We have more or less settled into the Dharamsala lifestyle after spending about a day and a half here and three days in India. No one is too affected by jetlag, and everybody seems to be having fun. Today was our first day with our mutual-learning partners. What? When I first heard that we would have these mutual-learning partners, I figured it was just a different way of saying, students. After all, we were here in Dharamsala to teach them English. But, in fact, mutual-learning quite accurately describes what was going on. Though I can’t speak for others, when I first met my partner, I figured he knew just enough English to introduce himself, maybe name a few objects.
I thoughtI would be basically teaching the language to them. As it turned out, he was very good at English and I wondered what I was even doing here. He told me he took English classes at the local school every day for 2 hours, and I didn’t see what there was that I could do. But since his English wasn’t perfect and not quite fluent, I decided that we would just talk a little and see what he needed to work on. While we talked, we walked and I learned that he was a 21-year old Nepalese man who had come to Dharamsala to improve his English skills. Unlike most of the students, he was not a Tibetan refugee and he was also a male. I had barely done anything to teach him, and I already knew so much. Eventually, though, we sat down at the temple (where the Dalai Lama will be in a couple of days) and I had him read and speak a little so I knew where to start. Since he was already so good at English, it was a little difficult but we did work on some grammatical things and while I taught him some English, he taught me what it is like to live in Dharamsala, what kind of lifestyle the people have, and how they have all found some sort of peace by living here. That would be the mutual learning, though I suspect I got more out of this than he did. From what I heard, the other students felt similarly and I hope to gain as much I can from this wonderful experience that I have been given, and I look forward to the things we will do next with our mutual-learning partners.