04 February 2011

Football and Family

I'm a little . . . shocked.  I just got on Skype, asked Norbu if he could find anyone who would be willing to participate in a Skype interview with me for my prep class, and ended up talking to the executive secretary for the Tibetan National Sports Association.  I have suddenly become painfully aware of my audience--I just looked over my blog with this man's perspective in mind and realized that I would probably have made different choices along the way if I'd known who would see it.

[The photo I wish I could put here is copyrighted, so I will settle for a link to it instead]

Here is my interview (I've added notations of my ethnographic elements in brackets):

[10:22:42 PM] Kristen Nicole: Tashi Delek! [greeting]

tnsakalsang: Hi
tnsakalsang: This is Tenzing [name has been changed] who works for Tibetan Sports in India

Kristen Nicole: Mr. Tenzing, my name is Kristen
Kristen Nicole: I am pleased to meet you

tnsakalsang: Nice to meet you

Kristen Nicole: I am a college student in Utah, USA, and I will be coming to live in India for three months this summer [explicit purpose]

tnsakalsang: Which part of India?

Kristen Nicole: I will be researching computer and internet use in the Dharamsala TCV [project explanation]
Kristen Nicole: With 6 other students from my school

tnsakalsang: It will be very good to come to Dharamsala and do some research work here

Kristen Nicole: I agree!  I am excited to meet you and learn about your community!

tnsakalsang: When you all are coming to Dharamsala [friendly question]

Kristen Nicole: We fly in to Delhi on [redacted] and we'll stay until [redacted]
Kristen Nicole: I'm not sure how long it takes to get from Delhi to Dharamsala, but perhaps we'll arrive on [redacted]

tnsakalsang: That is the best part of season here in Dharamsala. For me the worst of the season here in Dharamsala is rainy season that, starts third week of June to mid september. but you are also spending some part of that season
tnsakalsang: From Delhi to Dharamsala, there are three ways to reach. First by air, it is about 500 KM distance. The second is by rail and third one is by road. Most of the people travel by bus. there are more than five delux buses that run every night. It is one night journey by train and by bus.

Kristen Nicole: Good to know!  I think we're planning to take the bus because I don't think we want to pay for more plane tickets
Kristen Nicole: Is Dharamsala beautiful in the spring and summer, then?  I've seen lovely pictures of the mountains that must be from that time [establishing rapport]

tnsakalsang: It depends on the individual's test and interest. High mountain, forest and the plan.

Kristen Nicole: I love mountains.  I grew up in the Rocky mountains in western US
Kristen Nicole: And Tibet is in the mountains too, yes?
Kristen Nicole: The roof of the world

tnsakalsang: There are many places for high mountain treeking
tnsakalsang: Compare to Tibet it is nothing

Kristen Nicole: Mr. Tenzing, tell me about yourself.  What do you do for work? [descriptive question]

tnsakalsang: I work here since 1978 as Physical Education Teacher till 2003. TCV has formed one new association so called Tibetan National Sports Association in 2002 and I was deputed to this association as full time staff for this association. The primary task of the association is to form tibetan football (soccer) team and give them chance to compete within India and Abroad. The second one to organize tournament among the Tibetan /clubs and then promote the game of football from the grass root level.
tnsakalsang: I have three children, the eldest is working here in Dharamsala [redacted]. Younger son is working south India in one of the American companies. The youngest one is duaghter who studies here [redacted]. My wife is working [redacted] as librarain for small children

Kristen Nicole: Great! What do you enjoy about football? Why did you choose this career for yourself? [descriptive question]

tnsakalsang: Then what about you and your family if you don't mind

Kristen Nicole: Oh, not at all
Kristen Nicole: I was born and raised in Utah, USA, I have 6 siblings [redacted] [establishing rapport]

tnsakalsang: The Tibetan have passion in football and that we will discuss in detail when you come here.

Kristen Nicole: My father works as a businessman, my mother works in our home taking care of my little brothers

tnsakalsang: What a great family

Kristen Nicole: Thank you :) I love my family a great deal
Kristen Nicole: My older brother just got married and had a baby, my niece is one month old
Kristen Nicole: He is studying to become a doctor right now

tnsakalsang: Yeh every body must love their family because by great of our parents we were here today

Kristen Nicole: Yes, very good point! [expressing interest]

tnsakalsang: I am little surprise and not happy with the culture of west in term of family relation. It is the duties of all children to see your aged parents and give more care and more love. That is the time they need the most.

