During August and July we had a very special visit from Lakeside school, and best way to share it is through the words of the students. Here are some of the very interesting thoughts and impressions that they wrote about their experiences!
Jake Tish (Food and Agriculture)
Experiencing Tibetan culture is like crafting a Thanka painting. It may seem daunting and foreign at first, but once you really dive into it, you realize that it’s beautiful, layered, and teeming with religion. During my month long stay here, I’ve gotten a taste of the Tibetan culture, and I am grateful for everyone that has allowed me to do that.
When I leave Bi Song Gu village, and return to America, I will miss many things. I will miss the sense of community in this place, and how everyone is always extremely friendly. I will also miss hanging out with the people I’ve become friends with on this trip, both the other people who came with me on the trip as well as all the local people I’ve gotten to know. Possibly most of all, I will miss my homestay family. They have been so kind and welcoming to me, and they have made me feel very comfortable here and very at home. From my very first day with them, they were extremely welcoming and I am forever grateful for that.
While I miss some things about being in America, I know I will desperately miss my time here. It makes me think that the expression that says “the grass is always greener on the other side” is very true.
Lauren Lee (Clothing & Wedding)
This trip taught me more than I expected I would ever learn. Beyond the vast beauty of the mountains, the endless fields of harvest, and the animals that roam free, I’ve found the source that truly keeps this village alive: the people. I’ve met such friendly and kind people who genuinely care for me and my well-being. They’ve taught me how to see beyond just me, an individual, and instead, I’ve learned how to function as a part of a community. At first, I had a difficult time adjusting to the Bisong-gu village. I didn’t know any of the people, I didn’t know much of the language, and I wasn’t used to their way of life. I was especially not used to all of the yak products they ate. Over time, however, I learned more about the daily lives of the people in the village by living with them (though I never got used to yak butter tea). There were some moments that I spent with my host family that helped me to get closer with them and understand their culture better.
One thing I observed was how festive their celebrations are, and how elaborate their traditional clothing is. In our community, the culture was so rich, that I would often get surprised when I saw people dressing in a more Western fashion. One day, we had a small party held at the second floor of our teacher’s house. On this day, many women in the village came dressed in their traditional outfits, and they all started dancing and singing. It was an honor to see their traditional costumes and celebrate along with them. After the party, I was reminded of how alive the Tibetan culture was in the community and how important it was to preserve that. I also had the opportunity to try on the traditional clothes because my host mom dressed me up. When I wore the formal outfit with the headdress, apron, and pink top, it made me feel just a little closer to my host family and the Tibetan culture. I also gained a great respect for all the women who wore the traditional clothing regularly, because I found it really hard to breathe in. Overall, I have been overwhelmed with how much warmth and kindness I have been met with at our village. I am so thankful to the community for giving me the opportunity to experience a new culture. I hope that this handbook can be even the smallest form of repayment of thanks to the community that has given me so much.
Nicholas Lumiere (Religion)
Every day my host family woke up a little before six, and went to wash and then to pray and light incense. At seven, me and my roommate would wake up and either go running or read or walk around, the former and the ladder my host family thought were very weird at first. We would eat breakfast between 7:30 and 7:45. At 8:00 our host family would leave for the mountains to pick wild vegetables or to Shangri La town to sell them, while at 8:30 I would go to the trip leaders’ house for our morning meeting, Chinese class, and instruction on the day’s service project. Every day we would be doing some service project in the morning, whether it be building a waste incinerator, working on our cultural preservation project, or helping to tend to the potato fields. At noon, we would report back to the central trip leaders’ house to eat lunch.
After lunch, we would go back to work, either building, laboring, or collecting information, which would be a longer work period than the morning most days, and after which we would come back to the central house to have dinner. After dinner, we would go back to our host family’s house to talk to them and watch TV. Conversation was difficult at first because I do not speak Tibetan, and my host family does not speak English, so we used Mandarin as an in-between language, in which I had a few years of experience, and one of my host brothers was fluent, or very nearly. Around 8:00 PM every day my host family would eat dinner, and every day without fail they would offer me and my roommate some as well. To be polite, despite being full, I would have a bowl or two of rice along with some vegetables or pig meat that they had prepared. Because of the high elevation, I got very tired every day by the time we ate second dinner, so after eating I would promptly fall asleep.
