This is a long document describing a trip I made with my 19-year old daughter Stephanie to Shanghai and Beijing during the democracy movement in China and the Tiananmen massacre of June, 1989. It continues with an account of the end of the trip, a visit to the Tibetan community in exile in Dharamsala, India where my son was working as a volunteer at the time.


I do NOT pretend that this is literature, or even decent travel writing. However, it may be interesting to some people, and I put it here partly as a (too tiny) counter to the revisionist history that relegates what happened in Tiananmen to, as the butcher of Tiananmen put it recently, "some pushing in the square". The names of all Chinese have been changed, and there are surely typos and many other stylistic infelicities. It's just a diary written in "real time" as the events were unfolding.


May, 1989, JFK:

June 4, 1989


Despite my fears as to the state of the airplane CAAC would supply, it's turned out to be pretty good. It's a rather Spartan, but perfectly acceptable, 747 with, remarkably enough, lots of leg room. It lacks drink carts and glossy brochures, but it seems to function all right. It's only slightly disconcerting that the tail seems to be not too securely attached to the rest of the plane, and that the fuselage was dented in a few places. But not to worry. The trip from New York to San Francisco was made with a half empty plane. There were only two other non-Chinese aboard, but that's changed as a number of tour groups jumped on in San Francisco. One notices forgotten cultural differences such as the much smaller personal space requirement that the Chinese seem to have, and the loud volume of conversations. They shout at each other from very small distances. One or two friendly people have come up to us and asked if we are going to China to join the students. Others have commented that it's time this thing was put under control. These folks obviously think the authorities should be cracking down more. We wonder what is going through the heads of many of these people who are returning for good, or at least for an unknown, but long, period of time. They must have mixed feelings indeed. For reasons that are unknown to either Steph or me, we have just crossed a snowbound mountainous coast some four hours after leaving San Francisco. Neither of us could figure how this can be. It's clearly not Hawaii, and either the great circle route is more effective than I can imagine and we have just crossed the Northern coast of Alaska, or the pilot is badly lost, hardly an enticing thought. The mountains we see are enormous and look even bigger than what you see on the normal Korean flight which goes through Anchorage. Perhaps the was the Brooks range. I suppose a third possibility is that we've entered a time warp and are now on another planet. Stephanie nods that that's her choice. She's suffering from repeated kicks to the kidneys coming from a small child behind her. I'm suffering from broken toes incurred at the hands, or rather the feet, of the jack-in the-box fellow who occupies the window seat in our group of three. All in all though, it's a reasonably auspicious beginning to the trip.


This is somewhat later in Shanghai, but still on the 29th of May. The rest of the trans-Pacific trip was relatively uneventful, except for another transit of land where there should be no land and a shore on our left side, where there should be no shore. The man on my left besides being a jack-in-the-box also had a very sharp elbow and needed lots of space to eat his dinner, much of which he carved from me. Night caught up with us as we made the coast of China , and we landed in the dark in the still largely lightless Shanghai. The airport hasn't changed much from 1987, although it certainly has from 1980. It's a caricature of a modern airport with lots of light and space and one of those snake-like things that goes out and meets the plane. But there's only one of each and generalized chaos and funny signs are everywhere. We picked up our bags in uneventful fashion. Went though Customs in a flash, exiting into the screaming hordes of Shanghai. Even in the airport you can begin to get the smell of Shanghai and China, but it's only when you get outside the building that it all comes back: one-third diesel exhaust, one-third human waste, and one-third unknown. It's hot, but not oppressive, humid but not disastrously so. It must be a cool day for Shanghai in late May. Wang was there alone with a driver, and I would say our meeting was more standoffish than it had been before. I fear he's forgotten essentially all of his English now, but I wonder whether everyone here isn't simply so preoccupied that it's a pain in the ass to have a couple of foreigners show up at this moment. Maybe so, but for us, of course, its great. We schlepp the bags into the waiting honkmobile, which is a relatively old Japanese car. Its reached the point in China now that you can find old Western gear. We ride out in silence, or at least relative silence, along the Zhongshan Road. Unlike 1987, when for reasons I've never understood, we went through the middle of the city, this was a rapid 25 minute trip out to the University. It was absolutely nothing. Here we are driving into Compound 9 where I stayed in '87 and where I think Mait and I stayed in '85. We're in exactly the same entry, although not quite the same room. We sign in at the desk, as usual. The little store is there on the right and the little restaurant/diningroom on the left. All of this is a distinct unimprovement from the wonderful guest house in Compound 8 where Susan and I were in '83. Absolutely nothing has been upgraded except there's a Chinese television set in the room. All else is less nice. Too bad. Up the stairs we go with Wang helping out with the bags, into our little room which is a smallish single with two single beds and a decrepit bathroom. There is the usual complement of People's Furniture and, all in all, it will work just fine. I give Wang his presents from his daughter, including five cartons of cigarettes. We discuss briefly the schedule which has us in Shanghai for only a couple of days. Apparently the folks in Urumqi have accepted the notion that we will head out to the south,which is all to the good, and I think we're going to be okay. Wang leaves, we inspect the bathroom, scattering cucarachas left and right. These are the big Asian flying variety, which I assure Stephanie do not like people in beds. We also check out the orange water in the shower. We've just had a brief interlude for a lecture by MJ on the difference between German and Asian cucaracha. The Asians are big, fly and like the light and the Germans are little, and scuttle away from the light. We slurped down a great Shanghai beer; unpacked slightly; put up our pictures; put up our map; got out the music, played Dizzy Gillespie, probably the first time ever in Shanghai; poured out a couple of cups of semi-boiling Shanghai chemical water so that it would be cool in the morning and then went for a walk. This was a great idea. It was about 10:30 p.m., we walked up to the main drag, which I think is still the Zhongshan Road, or it may have changed its name by now, crossed over, passed by the not-so-vigilant guards underneath the statue of the Great Helmsman. We then turned right past the student dormitories. The first thing we saw was a classroom building in which an aged gaffer was shutting the windows while a group of maybe 30 students inside gesticulated and crowded around some object we couldn't see. We immediately assumed it had to do with the demonstrations and, as it turned out, we were right. We spent some time trying to figure out what they were doing when two young girls came out, came up to us and said "What are you doing?" I assume they thought we were Shanghai cops in especially effective disguise, but we convinced them we were just two visitors and asked whether this had anything to do with the demonstrations. They said, "Oh yes, there's a girl from Beijing here." She was reading some kind of manifesto or report or whatever into a tape recorder. We also saw people burning lists of something. It was all suitably mysterious and Far Eastern. Our walk continued along one of these side streets which passes the dormitories. Through windows we can see lots of people going to bed and, it appears, studying. There was also a fellow reading the posters on the billboards into a tape recorder with the aid of a flashlight. We passed him three times and each time he was working his way through another poster. We surreptitiously unpinned one poster amid great guilt feelings for disabling the revolutionary effort. On the other hand, what we may have nicked is simply an admonition to "hand in your keys before you leave for the summer" and "don't leave any dirty laundry in your rooms." We'll have to figure out some way to find out when we get back home. Back to bed at 12:30. Up at 7:00 for our first breakfast. Here are Stephanie's last words for the day" "Goodnight Dad."

This is the evening of our first day, which I think is May 30. We did pretty well in terms of sleeping. Stephanie made it to 5:00, I made it to 6:00. We got up, I showered in cold water, but they turned on the hot water at 7:00, just in time for Steph. Breakfast was a boiled egg, some warmish bread and ersatz coffee. Where are the bag dumplings of yesteryear? No one else but us was at breakfast in the relatively cheer-less little diningroom provided. Wang and Huang showed up at 8:30 along with Tao's niece, Yao, Wang, and a friend from Fudan, Miss Fong. They all disappeared with Steph in tow to visit the kindergarten and primary school. I went off with Huang and Wang to the University and spent the morning talking to a couple of Huang's graduate students who were doing what seemed to be competent enough work. Huang mentioned that one of his students wanted to come to the U.S. and I gave him the propaganda spiel about TOEFL and GRE, which I think he took in, but I'm not really sure. I got sprung about 11:00 and went back to read and doze a bit. Steph arrived a little bit before 12:00, looking tired, but having had lots of adventures and having not only taught part of the English class, but discovered the papier-mâché Statue of Liberty somewhere on the campus. Lunch was not the set lunch we used to have but we actually got to order. We had much too much, but pretty good stuff: crispy string beans, a pretty good tofu, and a hot and sour soup that wasn't bad. All this was washed down with two watery beers. Steph was taken on a walk through the campus which is where she discovered the styrofoam Statue of Liberty, and looked at dormitories.

Democracy Statue, Shanghai, May, 1989

I gave a lecture, emphasizing work done by Chinese students in the United States. I had a full-room audience, which surprised me since the University's on strike or partially on strike. There was the usual lack of any questions at all. The students seemed to stay awake and were following at least part of what I said. Back about 4:00 to find Steph sacked out like a pole-axed giraffe and almost unrousable. I dozed and read until 5:15, at which point we were picked up by Wang for a trip into a restaurant. This was the Air Force restaurant, a cheerless bullpen of a room filled with Army officers and louts swilling beer and eating food. The food was good, though not spectacular. We had an all fish dinner: shrimps; scallops, which were good; frog legs, which were delicious; two kinds of fish, one a big, fat enormous river fish I can't identify, and a kind of pompano. Baby eels not done my favorite way, but still pretty good. Mushrooms and greens and finally a soup. Lots of talk about politics. Steph and Wang Nan bicycled and I got some nice pictures of that. Wang and I walked. We all went back to their apartment for a brief cup of tea. I cut it as short as I could because I was passing out now and didn't really need to look at the pictures of Princeton for the tenth time. Can it be that I've actually been to Shanghai too many times? Finally we delivered our minimal presents and received in return a stuffed cat-Panda purse. It's hard to do justice to this object, but we will be carrying it at least as far as Urumqi, at which point I think it might escape into the desert. Back about 8:30 to watch endless ads on Chinavision, which are by far the most interesting thing, as well as a very interesting program on hair transplants. It comes complete with bloody views of the operations, each the more hideous than the one before. Enough already.


This is the evening of May 31, a day that didn't exist in Wang's schedule for us. He forgot that May has 31 days. This must have given him some difficulty because he had nothing planned for us since the day didn't exist. At 8:30 I was trundled off to hear a discourse by one of his graduate students and Stephanie headed for downtown. The discourse proved quite interesting. The guy actually did a fairly good piece of work showing that the zinc-induced decomposition of difluorodibromomethane did not give difluorocarbene although cyclopropanes are the products. It's a genuinely okay piece of work and Wang can be proud of it. We broke up about 11:00 and as we left he received mail confirmation of his invitation to a conference in in the U.S. in July. This means that he will, indeed, be coming to Princeton and that I will have to shell out some months of salary. I tried again to explain to him why I couldn't support him for a full year and I'm not sure I was completely successful. I ride back about 11:30 which gave me half an hour of sack time, badly needed because on this second night I woke up at 2:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. This is typical for me, the first night I sleep pretty well because I'm just so incredibly tired that nothing can interfere with sleep. The second and third nights are tougher. Steph arrived back having toured the Yu/Mandarin garden and having had the appropriate responses to all the Japanese-German-American tours and the somewhat squalid splendor of this concrete garden. We adjourned for lunch, had two beers, chicken with peanuts, and slightly hot sauce and vegetables, which seem to be some kind of collard greens, and which weren't bad. All in all, one has to say that the food at the guest house #9 has improved over two years ago, although certainly it's not comparable in variety to the fang fish and bone soup of our first visits here. The afternoon saw us off to Shanghai for a trip to the Jade Buddha Temple and I'm happy to report that the Jade Buddha is as slinky as ever in her Burmese white cloud garb. A couple of tours of very fat, puffing Americans creaked up the stairs, some of them going up the down stairs to see, the Buddha. They offended Stephanie, but she refrained from making the kind of really deeply seriously nasty and vicious remarks that Mait would have. As we were being hustled out by our two guides, who said "nothing more, nothing more," we stumbled into the Monks' quarters, which is on the right as you go out and found three funeral ceremonies going on. The relatives of he or she who has departed to the great beyond pay for a group of eight or 10 monks to whack gongs, knock knockers, and smash cymbals all the time chanting various prayers designed to expiate the sins of the departed and ease his or her way into heaven. It was fun to revisit this site of Susan's attempt in 1983 at getting sick in the sacred urn. This wasn't allowed, of course, and she was hustled off to the ladies' room which was so nauseating and repellant that all thoughts of being sick disappeared. An effective cure, I thought at the time. Back in the honkmobile, a commercial minivan/taxi, and we drove another 15 minutes into town. I haven't said much about these drives but they are the usual combination of hair-raising near escapes and eye-shutting seat-grabbing terrifying moments. Our cowboy driver should have have been arrested 10 times on the trip in, but by some miracle he escaped serious accident. We changed money at the Peace Hotel, a loathsome place filled with tourists and Chinese in "Philip-Morris boy" bellhop costumes and then took a half-hour walk down the bund. We narrowly escaped a two-hour walk down the bund which would have been one-and-a-half hours too much. The crowds jostled and the babies screamed and pissed over the sidewalk. Ice cream vendors hawked their wares by clacking wood blocks together in advertisement and we viewed the European buildings on this Chinese Harbor with some distaste. Shanghai has nearly become a real city. It's still terribly shabby around the edges, crumbly concrete and diseased rubble being visible at all times and in all places. But there are still some reasonable looking buildings, shops filled with all sorts of stuff and one can perhaps see the beginnings of a future for this place. [Ed note: remember this was 1989. Shanghai now looks like Hong Kong]. It's helped by the fact that the people are no longer as shabby as they were before. All of this raises the complicated political questions of how does one induce change without making it so rapid that the changers become overthrown and/or the opponents of change repress all. Clearly that's not been solved here. There were no signs whatsoever downtown of the recent demonstrations. We taxied back to Fudan, I nearly comatose, Stephanie in pretty good shape, and arrived about a quarter to five, just in time for the cocktail hour. We played a nice Dizzy Gillespie tape and followed it by Tommy Flanagan, about as good a combination as one could imagine. Here's a couple of things I forgot to mention. First of all, the overhead projector used by Wang's student was a Chinese-made device which roars like a hurricane rendering the speaker inaudible at a range of about three feet. Wang got a number of nasty shocks today every time he touched the machine. That doesn't mean that they jettison the device, it just means that they put the overheads on more circumspectly. I don't know what the juice is in this part of the world, or I forget, but clearly they're taking some risks here. Second, a person down the hall from us in the guest house who's leaving left a pile of books in the hallway and we picked up a copy of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" for Stephanie. A more appropriate book for Xinjiang I cannot imagine and, more important, there was also a copy of an item I had unbelievably stupidly left to the last minute at Princeton and not been able to get, "The Lonely Planet China Guide." We had no map of Kashgar and no information about either it or Urumqi. So I was delighted to pick up this slightly out of date but nonetheless indispensable book. It describes the sites we are scheduled to see in Urumqi and I'm happy and surprized to see that they are supposed to be great. So that's a big plus and I'm delighted to have the map and a little bit of information about this inaccessible place. Down to dinner: sauteed mushrooms not bad but not great, and a pretty good chicken and peppers dish. What we both enjoyed the most, however, and I'm reluctant to tell this, was a dish of French fries in pepper. All told, washed down with a couple of bland, but nonetheless, delicious beers, this made for a dinner that couldn't be beat. We went for a walk afterwards inspecting the two kittens imprisoned beneath a plastic milk box in the front yard. We speculated about liberating them later on from their fate which we were reluctant to speculate too much upon, and then walked over through the campus to see the replica of the Statue of Liberty. It's not bad. I took several photographs of the zillions of people huddled about reading wall posters. One feels again the isolation of the language. It would really be wonderful to know what the things said. A slow walk back to dormitory #9 and a bath for me in wonderful hot water. I fell asleep in the bath, a first for me, and Stephanie was nearly left alone to explain her drowned father.


