It has been over a month since I have been at my host organization as an English teacher. I have really enjoyed teaching English to the girls here. I have became so attached to the girls here that I am not ready to be separated from them. My visa allows me to stay in China for 60 days with multiple entries. Soon I will be going to Hong Kong for a week, and then I will be coming back into China. Lately, I have not been able to sleep at night at the thought of me leaving. I remember when I first came, I wanted to be back home. Now, I want to stay longer, and not go back home. The person who really understands me is Steve Sclar. He told me he felt the same way when he was here five years ago. I am glad Steve came again this year. I have been able to have full English conversations with him. At first I could barely have full English conversations with anyone here at the organization. Except for one the girls, GigaDorma, who speaks a good amount of English. I have been able to hang out with Steve here at the organization. Yeah, I am a lucky Global Scholar.
I adapted to Tibetan culture very quickly, and I am not ready to indulge into American culture just yet. I am going to miss eating Tsampa (Barley flour, yak butter, cheese, and milk tea) in the mornings with the teachers, babysitter, and the cook. I am going to miss all the beautiful girls at the school, especially those who I have became close to. I am going to miss going to the nun’s room with the Chinese teacher and playing Chinese checkers. I am going to miss waking up and looking out my window to see sky-high mountains, and random snow days. I can go on and on, but I do not want to remind myself how I will no longer be with these people until the next time I come back. I have came to love almost everyone in the organization in such little time.
Photo: The girls and I on Children’s Day. I taught my 4th grade class a dance routine that they performed on Children’s Day which is celebrated annually on June 1st. I had an amazing time during the celebration. Every grade performed to two different songs, and then the dance floor was opened to the audience. The Tibetan dances and songs that were sung were amazing.
As you all may not know, I am volunteering in a private town in Tibet where foreigners are not allowed. The Chinese government would not like the idea of a foreigner teaching English in a school. I am forbidden from leaving the school without the director of the organization. I have been around the town with the director the first week I was here, and I was able to get a sense of the town. I was taken to the best restaurant in this town. The room in which we ate was gorgeous. The ceiling was beautiful as well as the walls. We ate in this private room which I thought was pretty cool. The director is friends with the owner of the restaurant. I, also, went to the tea house that is located in this town. The tea house was absolutely gorgeous! I fell in love with the arena. I was told that part of the earnings in the tea house goes to the school in which I volunteer (Sengcham Golok Drukmo Girls’ Home). Although I am mentioning to you the beautiful places I have been to, it is completely different outside these places. Tibet is very mountainous with high altitudes. Tibetan landscape can hardly be seen anywhere else in the world. Tibetans have so much land it is crazy. A family may own a house with several mountains. The houses are miles apart from one another. It is rare to have a neighbor because the houses are not close to one another. I live in a small town, and luckily there are several houses closely together. It feels more of a community then the outskirts of Tibet. I live in the school and have my own room. All the students live in the school as well as the management team and teachers. There are about eight teachers, and I am the only English Teacher. We teach approximately 130 students who are all Tibetan girls. This is the only all girls school in Tibet, as you may not know, girls in China are underprivileged. The youngest student is five years of age, and the oldest is seventeen.
Lastnight, I had a blast with the teachers and second graders. As much I tried understanding the TIbetan teacher when she was explaining to me why the second graders were having a party, I could not understand. I simply went with the flow. The teachers bought the students sooooo many snacks and drinks. We had the party at around 10PM in the classroom. Yeah, something you would not see in the U.S. well from my school experience. I can honestly say that last night was one of the most exciting nights I’ve had so far. The students took turn singing and dancing while the rest of us applauded. The students then asked if the teachers could perform. Oh man, I thought I would be able to get away from performing, but they insisted that the English teacher (me) sing. Unfortunately, I did not have any music in my phone, so I told them that I would dance. The students then played several songs for me to choose from. I then chose one that had sort of a Techno beat. I began to dance, and signaled for the students to join me. They began to imitate all my moves (Yeah, it was so cute of them). I had such a great time with the girls last night. After the party, the teachers and I went to the Tibetan teacher’s room, and played Chinese checkers. We ate ice cream and ate melon seeds while we played. We ended up playing till 12AM.
It has been almost two weeks that I have been here in Darlag, Qinghai Province, China. I have been teaching English to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. It has been difficult to communicate with them because they do not know English, and I, myself, do not know their dialect which is Amdo. There are three Tibetan dialects: Amdo, Khams, and Utsang. I have slowly been learning Amdo from almost everyone in the organization. The management team and the students have been great to me. I have received great hospitality while being here. The students are so courteous that they leave me speechless. Tibetan students are very hard-working. I thought I was a hard-worker, but these kids actually demonstrated to me what true hard-workers really are like. The students clean the classrooms, wash their own clothes and shoes by hand, they do outdoor cleaning, and they assist adults in anything that is asked of them. These are only a few of the things that these students do on a daily basis. I was startled and impressed when I began to see what these kids from ages 5-17 years old do on a regular basis. Although China owns Tibet, Tibet is nothing like the cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai, etc. Tibet is very mountainous with high altitudes over 4000 meters. The first few days when I did arrive to Tibet, I did feel a short discomfort of breathlessness. I am grateful that I have not been extremely affected by the high altitude. According to the director of the host organization, I acclimatized very well while being here. I was told that past volunteers could not handle the high altitude and climate. Currently, I am the only volunteer and American. One of the teachers here at the school speaks a small amount of English, and she is the main person I converse with on a day to day basis. Some of the older students as well speak some English, and I became close to those students. I am glad that some of the people here speak some English because when I first arrived I barely communicated with anyone. I was surrounded with Tibetans that spoke Amdo and completely no English. Then as I began to meet more people in the organization, I was introduced to some people who did speak a little English. You have no idea how disconnected I felt when I first arrived to the organization because of the language barrier. Overtime I overcame that discomfort, and began to learn their dialect. Wow, I can keep telling you all so much more about my experience here, but I know you all have things to do. By the way, I will soon post pictures for you all.
Wow! My flight to China has been the most interesting journey. This showed me how valiant I am in which otherwise I would not have known if it were not for this experience. I departed from my hometown (Tampa, FL) on May 6, 2014 to New York at the John F. Kennedy airport. From New York to China was a 15 hour flight. This was the longest flight I have ever taken which was not as dreadful as I thought it would be. I arrived in Shanghai, China, which is known to be the most modern city in China. From Shanghai, I then took a one hour bus drive to Shanghai’s railway station to take the train to Xining. The train was a 32 hour ride from Shanghai to Xining. At first, I was frightened to take the train due to the fear of getting lost such as not getting off on the right station. My ride on the train was an awesome experience. I met the most nicest Chinese people from Langhou, China. Thankfully, they spoke some English which made my train ride even better because we conversed during the whole ride until they arrived to their station. I learned a great deal about China and Chinese people through our conversations. I am sure they also learned much about the United States and the American culture. If it were not for my encounter with these individuals, I would have been terrified and flustered. Once I arrived to my designated station in Xining, I was welcomed by the director of the partner organization and two young girls. We then drove for eight hours to Darlag where the organization is located. As you can tell, it took me five days to arrive to the organization where I will be interning. Although it was a long journey, I appreciated it because I met incredible individuals along the way which I am now in contact with. I wish I could describe my whole trip to China, but it would take a myriad of pages. I will be more than happy to share them with anyone once I arrive to the United States.