, but is the village attached to Dzamthang Monastery) late in the day.
The annual Buddhist Monks Conference was occurring in the region and there was a heightened police presence and wariness about how our presence might be received. In order to be low profile we spent our first day in the village and climbed a ‘small hill’ behind the village with a picnic lunch. This hill of about 2000m jutted above the village (already at 3,500m!). It was interesting climbing at altitude. The eldest daughter, Shuklah, and a beautiful nun carried our lunch and gear up. We breathlessly managed to just get ourselves up there!!
Again we found that there was no Internet access at all. Lots of Tibetans have iPhones, but no access to anything on-line. Chinese control of the Internet had been obvious since landing in Chengdu – no FaceBook, Twitter, Google, Wikipedia, Linked-In … etc. The absolute control in this region was marked!
The village itself was gorgeous. Yaks, cows, dogs everywhere! The buildings opened to lovely homes and glorious temples. Unfortunately the family was reduced to using the communal drop pit toilet (and of course, so were we!) We later discovered that there was a typical Chinese style bathroom in the house but it leaked and they had been unable to get it repaired for months. No plumber would come. Interestingly the usual ‘Chinese efficiency’ seemed to be selectively applied – their police station and accommodation was the best in town!
Our beautiful host family were very upset by police intimidation and indoctrination processes. We certainly saw people look out of their doors before going out. The Tibetan children were attending the Chinese school (from 8am to 6pm daily, 6 days a week plus at least an hour of homework every day). The kids are getting a very traditional Chinese education, in Chinese. Tibetans are concerned about when the children will learn their own language and culture.
There were Chinese flags everywhere, including on the Monastery and school.
The oldest lady in the house explained some of the challenges they faced. For example villagers were told that they would be paid for extending their houses. Chinese labourers arrived to help and did very shoddy work. Tibetans have had to remove walls, leave houses etc. undertaken in this scheme. Our hosts have had to take down an unsafe wall (this explained the piles of rubble around the boundary of the property). Others were moved into the new homes that were then declared unsafe. We certainly saw piles of stone everywhere and deserted houses all over the place. The Tibetans weren’t reimbursed for work done/paid for as they had been promised.