Differences in Lifestyles between Tibetan and Mexican Households (India: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Social Justice)

Essay by Experimenter Lizet:

Pride in culture comes from the household. Culture that comes from generations to generations of teachings and traditions. Coming from a Mexican home, my mother has made sure that I learn what her mother taught her. Bringing myself into a totally different country and home is where what I learned didn’t all apply. Tibetan Culture expressed in the household I stayed in is both similar and unique to what I live back at home. Sometimes what plays an important role in both of my experiences is the location. I express my Latino culture in my home but in an American community. On the other hand, I am bringing all of that in a Tibetan household in an environment surrounded by Indians as well.

Nevertheless a home to me means a place where I can receive and give comfort, like a family. Back at home I don’t eat three meals a day like they do here. Sometimes, my family members all eat a different times because someone, including myself is still at work. My family is still super close, and we spend special occasions together at the dinner table. Back in Mexico, everyone lives around each other, so when it calls for dinner, everyone eats together. That said the food is still no different from the one I eat at home. My mom has been able to apply all the skills and recipes that she has been taught by my grandmother for our family. However, being a New Yorker surrounded by so much variety of food, we have a little bit of many cultures on certain days. Coming to India, it is both different and similar. Dharamshala is home to many Tibetan refugees who have been exiled by the Chinese government and flown in order to maintain their culture, pride, and traditions. Essentially, this is still a Tibetan community but with the influence of Indian culture. As part of this experience I was welcomed to a Tibetan home with Amala and Pala. I walked in the first day and I was very nicely greeted and treated. We didn’t have dinner until 10:00 pm because Amala still wasn’t home and one of their traditions is to eat in family everyday. When it was time to have dinner the power went out and they lit candles and set them on the small dinner table. We were served a delicious dish called Teamo, along with tea, a snack and Tibetan and Indian bread. Something I was questioned about is when I took an Indian bread that to me it looked like a Mexican Corn tortilla, and I put some beans in it and I rolled it up in like a taco. My host brother told me that, it is not how it should be eaten and that I should break the bread in pieces first. Another experience from my first day that was similar to the rest of my days was how much tea I consumed. I’ve had two cups of tea for each meal almost everyday. Being Mexican, my family will drink tea only if they are sick or want to sleep really well for the night. Otherwise, we would drink a homemade juice,cold water, coffee, or milk for meals. I asked Amala if it was a part of their culture has to why they drink so much tea and she said it was and also because hot liquids are good for your digestive tract. I realized that me being a westerner and them easterners there was almost no difference in clothing. I expected them to be very conservative like Indians, but they aren’t. I asked my host brother Choesang if he was more western influenced and he said he liked it better because he had more freedom. Western influence came mostly because of the time when British ruled over India. Something I learned from my cousin Dolma is that she has applied for so many scholarships to study abroad and she hasn’t got any because it’s just very hard for her to able to obtain it due to the fact that she is a refugee. Back home, if it weren’t for the scholarship I was provided I wouldn’t have been able to receive this opportunity. It helped me just value more all the opportunities I have even as hard as it may get. Also coming from an immigrant family who has sacrificed so much is the same sacrifice maybe even more that I see Tibetans have made to keep their culture alive.

With this experience I have come to learn so much about Tibetan and Indian culture, even about my own Mexican American culture. When you bring what you’ve been taught back home to a totally different place, I’ve learned that it can be something new for the people and something you should refrain doing just to be like them and fully emerse yourself in their culture. It’s easy for me to compare and contrast my culture from theirs, but it will never be exactly the same because every culture is different. I have learned, that everyone here in India is never on a rush for time, and everything is so calm and easygoing. Back at home, if I’m not on the move, I will never get to where I have to go and what I have to do afterwords. That’s something I really liked because you really get to enjoy everything and the people. Even with the food, I have a habit of eating while on my phone, and an Indian man came up to me and said enjoy your food without having to look at your screen every time you pick up the fork. Better yet he even told me to leave the fork and eat with my hands because it was just a way of enjoying the food better. For me it’s rule to eat with my fork, but I was able to break that and fully enjoy my food. That said it was just me again emerging myself into their culture and eating how they eat. I have learned so much being in with my Tibetan homestay. I have reached my goal of being able to fully embrace their culture through their lens and I am very grateful for that opportunity.

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