Location: Dharamsala

Today we began our much-anticipated service work in Dharamsala. After a delicious morning breakfast at Common Ground Cafe, we headed over to Lha for an orientation on what we would be doing with our learning partners for the next two weeks. We then journeyed to the roof of Lha to await the arrival of our learning partners. There was a much-appreciated change in weather today, and we were all shocked that we could use a light sweater. The next thing we knew, our learning partners were walking up the stairs, and we all embarked on an adventure we would never forget.

My learning partner and I started our day by running a few of her errands. It was fascinating to follow her around and get a glimpse into her daily life. While we ran errands, we were able to talk about our lives. I learned that she has 11(!) siblings back in Tibet and left Tibet when she was 13, all by herself without telling her family. My parents are freaked out enough about me being in India for three weeks so I can’t even imagine how they would react if I up and left for another country. It was also really eye-opening to learn more about the political situation in Tibet from someone who has lived through it. We then had coffee at a local cafe, which many of the other partners did as well. All of our learning partners have varying levels of English and different goals as to what they want to get out of the program. My partners English is already so good, however, for some others, it was harder to communicate. We all met up back at Common Ground for lunch and traded stories about our learning partners, soaking up all of each others new found knowledge of the Tibetan community.

After lunch, our group split into two. Allie, Julia, and Bryn headed to a daycare for Tibetan children to help take care of babies and young kids. John, Uttam, Maddie and I headed to a local medical and astrological school instead to teach a two-hour English class. We had a lesson planned a lot last night, but a lot of the students were more advanced than we had anticipated, so we burned through a lot of our planned activities pretty quickly. One highlight was a game called ‘What’s Wrong With My Body?’ Where the students had to act out a doctor-patient scenario. Another highlight: Uttam dancing and signing to Taylor Swift. We left class feeling a bit exhausted but very fulfilled, satisfied in the knowledge that we had taught our students something new.

When we got back to the monastery, a yoga teacher was awaiting us. It was an amazing experience to learn yoga from a Tibetan yoga teacher, nestled in the Himalayan Mountains. All and all it was a very successful class, although we all struggled with headstands and the crow pose. We then had a delicious dinner in the monastery and pow-wowed to discuss our first day of service. So far, the service work has been amazing, and we all can’t wait for what the next two weeks have in store.