Location: Dharamsala

Today was our last full day in Dharamsala, and sadly we became sentimental of everything we had to say goodbye to. It was our last 300 steps up, our last Nutella banana pancakes and also the last day that we would spend with our learning partners. So Molly and I wanted to do something special with our partners. We went to Bhagsu, which was a small nearby Indian village with the beautiful backdrop of the mountains.  We drank some delicious Chai tea and chatted a while.  It was really sad knowing that it was our last session together with our partners. As a farewell party, we invited our partners to eat lunch with us.  We had some great Tibetan food and was given katas as a sign of thanks. I gave my learning partner a really beautiful journal with a meaningful letter that was written in the front page as a thank you gift, and she gave me a small Thapa painting and a present. We took a lot of group photos with our learning partners, and it killed me to have to say bye to her. Over the last two weeks, we had developed a strong friendship, and I hope that she had learned from me as much as I had learned from her. We exchanged Facebooks and promised each other we would keep in touch.  

After our heart-wrenching goodbyes to our learning partners, we headed down to meet Geshe Lhakdor, the Dalai Lama’s official translator.  He is a monk of very high honor and respect in the Tibetan community, and we were very fortunate to be able to have such a personal meeting with him.  As a monk, he had a very profound knowledge of Buddhism and introduced to us the very basic principles of Buddhism.  He told us that the key to happiness was in our hands and it was our choice to be happy or not. He also said what happened inside us was something we could control, and that is what should make us happy, not things outside of us. He explained that everything that is outside of us is out of our complete control, so it is useless to depend on such things for contentment. I think that a lot of us found the talk very eye-opening and took the talk to heart. 

We then had our last 3 hours of shopping in Dharamsala. Knowing that it was our last time, we were all in a rush to buy as many things as possible, which was probably not a very good choice considering the limited space in our suitcases.  We scavenged for earrings, purses, t-shirts, and room decorations.  It rained a little (again), but it wasn’t for too long, and it was pretty cooling.  While we did our last bit of shopping, it turned out to be an afternoon of love for the girls. Monse found her future husband in a cafe and said hi to each other, which means they would get married sometime in the far future.  As I went to my favorite street shop, my good friend the storekeeper wasn’t there, but instead, his beautiful, 15-year-old half Indian cousin was there, and Molly fell in love with him.  She fell for his deep green eyes and eventually mustered up the courage to ask him for a photo with him.  For me, however, it was just a successful afternoon of shopping as I was able to cut 500 rupees off a decorative plate I bought with the help of Molly’s lover.  

Overall, it kind of breaks my heart to have to leave Dharamsala.  Over the last two weeks, Mcleod Ganj has found a special soft spot in my heart, and it turned out that coming back a second time was an even more incredible experience.  As Chloe and I were walking down the stairs back to the monastery for our final time, we caught a glimpse of the glowing sun sinking behind the Himalayan mountains.