Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Day Out – Nobel Peace Prize Celebration at NYC (Part 2 of 2)

This is in continuation to my earlier note on the same topic. In the first part, I shared my personal experiences on the celebration by directing my naïve microscopic lens to analyze certain aspects of the Tibetan community organization and its program. In this remaining part, I will shift my lens on Tibetan as an individual and its overall impact on the future generation of Tibet in particular and Tibetan community in general. Throughout the note, when I say Tibetan, I don’t intend to generalize all Tibetans. Also, I am far from an expert on any of the following subjects that I plan to share, but hope to offer you an outsider’s perspective on them.

I felt young when I saw all those beautiful Tibetan ladies in their best traditional costumes. Moreover, looking at those bright costumes definitely took my heart for a while. But sadly, none of them noticed my presence :-(  Nonetheless, when these beautiful ladies were performing on the stage, I immediately started to hum and tap my feet along with their amazing voices. Particularly, Yangchin is one of my favorite Tibetan instruments. It has a soothing melody for me.

Out of the blue, I met two gentlemen from Maryland who turned out to be a distance relative of my father and me. They have been in the United States for the last 8 or 9 years but we were seeing each other for the first time ever. It was beyond my appreciation to first-hand witness the benefits of such community programs.

In the meanwhile, as I was listening to the afternoon talks on the Tibetan community hall project, a small cute kid of around 5 or 6 years of age was busy handing out fliers on “vote for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong”. I sensed the supporters of TNT are trying hard to reach each and every individual after the not-so-promising preliminary election results. All in all, the day was turning out to be as educative as it should be. There are things to learn and there are things to contemplate.

I am not a nester who sticks to a chair for long. I prefer to wander around to take stock of what else are there on the plate. Outside the hall, at one corner, a White lady from the Students for Free Tibet was selling SFT products. I bought a hoodie that has “Tibet” in the front and “Bhoe” on the back. I like this particular hoodie because it only has Tibet on it and not Free Tibet or any other common slogans. I trust in a simple word that has different interpretation for different readers. For instance, the word Tibet itself may mean, “Free Tibet” to one reader, “I belong to Tibet” to another, and likewise.

At another corner on the left, there was a stall that sells drinks. Besides this stall, there was a delicious lunch for five dollars. I definitely want to share my sincere appreciation for all the peoples who provided their voluntary service to make this event possible.

At the third corner, just below the stairs, I saw a line of kids resting their backs on the wall, legs stretched, fingers thumping, and eyes struck on something. When I reached closer, I realized they were all busy in their own world of video games. They seem to be together yet so far from each other. To define them was easy: they are the tech generations obsessed with video games and technologies that are likely to result in isolation, depression, and for worse, obesity. On the same note, they are commonly defined as: upholder of the Tibetan dreams, seeds of our future struggle, keeper of our Tibetan community, fighter of Tibetan causes, and hope of the six million Tibetans. However, I saw more of the former definition in them and less of the latter one. I am making this presumption based on my observations in the subsequent paragraphs.

While sitting outside with my friend, I instinctively asked a little beautiful kid wearing a red silk Tibetan chuba, “Kherang Ming La Ga Ri Rae?” To my surprise, she gave an eye to me as if she was trying to say, “who the hell are you” or “what language are you speaking”. She immediately walked off with her friends talking in American English. I asked myself - where are the values of our culture that my parent used to teach me? i.e., to respect elders, to learn Tibetan language, to preserve Tibetan identity, and to be gentle and humble. I realized the little beautiful kid was wearing Tibetan chuba with no sense of what it means to her. I saw the diminishing value of Tibetanness in her both in terms of language, and culture and identity. My worst fear is - losing one’s connection to his/her mother language and culture has proven to be disadvantageous for minority child’s success at U.S. schools.

Research on minority immigrants posited that U.S. nativity and long term residence among the foreign-born increase English skills but significantly lower grades… strongly suggesting that second-generation children gradually lose their achievement drive with increasing acculturation. These studies have indicated that a second-generation child who maintains strong ties with his/her mother language, culture and identity, and community sense performs academically better at schools. Therefore, for our Tibetan parents, Tibetan language, culture, and identity is not only important in terms of maintaining Tibetanness in their child but also to succeed in the U.S. school. Our Tibetan parents definitely need to refocus their attention.

At the last corner, there is a special place that no attendees ever miss to pay a visit. I am a frequent visitor of this special place called restroom. When I first visited, the men’s room was nice, clean, and tidy. However, after few hours, it completely adorns a new look. A new look I hate to describe. It was a complete mess: used hand paper towels scattered into pieces, floors wet, taps running, bowls unflushed, and mirrors stained. I felt ashamed of myself at that moment, not because I was one of the attendees but because I am a Tibetan. The mess in the men’s room clearly demonstrates a part of our culture that lacks civility, responsibility, accountability, respect, and empathy. I don’t want to think on what the Church workers would be thinking and saying the next day.

Some of us might say that the mess in the men’s room is the work of some naughty kids. If that is true, then, I think it is worse. It is worse because we are nourishing a next generation of Tibetans who lacks these basic and simple values of our culture.

Finally, discussions (yea and nay) are important part of the learning process. Therefore, please feel free to post and share your comments and thoughts. Lets start with small changes to make our society a better place to live, grow, and learn. We, the first generation of Tibetan immigrants, have the moral responsibility to rightly nourish our future generations in the United States. Lets act before it’s too late.

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