Tibet postcard

[From November 2007.]

Adolescent irritability without an outlet, a bit of boredom, anger, eroded hopes: these the same the world over, broken bottles littering the alleyways of Tibetan villages, shards accumulating up against walls pasted with drying dung for the stoves.

The shops are as well stocked in beer and cigs as with any staples for eating. And eating is a challenge for me, reconstituted noodles already a few too many times, no greens, sometimes the bowl with a bit of gristly yak meat for protein, fried eggs in rice where there is a significant Chinese presence.  In one tiny shop I scrutinize a plastic wrapped package for some time before a young Chinese woman helpfully frowns her way to declaring, “chzik-kan hands!”  while holding up three fingers in each hand in front of her.  We laugh (a lot), but I pass on the purchase.  As a staple, I’ve zeroed in on these dense rectangular biscuits in foil packages.  I’m later told that they’re some sort of energy ration for the Chinese army.  Chalky, dry, a bit sweet.  I take quite a liking to them — I consume them with Wangwushan cola, the Chinese knockoff of Pepsi with an unabashedly ripoff logo — and find myself pretending that they are lembas bread from Lord of the Rings. I realize that there’s a lot of things wrong with that, so I’ll just stop here.