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VOA Snapshot:  Tibetan Service Gets Unexpected Listener Reaction - 2002-08-19

A VOA Snapshot - remembering our past as we look to the future in our 60th Anniversary Year.

VOA broadcasts go to all parts of the world, including many places from which listener feedback is rare. One such region is Tibet. But one day about 10 years ago, the VOA Tibetan Service got some listener reaction through a circuitous and unexpected route.

Two documentary filmmakers had just returned to the United States from a visit to Tibet, during which they filmed without Chinese government approval. They came to VOA to ask our Tibetan broadcasters to help them translate some of what they recorded during their visit.

"When I looked at the footage it was beautiful," says VOA's Tseten Wangchuk, who sat with the filmmakers and looked at a sequence from the kitchen of the huge Sera Monastery near Lhasa.

Sera's huge kitchen has giant pots," he says. "To reach over into them, the cooks need to climb up some steps. This was one of the biggest monasteries in the world. Thousands of monks used to live in it. The monks on duty that day, were mostly young, and when they saw these Americans with a long boom mic [microphone], they almost started fighting among themselves to try to get under the mic and speak."

The young monks kept repeating the same sentence over and over, and the filmmakers were eager to know what they were saying. But the translation was not what the filmmakers were expecting.

"The mysterious and incredibly important thing they were saying to the mic was 'From Washington, this is the Tibetan Service of the Voice of America,'" he said.

Offered the rare opportunity to speak into a microphone, that was what the young Tibetan monks thought of to say. The moment was a tremendous boost to the VOA Tibetan Service, and a rare bit of feedback from the remote mountains of Tibet.

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