Saturday, June 16, 2012

"It's never a right time to say goodbye"

How can I even explain my departure from India in such a way to completely cover every emotion and thought that I felt?  I admit, throughout our entire departure back to America, it had not really clicked inside of my head and it still has not.  Although, when it does, I'm sure I will be calling a few of my peers to share some memories with them.  Also, a factor that played into this I'm sure was the fact that my stomach was torturing me with pains.  Nonetheless, the moment that I really realized that it was completely over was when D-Money's Tibetan friends gave us the white (scarf?) for blessings - the same as they did when we first made it.  It was almost symbolic for "Welcome" and "Goodbye."  Then when D-Money gave us a hug, for me it felt like the most genuine hug ever - I felt love, compassion, and an actual care that he had for us.  Being in America has some really good perks that I am learning to become for thankful of, but I won't ever forget that it was India that opened my eyes to this.

p.s. Dear India, I shall return!

The Cliff Jump - Dun Dun Dunnnn

"3!.... 2!.... 1!... JUMP!!!"
That's all we heard while looking down at the water beneath us.  I find the power of our minds to be amazing - how it can trick us to believe an entirely different reality than what meets the eye of others.  Looking at the cliff from water level, it did not seem that far, but once up there (especially when it is your turn to jump) it seems like you are having an helicopter view of the ocean.  Though this may be exaggerated, it felt all too real when I was up there.  See, free heights are one of my fears.  So for me to go against every possible thought pulsating through my mind and body telling me "Don't do it! Reconsider!" and to still jump acted as an adrenaline rush and personal reward for me that I hadn't had in a long time. While in the air, I'm sure everyone can vouch for me when I say that it feels like time falls asleep for an extra 2-3 seconds.  After the successful jump, the water never sparkled so well and the ground never gave me more comfort.

The Slum Diamonds

For one of my blogs, I decided that I will give a portion of a new poem that I am working on for the amazing children that I met.  They are our futures:

I've seen them
Over 700 phoenixes with clipped wings
Nesting in the open so much that you could swear they were invisible
They still have the cremation ashes from their past life
covering their bodies that can easily be mistaken for sand & dirt,
Nonetheless, these ultrasounds still remember that they are light.
However, it's hard to shine for even these walking Nebulas
when their forced to live in a police owned land that was once a river bank, (the irony)
so every monsoon season -
the rain would melt their skin as their area was not only prone to floods,
but they - prone to drown...

I'll finish the remainder soon. Be sure to check it out at of our poetry shows on campus!

p.s. One day Maddy, Jami, and Boki will believe me about the crystals haha!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Finally Home

After riding on a plane for what seemed like months, we have finally arrived in America. It feels great to be home. The 25 day trip to India was an experience I will never forget. I am so glad I chose to go to India because I most definately learned so much about how other parts of the world live and how well of The United States really is.


Last Day June 8th

Today is our last day in India. It is such a bittersweet feeling to be going home. We woke up and went to the Akshardham Temple. Aside from the notorious Taj Mahal, I think this is the most beautiful temple we've seen. It is hard to imagine the time, effort, and money that went in to building this masterpiece. The precious jewels and gems were the most amazing part I thought.


Guy From Norway

Today I met a guy from Norway named O'Love. He is Dr. Mahar and Aaron's neighbor and he is always wearing Jockey underwear, and only Jocky underwear. Every morning he sun bathes on the roof top. Today was the first day I actually saw him wearing clothes and I've seen him the past five days. He randomly came up to me and gave me some news articles to read. He was a very interesting guy to say the least but I enjoyed hearing his crazy stories.


Missing India...

So it's only been about a day and a half since I left India, and I am already missing it, a lot. I am not just missing India in general, but I am missing the people that I have spent the last month with, 24 hours a day, non stop. It's hard to be thrown into that situation with people you don't really know at the start of a long trip, but the ending result is usually always good. I can say that even though I was set into a situation like this, the friendships I have forged with some of the people, I am truly grateful to have. I hope that they become life long friends, and life long friendships. It seems hard to explain to other people how I felt and what I experienced in India, really only the group I went with understands 100% what we went through. I miss those kids at Tong-Len more than anything else. It was the hardest thing to tell them that I might not ever be back. It is definitely a goal of mine to go back to India to see them again. One 11 year old girl holds a special place in my heart. Her name is Arti, and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. I want to sponsor her, and help her in whatever way I can to help her graduate Tong-Len and move onto a school and become the doctor she wants to be. I can definitely say that I have grown and changed from this trip, for the better of course. The experiences and the people will always stay with me and be apart of me. All of us have a connection that no one else can even understand or experiences. I am MORE than happy to have been able to have this chance to go to India. I am happy to say that I had a BLAST, and wish I could have stayed longer even if I was ready to come home. I will miss India, and all it has/had to offer for me. One day I will go back, and relive some experiences I had there. Miss you India, and miss you guys in the group... Have a good rest of the summer and I hope to stay in contact with some of you! (: Thanks Dr. Maher and Aaron!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bye India

We left India yesterday and it was so bittersweet! I'm so happy that I came on this trip and got to know and do awesome things with some great people. It's weird to be back home because there are no rickshaws or cows in the road. The NC weather is definitely a relief from the heat we experienced in India and if I ever go back I will definitely avoid the hot season. I'm sad to leave such a great place and there are so many things I saw and experienced that will stay with me forever. Thanks Dr. Maher and Aaron and everybody else!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Back Home