Kristen Nicole: Hmm, another good point
Kristen Nicole: My mother is one who is very good at caring for her father--he is quite sick but she is always visiting him and taking care of him

tnsakalsang: 90% tibetans look and take care till their last breath. That too they will keep in their home.

Kristen Nicole: So, parents will live with their children when they've grown old in most cases? [expressing cultural ignorance]

tnsakalsang: To be frank this good culture whether you agree or not is changing in our society also.
tnsakalsang: that is good and give my regard to them also.
tnsakalsang: Changing from one culture to another takes time but it should change from bad to good culture.

Kristen Nicole: Yes, I agree
Kristen Nicole: I think that tradition of taking care of the elderly is a very good tradition
Kristen Nicole: It certainly shows respect for parents who sacrifice for their children

tnsakalsang: One thing is clear and certain that every body has to go through this process and if you take care of older then your children will take care of you and this proccess will carry out for centuries
tnsakalsang: There are two stages in our life that we need care or help from other i.e young (from first baby to say ten year) and then you became old. Yes there is old people home or there are some people who work for old people home. But there is lots of difference taking care by your own children and other.
tnsakalsang: Other people will take care as their job and not by love. The satisfiction  the aged people gets maximum from their children. They can share their inner feeling with their children but not to people who work for old people home.

Kristen Nicole: that's true
Kristen Nicole: so this care for the elderly is part of Tibetan culture that continues in India? [expressing cultural ignorance, repeating]

tnsakalsang: Yes but sadly changing by copying from other culture

Kristen Nicole: have you seen it change in your lifetime?
Kristen Nicole: Never mind that question
Kristen Nicole: I am interested in Tibetan culture specifically

tnsakalsang: Not that too fast
tnsakalsang: When you come here you will lean  and experience your self

Kristen Nicole: Yes, that's true
Kristen Nicole: but before I come I want to be able to define Tibetan culture in some way for my research proposal
Kristen Nicole: And I'm hoping you can help me with that definition.  What is Tibetan culture?  how is Tibetan culture unique from other cultures? ["grand tour" descriptive question]

tnsakalsang: How you define the culture and on what basis you consider a good culture and bad culture?

Kristen Nicole: Are you asking me how I define Tibetan culture? [explaining a question]

tnsakalsang: Culture as whole

Kristen Nicole: Hmmm, culture in general is, in simple terms, I think, a unique language, way of life, heritage, and belief system that separates one group of people from another [explaining a question]
Kristen Nicole: that's not the best definition, but I think it's simple enough

tnsakalsang: Sounds good knowledge about culture.

Kristen Nicole: and, just so you know, I am not trying to make a judgment about whether Tibetan culture is good or bad.  Tibetan culture is good--I don't have any questions about that

tnsakalsang: Out side activities and show is very small part of one's culture. according to Tibetan Buddhisim, the culture must have within your inner feeling and the way you  act when there is any kind circumtances. Positive thinking and postive action irrespective what the incident may be.
tnsakalsang: I respect all the cultures. One's you gain from your culture to be a good human being that is good culture. All people are not have same test. Like religious, there are many religions in the world, every body is helping themslves by practicing their own religion. That is good. We cannot say that good and bad.

Kristen Nicole: Beautifully stated
Kristen Nicole: Thank you so much
Kristen Nicole: Mr. Tenzing, it has been a pleasure talking with you on Skype.  Thank you so much for all your great responses!  I must go now, but I hope to meet you this summer and I hope that you have a great day [taking leave]
Kristen Nicole: oh, do you mind if I post this conversation on my blog?  You are welcome to look at it, here is the URL http://technologyinexile.blogspot.com/

tnsakalsang: Oh yes
tnsakalsang: Good night

[11:37:17 PM] Kristen Nicole: Thank you, good night

I dislike how analyzing my lack of interview skills makes the conversation more artificial than it already was, but I understand that this is necessary if I am to improve my ability to interview!  One thing I loved about the interview was Mr. Tenzing's fervent belief in love within the family.  Everything he said was directly in line with what I believe about the family, yet it highlighted the difference in American and Tibetan culture in the way that we treat our parents.  I think that the Tibetan way of caring for aging parents is the more Christ-like way to live, though as an American I place a high value on a certain level of independence from my parents.