Thursday morning and up for the usual breakfast, a good egg, sweetish almost chocolate-tasting toast and a little bit of slightly grayish looking jam. There's also a pad of butter which Stephanie never uses but I do. Stephie says it tastes like the water, but she has no experience of real Shanghai water. The intense chemical smell is gone. In the old days, you had to pour out the water and allow it to air for several hours before it became drinkable unless it was diluted substantially with scotch. These days, it just smells bad. There's been a vast improvement. Off we went at 8:30 to the Shanghai museum. Wang came along with us because he is off to Beijing. He hopes to wrap up a visa and passport in order to attend his conference and come on to Princeton. The first stop is the Peace Hotel. Wang jumps out and we head for the museum. It's roughly at this point that we discover that our guide hasn't a clue whether we're supposed to pick up Wang or not. She assumes he's told us and, of course, he's told us nothing. After some backing and forthing, we find the museum, only to discover that the Ceramic Section is closed until this afternoon, so we won't get to see it. The rest is pretty much good luck, though. The bronzes are open and the whole place has been completely redone. Instead of minimal Chinese signs and bronzes in cases so dark that it's essentially impossible to see anything, there is a freshly carpeted, clean, and reasonably well-lit set of exhibits with rather good labeling in both Chinese and English. We got there early, and so for the first hour were relatively undisturbed, but then the tour groups descended and it became much more difficult. It was a real pleasure to walk very slowly through the rooms with a chance to look hard at stuff you wanted to see. Our guide began to get nervous, however. She had told the driver we would be out at 10:30 and here it was 10:30 and we were still in the first part of the museum. An odd question comes up of why she told the cab driver we'd be back so soon when we have no time pressure whatsoever today. Steph says it's probably because they needed to get the car back and there may be some truth in that. They are paying rent by the hour and I suppose it's a budgetary question. It didn't really matter because the ceramics weren't open although I'll bet anything we could have gotten in with a little perseverance. The third section, the paintings, is still in the old format, dark and indecipherable. We got back into the car and here occurred one of those typical logistical screw-ups which happen all the time. Once more we raised the question of what to do about poor Wang. Was he, in fact, waiting for us on a corner? Or had he planned to make his own way back to Fudan? Nobody knows. Steph and I suggest that we go back to the Peace Hotel and make a quick look for him. After a little bit of negotiating it's decided - we think - that this is what we're going to do. But at this point, the cab wheels around and heads directly back to Fudan. We, of course, only realize this after a while, and it becomes clear that Wang was to be left twisting slowly in the wind. Well, he probably did want to get back on his own, anyway. Back for lunch of the spicy chicken we liked, the peppery French fries which can't be beat, and a couple of beers. We pack, take a rest, a then go for a walk through the campus, parts of which are really in very good shape now. It has a feeling of green to it, which is very rare in Shanghai, although, of course, it is a pretty dusty green and around every corner is the usual array of slag heaps and crumbling rubble. We arrive back in time to hump the bags downstairs, give parting presents to Huang and Zhen and head out for the airport. This time we leave on time. The driver is not asleep, as he was on my last trip, and it looks like we're going to avoid the near utter disaster of my last trip to Chengdu. Wang has secured a ticket on the same flight, so he's off to Beijing, too. The check-in procedure is the usual horror show, lines irregularly formed and cut into by important cadres and escorted big noses. They want us to send our bags on another plane. This and other assorted atrocities are avoided, largely by the adroit Wang. The plane is an airbus and very comfortable, nicely handled and the flight is without event. We're all in separate seats and surely this needn't have happened. There's no care taken by the personnel to accommodate anybody's needs or wants. Into Beijing at about 8:00. No problems with the bags. Out we go humping our duffels as Wang, who's here for six days and living out of a tiny briefcase, helps us. Chan is there waving madly. She's wearing a dapper little suit, is thinner than before and looks terrific. I had heard rumors about ill health and there's no sign of it at all. She is smiley, speaks rather easily and it looks like we're off to a reasonable start. We get an old-style car, not one of the new Toyotas and Datsuns, and zoom off down the long airport road towards Beijing. Stephie makes the accurate observation that if Shanghai is Newark, then Beijing looks like L.A. The schedule seems promising, there are lots of good sights scheduled and we think there's going to be time to get down to the Square. There's not much political discussion, although the subject certainly comes up. It appears as though Chan thinks it's an alright idea to go to the Square as long as we're not too obvious about it. She says it can't be put on the official program because higher-ups would be offended. We are in the same hotel - the Friendship Hotel - we always stay at and we have a comfortable single room downgraded, I suppose, from the old three-room suite I used to have for economy reasons. Nevertheless, it certainly is very comfortable. There's an English language Chinese television station and we listen to the news which tells us of angry peasant protests in support of marshall law, transparently and ineptly orchestrated by the regime. It's done by a man/woman pair obviously imitating Western anchor people. Someone just walked in our door without any attempt at knocking. In the old days they'd just walk in and continue. You could be standing stark naked in the middle of your room and the tea-wallah person would walk in, deliver the tea, lecture you in Chinese about walking around without your clothes on and then leave. Nowadays, they will still walk in, it appears, but at least they walk back out. This is really a creepy hotel. I've never liked it. It's perfectly luxurious enough, but it's Russian style, and filled with foreigners. There's not the slightest Chinese aspect to it and I just don't take to the place. We're too late for dinner, so we go down and are directed to the after-hours restaurant. It's an utterly loathsome Chinese attempt to be trendy and Western, which completely fails and manages only to capture the worst of the West. This is an aside: Stephanie has turned on the television and here we have on Chinavision prime time an equation for the hydrolysis of a fatty acid to make glycerol. Just a second, I'm going to take a picture. Where was I? Back at the hotel. Anyway, we had a minimal meal for maximal cost in a cheerless rude kitschy place. Nonetheless, we're okay. Back to unpack a bit and prepare for tomorrow. Too sleepy to tape so I've probably forgotten some stuff.


This is now Friday the second. Up about 5:00, which isn't so bad. Bird calls, and not very many horrible obnoxious spitting noises from outside. Stephanie is zonked away like a wiped out giraffe. A wonderful hot shower, then off to breakfast. Breakfast is in building #2, I think. At any rate we find it, at 7:00 and we go to sit down at the communal table: a professor and his wife whose meeting has been canceled, so they're heading back; a Chinese gentleman who lives in New Zealand; and on my right a balding American and his Chinese guide. Someone says "Oh what do you do?" I say "Well we're on our way to Pakistan and I'm giving some chemistry lectures." Someone on my left then says, "Oh, this gentlemen is a chemist," pointing to the man on my right whom I don't recognize. I say "Oh" for about the tenth time and introduce myself. He looks at me dumbfounded and says "Oh, I've had to come all the way to China to meet you. I'm Allan Marchand." Allan Marchand is a good organic chemist at North Texas State who does physical organic chemistry but, in fact, I have never met him. It's astonishing. We're sitting side-by-side at the end of the earth. We discuss many chemical things including Ji Li who's due to arrive in Princeton in July. Steph goes off at 7:30 with a bright-faced young Chinese woman of indeterminate age in a yellow dress which could only be described as a "frock." I'm then picked up at 8:30 by Chan and we go off to give the lecture. I have the usual tea with the Director, a Professor Wu, whom I'll have to meet again this afternoon, then give my talk for about an hour and a quarter. I think it's reasonable enough and it's nice that I can talk about Chen's work in this place where he comes from. Then we are off to pick up Steph at the primary school. She's walking now in the company of Miss Lu, the girl in the yellow dress and her husband, a thinnish young man with a nice look to him. She's had a good morning, relatively easy conversation and found out lots of stuff. You'll have to see her notes for the details. We're hoping very much to get some time at the Square. Everybody talks about it, but so far no action. This afternoon is going to be grim for me. I have to go back to the Institute and listen to a lot of talk from people I can't understand about stuff of limited interest, but it's part of the payment for this trip, so I'll do it. Steph is off to the Summer Palace. Maybe she can get a detour to the Square. I hope so.


This is, I think, Saturday morning, June 3. Yesterday was not one of our better travel days. It was one of those confidence-crushing, resolve-withering its-hard-to-keep-your-cool-in-the-face-of-inscrutable frustration days. It started innocently enough with a minimal breakfast that I think I've already talked about at which I met Allan Marchand, followed by a decent enough lecture at the Institute for Organic Chemistry. Steph had a good morning and we ate a hotel-style minimal decent lunch. Several not-very-interesting dishes thrust at us followed, at a great long interval and after three askings, by some rice. Steph spent the afternoon at the Summer Palace and had a good time getting off the usual tourist beaten track and I spent an hour or two talking to three different groups at the Institute for Organic Chemistry. As usual, there's no evidence whatsoever of anything happening. A person tells you about his ESR machine and all the things they're doing with their ESR machine, but it sits in a dusty corner of what appears to be a disused brickyard, and isn't turned on. The computer terminal might be in a hood, but there's no obvious attempt to keep the thing in decent shape. One of the people had built a photoacoustic calorimetry set-up, however, that must have taken some effort. On the ride back to the hotel, Chan pulls out the airplane ticket to Urumqi, somewhat sheepishly it appears in retrospect, and presents financial demands. First of all, they are going to charge us for an extra day for Stephanie. I presume this means Monday night. We arrived about 9:00, paid for our own dinner, and we'll be out of here on Sunday long before that time, so it's a simple rip-off. I'm also required to pay in dollars. This is presumably so the Weiban can convert it on the Black Market. They won't accept anything else. Chan seemed a little embarrassed about this and said she would go back to argue, but I told her not to. It pissed me off though. We're taking practically no meals in this hotel, and Stephanie adds no, absolute no, incremental cost to the entertainment. The airplane ticket cost has also doubled. It's now about $210 to be paid in Foreign Exchange Certificates. This has what appeared to me to be profound and dreadful implications. If this price is doubled, what has happened to the cost for the Urumqi to Kashgar flight? If that's doubled, and if we have to pay for both of us, we're in serious money problems. I also realize that it's a weekend and there's no way to get more cash back-up out of American Express. I try to explain my fears to Chan and I think I'm successful, although it's possible that she just thinks I'm trying to get out of paying. That's not the case. I just need to have enough money as a back-up for emergencies when we're in the middle of nowhere, and to have your travel costs doubled without notice and without any firm idea of whether it's going to happen again, is difficult. We didn't get much dinner that night because we were due to leave for the opera at 6:15. Here there was a perfectly exquisite example of a Chinese-style solution to a problem. We arrived half an hour early, tried to explain to the man in the empty diningroom that we had to leave at 6:15. He understood all right and finally with a smile said "okay" and showed us to two seats. We were under the impression that we would get something to eat. His solution to getting us off his back was to sit us down and do nothing else. A couple of beers did arrive, but dinner didn't arrive until just as we had to leave at a little bit before 6:00. So the problem for the waiter goes away, or at least its outside manifications go away, no solution is achieved, and we get practically no dinner. A metaphor for the kinds of things that happen here all the time. The drive into the city takes a lot longer than I remember and is convoluted and twisted in its route, whereas I recall a straight-line shot into the center. We pass Tiananmen Square which looks exactly like Washington in 1969. There are tents and flags everywhere. The famous replica of the Statue of Liberty is there and people are milling about. We take lots and lots of pictures, but are not allowed to get out of the car. It's "too dangerous" and there are "too many detectives." I'm sure there were.

This is a lousy picture taken through a cab windshield, but if you look closely (and have a good monitor) you can see the Statue of Liberty in the background just to the left of the building. This was the square on Friday night.

We park nearby, however, and walk around the corner to the opera. Chan is not with us; she's dealing with one of Wang's problems, I think, and perhaps trying to find out some information for us on the price of the Urumqi-Kashgar flight. In her place is a nice, but ineffectual, graduate student who tells us that he hates the opera, which, of course, makes us feel good. He said he took part in demonstrations early on, but now its too dangerous to his future and that politics is very important in China. The opera is only one-third full, about 50% big noses and 50% Chinese. The temperature is 10,000 degrees and the thing goes on forever. The first opera was one of the fairly interesting acrobatic ones. The second one, a long drawn-out affair concerning interpersonal arguments, ends with a maroon magistrate meting out justice, people being led off in chains still arguing with each other, others are being whipped. I had several naps from which I was awoken occasionally by Stephanie-wielded elbows. Back to the car and back to the "Friendship" Hotel. We go right through the Square this time. It's a different scene at 9:30. The activity level is up, loudspeakers are blaring from both sides, the government and students. People are standing around listening, laughing occasionally. I tried to get the car to stop so that we could get out and look around, but was told that this was much too dangerous. There is no apparent danger and certainly no danger to us. Whether there is danger to them, if we get caught, or apprehended, or observed, or whatever, I'm not sure. I suppose there is. Steph and I are full of plans to get back down here on our own, but I suspect that we will be carefully cosseted and not allowed to do it. Wang calls about 10:30 with the news that his visa application has gone well and that he'll know tomorrow, which is today, whether he gets international airplane money. He tells me that I'm the first foreign visitor to the Chemistry Department, perhaps to the University, in Urumqi, just as I was the first to Fudan in 1980. We're up this morning at 6:00 after a night filled with not much sleep to catch the honkmobile at 7:15 for the Great Wall. Perhaps in this city which is now somewhat divested of its usual tourist hordes, it won't be as quite the usual madhouse. We'll see.


This is Sunday, June 4. Yesterday was a typical tourist day in old Beijing. While the whole city is going to hell in a handbag, Mait and Stephanie are shuttled off to the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. We managed to scrounge a little breakfast and then met Chan at about 7:15. She started off with a suggestion that we not go out of town, but instead stay in town and try to determine what the airplane price from Urumqi to Kashgar is. She's been unable to figure that out and clearly isn't willing or able to do it by telephone. It's one of those unbelievably infuriating things about China, which is compounded by about one-third misunderstanding of the situation on our part, one-third uncooperative bureaucracy on the part of the Chinese who simply don't want to tell you anything unless you have some kind of official authorization to know it (and that includes things like airplane prices) and one-third incompetence on the part of our Chinese keepers and guides who don't know how to operate in a system in which that kind of information is really available if you dig hard enough. However, we've been assured that they are going to pay for my ticket and that the distance from Urumqi to Kashgar is much smaller than the distance from Beijing to Urumqi, so even if they double the price, it shouldn't be so bad. However, I could counter, if I could make them understand it, with the fact that in New York the price from Beijing to Urumqi was identical from that from Urumqi to Kashgar. If they doubled one, they've probably doubled or tripled the other. But it seems there's little to be done about it except simply take the chance. The road out to the Wall and Ming Tombs takes less than an hour now. No more winding through little villages, but super highway all the way, at least super highway Chinese style. There's also no traffic early in the morning on a Saturday. That's very unusual and either everyone's staying in town or no one's in town, which is the more likely reason. Fifty thousand tourists are rumored to have canceled trips to Beijing. More on rumors later. It's a coolish, foggy day and we arrive at the Great Wall at about 8:30. There's very few people there, just a few Chinese Army louts and the odd tourist. We start up to the left as usual, because Nixon went to the right and in 15 minutes or so, Steph and I have hiked up to the top. Chan hangs back running out of gas. The few Chinese on the Wall compete with us when they see us. Their response to seeing a Westerner climbing the very steep slippery steps is to speed up and pass us and then later to be found gasping against a side rail. We walk well past the last person. No longer is it easy to walk out on to the real wall, the unreconstructed wall, because they've extended the renovation another half-mile or so. But you can now sit up here, at least on a day like today, look off towards Mongolia and imagine what it was like years and years ago. We take a few tourist pictures, reconnect with Chan and down we go, a much harder trip. At the bottom, Chan buys Stephanie and her nephew, or something like that, a t-shirt. We reciprocate with juice, which is, alas, absolutely undrinkably bad, and off we go jiggity jog to the Ming Tombs. These have been spruced up a lot. Again, today there are no crowds or at least not the usual style of crowds. Stephanie says there are "six trillion thousand people," but there really weren't. The museum part has been moved out of its tiny little shed into a rather nicely done great hall. Immense camphor trees, I think, are holding up the ceiling, all now protected from the tourists by plastic shields. There are well lit cases showing the gold and silver objects found in the Ding Ling Tomb. My favorite object was a yellow robe in which I would like to lecture organic chemistry. On walking about we acquired a pine cone or two and then we are off to the second site which traditionally is the excavated mound from which these objects were taken. First we stop for lunch in the same place I've had lunch twice before and it was a vast, rather good affair. I talk a bit to Chan about next year, offer her four months at Princeton, which Stephanie says delights her. We worry a bit about her son who wants to come here and study psychology. He's got a 573 TOEFL and any reasonable undergraduate program would be a problem. I am personally very pessimistic that this is going to work. The best thing for him to do seems to me is to study as hard as he can on his English, get as much psychology as he can in Hangzhou and then try to come here for some graduate program,which could give him a year to catch up, at which point he'd probably do quite well. Chan says that the Chinese are worried that the situation will change and the door now open, or at least ajar, will close and people will not be allowed out. One can understand their sense of unease given the current situation and the genuine instability of Chinese politics and policy. The Tomb chambers are not really very interesting. Everything is a replica or almost everything is a replica and there's not very much of it. It's definitely a one star site. More wandering around. Back to the car, we shoot into our wonderful Russian-style hotel on the outskirts of Beijing. We arrive about 2:30, there's time for a nap, before which we change money, and are hustled by the hotel staff for postcard purchases. Tonight it's off to dinner with ??? a lady who wrote to me in Princeton, and who even sent her son to talk to me, who is a graduate student in Engineering of some kind, she has tried to hustle a job with me for some years.


Tape of Radio News Report


Well, this is out of order now, but that was the end of a news broadcast which I'll come back to. It's 6:00 in the morning here on the fourth of June, Beijing time. Okay I'll go back to the narrative.


We were due to go out to dinner with these people at 6:30. Rumors are beginning, however, at this time to bounce around a bit. One hears of students marching from Nanjing towards Beijing, of bullet holes discovered in taxis and of a hunger strike begun by four Chinese intellectuals in the Square. Last night (June 3) there were attempts by the Army to reach the Square, which were again turned back, but as far as I can tell, and it's not easy, the Army got a lot closer this time than they had in the past. The number of students and people in the square is beginning to swell again and one can generally feel the tension rising. Anyway, we dozed for the afternoon, and went out to dinner which was not a great affair. This woman is somewhere between neurotic and crazy, and obsessed with getting out to the United States. She tells us about her family over and over, which clearly has some great successes. She's married to a sweet little old man. We're later showed a wedding picture taken of them years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and they're very, very cute. Chan is there as well and it's kind of a desultory evening. Our host talks non-stop. Finally, after dinner she says that she spent seven years in jail from 1966-1973, describes some of her conditions, handcuffed behind the back, beaten, etc., etc. These are horrible stories of the kind I'd heard before from many others. One can see scars on her hands, now that one looks, which clearly came from the manacles. Now one understands better her mental state, but there's still not very much we can do for her. Her husband sits quietly through all this. I think he's probably been of great support to her, understands what's happened to her, but there isn't much that he can do either. We exchange presents and take our leave about 9:00. It wasn't a very happy evening, mainly because of her obvious distress, but it was compounded partly by our inability to do anything about it. Steph and I are really wiped out. Our eyes are grainy from all the sand of the day. We try to get the BBC again on the radio only to fail. There's nothing on the television set, and so we go to bed. Steph tosses and turns until about midnight she says, and I wake up at 1:30. At this point I hear people outside listening to the radio. That's so odd that I begin to get nervous and I wake up further, listening for I'm not sure what. Within five minutes I hear an ambulance and it seems clear that it's hit the fan. We're not on any particular hospital route. We've never heard them before. Off and on I dozed fitfully through until dawn. I hear these sirens many times and the fear is that the Army has taken back the Square and if they have, there's clearly been a lot of casualties. Of course, now I know that has happened and it's easily to rationalize, but even in the middle of the night, it seemed likely that terrible things had taken place. We get up at 5:00 and talk to each other a bit. It's getting light about 5:00 here. There's no unusual activity outside, but still every 20 minutes or so, or perhaps longer, one hears in the distance the ambulance sirens. The little square in front of the hotel is deserted, which is also somewhat unusual. Where are the taxis? Well, they're not here right now. At 6:00 I get Radio Japan. The BBC is mysteriously absent, not apparently jammed, just absent. I don't know, maybe they've moved their frequency or come on later on Sundays, but Radio Japan tells it all. The Chinese Army began a massive assault some time in the middle of the night, started by firing over the heads of the people, but then fired into them. They've apparently cleared the Square and are now holding it. The first reports from Radio Japan are of at least 60 dead, possibly 200 or maybe more wounded. There's not much other news and we're not quite sure what to do. We're around the corner from Peking University and it's tempting to walk over there and see what the situation is. On the other hand, at a time when people are being shot left and right, maybe it makes more sense to sit still. I didn't mention that the radio reported that tanks were used in the assault. That's all for now.


