A little bit about me that reflects the stories of so many other Tibetans

I came from a nomadic family in the eastern part of Tibet, which is called Kham, one of the three traditional provinces of Tibet. Until I was about ten years old, for me, my world revolved around my parents, my three older sisters and our animals. But in 1995 my parents decided to give up on the nomadic life, and move to the capital city, Lhasa.

Though I was only a little girl, I could tell that the life was much different in the city. I would no longer run after the animals. I would instead, go out to the supermarkets and collect cardboards. We would use the cardboards to cook our meals. My parents would go out and sell handicrafts, such as necklace and bracelets – which they still do today.

It was during my spare time in the city, when I first met many other kids of my age, who went to school. Every morning they would head out to the school with their little backpacks, and every late afternoon, they would sit around in the courtyard to do their homework. I was deeply fascinated with their daily activities, and would often watch them do their homework. While observing them, I envied them. I wished to go to school just like them. I did not want to collect cardboards anymore. After bearing the thought for a while, I decided to tell my mother. One day, after she came home, I gathered enough courage to tell her, “Mom, I want to go to school like the other kids!” Though she did not give me a clear answer on the spot, she must have thought about it for a while. One day, she said to me, “You said that you wanted to go to school. But as you know we cannot afford to send you to a school. But, if you really want to go to school, there is a way. You will have to go to India and study there.” I was too naïve and innocent to understand fully the gravity of her proposal. I was so happy that I was going to a school. I did not care much about whether it was a school near by our home or a school in India. I had no idea that India is a different country, and that it is thousands of miles away from Tibet.

In August of 1996, I was sent to India with other Tibetans who were escaping. I was so brave and so sure of my decision to leave home, until a van came to fetch me in the middle of the night. And then, I started to cry and begged my parents not to send me away. But it was too late. The time had come for me to leave all my beloved ones behind, and embark on a journey that would forever change the course of my life. I still remember that night, sixteen years ago, when I saw my sisters’ and father’s face for the last time.

As I grew up at Tibetan Children Village School in India, I learned to appreciate the sacrifice my parents made. They wanted to educate at least one of their four daughters. I was sent away to India, so that I could attain an education. Thus the price paid for my education is the last sixteen years of our family separation. As the situation inside Tibet intensifies, it is impossible to predict the time when we will be reunited. Enduring the pain of sending her youngest daughter away, today mother proudly says, “education once acquired can neither be stolen nor be robbed off you.”


Pretty Little Liars versus How To Make It In America

I agree with professor Stein that there are a few conspicuous similarities among Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. Firstly, all the three shows are teen dramas, with strong female characters, or in more accurate terms, the story revolves much around its female character or characters. In all the three shows, there is a mysterious figure, around which the plot of the show is woven. In Veronica Mars, the plot is propelled further by Veronica Mars’ attempt to solve the mystery of Lily’s murder and to find the man who possibly raped her. In Gossip Girl, it is the “gossip girl” who is sorted after by the characters or who sorts after the characters to expose their lives to the public. A/Allison is the central character that rules the lives of the other characters, namely her four friends, from her graveyard.

But Pretty Little Liars replicates closely the story world of Veronica Mars. As professor Stein states, “and the fascinatingly repeated trope of the dead, sexually-promiscuous girl at the center of the mystery, who haunts the narrative in potent flashback”, both A/Allison in Pretty Little Liars and Lily in Veronica Mars are supposedly dead, but they both take control over the respective narrative – by frequently causing the plot to flash back to the time when they were alive. A/Allison torments her friends, by flushing them with sensitive and threatening text messages, notes and video clips. Lily often occupies the thoughts and minds of those who know her before she is murdered. Veronica frequently thinks about her dead best friend, and so does Dunkin, who hallucinates of seeing his dead sister.


But for this week’s screening, if I have to choose one out the two, I would pick How To Make It In America over Pretty Little Liars. I liked the latter so much better.

How To Make It In America is much more true to believable in terms of story and the construction of its characters. The story revolves around how young people, right out of college, struggles to cope with the new chapter in their lives. Unlike in Pretty Little Liars, wherein A/Allison haunts the remaining characters, it is the real challenges  – be it financial, love relationships, family relationships or other worldly problems – that haunts the characters in How To Make It In America. Therefore, I liked How To Make It In America much more than Pretty Little Liars.


