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Tibetan Children Feel Excitement, Nostalgia of City Life

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For 15-year-old Namse, city life swings between excitement and nostalgia.

Four years into his study at the No. 28 Middle School in Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province, Namse stands out as a top footballer. "I hope I can play as well as Cristiano Ronaldo someday."

Namse loves football partly because it reminds him of the slingshot he played as a child. "I used to shoot stones with my brother in the pastureland near our home. The scenes still come back to me in my dreams."

When he feels homesick, Namse hums a folk song from his hometown in Qumarleb County of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai. "The yak butter tea is as warm as mom's words, reminding me to carry on...."

His favorite singer, however, is Michael Jackson. "He's my hero. I love him for his songs and dances and all the charity work he did."

After the king of pop died last year, Namse spent half of his savings on two CD albums.

The first of four children from an impoverished herder's family, Namse was one of 125 Tibetan students from Qumarleb County to study in Xining under an aid program co-sponsored by the county government and a non-governmental education fund.

The program has financed the education of about 1,000 other Tibetan children from herder families at urban schools in Xining and other major cities in Qinghai Province.

"The campus is beautiful, very different from the small, dark classrooms in my hometown," he says.

When he first arrived, Namse could not speak a word of Mandarin. "By the end of the first semester, I was able to follow the teachers and get along with my new friends."

His teacher, Jiang Shan, is impressed by the Tibetan students' honesty and candid manners. "They are open and straight-forward. Quarrels are unavoidable at their age, but the Tibetan children never bear a grudge."

In his science class, Namse has learned to use the computer and browse the Internet. "I have many on-line friends, including a girl in Beijing. I hope I can meet her someday, and visit the Great Wall and Forbidden City."

The school has arranged Tibetan language classes to ensure the Tibetan students are not estranged from their unique culture.

Most of the students have acquired three languages: Tibetan, Mandarin and English.

Namse's classmate and childhood friend, Geleg Tsomo, 16, is a straight-A student. "I like English. I want to become a flight attendant and travel around the world," she says.

Four years of city life has removed the tan on Geleg Tsomo's cheeks and she uses creams and cosmetics like the city girls. But she still cherishes the emerald pendant her mother gave her. "It carries the blessings of a living Buddha from my hometown. Mom said it will keep me safe wherever I go."

Unlike Geleg Tsomo, Namse insists he will secure a job in his hometown after he graduates from college. "That's where I belong. Maybe I can become an official -- I can certainly do a good job because I love my hometown and know how things work there."

The central government decided in 1984 to step up education among the Tibetans. Starting in 1985, all primary and secondary school students from Tibetan herders' families have been exempted from tuition, as well as food and lodging expenses on campus

These students also compete to study at schools in cities such as Beijing, Jinan and Hefei.

Qinghai Province, inhabited by more than 1 million Tibetans, has the second largest Tibetan population after Tibet Autonomous Region.

(Xinhua News Agency January 29, 2010)

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