Location: Dharamsala

Though given until 8:00 to rise, all of us woke up around 6:00 at the happy sound of bells notifying the monks in the monastery that it was time for tea. With plenty of time to spare, we enjoyed a card game as we awaited breakfast at the delicious Common Ground Cafe. From there, we were finally introduced to our learning partners to begin the journey for the morning. While getting to know our learning partners, we headed to the Tsuklakhang Temple. Taking place at the temple was the celebration Choekhor Duechen, honoring the day the Buddha first taught the four noble truths and first turned the wheel of the dharma. The crowd was full of vibrant colors and smiling faces as we listened to the Dalai Lama first prayer (yes, he was in the same building with us!!). Our learning partners taught us about their culture and the festival and we, in turn, assessed their level of English and told them about our culture as well. During the ceremony, we were handed a variety of foods such as sweet rice and sweet milk poured into the palm. Among these free samples was butter tea: a salty mixture of milk, tea, and butter. After witnessing the ceremony for a few hours, we said goodbye to our learning partners and enjoyed lunch before heading to the Tushita Meditation Center. Though the walk up was steep, it was worth it when we reached the foggy and spiritual place. We began by watching a movie explaining Buddha’s journey, then walked to a little cafe on the mountain for some sweet and warm Chai. We then listened to the very wise nun named Geshe Kelsang Wangmo to give a talk on the fundamentals of Buddhism and her thoughts. By using relatable examples and stories, she clarified and helped me understand more ideas and objectives of the Buddhist religion. I am very grateful to have heard her speak. With the day catching up to us, our eyes drooped at dinner awaiting our warm beds eagerly. The rain outside crashed down with such force that walking on the streets was almost like walking through a small river. And now, wet and tired, we are curled up into bed to prepare and await tomorrows new adventure.