NPR "Hacking the Himalayas," part 2: Connecting exiles online

Part two of my four-part NPR "Day to Day" series "Hacking The Himalayas" airs today.

When the Dalai Lama fled Chinese rule of Tibet in 1959, he found refuge just across the western border in India. Waves of refugees followed their spiritual leader out of the once-isolated kingdom when India provided them with land.

Today, nearly 50 years after that first exodus, more than 100,000 people of Tibetan heritage live in the area. The Dalai Lama and leaders of the Tibetan government-in-exile now call the northern village of Dharamsala their home.

Even though two full generations of Tibetans have grown up outside their native land, the Tibetan community is still very close-knit, and many still harbor dreams of returning to a country free of Chinese domination -- something unlikely to happen any time soon.

But with the help of some technology experts from the West, the Tibetan community in India hopes to get the word out about their cause via the viral grapevine that is the Internet.

It's an enormous challenge. Electricity, phones and Internet access are expensive and hard to come by. Phone lines can go down for days at a time, leaving the region cut off from the world. But there's an effort under way to change that, and to teach young Tibetan refugees about computers and the Web.

Link to archived audio, and multimedia extras. Here's the series home page.

And over at I've posted a few new items on the related "reporter's notebook" blog from this project:

* Corrected by a monkey: the meaning of "rinpoche."

* Gear notes: my sound recording equipment

* Biker gangs of the Tibetan plateau: nomads on motorcycles

* Tibetan photojournalist Lobsang Wangyal

* Tigga, please: wannabe gangsta-ism among Tibetan refugee teens

Image: (Xeni Jardin, 2006) Both adults and children take computer classes at the technology center of the Tibetan Children's Village in Dharamshala. Web publishing is one of the favorite subjects. Left, Tashi Phuntsok, and right, Nyima Woeser -- two geeks I met who were studying javascript and PHP.

Previously: Hacking the Himalayas, Part 1.