Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Snapshot: Educating Adult Tibetan Immigrants in the United States


NOTE: This book is available on Amazon.com. 
Let me know if you have any questions about the book. 



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tibetan Self-immolations and the Ongoing Discourses



After reading and commenting on social medias on the recent spate of self immolations in Tibet, a flicker of pain starts to tighten my chest - a pain that many Tibetans (including myself) tend to shy away from. This pain of anger as well as helplessness is shared by Tibetans in general - both inside and outside Tibet. In recent years, this pain is getting more alive and intense with each passing news of another self-immolation of a Tibetan in Tibet. Unfortunately, the pain shows no sign of subsiding in the near future.

For many Tibetans in exile, to lessen or address this pain, they took to streets to abuse, shout, and demonize visiting Chinese leaders or Chinese Consulate. Among many, several benefits of these street protests may be to patronize or re-patronize second- and third-generation Tibetans and to bring some awareness on the present situations inside Tibet. As with any general medications, the side effects of this pain relieving protest may be several. However, in this article, an attempt is made to narrow the analysis on the ongoing discourses about Tibetan self-immolations.

The unending discourses on "who to blame" for these increasing number of self-immolations tend to stretch along the same old narratives. The Chinese government blames exile Tibetan community for instigating these self-immolations while Tibetans in exile blame the Chinese government for failure to listen the voices of Tibetans in Tibet. As a result, these high level discourses flow downstream to a sea of ordinary citizens where they generally supports (knowingly or unknowingly) their side of political story.

For instance, every time there is a discourse on self-immolations in the Tibetan community, the blame is easily and solely put on the Chinese government and its policies. This blame is undeniably true but it is also a hard fact that the Chinese government will not help stop these increasing number of self immolations. For China, Tibetans are not the only one who self-immolates. There are common Chinese people burning themselves to show their frustration towards the local government or Chinese government policies (click here to read about one such case).

Most disturbingly, the Chinese as well as International Media and Press in general are not free as it should be - Time.com reported that the self-immolation of Tibetan monks was one of the most underreported stories of 2011. There is no doubt that the report will remain same for this year too. With China's rising economic power and its flexing muscles, Tibet may continue to see less media and press coverage, both international and domestic.

If not the Chinese government, press and media, or/and the United Nations, then who should stop these ongoing self-immolations?

Out of many stakeholders, I see it as failure on the part of exile Tibetan community to convince Tibetans inside Tibet that it is of minimal use to burn themselves. At this critical juncture of leadership transition in China, change in Tibet is not in the air. It is critical to call on brave Tibetans not to give up their lives. Tibet need them to be remain alive, to help preserve, defend and develop culture and nation for long.

Further, a discourse on self immolations among Chinese common people seems to be disturbing for Tibet. Recently, the Chinese official media used "planned self-immolations" to disapprove the voices of Tibetan self-immolators. Whether this accusation is true or not, for a common Chinese, they see a pattern in these self-immolations which seems to support the Chinese government narratives i.e., these self-immolations were planned by exile Tibetans to create instability in these regions.

Thus, the most worrying part of self immolations may be - if Tibetans could not convey or reach to common Chinese people, the purpose of self-immolations may not achieve its desired outcomes such as freedom of religion, human rights, and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Rather the issue of Tibet may see an uncertain death in the international community. This death may turn the pain of Tibetan people into violence - a desperate act to seek international attention.

However, if the Tibetan freedom movement turns violent, Tibetans may achieve some success (largely negative) in gaining international attention such as the United Nations, governments, and international press and media. But the global support for its freedom struggle may gradually fade away which will undoubtedly be self-defeating as well as self-inflicting wounds that may never heal. For China, these self-immolations could be a sign of warning - a warning that shows the potential of violence if China continues to disrespect the feelings of Tibetan people.


Now looking at the increasing number of self-immolations in Tibet, it seems to support the rumor that was first published six months ago - inside Tibet, a rumor is reported to have spread that if 200 people set themselves alight, this will trigger a response from the United Nations (Source: Channel 4 News). The sad reality is that this rumor is like a cup that holds no water at all. Yet, more than 30 Tibetans have self-immolated since then.

Lets assume this worst case scenario - If the number of self-immolators reach 200 and nothing happens, how Tibetans (inside and outside) will address the never ending yet disturbing questions about the future course of Tibetan freedom movements? The questions that would raise eyebrows at unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with China, failed efforts to seek international supports, ineffective protests and strikes, and growing frustration of Tibetan people.

Therefore, it may not be too late for exile Tibetan community to act (to convince Tibetans not to self-immolate) before it gets beyond repair. Its time to walk the path that may help save lives of Tibetan people as well as Tibetan freedom movement. This path may be difficult but essential at this make or break point.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Appeal to end the SELF-IMMOLATIONS OF TIBETAN PEOPLE


(A proposed online petition on the Change.org)


Many brave Tibetans have now burned themselves to death. Their dedication is beyond question, and their purpose is clearly to benefit the community and its values.

But as the wave of immolations spreads, it is more and more likely that many others will also set themselves on fire. Now the great distress and pain has spread to India’s capital too, others will follow. Meanwhile, inside Tibet, a rumour is reported to have spread that if 200 people set themselves alight, this will trigger a response from the United Nations. This could turn into a sad reality, leading to score of deaths of Tibetans, who are already so few.

But there is no certainty that they would lead to any concrete results for Tibet. The international media might not remain interested - Time.com reported that the self-immolation of Tibetan monks was one of the most underreported stories of 2011. There are an average of 900 self-immolations a year in India that are not even reported in the press. The Chinese government is in the midst of its most troubled leadership transition in decades and is almost certain to react more harshly than before. The Indian government, our most precious ally, is already showing signs of extreme impatience and discomfort.

The lives of our most dedicated people could be lost in vain, and in the most terrible agony imaginable. The risk is huge.

We believe it’s not too late to act before it gets beyond repair.

It is therefore critical to call on our brave fellow-Tibetans not to give up their lives. We need them to be remain alive, to help preserve, defend and develop our culture and our nation.

Our leadership has made clear its deep dismay at the use of self-immolation, but we urge all of us to work actively to persuade Tibetans not to risk their lives, when the results are so uncertain and the costs so terrible. With deepest respect for those who have given up their lives, we therefore appeal the administration, both the Kashag and Parliament in-Exile, to take all possible steps to persuade Tibetans not to self-immolate.


With our highest hopes,





Note: I worked on this online petition in March with few Tibetan scholars but never made it to a launch. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave your comment. With increasing self-immolations now, I may launch this online petition soon. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Search...



A mile gone
Untiring legs
Dark lanes
Searching light


A long walk
Finding destination
Overtly confused
Searching peace


A bench rest
Recalculating route
Seeing up
Searching moon


A lone star
A ray of light
Right direction?
Searching hope


A thin line
Crisscrossing dots
All blacks
Searching white


A road ahead
Unknown journey
Dark sky
Searching home





A restless heart
Untamed mind
Feeling lost
Searching love


A lost mind
Resting nowhere
Wandering everywhere
Searching self


A born loner
Complex name
Springboard lives
Searching nest


A human animal
Deducting "human"
Within oneself
Searching animal


A headless head
Complex braincell
Spinning neurons
Searching mind


A painless pain
Clueless bruises
Polluted airs
Searching breath


Searching...
Searching...
Searching...
But I know 
Moon is far
Life is short
But still
Searching...







