SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2002        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Lobsang Tsultrim

Escaped from Tibet

In December 1995, I had a passport to travel in the United States. I purchased a plane ticket from the Chinese National Airline to leave from Katmandu, Nepal to the US.  I was refused access to the plane and my ticket was confiscated by the Nepalese who told me they had an agreement with the Chinese government to prohibit any Tibetan National from leaving their airports for anywhere other than China. I spoke to numerous officials of the governments of China and Nepal but was told there was nothing that could be done. They refused to refund the entire ticket, giving me a pittance of return, and then only giving the refund in Nepalese currency, not US with which I had purchased the ticket. When I reached the Chinese border, the soldiers threw my personal articles on the ground, and damaged my property including gifts I was taking to my friends in America. They taunted me and belittled my possessions and gifts.

It is traditional since the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959 that the border guards treat Tibetans as second-class citizens.  This activity of badgering, belittling and demeaning a Tibetan citizen is typical.  Often they provoke the Tibetan into some act for which they can be arrested, giving the Tibetan a criminal record. I was greatly offended and protested.  I did not use any physical resistance.  I did not use profanity; I simply appeared upset and asked over and over, ìWhy are you doing this?"  I was arrested, kept in a window-less concrete cell without food, blankets with no furniture at all.  I was dressed for Katmandu weather without a coat or sweater. I was transferred to a military prison higher on the mountain and during the drive was told that I was in "big trouble".     Again I was placed in a cell with no furniture, bedding, or winter clothes.  This was in December 1995.

Fortunately a friendly guard recognized me and arranged my release at midnight. I had to hitch-hike a ride with a truck driver. At each of seven check-points I was delayed and hassled about not having the proper stamps on my return visa and that I must go all the way back to the border to get them.   I did eventually convince each checkpoint to pass me through.

When I returned to Lhasa, I told no one about my troubles at the border, saying only that I had to return because of sickness.  I did not want to alert the police to the problem I had at the border since I knew I was under their scrutiny already for the prior events. I was able to keep things quiet enough that eventually I was permitted to buy a new ticket and fly from China to the USA.

In 1996 I moved to the United States from Tibet. I have been granted a political asylum. When I look back at what has happened under the communist Chinese regime. I realize that I went through major stress. I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and hear flashbacks, have recurrent distressing dreams of the event, and experience distress at exposure to events that resemble the traumatic event. All of these symptoms post-date the traumatic event of the border incident.

I have lived in Paradise Valley for about six years. This was heaven when it felt like I was not dreaming. In general living in America, no matter which state or which city is a great place for me to get my foot on the ground and get started with my new life. I liked living in Paradise Valley very much under the help of my American friends.

Now it is time for me to get my own place. Going to school helped my thinking process. I was able to do my own research and marketing analysis on single family homes in North Scottsdale. Eventually I purchased a beautiful house in McDowell Mountain Ranch. I choose North Scottsdale because high demand continues to drive up the price of single-family homes in this desirable location.

My success in America was not handed to me on a silver platter. I worked hard for it. I learned and worked hard for my family and my beloved country, Tibet. I hope Tibet will be free sometime soon.  Things can change without plan. I do believe this is human nature. But am keep going to school and work full time, without thinking of border incident. The stress and depression I have gone through is over. I donít want to go back there any more. To deal with stress I study Buddhism. I feel like I am becoming my own therapist. These days, people study and train to become psychologists. Lord Buddhaís idea is that everybody should become a psychologist. Each of us should know our own mind; you should become your own psychologist. This is definitely possible; every human being has the ability to understand his or her own mind. When you understand your own mind, control follows naturally.

Do not think that control is just some Himalayan trip or that it must be easier for people who do not have many possessions. Thatís not necessarily true. Next time you are emotionally upset, check for yourself. Instead of busily doing something to distract yourself, relax and try to become aware of what youíre doing. Ask yourself, ìWhy am I doing this? How am I doing it? Whatís the cause? You will find this to be a wonderful experience. Your main problem is a lack of intensive knowledge-wisdom, awareness, or consciousness. Therefore, you will discover that through understanding, you can easily solve your problems.

Finally I would like to thank my parent, who supports me emotionally and financially. In a loving memory of my dear parents kindness, integrity and wisdom; they gave me rebirth with the best education and enjoyments; and showed me through their example as parents the meaning of self-sacrifice, honesty and unconditional love. In all their future lives, may they only have good health, happiness and ease most quickly perfecting the path to Enlightenment.

What I have gone through under communist regime developed the characteristic symptoms a psychological distress that was outside the range of normal human experience. But I want to help people who suffered in Tibet. Looking back at my country, Tibet, some changes made through the years make me very happy. Pretty much I have gotten over with stress and depression. I studied Buddhism and taught myself, the nature of my own mind. I can control myself as well.

I am very happy where I am, and what I do.  The United States of America is country of opportunities my future is brighter everyday.   From the way I am living now, I have no doubt that I can contribute so many opportunities, for the next generation.  For example I can share my experience and knowledge.

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