Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Turning 29 at the top of the world (my birthday in Tibet part 1)

Turning 29 at the top of the world.

It’s a once in a lifetime chance – to go into your 30th year in one of the highest cities in the world – Lhasa, Tibet.

I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while, since its 2 weeks since I’ve been back now. But writing about it means that I have to accept it’s all over, and I don’t want to! I’m in denial!

I wanted to write about my two friends Brain and Mike first too, because both of those tragedies came before this, and my birthday, despite the occupation, and the tragic history of Tibetans and despite the death of my friends, my birthday was a one off, the day was perfect. And I think you can only appreciate its perfection when you know what had gone before and how sad id felt.

I’d already realised that being sad and wearing a frown didn’t help anyone, least of which the Tibetans. “Gross national happiness begins with a smile” they say in Bhutan, and it’s a great attitude. And how can you not smile when you wake up 29, the sky is that deep blue you’ve seen in fairytale photos of Tibet dotted with a few graphic art clouds that only illustrate how high up you are and how big the sky is, and how underneath that panorama the Potala palace with the morning sun shining on it majestically, is still and will always be the dream and the symbol of Tibet and the hopes for what was and still could be. And today, my birthday was my lucky day, the day I got to visit the Potala, home of the Dalai Lamas, built by King Songsten Gampo, finished 12 years after he died in secret, holder and keeper of so many secrets, great library (although most of the writings now destroyed), great place of learning and great home. Just great.

But not just the Potala, today I would also go to the Norbulingka and the Jokhang. The Norbulingka I’d always been fascinated with as it was the Dalai Lama’s summer palace and from reading the biography of the Dalai Lama (14th) I knew how much HH loved the place, and I’d read about its beauty in the Summer when the Dalai Lama and all the officials and government would change their address from the Potala to the Norbulingka. I wanted to see if his Koi Carp are still in their pond or whether they’d been eaten!! Then I would get to go to the Jokhang. The most important temple in Tibet. Where the Dalai Lama became the Dalai Lama.

So you can imagine, I was very excited. I’d come to terms with the difficulties in Tibet, and the contradictions, and the necessity to just continue with life – well as much as you can come to terms with it in a few days, and I knew that I was now going to experience the Potala, which as the national symbol of Tibet, was also the place of most propaganda and mystery, and changes in the actual time line & history!

In order to get into the Potala, as with any of the temples in Tibet you need a permit. Nowadays the Potala has more restrictions, which left me waking up the morning of my birthday from a nightmare about rushing round a dark temple, missing all the things that had the potential to move me, and change my life and being pushed out the door without having seen the most important parts!

As I lay in bed in my Tibetan hotel (run by Tibetans) early that morning, I knew how totally lucky and jammy I was, it was still dark outside, and I opened my birthday card from my Mum and Dad, and I felt very grateful to them for enabling me to get to Lhasa on my birthday as I had hoped and planned for such a long time. What? You don’t honestly think that I could afford to do this trip as Earache’s press manager without help from my Mum and Dad do you? Pah!

I’d gone with my Tibetan friend to the dress shop near the hotel the night before when we arrived in Lhasa, and bought my traditional Tibetan outfit (but without the apron – they’re only for MARRIED women! Pah!) I had planned to wear my new Tibetan gear out that night on my birthday, as I had a feeling there was something planned and I think it’s really cool to wear that country’s national dress when you’re there. Its not the same as wearing a band t-shirt of the band you’ve gone to see at one of their shows, and hang the embarrassment factor a lot of people in Tibet (Tibetans) still wear traditional dress, and I hope that its taken as a compliment that I would want to aswell.

I didn’t want to wear my new silk outfit round the Potala though, as I knew that there would be a lot of stairs and probably quite a bit of dust.
(i'm wearing heart shaped sun glasses to show love)

