Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Toronto entry number two

Well folks, not too much to report. The last two weeks have not been as active as my first two. This is the case mainly because there have not been any large Tibetan activities or gatherings, and because my main friend Tenzin has begun to work which makes him rather busy.

However, I have still been enjoying myself. One personal challenge has been learning to adjust the pace of my life. The past four years in college I have been used to a hectic schedule, and this year I am certain that life will be more laid back. So the challenge is to learn of ways to be productive yet relaxed.

In the second half of the month I have been using my time to explore as much of Toronto as possible. I believe I have seen virtually all of the main neighborhoods in the downtown and central areas of the city. In this time I have gone on a tour of a local brewery and even visited a shoe museum.

I have enjoyed my time here in Toronto where I have begun to learn what life is like through the eyes of refugees. My visit here has been most useful in terms of allowing me to compare Tibetan life in various areas of North America, namely Minnesota and Toronto. My tentative conclusion is that Tibetans don’t really choose between adapting to life in the US or Canada on the one hand, and preserving their culture on the other. Rather, I think the more specific challenge is to balance economic necessity with cultural preservation.

A Tibetan’s livelihood can act as both a gateway and hurdle toward preserving their cultural. On the one hand Tibetans must earn money in order to ensure basic survival; money is needed to pay the rent and put food on the table. And, this income is necessary in order to pay for things that promote cultural retention such as paying fees for Tibetan language school. However, a Tibetan’s job (or their source of income) can often be, and often is, very time consuming, so much so that the job(s) take up all a person’s time. In this way, a Tibetan may have a stable income that ensures survival, yet they are unable to dedicate themselves toward cultural preservation not because they lack the desire, but simply because they are short on time. (I imagine this is the case for many refugees/immigrants in the U.S. and Canada.) Ensuring cultural preservation is therefore left in the hands of dedicated volunteers such as my host father. It is people like him who give every spare minute they have to the Tibetan community; a task which is not easy and often leaves them tired and burnt out, but which is nevertheless necessary and commendable.

So, tomorrow I head off to Europe to the land of mountains, chocolate, watches, knives, money, neutrality, and yes, even a few Tibetans.

Zurich here I come…to be continued…


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