*Just wrote in an hour from my iPhone while sitting on a park bench on August 12. Signed 10.14pm*

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Educational Message for Tibetan Americans

A month ago, with great enthusiasm and expectation, I participated in the 2012 Seminar on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Databases at Washington DC. My primary purpose on attending this seminar was to explore the possibility of using the NAEP data for conducting some research on Tibetan American students such as assessment of these new group of Tibetan students’ academic performance in the U.S. schools and also, to compare their performances with other race categories (such as White, Hispanic, Black, Asian) and sub-race categories (such as Chinese, Indian). If you are new to NAEP, below is a brief introduction.

“The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history” (NAEP Webpage). NAEP results are based on representative samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for the main assessments, or samples of students at ages 9, 13, or 17 years for the long-term trend assessments. These grades and ages were chosen because they represent critical junctures in academic achievement (NAEP Webpage). To put "critical junctures" in simple terms, grade 4 generally represents elementary, grade 8 middle, and grade 12 high school. FYI -  NAEP falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Education. For more details, visit NAEP website at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/

Sadly, after attending the seminar for three days, my hope of conducting some research on Tibetan American students’ academic performances turned upside down. I learned that the NAEP datasets reflect only the official U.S. race category i.e., White, Black, Hispanic, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native. The datasets has no data on sub-race categories (Though I did not expect to find Tibetan as a sub race category in the NAEP data, I did expect Chinese, Mexican, etc. as a sub race category).

Without getting much deeper into strengths and weaknesses of the NAEP data, let me share what I learned through my discussion with NAEP personal at the seminar and through my little research on the topic so far. As of now, the NAEP data may not be relevant to assess Tibetan American students' academic performances but Tibetan Americans may be able to change the future with their collective efforts. Below are few insights on how to bring this change. 

First, in the Student Enrollment Form of most public and charter schools in the United States, there is an option to select race. Within this race category, it is important to select or write "Tibetan" under the “others” race category. This small step may not bear any immediate result in the near future but in the long run, it may. For instance, if NAEP starts to collect data with an item questionnaire to identify student-reported race, the option to select/write "Tibetan" may come up under the general Asian American/Pacific Islander race category. 

Second, the small act of selecting or writing “Tibetan” as a race in the Student Enrollment Form notifies the school, district, county, or state education department about the presence of this unique race. In other words, Tibetan as a student-reported race is identified in the official record or knowledge. 

Besides NAEP, some school districts, counties, or states collect data on their students’ academic performances. In such cases, the chances of having Tibetan as a race or a defining variable (for data analysis purpose) may be slightly higher if every Tibetan parent in the district, county, or state starts identifying their child as a Tibetan race.

Third, in addition to selecting Tibetan as a race in the Student Enrollment Form, Tibetan parents also need to understand the importance of selecting "Tibetan language" as their child's mother language or first language. This small step may one day bring Tibetan language curriculum in the public or charter schools. 


Moreover, the school district, county, or state may start to recognize the importance of Tibetan language. For instance, if you look at the “Publication and Translation” page of NYC Department of Education webpage, you will see nine international languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu (Click to see the page Publication and Translation). The Bengali language in the NYC Department of Education page is made possible by Bengali parents who identified Bengali as their child's mother/first language. This credit should go to the collective efforts of Bengali parents to recognize their mother/first language. 

Lastly, a small step now may bring a big change in the future.  For this to happen, Tibetan parents need to act now.  Tibetan as a race in the official school records may come true with these small collective steps. 

To conclude, if Tibetan as a Race is identified in the official school records, then, the benefits are beyond our imagination. Among many, one could be the study of Tibetan American students' academic performances using the official data: are they performing better in Mathematics than Chinese or Indian American students? are there any differences in the academic performances of Tibetan male students as compared to Tibetan female students? how many Tibetan students graduate from elementary school or middle school or high school? and so on... 

Please share and spread the word out about the importance of this small step. Thank you. 



Note: Even if a child is born in the United States, his or her mother/first language may still be Tibetan. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tibetan Immigrants in the United States: Extended Version


The first large group of Asian immigrants to the United States were the Chinese; they came under a contract labor system to work in farms, mines, railroads, and other dirty, dangerous, and demeaning work (Martin, 2011). Between 1848 and 1882, an estimated 300,000 Chinese came to the United States, many borrowing large sums of money from others for their transport. A Chinese immigrant’s decision to leave home was often based more on economics than on attraction toward religious or political freedoms offered by the United States (ThinkQuest, 2011). They migrated to the United States to get away from natural disasters, crop failures, rapid population growth and conflicts, and competition from imported textiles from the Western countries in China (Martin, 2011). However, these Chinese immigrants were generally denied the right of citizenship and many of them could not return to their home country due to the high cost of return transportation. Unlike European immigrants, most Asian immigrants, including Chinese, settled initially on the West coast.


As noted earlier, the Chinese were the first group of Asian immigrants in the United States though they were denied the prospect of naturalization (See earlier discussion of the Naturalization Act of 1870). In 1882, for the first time in the history of the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed barring a whole nationality from immigration to the United States (Martin, 2011; ThinkQuest, 2011). However, the immigration door for Asian immigrants including Chinese opened again with the passage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act where everyone was generally viewed as equal in the eyes of the U.S. law.

Due to the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, more than half of the new immigrants to the United States were from Latin America, and 25% from Asia (Nieto & Bode, 2010). Moreover, the influx of Asian immigrants over the last three decades expanded the Asian American population in the United States from less than 1.5 million in 1970 to about 11 million in 2000 (Min, 1995; U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). Many Asian immigrants continue to fall under the category of “voluntary” immigrants. Ogbu (1991) theorized that regardless of race, voluntary minorities (those who willingly migrate to a country) are often more optimistic about the connection between hard work and success. According to Ogbu, voluntary immigrants are motivated to succeed economically because of their faith in the American dream (Nieto & Bode, 2010).

According to Suarez-­Orozco (2001) and Min (2004), many Asian immigrants earned some level of education from their home country prior to their immigration in the United States. They further noted immigrants now, especially those from Asia, were among the best-­educated and most skilled individuals in the United States. This may be true since Asian Americans were generally confident about financial returns for their investment in education in the United States (Goyette & Xie, 1999). Moreover, because of their marginal status in the U.S. society, Asian Americans of all ethnic groups may view education as the best means to overcome discrimination and other barriers to achieving high social status (Xie & Goyette, 1998). This view was supported by Barringer, Takeuchi, and Xenos (1990) and Hirschman and Wong (1986); they suggest Asian American adults as a group attained more education than other minorities or native-­‐born Americans.