Invisible Tibet: One of the most read blogs

With the advanced technologies, specifically, social media, more and more Tibetans are bringing their voices onto different online platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and etc. There are many groups who have strong online presence. To name a few: Students for a Free Tibet has its own channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/SFTTV), International Campaign for Tibet also has its own website  (http://www.savetibet.org/) and Khabdha  (http://www.khabdha.org/) owns a website and a Facebook account.

Also, there are individual writers who disseminate their voices through blogging. There is one  most popular and outspoken blogger, who I believe has the most readerships.

Tsering Woeser, writes her blog under the title, Invisible Tibet (http://woeser.middle-way.net/). She is one of the most well known writers, and is a prominent critic of the Chinese rule. Her works focus on the deteriorating situation in Tibet. She has been actively blogging about the countrywide protest in Tibet in 2008, and also on the chain of recent self-immolations in Tibet. She has been subjected to house arrest many times before, and occasionally has been playing hide and seek with the Chinese government. Her blog came under the threat of being shut down frequently. Despite all the hurdles and threats, she keeps writing. The world has recognized her bravery, intelligence, integrity, resilience and sacrifice. She has been awarded many prestigious prizes.

Two days ago, on May 3rd, her blog, Invisible Tibet was voted as the public’s choice at the Best of Blogs’ Competition (http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=31326&article=Woeser’s+blog+voted+public’s+choice+at+Best+of+Blog’s+comeptition), organized by the German radio station, Deutsche Welle.

May there be a day when she can write freely. I pray for her safety and admire her courage.

11th Panchen Lama: Tibet’s Stolen Child

One of the most heartbreaking stories of Tibet is losing a little boy to China’s prison. It deeply saddens me to think how cruel the world can be – not even sparing a little boy.

On 04/25/1989, a little boy, named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was born in Lhari County, in western part of Tibet.

On 05/14/1995, when Gedhun Choekyi Nyima turned six, the Dalai Lama recognized him as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual leader of Tibet. Just after three days, when the news about him being recognized as the next Panchen Lama reached the Chinese government, they abducted the little boy, his parents and his teacher. They were all taken to the Chinese custody, and ever since no one knows where they are or if they are still alive today. After his abduction, the Chinese government went onto selecting another little boy as the “real” reincarnation.

On April 25th this year, he turned 23. Every year people all around the world celebrate his birthday to remember him and demand the Chinese government to release him from prison, or at least let the world know where he is. But thus far, they have been playing deaf to all the demands. They often come up with responses, such as, “He is healthy and happy. It is just that he and his family wish to remain away from the public attention.” So many petitions have been signed and so many protests have been held for his freedom. But unfortunately, as it is China, no one really wishes to ruin their friendship with it. Yet it is extremely sad that amidst all these crazy political commotions and diplomatic moves, a little boy lost his freedom. Maybe his life too? No one knows.

In April last year, I made a short film about him, with a hope that by this year, he might be celebrating his birthday outside the prison. But unfortunately nothing has changed. Another year went by, and here we are still calling out for his freedom. Alas, wherever he is, I hope that he is living a happy life. But it seems so unlikely… My prayers and well wishes are always with you, Panchen Lama. May you regain freedom soon.

Experience of Blogging Thus Far

I am happy that I finally got my hands on creating a blog. I have been thinking of having a blog for quite a long time, but never really had one until now. I have always wanted to write and express my thoughts and experiences – especially the thoughts that I believe matter. Despite the uncertainty of whether in reality, if people care about my voice or not, I always felt that I had the responsibility to try for the least. Unlike my Tibetan brothers and sisters, many of who still live under fear, and restrain from expressing themselves fully, I am for the time being, out of danger zone. Therefore, I feel that I must take the given opportunity fully and wisely and speak my mind. As such, I have decided to write about my experiences and thoughts on a weekly basis, and connect them to my identity as a Tibetan.