Throughout my time in Bisangu village I was constantly confronted with aspects of life, simple or complex, very different than the one I was used to. From breakfasts eaten around a central cooking stove in the living space, to my family going to the mountains every day to collect vegetables instead of “normal” living styles that I have seen in the United States. Our homestays have left a mark of me like I have not experienced before – not just travelling to a novel region, but to live as the people do, day to day gave me insight that I could not have expected into the varying aspects of the culture. It took a village to make this possible, but the villagers themselves were so warm and inspiring to stay with for a month – it made me appreciate the differences even more.
Chandler Moy (Family Structure)
I have always been more of an introvert. All my life, I have found it hard to talk and connect with strangers. This trip however, I found that I was able to step out of my shell and connect with my peers and my host family. I hope that when I get back home, I will keep these relationships. Often times, when I get back home, I’ll find myself drawing back into my shell and the past relationships that I have made will slowly fade away. My hope is that when I get back to Seattle, I will have the courage to strengthen and maintain the relationships that I have worked so hard to build.
I will also remember the many moments that I have shared with my host family. There was one day when we got to work with our host families the entire day. I will always remember waking up in the morning, than eating breakfast, and finally going to the fields to pick up rocks. After a couple hours, our host grandma sat us down and we talked. The most powerful moment of that talk was when she said “look at the three of us, we are just like a grandmother and her grandchildren.” I will always remember how hospitable our host family was to me.
During my time here, I was exposed to the quickly diminishing Tibetan culture. Over this past month, I feel like I have gotten used to the slow-paced life style that pervades the atmosphere here. Instead of the loud noise of the hustle and bustle of cars, there was the baying of the yaks and the barking of the dogs. Instead of the 3 large meals that consist of lots of meat, we had 4 smaller meals which consisted of lots of starch and vegetables. Instead of going to office jobs in the morning, the family went to do their fieldwork or take care of the animals or to find mushrooms in the mountains. I think that the difference between American culture and Tibetan culture is one that made me appreciate both the fast paced lives that we lead back in America, and the peaceful life that my host family leaves.
Helen Tran (Food and Agriculture)
I couldn’t ask for anything more than the loving family, breath-taking scenery, and cultural experience that I had gained in this past month. Every day is filled with adventure and anticipation, but is grounded with the daily, huge breakfast, consisting of plates full of potatoes, bread, and eggs, that succeeded my expectations of the family’s hospitality. I’ve never believed that I could find a second family, but my stay here has proved otherwise. The first day in this village, the first time I met my family, I realized that the language barrier was going to be even harder than I thought it was going to be. However, my host grandparents and sisters made adjusting so much easier, I would say even easy.
Many of my favorite moments here, surround hanging out with my family while they go on in their daily life. From herding pigs, making dinner, to just watching television around the stove with them, I always had a good laugh. The times I’ve spent with my grandma will always be treasured. She let me see into her Tibetan culture, from letting me try weaving cloth (that men wear around their legs) to teaching me how to herd pigs and get kindling.
I would say this was an eye-opening experience for me; I learned through firsthand experience, talking to local villagers and doing things myself, rather than just learning about these villagers online. I would say that Bi Song Gu, is the most friendly and welcoming community I have ever been in. As we are about to leave this village, I realize that I will miss so much about the people here and the peaceful, picturesque landscape. I will not only miss my family, but all the people I have spent time with: the family that gave Hana and I dinner at 9, during a thunderstorm when we couldn’t get back home, Ayi, who let me help her cook, even though she knows I’m not very good, and many others. I cannot say this enough, but I will be forever thankful and will forever cherish these memories.
Finally we wanted to share with you some of the interesting drawings that they made during their stay, to explain certains aspects of everyday life here: