Friday, July 15, 2011


This past week, I was able to meet with the woman in charge of Rogpa to gain permission to observe in teacher's homes. Rogpa puts a lot of effort in protecting the privacy of the families involved, including the teachers. Pema is the acting gatekeeper for these individuals and it is through her that I have been able to progress in my project with the help of this organization.

I feel as if the meeting went pretty well, considering she is a very busy woman and I hadn't interacted with her much before that point. She is very enthusiastic and encouraging of my project, and she happily gave me permission to begin observing in the homes of the teachers at Rogpa, as long as I provide her with a schedule of my visits. I asked the teachers if they would be willing to let me come observe. One said that if I got permission, of course I would be welcome. Another nodded in agreement with her...(?) and I'm hoping that another will get a report from the first two and realize that I'm not a spy, that this is PARTICIPANT observation, and I just want to get to know them a little better.

Another note about my meeting with Pema:
She is very excited to read my paper and see what conclusions I draw from my experiences and observations. Is knowing that she will be reading my paper going to have an effect on what I write? Will it hinder my willingness to put in anything negative about what I observe? Should I put negative things in my paper as well, or just focus on the positive? What about conclusions I draw from what I observe -- such as behavior of children based on the discipline I witness? These are the things that are weighing on my mind right now. I am no expert, and do not have the credentials or qualifications to draw major conclusions.

Anyways, I guess I am looking for advice in this particular aspect of project development.

Other than those confusing bits of my project, things are going very well. We took a "mid-semester" retreat to Amritsar and recently returned. I feel as if I need to kind of start over building rapport in the Rogpa facility again, since I've been gone for almost a week. I really hope that's not the case, I'll find out tomorrow when I return. Amritsar was great, interesting, hectic, hot, and sometimes stressful/frustrating, but all in all, I would say that it was a great experience. Look for a blogpost with more details and even some photos!!!


  1. Julie,
    If I may be so bold as to offer counsel and a few intrepid insights, only as one who has lived in a foreign country and experienced the world through a different lens than our own culture....go with your heart and what your instinct tell you in Rogpa. As you always are, be genuine and you will/can never go wrong. Offer counsel to Pema that what you observe will be observed through the lens of your life experience and though you may be youthful in age, you have the sage wisdom of having worked with many children and families through coaching and an active family life in your church and in the community of your youth in Oak Harbor. The reactions you received from the teachers in the culture you reside are not unusual...there is more consensus building in Asian countries than we are used to in the US. Be transparent and share freely your thoughts and ideas, as much as they are able to take in (We Americans can do too much data dumping on what "we" think in situations, but you are intuitive and will read the situation as it arises). As long as those you work with realize that you are coming into your project with naive and open eyes (and NO JUDGMENT), they will likely be more than willing to share and nurture you along the way; particularly if you approach this as a project that you hope will give our culture and others greater insights on the successes and challenges they face in theirs. Only by understanding the differences in our cultures can we come to understand where we,as citizens of the world, need to go to make this a better world to live in. The journey you share with Matt and your colleagues are taking is inspiring and gives me great hope that our world will be in good hands as your generation and peers rise to positions of influence and power. May you continue to be blessed by this experience and please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Julia,
    I'd say Cindy here has some pretty good insights. I agree it may be hard to write an unbiased report if you are going to send it to Pema and/or the other teachers. Maybe that knowledge can help you though as a filter or a caution to what you write rather than an obstruction. It will encourage you not to make any rash concluding statements that you do not feel sure of, and also help you to try and see things through the Tibetan mother's eyes when you're asking, "Why do they do this?"
    It might even be good when you're doing your participant observation, just to ask questions about about what you observe, and especially the correlations or conclusions you are forming in your head. For example, if you are thinking, "Hmm, if parents use physical discipline when their child misbehaves, the child is more likely to hit other children," you may be right, but you could also ask the parent, "Why do you do that?" (tactfully of course), and maybe you'll hear something different from what you were thinking, or maybe the answer will just help you understand the culture that much better. Either way, I think it would have an effect on the outcome of your research.
    So I hope that all makes sense and that it's actually good advice and not bad. You know more about doing human development research than me, so I'm not even sure why I'm trying to give advice! But I guess, my advice put simply is to just ask a lot of questions and try to see things from as many angles as you can before you make your conclusions, and if you include all those angles in your report, not only will the report be more credible, but I think Pema and the other teachers would be more accepting and happy with it.

  3. Love the honesty of thought in this proposition...I would say ask them about their desired end results and determine how they get to them and if you've observed they have, in general. You are as tactful as can be and you love people instinctively so that intuition to be protective towards their customs will temper any tendency to judge. You are an excellent writer and you will be able to express your observations with just the right tone. I'm sure of it. Love and prayers.