Mr. Jobs and Tibetan

We are at 7,500 feet elevation in Xining awaiting our permit for Tibet. The Chinese photogovernment had said papers would be available on a certain date. That date has come and gone.

So we are chillin’ in Xining, our planned time in Tibet getting ever shorter. It’s the weekend and no permits forthcoming. We’ve got an excellent guide, though, and hope that our lungs are appreciating the additional time adapting to ever less oxygen.

“How much does an iPhone cost in the U.S.?” asks our guide.

IPhones are everywhere here, even the monks have them.  Even though they are expensive, about 20% more than a similar model purchased the U.S. without a plan.

We spend hours at the local Tibetan monastery—this part of China is on the fringes of Tibetan culture–gearing up on our Buddhism knowledge. The monks love iPhones just as much as everyone else, maybe even more. Am I the only one who smiles at the dichotomy of monkhood and an iPhone 5? The three poisons to be avoided in human lifetimes are hatred, ignorance and desire…symbolized by the snake, the pig, and the rooster. Doesn’t the iPhone represent desire?

But it’s hard to listen and ponder at the same time.

“We so much appreciate Mr. Jobs,” says our guide, who is Tibetan, “because he put Tibetan language on the iPhone.” I ask him to show me, and in fact there are THREE Tibetan keyboard variants, QWERTY, Wylie, and Otani. This for a land of two million people.

“Before that,” said our guide, “it was very difficult for many Tibetan peoples. They would have to memorize phone numbers because they could only read Tibetan.”

Especially interesting since I’ve just finished reading the Steve Jobs biography, which underlines, in addition to his marketing and technology genius, his awful personality.

“When we learn Mr. Jobs is died,” says our guide, “there are many many prayers for him in the temples of Tibet.”

About Karen Ray

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3 Responses to Mr. Jobs and Tibetan

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