Friday, April 27, 2007

Washington, DC to New York Free The Panchen Lama Bike Rally Day 4-6

Day 6 by Tenzin Yangdon & Day 4 & 5 by Drew Hart

Day 6—Wednesday, April 25

The riders arrived at the United Nations to an awaiting crowd of Tibetans chanting slogans to protest for the release of Gendun Choekyi Nyima organized by the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey. The cold wind made some of the riders shiver but all had their eyes focused at the office of United Nations that has failed to enforce its own laws to appease China, one of their five permanent security council member with veto wielding power.

The young boy Gendun Choekyi Nyima recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the second highest religious leader the Panchen Lama of Tibet was detained at the age of six. All international agency and non-governmental organizations have been denied access to the boy by the Chinese government.

The Tibetans fear that the Panchen Lama is not receiving a proper monastic education as required for the religious leaders to be able to lead its followers. They demand China to release the Panchen lama, respect the wishes of the Tibetan people, to stop the Chinese governments interference in Tibetan religious affairs, and to allow Gendun Chokyi Nyima now recognized by international law as an adult to make his own decisions.

The crowd also learned of the four American protestors arrested in Tibet for their protest of China’s decision to take the Olympic torch through Tibet seen by Tibetans as China’s political move to use the Olympics to legitimize its claim over Tibet.

After lunch (compliments of the RTYC of NY & NJ) the protestors headed toward the Chinese Embassy chanting slogans and passing out fliers along the way. Walking towards the Embassy, many onlookers in the busy streets of New York stopped to take pictures of the protestors and ask about the Tibetan cause.

“Free The Panchen Lama Bike Rally” concluded in front of the Chinese Embassy where all demonstrators gathered with a common goal to FREE THE PANCHEN LAMA NOW are already talking about the plans for the next demonstration.

The riders were totally fulfilled and humbled by their contribution to the Panchen Lama’s cause. One of our oldest Rider Lodoe la who is 70 years old was injured and resisted taking rest. He finished the ride on Wednesday with an injured knee and elbow. Sonam Wangyal la, our very energetic rider from New York rode with an injured shoulder and also resisted taking rest. Khenrap la finished the ride with an injured shoulder after being hit by a car on the way to Jersey City. Many other rides faced small bruises, muscle cramps and injuries but all were determined to finish the ride to “Free the Panchen Lama.”

“Free The Panchen lama Now Bike Rally” was organized by the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of Minnesota and cosponsored by the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. Our sincere thanks to all other supporters including the International Campaign for Tibet, Minnesota Tibetan Women’s Association, Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of NY & NJ, Tibetan Association of NY & NJ, Tibetan Women’s Association of NY & NJ, Mike Kruimer of New Jersey, Bob Patten of the Washington DC area, Collin’s family, Tenzin Tsultrim la, Tibetan Association of Philadelphia Dechen and Lhadon la of Washington DC, Joleen Ong, professor Morton Winston, Lhundup D. Amdo la, Capital Area Tibetan Association, Buchung Tsering la director of ICT, Charlotte Oldham-Moore, Chris Fletcher, Program Associate Lucy Seefried, Jacob Coulker, Sonam Damdul & Jhampa la of Minnesota, Barbara & group, Baltimore Tibetan Dharma Center, Kalmyk center in Philadelphia and other supporters whom we met along the way.

Lastly, RTYC of Minnestoa would like to thank the riders for their hard work, perseverance, passion for the plight of Panchen Lama and high moral spirit.

Day 4—Monday, April 23

The riders awoke at the Kalmyk center, took breakfast compliments of the center’s workers, said our last goodbyes, and biked south, through Philadelphia’s northern reaches, to the Ben Franklin Bridge. After many photo breaks on the bridge, we crossed into Camden, New Jersey and began our trek east to Mount Holly, our lunch destination. Following a slow-going ride out, hindered by flat tires, a lack of tubes, a desperate search for a bike shop and a lost driver, we arrived, ate, and took off, behind schedule, for The College of New Jersey in Ewing, the location of the night’s presentation. Thanks to a last-minute rearranging of plans and the riders’ steadfast determination to make our presentation on time, we did, of course, arrive—and with coffee and donuts for the students, and a bit of time to boot.

With the amazing help of Joleen Ong, a leading member of The College of New Jersey’s chapter of Amnesty International, and professor Morton Winston, the chapter’s advisor—whom we cannot thank enough for pulling the whole event together at the last minute—the presentation went superbly. The turnout was fantastic, about 50 students were there. We introduced ourselves and what we are doing, screened the documentary Tibet’s Stolen Child, fielded questions concerning the Panchen Lama, and ended by offering the students many options for getting involved with the Tibetan cause. Very few of the students knew about Tibet’s situation and we were happy to share about what’s going on in Tibet. The students asked several questions including how they can help the Tibetan Freedom Movement. One of the ways we got them involved right there was by having the students sign a petition to be delivered to the United Nations officials on Wednesday. Numbers, emails and flyers were exchanged, final photos taken and goodbyes said, and we were off to our respective domiciles—the students to their dorm rooms, us to our motel rooms on Route 1. And thus, after unpacking, showering and changing, and dining late on delivered Chinese food, ended day four of our ride, with our final and most exciting full day’s ride on all of our minds.

Day 5—Tuesday, April 24

Rising early, to the now-familiar sound of 18 simultaneous and dissonant cell-phone alarms, the riders packed up their gear and left immediately for a 10-mile sprint to breakfast in Princeton. We ate at PJ’s Pancake House, a special recommendation by a sweet local woman who stopped to offer us a donation and even breakfast at her house if we had the time, though our schedule didn’t allow for it.

Leaving Princeton on Route 27, we began our 35 mile journey through the heart of New Jersey to Newark. Despite traffic, confusing route-jogging in the cities along the way, and an especially strong headwind, we made great time, arriving in Newark at 4 o’clock for a late lunch.

Following that, we covered the last 2 hours’ ride for the day, crossing the Passaic River into Harrison, following it north to the Belleville Turnpike, and biking east, across the Meadowlands, to Jersey City where, by the last light of the day, we made our way, with a truck-and-van protective entourage, to an EconoLodge of Route 1&9. Proud and relieved at our perfect timing, and bubblingly excited for tomorrow’s rally at the United Nations, we dined, once again, on a buffet of delivered Chinese, rinsed, chatted, relaxed, and dropped off into a blissful and fulfilling sleep.

Tomorrow we cross the Hudson River and arrive to a crowd of awaiting Tibetans and supporters. We cannot wait.

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