This is still Sunday the fourth, about a quarter of ten in the morning. We walked over to breakfast. There was no Western breakfast and service was notably slow. We seem to be the only people with much news. Few other foreigners are leaving the hotel. Fear and loathing in Beijing. At 7:30 or 7:40 we met Chan and the young graduate student who went with us to the opera. They were clearly shaken. There are three or four people missing from the Department that they don't know about yet. Others are known to be injured. We said that we didn't want to do any tourist things, not that they would have been easy to do in any event, and our driver took off for home. He took looked somber and worried. No one at this point knows what's up with Urumqi. The sticking points are two: (1) does the plane go this afternoon under these conditions, and (2) everyone is worried about us going on to Kashi by ourselves. I sense some changes coming in travel plans and that's going to be complicated because we have no way to get from here to Delhi and it's looking increasingly like we're stuck. Much to my surprise, Chan suggests that we walk over to Peking University. I think their curiosity and desperation for news overcomes at this point their concerns for us, so down the street we go, make a left at the corner, crossing against the traffic, which seems very normal. You wouldn't know from walking out of the hotel to this corner that anything was going on. Once you enter the street in which the University sits though, things change, and as we walked in there a rather frantic young person ran up and handed us several crudely printed manifesti. The street is crowded and as we make our way down it we begin to hear the loudspeakers coming from the University. In a minute one can see a couple of burning cars outside the main entrance blocking both lanes of the highway. Most of the cars are destroyed by now, but there are a few flames and some acrid fumes drifting by. We spend the next hour and a half just standing there listening to the loudspeakers and watching the crowd. Every once in a while an ambulance comes by. At other intervals a truck will manage to make its way through carrying students returning from the Square. Much applause for these people as they wave and give "V for Victory" signs. They've got red or white bandanas around their heads, look rather disheveled and some of them stagger into the University helped by others. I can't tell how much of this is theater, how much is real. Every once in a while one of them will hold up an Army helmet or a tear gas cannister or a couple of bullets. Much applause for this. The loudspeakers give a series of talks by various people. Some of them are people returning from the Square, others teachers at the University or students. There are descriptions of what happened. Thousands of people killed, people crushed by tanks, citizens and women and children shot randomly in the streets by the Army and so on. Interspersed with political talks, "Down with Li Peng, Death to Deng Xiao-ping," great applause at this. In fact, this elicits the biggest reaction by far. Many people are in tears and I would estimate the crowd at at least 5,000, perhaps more if it continues down the street past where we were. Eventually, Chan says she going to go to the Institute to try and call CAAC. I can't possibly imagine that that's going to be successful and after a little while, as the talks give way to music, Steph and I decide to walk back to the hotel. At this point we really have no idea what to do.


Radio Chinese News Report


Well, that's an interlude, a sample from about 4:30 on Sunday, the fourth. I'll catch up to it in the narrative. Steph and I walked back, sat on the front step of the Friendship Hotel for an hour and a half talking to various passers-by and just generally hanging out. People's attitudes range from the absolutely loathsome - self-centered, joking, and no sympathy at all for the situation which, whatever one's political leanings, is a pretty sad one - to the fairly reasonable. Eventually, Chan shows up. I don't know how she's traversed all the distance in this time, but she has and she got through to CAAC which says, predictably enough, that we can not fly from Urumqi directly to Pakistan, but that the airport is open and everything is normal. We're really at a loss for what to do and we sit there on the step debating various options: just forging ahead, which probably when viewed from the Princeton perspective seems the thing to do; delaying a day, which will cost us some amount and induces the complication of there being no way to reach the people in Urumqi, since it's Sunday and no one has a telephone number anyway, and what the hell are we going to do, to bagging the whole business and heading out somehow. We haven't really settled on anything. Chan phones CAAC again to find that there is a substantial penalty for changing the airplane. This is ironic since it's going to rain and they'll probably cancel it anyway. She seems as uncertain as are we. Finally, I decide to go upstairs, see if I can find my letter from Xinjiang and hope that it has a phone number on it. I do that and, of course, it has no phone number. As I am pouring through my Xinjiang file, hotel room ajar, two people walk in, both Chinese, knocking on the door saying "Professor Jones?" It turns out to be X ....and a henchman whose name is Mr. Tong and whose first name I'll get later. Tong is a burly, with-it guy, wearing blue jeans. X is older, distinguished looking and has a look of sadness of his face that is impossible to describe. He talks softly, politely and sincerely and essentially urges me to get out of the country. Now this is comprised of at least two things: first, probably a genuine concern for my safety and second, a real concern that he has serious problems to deal with and the last thing he needs right now is a bunch of foreigners bopping around giving him trouble. I explain with the aid of a map that we can't just go back to the U.S. because our return ticket is from Delhi and I don't think it can be changed. He understands, but explains that although Urumqi is probably quiet now, he expects the trouble to spread there in two or three days. There's not such a difficulty in Urumqi because we'd be protected, but if it got to Kashgar where we're on our own, it would be much more difficult to know what to do. Who knows if the bus will run. If there's a general strike in the country, which seems a possibility at this time, at least the students are calling for it, and it's an ugly mood, then what do we do? Well, those are good questions. He says "Why not go to Urumqi and then directly to Pakistan." We explain there's no plane and he nods. Finally he says "Well, suppose we can get you out to Hong Kong, is that acceptable?" After some thought and worrying about it, I say "Yes, we'll do that if that what you think best." It's going to cost us a fortune, I suppose, but it may the most prudent thing to do. He also suggests Bangkok, which would be interesting although I have absolutely no preparation for that country, and I can deal with Hong Kong pretty much on my own. So, we go downstairs again, confer with Chan who's waiting, and then we go off to lunch. Chan takes our passports, my credit card, and Mr. Tong has our tickets. Now we are utterly identificationless, safety moneyless, and cast adrift in a country under revolution. Lunch was mediocre. I think I'll break now for the 5:00 BBC.


Radio News Report


At 2:00 we walk back down to Peking University, which is relatively quiet now. To compound our difficulties, there are still lots of people hanging around but no loudspeakers. There are many small groups, which appear to be small lectures led by a young person talking to a surrounding group of 10 or 15 maybe, sometimes all of young people, other times containing people who are obviously workers. Earnest enthusiasm seems to be the mode of these events, rather than anger. There are now some pictures taken form the Square, I suppose, of bodies, crushed bicycles, lots of blood on the ground. There's a large Chinese flag at half-mast in the entranceway in the place usually reserved for the Statue of Chairman Mao, long ago taken down at Peking University. We spend roughly an hour and again walk back to the hotel.

Sign on a university wall, June, 1989

There doesn't seem much to do so we go up and fall asleep. Up again about 4:15. I may have the chronology off by an hour or so. It's now raining and we can hear lots of thunder. This is distinguished from the gunshots, the clear gunshots we heard this morning. Again, there doesn't seem much to do, so we wander downstairs, slip on our Susan-purchased rain jackets and walk once more down to Peking University. Actually, as I was waking up I could hear the loudspeakers turn on again and that's what drew us down there. People are now huddled under bicycle racks, under doorways, along the street, crouched under umbrellas. There's still a lot of people around, but not nearly what there was this morning. The loudspeaker action is what you heard earlier on this tape. More small groups are talking earnestly but not as many as before, presumably because of the rain. No sign whatsoever of the military. We get a closer look at the pictures from the Square this time and they're really horrible. We spend maybe half an hour this time. Nothing much seems to be happening, perhaps we will return later, perhaps it will seem too dangerous, I don't know. Again, we don't know quite what to do with our passports, Visa cards, and tickets gone. So we're now cooling our heels back in the good old Friendship Hotel. There was nothing on the 5:00 BBC news. There's apparently been little foreign response to these events. The Japanese are mainly worried about investment credits and Mr. Bush has produced a typically vapid and whiney statement. Should we have pushed on to Urumqi? Who knows, I certainly don't. I'm not sure where we are now. It's about 7:20. We've had another conversation with Chan and with the guy named Tong in the blue jeans. It now appears that, first of all, we shall not get any refund on the money we've paid to go to Urumqi. Second,we shall have to pay cash up front to get out of here and third, nobody really knows how to get us out of here. We're going to have to do it by ourselves and that will have to start tomorrow morning, early. It's strangely normal right now. It's a nice evening after the rain. It's cleared up, unfortunately I suppose, because it will give more room for action to both sides. The loudspeakers aren't going, people are chattering outside. There's even some traffic out in the street and it's very surreal. It's the Graham Greene Hotel at the end of the world. Steph and I both feel a great malaise. We don't know whether we did the right thing, although I think under the circumstances there really wasn't much else we could do. We don't see the future very clearly. It's going to cost us a fortune to bail out of this situation and underlying it all is the fact that several hundred people got mowed down by the People's Army last night. Somehow it's hard to keep that in mind and to keep perspective on what's happening here. Perhaps the best metaphor for it is the look on X's face early this afternoon. We went to dinner, which was a repeat of lunch. I think they're running out of food here. Only about 20 of us left it seems. At least that's what's in the diningroom. There's not a whole lot of gallows camaraderie, however, and people are complaining about the food. I can see Steph's face harden as some simpering foreigner complains. It really is disgusting. After dinner, Steph and I walk back to the University.

Another sign on a tree in front of the university, June, 1989

The street is full again. I would say there are more people now than there were this morning. Many are clustered in groups of 10 or 20 around a central figure as before. There are no loudspeakers going. It's just a general milling around. After about half an hour people appeared from what appears to be some kind of student command building, running out on the roof and on an upper balcony with handfuls of crudely produced newspapers. The crowd surges forward as the students throw this material over the fence. Many climb the fence the better to receive this stuff and then throw it back to the students. It's an ocean of people, a sea of dark Chinese hair with hands raised up to catch this newspaper. If you ever wanted to see what a difference a real newspaper made to a country, this picture would do it. Steph and I wonder where the hell ABC news is. They came in on the plane with us. Steph charitably thinks they are filming Tiananmen Square. I suspect they're all in the bar at the Beijing Hotel. A light rain begins to fall and we amble back to the hotel. On the way a young man comes up to us and hands us one of the newspapers which I'll try to mail back to Princeton. There's no feeling in this crowd of impending violence. The crowd was scattered a bit by the rain but it isn't surging back and forth and no one is nervously looking over his or her shoulder. It's a funny feeling. We're not part of the rumor mill, so we don't know what ideas are floating around. Our driver was very well tuned in, he knew exactly what was going on and, I suspect, perhaps our other hosts do too, even though they didn't say anything to us the night before. Back to the room and to bed at 9:00 or thereabouts, listening for sounds outside.


This is the morning of Monday, June 5, another gray day. It was a quiet night, neither of us heard anything. The news this morning from VOA is of scattered events during the night, of streets blocked, but not of confrontation. There are apparently wide spread demonstrations in other Chinese cities. Our problem for the moment is what to do. Our hosts are not capable of solving this problem. That realization took a long time to come, but it's really up to us. My notion worked out in the night is actually to try and stay here another day or so, just to see what happens, then to try and get a plane for Hong Kong on the sixth, which will give us the seventh and eighth to work out travel arrangements to Delhi. Then we'll head for Delhi on the ninth, try to find an airport hotel, which must exist, and then meet Susan and Mait on the morning of the tenth. It's very quiet this morning. It's 6:00 a.m., but at 6:00 a.m. on a normal Chinese morning, there's a lot of activity. The road, which is a main road right outside the hotel, is very quiet. There are occasionally trucks, but nothing resembling real traffic. As we came home last night, we noticed that the buses, rather ineffectually blocking the main street, had been removed, but the burnt-out vehicles opposite the university where the students clearly have a tighter control, were still there. We'll probably walk over this morning and see what's happening. We did that after breakfast and nothing was happening. To us, it looked like a normal work day morning. Breakfast was cooking on the sidewalks, there were zillions of bicyclists, and only a few odd groups of people having what appeared to be political discussions. We came back to the room and started telephoning in an attempt to find a ticket out of here by ourselves. I kept track of the number of phone calls I made. I've talked about the Chinese telephone system before and there's not much to add. It is no better now than it was before. Most of the time you can't get a dial tone and when you can, the call often aborts halfway through the number. Connection is dicey to say the least. In the course of the morning I made over 700 attempts at getting through. This yielded one and a half connections to British Air; two connections to the U.S. Embassy, terminated immediately when I began to speak, probably by some Chinese censor with his hand on the trigger; one connection to Dragon Air; and several other near misses. I finally reached a very helpful woman at British Air who said, no they couldn't take me to Hong Kong, although they could fly me to Bombay for $1,000. She also gave me the Hong Kong to Delhi fare, which is about $400, so it should be possible to get there from here for $600. Chan eventually showed up and said she had been unable to raise CAAC. We decided that the thing to do was to attempt to coerce the driver, or convince the driver anyway, into going into town, go by the Cathay Pacific Offices and then, perhaps, CAAC. The morning was definitely quiet although there's now a little bit of helicopter traffic and I find that a bit ominous. The armies in the Square are the 27th and 33rd Divisions, made up of older men, which is to say not new recruits who might be more sympathetic to the students' view, and rumored to be intensely loyal, it is said, to Deng Xiao-ping. However, ringing the city is the dreaded 38th Division, a reputedly crack outfit commanded by a rival of Deng's. They hold the road to the airport and are thought to be more sympathetic to the people. Let's hope they don't converge on the Friendship Hotel, which is, in fact, about half-way in between. These armies are thought be be at odds and we can hear scattered large-calibre gun shots throughout the day. About 1:30 we take off. It's a tricky trip to make. Although we're sure that the driver is overly nervous about our safety, if not his, many roads are still blocked and we zig and zag avoiding both burned out buses and trucks blocking roads, and, I suppose, reported troop concentrations. We pass one large group of soldiers holding a main intersection. There are several dozen armored personnel carriers parked in the space underneath the overpass and I counted 75 trucks aboveground. There are soldiers standing 10 feet apart, automatic weapons at the ready, facing outward all over the place here. They are very tough-looking guys. These are clearly not fresh recruits off the farm and they're not drug-crazed high school dropouts from Bedford-Stuyvesant either. They look very ready indeed. Alert, nasty and tough. I photograph as much as I can before the driver freaks out and tells me "For Christ's sake to stop it." All this in Chinese through Chan. There's no overt menace, but there certainly is an implied one.

The dreaded 27th Army guards an intersection


Many times there are groups of students clustered around less obviously dangerous types, cajoling them and talking to them. It's as if we're back to the Flower Power Days when we all put daisies in the barrels of rifles. The trip to the airline offices paid off. Both Cathay Pacific and CAAC had seats. We opted for CAAC because it leaves on Wednesday and we only have to cool our heels here one more day and it gives us one day to operate in Hong Kong to find a cheap way out - or any way out - to Delhi. We drive back quickly, buy a beer and head upstairs to the room for the cocktail hour. As we do, another helicopter buzzes over Friendship Hotel and I shoot it down with an imaginary shoulder-launched SAM missile. An hour and a half of tapes, music and dozing. Off to dinner at which we are regaled with stories of India from a rather nice Brit who's been transposed to Columbia, Missouri. The rest of the people at the table are too loathsome to mention, so I won't. We take our usual walk after dinner down to the university, which has a very different feel tonight. Extremely quiet, lots of people, although not as many as two nights ago. Hideously gruesome pictures of the events in the square, and a feeling to me of ominous, malevolent dread. A person we've come to talk to off and on, I think he's German, bicycles past and says "Tonight." That's what it feels like. Lots of black arm bands and flowers tonight. The loudspeakers have been taken down from the building that the students occupy. I think it's just a dormitory. We don't know why. It's hard to figure. Perhaps they have decided it's a lost cause and to incite people at this point would be to commit them to a bad fate. Maybe it's more complicated or even more simple than that. We're not sure what to do. We walk back to the hotel about a quarter of nine, feeling inadequate and confused. We set the alarm for 11:00. Perhaps we'll take another look then at that time which is probably much too early for any serious action, but late enough to let us get the feel of the place. We don't really want to get shot. On the other hand to cower in this compound with the ball-bearing tours factory from Akron seems a bit much.


