National Geographic : 2009 May
- had to beg their parents to let them attend this school, a place of clean-scrubbed classrooms, dorm rooms, and a homey kitchen. None intend to return to hardscrabble farm life. e training institute is the kind of place Snaw dreams about while milking yaks in a freezing snowstorm. Late in the a ernoon several graduates of the institute sit together on a couch in the teach- ers lounge, so excited to tell their stories that they can hardly contain themselves. e last to speak is Tashi Tsering, a lanky, vibrant 21-year- old with a shock of jet black hair in his face. A Tibetan, he too learned English and service industry skills at ETTI and now works as a guide, taking tourists to Tibetan towns and vil- lages as far away as Lhasa. Conscious that he has escaped a life of drudgery, he wishes his friends back in the village could have the same opportunity he has enjoyed. "Now I can play an important role in the future!" he says. Tsering looks over at his fellow alums with pride, then out the window at bustling Shangri- La, the construction cranes swinging over stone farmhouses, the taxis swerving around horse- drawn carts, tourist trinkets on sale next to great slabs of yak meat. His eyes follow a plane descending into the Shangri-La airport. We can t see it from here, but in the center of the rst intersection leaving the airport stands a large white stupa, a sacred Tibetan monument that Buddhists walk around clockwise, the same direction a prayer wheel spins. But cars nego- tiating the intersection must circle the stupa counterclockwise. Consequently, Buddhist tra- dition sends women bent beneath giant loads of cornstalks, heading home to feed their pigs, and men herding yaks as they have for centuries, straight into the paths of oncoming busloads of tourists. ere have been collisions, but some- how it s working. j Pool cues, leather jackets, and cell phones: Even young Buddhist monks from the venerable Ganden Sumtseling Monastery nearby indulge in Shangri-La s fresh temptations.