My Journey as a Refugee from Tibet to Australia
This is the third article about the Tibetan refugees that we have helped over the past few months. Links to the other two articles are at the end of this post.
I wanted to capture at least some of the essence of these people by asking a series of questions about their life. Their answers are both illuminating and reveal some common traits that embody Tibetan culture.
They share a deep love of Tibet, a philosophy of caring for their country and their family and the vital importance of total honesty.
In line with Lobsang’s ambition to have a cleaning business we created this website for him: https://www.lobten.com/
Here is Lobsang Tenzing’s story.
What year were you born?
I was born in 1969.
Where were you born?
I was born in TreHor, Kham, Tibet.
Why were you given the first (and middle) name(s) that you have?
My name Lobsang is given me as a Dharma name. (Dharma means: (in Buddhism) the nature of reality regarded as a universal truth taught by the Buddha; the teaching of Buddhism.)
What’s your first, most vivid memory?
I have vivid memories of those beautiful and vast green hills, where I used to look after our herds, especially our horses.
Can you describe the home you grew up in?
The home where I was grown up was a huge home. Our home is one of the biggest families in our town which has the most family members. We had our father’s parents, two uncles and many relatives and siblings. Most of my family members like life skills and they are good at those skills. No one stays idle in my family and everybody likes doing something or other. Some are good at carpenter skills and some like tailoring etc. They also like to share their knowledge and teach their skills to others.
Tell me about your parents. What memories do you have of them?
My Mother is a housewife. She takes care of all the households and looks after the children. Although she is not a learned person, she concerns our study a lot. The way she pays attention to our study makes us feel like, “Oh! our mother must be a scholar.”. She has not got the opportunity to go to a school for education. But she is an intelligent lady with a sharp mind. Though she hasn’t gone to any schools, she used to ask and check our homework every time we get back from school. My father is a carpenter. He goes out to earn the money for our livelihood. My mother used to advise me to be frank with people and learn to deal with other people. Because, she worries that I won’t be able to do those as I had been cared dearly at home all the time. My father used to encourage me by saying; “You can do anything, my son. Go out and face the world. You will be alright for you are a capable person.”. I always remember these words of my parents. My mother shows me the way and my father supports me. So, they are my guidance and supporters.
How many brothers and sisters do you have? What memories do you have of each of them from when you were growing up?
I have one younger sister and three younger brothers. We have a very good uncle who is my mother’s elder brother and he is grateful for us. He values the education a lot and because of him all of my siblings got the opportunity to go to schools. Now, most of them are government officers and are standing on their own feet as an educated independent person.
What responsibilities did you have at home when you were young?
When I was a little kid, I helped my mother with household chores and I do whatever small works that my mother asks. Usually, looking after our horses is my main responsibility. At that time, we had six horses and I was happy to take care of our horses. We feed our horses with quality grains, so the horses are very strong and healthy. It feels so good when I walk along with my horses outside. Owning a strong and healthy horse is like an ornament to the person. I love our horses and it is my responsibility to look after them.
What kind of school did you go to? Were you a good student? What was your favorite subject?
The school that I have attended was one of the four schools that the 10th Panchen Lama had established. It has up to year 13th and I graduated from that school. I love study and I dearly cherish all my books and study equipment. I had also been a class monitor. I guess I was a good student then (laugh). My favourite subject is Tibetan history and language.
What was the best gift you remember receiving as a child?
The best gift that I received was a gift from my uncle when I was doing my final year in my primary school. Usually we don’t get good notebooks and pens in those days. The notebooks that we get were very thin ones and it is kind of rare thing a have a thick notebook. But then, one day my uncle came to see me at my school with a thick and nice notebook. That notebook is still with me. I have used it for my important notes.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was growing up, I started to realize the hard-work of my parents to bring us up. Then I felt that I will be an able person in future to stand on my own feet without depending on my parents.
How did you decide what you wanted to do with your life?
