The detective, dressed in her business suit and pumps appropriate to urban Lhasa, did not expect to be trailing my wife and me up the steep hillside to a monastery 15,000 feet up an ice-crusted ridge. Even at 200 yards behind us, I could see her shivering in the thin, frozen air, trying, absurdly, to look like just another hiker on the barren slope.
But then, she really wasn’t trying to hide. Her presence was meant to send a message of fear and intimidation.
I got the point earlier when a photographer we’d helped sneak into Tibet was arrested, her film of protesting Tibetans seized and her camera smashed as she was hustled onto the first plane leaving the country.
When my police shadow looked away, I snapped a photo of the long boxes below me, roofs of the prison complex. It housed more Buddhist monks than any monastery.
At a hermitage carved into the summit rock I found my host sitting cross-legged under an ancient tapestry depicting a monster ready to devour quiet souls.
The holy man had questions for us:
Does Christianity have a god? (Answer: “Sometimes.”)
What is a President‘?
It was 1993. I told the monk the new President, …more