This is the morning of June 6th. Despite our resolve to get up at 11:00 (we even set the alarm) and go down and see what was happening at the University, we didn't make it. The alarm went off, I woke up, listened out the window, could hear nothing and was so exhausted I just went back to bed. I awoke repeatedly during the night to listen, heard absolutely nothing at all and it's now 7:00 in the morning. At 6:00 I got the BBC for the first time and radio transmission seems very good today. BBC had rather grim and disturbing reports about what's happening. The worst of it is reported clashes between different military units at various points outside Beijing. The radio reported that the Army had sealed off and taken up military combat positions at important intersections. We could have told them that yesterday. The radio speculated as to the interaction between the dreaded 38th on the outside and the 27th on the inside. The 27th is apparently commanded by the son-in-law of ? ? ?. So they're roughly a day behind the times in terms of the rumor mill. There's a widely held expectation of further serious problems here and Guangzhou's prediction that it would spread West and so on is clearly true. There are reports on the radio now of military clashes in Nanjing, of deaths in Shanghai. It appears that general strikes are beginning to take hold and life in the major Eastern Chinese cities is grinding to a halt. There are also some reports of shortages in Beijing. The VOA has similar reports along with the fact that Bush has decided to suspend military transactions and there seems to be some mounting outside pressure, although what effect that can have on this internal struggle is pretty hard to determine. By some incredible miracle I got a dial tone on the first time through and reached the American Embassy. They had nothing to say other than we might have trouble getting to the airport, but seemed to think that international flights were still going okay. Compared to the radio reports, it was a pretty ho-hum advisory. I must admit to some pleasure that we're not stuck in Urumqi wondering whether the whole country is going to go up, borders be sealed and so on.


This is later that morning. We did our usual routine, breakfast, then a walk over to the university. The only change there is that the small railroad ticket station is open and there are about 500 people in line there to get tickets out of here. Stephanie noticed that the loudspeakers have been taken down from the building. Actually that happened last night. We don't know why. Perhaps its because the students expect an attack and don't want all their gear to be snapped up. We walk about half an hour in the other direction, that is towards town on the big road. There's not much to see here. Occasional Institutes, or other public buildings, draped in black cloth with memorial flowers and so on. There are anti-Deng Xiao-ping posters everywhere and the road is filled with people hoofing the six miles into town, we suppose, to get to the railroad station. Reports continue about intra-Army fighting. People are speculating about whether one can even get to the airport, and so on. There's a lot of nervousness in the foreigners here most of whom will not even go near the hotel gate. We tried to find a way to rent bicycles, but couldn't do it. We hear of a place about a mile down the road which might do that, but we're not really sure that we ought to go into town. It's hard to say. Chan called and was clearly very nervous. She says there are reports of fighting near Beijing and has strongly advised us to stay in the hotel. But she's always very nervous and it's hard to know how seriously to take this. We can hear nothing. We also called Susan. It took about five hours to get the call through and by chance we were in the room when it came through. Very clear connection, we had a nice conversation. She's off to Delhi on the ninth and, with any luck, we'll be able to meet the plane. In the meantime, we're just hanging out listening to the tapes, wearing our crisis hats, and repacking for a quick exit. Nothing much to report after dinner. Rumors are bopping around like mad. The airport is closed, the airport is open, they're fighting in the south, they're fighting in the north, there's random shooting of civilians downtown, the dreaded 38th Division is being fed by the peasants, this Embassy has ordered its citizens to leave, that one hasn't, on and on and on. At the same time, a person at dinner tells us that he went downtown to the CAAC office to encounter a quiet and normal looking town. So who knows? Steph and I walked down to the university which is weirdly quiet. All of a sudden there is no one there, by no one I mean maybe 500 people milling about. The vendors are doing a massive job. People making crepes, other guys with satay machines, other people with ice cream carts. All are doing a land office business to the few people still around. Steph went and put the little American flag given us by Dan Wachspress on our departure on one of the memorials. We return 10 minutes later to find it moved slightly so that the flag was better displayed. A number of people looked at it. It was exactly the right thing to do. Then we walked home through the now absolutely empty streets, at least by Chinese standards. It's very, very quiet. It reminds one of those old Western movies where the geezer says to the Cavalry Colonel "It's too quiet in them hills." Once more the place is taking on just a little bit of a Graham Greene atmosphere. Steph and I slept all afternoon; and as you can tell from hearing this tape we're about to pass out again. I don't know what it is, whether it's beers at lunch or tension or what, but we're absolutely wiped-out. If the tanks don't roll tonight, we roll in the morning, ambivalently.


This is the morning of June 7th. No news on the radio, simply reports about things we know about and rumors of further clashes between the 27th and the 38th. Steph heard guns and truck movements in the night and it's extremely quiet outside. Otherwise, not much else.


This is still the seventh of June. After breakfast there's palpable dis-ease in the breakfast room. One or two very nervous people can infect the entire place. The breakfast by contrast is back to normal, almost toasty toast, eggs, tea and coffee. We take our usual walk right after breakfast down to the university and things have really changed. The wall posters are torn off, although the memorials remain. It looks as though the little American flag is gone, but we can't see because we're refused entrance by an official. The streets are filled with people waiting at the little train station for it to open. Lots of students are hiking their way down to the railroad station, some with maps. It's obvious that the student part of this confrontation is over. They have voted with their feet and they're outta here. Took one, I hope, wonderful photo of a particularly vicious poster about Li Peng. Back to the hotel and a final packing at the End of the World Hotel and now we're waiting for Chanand the trip to the airport.


This is the eighth of June. The trip out was uneventful with only one sight of the crack 38th along the airport road and they look pretty relaxed. The trip didn't take any longer than usual and the airport, although widely described as chaotic, didn't seem much worse than normal. None of the reported fistfights at the stand-by counters or anything like that. Just the usual long lines and pushing and shoving, but nothing extraordinary. We were very early so we waited for a while until we could get through Customs, got into line early not trusting our reservation and confirmed seat, had no problem at all, simply checked-in as usual. We said good-bye, of course, to Chan at the pass control and it's difficult to describe how sad one feels leaving this poor person with her husband in the US, a son in Xian and a very uncertain future here. But somehow one walks through the gate and that's it. We leave with false assurances that we'll see her in Princeton in January or February, although she has said about half an hour earlier that she thinks the door may close again. [It didn't; she made it, Ed note] The plane is half an hour late or so and, as we walk down into the ramp, artillery is heard in the distance. A fitting note on which to leave Beijing. It's an easy flight, ending with the usual teeth-clenching descent into Kaitak Airport in the center of Hong Kong. There's a little bit of backing and forthing, but the usually extraordinarily helpful Hong Kong tourist people get us squared away with a hotel. Alas the YMCA is full and I get the sense as I'm talking to the woman there that we just missed it. It's a pity because that's the best hotel in Hong Kong. We settle in at the "Fortuna;" take wonderful showers; have a couple of scotches; watch the news, which shows the airport we just left and some people we think we saw there [we later hear from Wang Zhang that he saw both of us at the airport on NBC]. In Hong Kong, one can always eat and should, so I call one of my favorite restaurants to find they're fully booked tonight and make a reservation for tomorrow. Then we set out in search of Sichuanese restaurant I remember. The trouble is I know neither the name nor the exact location, but I know generally where it is and I thought we would try to find it. If not, we'll just dive into some place and eat. We're very cash-short here, so it has to be an American Express card-taking restaurant, which means we're going to be a bit upscale. By chance, as we walk, I think, along the Cameron Road, we find just closing somebody's Christian Mission or something like that, selling t-shirts and stickers supporting the democracy movement. Hong Kong is festooned with these stickers and large character signs. Nearly every other person has a black armband on. Cars have signs all over them. The taxis have strips of black on their antennas. Everyone asks you about it. There seems more concern among the people of Hong Kong than the people of Beijing, or perhaps they can just do little about it, except to express these symbols. We buy a couple of t-shirts and they give us some stickers. I'm going to try to mail them home to my Chinese students so they'll be current. After a minimum of walking around, we actually happened upon the restaurant which is a little bit in from where I thought it was. I'm essentially certain it's the same one, and we have a great Sichuan dinner, served with style and lots of good San Miguel beer. We had a minced pork with garlic and chilis dish, which is eaten by wrapping it in a lettuce leaf, crisp, green and delicious. Stephanie corrects me, it's minced chicken, she's right. One wraps the meat in the lettuce leaf, which is a beautiful object and then eats it with the fingers (I think). The other thing we had was a Sichuan-style shrimp dish which I thought was a little less successful. Nonetheless, terrific. A 10-minute walk back to the hotel and pass-out time. This morning we have to deal with getting on to Delhi and mailing a package back to Princeton. It turns out this may be difficult because today is Dragon Boat Day in Hong Kong and that means everything is closed. The combination of that and the fact that lots of places are closed anyway in sympathy and/or fear of disturbances, may mean that we won't be able to get to a cut-rate ticket dealer very easily. We'll see.


Well we didn't. This is the early morning of June 9th. It's actually 4:30 in the morning and we've made it to Delhi. We couldn't get on any Friday flight which would enable us just to sleep in the airport and meet the airplane the next morning so we grabbed what we could, which was a British Air flight at 9:00 at night on the eighth which got into Delhi about midnight. The hotel, the Fortuna, to which I would return gladly was kind enough to let us stay in the room until 4:00, which was big help. We made the reservation on British Air and then made the trip up Victoria Peak. This being Dragon Day or whatever the hell it's called, meant that it was a cast of thousands at the ticket office. But we persevered and after a 45 minute wait, we went up. It was a clear day which is terrific and we got a quick look at the Harbour. Stephanie was feeling terrible at the beginning. It's hot in Hong Kong and she had her Stephanie-red face on. At the top she suggested we have a couple of San Miguel beers which really hit the spot and made the difference. We hadn't had any lunch, by the way. So down we came, walked back by a circuitous route to the hotel, got there about 3:00, checked to make sure that we still had our BA reservation and checked-out of the hotel. Our plan, which was a fiendishly clever one, was to go out to the airport to buy the tickets, check-in if they'd let us that early and then head right back into town and pick up our dinner reservation at Spring Deer, which Stephanie routinely calls Spring Duck for some reason I don't know. This improbable plan worked like a charm. We were the only people there, the taxi, which is very cheap in Hong Kong, let us off by chance right at the agent for British Air. We bought the tickets, walked around the corner to the check-in booth which, five hours before the flight had about eight attendants sitting at it, checked in like a flash and then had an hour of dead air space before we could go back into town. So we went over to the famous site of the Greatest Club Sandwich in the World [the Hong Kong Airport cafeteria], had a couple of beers and then took a taxi back into town, arriving about ten of six. Spring Deer doesn't open until 6:00 so after a little bit of backing and forthing and negotiating with the tuxedoed waiters in this cavernous and now completely empty restaurant, we walked around a little bit, changed a little bit of money and came back and had a meal that couldn't be beat. To begin with we had pork slices with scallions over fat noodles. This is a Beijing-style restaurant so you don't get rice. It's all noodles. I would say this was only a two-and-a-half star dish. Stephanie protests that it was good. It was. Then we had a shredded beef with green peppers, which was good although I thought the peppers a bit better than the beef and a hot Sichuan-style chicken dish, which I also thought was good. We finished it off with the best part of the meal, a plate of dumplings, which were excellent. We hadn't eaten all day. We had about three pieces of vaporous white toast at the Hotel breakfast, where we sat next to a fat Canadian couple of surpassing obnoxiousness. Anyway, all of this was washed down with two big bottles of San Miguel beer and, all in all, it wasn't a bad farewell to Hong Kong. Stephanie's reaction to this place was much as mine was the first time I was here which is WOW, I WANT TO BE HERE A WHILE. That is, to live here. Well, I haven't managed it yet, but maybe she will. Hong Kong is certainly no tourist site. There are some things to do, but we didn't do them and I'm not sure they're super worth doing. On the other hand, to live here and work and dig a little bit deeper in this hustle-bustle Chinese culture would be lots of fun and you could certainly spend a lot of time here doing serious eating. Back to the airport after a little bit of a hassle getting a cab. The usual airport stooge-around, pay airport tax, buy this, buy that, pick up magazines, cool your heels and hop on the plane. We're going off into the absolute unknown for us. We've never been to India, we have no reservation, and I don't know whether we can handle the place. I'm expecting hideous beggars everywhere and I'm a little scared. It's crazy I'm sure. The flight was uneventful, we slept, we landed, we swept into the airport, took a long time to get our bags because we got on so early they came off very late. Yet they all showed up and we went through the easy formalities and changed some more money. I now have a stack of Rupees about three inches thick, but worth not very much. There is a hotel booking service and get-into-town service which we took advantage of. It is now 2:30 in the morning our time, or about 12:30 local time.

So I'm sure we paid much too much for everything, but for about $12 we got ourselves a hotel, a taxi ride into town and here we are. At night the ride in is easy and it takes only about 25 minutes. There are big broad streets with sacred cows walking all over them. As far as I'm concerned they should all be turned into hamburgers. The spectre of a starving country with these fat cat beefalos walking across the roads is repulsive in the extreme. Religion is disgusting. Delhi doesn't look Chinese at all, although the place we sort of pull into, a three-star (????) hotel called the "Alka", doesn't seem to be on the big, fancy Connought Circle that I was told it was. Everything is dark, we can't see a thing. There are Indians everywhere, which is surely no surprise. At the check-in counter somebody wanted to buy my shoes, sell me a houseboat in Srinigar, "how about a tour of the Taj Mahal", all sorts of stuff. We may actually do that tomorrow, we've got a whole day to kill, but it's a little overwhelming right now. The same thing happens when a taxi pulls up. There are 55 people there, carrying your bags and I'm trying to keep track of them. Dreadful things may happen, they'll steal Stephanie's purse, they'll steal Stephanie, they'll steal me, who knows? The Alka, wherever we are (what is this hotel? Stephanie: "Alka") looks all right. It's a little run-down at heel, but not too bad. We walk in and the man doesn't try to cheat me. We've been given a "deluxe" room (more about that later) at the regular room price. A very nice elderly man helps us up with our bags. There's a small finagle there where I have no change to give him anything to carry the bags. The desk man gives me change, but it's still pretty big change. On the other hand, one shouldn't get too hung up about that, whether one gives a person 75¢ or 35¢, it's pretty much all the same. The room is tiny and internal. There is no window which depresses the hell out of me. There's one bed and a sort of a couch, and it's clear that Stephanie and I are going to have to cohabit in some way. God knows what the people in this hotel think is going on between this grizzled geezer and this young lady. Stephanie suggests that they think she's my secretary. Maybe I'm her secretary. It's a bit of a low point. We don't know what to do, we don't know what tomorrow brings, I'd like a window, it's a little hot, but here we are. Can we drink any water? Well, we dilute some out of the jug with lots of scotch to kill the bugs thinking that's probably as safe as it's going to be, and have a couple of nuts and I guess it's time to go to bed.


This is now the afternoon of June 10, a day-and-a-half later. Morning revealed that this place isn't so bad. The hotel is definitely somewhat upscale, if our room a bit claustrophobic. There's a certain kind of air-conditioning, hot water, a decent enough restaurant I guess and we've managed a number of outings into the city without terminal freak-out. We slept late, had a breakfast at 10:00, toast and tea, not much tea, pretty good toast. Then heart in hand, or hearts in hands, ventured into the dreaded city. Ah, it's not so bad. I had imagined from our arrival a rural, dusty backwater and it's not. It's as cityish as this place gets. It's in the Southeast Asia style. That is, there are verandas covered by a second story flanked by walkways, motorcycle ways and then the road. We're on Connought Circle, or just off Connought Circle, more or less right in the center of New Delhi. We started off with limited objectives. That is, we walked around the Circle. Having accomplished that, we made a few ventures down side streets, and a book store selling pretty cheap books, found a water store selling 10 Rupee water. We walked back towards our hotel, stopped in at another hotel, "The Mirabor", "The Miraculous" or something like that. Definitely upscale from ours. We had a couple of beers and some seeds for lunch, then popped out and grabbed a scooter-cab for The Red Fort. The Red Fort is austere and red. It's not well annotated, but it's a reasonable enough walk. The only problem was that it seemed a trifle hot. We now know from looking at the weather report that it was 105° at that time. Luckily we were swigging water the whole way so we didn't get too dehydrated, but Stephanie was pretty red by the time it was over. Back to the hotel for a couple of more beers and a nap. Up about 7:00 for a 7:30 dinner in the bar here. We had a curried mutton and biranyi chicken, both of which were good. Yet two more beers, our main source of calories and liquid seems to be beer. It's good beer, a little lightish, but it's cold which is much to its credit. The bar in this place as filled to capacity and Stephanie was the only woman. We were the only two Westerners. Nobody seemed upset by her presence, but there just weren't any other women, just Indian men of various persuasions. Turbaned sikhs, these fellows who wear sort of socks on their heads and other kinds. I awoke in the middle of the night having calculated that it wasn't possible for Susan to leave NY at 8:00 at night and arrive at 11:00 in the morning in Delhi. Somehow there's been a screw-up. Either I miscalculated the arrival time or the departure time. Further thought, and this seemed to take hours, made me almost certain that I had the departure time right, which just means she'll get here tomorrow at 11:30 at night, not 11:00 in the morning. That's inconvenient but no big deal, at least compared to what it would have been had she missed the plane. Up at 8:30, laundry done, breakfast, futile calls to Air India followed by a quick dash next door to a very elegant travel agent who told us, yes indeed arrival was 11:30 at night, and then into one of those little yellow scooter-cabs for a trip to the Lodi Gardens. The Lodi Gardens are remarkable. First of all, it's much cooler today,which makes anything look better. It's around 30°C, so that's a mere 86°F and the Gardens are quiet, filled with white, yellow and red flowers, little ground squirrels running around, mynah birds, these dreadful Asian gray-faced jays who have a beak that looks like it could take off your arm, green parrots flitting through the trees and, in the tops of some of the trees, immense vultures. I caution Stephanie to keep moving at all times because if you stand still for more than 20 seconds they'll descend upon you in a cloud and eat out your gizzards. She looks doubtful but picks up the pace. We walk very slowly through this delightful park, which is filled with incomprehensible Moghul tombs. This kind of quiet place is utterly impossible to find in China. There are very few people here, there is grass here, there is order here, there is no litter here, there is no one hawking and spitting here. What's going on? It gives me a faint sense of dis-ease. An hour's very slow circuit of the park takes us back to our starting point where, after a prolonged negotiation, we hire another yellow-jacket taxi to take us - we think - to a spot near one of the fancy mosques of this city, the National Stadium. In the event, we ended up at the National Gallery. This seemed reasonable enough and we took a half-hour tour through the Galley itself and maybe 10 minutes through the sculpture garden, which featured a lot of sculpture covered with a lot of bird shit. The Gallery was empty and contained a mixed medley of uninteresting and moderately interesting stuff. Nothing we had ever heard of. A walk down to the India Gate followed by a taxi home. The usual beer in the bar, this time with delicious vegetable pakora: potatoes, onions (which were the best) and chilis. The waiter pointed out the chilis carefully to me, spotting me for a tyro in these matters. I ate the first one, no big deal, mildly hot, but I'd tasted much hotter and then confidently bit into the second, which is quite possibly the hottest thing I've ever eaten in my life. Stephanie was very concerned and so was I for a moment. Good, though. Back upstairs for a nap. Fifteen minutes into sleep and 45 minutes into the rest period which was to be followed by another excursion, a knock comes on the door. I think, "oh it's the towel wallah" and I jump up, open the door and here is a strange, thin long-haired creature looking at me. Stephanie jumps up and says "It's Mait" and so it was. He'd found us by clever detective work. He's dressed one level up from the folks who are lying on the street and looks very thin to me. We have a confused, nearly incoherent 15 minute conversation but there's lots of good will. He is appalled at the money we are spending ($35 a night) and has arranged all sorts of cheap short-cuts. The travel confusion has resulted in our being two tickets short on the night bus to Dharmsala and so he straps on his little shoulder bag and heads off for what he says will be a three-hour excursion to the bus terminal. It pains me to see him go, but as he leaves he says "You couldn't handle this yet" and I hope that's enough of a payoff. We're now waiting for him to return as we near the three-hour mark and we hope we see him soon.

