Tuesday June 19, 2018
India. It’s not uncommon to hear travelers say it’s the most impactful place they’ve ever been. Full of diversity, color and different climates, all of our students minus one, Noa (who is still bravely making her way in with our trusty director, Chris) have finally made it through the multiple plane rides, taxis and days of travel to this scarce small town on a Himalayan mountain in the clouds. Surrounded by Tibetan monks and animals such as sacred cows, dogs and even a monkey or two swinging above our rooms, there’s a sense of peace and beauty that is already making its way through even the worst jet lag.
It’s finally here. We have found our way to the first day of namaste.
Written by staff mentor: Robin Satterwhite
Wednesday June 20, 2018
It would be ridiculous to expect to see the Dalai Lama on the first full day in India, right? Well it did for a few of us. He even looked one of our little ladies, Savannah, right in the eye as he and his caravan drove past, bowing his head with hands clasped, bestowing blessings upon the crowd. Just….whoa.
It was an incredibly full day that started, surprisingly, with most of our new little family waking up early without too much jet lag, though the (otherwise) cute Jack Russell terriers on property barking before 5AM was destined to still cause a grumble or two.
Feeling refreshed so quickly turned into an extra good thing as, after a breakfast that included chai tea and a delicious rice pudding, our walk around town to see the different schools (many of which were eye-openingly small and run down to the Western eye) and their tiny littles, who were super inspiring, cute and excited to see us, ended up coming with another little bit of a reality check when it proved to be about the equivalent of half an hour on the stairmaster and another half on a treadmill with an impressive incline. While getting used to its own fair share of hardships, Dharamsala really is a spiritually beautiful city overflowing with wonderful people, cool animals and vast expanse views of snow-capped Himalayan mountains, even when looking on from of a place of medium-bake from the hot sun.
Watching the people of this small city and the tight bond of community that only comes from growing up together in a way that allows everyone to not only know each other but to pretty much become one big family, our smiles broadened and eyes opened a little more. Especially when, after our first Hindi lesson with the local GLA staff, locals proved to be not only so open but also get enjoyment out of our awkward attempts to ask questions on a cultural scavenger hunt that forced us out of our comfort zones and into finding our way to such places as a Tibetan places of worship, local family homes and to a restaurant that offered food such as delectable vegetarian dumplings called Momos.
A delicious treat to hold us over for dinner and keep us pleasantly distracted as health checks were dialed in. Even with getting used to the crazy traffic, time difference and well-earned exhaustion of those past few days, we were well on our way toward a new kind of bliss.
Sending love and mosquito bites,
The STL (Service Through the Lens) squad.
Saturday June 23, 2018
Today we started our first official day working at the Day Care. We headed to our placements with arms full of posters, paints, markers and toys. The kids, still not quite adapt to our presence stared in wonder as we coated their daycare walls in fresh bright colors. Soon realizing that we came armed with more than just paint but also new toys and markers they began the colorful task or writing letters, shapes, and numbers on the fresh posters and journals. We quickly realized just how inept our Hindi was when the kids took on the humorous and difficult task of teaching us what the names of colors and animals where in Hindi. It was a learning experience for all of us! After many hugs, high fives and “namstes’ we headed back to our home base, some of us a little late for lunch; goodbyes always take longer than planned.
After eating a beautiful meal of homemade chapati and seasoned veggies we got into taxies and headed to a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery. The chaos and endless shouts and car horns we had come to recognize as the constant ambience of the vibrant and restless city was juxtaposed with the sharp contrast of complete calm. Serenity filled the air as we walked through the gates of the nunnery, the whirl wind of emotions we felt from the past few days melted into ease. The peace that surround the nunnery was incredible, the snow capped Himalayan mountains surrounding us absolutely breath taking. Nuns peaked around corners of vibrantly hand painted walls to wave at us, a warm welcome.
After we left the nunnery we headed to a Tibetan culture center. From the moment we drove over the mountain the vibrant red, golds and blues of an architectural masterpiece stood out and made what had seem like rainbow of houses before pale and dull in comparison to the Art center. After a brief history lesson on the importance of preserving Tibetan culture and the erasure of Tibetan society that has occurred, we explored the endless towers filled with endless rooms of beautiful art from every material imaginable.
Our day ended with our second mentor group— a meeting where we discuss what we experience and our goals for our time here and after. We watched a movie called the Bang Bang Club, which shows the true, raw power a single photograph can have. Afterward we headed to bed, grateful to finally rest at the end of another amazing day.
Blog post by Katy McDaniel
Sunday June 24, 2018
Culture is meant to be embraced. Yesterday that meant embracing the peaceful nature of the Tibetan nunnery and the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas. Today it meant embracing the chaotic nature of the Macleod market and winding crowded streets keenly navigated by our local staff members. Although immersed in the chaos we each found clarity through thinking of our families while shopping and capturing small moments of this clarity with the authentic gifts coming home with us.
Before the market our group received amazing guidance from Jessica Rose, one of our international staff members. and practiced our photography with this new found knowledge. The Macleod market was the perfect setting to practice these skills with the knowledge given to us. The people and buildings and food created the perfected environment for experimentation with lighting and composition. Even if an opportunity was missed, maybe the lighting was wrong or you lost focus with your camera, every turn presented new engaging moments to capture.
Multiple groups began painting at their day-care center and continued playing with and educating the children put in their care. What’s astonishing to us all is the progress we’ve all already made and the help we’ve received from the amazing and dedicated teachers.
Friday June 29, 2018
Today students enjoyed a relatively relaxed day. The day began with students attending
their placements, and working with their chosen daycare. Students are working to help
older kids practicer their english as well as deepen their understanding of school sub-
jects such as math or literature. After, the students spent the rest of the day at home
base, in which they enjoyed some free time, and attended a photo journalism session
lead by Jessica rose. Afterwords, students watched a movie about the history of the
-by Georgia and Aiden
Sunday July 8, 2018
At 6:30 sharp we were in our taxis, bellies full from our last breakfast in Dharamsala, our hearts full of grief and nostalgia as we said goodbye to the local staff.
Five hours and 3 pee stops later our parade of clown cars loaded with us and our suitcases arrived in Amritsar. Per usual, the plot thickens.
We arrive at the Golden Temple and are immediately met with the swirling sights and sounds of an India we have yet to see. The sweat fills ours eyes and reality blurs into a smear of colors punctuated by the mechanical din of the Langar. This is the free meal that Seikhs provide to anybody who comes to visit. The generosity is beautiful and overwhelming. After about two hours we pack back up and head to our wonderful hotel where we take refuge in the chilly arms of our AC.