Though many college educated Asian immigrants have high earnings from professional and managerial occupations, many others struggle, trapped in low-­level service-­related jobs (Min, 2004). In other words, to claim that all Asian immigrants are doing well, socially and economically, in the United States is untrue. As Suarez-­Orozco (2001) indicated, today’s immigrants in the United States are a highly heterogeneous group of peoples that defy easy generalizations. This seems also true within and between Asian American groups.

Nonetheless, although there are significant differences within each major type of immigration, there is reason to believe that manual labor migrants, foreign professionals, entrepreneurial groups, and refugees share a number of characteristics with other immigrants. In other words, immigrants from different nations, entering the United States as professionals and finding positions in their fields, tend to have more similar adaptation experiences than those typical of immigrant laborers from their respective countries (Portes & Rumbaut, 1996). Therefore, immigrant groups generally share many similarities of their immigration experiences in the United States and these similarities may be more so within and between the Asian immigrant groups. Within the Asian immigrant groups, there is a growing number of new immigrants who identify themselves as Tibetan immigrants.




The first major group of Tibetan refugees to settle in the United States was supported by the 1990 U.S. Immigration Act through which 1000 Tibetan refugees from South Asia immigrated to the U.S. under a resettlement program (Bay Area Friends of Tibet, 2010; Hess, 2006; The New York Times, 1991).  Moreover, a 1988 U.S. Congress Bill (Public Law 104-­319; 22 U.S.C. 2151 note) sponsored Tibetan refugee students each year to study in American universities to obtain degree and non-­degree education and trainings in the United States (Dharlo, 1994).  According to the Tibetan Scholarship Program (TSP) Website, some of these students chose to remain and settle in the United States (TSP Alumni Association, 2010).  Following these initial settlers, other Tibetans came to the United States as temporary visitors, professionals, and under the Family Reunification Program.  As of July 2010, there were around 10,000 Tibetan immigrants in the United States (L. Nyendak, personal communication, July 13, 2010).

A large number of Tibetan immigrants with “temporary visitor visas” seek asylum once they enter the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “To be eligible for refugee or asylum status, an applicant must meet the definition of a refugee set forth in 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA): a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-­founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion (p. 1)” (Martin, 2010).  Though this definition emphasized “refugee”, it also applied to “asylum” in the United States. Tibetans do not qualify as refugees (discussed below).  However, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) identify them as asylum seekers.

The U.S. government officially recognizes Tibet as a part of China and Tibetans as citizens of the People’s Republic of China (Dumbaugh, 2008; Obama, 2011).  This is evident when a Tibetan is granted asylum under race, nationality, political, or religious circumstances.  Many Tibetans are surprised to learn that their identity on paper is “Chinese”, officially recognized as “Overseas Chinese” (Wangdi, 2008).  See appendix J for a copy of the U.S. official document where a Tibetan applicant was granted asylum in 2011 as a citizen of China.  This is a concern shared by many Tibetan immigrants in the United States (Hess, 2006).  For instance, in the 2010 U.S. census, Tibetans were often urged to mark themselves as “other” than “Chinese” under the race category (L. Nyendak, personal communication, July 13, 2010).  The issue of race has become rather problematic for Tibetan immigrants as well as researchers of Tibetan immigrants.  First, it is impossible to determine the total number of Tibetan immigrants in the United States by using government records.  Second, a majority of Tibetans who seek asylum do not possess Chinese citizenship to identify as “Chinese American” or “Overseas Chinese”.  Third and finally, Tibetans generally do not consider themselves Chinese.  Though the problem continues to exist for census takers, for the purpose of this study, the term “Tibetan immigrant” means the following: first, Tibetans are culturally, spiritually, politically, and historically unique people and different from Chinese (Blondeau & Buffetrille, 2008) and; second, the existing Office of Tibet in New York City provides a symbolic representation of Tibetans in the United States.

In addition to the issue of identity discussed earlier, moving to a foreign country is not easy for a Tibetan, even under the most propitious circumstances.  It requires elaborate preparations, much expense, giving up personal relations at home, and often learning a new language and culture (Portes & Rumbaut, 1996).  Many Tibetans spend money and energy to immigrate to the United States, a nation many Tibetans consider a land of opportunity and freedom.

Once they reach the United States, Tibetan immigrants often support their families back home in India, Nepal, Bhutan, or Tibet with the money earned in their new country of residence (Gyaltag, 2004).  Having a culture that strongly values the importance of family wellbeing, Tibetan immigrants generally spend more time, energy, and money in helping their families than on their own future (Wangdi, 2008).  Because of strong ties with family back home and with the local Tibetan community, the acculturation of Tibetan immigrants tends to be slow. In New York City, for example, Tibetan immigrant parents often fail to understand the local school education system and policies that effect their children’s education.  Though it may not be irrational to maintain one’s own culture, values, identity, and community in the United States, an immigrant must also realize the importance of selective acculturation to acquire a better paying job and a higher standard of living.  Olneck (2004) supported this notion that immigrants should maintain ethnic loyalty as well as participate in ethnic communities combined with their acculturation to American culture.  Brumberg (1986) also added credence to the importance of new immigrants sharing in the American life and achieving the required knowledge for their successful participation in a modern urban society.

Many Tibetan immigrants anticipate obtaining better-­paying jobs, indicating the presence of some motivation towards upward mobility.  Ogbu, who studied the differences between voluntary and involuntary immigrants, supported the presence of a motivation to succeed economically among voluntary immigrants, such as Tibetans, in the United States (Neito & Bode, 2010).  As with other Asian Americans (Goyette & Xie, 1999), Tibetan immigrants are also generally confident about financial returns from education in the United States.  However, from my personal experiences, many adult Tibetans seem uncomfortable or are reluctant to continue learning once their formal education is completed, they get settled into a job, or they get married and have children.  This reluctance towards continuous learning may be changing in the United States (hopefully, my study may shed some light on this).

As with Mainland Chinese and Indians (from South Asia), Tibetan immigrants also share a preference to settle in New York City where there is a relatively high level of both ethnic diversity and concentration (Portes & Rumbaut, 1996).  New York’s flourishing Chinatown and Jackson Heights (Indian concentrated area) seem to provide the lure for many new Tibetan immigrants.  As of July 2010, out of the estimated 10,000 Tibetan immigrants in the United States, around 7,000 were concentrated in the area of New York and New Jersey (L. Nyendak, personal communication, July 13, 2010).  There seems to be no precise data distinguishing how many Tibetan immigrants reside in New York City and in New Jersey.  But, from my personal observations, the population in New Jersey may not be more than 1,000 Tibetan immigrants; they tend to have better living standards than the majority who lives in the five boroughs of New York City.

Tibetan preference for New York City was supported by some scholars who argued that successful adaptation in the United States among immigrants may relate to the patterns of cultural, economic, and social capital they were able to deploy in the new land through the support of peers (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001).  Perhaps, most important, New York City provides an opportunity for undocumented jobs for Tibetan immigrants to survive economically while they go through the asylum application process of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

However, most immigrants in New York City work in low-­skilled, low-­paying jobs, which not only demand hard labor but also long working hours (Asian American Justice Center, 2007; Min, 2004; Wrigley et. al., 2009).  From my personal experiences, this finding rings generally true among Tibetan immigrants in New York City.