Another moment I loved was when we discussed Tibetan culture.  Mr. Tenzing referred to Tibetan Buddhism as he explained that "the culture must have within your inner feeling and the way you act when there is any kind [of] circumstances."  This idea of an internal locus of control that I studied in AP Psychology is not limited to my own culture.

I loved when he said this:
I respect all the cultures. One's you gain from your culture to be a good human being that is good culture. All people are not have same test. Like religious, there are many religions in the world, every body is helping themslves by practicing their own religion. That is good. We cannot say that good and bad. (emphasis added)
The idea that not everyone has the same test shook my world a bit (wait, what about the plan of salvation?) but there is truth in the statement.  I am not tested in the same way that my best friend Andrea is, and neither of us is tested in the same way that President Obama is.  It's like we each have our separate version of the test that has been specifically written for us.  

Mr. Tenzing's ideas will play a crucial role in my definition of Tibetan culture.  His integration of Tibetan Buddhism into the exiled Tibetan mentality is beautiful.  What a good man.


  1. I like his views of culture too. We all have different beliefs and they are all good, just like we all have different tests. I also liked when he said "Positive thinking and postive action irrespective what the incident may be." I think this could help us learn about Tibetan culture too. Are they all so positive?

  2. Interviewing skills are something I think we always need to be working on, and some are naturally more gifted at it than others. However, despite your concerns how AMAZING is it that you are doing your interview with someone who is in the location we are going to! This is unheard of, you are way ahead of the crowd. One of the cool things about your topic you are studying. :)

    I think it is interesting what Mr. Kalsang said about culture too. And then he asked you for what you thought! Good interviews always seem to be reciprocal. I bet that discussion we had on the definition of culture was helpful to answer his question.

    Seriously, you are awesome! Way to go.

  3. Bonnie, I doubt that they all have that attitude all the time (really, I can't see that even being possible) but they may well hold this ideal. Do you think it could be like LDS culture, where we all have an ideal of, say, obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law even though our actions don't always reflect that belief perfectly? (I am looking at you, Utah drivers who do not drive the speed limit)

  4. Oh, thanks Rachel! Really, though, Norbu is the secret to success. I never could have pulled off that last-minute interview if not for his help. You're right, though, interviewing people in real time in the field where we're going is crucial to my research, and I think analyzing this part of my research process will be as useful as analyzing anything I do in the field.

    And since you brought it up, I definitely relied on our class discussion about culture when I needed to answer that question in the spur of the moment :)

  5. Like we talked about this afternoon, the idea that there is more than one way to live "right" falls so far outside the typical American or LDS paradigm. For example, you've categorized the act of caring for the aged as being "Christ-like," largely (I think) because right living from an LDS perspective is acting like Christ. Within this paradigm the highest commendation you can give to a certain practice is to say it is "Christ-like" behavior.

    But there are perspectives, like the one Mr. Tenzing is articulating, that don't identify one path as being the only true way to follow. From this view, a life emulating Jesus Christ may be honored as much as one kept according to the teachings of the Buddha, without any contradiction.

    Anyway, great interview. It seems like you were able to get a really good glimpse of Mr. Tenzin's outlook. By the way, was this an audio interview that you transcribed? Or was it done in a chat window?

  6. I understand what you're saying, Jay, and I've given this a lot of thought over the last few days (and I'm aware that you might label me as closed-minded), but I do believe that we have one perfect example and one path. That is not to say that people who don't think or act like me are not on the path, but I do believe that we will ultimately all be held to the same fundamental standard. For example, one commandment is to love one another, and I may never obey that commandment in the exact same way that you do, but we can still be held accountable for loving our fellowman.

    The interview was done in a chat window for several reasons: it was late (note that I finished my interview at nearly 1 a.m. because that is midday in India) so I was dressed in pajamas, and I am uncomfortable with a video interview with an adult Tibetan man I've never met. It was also very convenient to have a perfect transcript of the entire interview once I'd finished, which I would not have had had I done a Skype call rather than chat. It also fits my research beautifully!