Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Naughty boy

The first hour inside the alien entry and exit department of the police station was spent going over precise locations of where I had been since arriving in Tibet. I could not help noticing the sign on the wall where it said `EXIT`, yes please! I thought.
They asked me again how I got here and where I had travelled from. OK I thought to myself best just keep it sketchy as possible. I explained that I had been travelling from Thailand, Laos into China, hitchhiking and hoping to get to Nepal, which was all true.
An official and stern voice replied ''do you know your visa is out of date by 1 day, and that you have travelled through 5 restricted areas closed to foreigners'' whoops! “really” I said. I was genuinely surprised that my Chinese visa was out of date. I remember applying for a two month one in Thailand but did not check it. I looked and it was indeed out of date, so I had made a mistake and told him I would have applied for an extension if I had realized. I tried to look humble and appealed to his compassionate Buddhist nature, realizing my fate was in there hands, I apologized and asked what could be done. Could I apply for an extension and a travel permit so that I could continue on to Nepal? He did not answer but then began to sort of dictate to me as though he was reading from a list of crimes about to condemn my soul to eternal suffering. He started with a break down of all the rules and regulations that I had broken and then repeated that I had travelled through 5 restricted areas, he then went on to say that I was to write down on a piece of paper exactly what he had just told me then to say in my own words that I recognized these terrible crimes, and that I was very, very, very sorry, was not allowed to apply for an extension, that I was to be grateful to all the officers present for their leniency towards me, because they decided and were willing to offer me a 7 day travel permit so that I could continue to Nepal. Upon after paying a 50 Euro fine, providing I did not stop, do not pass go and go directly to Nepal. Whatever, this was a pretty good deal in the end.
I wrote in my humblest of handwriting everything they wished, maybe he wanted to frame it as some sort of trophy. Anyhow I felt it was some sort of test, like a show of face. I had to lose face, so with my defeat the mood seemed to be lightened, obviously pleased with the victory and his trophy, he seemed cheerful now.
With that over with I was sure I would be on my way again shortly, now that I was armed with all the relevant paper work and could buy bus tickets, travel legally and relax a little, but a mountain of paper work followed, 12 documents, statements, detailed descriptions, of where, when, why, who, signed, triplicated, thumb printed, photographed and then was led to the police canteen for a short interlude. I had not eaten properly for a few days and was very pleased when a tray full of food turned up, all eyes were upon me from the other officers but they were cool and just curious. I waved at them all, joked a little and they smiled.
The Chinese and Tibetans have incredibly noisy eating habits, they don not seem to talk much when food is around and just get on with devouring bowls full of mostly, unrecognizable lumps of things that the noodles were trying to do their best to swim away from, making the chop stick chase even more of a challenge, stabbing at them for a while which I was quite happy to do until someone came and offered me a spoon. I joined the orchestra of slurping and spiting out bones on to the floor or passing dogs, small children and found it comfortable in the end not to be self conscious, it was good to slurp and chew and spit out anything you did not want on to the floor or anywhere else you felt inspired to spit at, it was normal, but what is normal anyway?
We finished our food but as I was still not a free man yet officially, my Tibetan captor asked me if I wanted to come with him on his duty whilst they continued to process the paper work, to extend my visa and grant me a travel permit. He was definitely more chilled out now, seemed more human now that all the formalities were over with. He asked me if I was a Christian, which was a common question that I am asked, yet they don not realize or find it strange how many of us in the west do not have any faith, or grow rice, or have seven wives and fifty children! for them this is very strange, everyone believes in something don’t they? Well I explained that many people do not and for me I do not need to know what I am but I like look at it all with interest and an open mind. The conversation turned towards Buddhism, as he was a devout follower of this philosophy and something which I find very peaceful and truthful of observations with, nature, balance and harmony, through meditation and understanding which ultimately leads to enlightenment, peace and release from human suffering, the weaknesses and traps of the flesh, desire, greed being key elements that trap us and is the cause of our unhappiness. I couldn’t agree more. Less is more for sure, travelling like this with just a bag, my tent something to cook, I never miss anything in fact I feel I have more somehow.
Love, light and peace, spirituality, yeah we are all connected in some intricate web of cause and effect, so I therefore I shook hands with my capture, that was my Karma I suppose. I thought about all that and reflected upon it for a moment, everything happens for a reason and the karma of it all. Well maybe I was lucky they caught me here and not much later at the border to Nepal? maybe by then I would have been a week out of date with my visa and a much bigger trouble to follow and fine, yes count these days as lucky. I still get to see Lhasa without all the hassle of dodging uniforms and it had been an interesting encounter with the police here, they were OK in the end.
I have never been good with dealing with bits of paper, unless it meant drawing pictures on them, the ones with all these rules, regulations and demands. I have always hated those, not for want of being a rebel as I never mean anyone any harm, its just something that I have always felt to the core of my soul is wrong and I recoil away from it all in disgust, leaving me wanting to run away and hide. I don’t know why it has never felt normal for me. In my world there are no rules there is no need for them, rules were only made because of other people who have darkness in their hearts and have broken basic morality.
Back at the station, it took 4 people all day to complete the paper work. I thought the French were bad for formalities but these guys seemed to invent it. Finally I left at with my passport and just had to return tomorrow for the travel permit to be issued. I booked into a room and tried to get my thoughts back on track again, but somehow I felt violated like the purity and the freedom of travel had been compromised from all this bullshit, all this man power, paper work, expense, waste of time for what? All I want to do is travel from here to there across this planet that should not really have to belong to anyone, why we have to be so possessive, greedy, and suspicious? there should be certain rights for people who are nomadic or wish to be nomadic free to travel to traverse this beautiful planet, that I am sure if God exists this would be in his original design too! Just greed and fear in the hearts of others, that spoil it for those who wish no impact upon their surroundings.
December 31st 2008 I switch on the TV and start to take notice of the news, I quickly fall off my romantic travelling cloud, as I watch and take in the financial problems from around the globe, on the TV they are graphically compared side by side, so many problems, so much despair. I do not feel sorry at all, just sad at the short sightedness and inevitability of it, so much out of balance, so much wealth, so much power, so many resources, knowledge, materials, objects, yet millions of people still starving in the world, its madness. I talked with the officer today he asked me what I thought about the state of the world, that there are so many problems did I think there would ever be a 'one world' he said this with much sincerity and sort of sadness, like he hoped I would tell him something positive from my part of the world, what he wanted to hear, hoped to hear, I believe its possible but politically impossible, there is too much greed in the world for spirituality to enter the hearts of these people, we do not work as one, we build our little empires and high fences and walls and shut the doors on those who fall. Keep everything to ourselves do not want to share, more of the more, bigger better than you.

''mans happiness and gladness lies in his struggle and the most valuable kind is to struggle for his ideals''

I don’t know who said this but it was a sticker I noticed that was on the side of the kettle in the police station, it seemed to strike a chord and the kettle made a particularly great cup of tea that day.

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