*An excerpt from the dissertation, "Skills education for adult Tibetan immigrants in the United States: Identification, prioritization, resources, and challenges" 2012, Page 28-32.


Read also: Dominance of Rumor-based Facts in Immigrant Communites


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thinking Unnecessarily On...


More than a year ago
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Devolved his political power
The new Central Tibetan Administration formed
Duly elected by Tibetans in Diaspora
Representing the Greater Tibet

More than a year ago
Lodi Gyari wrote
The Way Forward on Tibet
Advocating Middle Way Policy
A forward looking approach

However,
Lodi Gyari resigned a year after
His Holiness the Dalai Lama's resignation
Leaving the new Dharamsala administration
A lone fighter
For a meaningful autonomy

With twin resignations of
Two key proponents of Middle Way Approach
Would it be wise to say?
"The MWA failed" and/or
Will Tibetans adopt a new forward looking approach?



There is no stopping of
Self-immolations in Tibet
But there is a stopping of
Solidarity movements in exile

With Kashag's instruction
Tibetans in exile
Celebrated the HH's birthday
On a grand scale

A day after the birthday
A Tibetan self-immolated in Tibet
When most Tibetans in exile
Were in festive moods
With new clothes and jewelries
Delicious foods and Tibetan dances

I wonder now
Are self-immolations becoming
Too mainstream?
Even for Tibetans :(

If self-immolations are not stopped
Tibet issue may see an uncertain death
In the international media
And in the geo-political arena



Tibet is burning
Nothing is improving
No one is stopping
Tibetans are protesting

Another protest coming
Whether the world listen or not
Whether the UN speak or not
Tibetans will protest

Improvement or no improvements
Tibetans will raise slogans
Listen or no listen
Tibetans will shout
India, Nepal, or the UN
Tibetans will walk the streets
Hear or no hear
Tibetans will talk
Momo or curry
Tibetans will eat

Are Tibetans
Good only for these:
Shout, walk, talk, or eat?

Tibetan way of protest is too mainstream
The biggest fear right now is
Self-immolations going mainstream
Tibetans cannot afford this

Alas!
I am
Thinking Unnecessarily On...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tibetan Immigrants in the United States



Though currently Tibet is a nation occupied by the People’s Republic of China, the Tibetan people generally view themselves as people of Tibet.  As a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual and temporal leader and some 80,000 Tibetans initially took refugee in India, Nepal, and Bhutan (Lama, 1998; Lopez, 1998; Tibet.net, 2010).  In these three countries, Tibetans established refugee communities and within these communities, Tibetans were frequently cited as models of successfully coping with the challenges of refugee life and of preserving cultural identity in-­‐exile (Mahmoudi, 1992).  Particularly in India, Tibetans established many Tibetan schools with the support of the Government of India and foreign donors.  Until 2005, Tibetan schools in India followed an education system structured primarily on the host country India’s needs (Department of Education, 2005).  Under this education system, Tibetan students generally were instructed according to the policies and curriculums prescribed by the Indian Board of Education that embraced the English language as the primary language of instruction (Rigzin, 2004).  As a result, many adult Tibetans in India obtained their school education with English as their primary language of instruction.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) ‐‐ established in India after the failed uprising in Tibet in 1959 ‐‐ administers Tibetan exile communities and schools.  The Tibetan people’s recognition and confidence in CTA is evident from the incessant flow of Tibetans from Chinese‐controlled Tibet since 1979 when China opened its Tibet border generally to Tibetans inside Tibet as well as to the outside world (Office of the Reception Centers, 1997).  Tibetans seek refuge in India for better education, religious freedom, socioeconomic prospects, and for cherished democratic ideals, among others.  However, according to Samdhong Rinpoche, the last executive head of CTA, the Tibetan Diaspora was experiencing a paradigm shift with many young Tibetans preferring to settle in the West, including the United States (Sehgal, 2011).  A short description of this paradigm shift in the United States is briefly discussed below. 

Increased opportunity for young and educated Tibetan refugees to study in the United States began in 1988, when the U.S. Congress passed a bill to sponsor Tibetan refugee students each year to study in American universities (U.S. Department of State, 2010): the Tibetan Scholarship Program (TSP).  As of April 2010, under the TSP, 364 Tibetan refugee students received or earned their education from American universities, myself being one of them (TSP Alumni Association, 2010).  Two years later, the passage of the 1990 U.S. Immigration Act allowed an additional 1000 Tibetan refugees from South Asia to immigrate to the U.S. under a resettlement program (Bay Area Friends of Tibet, 2010; Hess, 2006; The New York Times, 1991).  Through these initial settlement opportunities, other Tibetan refugees started to take interest in settling in the United States to avail themselves of opportunities for a better livelihood, health, career, education, and the prospect of naturalization, among others.  The Government of the United States supported the increasing interest of Tibetans by providing higher education scholarships, sponsoring resettlement programs (noted earlier), and favorably considering requests for political asylum in general.

With the Tibetan scholarship and resettlement programs (previously noted), Tibetan immigration to the United States increased.  According to the Office of Tibet (OoT) ­‐‐ the Official Agency of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Administration to the Americas, New York City ‐‐ the estimated population of Tibetan immigrants in North America in 2010 was around 15,000.  Of the 15,000, roughly 10,000 resided in the United States (L. Nyendak, personal communication, July 13, 2010).  During the June 2010 visit to New York City, the Executive Head of Central Tibetan Administration and Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in‐exile, it was estimated there were around 7,000 or more Tibetan immigrants in the New York­‐New Jersey area alone (L. Nyendak, personal communication, July 13, 2010).  However, some argue that the Tibetan immigrant populations in the United States is comparatively higher than the official figure of 10,000, as several Tibetan immigrants neither associate with the OoT, New York City nor with any local Tibetan community association.  Therefore, the precise total population of Tibetan immigrants in the United States remains unknown.

The Tibetan immigrant populations in the United States generally include Tibetans coming from the three refugee communities in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, as well as Tibetans from Chinese‐controlled Tibet.  In other words, the United States continues to provide a safe haven for Tibetans migrating from other parts of the world.  By 2010, Tibetan immigrants had succeeded in setting up community, youth, and regional associations throughout the United States: there are 25 Tibetan associations and 23 Tibet support groups in the United States (The Office of Tibet, 2011).  Tibetans celebrate the Tibetan New Year and other festivals, and remain connected to their own community of peoples (Wangdi, 2008).  In the last couple of years, as previously discussed, the population of Tibetan immigrants in the United States has grown.  As of 2010, the largest concentration of Tibetan immigrants is in the New York and New Jersey area (Tibetan Community of NY&NJ, 2010). 