This is the evening of June 12, I think and is being dictated half-way between McLeod Ganj and Kyishong. The last tape ended with some sounds from the 3:00 a.m. bus stop on the Dreaded Delhi Death bus to Dharmsala. I'm not really sure where the last tapes ended. Susan showed up at the airport three-and-a-half hours late. We all went out to meet her but I sent Mait and Stephanie back. I spent four hours cooling my heels against the wall along with much of the rest of India. They don't let you into the arrival hall here for security reasons so everybody has a mass swelter together outside. I had one confrontation with an apple-juice seller who short-changed me by 10 Rupees, a trivial amount, at which point I got mad at him and threatened to call the Police and got my 10 Rupees back. A minor triumph in a day of general defeat. Susan eventually showed up, tired, worried and, alas, beset by a urinary tract infection. I am totally freaked out by this as it's clear that on the morrow we will have to deal with the medical system in Delhi. Mait and Stephanie crash in the hotel which Mait has reserved, while Susan and I stay in the Alka. On the next morning, which may have been June 10 or 11, we do set out to find a doctor. It takes many, many phone calls to track one down, but we eventually do. Our sikh-driven cab gets us there, we see the doctor (it's a Sunday morning, by the way) who verifies the diagnosis, says quite properly that it should be cultured but gives us a prescription for a broad-spectrum antibiotic. We then drive to the laboratory/dispensary which, although a little depressing, isn't really too bad. It's a little on the dirty side and very run down, dark and dusty. But after about an hour-and-a-half we get our business transacted and head home. The major impediment here was Susan's inability to pee. She's dehydrated, doesn't like the situation, and naturally doesn't like the room in which she has to provide the sample. In an amusing vignette, we take her down to the canteen, itself something from Hieronymus Bosch, pump four orange sodas into her, which I assume are being absorbed and desorbed through sweat as fast as they are drunk, in the hopes that this would provide some action. Well, it eventually does, and we head back for a nap, preceded by lunch. [Stephanie now straightens out my dating, noting that this meal is the last one Stephanie and I had until about half-an-hour ago.] We napped in the afternoon and then set out for the 8:00 bus from Delhi to Dharmsala. Mait says all the trains to Patinkot are booked, "fully booked" (Indian accent) is how you say it, and that this journey, though dreadful, is the best you can do. Well, we arrive at the bus station, wait for an hour and then discover that the time it leaves is midnight not 8:00 p.m. Here ensues a fair amount of bickering. Finally, we settle down for a four-hour wait in the terminal under trying circumstances. The Delhi Interstate Bus Terminal needs to be seen to be imagined, although the beggar quotient is much lower than I thought it might be. Finally, Steph and I say "What are we doing here?" For $4 we can cab it back to the hotel, chill out for two hours and be back here in time for the midnight bus. So that's what we do. In fact, we get to the Alka before Mait, who stopped by the street stall action to eat. If you ever need to define the words "poisonous chaos" those stalls would be a good way to do it. He had a few chappatis with dal fry and walks into our room at the Alka to find us all there. Well, we watched the end of the French Open on TV lying on the floor, which is one hell of a better way of doing it than lying on the floor of the Delhi Bus Terminal. Well, we finally screw up our nerve again (a major task), go down to the desk, who must be wondering "what the hell", and take a taxi back to the bus terminal. We find the bus which is not where it's supposed to be. But it is there and it doesn't look all that bad, and so here we set out on the dreaded death bus from Delhi to Dharmsala. We first make several inquiries to be sure this is the right bus. During them we discover a young woman from Australia traveling by herself on this bus and, by chance?, she has the seat next to us. There are assigned seats which is a good beginning because it means we won't have to compete with everyone in a mad stampede. There are families on this thing, with small children, several Tibetans as well as Indians, and it promises to be a long night. We schlepp our packs up to the roof, bolt them together, although I'm not allowed to tie them to the railing and go in and find our seats. It's about 10,000° and very close, with a smell of urine wafting in through the open window. The adjacent wall clearly serves as a kind of pissoir for departing passengers. We leave on the dot of midnight. What you heard at the end of the last tape was the scene, or at least a little bit of the scene, at the 3:00 a.m. 10-minute break stop. It's a night-time bazaar, with hawkers of all sorts of things crying their wares as we stumble zombie-like among them. Back into the bus and about 15 hours later (psychological time), but only two-and-a-half hours chronological time, the sun comes up. Here it is 5:30 a.m., it feels like we've been traveling forever and we're only five hours into the 12- to 14-hour trip. Luckily, we sit upon the wheel which insures that every jolt is delivered directly to the base of one's spine. The passengers are very well behaved, and that's true. The families, although eating, changing diapers, and coping with small children, manage it in some way that's quite remarkable. I don't know how many times we narrowly escaped death, but I'm sure it's well that this first part of the trip was in the dark, so you couldn't see. The day is long and getting longer. Stephanie and I sip at our water supply, each of us afraid to ingest too much fluid in the event that we might have to pee. It's obviously easier for me, possessed as I am of a go-anywhere model. [Stephanie says "Dad you are such a nightmare" at this point in the narrative.] This abstinence is a big mistake as will show up later. We don't eat, also probably a mistake, but I think an inescapable one. The last part of the trip the road dwindles and begins to climb out of the intense heat of the Indian plane toward the hill station of Dharmsala. This requires that the bus slow down a lot and the last 60 kilometers stretch on forever. The bus also becomes a local and people are popping in from outside, standing in the aisles staring at the Westerners. It's generally chaotic as the small children reach the end of their tether, as of course do we. I'm badly cramped by sitting on top of the wheel and can't stretch out my legs and I'm not absolutely certain that I will ever walk normally again. That is, of course, providing that the pain in my spine let's me walk at all. There's no way to describe the dirt level. We have absorbed dust now for 12 hours straight and it's beginning to tell. Finally, we stop at the Dharmsala bus station. A million baggage wallahs descend and we fend them off to get our packs down from the roof. These seem to have grown from 30 pounds or so to about 600. Presumably it's just incremental dust being added. It's only 5,000° here as opposed to the 10,000° of Delhi, but that's compensated for by the fact that it's at altitude and it's getting tough to walk. We carry the packs up a steep series of steps to the first crossroads and, at this point, it becomes obvious we're in trouble We are badly dehydrated and don't have much water left. We also haven't eaten for a day and I haven't slept for two, so it's getting tough. We put aside macho and macha attitudes and hire a cab for the grand sum of $2. I didn't even negotiate, that's how tired I was. We asked it to take us up the hill as far as possible. It does and was worth every penny and much more. Out we go, on go the packs and we try to decipher Mait's notes on how to find the guest house he has arranged. He's described this place in glowing terms, but we're becoming suspicious. It's very hot and we are very thirsty and the road is very steep. So up we go, taking it 100 steps at a time. Tempers are getting short already and the first stages of desperation are setting in. Anyway, we find a likely turn off according to the map, although we seem to have reached it a little early. We dump the bags and I set off into the woods to see if this is indeed the place. Mait has described it as guarded by a ferocious Tibetan mastiff. Well, all houses here are guarded by ferocious Tibetan mastiffs and I'm not surprised when I encounter a person at the edge of this building who tells me "No, this is not Kashmir Cottage, go away". A serious error in judgment ensues, produced probably by dehydration and fatigue as I don't press on to check further. The man is emphatic, has a gun, and gestures me away. We now set off up the hill asking at every possible turn for Kashmir Cottage. I don't want to summarize every conversation as indeed I can't, but we get what I could describe as minimal and conflicting information. In fact, we reach the edges of McLeod Ganj itself at the top of the hill. We're now completely out of water and something resembling heat stroke and dehydration delirium is setting in. Finally, it becomes clear that we have to head back down. We've come too far and somewhere we've missed the turn off. We start down at odds with each other now, although for no reason other than fatigue. At this point, Stephanie has a saving moment of insight. She says "Look, we're headed down towards Mait's room. We have directions to it and we're never coming back up in our condition. So let's just be sure of every turn-off." Well, that's what we do more or less. I drop my pack and stagger into the brush, thrashing around in Hash House Harrier fashion, to make sure that at every switch-back we aren't near the place. Finally, we have a stroke of luck. One of our desperate pleas to the generally non-comprehending populace making its way up the hill is met with a finger pointing downhill into the woods at a roof. Well, that's hard information. It transpires that they're pointing at the roof of the building I investigated an hour-and-a-half ago. So I'm a little bit suspicious. We ask again and we get a vague gesture in that direction into the murk and thorns. Well, this house did have a dog. and maybe the person guarding it was mistaken. So, we set off cross-country into the vertical woods figuring that we don't want to leave it out of our sight. Remember, I'm on the edge of extinction here and the notion of going back to the path in doesn't enter my head. Anyway, we scramble down, find our way into the courtyard. The guard has disappeared, and we discover that there are about four lovely Tibetans here. "Yes, this is, in fact, Kashmir Cottage."

Steph on the porch of Kashmir Cottage

We rinse our heads under a faucet, encounter Rinchen Khandro the owner of the place, who is married to Ngari Rinpoche, the younger brother of the Dalai Lama and himself a high incarnation. What they must have thought of us I can't imagine. Anyway, we get a couple of cold beers, drink a quart of water each, take showers which can't be beat and pass out for three hours. I haven't described what this guest house looks like, and it's hard to do so because it's so extraordinarily beautiful! It overlooks the Indian plane which you see from several miles away and a half-mile up. It's a staggering view although we can't see the Himalayas which are directly behind us, and over the edge of this particular mountain. It is a place wreathed in flowers. We have a very simple room which shares a bathroom with an even more simple room on the back side, and it's altogether spectacularly wonderful and lifesaving. We soak up water like blotters. Our biggest mistake was in letting ourselves become dehydrated. Your judgment really does become impaired. There's nothing we could have done about the fatigue factor, but there's plenty we could have done about dehydration and I was stupid not to avoid that problem. We awake at quarter after six, gulp some more water. We're brought tea, delicious wonderful tea, by a smiling Tibetan man named Dorje and then we go into supper, which is set for us and one other lady who is staying here. A dal/pea soup of surpassing delishiosity, a rice and vegetable dish which is topped with sliced egg, not bad, and an okra dish. There's ample hot sauce and the whole thing ends with apples in milk. It's possibly one of the best meals of my life. We chat a bit with the woman who's staying in the other room, who seems very nice, pray that Susan will get well, actually will arrive in two days and go to bed. We're up at 8:00 for a breakfast of good tea, gruel which Stephanie eats, wonderful toast with cheese and butter, and a boiled egg for me. Very refreshing and we're feeling in somewhat better shape. Up the hill again to McLeod Ganj.

A Puja in McLeod Ganj

We actually didn't quite get there last night, but we did all the climbing necessary. It's a 200 meter long Tibetan town with two parallel streets filled with shops which range from trinkets to groceries to handicrafts to restaurants. There is a temple in the middle, bordered by rows of prayer wheels on three sides. It's delightful, although just a little bit intimidating at this point. There are "oh-wow"-type tourists everywhere, but plenty of Tibetans as well. We make the loop reaching the Tibetan hotel at the apex of the walk, [I'll try and append the Xerox of Mait's hand-drawn map of this place] and find the bulletin board built by Mait and the rest of ICLOT, the International Committee for the Liberation of Tibet. This contains Xeroxes of New York Times articles, anti-Chinese tracts and so on. Back we go down the other side, past the bank and the post office, which we miss, and the delightful looking Tibetan kindergarten, 100 meters down the hill. I'll say something in a minute about how the Tibetans look here compared to Lhasa, but let me just note that the children here are clean, extremely well dressed, fat and happy looking. It's a revelation. We go down the hill by a short cut into Ganchen Kyishong. A little reference to Mait's map lets us find our way to his room which overlooks a monastery, the oracles' monastery actually, and we open the padlock to his room. It's a tiny little cell, attached to an even tinier little kitchen/pantry area with two beds and that's it. One could certainly exist here as one person, or even two, but it's not what you'd call expansive living. He looks out, however, half on the Indian plane and half toward the Himalayas. Snow-capped granite peaks look like Switzerland and it's hard to imagine a much prettier view. We steal a couple of books, leave a message in matchsticks and find our way back out the gate, around the corner and up to Kashmir Cottage. A beer for lunch, a nap and reading complete the day. Dinner is noodles with a couple of chopsticks stuck in them and certainly enough for four. There's also a delicious sauce made out of God-knows-what and stringbeans with bean curd. There's a cucumber salad, which Stephanie eats all of and good-looking watermelon for dessert. A couple of Golden Eagle beers and tea and, all-in-all, it can't be beat. Asleep after 8:00. There is building everywhere in McLeod Ganj and Ganchen Kyishong. It obviously goes very, very slowly. It's handcraft work. There are very few machines and it doesn't look especially beautifully done. However, buildings seem to be going up at a fierce rate and I wonder where the money comes from. The people look happy, stolid at times, but content. A Tibetan smile is a wonder to behold. The face changes from handsome, to what one can only describe as "lit-up." It's animated and it's utterly gorgeous. Is this simply a manifestation of some physical thing like muscle structure? Or are these genuinely happy smiles? I think the latter, and it's no surprise that a visitor here, or to Tibet for that matter, becomes completely enchanted with these people. The same thing happens in Tibet, but the whole business is so covered with layers of dirt, that it's a little harder for it to get through. For some reason, here things are much better and it's obvious that the changes that the Chinese take so much pride in: better education, better health, so on, and which they cite as an antidote to criticism about what amounts to genocide, could have been achieved in other ways. The enormity of the crime that was committed in that country is not freely appreciated in the West. One wonders why people don't care. There is, for instance, much more attention paid to the bumping off of 2,000 or 3,000 Chinese students in Tiananmen Square than in the murder of a million or two Tibetans under even more horrible circumstances. On Wednesday, the 14th, we await the arrival of Mait and Susan (we hope). After breakfast we walked up past McLeod Ganj to one of the roads out from the top. We walked for about 30 minutes in the "out" direction to a very nice woods. There are monkeys, donkeys, monks, nuns, Indians, "Dharma bum"-type tourists and it's quite a zoo. We come back by a slightly shorter route, not going to Mait's room, but cutting across and taking the Linkor, the circumambulatory route around the Dalai Lama's abode. It's bordered by mani stones; prayer flags and small roadside temples are everywhere, the pictures will show more. As we leave for this walk, we're shown a shortcut by a young Tibetan man who it turns out escaped from Tibet by walking over the Himalayas at age 11. As we start the walk we see Ngari Rinpoche, the husband of Rinchen, the woman who clearly does most of the operation of this place. He's the Dalai Lama's brother, and himself a high incarnation. We encounter him through a window as he washes the breakfast dishes. He's cordial, asks after Susan, suggests she might want to seek some cure through Tibetan medicine and sends us on our way. On the walk up, we found a group of seven monks playing Tibetan horns out into the valley. They sit at the side of the valley, balance the horns on a piece of barbed-wire and blat away. There are two kinds of instruments in this Tibetan blat horn chorus. One is a two-foot long silvery object which is high pitched and looks like a piece of plumbing. The others are nine-foot long basso Tibetan long-horns. Stephanie and I ponder over what this scene is and we decided it's probably Blat Horn 101 lab. There are clearly older people and younger people here and we suspect that it's instruction of some kind. It's a sound to behold and I'm sorry I didn't bring my tape-recorder. It's now about 1:00. If Susan got well, if Mait got bus tickets for Tuesday night and, if no great delays are encountered, they should be here within the hour.


