02 Jul Stories from the field: Trombetta
Laura Trombetta, aid-worker
Working on the Chamdo project has not always been easy …; the town is located in the heart of eastern Tibet, 1,200 km away from Lhasa and just as many from Chengdu in Sichuan, therefore isolated and difficult to access. Here I lived for more than a year working on an ASIA project for the construction of a small health center and a training school for doctors in a nearby village.
The entire prefecture of Chamdo was, and still is, almost completely closed to foreigners; ASIA had been the only NGO allowed to operate in the region and I was the only foreigner residing in the town. This condition of isolation was sometimes tiring but often also fun because I was the object of curiosity and amazement on the part of the local population, especially of the Tibetan nomads who, unaccustomed to western faces, were literally open-mouthed when they met me.
With the Tibetan assistant and the driver of the project we had formed a nice work team, their enthusiastic contribution was essential in the success of the project and their joyful presence was a great companion in everyday life. The personal relationships established in Chamdo were in fact a significant component of my stay in the region.
I lived not far from the Jampaling monastery on the hill overlooking the town, where traditional Tibetan houses clinging to the slope resisted to the ugly more modern buildings. Mine was a room of a few square meters with an external bathroom, without running water and heated only by a wood stove, a decidedly Spartan arrangement, especially in winter, very rigid there, but which I still remember now with pleasure and with a little of nostalgia. My neighbor was a Tibetan doctor who often invited me to drink salty tea and to eat “momo”; his family, who welcomed me with generosity and friendship, was also a bit mine for the whole year that I lived there.
Working in Chamdo was a unique and extraordinary experience for me. In addition to the satisfaction with the results obtained with the project, having immersed myself almost totally in the local society was a great personal enrichment, also in terms of knowledge and approach to Tibetan culture and its unique, ancient spiritual tradition that still has much to offer to the contemporary world.