Author: Kate Karko (2001)
Category: Non fiction – Travel
Kate was addressed as “namma” when she married Tsedup. Namma means the bride or daughter in law in Amdo dialect. The book tells the story of Kate being part of her husband’s family, a real Tibetan nomads.
Kate met Tsedup when they were in India. She was there on a long-holiday and he was there in exile. Together they moved to England when Kate went home. Even though he tried to live as normal as possible in England by learning English and working as a model, Tsedup couldn’t hide his longing for home, the grassland of Amdo, and to meet his parents and sibblings. With the politic confusion and his nomad culture, it was difficult for him to go home without ‘official’ identity. After 9 years since he walked crossing the Tibetan mountains to exile in India, he was finally able to go home to Tibet as a British citizen, bringing his wife Kate and her supportive parents.
Kate left her job as a magazine designer to live with her nomad in-laws for 6 months. From once living in a big city under the concrete roof, now she lived in tents and be part of the nature environment under the roof of the world. She had to deal with yak dung and yak milking as part of day-to-day activities, which she came to love eventually. She witnessed their devotion to Buddhism and be part of their worship that revealed the nomads’ piety, humility and the veneration of the lama, the symbol of Buddha (p.132). Kate described her nomads family as a warm and generous people with beautiful culture, live in a beautiful place at the vast and remote grassland of Amdo, the far east of the Tibetan Plateau.
“They had a few possessions and the ones they had were given away freely. If you admired something, they offered it to you with no qualms. Their Buddhist philosophy taught them the value of non-attachment to material possession.” (p.140)
Even though it was quite difficult to adjust the living style at the beginning, mostly because of her lack of personal space, lack of understanding the local language and drastic change from her usual civilisation, she enjoyed living in Amdo. Once in a while there were problems, but overall everybody seemed to be happy, easy-going, humble and keep smiling. Kate connected very closely with her husband’s family despite the language barriers. It was their hearts that talked most of the time; her love to her husband, her love to his culture, his family and their love for her. Kate parents also appreciated their short visit (they went back to England after several weeks). They looked and experienced everything from a positive point of view with a warm heart and an open mind, similar with the nomads who welcomed them with exactly the same warmness.
At one occasion, a group of tourists came to the family tents and was being irrespective to the nomads. These people insisted to take pictures without care to consider how the nomads feel about it. This situation had made Kate questioning her own identity. As a tourist, she used to do the same thing and now she could understand the feeling being in the opposite side.
“…the vulgarity of the tourists’ action had made me feel more of a nomad than I had felt before. Yet I would never be one. I was a westerner living the life of a nomad. There was a big difference.” (p.144)
Tibet is just one place that I keep hearing from the news, from Tintin comic, from friends but never really know or care enough to learn anything about it. Kate’s story was a perfect introduction for me to know about Tibet and its culture. I read it first time in August 2002, borrowed from Manukau’s Howick Library. Since then I always looked forward to get my own copy. I was very happy when last week I found one paperback edition at Newmarket Book Barn at a discounted price. Lucky me!
The story was beautifully and well-written using simple words that describe all the necessary, especially about how precious Tibet is. With all Kate’s description about Tibet, I am hoping that I could get the chance to visit the place someday and experience its beauty first hand. There are some pictures of Kate and her Tibetan family for the readers to enjoy, and be familiar with the names mentioned on the story. There is also a picture of Kate-Tsedup’s son, Gonbochab (means ‘blessed by the saviour’), a child that connected the two worlds. He was born in 1999.