This is after a delay of several days and it's now June 18. As it happened, they did show up in about an hour, not quite in as bad shape as Stephanie and I were, but tired nonetheless. They argued their way past the cash register at the Alka Hotel and had none of the trouble in finding this place that we did. We have now spent four days here together, which have been largely uneventful. They have been slow, easy days generally featuring one long walk and perhaps a second up the hill to McLeod Ganj for dinner. The woods up past McLeod Ganj are beautiful and certainly about as far from the stereotypal Indian plane as one can imagine. There's not quite a sense of isolation, although it's very close, and it's certainly quiet and beautiful. There's a lot of bird life and about the only indication of where you are is the odd donkey train or goat herd. Dinners have been terrific. The food is really excellent here and the setting not so bad either. A typical McLeod Ganj restaurant is a darkish hole-in-the-wall with maybe four or five tables. It's extremely simple - just this room and a dark kitchen in the back. It's very dirty by Western standards and there are lots of flies in the daytime. Nevertheless, the eats are great and a family of three or four can easily eat here for $3. That doesn't include any beer, which is forbidden in many of the restaurants, but it does include a great deal of food. The winner so far I would say is the sweet-and-sour vegetable pishee, which is a feature of the Gankyi Restaurant. Although the vegetable mo-mo's (dumplings), at a restaurant whose name I forget, are a close second. The town has been filling up over the last four days. This is the end of the religious festival called Saga Dawa which culminates in the full moon which is tonight. A great feast is laid on by the monks for the indigent and, not surprisingly, the ranks of the indigent swell enormously just before this happens. It's also a propitious time for giving alms, so we have gone from a time when one can walk reasonably unmolested up the hill to a state where one is literally besieged for several hundred yards or longer by solicitations ranging from the "good morning Sahib"; to "backsheesh, backsheesh;" and "alms". The people living at the side of the road are sometimes horribly maimed, sometimes just emaciated. There are troops of miserable looking children tugging at one's arm and scruffy sadhu's everwhere. I can't add anything to the standard Western reaction to this, compounded of one-part horror, one-part guilt, and with a leavening of uncertainty about what the hell to do. To give away Rupees is to spit in the ocean; one literally cannot carry enough coinage to contribute to a significant portion of these people. One wonders if it wouldn't make a great deal more difference in the long run to support some child in the Tibetan school. It's not an easy or comfortable situation and I think from our culture and life of ease, it's not possible to come to an easy resolution.


The place we live, Kashmir Cottage, is half-way between McLeod Ganj and Kyishong and is a truly lovely place. As I sit here facing it on a stone bench overlooking the plane 2,000 feet below, I look back at the cottage and see an arch of bougainvillea, a garden of roses and nasturtiums, sweet william and other things I don't know, geraniums, several beautifully planted fruit  trees. The hill rises behind the modest building which has a green tin roof and a simple cement block and stucco frame. In the trees up above there are parrots screeching and flitting about. Prayer flags emerge here and there and, except in the warmest months (i.e. now), there are several kinds of monkeys which inhabit the trees. It seems beyond a doubt this was a British built cottage which, as I said earlier, is now run as a kind of guest house for big daddy visitors. We have managed to get in through Mait's influence and I'm certainly glad we did. It's by far the most expensive place in town. We are paying 250 Rupees, which is $15 for two big rooms with a Western-style bathroom and occasional hot water. There are two such rooms in this place, plus two simpler rooms in which Stephanie and I started out in. Dinner costs 50 Rupees a head, that's about $3. Again, this roughly twice or three times what one would pay uptown, but one gets a great deal of good food for that. There's no doubt at all that it's an absolutely ideal retreat, a place to come and write. Even now in the hottest part of the summer, there is a cool breeze at night and the days rarely become uncomfortable. We sit at about 6,000 feet and literally overlook what appears to be all of India. The word "idyllic" could have been coined for this place. The highlight of these four days has been a blessing by the Dalai Lama. Mait had been promised an audience but a foreign trip is coming up and it looks like we won't get it. We were, however, able to participate in a walk-by blessing in which one lines up, or rather crowds up, outside the gate to the Dalai Lama's monastery, is admitted after passport and permission check, frisked twice including a rather thorough body search, and then files by. We present a katag, one of these white presentation scarves which is handed back, and shake the Dalai Lama's hand. He takes yours in two of his, looks right at you, mumbles something and then passes you on to an aide. There aide gives us each a red ribbon, not really a ribbon, a thread or a string, with a knot in it which is alleged to have been tied by the Dalai Lama himself. One is to wear this until it drops off. I can't say that it was an intensely spiritual experience, nor is there any chance to get a sense of this person who, by all accounts, is remarkable in his erudition and - dare I say it - goodness. There is a small chance that enough interest in our stay in Beijing will materialize that we will get an audience on Tuesday, but the administration here is hideously screwed up with the left hand not knowing about the right and so on and we may simply not make it. I feel sorry for Mait who, with his six months here, deserves more than the fly-by, it seems to me.


This last day, the 18th, a Sunday, has been one of total inactivity. Stephanie, Susan, and to a small extent, I have stomach disorders, the first of this trip and, with all the time ahead of us, it doesn't seem necessary to push it. Steph at the end of the day seems somewhat recovered and I'm not too bad. I fear that Susan will have another bad day tomorrow, but I think the rest of us will be okay. There is a serious dog fight now going on down in the valley and the sound carries up to me. Tibetan dogs are everywhere here and two huge Mastiffs guard this compound. They're on chains, but it doesn't keep them from barking. As I said, it's a full moon or just about, and several times a night they go berserk, baying at the moon. The one closest to us greets each dawn like a rooster. I suppose every sunrise is a new event to this dim-witted creature. Our vague plans are to travel to Manali, another 10 or 12 hour death bus trip and then take, if we can, a minor six-day trek. The question will be whether we can do it on our own or whether we will be forced to hire guides and the like. If we can do that, we'll return here for a few days and then either stay here through the Dalai Lama's birthday (he won't be here but there should be a serious celebration) or, perhaps, go back to Delhi with enough cushion to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal as well as Fatipur Sikri. These reports will become less frequent as I'm running out of tape and I think I've probably gone through the most interesting part of this trip anyway.


It is now four days later on the morning of Saturday, the 24th of June. We were supposed to leave this morning for Manali and Kullu, but Stephanie had gastrointestinal problems in the night and we didn't do it. It's put off until tomorrow so this seems an appropriate time to summarize the last few days, which have fallen into a pattern of walks and one event per day. By far, the most compelling event was a 35-minute private audience with the Dalai Lama; just the four of us, an interpreter and His Holiness. He left that night for New York, Costa Rica and Los Angeles, where he's doing a big initiation. We were very lucky, indeed. I felt best for Mait because he spent six months here and if anyone deserved the audience, it was he. The hook, however, which got us the visit was Steph's and my presence in Beijing during the massacre. There were the usual screw-ups with timing, which we attempted to avoid by showing up very early. In the event, this wasn't good enough as we were sent away with a message to come back at 11:00 for an 11:30 appointment only to have things change when we were away. Various monk messengers were sent out to bring us in. The final twist in the timing screw-up was that, in fact, it came off as planned at about 11:30 or a quarter of 12. After the usual careful search, we were moved to an anteroom from which we could watch the progress of a public audience slightly more elaborate than the blessing which we attended earlier. Lines of people file by but each person gets a few seconds or even a bit longer as he or she passes the Dalai Lama. He hands out little trinkets and blesses the katag or whatever the person has brought. The line is composed mostly of Tibetans but there are a few Westerners, including the two TLC's (two young women who have moved into Kashmir Cottage). Generally the line is well behaved with only a few people obviously snatching souvenirs. Some of the Tibetans are quite overcome. The Dalai Lama spends quite a bit of time with these people, touching them, joking, speaking with them. At least two people were on the verge of becoming hysterical or fainting and had to be assisted away from the ecstatic experience. It's hard to explain just what this encounter is like.


His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama


It's not like an audience with the Pope. There's no fancy regalia, he's simply dressed as a monk and there's essentially no pomp and circumstance. What intensity there is comes from the man himself and not from the accoutrements of office. There seems to be a very low bullshit level. The audience itself takes place in a somewhat elaborate though simple room. He comes in, shakes hands with the two-handed Tibetan grip with everyone and we all sit down on a couch, two chairs around a small table. The interpreter sits at some distance and his referred to only occasionally when a word is missed or it's important that a specific point come across. The whole thing is on tape, so I won't deal with the substance in any detail here. He asked us a lot of questions about China, I can't see that we could possibly have added very much to his knowledge, but I'm certainly glad that we could get the opportunity. I didn't come away feeling great, mystical reverence and I don't think that can be expected from someone as culturally different and unpredisposed to that sort of thing as I. However, that's not to say that I'm unimpressed,as his is a most impressive presence. He is simple and down to earth and, at the same time, exerts a tangible power that comes not entirely, I think, from the office itself. One of the great problems here, and with the Tibet situation in general, is that the Tibetans expect the Dalai Lama to do everything, both political and religious. When you couple this with a predisposition to accept one's karma - with a notion that some problems simply cannot be avoided and are the result of lack of merit or demerit in previous lives - it is simply hard to get some stuff done, and as Mait has confirmed, the populace tends to take it very easy assuming that His Holiness will see them through. That's not apparently how he sees it and there have been many moves toward democratic and representative society here and this, in fact, started before the Chinese came into Tibet and has preceded further here. As an example of the problems, let me only mention one: the Dalai Lama has repeatedly suggested that the upper house, of course, buy into the Senate here in our system be an elected not an appointed office. At present these people are appointed by the Dalai Lama, who retains ultimate control. Every time this has been suggested it has been unanimously, without dissent, voted down. They simply will not allow him to diminish his power. This is not a case of Cæsar rejecting the crown. I think he sees very clearly the future requirements and would genuinely prefer to concentrate on religious matters. The interview breaks up in time for His lunch. We pose for a couple of pictures, he grips both our hands, winks impishly at Mait, squeezes our hands and off we go. A somewhat similar event occurred yesterday when I was "debriefed" by the foreign affairs office. Mait and I met with ?? (which I'll fill in later) and three other members of the foreign affairs office. They spoke for about an hour and quarter about events in China. I don't think anything new came of this except perhaps for the notion that the Tibetans see this as an opportunity to make propaganda in-roads in Chinese outside of China, hoping that, in this way, popular opinion inside of China can be influenced. I don't think that's a bad strategy, but they've got to get off their behinds and work hard at this. That's a problem according to Mait. Apparently one of the demands of a recent Chinese pro-democracy/anti-execution demonstration in London was that in minority groups, which of course the Chinese consider the Tibetans to be, be given real autonomy. Now the Tibetans don't consider themselves a minority in China, they consider themselves to be Tibetans and Tibet to be a separate country, but realistically they aren't going to get this any time soon and the best they can hope for is control of their own affairs and an end to colonization by the Han Chinese, and even this is a long shot. It was an interesting, if not particularly, productive conversation and it does provide something for me to talk about when I get back to the States. We've also spent a better part of a morning talking with local Tibetan artists. There is a master wood carver here who not only turns out stuff for various monasteries, he's doing a big object for the Drapung now reconstituted in southern India, but teaches students as well. There's an obvious difference between the master's work and the student work, but I'm not overwhelmed by this kind of stuff anyway. Much more interesting to me was an hour or so spent at the Thanka Painting School. I love Thanka's and even the student work is compelling and interesting. We finished with a talk with a young graduate of the school who is the second best Thanka painter here, probably that means one of the best in the world and, with any luck, a future "national treasure" as they call it in Japan. He is obviously fantastically good. The things he produces are overwhelming. We look at one about 90% finished, which is being done on commission for a monastery or temple in Japan, which has taken seven months to complete. Mait reckons that even this level of effort doesn't yield very many Rupees and we have come up with the idea of commissioning one ourselves. We're going down later today to explore this idea with him. We have historically always moved much too slowly at these moments and have let several things slip away. We may too late here, too, he may have a backlog of commission that is too great, or he may be unwilling to do a work for a non-religious end. Still it's worth a try. Late last night, that is the 23rd, as we walked home from a simple supper uptown, we passed the Nomgal Monastery and could hear chanting above us. We walked up the stairs into the courtyard to find a group of about 100 monks moaning and groaning away. I never have my tape recorder at these moments, but we stop to listen for about 20 minutes. It breaks up with a kind of cheer, literally the kind of noises and motions one sees as the start of a football game. It turns out that these fellows were not from the Nomgal at all, but rather from the School for Dialectics and were simply warming up for the evening's practice. Argument on religious topics is a very important part of a monk's training, succession to any important position involves examinations, oral examinations, which involve both defending and proposing arguments on a religious topic. It takes the form of very physical confrontation between a monk, or monks, sitting Lotus-position on the ground, and one or several standing up arguing and gesturing. The gestures are ritualized, but fascinating. They involve palm slaps, particular motions with the rosary and elaborate dance-like foot motions. It's extremely physical, there's lots of touching, and it's this the monks were practicing. I got lots and lots of pictures although the light was failing and I didn't want to intrude. They don't seem to mind at all, however, and we'll see how it comes out. The whole event is suffused with good humor and lots of laughs. It's absolutely wonderful.

Monks Debating


Some kind of music


I'll explain what that noise is later, but right now you better go to the next tape.


This is the afternoon of June 27th and is being dictated from the rooftop of the sumptuous Hotel Gypsia (or something like that) in a town called Keylong, which is not quite the end of the earth, but is, I would say, one step form it. After infinite backing and forthing and hemming and hawing, we decided that we would travel fro Dharmsala to Manali, another hill town, a mere 10 hours away by bus. The hope is that we can get from Manali across the Rotang Pass to Keylong, which obviously we did, and then with luck on to Leh. We were delayed a day when Stephanie got sick, but it was a one-day affair and we left at 5:00 in the morning on the 25th, with our destination Kullu nine-tenths of the way to Manali, where we hoped to stay in an old castle. The bus ride is typical Indian bus: dirty, very crowded and interminable. We had seats booked so we didn't have to stand, but 10 hours under those conditions is a long haul. It's basically an uninteresting trip as far as Mandi, but then you turn in the Kullu Valley and a couple more hours brings you to Kullu itself at the formal head of the valley. Gray-green slopes, heavily treed with a Beas River in the gorge below. It's very good looking. It didn't work out in Kullu. Everything was shut on this Sunday and we couldn't get information about the castle. With then inquired about the trip to Manali, discover that it was a mere 200 Rupees by taxi, and so we hopped a cab. We passed our original bus on this trip which made us feel a bit sheepish. Although there wasn't one of us who wasn't happy to be out of that thing. Manali is a bit of a touristic town, bustling with lots of stalls and an extensive bazaar. The Kullu Valley is famous for Kullu clothing, shawls and hats, socks and gloves, mainly, and some of it is very nice. The old shawls in particular, which can run $100 so they aren't cheap can be exquisite. The little Kullu vests and hats are ridiculously cheap. They may disintegrate in no time, but I sort of doubt it. A hat runs 75¢ and vest about $7. Needless to say, the money hose was turned on full stream, Indian style anyway and we picked up lots of stuff. Ngari Rinpoche and Rinchen Khando (?) recommended a guest house in Manali run by one John Bannon, the grandson of an Irish-Indian marriage some many years ago. The cabdriver knew of it and took us right there. John Bannon looks exactly like what he is: a cross between and Irishman and an Indian. He's kind of a sad figure, but we were able to get a two-room plus bath for 400 Rupees, which is a bit much ($25), but considering that it's housing four of us and that we're really tired, it's a pretty good deal. The guest house itself is set in an orchard, old John Bannon himself was the one who introduced the apple to India, at least according to his grandson, and the guest house which sits maybe 15 minutes above the town on a gentle slope, at least by our standard these days, it quite beautifully situated. It's not what one would call immaculate, but it's pretty good and we're comfortable and relieved to be here. We have dinner at the guest house that night, which was not a great success: a Western style meal of no great distinction for a rather hefty price. We sampled some Indian whiskey, which would do well as a cure for coughs, I suspect, and went off to bed. The next day we spent in Manali exploring, shopping, walking up the Beas River trying to cross with no success. It's a glacial-fed river, so it has this gray-green color they all have and it's very wide and very fast. It would make a spectacular raft trip. Not too difficult, but exciting enough. Lunch of southern Indian food at the Madras Café, very good if you don't look too closely, and dinner at the Mona Lisa Restaurant, which was really terrific. Up at 4:00 on the morning of the 27th to rain showers, 15 minutes debate should we go, should we not go, finally we decided it's going to clear and hike in a mist down to the bus station. I'd booked seats the day before and this Breughelesque smellorama situation leads us to one back corner seat and the three across directly in front. As it turns out, I'm wedged in with six Indians in the back seat. This is one more than should be there and results in no room at all for any of us. I don't like these guys sitting next to me. The have a shifty look and they're always trying to edge me out. They tried several times to push in front of me in line. I finally took one of them by the shoulder, turned him around, pointed to the man in front of me and said "He's next and I'm after him, you're back there", pointing to the back of the queue. He went back rather docilely, but it's a gentle sport here of beating the queue and it drives me nuts. This trip is had to describe, it goes straight up the Kullu Valley from Manali following the Beas River. At first there are a few villages and then even these stop. The climb to the Rotang Pass begins almost immediately. When you start you can see snow in the hills and, at the Pass, you are well into it. The Pass is about 13,500 feet high and you go through snow tunnels in which there is even now maybe 12 feet of snow. The bus is an old one and the road extremely narrow. There are many times when you are looking down over nothing into literally thousands of feet of air. I'm not good at this sort of thing and my eyes are closed often. Nonetheless, it's a super spectacular view on this trip, even if it's scary as hell. The bus only breaks down once and that's really almost at the end when it's at a bus terminal sort of place about five kilometers outside our Keylong. The trip down from the Pass is worse than the trip up. The road is worse and it's scarier. On this part of trip I've got not only closed eyes but white knuckles most of the time. The trees gradually change from Palms and Cactus in Mandi to Pine trees by the time you get to Manali and then shift into Poplars, Maples, a little bit of Birch and finally the Willow, which one sees all over Tibet. The people here don't look Indian, only the tourists look Indian. They look much more Himalayan. Not quite Tibetan, although there are many Tibetans here, but definitely not southern Indian. Keylong is sort of a cute little town in the middle of no where. There's one main street as far as I can see and it's maybe 100 meters above the River and the hills go up on all sides. The photographs will show it much better, but as I sit here on the rooftop looking back into town along the single street, I see maybe 50 stone and brick buildings, one-, two- and sometimes three-story, built up the hill a little bit. Above them are terraces cut into the hillside banked with stones which goes up into semi-desert. There are prayer flags occasionally at the top of these hills and one can even see little hermit-like retreats up there perched on the edge of nothing. Gorges comes down perpendicular to the river valley and one of these comes right after the town. Beyond that it's gray-green desert and rock again,with snow at the very top, I would say maybe 1,000 feet above us. Keylong is at 10,500 and it looks to be at 11,000 or 12,000 feet. One then can't see too much because that ridge-line cuts everything off, but right behind it looking straight down the river valley is a triple, or even quadruple when the clouds completely clear, mountain peak.

