Making a Tibetan Home

Lekey Leidecker
5 min readJan 30, 2020


Relocation is a nightmare for the change-averse. It is overwhelming, unsettling, a recipe for decision fatigue. Since moving to London, I have nearly burst into tears several times at the indecipherable symbols on the washing machine, or after realizing I failed to switch on the rice cooker in time for dinner. In an effort to curtail future appliance-related meltdowns, I have had to create a feeling of home for myself. I reflected on my living spaces thus far and came up with a list of items that I associate with a feeling of home and that provide stability, comfort, and even joy in my living space.

My list includes:

An altar with Tibetan incense. Even simply the ritual of lighting it is indelibly linked to a feeling of home in my mind. I try to bring incense as a gift whenever I visit a friend’s home (if they are not sensitive to scents or smoke).

A well-stocked array of spices, sauces, and oils. If my outside environment feels overwhelming, cooking a familiar dish or comforting meal helps me feel in control of my space. Knowing I have what I need on hand for a variety of different cravings gives me great comfort and pleasure.

Tibetan images and designs, or objects that evoke them. This category is intentionally broad, because the association is a broad one. This could be a woven blanket, a photograph, or something more specific like a tenga or thangka.

Detail of the author’s current home

Books that I return to frequently, which are currently mostly poetry.

Journals and a dedicated place to write. These, as well as the books, allow me to reflect on my experiences in the wider world through writing, and are therefore essential elements of feeling at home.

Growing things. If nothing else, I try to propagate green onions by leaving their roots in water near a window. If I’m cooking my familiar food enough, they are bound to make an appearance anyway.

I am still in the process of making my current living space feel like home. In doing so, I have encountered several unexpected challenges. The most concrete example is not knowing where to buy anything. Internet research is helpful in finding the stores or even the exact items you need (like a drain cover named LEKEYE), but this method is greatly skewed towards over-consumption, buying everything new and mostly delivered from Amazon.

In the US, I knew to buy my toilet paper at Family Dollar instead of CVS to avoid paying extra unnecessarily. I would even scoff silently at those who would do otherwise, thinking how much thriftier and strategic I knew to be. So far in London, I just hope that my local Sainsbury’s has what I need or decide to do without until further notice.

The home creation process has also forced me to confront my learned attitudes about money and consumption, which tend toward refusing to buy items that would enhance my living space or my life within it. The thought cycle in my head goes something like this: “So many people cannot afford to make the choices that I am making, what makes me any better than them? Why do I even want this? Why do I deserve this?” The answer, of course, is that feeling better in my home space will lead to less emotional turmoil over an unfamiliar oven setting and more mental space to deal with the challenges of adjusting to a new environment.

The ability to be concerned about these decisions and to make deliberate choices about my consumption and my home space is absolutely a privilege. These experiences have given me a greater empathy, respect, and appreciation for all of my friends, family, and ancestors who have had to make massive adjustments to new environments. So many people I know have been forced to learn to navigate new cultures in difficult circumstances with no margin for error whatsoever. I am slightly ashamed that I could not conceptualize this earlier, but so grateful to now recognize the incredible strength and resilience that surrounds me. Building a home for so many was, or is, an act of survival. For me, it is an act of grounding in the face of instability, an act of making meaning and a way to embody what is important in my life: heritage, family, community, creativity.

A less successful home-making attempt, October 2019

What does making a home mean, specifically for a diaspora bhoepa like me? It is a given condition of my diasporic life that most people I encounter day-to-day don’t know who I am or who/what/where Tibet is. Combined with my own intense introversion, a home feels like a place where I can seek relief from all that I experience outside.

In All About Love, Black feminist author and social critic bell hooks describes her desire to create a home that felt loving: “Creating domestic bliss is especially useful for individuals… who are just learning to be self-loving. When we intentionally strive to make our homes places where we are ready to give and receive love, every object we place there enhances our well-being.”

Is home a place or a feeling? Is home only found, or can it be created? For my sake, I am banking on the latter two. As a #diasporakid this navigational effort is ongoing. This will be my first year decorating the altar for Losar on my own. I continue my home-making efforts with good wishes, creating a space that will affirm who I am, connect me to my community, and be a place of warmth and welcome to every bhoepa who crosses my path.

Recommended reading: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. Begin with the chapter “My Secret Life,” or read this review on Apartment Therapy to get a better sense of the book first.



Lekey Leidecker

Opinionated Tibetan American storyteller