Monky Business

Gonpo, our Xiahe manager
Gonpo our Tibetan manager

Meeting in the Labrang Monastery Restaurant with English speaking Gonpo, after a morning spent designing possible signs for their front door (with all the spelling mistakes of course, well, would we?)

Yes yes game with the monks will be good. Turn to three young monks, big smiles all round. Right, so tomorrow on the Tibetan middle school pitch 6 o’clock yeah, grin, yeah. Woah, hold it, not so fast, fourth monk say different, gonpo listens. What can he be saying? The mood has fallen. They cannot play here, they will be seen by concerned elder monks (see political comment here), the grasslands will be better. For the love of Jesus Dalai Lama Christ ‘n’ football ‘n’ life on this competitive road, let’s do it. Agree, agree. Our third game in as many days at 3000 metres. Ole, ole, ole, ole, ole, ole.

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After many attempts to play a game of football with the monks, we arrange to play at a secret location in the grasslands.

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Well, secret from the authorities it was, we and they then bigged it up in a beautiful exchange of rules, tackles and yet again, this beautiful game…

The road we took was rocky, washed away and rock strewn in places, the van, packed to the gills with our new friends, Tim the boy Noble, Chris, Rob, new recruit French lad Cyrille and as we all sang ole, ole I reached forward to snap this photo.

Bus to Grasslands
The team bus

Mountains grew taller all around us and the road opened up into a mile wide, flat valley floor, greener than anywhere we had seen for the last six weeks of desert travel. The air was refreshingly damp and as J—–, with the other monks, excitedly pointed into the lush middle distance, I made out a field with robed bodies weaving to and fro. Jeepers, this was heavenly. My heartbeat quickened, my breath grew shorter and we all piled out of the van grinning from ear to ear for our first game on grass for the entire trip.

Match in progress
The Grasslands and the game

The game was ragged helped by the lumpy, sometimes heathery surface, and the games were fiercely contested as the mixed teams battled to bang the ball between two five foot branches driven into the ground at each end of a 40 yard pitch. A few of the monks were practised in this art (what’s this, football and art? – ed.) and others less so, however anger and laughter littered the game as smiles and handshakes ended it.

Rob 'n' Phil in Grassland Heaven
Rob’n’Phil in Grassland heaven

Love to all involved,

Missing your tackles and passes already,

(That’s enough now – ed.)


Written by on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2002

6 comments on this post

  1. Hey guys, we met with Ganpo while in Xiahe too! Had a long discussion with him over lunch. Sounds like you guys managed at least a few good games while there (by the way, have you seen ‘The Cup’, film about monks in Nepal trying to get a TV to watch the 1998 World Cup final).

    Unfortunately, we won’t be in Beijing when you are there. We’re arriving on a Sunday morning train from Urumqi so I guess we’ll just miss you.

    Clubs are: The Loft, 55, Orange, Neo Lounge (all foreigners) and Banana (really Chinese). Also, pick up some of the English-language magazines and look up live music. If you see a band called ‘Secondhand Roses’, they’re a Chinese band worth checking out.

    [sorry to do it this way but my e-mail isn’t loading properly]

  2. Paula and Gids May 23, 2002 at 10:39 pm

    Really loving your tales of adventure and beauty and extremely gutted that we cannot be a part of it.

    Is that Rob, superstar DJ we spy in the picture? Did he hire a private jet to come and see you or was he transported by the music police?

    Love you all


  3. Tina: thanks for the club guide, and sorry we missed you in the capital city. We did end up somewhere round San Litun, sampling the, er, delights of clubland.

    Paula & Gids: You are a part of our trip… it’s as simple as leaving a comment! And yep, DJ Laptop briefly joined us on the journey, but seems to have got himself embroiled in checking off the sights on his tourist itinerary We’ll be hooking up with him again in Seoul, when he flys in from Shanghai to meet up with us again.

  4. Well a proper stoopid night out on the town was had in Beijing, visiting a place called Air (or was it Aero?) round the back of a sports stadium.

    Six of us rolled up, quickly applied some London blagging skills by reading the guest list upside down to the door staff, and danced to a right old mix up of tracks played as low-quality MP3s off a coupla laptops.

    Chris and I left v drunk at the end of the evening and briefly sat in the garden of a club where Quentin Tarantino had just rolled up, but the door staff by then were, quite sensibly, not having it (and all blaggin ability had disappeared in a cloud of alcohol-induced confusion).

    Gids and Rach: Private jet of course. Hi from rainy Shanghai. I left the lads in Beijing to get their ferry to Soeul, and I’m re-joining them on Sunday.

    “checking off the sights on his tourist itinerary” – I aint no snap-happy tourist, but I certainly like to actually look around the places I visit. Tis a sign of Chris’ dedication and diligence that mainly what he’s checked out in each place we’ve gone to is the inside of the nearest Internet cafe, but its all in the name of providing you the readers with the quality FLH experience you have come to expect.

  5. Jamyang! Glad you dropped by. I’m very well… how the hello are you??

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