Everyone is here and happy, eating our first meal in Amritsar! Tomorrow we venture to the golden temple and then off to Dharamshala!
So today after breakfast we went to our volunteer placement groups. Jess and I taught young kids English by volunteering at a day care center. Other students volunteered at other day care centers and summer camps. We came back after 3 hours and had a western meal for lunch. During lunch we discussed our progress in our volunteer placements and talked about our excursion for the day.
In our excursion for the day we visited a local slum in Dharamsala. We were greeted by excited loving children from the slum who grabbed students and staff by the hand, escorting them into their home. In the slum students took many pictures with the children and learned about education in the slums. After we left the slum we went to a hostel for designed for children from the slum to be educated funded through Tong-Len. “Tong-Len’s Child Sponsorship program allows children from Charan slum to attend school daily while living in the enriched environment of the Tong-Len hostels.”
After we returned from our excursions for the day we had a long and emotional talk about our privileges and circumstances. Students wrote about their experiences in their journals and had a thoughtful reflection about the day. We returned with happy faces and had an amazing Indian meal. After dinner we had a group game led by Jess and I that helped students get to know each other a little better. After watching a Bollywood movie everyone went back to their rooms and got ready for bed.
Two photos: one from placement, the other from the visit to the slum
Today started just as any other day. A hearty breakfast at 8 o’clock, followed by a peaceful two hour break before going to our individual service sites. Now let us share the joys of our service work.
Here at the arts and crafts daycare there is a combination of several different age groups ranging from children as young as four to students as old as seventeen. While the age groups differ greatly, the GLA students, Jess, Elizabeth, Yosa, Larson, Emma, Erika, Eden and Joanna, are able to split themselves into several groups to tackle the wide range of abilities. Using methods such as teaching songs about the water cycle or solidifying their understanding of the alphabet by teaching the alphabet out of order, this group is definitely succeeding.
Here the students learned about the struggles a small-scale business faces in becoming Fair Trade certified and how restrictive the regulations can become as they often don’t take country or culture specific characteristics into account.
Namaste family, friends, and other readers!
Today we went on our second hike in the Himalayan Mountains, not too far from the first hike we went on. We split into two groups: those who wanted to go on the hike, and those who stayed at home base to dedicate their time and hard work towards an important fundraiser we have been organizing. But first, we all started our day with a good and hardy breakfast consisting of eggs, fruit, and toast to power us through our Sunday. By 10:00 we were ready for our hike and piled into two cars and drove off—which is an experience in itself on these roads. On the exciting and bumpy ride through the streets of Dharamsala, we got to see amazing views of the mountains, the many colorful rooftops from afar and below, and even an elephant which we shared the road with. One thing I’ve realized about Dharamsala is that there is never a view that isn’t amazing, especially on a clear morning like today.
We began the hike on a rocky and declined trail surrounded by tall and thin trees, which led to a beautiful stream where we stopped for snacks. Here, we loaded up on the necessities—chips, soda, and chocolate! These also served as a pre-reward for the inclined trek ahead of us. The path up the mountain consisted of steps, steps, and more steps, but the many goats, cows, dogs, and sheep that greeted us on the journey made it quite interesting, while also allowing our minds to be distracted from how tired we were. The further along we were on the hike, the thicker the fog became. People walking ahead of us became mere silhouettes, and the mountain we had been hiking became a small land floating in the clouds. Our sense of place on this mountain had diminished, considering we were unable to see ahead, behind, nor below us with the thick white fog that filled the air, so we simply followed our path to get to our destination. At the top of the mountain there was the Guna temple, which we had finally reached. There, we stood at the rail where one would gaze at the amazing view a clear day would bring, but instead, considering the circumstances, we stood staring at complete blankness. Although this wasn’t the view we were expecting, it was an amazing thing to see and experience. It looked as if we were floating in a large cloud with nothing but the Hindu temple behind us, where we sat and ate our Indian meal and drank our chai.
For those who stayed behind from the hike had put in a day of hard work toward our fundraiser for Tong Len, which is a hostel here in Dharamsala that takes kids from the slums and gives them new housing, education, and a better future. We were able to create the impactful video to promote our fundraiser and set up the GoFundMe, where you and anyone else who wants to help this cause can donate to, and completely change a kid’s life!
Everyone in the group had a great time at the animal welfare center. There were so many sweet puppies and dogs there who received plenty of love from every kid. There were also other animals there like a kitten and a parrot. Much was heard about the work the center was doing to protect India’s animals.
Also, in good news, there might be a family who wants to adopt Bebe!
After returning and eating an Indian lunch, we walked to the Tibetan Medicine Institute up the road and received a behind-the-scenes tour of traditional Tibetan medical practices and production from cleaning raw materials to packaging medicines. We then sampled a delicious variety of Tibetan medicinal teas and visited a store full of natural lotions, incense and medicines. We finished off the night with a big, Western meal and a discussion of Indian stereotypes based on our own photos from the trip. The group as a whole decided that the trip really challenged our previous perspectives of India, and we hope to bring home the new perspectives we have developed so far.
– Rachel and Joanna