Change Yourself…Change The World.

Nye Bhoe Nangmi (My Tibetan Family)
August 1, 2009, 12:24 am
Filed under: India

This past week, I’ve been in Dharamsala, India, with my amazing Tibetan family.

I first met my Tibetan family when I was with Carpe Diem in the Spring of 2008. We did a homestay in McLeod Ganj (part of Dharamsala) for a week, to learn about Tibetan families and issues. Dharamsala is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. Many Tibetans fled Tibet (which is now part of China) in 1959 after China invaded Tibet. It is still a very controversial and heated issue today- my stance on it is of course, that Tibet should be a free country. You may say I have a biased opinion considering I am so close to a Tibetan family. But that is where I stand and will always stand.

Anyway, I ended up homestaying with this family in India and I just completely fell in love with them (four brothers, one of them has a wife and two kids). I barely knew them, but I fit in with them immediately. I absolutely loved their family- I loved that they had so little, but loved each other so much; that they were always playing music and dancing, laughing, and spending time with each other; that their home was incredibly small, but incredibly cozy and comfortable for me; and that they went out of their way immediately to make me feel like I was part of their family. I also felt this strange connection to everything Tibetan- the language, the food, the dress, the customs, the way of life- to such an intense extent that I felt I should stay there. It felt like the right place to be in my life at the time, and so I made a very hard decision to leave my Carpe Diem group, and I stayed with my Tibetan family in India for the rest of my time there (the remaining six weeks). It was the best decision I’ve made in my life, and it’s pushed me to make many other important decisions in my life (such as choosing to go to Global College). It was the first decision I made where I wasn’t doing it for anyone else but me- and I made the decision because it felt so right at the time, and I trusted myself enough to follow that.

Making the decision to stay with them in Dharamsala has reaped huge benefits in my life, the first and foremost being that I feel I’ve gained an entire new family in the past year, as well as experiencing a completely different way of life (and with that has come many new revelations). They are my brothers (and sister), and I am their little sister to them. I’ve kept in touch with them over the past year by phone, and I’ve talked to them at least once a week. Finally, I had the chance to come visit them again for a week after I was finished with my internship in Bangladesh- and once again, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Meet the Family:

This is my brother Nawang. He is 25 years old (or 23? They all don’t know. Age doesn’t matter in Tibetan society and they don’t even know their real birthdays). Nawang was the first person I met in their family. When I first met him he was incredibly shy and only spoke in Tibetan to his brothers. But after about two weeks of me staying there, suddenly this quiet guy turned into this loud, crazy, dancing machine, always laughing and cracking jokes. I feel very close to my chocho (brother) Nawang, and I talk to him (or rather he rambles on for hours) on the phone quite often.

This is my ‘Pala’ (father in Tibetan). His name is Minjig but I always call him my Pala, for one of two reasons. One being that when I was given my homestay assignment, I was told that Minjig was my ‘Pala,’ and his wife Chemi was my ‘Amala’ (mother), because their parents are dead, so I was given a young Pala and Amala. The other reason why I call him ‘Pala’ is because I respect him so much. This man is only 26 years old and has two kids (Lobsang, five, and Choeying, 4 months), and he works so hard to keep his family together. You could say he is the glue that holds his family together- everyone looks to him for advice, and he is very respected in McLeod Ganj. I respect him as much as I respect my own Pala.

This is my Amala (mother) Chemi. She is the sweetest and nicest person I know. She takes care of all four of the brothers, and puts up with all of them living in the same house. Not only that, but she has a job and two kids to take care of, and the way she handles all of it is quite courageous and admirable. And as you can see, she is amazingly beautiful. My Pala is very lucky.

This is Lobsang, my five year old brother. He is Chemi and Minjig’s first son, and he is a wild and crazy boy. Whether he’s throwing out curse words and giving everyone the finger, or kicking and punching everyone, or screaming and laughing, this naughty little boy sure knows how to grab everyone’s attention. But he is endearingly naughty, so much fun to be around, and life wouldn’t be the same without my little Lobsang.

This is the newest addition to the family, baby Choeying. He is four months old, and the cutest baby I’ve ever seen. Everyone absolutely adores him, and life seems to center around him in McLeod Ganj- everyone is always coming to Chemi’s store to play with him, and all of the brothers are always holding him, cooing at him, feeding him, or trying to get him to sleep.

This is Tashi, the oldest brother. He is 38 years old and has two kids. Tragically, his wife died giving childbirth to their second child- you could say Tashi hasn’t been dealt the best cards in life. But he still takes everything that’s been given to him in the best light possible, and I have a lot of fun with him. We laugh together a lot, call each other ‘porto nyonpa’ or ‘morto nyonma’ (crazy old man/crazy old woman), and sit around for hours talking. I love my brother Tashi to death, and he is an amazing individual.

The little girl on the left is Yankgyi, Tashi’s first child. She is seven years old and very shy. She is at boarding school at TCV (‘Tibetan Children’s Village’), which is about 20 minutes away from McLeod Ganj. She spends all of her vacations at home with the family, but spends most of her time up at the school. She is very cute, very smart, and speaks English fairly well for an eight year old.

This is Dawoe, Tashi’s second child. He is the most quiet and calm child I have ever met, and he is very serious. He lives with Dawa (also in the picture), their older sister (she has five children of her own, but she lives in another house in McLeod Ganj so I don’t know her as well).

This is Tsering, the fourth brother. He is 29 years old, and currently he’s living in another small room in McLeod Ganj. He’s a very nice person, very smart, and speaks English the best out of his family. He wants the best for all of them and is always hatching plans to make things better for his brothers. He is the one that I’ve gotten to know the best and talked to the most.

It’s been the most amazing week, and I’m so glad I made the decision to come see them again. Whether it was learning Tibetan curse words from my five year old brother Lobsang, or tripping over stairs and falling (twice) with my brothers Tsering and Tashi after going out for tea, or learning how to make Tibetan tea, bhale (bread), and gonga (half fried egg) from Chemi, or eating mutton momos (momo is a Tibetan dumpling) again at Norling restaurant (a place I frequented often last year), or just BEING there again in the most intoxicating place on earth to me- I. love. Dharamsala. I love my Tibetan family, and they are some of the most important people in the world to me. And while I’m very sad that I left, and that I will probably have to wait a whole entire year before seeing them again- it is worth it, because I am so lucky and so glad that they have come into my life, become like a family to me, and have made everything so much richer for me. I am truly a blessed person.

My family and I together in the Spring of 2008.

Much love,

Sangmo (my Tibetan name my family gave me- it means ‘kind girl,’ and it was their mother’s name)

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[…] house, a family that I love dearly and continue to keep in touch with today (check out here for a bit of information on them). I was relaxing in the kitchen on the mattress/sofa, when Chemi […]

Pingback by How I Got Lucky (And She Got Me) « Change Yourself…Change The World.

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