Location: Dharamsala

We “woke up” around 7:30 am but no one got out of bed until around 7:45 because we were all so tired already. We did our usual 300 steps up to the town and went straight to breakfast. When we finished, a few of us played cards until our learning partners arrived. A large group of us walked to the next town up called Dharamkot. On the way there, my learning partner and I talked about school and traveling and about how hard the walk was. It was a steep uphill all the way to Dharamkot, and it was foggy, so there wasn’t much of a view. We passed by the meditation center, and my partner and I walked up all the steps to see the grounds. At the top, there was a beautiful temple and cool tile work on the ground; we could not talk because it is a meditation center where many people go for silent retreats. We kept walking to Dharamkot and met up with the rest of the group at the exit of the meditation center.

Around this time, we noticed that Ginger, Common Ground’s resident stray dog, followed us the whole way. We all continued walking to the town up a path that seemed to lead nowhere. We wandered along a path for about an hour before we finally walked down a ton of steps into town and found a large cafe that could fit all of us. My learning partner, Miles’s learning partner, and Abby’s learning partner are inseparable, so we all sat at tables on the ground and played Go Fish and BS. Our partners are very bad at lying so playing BS is always funny. We were talking about taking a taxi back to Dharamsala, but we couldn’t find any near us, so we started walking back. On our walk down, we figured out that we could have walked a much, much shorter distance if we walked along the lower path instead of, the higher path. Walking back was quick, and I talked to my partner about how she’s leaving town at the end of the month.

We got back to Common Ground, said our goodbyes and walked to a South Indian restaurant for lunch. The dosas were good, but the card playing was fantastic. After lunch, we taxied to Men-Tsee-Khang for an afternoon of language lessons and games. We left Men-Tsee-Khang and walked to the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and the Parliament building. The library wasn’t very big but was amazing because it houses thousands of original Tibetan manuscripts that were written in Sanskrit on rice paper. We looked at an original tax record from the 1700s. There was a room upstairs with a few dozen statues of deities and tapestries that people brought from Tibet. They were all original and were beautifully done with very intricate detailing.

After we were done in the library, we walked to the parliament building and saw where they hold their meetings. What was cool was that no vote could be passed without a vote from two women and that there are representatives from North America, South America, Europe, and other parts of Asia that help vote on bills. The room was reasonably large with 45 seats for parliament members and a seat for the Dalai Lama, even though he no longer attends the sessions. His seat, as well as the two secretary seats in front of the minister’s table, is symbolic. We finished up at the compound and went back to the monastery to eat pizza and watch a movie. Our forum was a discussion on how it is a teacher rather than a student and about how much more prominent the non-biodegradable trash problem is here. Overall, it was a very long day, and we were all exhausted by the end.