Hello and tashi delek, friends!
RVP has now been in Dharamsala for a month. In that time, I’ve acquired an interpreter, an intern, a better understanding of Tibetan culture and Tibetan issues, meetings with local NGOs and nunneries, many new friends, and about a third of the ani-la’s (Tibetan nuns) interviews necessary for the publication. And more are to come! Next week – Dolma Ling and Tibetan Nuns Project down in Sidhpur, a valley in Dharamsala with a spectacular view of the mountains. I look forward to writing more about Dolma Ling – it is a place that is as powerful as it is beautiful.
View within Dolma Ling (photo property of Restored Voice Project)
The book is now much fuller and tangible in my mind. My instincts on the structure, goals, and spirit of the project were solid – descriptions of the project have been met with support and enthusiasm from the Tibetan community, which is most important to me. The ani I’ve interviewed have been so thankful for the chance to speak, and flush with emotion and smiling humbly at the thought of our support. I always take the time to explain how we came together to make this happen – how many individuals, not an organization or institution, wanted to hear their stories, to learn from them. They are generally at a loss for words for a moment, in response to this. The constant oppression they and their people have faced is tempered by our interest and concern. I thank you again for your support. And when the book is published, you’ll see the words of thanks from the women themselves.
Dharamsala itself is a beautiful and vibrant city, full of researchers and activists. I meet someone new every day who gives me fresh inspiration.
I have, after years of study and preparation, finally met one of the ani (Tibetan nun) face-to-face. The meeting gave me great hopes for this project’s success.
Stepping onto the grounds of Geden Choeling, the oldest ani gompo (Tibetan nunnery) in Dharamsala, I looked from door to door, saw nuns doing laundry, cooking together, thriving in their own community in exile from their homeland, and felt a rush of surreal excitement. This was Geden Choeling, the place I’d read about and imagined, this was the place. A true dharamsala – because the name itself literally means “Safe haven for the people of the dharma.”
I want to take a moment, since there are so many new people finding out about Restored Voice Project, to talk about this project’s scope and mission.
Restored Voice Project seeks to empower these women, who have been silenced by the Chinese authorities (and whose kindred and kin are still being silenced), by giving them a chance to finally share their perspectives. What’s happening in Tibet is happening to Tibetans, and yet the story we hear is moderated by the Han Chinese. It’s a Tibetan story told by non-Tibetans, in our mainstream media.
Often, in reading the nuns’ TNP bios, I encountered a familiar sentiment at the end of their abbreviated life story:
“The West needs to remember what is going on in Tibet…”
“I want to learn English so that I can tell the world about Tibet…”
“I am going to be a teacher, so that I can go back to Tibet and teach in my village, where there was no school… I will keep fighting peacefully for Tibet to be free….”
“I am going to learn English because the world cannot forget about what is happening in Tibet…”(*)
Now, decades since the Chinese invaded, we still haven’t heard from these women, and most of us don’t even know they exist. Why not?