We got to the Potala, and there were already a lot of Tibetans doing a Kora (circumambulation) round the Potala. These days getting inside the Potala is restricted access, as I mentioned already, but this is also applicable to Tibetans, maybe even moreso from what I understand. Although there were more Chinese tourists visiting the Potala than anyone else, with loud Chinese guides (probably explaining a Chinese version of history) there were one or two Tibetan families I saw going round too. You get stopped at the entrance by a Chinese lady sitting at a fold up table who looks thoroughly bored. She checked our passports, our visa, and our permit to visit the Potala. Then we were ushered through a room with cabinets containing confiscated liquids in all forms, and even an oxygen tank through a brightly lit room with an x-ray machine that x-rayed our bags. Then we went through the outside garden, which has a few buildings that used to be part of the administrative heart of the Tibetan government and affords a magnificent view of the Potala. The gardens were in bloom, the sky was blue, and Potala hunkered like a huge white stone giant in front of us. It was pretty exciting. It’s difficult for Tibetan guides I should think. Not only to be heard over the shrill Chinese tour guides, but also to not lose hope when visiting such important historic landmarks that are getting a very different take on history from an invading (sorry, liberating!) nation’s guides. I felt awe and reverence at the majesty and the weight of history going up the stairs of the Potala. I don’t know if every group there felt the same. But maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe its enough that there are people from China real, taking an interest. Who knows?

Anyway, you may already know, there are quite a lot of steps up to the Potala. Its not wheel chair friendly, its not hobble bad leg friendly. But at the same time, it’s not so bad. I didn’t really find it much of a problem. It is quite high up though so you get out of breath quicker than you think you should. And after 3 big flights of stairs the little concrete bench is welcome before hopping up the rest. By the little concrete bench these is a tree, all through the tree is lumps of cotton strewn amongst the branches. I had a feeling what I thought these might be, and I was correct – prayer flags have been disallowed in the Potala now, and these funny clumps of cotton were/are the Tibetan people’s way round that new rule. So we carry on up the steps.

There are only about 20 rooms open to tourists of the Potala out of its 500 or so. No one seems to know what’s in the other 480 rooms. No one knows how much of the treasure and the library still exists. Even the monks and Dalai Lamas didn’t frequent all the rooms under Tibetan rule, so one can only hope that some of the original rooms and contents survive in the rest of the palace. After all the Potala was “saved” from destruction by a Chinese premier named Zhou Enlai who supposedly deployed his own troops to protect it.

Our papers are checked again, and we go up more stairs into the courtyard below the Dalai Lama’s quarters (the rooms that are painted yellow on the outside of the Potala)

The timer starts from when we enter the Dalai Lama’s quarters from the top of the wooden stairs.

We get 1 hour and 1 hour only to do the 20 rooms. If we do the tour in more than one hour the company our guide works for will lose their ability to take a group to the Potala the next time. They’ll have their permit revoked. The race is on. I don’t like this pressure. There are people in my tour group who are slow, there are people in my tour group that don’t listen when we have things explained, and ask to have it all explained again. There are people in my tour group who go totally off subject and ask about things that aren’t relevant. None of this would normally bother me, but we are about to enter the Potala palace.

A place I have waited to see for a very long time. (I’m sure they’ve wanted to visit for a long time too) but we are on a fucking time limit! Man, I don’t want to get stressed out here – but here’s 20 rooms or so full of the treasures of Tibetan history and culture, where HHDL himself lived as a child, where he received state visitors, where he walked, prayed and pondered what to do about the advancing Chinese, where he stood on the roof with his telescope and watched his people go about their business in Lhasa around the Jokhang and in the market square – we’re about to enter the Potala palace – one of the most amazing places on earth, and we have a TIME LIMIT!!! Ughhhh!!! I tried not to worry, but as we hurried through rooms, and missed explanations I did think about my nightmare in the early hours of that morning and it wasn’t far off. But at least I was in the Potala. I saw the Dalai Lama’s apartments. I’d heard that the Chinese were keen to have them on display to show how bourgeois he was as if this would impact the Tibetan people’s opinion of him. I did see a lot of the Chinese groups stop specifically at his radio (also in the Norbulingka) and make a big thing of it. Really when you’d visited a lot of temples already the grandness of the apartments didn’t seem all that much. They look very much like the inside of a temple. Golden coloured statues, Red, blue, green, yellow. Tara, Manjushri, Avaloketishvara, Amitayus, Medicine Buddha etc. Thangkas and a little single bed.

