I'm alive!!!

Dharamshala Travel Blog

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This journal entry is a draft and has not been published yet. Please check back later!
This journal entry is a draft and has not been published yet. Please check back later!
This journal entry is a draft and has not been published yet. Please check back later!
This journal entry is a draft and has not been published yet. Please check back later!
This journal entry is a draft and has not been published yet. Please check back later!
Hello everyone,
I wanted to check in with you and let you know that I'm still alive.  I know you weren't worried, but it's been a week and I haven't had a chance to touch base with anyone, so I thought I'd let you know that I didn't get kidnapped or anything.  I've been so busy with my placement, but I'm finally able to get to an internet cafe and I'm booked for the next hour in front of the computer for the equivalent of $0.75!  I love how cheap everything is here.  I've bought some amazing silver jewelry for only a few dollars, and I've found some amazing sheep leather purses.  I'm loading up like a mad woman and I'm bringing them back home with me as gifts. 
You aren't going to believe it, but I was on the same flight as the Dalai Lama!  He was sitting two seats behind me on the flight and I got a great picture!  We were also on the same plane as the head of the Karma Kagyu order of Buddhism.  Basically, he was the equivalent of the Dalai Lama but for the other sect of Buddhism.  It was incredible because we were on this tiny little bi-plane with no more than 40 people, and half of them were monks.  I looked the Dalai Lama straight in the eyes and greeted him with my hands clasped as a sign of respect.  He paused and looked into my eyes acknowledging my existence with such a compassionate and loving expression.  I felt like he looked inside me and understood my spirit with a single glance.  It's been a few days since I saw him and I still can't express how amazing it was.  So many people would pay good money to do something like that and I was just literally in the right place at the right time.  One of the local Tibetan inhabitants told me that I must have done great things in my past life to have been blessed with such an opportunity in this one.
So far, things are going well here.  I've met some amazing people who I know will be life-long friends.  My placement is great as well.  I'm working with three local Indian women and they bring the most adorable children with them every morning.  They love cameras and taking pictures; more for looking at themselves immediately after you take them, but they are adorable.  I've only been here a week and I'm already at 250 pictures.  The women are in their 40's and 50's.  They have little or no education and I'm helping them with basic things like math and English so they can buy food at the market and understand how much to give/recieve and can communicate with foreigners.  English is used everywhere here, so it's pretty important for them to learn it.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how eager they are to learn, though.  One of my women, Mena, is amazing.  She has so much enthusiasm for what we are doing, and she loves to learn.  She really tries and puts out an effort to learn the math and English, and it's amazing to me.  I've worked with people in the U.S. who have little or no interest in their education and here are these women who struggle every day for little things and are so grateful for the smallest things.  I am so glad I came here and that I'm doing this.  I'm working with another volunteer from Spain and she and I have so much enthusiasm and we really care about our placements.  We are having a lot of fun, and I feel like these women are understanding.  I think that if I can get them to retain the information I'm teaching them and apply it to local activities, like going to the market, I will have accomplished more than I could ever have hoped for in setting out to help these people.
All-in-all, things are good and I wanted to let you know that I love it here and I'm definitely coming back to visit again in the future.  I'm not going to have time to see the Taj Mahal, so a friend of mine and I are already planning a future trip to squeeze that in.  The people are so friendly, and I feel like I'm learning a lot.  We all got tickets to see the Dalai Lama teach at the main temple here in Dharamsala, and it only cost us a quarter.  We are planning on attending the August 4th lesson.  Security is pretty tight for the event because they are expecting a lot of rioting from the Tibetan youth, but I think we should be ok.  I'm actually looking forward to taking photos of the people because I've been keeping up to speed with everything related to the topic.  We are living literally 10 minutes away from where all of the Tibetan monks live.  We aren't expecting a lot of trouble once the Olympics start, but next week during the teachings it will be packed with tourists and it may get a bit dodgy.
Anyway, I should probably get going.  It's almost 4:00 here and we were going to try and grab tea with some monks before heading back down to the village.  It's monsoon, so I'm completely soaked and I'm so grateful for picking up these waterproof boots from REI before leaving the country.  I honestly don't know how some of the volunteers can walk around in tennis shoes because their feet must be soaked!  It's an amazing feeling, having dry socks.  I think it's the small things in life that make it all worth-while and I'm grateful for the opportunity to understand that.
I'll touch base when I can, and if I get the opportunity I'll upload some photos.  Internet in the village is sketchy, but I can come up here and keep you informed as time allows.  We've been so busy with our placement and planned group activities that this is the first chance I've had to do anything.
See you soon,
kjenny says:
Beth, I can't believe you were on the same flight as the Dalai Lama! You are a lucky person!!!!! We (Nancy, Ali and me) are in Carlile Pa. Ali is in a two week dance school. I can just see you shopping for that jewelry.....you know I would love that!!!! I am going to forward this message from you to my coworkers who sent you money. It sounds like your trip is already amazing!!! We love you and are excited for you....keep us up to date as often as you can. I don't know if you can see the picture from my "blog". I am not sure what I am doing. It is a picture of Nancy, Ali and myself at the Natural Bridge in Va yesterday. Aunt Ellen told us that it is one of the Natural Wonders in the world. Love, Aunt Karen
Posted on: Aug 04, 2008
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