Location: Dharamsala

Grateful. Throughout our two weeks in Dharamsala getting to know the community, there has been an overwhelming sense of gratefulness from the members of our group. Whether it was working with our Mutual Learning Partners from Lha or the adorable children that we taught at TCV, we were constantly reminded how lucky we are to lead the lives that we do. Towards the end of our time here, many of us went to our partner’s homes and realized how they had made the best of a house significantly smaller than ours. On our last day at TCV, all of the children said goodbye to us and went back to their homes, apart from their parents and often their real siblings. Both of these groups of people have found their inner happiness, their inner peace with their emotionally difficult situations. It is unfathomable to us how they have managed this, but everybody that we have met has inspired us with their strength and resilience. Today we had the privilege of meeting Palden Gyatso-la, a monk who was imprisoned for 33 years from when he was 28 years old for protesting human rights violations inside Tibet. He had been mentally and physically abused and finally released due to international pressure from organizations such as Amnesty International. After he was released on medical parole, he managed to smuggle the torture instruments used on him to highlight how brutally Tibetan prisoners were treated. Despite his ordeal, he is known as a pillar of strength in the community as he constantly smiles while telling his story to various people from all over the world. His message is not one of bitterness, nor is it one of sadness. He speaks of forgiveness and explains how useless anger is, a concept that is difficult for many of us to understand. We left feeling uplifted, something we didn’t expect after talking with a man who has been through such hardships. As inspiring as Palden Gyatso-la was, he is not alone. The Tibetan community in exile has so many people who find the daily joys in life even after having dealt with tragedies most of us can barely imagine. We are not only in awe of these people who are carrying on with their lives so far from home, but we are also grateful to them for sharing their stories and allowing us to learn more about a situation that very few of us knew about in detail before this trip. More than anything else, we will come away from this trip appreciating our families and our homes that we can return to every night unlike so many Tibetans here in Dharamsala. As we rushed around the streets doing our last-minute shopping in the late afternoon, we finally caught a glimpse of blue sky and the sun setting over the mountain and into the Kangra Valley. It was as if Dharamsala was saying a final goodbye to the crazy group of foreigners who had been running through its streets for two weeks. Simply put, we will miss this town–cows and all–as well as the community that has taken us in and made us feel at home. Thukje-na Dharamsala. Thank you for everything.