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Location: Dharamsala

Drew – On our last day in McCleod Ganj we celebrated the Dalai Lama’s 83rd birthday, said goodbye to our language partners, and explored our town in an elaborate, enjoyable scavenger hunt. To begin the day we met our language partners who were dressed in beautiful traditional Tibetan clothing for the celebration we were about to attend at the Dalai Lama’s Temple. As we headed to the temple, the town was much quieter as everyone respected this holy day. The temple itself, however, was cluttered with people as everybody hustled around trying to find a seat to watch the festivities from. We watched as children danced, as everyone sang the national Tibetan anthem, and as the Dalai Lama’s birthday cake was cut, and pieces were given to participants. After our morning at the temple, we headed to lunch with our language partners. After lunch, our language partners graciously gave us little gifts like bracelets and scarfs to remember them by. We had an emotional time as we hugged our partners knowing we might never see them again; we exchanged contact numbers and promised to stay in touch, and help them with their English whenever they needed it.

Once we had said goodbye to our partners, the intense game of the scavenger hunt began. After being divided into two teams, we were faced with 24 tasks to complete. We raced throughout the town for over 3 hours: talking to monks, nuns, and lay Tibetans, searching for hidden monasteries, and asking Indian police officers for the oldest building in town. We became exhausted as we climbed up steep hills in search for games that weren’t being played (due to being the Dalai Lama’s birthday) and a synagogue that was located a couple of miles away. Despite the obstacles, our team captain Val was dedicated, and our team ended up only missing two things on the list and took a sweeping victory. We ended the night with a fancy dinner to celebrate our last night in McCleod Ganj. It was most definitely another successful day in India and a fantastic end to our time in McCleod Ganj.

Caroline – Finishing up our last week in Mcleod Ganj, we started to reflect on what we as a group have taken away from this project. Some of us mentioned the fantastic life stories we have heard from our learning partners. And how despite their struggle, they live to be happy, and content human beings, just like us. Most of us have gotten close to them, and no longer just see them as a language partner, but a lifelong friend from across the world.

I think I can talk for the rest of the group when I say I have learned more from this small group of people in 2 weeks than I would have ever learned in a classic high school history class. I didn’t come here yearning that much knowledge of Tibetan culture. But I can say that I am going to go home wanting to know much more. As Patrick says, we are in the midst of “experiential learning,” and it’s the best kind I have ever done. This trip hasn’t just taught me educational lessons, but life lessons as well. By speaking to the first ever recognized transgender women in Tibetan history, learning basic Hindi, and learning how to bargain successfully, this trip has been a transforming experience.