This Monday I’m excited to kick off what I’m calling Mini Story Monday. The simple goal of MSM is to tell a story in just a few short paragraphs – an ongoing attempt to break down any story to it’s bare essentials. Telling better stories requires telling stories. And that’s my aim
In early 2010 while doing a scouting trip for Plateau Photo Tours, my business partner Jamin, a Tibetan buddy, and myself all set out to do some research on a rarely visited remote monastery called Drakar Tredzong – The White Monkey Fortress. Drakar Tredzong is seldom visited by foreigners. It has a few things going against it – remote location, proximity to historic bird flu outbreaks, and certain periods of hostility with the local government(s) have all worked together to make sure The Monkey Fortress remains somewhat a mystery location.
We arrived at the monastery right before sundown with plans to stay the night. As we wandered the monastery, we were invited to grab a cup of milk tea with the lead monk. He told us the story of how the monastery received it’s name – once abundant monkeys used to roam the once abundant forests. “Sometimes on a warm day you can still hear the monkeys up in the rocks! We think the monkeys were brought from Darjeeling, India,” He said. As we pressed him on these facts, he gave us a good belly laugh and said, “I don’t really that there are monkeys here, but that’s okay.” Tibet’s history is litered stories of monkeys in places monkeys shouldn’t be. Thus is the paradox of the Tibetan Plateau.
As night began to fall and our conversation with the monk began to come to a close, we decided to look for a place to stay the night. Then, a local government appointed “police officer” appeared (per usual in remote places like this), worried by the presence of foreigners. At first, we could stay. “Thanks for visiting this place! Isn’t it amazing, isn’t it?” said the police officer. Then, as he thought it through, he wanted us to leave. Two minutes later, we were allowed to stay again. Later we had to write down our names and passport numbers. I scribbled down my information. My E’s and R’s were backwards. My B looked like a 3. My 9’s looked like 8’s and my 4’s looked like Korean script. Finally we were required to leave. The police from the local township were already on their way to investigate us.
We met the police after two hours of driving on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere. They took our passports and required us to follow them to the local police station. At the police station we were immediately berated by a 5′ 2″ police chief who brandished an empty 22′ revolver as a show of force and as an offsetting factor to being so short. The absurdity of it all made me laugh out loud – an action that undoubtedly added to the length and intensity of the ordeal. The officer yelled at us for over two hours while his subordinates failed to match his intensity – sneaking smiles and laughs behind his back. They’d obviously seen this act before.
In the end we were required to write down our information again – B’s, 3’s, 8’s and Korean, and asked to leave the area in the morning, as a courtesy and “for our own safety.”