Irrespective of the total population, Tibetan immigrants, those literate as well as illiterate, generally struggle in the United States; they struggle with a new system of governance, communication, transportation, naturalization, career, health, education, lifestyle, and a foreign culture.  To put it differently, Tibetan immigrants struggle with the social, economic, and political circumstances of their new country.  This study focuses on skills education that may help support the transition of adult Tibetan immigrants’ settlement in the United States.  As a Tibetan refugee myself, I have seen Tibetan immigrants in New York City pay the hefty sum of U.S. $1000 to an agency for help to complete their Green Card application form.  This is one example of the need for skills education for adult Tibetan immigrants in the United States in general and in New York City in particular.

Understandably, with the growing Tibetan immigrant populations in the United States, there is a subsequent growth in the number of organizations that aim at supporting settlement in their new country of residence.



*An excerpt from the dissertation, "Skills education for adult Tibetan immigrants in the United States: Identification, prioritization, resources, and challenges" 2012, Page 2-6.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is Carrying Chinese National Flag a Blotch in Exile History?


The Tibetan family – Dongpo Kyi, Tsetan Dorjee, and Lhamo Kyi – started their journey back home to Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, on this year’s Tibetan uprising day, March 10[i].  With cheers and appreciations, they started the march to home from Dharamsala - the hometown of Central Tibetan Administration and His Holiness the Dalai Lama - with support from the largest Tibetan youth organization in exile, Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). 

When they started the peaceful walking movement, they carried only Tibetan national flags but as the march progresses, they were seen carrying national flags of India, Nepal, China, and Tibet, fluttering in unison on a long wooden pole (see the picture on the right).  Dorjee, the son, shared the primary reason for carrying Chinese flag to the Phayul, “parading the red flag was symbolic of his (their) fight for the official Middle-Way policy and his (their) willingness to stay under Beijing if granted genuine autonomy[ii]”. 

However, carrying the Chinese flag did not go well with the marching Tibetan family.  On May 4, 2012, the TYC issued a statement strongly condemning them for carrying Chinese national flag.  Though the TYC has no objection whether the family supports middle way policy or complete independence, it explicitly noted that the act of parading Chinese flag is unimaginable and unwarranted.  The TYC further asserted that the organization and its regional units would refrain from recognizing and supporting this March-to-Tibet movement[iii].  

The TYC’s decision to withdraw support was generally based on two underlying reasons: first, to express rejection of the Chinese flag until Tibet’s independence is restored; and second, to classify carrying the Chinese flag as contradicting the moral responsibilities of a Tibetan towards the struggle and legacy of Tibet.  The TYC further emphasized, “(it) not only oppose this act by the marchers but also would like to reiterate that in future it will continue to resist any individual or organization that will engage in such similar acts”. 

However, the most discussion (at least in the social media) was generated by a single line in the statement i.e., for the first time in 53 years of exile history, parading of the Chinese flag by Tsetan Dorjee and his family members marks a blotch in the exile history of Tibet.  Let me review some critical posts and comments in the social media on this “blotch” in particular and the statement in general.

On his Facebook wall post of May 5, Dibyesh Anand, Associate Professor in International Relations at University of Westminster, UK, shares, “Is TYC indeed becoming an extremist organization with limited tolerance of dissent from its set views? I always pooh pooh this idea (of TYC as extremist) but such news make me question my own judgment. I hope TYC members set this straight and not let their leaders forget that there are many roads to freedom. The brave marchers are showing themselves to be true to the leader of Tibet (the Dalai Lama and his middle way) and actually creative in their symbolism. It is one thing to say - we do not agree with their carrying Chinese flag but understand why they are doing it but cannot support it - and completely another to denounce it as a 'blotch in exile history'. The Chinese must be laughing!

This posting not only questions the need of such statement from the TYC but also the freedom of individuals to share and act what they believe in. Moreover, a Facebook user comments, “They (the marching family) are not displaying Chinese flag that highlights Tibet as a part of China. Way the Chinese, Indian, and Nepalese flags are displayed; it could be read as speaking or appealing to these countries. TYC could have chosen to read the symbolism different ways”.

While another user adds human element to the entire episode, “we have a family who has given up everything and is devoting their lives to a homecoming against all odds…. One of the most politically dominant and influential Tibetan organizations had the disgrace to publicly denounce this family just because they disagree with one element of their journey”. This user also attacks the TYC’s call for all Tibetans to unite by commenting, “what fun it must be for Beijing to sit back and watch exile Tibetans attacking and undermining each other”.

Among several commentaries, one that stood out from the rest is from a user who writes, “if carrying Red Flag is a blotch in exile history, then what would you (TYC) call at Five Point Peace Plan (1987), Strasburg Proposal (1988), ATPD Unanimous Resolution (1996), 2002-2008 Sino-Tibetan Negotiation, etc.” (FYI - ATPD stands for Tibetan Parliament in Exile, erstwhile known as Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies).  This comment could be interpreted in a more candid way i.e., if carrying Chinese flag is a blotch in the exile history, then, the Central Tibetan Administration and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s ongoing emphasis on dialogue under the middle way policy may also be impugned as a “huge blotch” in the exile history.  Though the middle way policy does not explicitly verbalize the disowning of Tibetan national flag, it does however seek genuine autonomy under the constitutional/legal framework of the People’s Republic of China.

In addition to social media discussions, a comment on the Phayul gained my attention.  This individual writes, “From my point of view, the current TYC Centrex has no authority to condemn the family marching towards Tibet”.  Do you agree that the TYC has no moral as well as legal authority to condemn a Tibetan for his act of free speech or expression?  Or as Dibyesh Anand highlighted earlier, “Is TYC indeed becoming an extremist organization with limited tolerance of dissent from its set views?”.  These questions may be raising eyebrows on the limits and delimits of "authority" as well as "responsibility" of the largest Tibetan youth and political organization in exile.  

Further, in recent times, the TYC is seemingly representing itself as a parallel organization to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Dharamsala.  For instance, the TYC officially challenged the name change of Tibetan Government in Exile (TGiE) such as selling a T-shirt with TGiE name during last year’s Kalachakra initiation at Washington D.C.  Also, the TYC is seen as more vocal on criticizing the middle way policy and its advocate, the CTA.  With the devolution of political power by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there is bound to have more discussion but the fundamental question is on the health of Tibetan struggle movement if TYC (becomes or) acts as a parallel political organization to the CTA?  Let me share my perspective briefly below.

For nascent Tibetan democracy to thrive, it is necessary to have a robust civil society[iv].  For a robust civil society, it is important to have Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the social, economic, as well as political spectrum of the society.  However, there are some restrictions on the freedoms of expression and association of NGOs under the law of a country such as U.S. law and Indian law.

Since Tibetans are in diaspora, Tibetan NGOs are registered under the law of its host countries.  Nonetheless, the Central Tibetan Administration (representing the people of Tibet) must have some say in these Tibetan NGOs when it comes to the core principles and values that help solidifies the “national interest” of Tibetan people.  For instance, there could be a Committee - comprising Tibetan member of parliaments - that has moral as well as constitutional authority to summon and question Tibetans NGOs, especially those who are politically active.  This committee could be seen not as a regulating body of Tibetan NGOs.  It could rather be seen as a body that puts these Tibetan NGOs into the “accountability box” of the Tibetan people’s representative.

