More than a highland fling

Updated: 2013-06-04 10:52

By Tang Yue (China Daily)

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 More than a highland fling

Above: Most of the nearly 200 guests at the wedding are Getter's students in Lhasa. Below: Getter with her students from different years.

Her first students in Lhasa were researchers at the academy. Later her classes expanded to include people from around the city and entire region.

"We had monks, nuns, business people and nomads. They come from nomad families and they want to have a better life in Lhasa, so their parents send them here. Many come without a very high education and they come to learn Tibetan, Chinese and English and hope to get a better job," says Getter, who has taught more than 3,000 students in Tibet.

"Han people are good at grammar while Tibetan people are very oral and learn to speak very quickly. Tibetan people are very fun-loving, not so shy, and Han students are shy and sometimes afraid to speak."

Drolkar, 30, learned English with Getter for two years from 2006 and then went on to college to continue her study.

"She was the most interesting teacher I have ever met. She doesn't only talk, she sings, dances and performs. It makes learning English so much fun," says Drolkar, now a sales manager with a handicraft company.

For Geyang, Getter's attitude toward life is more impressive than her teaching skill.

"She loves hiking in the mountains and taking photos of flowers. She makes calendars herself and gives them as gifts to friends. She is so inspiring with her passion for life," says the teacher at the Tibetan Traditional Medical College. Getter taught Geyang in 1998 and they have stayed friends since.

It is one thing to visit a beautiful place like Lhasa or stay a year or two, but it is quite another to live and work at the place for more than 20 years.

"Because I love long-term relationships," Getter says, explaining her choice.

"Teaching at the university in the US wasn't very satisfying because my students came and went so quickly. But here my students are my friends," says Getter, who received the National Friendship Award by then Premier Wen Jianbao in 2009.

Her love for her students and the land also helped her win the heart of Malcolm, whom she met online about one year ago.

"I could not be very happy with someone who just wanted to keep house. But first and most importantly, I was very impressed by the fact that she has been here for so long. It shows commitment, that she can stick with something. Even though it's hard, she won't give up," he says.

Getter says although she was going back home, she would apply for short-term teaching posts in Tibet during the summer vacation and to visit her friends in Tibet.

"It's not the material things. It's not about cars, or about money. It's about developing yourself as a person. I think the American dream is wrong that everybody has a house and a car. We should develop our hearts," she says. And that is Getter's Chinese dream.

More than a highland fling

More than a highland fling

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