Location: Dharamsala

Today was a special day here in Dharamsala – —it was His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 77th birthday. We started the day at 6 o’clock; normally waking up this early during the summer is accompanied by complaints but today there was nothing but enthusiasm in the air.

We arrived at the Temple with the rest of Dharamsala and obediently handed over all electronics and cameras for security reasons. During the 2 hour wait for the Dalai Lama, the 13 of us sat squeezed between local Tibetans and other tourists. We each sat patiently reading books, playing with the children sitting close, and having our hair done by a Tibetan grandmother sitting behind us.

Once the traditional dancing and music began, we all knew the Dalai Lama would soon be joining his people to celebrate his birthday. Seeing him in person was a majestic and surreal experience but also felt very familiar because of the pictures hanging in every restaurant here in Dharamsala. The rest of the festivities comprised of more traditional dancing, music, and different speakers. After an authentic Indian meal, the group split up for a relaxing day of hiking and shopping.