At first look, this proposal may seem to work in favor of the Tibetan administration and people only.  However, if you take a deeper second look, this "checks and balances" may also benefit the Tibetan political NGOs to strengthen its legitimacy in both Tibetan and international communities as well as to reaffirm its assertion to the non-violence principle of Tibetan freedom movement.

To conclude, in the midst of organizational political indifferences in exile, the marching Tibetan family was left alone in their effort to march against the Chinese repressive policies in Tibet.  When they were stopped marching by the Nepali Police, Tibetan People’s Movement for Middle Way (TPMMW) and a member of the Tibetan parliament joined in support[v].  However, there was no one from the regional TYC to support the marching family.  Is carrying a Chinese flag too big a sin that deserves complete denunciation and avoidance from regional TYCs and other Tibetan political organizations?

As a final note, it’s important for Tibetan people and organizations to understand the significance of diversity in a truly free democratic institution of Tibetan people in exile.  If there is no unity in diversity, then, the nascent Tibetan democracy may be heading towards a disaster – a disaster that may leave the Tibetan freedom movement in disarray.






[i] Tibetsun.com. Retrieved May 9, 2012 from http://tibetsun.com/archive/2012/05/04/tyc-condemns-tibetan-activists-carrying-china-flag/
[ii] Phayul.com. Retrieved May 9, 2012 from http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=31334&article=Parading+China%E2%80%99s+flag+a+blotch+in+exile+history%3a+TYC+tells+marching+family
[iii] Tibetan Youth Congress.  Retrieved May 9, 2012 from http://tibetanyouthcongress.org/tyc-archives/2012/05/04/tyc-strongly-condemns-tibetans-carrying-chinese-national-flag/
[iv] IIP Digital Retrieved May 9, 2012 from http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/01/20120130171036roma0.1718823.html#axzz1uI9tDBdS
[v] Phayul.com. Retrieved May 13 from http://phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=31367&article=Exile+family's+March+to+Tibet+stopped+pin+Nepal%2c+Marchers+detained

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chinese Immigrants in the United States


The first large group of Asian immigrants to the United States were the Chinese; they came under a contract labor system to work in farms, mines, railroads, and other dirty, dangerous, and demeaning work (Martin, 2011).  Between 1848 and 1882, an estimated 300,000 Chinese came to the United States, many borrowing large sums of money from others for their transport.  A Chinese immigrant’s decision to leave home was often based more on economics than on attraction toward religious or political freedoms offered by the United States (ThinkQuest, 2011).  They migrated to the United States to get away from natural disasters, crop failures, rapid population growth and conflicts, and competition from imported textiles from the Western countries in China (Martin, 2011).  However, these Chinese immigrants were generally denied the right of citizenship and many of them could not return to their home country due to the high cost of return transportation.  Unlike European immigrants, most Asian immigrants, including Chinese, settled initially on the West coast.

As noted earlier, the Chinese were the first group of Asian immigrants in the United States though they were denied the prospect of naturalization (See earlier discussion of the Naturalization Act of 1870).  In 1882, for the first time in the history of the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed barring a whole nationality from immigration to the United States (Martin, 2011; ThinkQuest, 2011).  However, the immigration door for Asian immigrants including Chinese opened again with the passage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act where everyone was generally viewed as equal in the eyes of the U.S. law.


Due to the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, more than half of the new immigrants to the United States were from Latin America, and 25% from Asia (Nieto & Bode, 2010).   Moreover, the influx of Asian immigrants over the last three decades expanded the Asian American population in the United States from less than 1.5 million in 1970 to about 11 million in 2000 (Min, 1995; U.S. Census Bureau, 2009).  Many Asian immigrants continue to fall under the category of “voluntary” immigrants.  Ogbu (1991) theorized that regardless of race, voluntary minorities (those who willingly migrate to a country) are often more optimistic about the connection between hard work and success.  According to Ogbu, voluntary immigrants are motivated to succeed economically because of their faith in the American dream (Nieto & Bode, 2010).

According to Suarez-­Orozco (2001) and Min (2004), many Asian immigrants earned some level of education from their home country prior to their immigration in the United States.  They further noted immigrants now, especially those from Asia, were among the best-educated and most skilled individuals in the United States.  This may be true since Asian Americans were generally confident about financial returns for their investment in education in the United States (Goyette & Xie, 1999).  Moreover, because of their marginal status in the U.S. society, Asian Americans of all ethnic groups may view education as the best means to overcome discrimination and other barriers to achieving high social status (Xie & Goyette, 1998).  This view was supported by Barringer, Takeuchi, and Xenos (1990) and Hirschman and Wong (1986); they suggest Asian American adults as a group attained more education than other minorities or native-­born Americans.

Though many college educated Asian immigrants have high earnings from professional and managerial occupations, many others struggle, trapped in low-­level service­‐related jobs (Min, 2004).  In other words, to claim that all Asian immigrants are doing well, socially and economically, in the United States is untrue.  As Suarez-­Orozco (2001) indicated, today’s immigrants in the United States are a highly heterogeneous group of peoples that defy easy generalizations.  This seems also true within and between Asian American groups.

Nonetheless, although there are significant differences within each major type of immigration, there is reason to believe that manual labor migrants, foreign professionals, entrepreneurial groups, and refugees share a number of characteristics with other immigrants.  In other words, immigrants from different nations, entering the United States as professionals and finding positions in their fields, tend to have more similar adaptation experiences than those typical of immigrant laborers from their respective countries (Portes & Rumbaut, 1996).  Therefore, immigrant groups generally share many similarities of their immigration experiences in the United States and these similarities may be more so within and between the Asian immigrant groups.  Within the Asian immigrant groups, there is a growing number of new immigrants who identify themselves as Tibetan immigrants. 



*This is an excerpt from my dissertation on, "Skills education for adult Tibetan immigrants in the United States: Identification, prioritization, resources, and challenges"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

“You and I” Conversation Series: Being Tibetan


Tips for Reading: Read “You” and “I” as two separate individuals i.e., “You” and “I” as two names.  If you still have difficulty reading, substitute an anonymous name in place of “You” and your name in place of “I” except the ones in quotations.


“That’s it for the day” I whispers to his ears as he puts the 45-pound twin dumbbells on the 12 feet long iron rack.  Prior to the workout, I played basketball for an hour.  Tired, de-stressed, and worn out, I heads straight to the locker room.

As he gets ready for shower, I keeps thinking about the wonderful basketball game he had with his fellow students.  I murmurs, “I should play basketball and do workout at least four days a week”.  I is a graduate student at an American university who loves to play basketball and to workout at the university gymnasium.

I is also very particular about following Instructions.  He takes a quick shower in the large common bathroom to the right of the small room that has white laminated sheet on its door that instructs, “please take a shower before entering the steam room”.  As I enters, he sees no one in the room.