Life is all about decisions. I have escaped from my motherland to India and
became a refugee in exile. Left India back and came here to live in Australia. All these are happened under big decisions. So, for the time being I am a cleaner and I want to put it into practice whether the result will be great or not so good. I want to give it a go!
Do you know the meaning of your family name? Are there stories about the origins of your family name?
Our family name is Tsongpa Tsang ( Tsongpa means merchant or tradesman, Tsang means home). It is said that our forefathers are very good at business.
What kinds of things bring you the most pleasure now?
I like sitting in a quiet and clean place with a cup of quality sweet tea. As I have lived in India for many years, I like sweet tea. This makes me feel totally relaxed.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
I like to stay neat and clean usually. I don’t like messy things and I always like to keep my things in order and clean. I like cleanness and it makes me feel good. I also think this is the best habit that I have.
Is the present better or worse than when you were younger?
I think the present seems better than the past. Because, we don’t have freedom in Tibet and being a refugee in India, we face many problems. But, arriving here in Australia, I can see a standard democracy and the laws are properly put into practice. It is much better here in Australia.
What do you do for fun?
I like to spend the time with my friends. Sitting somewhere with friends with a nice sweet tea and talking about different topics makes me feel so good. I enjoy it and it also refreshes my mind.
What things are most important to you now? Why?
Even though I could learn a lot of new things after arriving in Australia, whatever I do and whatever I think, it can’t stay stable. Therefore, I feel it is important for me to have a stable profession and to be an independent person.
Do you think about the future and make plans? What are your concerns for the future?
I would like to help the Tibetan schools, specially my school in Tibet to provide food and education facilities. I don’t plan to earn some money and enjoy my life in future. I am concerned about whether or not I would be able to accomplish my plan of helping or sponsoring poor schools in future.
What’s your most cherished family tradition? Why is it important?
Our most cherished family tradition is to be honest and firm. Being honest won’t hurt anyone. Honesty is the main thing, and it is also immovable by other conditions.
What’s the most difficult thing that ever happened to you? How did you deal with it?
Many difficult things happened in my life. For instance, I could not live in my own homeland and was exiled in India. For the time being, I have problems with English language. For this challenge, I always try to ask our language teachers to improve my language and I also watch and listen to many inspirational talks of great minds. By doing so, I feel I am improving.
What do you think the turning points have been in your life?
My turning points are the times when I left Tibet and started to live in India and later in Australia. So many things got changed e.g. the way of socialising, thinking, behaving and even the way we eat.
What advice did your grandparents or parents give you that you remember best?
My grandmother has a very gentle nature. She always talks nicely and sweetly with others. She is always cheerful and even if she serves just a cup of tea to someone, she serves it with a genuine smile on her face. So, she used to advise me to be nice and friendly with others. My grandfather used to say; “Man needs two things in life, you should be a good person or a rich person”. My mother advises me to think properly before making any decision. If one makes decision without thinking properly, it will be a source of regret. These are the best advices that I got from them. I very much value these advices and put into practice, and I also share these with others as well.
If a young person came to you asking what’s the most important thing for living a good life, what would you say?
I would say it is important to study hard while your brain is fresh and mind is young. At the same time, it is also important to associate yourself into good and healthy environments and make friends with good people. It is important to utilise your education or whatever you have learned in a proper way when you grow up and start to serve the society.
What do you see as your place or purpose in life?
The purpose that I see in life is to be an honest and understandable person. We should know that whatever we wish to have is also the same thing that others wish to have too.
Greg Twemlow, Founder, SEVENmile Venture Lab
Other articles in this series:
My Escape from Tibet and the Agony it Caused
Preface: this is the story of Dorji Tsering and it’s the second article in a series of interviews with Tibetan refugees…
Ngawang’s Story — from Tibet to Australia
I have to admit to being ignorant of the emotional pain that Tibetans feel when leaving their home. I now know far more…
About SEVENmile Venture Lab: