Modern Enlightenment: How Tibetans Are Preserving Their Culture In Exile

Modern Enlightenment: How Tibetans Are Preserving Their Culture In Exile

It’s hard to believe it’s already been five years since I spent a summer in India, living at the College For Higher Tibetan studies in Dharamsala, India. This is the trip that got me hooked on travel, hooked on culture, and hooked at throwing myself into the unknown. Not to mention seeing hundreds, more likely thousands of Indians using every inch of green space available as their home put a few things in perspective for me. (Note to self: No more bitching about synching issues between my Macbook, iPad and iPhone.)

I was a student at Miami University at the time. During those travels, a couple classmates of mine worked with me in creating some footage for a documentary project on Tibetans living in exile. For those unfamiliar with the plight of the Tibetans, they have (in an unfairly short summarization) been forced to either leave their ancestral lands by Chinese government policies, or invited to stay under the pretense that they must conform to Chinese culture. It’s an unbelievably complex story to tell, and certainly not one for rookie documentarians. That’s largely why this footage has gone mostly unused. That is, of course, until now.

Modern EnlightenmentInspired by Matador Network and Queensland Tourism’s #travelstoke contest, I decided to use the footage to create a travelogue on my experiences in Dharamsala. Northern India is a tremendously beautiful corner of the globe, and the Tibetans themselves are some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to cut a few scenic images together with adorable baby Tibetans over narration, right?

Of course it would be. This is freaking Tibet! Nothing’s easy.

But I told myself it wouldn’t take long. And it’s thanks to the help of David Lay (colorist) and Adam Gercak (audio engineer) that I have been able to release this project before #travelstoke’s June 7 at midnight deadline without the end product being an utter embarrassment to myself or my former classmates who were kind enough to work with me all those years ago.

For the record, I release this without hope of financial gain. Instead, I hope this project will serve to remind folks of the unimaginable struggles Tibetans face each and every day. Perhaps you’ll even wonder why Tibetans have seemingly been forgotten by mainstream media outlets and supposed leaders of civilized western democracy. (Here’s a hint: China! We’re terrified of them.)

At the very least, I hope you walk away with the same heightened perspective I did after traveling to India. Not that life is a walk in the park for any of us, but at least we can speak our own language and practice our own beliefs without having a guaranteed appointment with the butt of a rifle or a dark cell.

Tashi Delek.

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Joe Baur
Joe Baur
Joe is a travel author (Talking Tico) and podcaster who's constantly looking to get off the tourist trek in search of new stories. He enjoys few things more than a hoppy beer and chorizo in good company. Give him these things and he will be your friend for life.