Often, when I tell people I am travel around-the-world, the first thought that seems to run through nearly everyone’s mind is “Isn’t it dangerous?” The truth of the matter is that even after two years of traveling I’ve only had one incident and it happened to be a near assault by a man I assume to be a Buddhist.
Traveling on one of the main tourist highways in Tibet, between Lhasa and Lake Namse, we decided to stop to take some photos at a particularly beautiful point in the road. As our driver pulled over to the shoulder, we hopped out and began making our way towards a grass field full of sheep, that were being tended by what seemed to be a pleasant-minded nomadic Tibetan family. As our group of six split up, the father came over with his two children and immediately started begging for money (this was fairly typical of what we had experienced at nearly all other stops on the road), while a few of us snapped photos of the mountains and sheep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the father of the family began to push around one of my traveling companions and began speaking quite forcefully in Tibetan. She screamed back at him, “Get away from me!” as our Tibetan tour guide tried to stepped in.
“You took a picture of my sheep, you give me money,” the father repeatedly said in Tibetan, as our tour guide attempted again to intervene. “I didn’t take any pictures of your sheep,” my friend shot back. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the two small children, who had originally been begging with their hands out, now pushing another one of my traveling companions around, while trying to wiggle their hands into her coat pockets.
The argument between the father and our tour guide escalated, and without much warning, the man pulled out a dull blade from under the blanket that covered him and demanded, “She took a picture of my sheep, she must give me money.” At this point, as a few of us were swatting the kids hands away from our own pockets, we realized it was time to leave. We briskly walked back to the van, as the man continued to yell.
This became my first of many lessons on this trip about the human impact of living a life in despair under the passing shadows of buses loads of digital camera wielding tourists.
Give that father and his family a dollar and it encourages them to beg, don’t give them anything and be ready to see the manifestation of such desperation.
What was the right thing for me to do in this situation, I am not sure.
What you can do now:
- Leave a comment about this post in the box below.
- See photos from my 7 Days In Tibet
- Read other short stories from Tibet
- Hear my story about being Tricked In Beijing