Ukay Uke Üke

It’s turned out to be a good time to begin this Tibetan experiment because we just so happen to be in Berkeley, California at the moment, where there is a sizable Tibetan community.

One issue that has bothered me is that I wasn’t 100% sure that the Tibetan audio stream I’ve been listening to is indeed in the predominant Lhasa dialect.

If you check out RFA’s podcast page you’ll see that there are a 4 different podcasts that have a Tibetan word in the title:

Ukay (morning)
Ukay (evening)

Since I knew that Amdo and Kham are regions in Tibet (though I’d never heard of Ukay), I at first thought that the podcasted news was just grouped by region – news from Amdo, news from Kham, news from Ukay – wherever Ukay is…

However, unless my ears are fooling me, if you click and listen it appears that the Amdo, Kham, and Ukay broadcasts are actually in different dialects. They sound similar, but yet different – especially Amdo.

Since the Ukay version is broadcasted twice a day while the others are only done once, I assumed that Ukay must be the predominant dialect.

As luck would have it, I had the Ukay podcast on my iPod when my wife and I decided to drop into Tibet Jewels, a Himalayan crafts store in Berkeley, right next door to Café Tibet. I asked Dawa, the very kind shop owner, about the “ukay” dialect but at first she didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.

It turned out that I was pronouncing it wrong as it’s really an umlauted ü – a rounded lips ooooo-kay! I lent my earbuds to Dawa, who was very excited to listen and mumbled something about them talking about Nepal’s wanting Tibetan refugees to leave. She said with a big smile, “they are talking like they do around Lhasa!” which she seemed familiar with even though she said she’s not from Lhasa.

She quickly produced pen & paper to write down the name of my “small radio” (iPod shuffle) and the web address of the broadcast (RFA Tibetan).

So it was mutually beneficial. I’m now fairly sure I’m listening to Lhasa dialect, bought a few treasures from her, and she has a new way of connecting with her roots. 🙂

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