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Explaining Snowboarding to a Tibetan

Ruth Gamble, our intrepid translator-in-training, July 2001

I am sorry but I need someone to whinge to, and you guys are a prime target. I WANT TO GO HOME!!!! (please note this is a passing fantasy, designed to draw sympathy and encouragement, as opposed to a definitive statement).

I just don't like India any more. It has stopped being an adventure and turned into a horrible place to live. I am sick of being afraid of the monkeys, and this girl I met got bitten by four dogs the other day. The Indian men stare at me all the time, and you have no idea how frustrating it is to live without a washing machine, refrigerator, television, stove, clean shops that actually sell things you want to buy and a vacuum cleaner.

It is a good thing I like Tibetans, and Tibetan, and Buddhism. I really like Tibetans! Even the fact that their taste in music sucks, and they don't know what I am talking about half the time is kinda fun. Can you imagine trying to hip hop to someone who has never heard of it before?

Most of the westerners around here are the over-achiever types who need to constantly let you know how smart they are. "Not only do I know six languages, have three degrees, and use bigger words then you, but I have also realised the clear nature of my mind." Someone even said the other day, that in order to be a good translator, you had to be able to channel!

They keep criticising me which I find difficult also. "Why do you wear your jeans so low? You look like one of those young skater types." I am a young skater type! But, I guess it is all a learning experience. I keep Milarepa's biography handy, and every time I want to explode, I start reading it (again and again). But I am no Milarepa, and when you have no TV to turn on, no mellow friends to go and hang out with, no hills to snow-board on, no pools to swim in and not even any trashy magazines to read, there is nowhere to run.

How do I get to like Buddhists?

But things may be looking up. In our ‘study break' I went on a mission to meet a lady rinpoche. I was blown away by her because not only was she really powerful, but she was a 40-ish women, speaking to me in perfect English. It was like talking to the realisation of my own potential.

She said this really cool thing. She said that I would probably be a translator for many lives, but I would never be a very good one until I started practicing seriously. So I asked her what to do, and she has got me doing prostrations. At first I thought I wouldn't have the time, but a little a day is proving very helpful, relaxing and it dispels excess ‘wanting to be snowboarding' energy. The only problem is that when I push up from the floor, I keep thinking how much easier surfing will be after doing these, and I am almost sure this is not a good motivation!

A couple of weeks ago, I went to meet Jackie for the day in Tashi Jong, and spent a couple of hours with Ven. Tenzin Palmo asking her questions. We then went to hang out with a yogi who lives in the hills above her nunnery. I couldn't understand much of what he was saying, because he spoke a really difficult Tibetan dialect. So we kept talking about the flowers in Kham and stuff like that, which was difficult enough.

Then the nun who had accompanied me there pushed me into trying to explain snowboarding to him! I was having enough trouble with the flowers! But he kept asking me what she was talking about, so I had to try. It was a bit of a disaster, I don't think he had a clue what I was saying, and if he did, he just thought I was a weirdo. But then.............

The wind caught a text that was lying on top of his book case, and it slid down over the books, hit the curtain, made a turn and landed next to him on his bed. Jackie pointed at the text and said, "Snowboarding".

The togden thought this was hysterical and laughed for ages. "Can you read this text?", he asked. I said I could read it, but I would not know what it meant. And that when I had studied more I could come back and try again. He seemed to think that was cool, and said that when I came back I could try and explain snowboarding again. So now I get to figure out how to explain snowboarding and surfing to a yogi, in a dialect I am not studying.Yay! (I think).

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