Archives for the month of: May, 2013

The days that make us happy make us wise. ~ John Masefield

I took this picture on my birthday ten years ago and still remember how happy I was. When I worked in Lhasa, my favorite pastime was to circle the Barkhor with my camera. Drinking, smoking, and gambling large sums of money over mahjong all night with Sichuanese Han or Hui from Gansu didn’t entice me and there was little else to do for fun. That didn’t bother me; outside was always more interesting. In the days before online printing was common and with my Nikon D80 in hand, my first digital camera ever, I took countless photos and developed them at the best quality Kodak store I could find, organized them into albums and either sent them to my mom by airmail or inundated friends’ inboxes.


Peace begins with a smile. ~ Mother Teresa

A Tibetan woman wearing a large amber-colored stone in the Kham style standing in front of the Jokhang Monastery in central Lhasa. ©2008

Kargil, Jammu & Kashmir, India
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. ~ Anais Nin

The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch one another. ~ Jack Kornfield

10g Kargil children (2)In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

lhasa1_6 (2)The language of friendship is not words but meanings. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Love will enter cloaked in friendship’s name. ~ Ovid

Two Muslim women remove the traditional head veil that covers their face (niqab). When this picture was taken in 2004, dress varied widely in Kashgar, a city in the southwest of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In 2017, Islamic clothing, intrinsic to Uyghur ethnic identity for many Uyghur people, was officially banned by the Chinese state in public spaces across the XUAR. Yet, in other areas of China like Kunming, facekini’s – thin, opaque nylon/polyester full head and neck coverings with cut out nose holes and eye openings – were worn without restriction by Han Chinese women to protect their skin against sun and wind exposure. In a 2004 article on “Ethnicity in China: the Case of Xinjiang” in the Harvard Asia Quarterly, scholar Colin Mackerras wrote that China “has been able to persuade much of the Uyghur population to support, or at least not to oppose, its rule and brought about great societal and economic progress that can be seen in a rising standard of living.” One wonders about Xinjiang’s “great societal and economic progress” in the time since and to what extent his observation still holds significance today and for whom. 

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one. ~ Oscar Wilde

Elderly ethnic Palaung women in traditional Palaung clothing prepare food in a rural village on the outskirts of Kengtung in the eastern Shan State, Myanmar. It is difficult to distinguish between everyday performance versus being as well as cooptation versus participation. Residents seem to partake most readily as objects in the area’s burgeoning tourist industry while having little to no agency or access to other economic opportunity. The woman on the left, in particular, is photographed by countless visitors, some of whom she will pose for in the hopes of receiving money, others of whom she won’t, and some of whom will reciprocate while others don’t. Despite the problematic nature of tourism development here, the village nevertheless features in countless images as an ideal destination.

1 Turtuk children (2)Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together. ~ Woodrow Wilson

1 Turtuk Balti children playing (2)Balti children playing.

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. ~ William Butler Yeats

We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at least one which makes the heart run over. ~ Samuel Johnson

Children fetch water from a pump in Kargil, a junction town in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir. Kargil lies in the shadow of the “Line of Control,” a ceasefire fragment separating India from Pakistan that was drawn when Jammu & Kashmir joined India in 1947 at the decision of the Hindu ruler of the then semi-autonomous princely state. In 1999, Kargil was the site of a brief war that further closed and militarized the border, separating Muslim families, in particular, from friends and relatives in Skardu on the Pakistan side. Today, the population is also split between a mostly Shia Muslim majority (~85%) and Tibetan Buddhist minority (~15%), who are banned from inter-religious marriage through unwritten agreement. Despite having lived coterminously for generations and sharing memories and a history of intimate relations, intermarriage is deemed by Buddhist and Muslims leaders alike as a potential threat to peace in the area. 

Citation: Smith, Sara 2013. “‘In the past we ate from one plate’: Memory and the border in Leh, Ladakh,” Political Geography 35, 47-59