Location: Dharamsala

Today was another action-packed day volunteering in Dharamsala. It was our second day doing volunteer work in India with our Lha partners. The weather was heavy with rain and fog for most of the day, which played a role in how our activities ran. My partner and I, as well as many other groups, visited a nearby temple. My partner and I decided to go to a cafe with three other pairs of partners to start our lessons in English. I used the packet that we were given earlier in the week, which has a lot of material to help us teach English, in our lesson. One of the activities in the packet was a list of 1500 of the most common English words. I found this extremely helpful because my partner could go through the list and have me describe any of the words she didn’t know. It also helped that there were other students because we could help each other describe words that we found difficult to define. I loved seeing how excited my partner was to learn English. It is also an interesting challenge for us, the students, to describe words we use on a daily basis but never really have to define or explain.

Today was also our second day at Men-Tsee-Khang. We had a different group of students today. They told us that they are preparing for exams, so they don’t have time to come to every session. We tried a slightly different structure this time, in which we followed the lead of the Men-Tsee-Khang students. As one of the students with GoBeyond, Max, said today, it is important to listen to the needs of those you are helping because if not you could be doing more harm than good. We spent about half the time in small groups having discussions about the different life experiences we have had. It is heartbreaking to hear how difficult some of the student’s lives have been, especially those who have escaped Tibet without their families and aren’t able to go back. We spent the rest of the time playing games and teaching each other different dances. They taught us a Tibetan dance, while we taught them the Cotton-Eyed-Joe.

Today was the first day we did a conversational class at Lha. In this class, we were each given between two and four students who are learning English. Many of us found this difficult because we were asked many questions that we did not know how to answer. I worked with two English learning students, and we talked about different religions, Jesus Christ, the state of our government in America, what I thought about Christopher Columbus, and what my dream is. You have to be constantly aware of your word choice in these classes, as well as listen intensely to your partners to fully understand them.

Our evening activities included a Tibetan cultural show and a forum in which we discussed what community service is and means. The cultural show was really interesting as we were able to hear many Tibetan songs from the different regions of Tibet and see different styles of dance. Our discussion was also really interesting and helped us think about why we do community service and what qualifies as community service.