Location: Dharamsala

After an exhausting 8:45 AM trek up the 300 monastery stairs, everyone grabbed a nourishing (as usual) breakfast at Common Ground and prepared for the fifth day with our mutual learning partners. Today, we all found ourselves on the same expedition to a nearby Catholic church, which had beautiful stained glass windows. We all lined up for a group photo outside. Next, we explored the nearby graveyard, which led to an interesting discussion about Tibetan burial customs in the tradition of sky burial, the body of the deceased person is given to birds of prey, something which, as Americans, we all found rather different. However, we had noticed that there naturally weren’t as many graveyards in India, and it occurred to me that the abundance in graveyards in the West would probably also seem rather bizarre. Finally, we all headed to cafes for the days English lesson. The cantankerous cows hanging around the path back from the church startled me! Yesterday, I found my favorite cafe here in Dharamsala, after experiencing one of the best hazelnut cappuccinos I have ever had! I gave my learning partner a book that I was currently reading, which was quite a challenge, but after only an hour of reading, she had already improved remarkably!

  Lunch consisted mainly of momos (my favorite!) with some spicy chili sauce, and afterward, we all went off to volunteer at either Lha Fair Trade or the daycare center. Those of us working at Lha Fair Trade had the option to join an English conversation class for an hour, too. Quite different from the experience of working one on one with a mutual learning partner in a quiet cafe, the often-packed conversation class tends to be noisy and chaotic, but I enjoy the discussions, the topics of which can range from Animal Channel to Hilary Clinton. Today, I found myself chatting with Alejandro’s learning partner! At the end of class, I ran into a pair of volunteers who hailed from Australia, solving the mystery of why a few of the monks I had spoken to in previous conversation classes sounded vaguely Australian in English.   Since we were all so tired from our busy week, we skipped the evening activity and returned to the monastery to rest for an hour before dinner. Though we’re all looking forward to a little free time to explore and relax this weekend, today was a great conclusion to an extremely rewarding week!