I was worried. Worried about the time we had, worried about what I could and couldn’t ask our guide, desperate to see it all, but worried I wasn’t taking enough of it in. The signs explaining what was in each room invariably had an explanation which referred to a certain Chinese emperor or Dynasty, especially if there was anything that was linked to the Chinese princess that once wed a Tibetan king (more relevant at the Jokhang later that day, but nevertheless an event that holds a lot of interest for modern Chinese audiences and tour guides)

Up and down we went through little rooms belonging to different Dalai Lamas, seeing their Stupas and tombs, their favourite rooms, their gifts from foreign rulers. Waiting for others from our group to catch up, wanting to cram as much info in as I possibly could. Getting mixed up with Chinese groups, looking intently at statues as if I could somehow burn their appearance into my mind if I looked that much harder. It didn’t really work. I can’t remember everything I saw already, and its only 2 weeks ago. We were through the apartments of the Dalai Lamas within 58mins and I felt very frustrated that we didn’t have longer. It really was quite a lot like my nightmare! But it wasn’t gonna bother me on my birthday, especially when I was well aware of how lucky I was to be there at all. Not only is it still relatively difficult to get into Tibet, but there are thousands upon thousands of Tibetans in exile who would have probably given their right arm to have an hour in the Potala, and its their birth right pretty much to be there – but instead I was! And frustrated about the one hour I did get! I bought a book from the Potala about the Potala, written by the Chinese. Partly because I wanted the propaganda. I bought a book of postcards because photos were of course prohibited, and I thought they might help me remember the wonders I’d seen.

I wandered down the steps, now off the clock, down to our little bus waiting for us. On the way I passed by some tablets with Tibetan carved into them laid out on the grass. They’d been smashed during the “cultural revolution” and now were propped up because they’d been preserved.

So off to the Norbulingka – The Summer Palace

I was as excited about the Norbulingka as the Potala. Because I know how much the current Dalai Lama loved it from books, and I think it’s almost as important as the Potala. It was the place where the Dalai Lama’s projection room was housed, and it was, and to my surprise still is, the place that houses the Tibetan Opera each year. I’ve already mentioned what a lovely day it was, and this was all the more enjoyable in the gardens of the Norbulingka. The first part of the Norbulingka we visited was the 8th Dalai Lama’s palace. You walked through the gardens to big doors with big knockers

and then you enter a little peaceful place that seems a world away from the dark corners of the Potala. There was a lovely White Tara Thangka, and the whole place had been painted by a renowned Tibetan artist that I can’t find the name of ANYWHERE! My postcard book of photos of course doesn’t mention him, and the lonely planet doesn’t know.

We then went to visit the 14th Dalai Lama’s palace. I’d stared at photos of this part of the Norbulingka for a long time before visiting, and it didn’t disappoint.

You enter into a large hallway, which now has a giftshop on the right hand side, and then you go up some wooden stairs into a reception room at the top, that has the most wonderful painting on the wall of Tibetan history in 301 scenes. From the monkeys and first field that I’d seen a few days before at Tsedang to the 14th Dalai Lama. This painting was also by this great Tibetan artist - unfortunately there are no photos or books of this painting, although it would make a great children’s book, I’m not sure it’s a version of history that would sell very well to the Chinese.

I got to see HHDL’s other little single bed, and another radio that again the Chinese tour guides were very interesting (I won’t mention the ooos and aaaahs when they got to the gramophone! – which was a present from Nehru I believe) and the route that you walk through the palace also took you through HHDL’s throne room. And when I say throne room, I mean the royal throne …. And bath, and sink. All of which had money on them as offerings. I know my Mum would approve of this as one does like to wish people to be productive in that department… right Mum?

There is a wonderful ‘assembly hall’ with paintings on the walls with faces of 14th Dalai Lamas government that look like cartoons, I wish there was postcards of them too – and its so strange seeing the paintings, and knowing the history, and also knowing that this place – the New Summer Palace at the Norbulinkga was where the Dalai Lama escaped from disguised as a soldier when he left Tibet 50 years ago this year.

The Tibetan Opera still continues outside in the gardens of the Norbulinkga each year. They still perform towards the New Summer Palace as if the Dalai Lama was still there. But it now seems to be sponsored by Budweiser.

I was keen to see if HHDL’s Koi Carp were still in the pond, and I’m glad to report there are many many koi carp in the pond. I took photos as proof.

So far so good, a rushed Potala, and a peaceful Norbulinkga, both before lunch – not a bad start to a 29th birthday in Tibet!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Mike Alexander website

Mike Alexander memorial website:


Mike Alexander R.I.P.