Above Keylong

All snow capped, glaciers in between the mountain and it's really exquisite. One then comes around 90° from where I started and one is looking straight at a hillside with little terraced farms on it, going up at about 500 feet above me to at least one monastery and perhaps some other smaller ones. I can't really tell. We're going to try to hike up to it tomorrow, although it may be a little bit early to that. It then goes up to rock and grass, snow, bare rock, and then another mountain peak, approximately 1,000 feet above me. This is actually hard for me to do because I've still got vertigo from the bus trip and there's no railing on t his roof and I'm sitting maybe 50 to 75 feet above the garden below, vegetable gardens, and I'm going to move back a little bit now. As I turn through 90° to 180°, much the same scene appears. The other end of the town, more stone buildings in construction, tin roofs, zinc roofs, sometimes red, mostly just the color of the metal. At this end of town where there are more mountains, not quite a high as the triple peak I described, but nonetheless quite impressive. Lots of snow and one can see avalanche marks where the old snow has been scarred and new snow appears. We arrived eschewed the macho predash tourist cottage, bungalow tents, which look not too nice, declined two really crummy hotels and finally found this one, which isn't so bad. The room is reasonably clean, the bathrooms don't smell too badly and has a restaurant which is pretty good. Snacks and a nap brings us to right now where I'm sitting on the roof.


This is Thursday the 29th of June and is being dictated from a green bench in front of a tea shop in a town called Gundula, which may have an "h" in it somewhere, where Mait and I are waiting for a bus. Here's how we got here: the morning of the 28th found Susan sick as a dog, throwing up, splitting headache, in very bad shape. After fiddling around for most of the morning trying to deal with this, there isn't any way, Mait Stephanie and I set off for the Tayyul Monastery. We were directed them by an extremely helpful, somewhat uncharacteristically so, young man at the tourist office who is known as Mr. Five-for-Five because his advice has been strictly correct in great contrast to what one finds around here. The description of the route is to go around two long curves where the road bends in, around rivers coming into the main river, and then strike uphill. Our only problem is that we have misidentified the Tayyul Monastery by pointing up in the hills at a Gompo up in the hills. Several people have nodded, "Yes, that Tayyul". So that's where we're aiming for. There's another Gompo to its left, up on an even higher promontory, which looks something like Dzong or a fortress. It's described as a three-hour walk, "But I can do it in an hour-and-a-half". So we figure that's about our time. A 40-minute walk along the road takes us passed the long curve, which one enters through the public bathroom, which is just the great outdoors at the end of town, a not particularly appetizing site, followed by a little straight-away at which point we figure we're close to under one of these Gumpo's. We ask a wandering person by pointing up the hills saying "Gumpo, Gumpo", she says "oh yes" and waves us up, so on up it is and we strike up the hill through cow paths, traversing stepped fields filled with vegetables, Willow trees, many alpine flowers: purples, yellows, small blue some of them look just like American flowers, others are obviously not. I may not have mentioned on the bus trip up that when one stops there are fields of four or five inch purple iris everywhere. It's a moderately tough climb because it's high here, but we make a fairly steady pace, eventually coming to a house, a stone house set into the hill, it was at this point that we discovered from some people by this house that the Gompo we were headed for was really a house although it may once have been a Gompo, it no longer was. At this point we had enough energy expended in the uphill and enough interest in the house to persevere and a further climb and a quarter- to half-mile traverse led us to more stepped fields and finally to another house. This clearly was a house, it was built in 1987 and it was House #3, all of this could be discerned from signs written on the stones. It's really well made, the window fits nicely, windows made out of timber, fully glassed, and the rocks seems well put together. The edges are true and it's not just a slap-dash affair by any means. We run into a local. Again the pictures will describe him much better than I, but he's a diminutive, dark fellow with a somewhat standoffish, though formally friendly, air.

He gets a peanut butter sandwich, we get chang.

He, too, tells us that this isn't the Gompo, which we now know, but furthermore tells us that we can see the Gompo itself across the giant ravine that separates it from us. This is the second incurve from the road which is much further along than we'd thought. Well, we're hoping we can make it across to this place. We can hear drums and horns faintly coming from it and it looks very attractive. First he invites us in and we sit outside his little house in a kind of shed which is filled with baking implements. Large flat pieces of wood with handles much like the gizmos used to withdraw a pizza from the oven. He sits us down, brings out the Chang kettle. Chang, as you no doubt recall, is Tibetan barley beer, always home brewed and often described as the vilest drink on earth. He pours us each a cup, one for himself, and we share our store of peanut butter sandwiches with him. It's a photo opportunity deluxe and we take advantage of that.


By-play at the tea shop


That's a bit of by-play at the tea shop, this tape recorder has attracted a crowd.


Anyway, the fellow directs us downhill and we make it in about a 45 minute to an hour's scramble off this hillside. There are only one or two moments that are at all frightening, but one wouldn't want to take an airmail to the road below. I'd guess we're about 1,000 feet up from where we start. The down route we took is as straight as we could make it traversing fields and finally entering into scrub and shale. We hit the road, walk to the apex of the incurve, where there's of course a river and stop and finish off our sandwiches. Lots of Himalayan birds here, most of which aren't in the book and we have a mini-debate on whether it's worth pushing on and climbing up to this monastery. It's a three to nothing vote to go, so we do that. Twenty minutes along the road leads to an obvious path up which we follow. It's another 1,000 foot climb or so and this is a tougher one than the first one, because we're a bit tired. At about the half-way point a little past, we deviate from the path and strike straight uphill because we think we've gone too far to the right. This works fine, 10 minutes leads us to a couple of stupas and another 15 to the monastery itself. It's oddly smaller than it looked from across the valley. It's a group of five or six smallish building and we almost immediately encounter a woman, not a nun, but a normal, if that's the right word, dressed in Tibetan style, or Lahuli-style really, clothes who motions us on with a smile, leads us up to a door where we take off our shoes and find our way inside. At some point two nuns do appear, a very jocular and forward one and a somewhat more retiring one. It feels like you're walking into the 12th century, although the inside of this building is quite clean and very attractive. The ceilings are extremely low, go through two or three anterooms, a kitchen is off to the right, and finally enter the Chanting Hall. This is a dark, squarish room with a ceiling held up by four posts placed roughly in a square in the center of the room. There's an altar at the right hand side as you enter and on the left-hand side a set of windows overlooking the valley at which sit two teen-age monks, one about 12, the other I would say 15, and two elderly monks. There is a 2 1/2 foot diameter drum suspended in one corner and the elder of the two old monks is playing it with a big curved drumstick as well as a pair of derby-hat cymbals. On his right sits the other old monk who is wielding a bell and dorji. On his right is a fancier seat for the Big Daddy of the monastery who isn't there. There's a small altar in front of him which would sit various objects a couple of bowls and another dorji. We're asked to sit down to the right of this, which we do somewhat nervously. It's a fantastic room and it's a very exciting moment. The nuns and the woman now scuttle out with tea cups and the Chang kettle, which is filled, and repeatedly filled as soon as we take a sip. This is all done with lots of smiles and laughing and eventually we protest that enough is enough. These folks are not of the Lhasa style for which the refusal would simply be an obligatory prelude to having more, but of the Kahm style where a refusal means a refusal after a while. So finally they stop. This Chang is more tasty than the other and I don't quite like it as much. This is followed by delicious milk tea and a bowl of spinach-like vegetables and some kind of butter broth accompanied by sour dough loaves of bread. Just as the meal is served, the monks start to wail. There's 45 second or so of moaning and groaning, followed by drumming, chanting, cymbaling and Tibetan horn playing by the two young boys. It's an unearthly kind of sound and, for about the tenth time on this trip, I curse myself for not bringing the tape recorder. We spend 45 minutes or so, then stand to take our leave at an interval in the chanting. Smiles all around, lots of photo taking has been going on and, as we go out, we discover that the other end of the room, the altar end, leads to a kind of sub-altar lit from the top in the Tibetan style in which is a huge, perhaps 10 foot high by 10 foot wide, statue of Guru Rinpoche, along with m any sub-statues of Guardian Deities and God knows what else. Facing it are shelves, attached to vertical posts supporting the ceiling which contain all sorts of other fascinating pieces of gear. Two devil skull masks, one on each post, a large and beautiful dorji with scarves attached at each end which is used in dancing where it's waved about, a human skull cap bowl, and a couple of lovely conk shells. We exit passed the kitchen, which looks in pretty good shape, make a brief tour of the buildings, which aren't all that interesting, at least compared to the insides, find our way down the hill, walk the six kilometers back to town, to find Susan still sick, but perhaps improved. We have dinner at Five-for-Five's tourist establishment, which was very good, pick up some mineral water, we finally found the source in this town on Five-for-Five's advice, by the way, buy Susan a banana and some glucose biscuits, sit on the roof for half an hour, go back for dinner, which we had ordered before and sack out at about 9:30.


The morning of the 29th, Mait and I are up at 5:30 for a walk into town to catch the bus to Gundula, where there is a 16th century, or perhaps 17th century, castle. The bus is only half full, which is certainly nice and a good omen for tomorrow when we're supposed to go back to Manali. Susan is much better, but certainly doesn't want to make this trip yet, so Steph stays behind to keep her company. A forty-five minute bus trip takes us to the town, or bus stop anyway, of Gundula, we hope out, make our way down the hill to the obvious castle, which is an eight-story stone building built in layers: first two feet of stone, then beams, then another two feet of stone, more beams, and so on, up to a wooden upper story which probably was once a balcony, but now has lost its floor. It's also possible that it was some sort of sunscreen. It has a slate roof and there are ornate wooden windows in two of the sides and somewhat smaller windows in the other. It looks in an advanced state of decay and as though it could easily collapse any minute. On the other hand, it was built with some care and it's put together rather carefully. There's no obvious way in and peering through the windows doesn't yield any information, so we spend 45 minutes sunning ourselves on a big rock and then walk through this small town searching for the proprietor of the castle, a Mr. Fa Ti Chon Thakur. He's not in, we're told he's in Kullu and at this point that doesn't seem all that much of a loss, although Mr. Five-for-Five has told us that he will show you his grandfather's sword if you show proper respect.

The Thakur of Gundula lives here.

In our search for this fellow, we go into one of the houses in this town. It's a large communal building, almost an apartment building, and it is strikingly nice inside. We didn't see any of the actual living rooms, but the hallways are very clean and I'll bet the rooms are even better. We hike back through the town having some nice encounter with town's people to the road where we find this tea house. At the tea house, the man you heard on this tape before says that the proprietor is not in Kullu but in Keylong from which we've just come and that one can, in fact, get inside this castle which contains swords, guns, and so on, and statues, so perhaps it is too bad we didn't get in. Anyway, we're now cooling our heels at the tea house waiting for the 10:00 cannonball back to Keylong. The bus never came and after it was a little bit late we decided we should take any transport we could find, at this point a large blue truck with about seven people in the back filled with shovels and pick axes and dirt drove by, we tried to ascertain if it was going to Thandi, received a number of affirmative nods and so climbed in. Four kilometers of spine-rattling and courage-sapping driving later, it pulled off the road into a kind of encampment down by the river. Everybody jumped out, took their shovels and pick axes and disappeared. There was nothing for us but to hike up the road and set off for Thandi ourselves. It's only about six kilometers or 3 1/2 miles, so it's no big deal and the road is a beautiful one if you're walking it. The river far below to your left, giant mountains towering above, waterfalls improbably falling out of the heights. Every so often a bridge crosses a river and its almost an obligatory thing to run down and cross it yourself. We finally reach Thandi, inquired in a little tea shop about the whereabouts of the old monastery and finally someone pointed straight up a sheer cliff into the dizzying heights above and said it was about a three-hour hike. Our experience with these time estimates is that they are not at all reliable. So we figure "what the hell" and set off straight up hill. About 200 yards above the road, after a very steep climb, almost a scramble at times, there appeared very small Gompo with a very small attendant. Communication wasn't easy, but finally she pointed out a path to us. We hope to return to this place because it was very cute. As it turned out we didn't. We followed the paths along some fields, gently up hill, and then more steeply, finally encountering a road, or sort of a road, nestled right up against the really sheer granite wall. We follow the road and eventually came upon some road workers who told us that all we had to do is follow the road and we come to this Gompo. So off we go, still rather gently up hill, meeting road crews now and then working away at places where the road has been washed out or where it's still covered with snow. Most of the time we're walking on a simple dirt road, other times we're scrambling over washouts or climbing across rotten glacial snow. It begins to dawn on us that we're making quite a bit of distance sideways and not very much up, which seems a bad sign. Eventually a solitary hobo-like individual appears and we have the bright idea of inquiring of him whether this road, which seems to parallel the road we took the bus down, might not go to Keylong itself. As the light bulbs go on over our heads, the very attractive notion that we won't have to redo this sideways walking appears and that we might even take this all the way to the Kardong Monastery, the yellow building on the other side of the valley from Keylong. The hobo figure assures us that it does not only go to the monastery we're locally looking for whose name I can't remember now, but also goes to Keylong. We meet many travelers asking them always the same question because we can't believe at this point any of the information we're getting and we're always told the same thing. The road gets smaller and smaller, more and more washed out, but never really stops paralleling the so-called real road on the other side of the valley. Eventually even some crudely marked kilometer signs appear and we're now quite confident that we can all the way back this way. It'll mean another eight or 10 kilometers bringing us to 16 or so for the day, but it's not seeming so bad at this point. Eventually more scrambles and washouts later, we find ourselves inside of Keylong. Everything has worked out except that now the travelers and road crews we meet back towards the monastery not forwards. We passed some sort of cut-off for it, or the information is all screwed up, or some combination, or something. After a lot of thought we decide not to just strike off up hill. We're getting pretty tired now, it's been a long walk and we persevere through a nameless medieval village to the monastery, Kardong. This village is on the one hand exquisite and on the other demoralizing. There really is very little in it that would tell you you were near the 20th century. There is a school and we did see some school kids with English books, so that's the 20th century. It doesn't really smell too bad, but there's lots of running water here from the streams coming off the mountain glaciers and that must always have been true. Whether the people knew enough to sweep the shit off the streets at that time I doubt, but it's a gray and brown village of stick and stones and dust and animals and, of course, lots of people. There's a great stone carving of three grotesque figures which we photograph and then persevere past the village along the trail which eventually goes down in the valley and up again to Keylong. We strike off across the fields hoping to get to the monastery demoralizingly high above us, but we're turned back by a field worker who insists we must go back to the village and then go up from there. It doesn't seem reasonable to us, we could go straight across and climb up and we must meet any path which goes there, but, nonetheless, we go back. As we turn back, Mait says "there's Susan and Stephanie" and there they are high, high above us just coming down from the monastery. We hoot and wave and establish contact and they sit down. So back to the village it is, left in the main square instead of straight, and up the hill. It's very steep, but do-able, and eventually we meet them as they head down. Pictures, apple juice, a little bit of water, lots of fatigue now and we decide that Mait and I will go to the top while they wait or amble down the hill. Up we go, passing rather nice stupas to the main building of the temple itself. There's a 93 prayer wheel inner court which we dutifully circumambulate and then climb some internal ladders towards the roof. There doesn't seem to really be anyone about. Up on the roof for a couple of ritual photographs, and then someone appears. He's in a baseball cap and is extraordinarily unmonkish. Nevertheless he has a ring of keys with him and opens first the top room and then the two directly below it. They're all chanting rooms it appears, all exquisite with painting and thankas all around, relics and cups and butter lamps and prayer wheels and drums. Many, many books and smallish Buddha statues. There are also lots of pictures of the resident Lama, as well as photos of the Dalai Lama, the first we've really seen much of. We leave small offerings in each room and then finally exit. This is a beautiful monastery, but it's very different from the one we say yesterday. This one doesn't really seem terribly used. Maybe we just hit it at the wrong time, but it's clear that they are geared up for the tourists who come across the valley in a way that this little place of yesterday is not. It was an event to have us show up yesterday and they responded with immense hospitality. It was just a job to show us around today and, although the fellow was perfectly polite, he was as much interested in making sure we make Rupee donations as anything else. Well, down the hill. It's steep. Mait and I are very tired and only interested in making time for home. Susan has made a heroic effort to get up this hill, which is really steep after yesterday's sickness and wants to go five steps at a time. This leads to a certain amount of unspoken conflict, but we manage to get through it without open hostilities. Susan says it's a little too severe and she's probably right. The walk down can only be described as exquisite. Fields of flowers of all different kinds, big blue jobs, little tiny yellow ones, white ones, pink and purple. It all abounds, it's all idyllic, it doesn't small bad, indeed it smells like flowers. At the bottom of the tree-lined path zig-zagging back and forth very steeply to the bottom is a tiny little bridge crossing the river which is rushing at high speed from here to no where, 40 feet underneath us. Mait and I collapse on the bridge to wait for everyone else. As we reach the bridge we pass again two nuns we had passed before on the way up. They're very chuckly and motherly to us. There's much tongue-sticking out here. It's almost a kind of punctuation to statement made, of course, in Lahuli which we don't really understand. Mait gets a little way with these people in Tibetan, but it's not really their language and they only know a little bit of it from reading the mantras which are all in Tibetan and these are nuns who are not really admitted to the serious religious training here. It's a big reform with a Dalai Lama that in Dharmsala at the Nomgal Monastery nuns are allowed to study for all the degrees that the monks can. I suggest to these two nuns that Mait and I might go down to the river and they cluck and hiss and shake their fingers at us, exactly as one's mother would. They're clearly saying that it's much to steep and we'll get hurt if we do that and we should stay where we are. Well, we do. Susan shows up and we begin the ascent. The first 150 feet are also through beautiful yellow and white flowered field, but then things turn a bit sour. It's very hard going. It's just as steep as the other side although we don't have to go nearly as far, but the small village which we traverse is unlike the one on the other side, more into the modern world which means lots of garbage, lots of smells, generalized decay and demoralization at the end of this long, long trip, 10 miles or more for me with two steep up and downs added. It's tough to meet this kind of stuff, but eventually we get up to the road and drag ourselves the half-mile or so into town and find our hotel where we are greeted with the news that Susan's passport is out of order and she has to report to the police. We don't know where the police are or what they want, but after a little bit of fooling around and backing and forthing, we're guided to some dank office in an amorphous concrete building for which the word cheerless is the greatest compliment I can imagine. To discover the police had read the entry date at January and couldn't figure out why she was still here. It had something to do with the way you write days and months in Europe vs. America, or perhaps with misreading June as January. Anyway, it's quickly straightened out. It's back again to the hotel and a two- or three-hour well earned nap.


