Jesus is what our eastern friends call Hugh, a tall long-haired sound artist from Australia.  The two of us are in a darkened assembly hall.  Mandy warns us of plain-clothed police at the Drepung Monastery. Some monks enjoyed last year’s riots, he explains.  Thinking back to the press images, I can’t imagine a monk enjoying the act of setting himself on fire. 
       Hugh and I share a similar, growing dislike of this tour.  We’ve managed to break away, pausing in front of a barrel shaped candelabra illuminating a giant Buddha head.  A low resonance from Tibetan mantras reverberates across tall chambers and heavy red drapes. 
       A Chinese student approaches us explaining how he doesn’t agree with his government’s treatment of Tibet.  The Dalai Lama’s forced exile is wrong.  He speaks louder and faster in English which the guards cannot understand. “Not all of us like what is happening in Tibet.  The government forces us to give up our religion, to believe only in Mao or Karl Marx.  Do you know about Confucianism?  We had to give it up,” he says quickly. 
       He points to his Tibetan friends who are smiling, not understanding a word.  He is urgently telling complete strangers things which cannot be uttered in Chinese.  I ask him if there are others who think this way.  “Yes, but they censor us in university,” he says, weak with anger.  I feel an iron anvil lift and I can suddenly breathe for the first time since I arrived in Tibet.  Quickly realizing that our departure will be noticed, we exit in mid-conversation.  The anvil descends.



       My sympathies somehow become self-evident.  Later that week Mandy pleads with me not to get involved in political activities.  His concern is that nearly half of us are insisting on staying in Lhasa.  “What appointments do you have here?” he asks.  We are exhausted from twelve hour days meant to prevent unintended encounters like the one I’ve just had.
      Our handlers lie to us, attempting to steer us back to the original itinerary.  “We cannot change the travel permit,” he says, “and the Lhasa hotel is booked.”  The day before, he called my Lonely Planet book “Dalai Lama propaganda,” threatening to report the other Chinese guide reading it.  Mandy’s intolerance is a constant, low-level harassment.  It must be exhausting to be a human rights advocate in China with a real agenda.  If Mandy only knew we would be exhibiting art in a few days to a Tibetan audience.< next >