Steam room is a small square room that has L-shape concrete bench for no more than 6 people to sit.  On the right lower corner of the door, there is a steam dispenser that evaporates as soon as the room heat falls below the set temperature.  On the top left corner of the door, there lies a temperature-monitoring box that helps maintain steam heat in the room.  The floor and walls were plastered with beige-colored clay tiles broken down into small squared shapes. 

Stretching his two legs, I sits opposite to the steam dispenser for maximum steam heat in minimum possible time.  With the steam flowing up from his feet to the head, I starts to feel calm, relaxed, and refreshed.  As I begins to feel the pleasure of steam heat, his attention starts to revolve around his roots -  a root that he himself finds difficult not to remember.  I is immediately pushed into a state of hysterical mind where he tries to individualize between “being comfortable” and “being lost”.

His mind no more feels the pleasure of having played a good basketball game, a healthy work out, or a refreshing steam bath.  Gradually, the smile turns to frown as he sits ruminating the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet, the human rights violation in Tibet, the coldness of world leaders, and the dilemma of exile Tibetan leaders.  I wonders, “Is there a hope for Tibet?” “Are Tibetan hoping against the hope?” “Are there better ways to resolve ongoing problems in Tibet?”…. The questions keep expanding while the answers keep shrinking.  Suddenly, the world starts to look too big for a tiny group of individuals to seek justice and freedom they deserve.  I hopes his fears are not wise.

The door of steam room opens.  I suddenly realize that he is still in the steam room – sweating heavily not because of the steam but of the bodily heat generated by his internal pain.  I folds his legs to offer a welcome gesture to the new individual (named “You” hereafter), who enters the steam room.  You sits on the lower end of the L-shape bench, just below the temperature-monitoring box, holding his water bottle on the right hand.  You is a white male in early 20s studying in the same university as I. 

As and when the steam stops dispensing, You pours cold water from his bottle onto the temperature-monitoring box.  It is remarkable to see how people find ways to maneuver the technology.  You found ways to intensify the steam heat by pouring cold water into the box.  I realize he is not the only person who welcomes instant gratifications.  However, most disturbingly, Tibet and Tibetans hardly experienced instant, immediate, or any gratifications for its last six decades of talks, dialogues, and activisms.   

Gradually, the “guilty of silence” starts to take toll on both You and I as they sit in the steam room for few minutes.  Within few seconds, You takes the first step to break the silence by asking:

“Hi! Where are you from?”

I replies, “Hi! I am from India but I am not an Indian”.  At this, You moves his eyebrows to make sense of I’s response. 

Seeing You’s reaction, I adds, “I was born, raised, and educated in India but I am not an Indian.  I am a Tibetan in India”.  You starts to sense something but he was new to anything Tibet or Tibetan.  It seems You has no clue on what I was talking. 

Adding more to the introduction, I elaborates, “It’s complicated.  Technically, I am a born-refugee but India did not have a Refugee Act and so, all Tibetans in India need to renew their residential permit every year.  Again, technically, Tibetans in India are not real refugee.  They are just temporary residents.  So, I would prefer to say – I am stateless or displaced.  There is no country in the world where I don’t need a visa”.  As I elaborates, You senses a feeling of pain and lost deep inside I. 
                                             
Feeling little uncomfortable, You takes another step to know I better, “How you identify yourself as a Tibetan?”.  Immediately, the steam dispenser burst out with its extreme sound of Tsoooo…

This question often haunts I.  Theoretically, I cannot say I am a Tibetan because I was not born in Tibet.  Most of the time, I finds himself in dilemma at this question.  It’s about his identity – an identity that he constantly struggles to identify, an identity that he find himself mostly tangled in the law of opposites (discussed later). 

As Tsooo disappears, I explains, “Being a Tibetan is painful.  The feeling of displacement never subsides.  I was in South India till my Junior High, in North India for High School, in South India again for bachelor degree, in North India again for master’s degree and work, and in the US right now for graduate education.  I don’t know where I will end up next.  I never felt settled.  I never felt at ease.  I never felt I belong to any part of this world.  I never saw Tibet.  I don’t know what it is meant by ‘home’.  I never found myself at peace.  The cost of being a Tibetan comes with emotional bruises that leave permanent scars and pains.  You want to do something for Tibet yet nothing seems to work.  I can go on for hours on this.  So, I will stop here”. 

By now, You seems to take interest in I.  You sees the pain and passion in I’s eyes and words.  However, You is hesitant to ask another question as he feels bad at making I emotional. 

Feeling bad of asking these questions, You apologizes, “I am sorry to ask all these questions. I didn’t mean to…”.  At this, I interrupts and replies with a Tibetan smile, “Its not about who I am.  It is what Tibetan is all about.  Please feel free to ask any questions.  I am more than willing to answer”.

You and I both paused for the steam dispenser to stop Tsoooing.  You then asks, “How you feel in the US?”. 

I replies, “Confused”.  Suddenly, You fires another quick question, “Why?”.  At this point, I sees the curiosity in You’s eyes.  You may be expecting a more positive response as the US is known for being a land of opportunity and freedom. 

Though the US is a land of opportunity and freedom where everyone is generally treated equal in the eyes of law, the impression of Tibetans are very exotic.  They are generally stereotyped as a group of people with noble characteristics such as love, compassion, wisdom, and smiley face.  Some even go further to romanticize Tibetan as a sacred and holy people of the mystical and mythical Shangri-La. 

Taking a deep sigh, I replies, “Its confusing because I have to constantly juggle around the logic of opposites.  Many Americans consider Tibetan as nice, simple, loving, and compassionate people.  This is a stereotype of Tibetan which makes an individual like me to ask myself – should I behave like a Tibetan or should I behave like another normal human being?”.  I sounds little aggressive with these sentences as if he is not happy with the stereotype or generalization of Tibetan people (FYI - there are some level of stereotypes for any races). 

After few seconds of pause, I further adds, “Generally, Tibetans are not nice, loving, and compassionate as the world see them.  There are many crimes, abuses, discriminations, injustices, and other problems in Tibetan communities, similar to any societies or communities around the globe.  This romanticization of Tibetans is proving a stumbling block for addressing many social ills or problems.  For instance, it is very disturbing to see how Tibetans react or respond to any unfortunate incidents or shameful acts.  They tend to hide these incidents or acts with an intention of not damaging this romanticization of Tibetans by the outside world.  Do Tibetans really need to care more about what others think of them and less about addressing the growing social problems within their communities?  Take an example… if you look at me, I am not nice; I am not loving; I share what most American young adults love to do.  I just want to be treated as another individual”. 

Though You starts to know more about I, he opts not to ask more questions as I was getting extremely passionate, emotional, and disturbed.  As You starts to make an exit, he shoots a final question.

“Have you experienced any cultural shock in the US?”

At this, I replies with his own smile, “Oh Yeah. On the afternoon of my first day of arrival in New York City, I walked the Times Square in my Made in India’s boxer”.  At this, both You and I smiles and laughs. 

