#5: Moving to America

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A new home in Howell, New Jersey

In 1972, H.E. Tsem Rinpoche left Taiwan for the United States at the tender age of seven. His mother and grandmother had arranged for him to be adopted by a foster family in Howell, New Jersey, which was home to a large community of Mongolian refugees.

Rinpoche's new foster family were refugees from Mongolia

When Rinpoche first arrived in America, he was taken to his real mother’s house in Philadelphia where he spent the night. The next day, he was introduced to his new adopted parents, Dana and Boris Bugayeff, who were of Mongolian-Kalmyk descent. His foster mother, Dana, was a refugee from Belgrade and his foster father, Boris, came from Russia. Rinpoche and his new foster parents then drove from Philadelphia to New Jersey.

New foster parents, Dana and Boris Bugayeff

At that point in time, Rinpoche could only speak Chinese and not a word of English or Mongolian. Communication with his new family was initially difficult due to the language barrier and school was even worse. It was the start of what would be yet another challenging period in young Rinpoche’s life.

I remember very clearly I didn’t want to leave Taiwan and was very unhappy arriving in US. That stayed with me until I left.

Home sweet home? Life was difficult in America for young Rinpoche

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