Leaving…..

Leaving McLeod was one of the saddest days of my life. I made so many good friends and I had a wonderful relationship with my host family.  I truly felt that my host family became part of my family. My Somo-la (aunt) and I had many lovely conversations and she taught me so much. My Pa-la (dad) was very nice to me and sometimes we debated about religion and the existence of the soul. The morning I left, my Pa-la put my extremely heavy dufflebag on his back and he started walking up the long hill to the taxi stand. No matter how much I protested, he wouldn’t let me carry it. This made me realize I would miss him even more. I told my friends and host family that I would try to come back in a few years, but I’m not sure when that will be. I can’t be soon enough though. I don’t want to leave the lovely Himalayas to go back to the mountains in Utah. There is just no comparison.

Now that I’m here in Delhi, I can’t wait to leave. I am very sad that I don’t like Delhi because I want to like it, but it’s very hard. It’s so crowded and busy and every time I walk down the street I get hounded by rickshaws and people trying to sell me things. That I will not miss.

I’ve had many ups and downs while in India, but I’m very glad I came. I feel like I’ve really changed as a person and grown up.  It is on my list of places to travel and next time maybe I’ll get to see more of the south.

Not so proud to be an American

Yesterday was the fourth of July and we decided to celebrate by eating one of the most American things we could find: apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Our whole group met at 1:00 pm along with Brother and Sister Ricks and another stray American, John, that Matt and Julia met. We all ordered our pie and ice cream and thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

Later that night some other Americans celebrated differently, but in a more American way. They set off fireworks at around 11:30 pm. I was almost asleep when they started going off and with each shell I would wake up, think “Happy Fourth of July”, roll over and try to fall back asleep only to be woken up by another shell. After I don’t know how long there was a continuous stream of fireworks going for a couple minutes. I heard my Pa-la go upstairs to look at them so I followed suit. I found Somo-la, Pa-la, and my sister all standing at the porch balcony railing watching the fireworks. With each KA-BOOM there were about 10 extra KA-BOOMS that reverberated off the mountains, which made it all that much louder. All the dogs were also barking continuously from all the mayhem. When the fireworks were all finished, the Americans responsible cheered. My sister commented that they were idiots and I simply said “Happy Fourth of July”. She seemed confused so I told her that it was the American Independence Day. She asked if we did that in America, meaning fireworks, and I said yes. She didn’t seem impressed and said that everyone around the neighborhood was “pissed”. Somo-la remarked, “People have babies and sick people at home, why did they do this in the middle of the night? They should have done it earlier.” I looked around and all the neighbors were out on their porch balconies as well and they all looked sleepy and grumpy. With a few more grumbles we all said goodnight and went back to bed.

This morning Somo-la and I talked about last night while we ate breakfast. She was still a little grumpy about it and we were both very sleepy. As I’ve been thinking about what these other Americans did, disrupting the whole town in the middle of the night to celebrate and solely American holiday, I get very annoyed and ashamed. I know I had nothing to do with the fireworks, but it was my fellow Americans and being known as American makes me feel like I did have something to do with it. The funny thing is, I actually met a couple of the girls who were at the fireworks show and I made sure to tell them that my host family was mad about it. They thought they heard other Americans cheering, but I only heard them. I don’t think they realized that they disrupted hundreds of Tibetans who don’t care about our Independence Day. It just goes to show how inconsiderate some Americans head and I continue to hang my head.

 

Tsampa

Tsampa is barley flour that has been cleaned very well and roasted before being ground.  It is the staple food of most people in Tibet. When I ask Tibetans about the food in Tibet, they always tell me about tsampa. They tell me that it is the BEST food for health. If you eat tsampa in the morning you won’t need anything for lunch or dinner (claimed one monk from Tibet). Tsampa will give you the energy and stamina you need to make it through the day.

Tsampa is also a natural fast food. You mostly eat tsampa by mixing it with tea, sugar, and butter until it is a consistency that you desire. One way is very dry and you form the tsampa into little nuggets in your hand, called pak. The way my family makes it is more wet and a paste-like consistency that you eat with a spoon. All the restaurants make tsampa porridge, which is tsampa, lots of warm milk, honey, and bananas. It is very soupy. Nomads in Tibet could make tsampa very quickly in the morning before they had to start their work.