So far, I have written several blog entries on Tibet. For some entries, I analyzed news articles, I guess, from a Tibetan perspective. Othertimes, I wrote posts based on my recent experiences or distant memories. In both the cases, it was just wonderful to get somethings off my chest. I was very happy to read interesting and thought provoking questions and comments on my posts, from my fellow classmates. I have been again assured that there are people who are interested in knowing more about what is happening on the Roof of the World.

Another accomplishment from writing blog posts frequently, is that it has helped me with my writing to a good extent. Whenever I write a blog post, I would read it again and again, to make sure that it makes sense. Besides the short “status updates” and “notes” on Facebook, my blog is the only place, where people other than my teachers, have access to my written work. Hence, I would be extra careful with my image as a writer.

In a nutshell, it has been a great experience to have a blog. I have shared several of my blog posts on other online sites, such as Facebook and also sent via emails. I am will keep my blog even after this class. I agree that it is a challenge to keep up with the blog entries, but it is a worth-trying experience.

Aesthetics of Wandering & Childhood Memories

In the context of one of the classes that I am currently taking, Japanese Poetry, I decided to go out for a walk around the campus. We are reading poems written by one of the most well known Japanese poets, Matsuô Bashô . He is known for having traveled far and wide in Japan, finding inspiration in his surroundings to compose poems. So following his guidelines for an attentive wandering, I went around the campus, with my camera. I decided to go towards the cemetery as I have seen it many times before, but never really spent time to observe its surroundings in details. I am happy that I took the time to go around the campus once before I leave this place! Sometimes, wonderful things happen unexpectedly. During my short walk away from everything: my friends, cellphone, Facebook (haha…), homework and the worldly world, I experienced simple beauties that existed so close by, but never truly felt its presence until now. I saw flowers of different colors and insects of different sizes, co-existing in harmony – right few minutes away from my daily life.

Engulfed in sentimentalism and romanticism, upon seeing beauty in its tangible form, I was taken back to my childhood. As a little nomadic kid, I had plenty of opportunities to be in continuous unison with the nature. During the summers, “the time of the year”, I would play by the river side and indulge in my fantasy of being a princess. I would collect flowers that have grown tall and bountiful, by the river bed, and make the most delicate and colorful crown. Though the flowers I found here are not as big as those found in Tibet, they share many characteristics of beauty – natural, fresh, delicate, colorful, surreal and breathtakingly enchanting. In our nomadic family, it is usually my sisters who would be the ones to go out to the mountains and graze our animals. I would stay behind and help my mother run errands at our tent. Often, I would try to make my way to the mountains with my sisters. It was so much more adventurous and exploratory to being on the mountains than staying behind at the tent. On the mountains, I would found abundant flowers and fruits. While my sisters were busy tending to our animals, I would engage myself in collecting the mountain treasures. Looking back, I know that I was not much of an extra help for my sisters. Alas, those memories, when revived, bring me so close to my home – a home that I have missed for the last sixteen years. But may there be a time when I will be once again in unison with the flowers of my birth place… Yet for now, I will nurture their memories in the beauty of the flowers of this land.

Participatory Culture & Participation Gap

DIY: DO IT YOURSELF and then BROADCAST YOURSELF: YouTube seem to sum up pretty accurately the world we live in, in certain parts of the world – say for example, in the West. In most of the developed countries, many people can afford things beyond their basic necessities. For example, cellphones and going up the economic scale: ipad, iphones, smartphones, Macbooks, PCs, and almost every possible means of communication and interaction.

But as Henry Jenkins points out, there is a huge online participation gap between those who have the means and the knowledge to participate versus those do not.  For most of the articles that we read on online participatory culture, the writers have the Americans (or more accurately the upper class families) on their minds. But those who are trying hard to make ends meet, they are far from being represented in the web that we draw to depict the pattern of participatory culture. So it is really a bit of an exaggeration when we talk so much about how the millennial generation is going to take over the world with their iphones and ipads. If we were to talk about the millennials in the context of the larger world outside the West,  general perception of youths as walking everywhere with a smartphone in their hands, and frequently being on Facebook, has to change. For they are many who still do not what Facebook is.