Our time in Garkush (our first Tibetan Homestay) was incredible. We stayed with nomadic families, who primarily only spoke a Tibetan dialect. Going into the homestay, I was nervous about communication, as they did not speak any English or Chinese, however, we were able to communicate through hand motions and expression in our voices which was actually really fun. My homestay consisted of Isa, Aiden, Cas and me. For four days we lived with a mother and father; their two children are at a nearby boarding school in Xiahe, a small religious town close by that has the Labrang Monastery, where the kids have a greater opportunity to learn Mandarin and get a more sophisticated education. Everyday we would help out with the daily chores, such as herding the yaks at sunset, milking the yaks, cooking meals, and my favorite – playing with the baby called Gongpo Septai, who lives across the “street” from us. Aiden bought a soccer ball that we used everyday to play with the baby, as well as our host father. Each morning, we would wake up to his prayers and early ball games outside our window. One morning, when we were playing soccer with our host dad, the baby and his grandfather, one of us (Isa, Cas, Aiden, or me-I am not saying who) threw the ball, which hit off the roof and broke a window…whoops 😉 Our host father started laughing, which was a good sign considering we broke his window.
Living in this community, provided our group with a greater perspective of where our resources come from, such as our meat, water, and animal products including milk and cheese. This enabled many of us, if not all of us, to appreciate the farmers and nomadic communities in a way in which we have never been able to, as we were exposed to this lifestyle first hand. On our last night, we had a reflection with our full group discussing and comparing the differences and similarities between our communities at home vs. the nomadic community in Garkush. This discussion was enlightening to all of us, as we were able to elaborate on each of our individual and group experiences, for example talking about how at home, most of us take for granted the accessibility we have to our phones and food, while the Garkush community, has to work for everything they bring into their homes to survive, ie. going to the river to fetch drinking water and cooking all of their own food. Following this, we wrote notes on paper, that we later threw into a bonfire, containing a wish that we want to bring back home regarding a new awareness or appreciation that was newly apparent to us.