I’ve been told that a little tsampa will go a long way, for example, 5 kg could last someone 30 days. This is also a reason why it is a vital part of the Tibetan diet. Nomads travel a lot so they need to have food that can last them a long time. I’ve also been told that many Tibetans brought large bags of tsampa with them when they made the journey to India. They had a long way to come and they weren’t sure if they would be able to find tsampa once they reached India.

Thankfully, there is tsampa here and Tibetans still eat it. They don’t eat it as much as they used to in Tibet, but they still regard it as the best food. I’ve been told that it is also still regarded as a fast food and parents will feed it to their children for breakfast when they are running late in the morning. Some Tibetans I’ve met don’t like tsampa, but I believe they are the minority.

Tsampa is a part of the Tibetan history and culture .

Being white

In the United States, being white is no fun. It means I can’t dance, jump high, or score the highest scores on the ACT. I can complain to my Asian friends of how boring I am and they’ll just laugh. I can go out to eat at ethnically diverse restaurants and feel diverse until I step outside and realize that everyone around me is also white and mostly boring. I know we do have many cultures in the US, but I find the white culture to be very subtle. We don’t wear our culture for everyone to see.

Coming to India has changed the way I look at my whiteness. Here being white is very different. It is beautiful! I get stared at all the time.  People want to talk to me and take my picture (sometimes without asking). I often wonder how many Indian guys have told their friends that I’m their girlfriend. I also wonder how many family albums I’ll be in. They like asking where I’m from and welcoming me to India. Parents push their children up to me to shake my hand and say “hello”. They’re very proud that I can understand their child’s English.

I’ve gotten used to the staring, but at first it really bothered me. It even upset me. I’ve grown up with my mother always telling me “It’s rude to stare!” so to have everyone stare at me was very unnerving. It started in the airport when I first arrived and it made me very frustrated. Why couldn’t they understand that I’m a person just like them! I’m not some novel animal with no feelings!

Very gradually I came to a realization that there are over 1 BILLION people in India. Most of them will never leave India. They only see white people on movies and when a tourist comes through. They love different things just like I do. They want fair skin like I want dark skin. They want to learn about a different culture just like I do. They’re people with interests just like me.

I’ve also realized that people see me differently. Some people see me as a dollar sign and will charge me extra when I come to their shop. Beggars will follow me until they realize I won’t give to them. Some guys want me to be their girlfriend and maybe a passage to the US.  And I blame these assumptions on the media. Yes, we do have a lot in the US and we  generally make more money than an Indian person will. But not all of us are rich floozies who came to India to spend all of our money and have a fling. And these assumptions are what frustrate me the most. I’ve accepted the fact that most people are friendly and just want to chat, but when guys chase me down a river and then up a very, very steep hill after I have shown no interest, I get frustrated.

So here I am: a white girl in India. Call me what you like: foreigner, Westerner, Injee, etc, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am white and I am different.

Final proposal

Diet changes among Tibetan refugees in McLeod Ganj, India and how they perceive health

A Field Study Proposal

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Learning Journal

Today in class the safety man came and talked to us. He told us some helpful things, like how to register with the US Embassy so we’ll be taken care of if there is an emergency. He also told us some scary stories of previous students who where both smart and not smart.

We also worked on some situations as a group. It was helpful because I realized that in any emergency we always need to make sure the whole group is ok. For example, if I am in one place and here of an emergency across town, like a building collapsing, I need to stay where I am and try to contact the people in my group. This way we all stay safe and we can help each other if we get hurt. I really realized how much we need to work together as a team. I’m glad we’re a team because I like our group.

Today we talked about culture shock in class. All in all, I’m terrified that I’ll become culturally shocked when I reach India. I suffered culture shock when I moved from Alabama to Utah so I’m pretty sure I’ll struggle with it in India. We talked about signs of culture shock, one of which is talking about food a lot. I hope that my study doesn’t make me go through culture shock because I plan on talking about food to everyone. Megan and I are going to combat this shock by eating mangoes and telling each other jokes.