Mike Alexander R.I.P.
I’d got an email from Lucy saying Evile were leaving the Amon Amarth tour whilst I was in the hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal. I thought to myself “Shit what bad luck have the guys got into now? I hope Ol’s been eating right and not breaking his jaw, I hope they’ve managed to get the ferry, I hope none of them have got ill” I was frustrated, thinking about Ol’s bad feeling about the tour before they started thinking “Come on guys whatever it is you’ve got to stick it out” So I wrote back to Lucy from Kathmandu saying “Tell me what’s going on”

I didn’t get a reply until I reached Tibet and my Blackberry started working. The first thing I read upon arrival. Mike’s dead.

Evile didn’t want to tell me, they didn’t want to spoil my holiday, but they were worried I would see it on Facebook and not hear it from them.

I’d just landed in a really surreal place and I was getting really surreal news.

I still don’t think it’s sunk in for me. I still don’t know what to write.

Mike was a very private person. I only found out that he had a daughter about 6 months ago. I’d been drinking with him enough, I’d laughed with him enough, but his private life was his private life, and in some ways Mike was the quiet one in Evile. Until you went out on the piss with him. Or until you had one of those natural moments of hilarity with Mike where his easy going sense of humour caught the room.

Mike was a giggler. He didn’t have a big booming laugh, he giggled. Please note this example when we were in the woods doing the Evile photoshoot for Infected Nations. I’d told the boys this story about Mad Bess. (Just like my guide leader had told me the story about Mad Bess when I was a girl guide) and whilst we were waiting to take photos (it was fucking pissing it down) we did this YouTube clip. Mike’s trying to hold himself together and not dissolve into laughter. I’m trying to hold it together and not dissolve in to laughter from looking at Mike (although you can still hear me giggle behind the camera)

Mike wasn’t the guy I would contact to get press done with Evile; he certainly wasn’t the guy who would respond to emails quickest if ever. He never had a facebook; he didn’t really like his mobile phone. He always wore headphones. He wasn’t really one to take the lead or to be confrontational. He was a King Diamond virgin until Louise and I initiated him to the King in the car from Bloodstock to a Supermarket one hungry morning at the festival. Louise and I tortured him without mercy by singing Madonna classics at him all the way home from Bloodstock. But he actually didn’t seem to mind, said it reminded him of his sisters. He was the guy everyone wanted to hang out with especially when press were in town, he was the guy everyone wanted to be around because he was so easy going. It was never any fuss or stress with him. Everything was done with no bother; anything you did for him was always received so gratefully and humbly. He was never one of those guys to be disappointed with a rider at a show, he was always grateful there was anything at all. He was never the one to be in bed early, he was the one who used to like to party, in his own understated hilarious way.

I feel bad I didn’t get to know him better, to make the most of his fun loving, no hassle personality. I always loved the way his eyes lit up mischievously when he would witness something cheeky. Those eyes gave away so much.

He was the first Evile member to dress up in stupid masks with me at Bloodstock. He danced Reggae with me outside some market stall. He was a really good guy. He was a really solid guy.

All that without even mentioning what a talented bass player he was.

I can’t imagine how hard it is for his brothers in Evile. Ben, I know you’ll make it through this ok, Ol you’re so brave, and Matt I’m glad you’ve all got each other. I know you’ll be back on stage soon enough, as I’m sure Mike would never have wanted you to stop, and I know that nothing and no one will be able to replace him, as he was so special, but I also know that everything Mike gave to the band will carry on with you, and his sound will carry on when you play the tracks he wrote with you and when you get on stage and see the fans that were fans of him too, and love you all still. The support Evile have from fans has always been huge because they are such genuine nice guys. Thankful and grateful and sweet, and enjoying every minute of their career with the band. And you guys will enjoy it again, even though Mike will be no longer with you physically, you know he’ll be there every time you play in your heads and hearts and in the minds and hearts of the fans too.

