I’ve been in Zoige for 2 weeks now and it feels like it has been short and long. My stay here seems short, but I feel as though my life in Chengdu is so far away.
I planned to come to Zoige this summer to spend time with my boyfriend and his family. I already knew that most of the time during these few weeks I won’t be doing anything super exciting, rather it would give me an inside look to his family’s daily life. I also thought despite the challenges it would be a good chance to try and pick up some more Tibetan words and to force myself to speak more.
His hometown is gorgeous, full of rolling green grasslands dotted with summer wildflowers, with patches of herds of yaks, sheep and horses. The sky is an intense blue and it happens to rain a little each day. Which brings me to my first problem, I totally packed wrong. Which is a learning curve realizing that the morning and night temperatures plummet and it is cold enough to see your breath even in the beginning of July.
I’ve learned something I already knew, but have seen it amplified. I am a hard worker, but I am pretty weak. In my family, I am the weakest person. Coming to visit D’s family, I realized I am even weaker. My defining moment was struggling to carry 16 L ( 5 gallon) bucket of water to the house, I’ve been in Zoige for almost 2 weeks now and it feels like it has been short and long. My stay here seems short, but I feel as though my life in Chengdu is so far away.
In the first two weeks I have:
⁃ seen how barley is popped
⁃ Gathered dried yak poop from the grasslands
⁃ Witnessed how to skin and cut up a yak for sharing among families
⁃ How to set up a horseback-riding camp business for summer (taken 5 days)
⁃ How to use an outside washing machine not hooked up to water
⁃ Learned to do my business in the grasslands (sometimes small children accompany me or rain hits my ass)
⁃ Haven’t taken a shower in about 10 days
⁃ Learned how to make a new momo shape (I’m horrible at it)
⁃ Helped fill a foundation with rocks
⁃ Dug cement poles out of the ground and helped dig holes for their new homes
⁃ I can start and maintain a fire now( and I’m better at checking when it needs more fuel)
⁃ Learned how to roll Tsampa to eat
I’ve learned a few new words in Tibetan everyday, sometimes I remember them and sometimes I don’t. When D is around I have him write them for me so I can remember how they are spelled and how to pronounce them. When he isn’t around I try writing the words based on English romanization which isn’t as accurate, but it is okay in a pinch. The first few days I didn’t really make much conversation, as I was shy, but now I am trying to say things if I know how to, or if there is a simple sentence. I recognize some sentences said to me, but I haven’t quite figured out the meaning because a few sentences are used in different contexts, which I suppose either there are similar sounding verbs or the verb in question has multiple meanings.
At first, I felt a little overwhelmed, but I remember I have been in plenty of situations where I don’t speak the language and have been just fine. Its a huge learning curve and as I am getting more comfortable with his family it is getting easier for me to push myself more. I hope by the end of the six weeks I can say a few more new phrases and have a better working vocabulary.
The best part is I get to spend a lot of time with D. I haven’t seen him in almost 3 months so the last two weeks have been amazing! We’ve spent a lot of time together, and a few days apart because of work, but that is okay. I really plan to enjoy and cherish the next few weeks together because we will be apart again for a few months before he comes back to Chengdu for the winter.