This recording is brought to you on July 4, 1989, at five minutes to 10 from the Dharmsala bus depot. It's dark, messy and we're about to spend 13 hours on a bus. Here is Stephanie's thoughts: Stephanie: "We're really excited". Well it turned out to be 14 hours but that comes a little later. We took the 6:30 a.m. cannonball from Keylong to Manali the next morning. Mr. Five-for-Five became Mr. Five-for-Six when his advice that "there's no system, just show up" turned out to be wrong for the cannonball. For this special rapido bus there is a system, which is to show up early, head for the dingy ticket office slightly up the hill, press ahead of thousands of other bodies, all passing money to their friends over the heads of the intervening people in the queue and try to get a seat reservation. It dawned on us rather late that this procedure was being followed but we were lucky enough or Mait was persistent enough in the non-queue to get four seats. It was a difficult ride, as usual, eight hours up and down the track to the Rotong Pass, scary as hell, also incredibly beautiful. That is, by the way, an Indian commuter train going by me right now. It's in Delhi and it's dopplering it's way into the middle distance. At the same time, the highball goes by and another smaller one creeps in. They are big trains packed with humanity, but anyway back to Keylong. The trip, despite it's fearsome aspects, wasn't really unusual. Saw a couple of absolutely enormous vultures sitting in the road. They look as big as boxcars and twice as mean. There was one moment when we had to pass a truck when our driver decided for some reason to back up and suspended back three or four rows of the bus over the void. This is literally a couple of thousand feet down and the folks in the back row were understandably nervous. In fact, they were screaming and yelling vigorously. At any rate, we crept at long last into Manali, negotiated an incredibly luxurious extravagance: a car from Manali to Dharmsala. This is going to cost us by the time we finish up about $90. It avoids a 12-14 hour bus ride through the heat and comes as the middle leg of three long bus trips. So we decide to do it. Book the thing and head off to the John Bannon Guest House where we slip comfortably into good old room #8 where we were before. In the hurry of leaving this place I apparently left my knife, which isn't there, of course, as I hoped it might be. It's a day to crash, so we buy a couple of rosy pelicans at the beer store, nap a bit, have dinner at the sumptuous Mona Lisa Restaurant, and back for sleep and off the next morning in the car. The car is a tiny little Hillman or something that looks like an old Hillman and takes 7 1/2 or almost eight hours to get to Dharmsala. However, it is a world of difference from those buses and we count the money well spent, as we're getting down to the end now. It's perfectly obvious we're not going to return with a dime and so all bets are off on spending and we'll do a couple of things like this before we're through. We're welcomed by Rinchen, Ngari Rinpoche, and the rest of the crew at Kashmir Cottage to which the car barely makes it, but did a good job but just couldn't climb the last bit of the hill and was boiling over. So, we all trumbled out, pushed it up the hill much to the relief of the driver, who was getting extremely nervous and probably deservedly so. The time in Dharmsala is spent in an orgy of trinket buying, it's one of the great trinket places in the galaxy and, more important, it's not nearly as difficult a place as an Indian town. For some reason, the Tibetans do a better job of upkeep, or perhaps it's just hygiene, and the palpable sense of purpose you feel here is nice too. And, of course, there are the smiles, which remain absolutely remarkable. Beyond souvenir hunting, we have a couple of serious conversations with Rinchen. She has a scheme to use her position as head of the Tibetan Women's Association to get a bit of money into the community by selling sweater in the west. The local ladies have been taught by her to produce reasonably high quality, heavy woolen sweaters. The comparable item at Landau's goes for $220 or thereabouts. The price in McLeod Ganj is 350 Rupees or a little over $20. There is obviously room for some profit here and Susan has agreed to investigate ways of doing this. It's a tricky question because no one knows how to deal with sales taxes, import fees, and the like, but we'll try to find out. We've also decided to support a Tibetan kid at school and Rinchen brings down pictures and bios of two possibilities. This freaks me out as the last think I want to do is to make such a choice. First of all, I have no data and one surely doesn't want to make such a decision on what the kid looks like and it's just too close to Sophie's Choice for me. Ultimately we flip a coin or close my eyes and point to one, but it occurs to me as I'm doing this that it might well be possible to get Susan's aunt who's got plenty of money to support the other one. So we take the data and picture back and will put Susan to work to try to get her to do it. We also have a long talk with N. C. Gyatso, known locally to all as "The Chairman" who is roughly the Prime Minister or Speaker of the House of the Tibetan elected assembly. He's the only obvious politician I've seen here. He's a monk in his 40's, I'd guess. It's very hard to tell, speaks extremely good English and it's obvious he's developed a nice relationship with Mait who is completely at ease with this fellow even though he is perhaps the second most important political figure in Tibet. He, like every Tibetan I've talked to about this subject, urges me not to quit going to China, saying that, in essence, every little bit helps and that one shouldn't be put off by the notion of lending one's support to such a government. Well, I'm not so sure. This feeling seems to be universal here but then it's my name that the Chinese could use if they wanted. So it remains a tough one and I'm still not sure what I'm going to do when and if the next invitation comes.


The decision has also been made not to wait for the Dalai Lama's birthday on July 6th, but to head for Delhi and try and make an excursion to Agra and Fatipur Sekri, a now deserted mogul capital (here comes another train cruising into downtown Delhi), I'm not particularly happy with this as I would like to minimize my time in Delhi and maximize it in McLeod, but I'm outvoted and so off we go on the fourth of July on the night bus to Delhi. We pack up, we've now got a lot of gear, unfortunately, take our leave at Kashmir Cottage. The Tibetans do this by touching foreheads, we exchange presents, pay the bill, leave a little bit of money for the staff - how in the world is one to know what the right number is - higher a taxi to take us down to the bus station, it's just too much stuff to carry and it's a very, very steep hill. So, here we are at 10:00 p.m. on the fourth. It's an absolutely hideous ride, 14 hours this time. It's extremely difficult to sleep, it's very hot, and it's crowded. Awful, awful, awful. We only survive it, I suspect, because of something we did just as we were leaving, which I forgot to talk about. We went down to the oracles monastery, which sits right beneath Mait's little room to make a offering called ?, but Mait will know the name, for safe travel. It's a simple procedure and it's a delightful little monastery. It's an enclosed courtyard around which sit the monks' quarters and there's a small, actually medium-sized temple, at one end. It elaborately painted in the Tibetan style and we bring a bottle of tea, a Katag and a little bit of money. An old monk is found, we carefully circumambulate the inside of the temple in the clock-wise fashion and come to a little side room where Mait presents the Katag and the monk goes through a procedure in which he intones prayers, invoking one of the deities to take care of us. As he does this he pours tea into a large silver bowl at intervals. The whole business takes no more than five to seven minutes and is done very seriously, even though it's probably quite clear we're not Buddhists, it's just a service that this monastery performs for the people and it's seen as fairly routine. The deity invoked is one of the protectors, in this case one of the three-eyed fellows whose face is half-red, half-white, he wears the usual halo of skulls, has a fearsome expression and carries a ritual chopper and scalpel. It's absolutely clear that you certainly want this fellow on your side, if at all possible. Susan has also bought some mirrors, little brass disks. The drill here is to sanctify them so that their magical health-preserving powers will be maximized bu exposing them to sacred objects. So one, again, circumambulates this temple holding the mirrors out so they can see all of the stuff. The monk who tells us how to do this explains two other things: first of all, it's better if someone who believes in this stuff does it. He tells us this fairly gently and so we leave the mirrors with him. The second thing is that the more high powered the rituals the mirror sees, the more effective it will be. It is to be a puja in the next few days and the monk says that he will show the mirrors this event and they should, therefore, be souped up. In any event, however is protecting ensures our survival on this trip to Delhi, if not our comfort. We pull in about an hour late to the hideous interstate bus terminal in Delhi. We schlepp packs off the roof, set out to find a cab. We have no fixed place to stay. We do have a reservation at the expensive Alka Hotel for the night of the seventh, but here we are early. It's midday on the fifth. Jeremy Russell, a British fellow who has been living in McLeod for eight years and working for the Tibetans recommend that we not search out some flea-bag hotel, but try instead a place called The Gandhi Peace Foundation which runs a hostel. He says that if we survived Keylong, will be able to deal with a hostel and that you sometimes meet interesting people there. We have only a vague address and it's not all that easy to convince taxi drivers to go off on a search. Nonetheless, we do and miraculously we find it. I think Big Red must be at work here. Not only do we find it, but it's got a room with two beds and a cot in it and it's not too bad. Certainly Spartan, but it's reasonably clean and has a bathroom. The bathroom has no hot water, but hot water is the last thing you need in Delhi at this point and, unfortunately, the shower line is broken. But there is a tap about waist high and one can crouch and use the copious lukewarm water for washing. Ambient temperature here is plenty hot enough. So, in we go, the price is certainly right: 250 Rupees for three people for three nights total, that's about $15 for the three of us for three days. The place is nicely located and it has a roof-top terrace where I've been sitting overlooking the suburban railroad station. So, I can highly recommend it. Jeremy was right. As long as your (here comes another train - this one is a super air-conditioned chair first-class ultra-train in blue and cream, blasting into the distance, it's not even going to stop at this pathetic little station, there it goes), anyway, as long as you don't need the air-con Hilton or Oberoy, this place is fine. It's five minutes by scooter cab from the center of the city, that's about a four Rupee ride or 25¢. There are good ceiling fans and it has a canteen. We had a lot of business to do so we couldn't let ourselves rest yet and we headed into the center of town to try and make arrangements to go to Agra and Fatipur Sikri. We head for the tourist office for suggestions. It's tough because we don't have time to do it slowly. We have only one day and can't really take the train down which we probably couldn't book anyway, find our own way around Agra and to Fatipur Sekri, which is 40 kilometers away. The fellow at the tourist office recommends we hire a car. This is expensive, another $90 item, but it certainly maximizes flexibility and probably comfort. It's a five or six hour bus trip which nobody wants and the train will be difficult as well. So we bite the bullet and do it, make arrangements to leave at 7:00 the next morning, returning that evening. Buy some water, head back to the Gandhi and get two or three hours sleep. We have dinner in the canteen here, 30 Rupees for three people, or 50¢ a piece,which is a simple but good dinner of dal, rice and spicy eggplant with plenty of chappatis. It's good. Upstairs to sleep, it's hot, but bearable as the ceiling fan does a good job. The next day starts about 5:00 when I wake up. By 5:30 someone has knocked on the door with a cup of tea, which is certainly nice, but this is followed by someone wanting to know if need to do laundry, another person telling us that there is a yoga class, and one or two other people of interminate purpose. All this happens before 6:00 or 6:30, so you can tell this is a business-like place. We skip breakfast and are downstairs for our cab-driver at a quarter of seven. He's there already, a smiling, nice Nepalese fellow named Am Prakash, who's driving a little Indian-made Subaru van, just big enough for the three of us and very nice. He speaks good English, although accented and the trouble is that he speaks so quietly that it's very difficult to understand him in traffic. So conversation is a bit of a trial. Anyway, off we go. It's 3 1/2 hours by mini-van to Agra, down the main Indian highway. Agra is the tourist center of India because the Taj Mahal is there and so the road is in rather better shape than some others. There are one or two intermediate stops at necessarily high-priced tourist venues which, at this point, don't mind much. We have breakfast in one, a little less than half-way down. We're passing all manner of stuff on this road, like so many of these trips, it's the journey which is at least as interesting as the event. There are dozen of camels, including a spectacularly dead one at the side of the road and even an elephant or two plodding relentlessly along the road. Water buffalo abound, more often pulling heavy loads, but occasionally blissfully wallowing in some dank water hole and there are the usual donkeys and horses and pigs, bullocks and cows and, of course, people. We make a couple of stops in Agra, a big red fort and a mausoleum before the Taj, which we see right before lunch at 12:00 to 12:30. It is an impressive building, there's no question about it. Beautifully proportioned, stunningly white and well kept. We see it under the worst possible circumstances: midday, relentless it's probably 42° or 43°C today and both Stephanie and Susan are wilting a bit. We're drinking quantities of water, which helps a lot. The lunch stop is at a not terribly nice tourist spot, but is palatable enough. There goes another one of the blue and white highballs. Susan and Steph have salads, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers and onions and I have a spicy vegetable dish whose name I can't recall. No beer yet. The afternoon is given over to an obligatory stop, literally obligatory, the driver has to do it at a tourist marble shop which we minimize as best we can and then Fatipur Sekri, the deserted mogul city from sometime in the early 1600's. There are actually two cities: Fatipur and Sekri, Sekri is state owned, nicely restored, beautifully empty, a red sand stone extravaganza of buildings abandoned apparently when the water supply ran out. It's usually compared to Effesus, which is, of course, a couple of thousand years older and in much less good repair but, nevertheless, I think more impressive. Then there's Fatipur, which is somehow in private hands, filled with humanity, smells and, however, the same wonderful buildings. It's definitely been worth going here, although I am distinctly traveled-out at this point. Fatipur is filled, of course, with merchants and beggars and at the end of this trip it's time to come to grips with how one feels about that. On arrival, one is so appalled an distressed that one simply tries not to see. Towards the middle of the journey, one is able to look or perhaps has become calloused enough to look and give out Rupees whenever one has small change. Towards the end, when escape to one's unbelievably privileged position is near, it suddenly becomes very hard again. You find yourself desperately wishing there was something you could really do and you wind up giving what, in the culture, is large amounts of money, 10 or 20 Rupees to some of these unfortunates. What in the world is one to do when confronted by such sadness? The children are the worst. They're an absolutely utterly, irredeemably, hopeless situations. Not only the beggars and the cripples and the lepers and the deformed, but the people just up from that living on the street, working at menial, degrading jobs gathering sticks, or perhaps working on a road crew, under absolutely appalling conditions from which there seems no possible escape. The thought of what I would do under such circumstances is inescapable, and the answer uncomfortable. Suppose the Buddhists are right and one is to be reincarnated. Would I choose to be reincarnated as one of these unfortunates or just not to exist? It's a tough question. The Buddhists solve it by pointing out that if you lead a virtuous life then the next incarnation will be better and I suppose that's the escape. The feeling of dis-ease is increased by snippets of news from home: Supreme Court decisions, the loathsome Ollie North's escape from any punishment, and so on. It's an obligation of the well off in the world to behave reasonably and kindly as the Buddhists "towards all sentient creatures" and we certainly are far from doing that.


The trip back is long and hard. It's about four hours. Because of timing we hit hideous traffic on the outskirts of Delhi. The driver is very tired and we have one or two narrow escapes, one of which send the car careening onto the verge of the road just missing a truck. The hand of Red Face is palpably discernible here. Do your stuff Red. Keep on the job. It's not easy to describe what it's like coming in to Delhi at 7:30 at night, except to say that the conditions are extraordinarily appalling. There is a soup of diesel fuel, dust, and crap in the air which is thicker than one can believe. Through it cut thousands, I suppose millions, of miserable people living, eating, sleeping, setting up pathetic tiny shops. I suppose it's a triumph of humanity that one can exist under such conditions, but it must be so hard not to become dehumanized in a situation which appears devoid of any hope and utterly lacking in the slightest redeeming graces. Again, it's the children that are the most pathetic, beautiful little kids existing in these conditions. It shouldn't happen. We finally make it, have a somewhat extended good-bye with our driver who's done a good job all in all, at least with Red Face's help, and adjourn to the Café Volga, an expensive but nice Indian restaurant where we have a couple of beers, a meal and then catch a cab back to the Gandhi. Tomorrow, which is actually today now, Mait will arrive. He must be on the bus right now, stoically suffering, and tonight we leave. So right now I'm sitting on the roof-top terrace watching another immensely long red commuter train work its way into Delhi, it must be about 6:30 in the morning. I've had a cup of tea, there are flowers in pots all around the edge of this place, the train I'm looking at doesn't look so bad, the green and slightly smaller green and red parakeets are flitting back and forth in the trees, geeking and gawking. It's a cloudless sky which promises blistering heat again. Where is the monsoon? It's a week-and-a-half late now and everyone is literally praying for it to cut the dust. This must be the worst days of the year in Delhi, the hot summer days right before the rains come. When the rains come the temperature will sharply drop towards the barely tolerable and a lot of the snarf in the air will be laid to rest. It's one of the first things everyone asks you: Was it raining in Dharmsala? Where is the line of rain as it moves up from the south? Well, it's not here yet, that 's for sure. Dharmsala, by the way, gets the second highest rain in all of the sub-continent. That's because, I suppose, it's the first place where the clouds hit the mountains. They get pushed up to colder temperatures and just drop everything right on the first hill town which is Dharmsala. Anyway, it's not so bad sitting here. Indeed it's very nice in the early morning, but it's pretty hard to get yesterday out of one's mind.