I’m writing this on the train, and we’re just going through Market Harborough near where Evile recorded the album Infected Nations. Near where this video happened where Mike pops through looking cheeky.
Near where he tasted a chilli in the Indian restaurant by the recording studio (on the Evile DVD)

Something about him was so magic, he had a self-awareness and comic timing in everything, whilst still in many ways being the “quiet one”. I hope that his work lives on in his music and his kids. Having met Tom at the weekend, I know his sense of humour lives on, and I see with Tom and Matt both that his love of metal will continue. My heart goes out to his family, to his Mum and Hayley and his Lumpy Georgie, I hope you can take solace in how much he was loved all over the world and that his memory will live on in his music and with his fans.

It’s still so hard to believe no one will hear his giggle ever again.

Uncle Brain R.I.P.

Brian Redman R.I.P.

I can’t pretend that Uncle Brain and I hung out all the time cause we actually only met the one time. I can’t believe that! Looking back, I would have thought that we’d hung out a whole bunch. But the truth of it is, that we only hung out face to face that first night I met 3 inches of Blood in London. But we got on pretty fucking well. I adopted him as a big brother soon after, but then later christened him Uncle as everyone needs an Uncle that behaves badly. I had 2 – Uncle Bob Slayer and Uncle Brain. We kept in touch with emails, I called him now and again, he helped me with my love life, I stayed in touch when he left 3 inches of Blood, as he was and is one of my favourite members that band has had. No offense to the others but Brain was the man. We had a mutual love of Pinky and the Brain. I was Pinky, he was Brain. We had a Pinky and the Brain referencing friendship. We had a talking shit friendship. We had a talking Black metal friendship. I tried to get to visit him in Tacoma, but I didn’t have the time or the money in the end last year. He was gonna come to London in January. When we discovered facebook we had a “poke” ing friendship. When we discovered we both had Blackberry messenger we had a “BBM” ing friendship. I spoke to him on BBM when I was in Delhi a few hours before he died. He sent me this photo:

He told me “I want to molest China”
As I was on my way to Tibet.
That was the last I heard from him.
Uncle Brain was a guest on my radio show. I wanted to phone him every week. Sometimes I couldn’t get hold of him cause he was sleeping. Sometimes he picked up and was fuckin funny. 2 weeks before he died from a moped accident he was on my show talking about bike accidents. My friend Lucy had been hit by a car whilst on her bike in Camden. She was shaken up but reasonably unhurt. I dedicated my radio show to her as she’s one of my best friends and we played various accident related tracks. I phoned Uncle Brain; he picked up and was on the show about half an hour discussing accidents and telling stories. He told me a story about how a car went into him once when he was drunk cycling home. He got real mad and got up off the floor ready to fight the guy behind the wheel who’d knocked him off the bike, only to find out that the car was parked and there was no one behind the wheel – it had been stationary the whole time. Doh!
Uncle Brain was a party animal. But I only got to party with him once. What a fucking loser I am I should have made the journey out to see him. It’s the nature of friends in this business, sometimes you meet people who you get on with so well, you know you’ll be friends for life, and just hope your paths cross again soon. Well, life was a shorter time than I expected. And our paths didn’t cross again as soon as I hoped they would. I know that all the people who got to spend more time with him, and Dana who I know loved him to bits must miss him a whole bunch because I miss him and I only hung out with him that one time face to face. I hope you all can treasure the memories and times you’ve had with him – all I have is a photo of his smelly feet and Pinky and Brain cartoons.
What a fucking awesome guy. I’m so sad you’re not around to make the world more rock n roll.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Arriving in Lhasa

The forbidden city. The capital of Tibet. The home of the Dalai Lamas. The Potala palace. The Jokhang. The Norbulinka.
I ride on the bus towards the Forbidden city listening to Kansas and the big chinese billboards pass by the divine Tibetan landscape. Its very strange.

We get stopped by the police 3 or 4 times on our way to the big smoke. They check our passports, they check our visa, they check out our driver and guide.
We drive along round the mountains, by the lake and it looks so magic.
On the sides of the mountains and hills are ladders painted in white, wishing people long life. There are paintings of buddha on the sides of the mountains and hills too. But no political graffiti.
After passing the last 'traditional' Tibetan house and going through the new tunnel through the mountain we get into Lhasa.

There are 60th anniversary decorations everywhere celebrating the 'liberation' of Tibet in 1949.

