Location: Dharamsala

Today might have been one of the oddest Fourth of July we will ever experience. Maybe it’s because we are in India, but I mean you never know. Fiona and I started the morning by being randomly woken up by someone spinning the big prayer wheel (the one with a loud bell attached) an unreasonable number of times and an unreasonable hour. Luckily we were able to go back to sleep. For some reason, waking up early in the morning to random bells and gongs is pretty normal here. After waking up again at the normal time, we headed up to Common Ground to eat our typical breakfast.

Since we had the weekend off from teaching our Learning Partners, we had a really interesting talk from Geshe Lhakdor, the former translator to the Dalai Lama and the director of the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives, arranged for us. After taking a short taxi ride down, we arrived at the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. We got to learn more about how the Tibetan government works, like how it includes representatives from many different countries. After that, we ventured to the Tibetan Library to see the museum, which included lots, statues and images from Buddhist culture. We drank some tea and then went to the talk about Buddhism by Geshe Lhakdor. The whole thing was very interesting, and we all learned a lot more about Buddhist philosophy. I liked how he talked about inter-connectivity between all people and the difference between mind and body. After an enlightening conversation, Julia, Bryn and I went back to Common Ground to eat a quick lunch before going to Rogpa (the daycare for the children of Tibetan Refugees we’ve been volunteering at). Today the kids were calmer than normal, which was very nice. My favorite little kid, Tsenyong, was extra cute and enjoys walking around the room looking confused. A few of the kids enjoyed playing with my hair, and most enjoyed not listening to me. Their energy never fails to amaze me.

After our volunteer work, we all met up in the main square to have some free time before we had dinner. Fiona, Maddie and I went to the outdoor markets along one of the streets to do some bargaining for souvenirs. We’re pretty good at it now. Then we stopped at a cafe for some coffee before going to dinner.┬áBryn, Julia, John, and Uttam took a quick walk around town. For dinner we celebrated the Fourth in a very American way, eating at an Italian restaurant. We enjoyed our pasta and pizza, which was a nice change from our usual Tibetan or Indian food.

We walked back down to the monastery and made makeshift fireworks by waving glow sticks around in celebration of independence. Soon after, we went inside for a mini dance party. Even if this isn’t our most memorable Fourth of July, it is certainly unique.