By this time, both You and I had enough of steam bath.  They decide to head back to their respective apartment to fulfill their students’ obligations.  You shakes hand with I to say, “Thank you for sharing all these.  It was enlightening.  I would love to hear more about Tibetan culture next time.  I hope to see you around”.

I acknowledges, “Your welcome. See ya around”. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dissertation Abstract -- Skills Education for Adult Tibetan Immigrants in the United States: Identification, Prioritization, Resources, and Challenges


Generally, the Global Tibetan Professional Network of North America (GTPN-­NA) considers lack of skills a problem among adult Tibetan immigrants. The GTPN-­NA is a non-­profit, volunteer-­‐based networking forum focusing on Tibetan professionals and students from North America. By skills education, it means skills that may help support the transition of adult Tibetan immigrants’ settlement in the United States.


The study utilized an online survey to collect inputs from GTPN-­NA members or fans to identify and prioritize skills that may help support the transition of adult Tibetan immigrants’ settlement in the United States and to examine resources and challenges associated with providing these skills. Though the study received a total of 228 responses, the findings were based on 125 valid responses from individuals who identified themselves as either members or fans of the GTPN-­NA. Though this response may seem small, given the GTPN-­NA’s broad definition of Tibetan professionals and their lack of clarity as to which individuals fully qualify, the response percent of qualified members may be anywhere from 12% to 60%. Individuals completed an online survey of 30 questionnaire items.


Some of the general findings of the study were: 1) survey participants placed more emphasis on the importance of oral communication, writing, listening, reading, sociability and self‐esteem skills for Tibetan immigrants and less on numeracy and integrity/honesty skills; 2) there were prevailing differences in the presentation of “should have” and “do have” essential skills for Tibetan immigrants; 3) survey participants showed strong interest in supporting skills education initiatives such as volunteering; 4) the size of the local community population matters when selecting the sites for teaching skills education programs for Tibetan immigrants and; 5) a pattern of Tibetan immigrants non-­participation in learning programs may affect enrollment in skills education programs.


Besides the general findings, three additional findings were generated from the study that may need to be addressed prior to delivering skills education programs for adult Tibetan immigrants in the United States: they were generally attitudinal. First, adult Tibetan immigrants may believe they already have sufficient skills to cope and survive in the United States, perhaps assuming the possession of skills they don’t have. Second, perceived negative attitudes on the part of adult Tibetan immigrants regarding their ability to continue learning into adulthood may interfere with learning new skills. Third, the proximity of GTPN-­NA members or fans to New York City may impact their views regarding skills education for adult Tibetan immigrants.


In addition, this study provides the GTPN-­NA leadership an initial portrait of members or fans. Based on the 125 survey participants, GTPN-NA member or fans are young, educated, first-generation immigrants, and are likely to be either male or female. Finally, skills education for recent immigrants in general seems an open field for researchers and practitioners to study and explore. 




Tibetaness Never Dies


I am sleeping
But my eyes are wide open


I am typing
But my fingers are stiff


I am singing
But my lips are still 


I am drinking 
But my throat is dry 


I am listening
But my ears are deaf 


I am walking 
But my destination is far 


I am dancing 
But my muscles are dead 


I am seeing 
But my eyes have cataract 


I am strong 
But my heart is light 


I am kind 
But my compassion is weak 


I am homeless 
But my Tibetanness will never die






*Wrote on the Friday night of March 23rd 2012 while Facebooking with DTL. I wrote this in a couple of minutes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools' Day


I don't want to fool anyone...
I am fool enough already...


My neurons are dying...
that connects me...
To how I think...
But also to who I am...


I am fool enough...
To think I am strong...
To think I am a lone star...
To think I am no one...


I am fool enough...
I don't need April fools day...
Everyday is April fool...


Some days my fellows fool me...
Some days our leaders fool me...
Some days the press and media fools me...
And some days the world fools me...


I had enough of fools day...
I just want to be foolish enough...
To think not to have a single fools day...
That day will be my April fools day...


Sometimes, I wish...
April's fool day is an official fooling day...
To fool the Chinese leadership...
To make Tibet independent...
Even if it is for a day...
.........I wish





**********
Note: When I checked my Facebook news feed this morning, I suddenly wrote this poem in a few minute time from my iPhone, comfortably laying down on a bed at my friend's place.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lets Get Real

 
Time.com revealed “The Self-immolation of Tibetan Monks” as the top most underreported stories of the year 2011.  The indefinite hunger strike at New York City did not receive as much press and media attention as it should.  One of the three hunger strikers was forcibly taken to a hospital and still the press and media remained largely mum.  Most writings that we see in the international press were from individuals and bloggers.  There are no in-depth analyses on why there are self-immolations in Tibet and why three Tibetans were on hunger strikes in front of the United Nations Headquarters.  

Are international press and media busy covering Syria’s uprising?  Or are they more interested in covering the intention behind a naked man running on the street?  Or are they bored of there-is-nothing-new Tibetan protests?  Or are they simply cautious of thundering China?

For the last few decades, Tibetans have placed so much trust on international press and media.  Though the press and media coverage of Tibetan protests and events may be significant to create awareness among the general populace, its also a time to analyze how much these press and media help support the real cause of Tibet?  Many Tibetans still believe the year of 2008 was a great year for Tibet as many ran onto the streets to make the world know about Tibet and its struggle along with Beijing’s torch of Olympic relay.  However, since then, nothing has improved in Tibet.  Now, the press and media seem to shy away from reporting on Tibet and its protests.

Regardless of how the press and media view Tibet's problem, the time may have come for Tibetan freedom movements to shift its primary focus from the press and media to solving the real problems in Tibet.  Tibetan freedom movements need to think beyond the present.  It needs a long-term strategy.  Tibetans could learn a lot from the way China built itself as a super power in the world.  China took almost four decades to achieve the present status of economic and political power.  In late 1970s, Deng Xiaoping initiated several economic reforms, based primarily on his popular belief, “Getting rich is glorious”.  After four decades, Deng’s farsighted strategy to get rich and glorious is now what China is currently known for.  Tibetan freedom movements need to have similar kind of Deng’s vision and long-term strategy.

So far, Tibetan freedom movements have largely been confined to achieve the end result for Tibet i.e., by seeking complete independence or by negotiating middle way policy.  Both did not work well.  The underlying reason may be that Tibetans have been trying to acquire a house with no capital or monies.  It may be the time to get real.  As with any dream of owning a house, Tibetan freedom movement needs to think the bits and pieces of building a stable and thunder-proof house.  Tibetans may need to work on each and every bricks, a step at a time. 

Moreover, Tibetans may have to think about having multiple organizations that are politically neutral such as organizations for Tibetan language and culture, for religious freedom, for worker’s right, for ethnic rights, for environmental safety, and for intellectual freedom.  Right now, Tibetans do have some organizations but most are politically active.  Politically neutral organizations may have potentials to work with many international NGOs and even, some NGOs in China.  These organizations shall focus only on a particular mission such as raising the level of Tibetan language in Tibetan schools in Tibet.  Remember, a step at a time.

Lets get real. 
Lets get working. 
Lets get smart. 
Lets start from a brick.