There are shopping malls and stalls and people and wide roads and steak houses and alot of armed guards. Platoons of them patrol the streets. But people just get on with their business.
 Dirty old prayer flags hang from the bridge going across into town. I know that putting prayer flags up in a lot of Lhasa is now forbidden. The once Forbidden city is now open to tourists, but closed to prayer flags.
Irrespective of the gulf between what Lhasa was and what it is now, i was very upbeat, think of all the travellers that went before me, all the amazing events that took place in this great city, the sadness, the happiness, the culture that lived untouched for so long.
And then you get treated to something that i'll never forget. My first view of the Potala palace. I didn't take a photo right at that moment cause i was too busy enjoying it. It is truley magnificent. Totally majestic sitting high up and looking down on all the crap that's happened. It's totally awesome. And the next day i was gonna turn 29 and go and visit it.
Here's a photo from the top of our hotel the next morning, so you get the picture.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Samye on the way

So i'm catching up with blogs and trying to remember every little thing that happened whilst i was on my trip.

I blogged about Samye already from Tibet whilst i was in the bus on the way to Lhasa. Taking the tiller of that little boat across the lake/river to Samye that day was one highlights of my time in Tibet up until that point. And Samye was such an interesting monastery, especially as a lot of it was original build, and in light of my 2 friends passing away its meant to be where souls go to rest before they get reincarnated. Not that i believe in that, but it was nice to think about, and i spun a lot of prayer wheels in the hopes my friends were somewhere near.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Tibet - the hope

I've written about how it was strange and sad to land in Tibet, and why. And i've written about the confusion i experienced and what a headf**k it was, and still is - but i've tried to write in chronological order and those weren't the overall feelings i experienced or what i now think, although it is still confusing dealing with the contradictions and the emotions and the oppression.
After our first night in Tsedang, capital of the Yarlung valley, and ghost town of the Chinese tiles we set off for the fortress/chapel of Yumbulakhang. I had seen photos of this building high on the hill, and i was excited to see it. Its been rebuilt of course, so it's not the original anymore, and to be honest although i was worrying about all the things i've spoken about in my previous blogs and didn't know what to think. This is the chapel with the vacant seat of the Panchen lama and where i was first struck by the Mao money everywhere. But it also has the most magnificent vista, and infront of the temple in a field to the left is where the first cultivated field in Tibet was supposed to be sewn from the first Tibetans who in their beliefs descended from monkeys.

I climbed up to the top of the mountain behind the temple and watched the few pilgrims go up the path. Its really quite incredible, and now i'm home i can't believe that last week i was standing there with the wind in my hair looking out over the Tibetan fields below.

Here's a picture of some of the money collected in the temple

And the view from the top of the hill of a older monastery now covered in dust

Monk population in this little temple = 3 i think. Monk populations all over Tibet are dwindling. Temples without monks are a very sad affair.
Next stop was the Traduk monastery which is being rebuilt after being mostly destroyed during the 'Cultural revolution' (occupation)
On the back of my ticket into the temple it says "Traduk Lamasery is one of the twelve Tibetan Buddhist lama temples buillt by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century as well as one of the important sacred places among the three sacred pagodas, three sacred caves and three sacred places Yarlung Valley. The temple was constantly maintained in the different stages of history. It remains what it is after is was renovated and added to on a large scale during the time of Tahle Lama X. It is a major national culture relic worthy of preservation."
* Postage stamp on the back of the card from The People's Republic of China

Translation by cynical Londoner: tourists will like this place, so we are rebuilding it after having destroyed it

It was however in this temple under what was a very grey sky i began to get a feel for the fact that Tibetan culture still lives. As although the vistas and views are spectacular it was the people and warmth and smiles i wanted to see. Then we were lucky enough to witness some ladies laying the new floor on the upstairs of the temple. This wasn't something organised by the Chinese for tourists, this was just something we walked in on.

And from that point on my time in Tibet got a lot brighter.

We went to the Tomb of the Tibetan Kings where there was a new old monastery (circa 1982) and i made friends with a Tibetan lady who'd gone a bit mad and she gave me a crystal. Then we made friends with some people in the fields and i tried to make friends with some Yak.

I began to get a feel for the Tibetan people and started trying to understand who was who and what their intentions were. From being utterly shocked when we first got to Tibet, i started being incredibly happy and grateful to be here, witnessing the real geniune smiles of the Tibetans in their own land.