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Bar Fights in Lhasa

Friday was the birthday of one of my friends here. If there is one thing we all like to do here, it's celebrate, regardless of the reason. We make up things to celebrate. Friday, though, we had an actual reason to go out and do a little partying.

The celebrating started at lunch time. A group of us went to a really nice vegetarian restaurant--one of three that we know of in Lhasa, and by far the best. It is truly amazing what the Chinese have learned to do with tofu and various soy products to create fake meat. The particular restaurant we went to is owned by Drikung Monastary outside of Lhasa. The monk who runs it is a young rinpoche (high lama) from Drikung. He's quite funny, a member of the recently formed Lhasa Drama Club, and speaks English with an American accent, which surprised me when I met him.

Anyway, the food is excellent there, but a little pricey, so we don't go often. The birthday girl is a vegetarian, so it was the best choice for the celebratory meal. After a leisurely meal of various types of fake meat and a number of vegetable and noodle dishes, some of us decided to visit a Khampa restaurant on the Bharkor and spend the afternoon drinking tea. The hope was that there would be some eye candy for us to occupy our time with. Unfortunately, the majority of the customers that day were monks.

We left the restaurant after several hours of drinking tea and playing Truth or Dare, which mostly ended up being truth. Dinner didn't matter, but we planned on going to a nangma later in the evening to see a show. We went to a rather large nangma around 10pm, since most of the shows start between 10 and 10:30. Stephanie and I had visited this nangma previously, but the show was drastically changed to accommodate the Chinese tourists who have been flooding the city. Most of the songs were in Chinese, although a few were Tibetan, and there were a few more dances than before, which was nice. One dace involved the whole troupe of guys dancing without shirts. While most Tibetan guys are too skinny for my taste (I don't like seeing rib bones), their backs were quite nice.

Around 1am, the birthday girl and one of the others decided to call it a night and went home. The rest of us, a total of four, went to Tang Club to do some dancing before turning in. When we got to Tang Club, we found some space on the dance floor and danced happily, avoiding disgusting, middle-aged Chinese guys, and younger guys trying to invade our personal space. This lasted until about 2:30am, when suddenly, two guys pulled out knives and made ready to fight on our side of the room.

Bar fights in the States tend to involve fists, maybe some handy paraphenalia from the bar, and sometimes a real weapon. The thing about Tibetan guys here that come to bars, is that a lot of them tend to be Khampa, which means a knife is part of regular attire. When I say knife, though, I don't mean a pocket knife, something small used for cleaning fingernails, slicing apples, and opening packages. I mean a Knife, with an 8 or 10 inch blade, designed to inflict a great deal of harm on someone or something.

Now, the problem with Tang Club is that there is not enough space for security to quickly and effectively reach people who are fighting, unlike Babila, where security has easy access to everyone, and fights are stopped before they are begun by the sheer number of security guards and military men they keep around. So, when these guys started fighting, there was only one security guard close enough to do anything and unfortunately, he wasn't successful in separating these two men.

The second that we heard glass breaking, my friends and I high-tailed it outside to await the outcome. This was a long time in coming. Shortly after we went out, a young man ran out of the club, followed by half a dozen security guards, who chased him around the parking lot. I'm not sure what happened to him, but a few minutes later, the guards went back inside, where the lights were still down and the music was still playing.

Then, guys started coming out with blood on their shirts. It clearly wasn't their own, but someone who obviously had been Knifed inside. One young man came out wiping blood off his face and neck. When he passed us, we could see that the back of his shirt was covered, nearly soaked in blood that didn't seem to be his own. He was standing in the parking lot talking with a friend, when almost a dozen security guards came out and made a bee-line straight for him, carrying night sticks and long, thin metal rods. They surrounded this guy and we were sure he was going to be beaten, but apparently, he wasn't in trouble. The guards spoke to him for a bit, then went back inside. He got in a cab with his friends and left.

We waited a bit more hoping for some indication of what had happened inside. No one who was injured was brought out of the building, nor were any medical personnel summoned. Instead, six police officers showed up in a van. Obviously someone was hurt inside the club, but it was not emptied. In fact, new people were allowed in, where the music continued to play.

After the van of police officers showed up, we left, but not before we saw three guys run out from the side of the strip of buildings and make it out onto the streets; involved parties, no doubt. The saddest thing is that those guys were most likely fighting over nothing important.

It is strange. Knowing that guys here carry knives like that, and knowing that they are prone to fighting when drunk (almost every Tibetan guy I have met here says that he fights when he drinks), they don't do a body check at the door of the club and force people to check their weapons.

Hopefully, it will be a long time before I see something like that again.

Posted by michab3 08:08

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