Hey everyone.. so John and i are back home and its good to be back! Thought i'd comment on the trip in general.. I can easily say that this has been one of the best trips in my life.. It could not have been so without all the people who i travelled with.. Each and everyone of you guys has made a lasting effect on my life. Yes Andrew you too :p I hope all you guys are doing good and get back safe to your respective homes. Also sorry about not saying bye to some of you! Anyways as i said before each and everyone of you holds a special spot in my heart, and Thank you D Money for making this trip happen. I dont think i will ever be grateful enough! Lots of Love

Goodbye India. Whats Good Sri Lanka

Today I am upset to leave India but at the same time excited to stay at Sri Lanka for the next two weeks. The last day at India was spent at Delhi to view the Ashradam and for people to spend their last rupees shopping. Sorry people but even though the Ahradam was an awesome sight to see, your crazy for picking that over listening to the Dali Lama, the most positive influential persona of our generation. The thing about the trip I will miss most is the people. Met some really great people on this trip and I hope we stay life long friends. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Buddhist Books

If there is one thing my fellow travelers will remember me for, it will be my obsession with books. One of my primary purposes of this trip was to pick up as many books as possible on the subject of Buddhism. Some are canonical, and some are smaller books of a sort of 'self-help" nature, but all of which will contribute to my spiritual development. I also picked up a Koran and a book from the Baha'i faith, as about these two I don't know as much as I would like.
There was one book which I consistently looked for, entitled "Circle of the Sun", by Tsele Rangdrol. It is one my grandfather has been trying for some time to attain, but even after contacting the publishers he could not. Almost every store I visit had the book "Mirror of Mindfulness" by the same author, but never the former book. I am a bit let down, but hopefully I will find it for him in the future.
Overall, I am really happy with the reading I get to do when I get back home. I also picked up books on learning Pali and Tibetan, two of the primary languages within Buddhism, so I am excited to crack them open and begin learning.
However, upon carrying my pack, I am beginning to see the benefit of a kindle. Can't help it though, I guess I am just too old fashioned to switch. 

Dharma Talk in Dharamsala

I listen to a lot of Buddhist Dharma talks on mp3 that I aquire from the internet, but this was the first time I had a chance to hear one in person. We all sat down onto these meditation cushions and meditated until it began. It started off with some chanting in Tibetan, followed by a monk giving his talk in Tibetan, with a translator giving the english portions when he came to a pause. The funny thing is that most westerners in there probably understood Tibetan.
His talk dealt with some verses of Shantideva, from the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, which were focusing on maintaining mindfulness and introspection even when around difficult people. Difficult people being those who would disrupt those qualities.
He even included this story of a monk who was seeking shelter from the rain at this woman's house. The woman said that if the monk wished to stay, he must either drink alcohol, kill a goat, or sleep with her. All would violate the monastic code, but after weighing his options, he saw that alcohol would be the least offense. However, after getting drunk, he was no longer in control of his mind, and went on to both kill the goat and sleep with the woman.
The point of the story was to maintain mindfulness at all times. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You've been hit by, you've been hit by... A Smoooth Criminal

Man, I never really knew how powerful the affect was that Michael Jackson had on every part of our world (Rest in Peace).  Nonetheless, the children at Tong Len school today were extremely excited to learn a few moves.  "Put one hand on your head like this.  Put the other on your stomach like this. Bend down. Now up" - this was the way that I taught them to do the world famous Michael Jackson thrust. Words just do not begin to describe the excitement and love that these children, my brothers and sisters, generated.  I believe that you can learn a lot from nature and especially children. The case the message was obvious - your situation does not choose your happiness.  Their smiles reminded me of summer time fireflies - relaxing to the soul, yet enlightening to the world. I really Pray to come back one day.  That is surely the goal.

p.s. I'll never forget you all - keep MJ alive. 


We started out the day by going to the Institute of Tibetan Medicine. It was interesting to see the tools used for different ailments and how they make pills by using all different types of plants. We also went to Tibetan library and listened to a lecture about mindfulness and how we need to be mindful of every action because with every action comes a reaction. Then we went to listen about human rights and how Tibet is battling China through non-violence, yet China continues to attack and humiliate Tibet. After that we went back to Tong Len to see the kids. I played cricket for the first time and made a couple plays so it was good. We also did a lot of dancing and I taught them more boxing which I regret because they might end up beating each other up.

Last day in the mountains

today i feel like we did quite a bit.. went to the tibetan institute for medicine. Learned about the different aspects of the tibetan medical system which was really interesting. D Money was telling us about the diffeerent things that it has been known to cure. He also told us about the bout that he had with hepatitis and how tibetan medicine medicine managed to get rid of it when western medicine had already failed at it. We then went to the tibetan library where we got two lectures, one on buddhist philosophy which i was really emersed in and another on the Human rights situation in Tibet. The lady that spoke to us about the human rights seemed to be really passionate about the subject. I could feel her pain and frustration when she was alking to us about it. Finally another visit to Tong len. Managed to say a sad goodbye to my friends Mukesh, Vijay, Birju and Deepak, who will always hold a place in my heart. All in all a pretty productive day. Pretty sad to be leaving this place tomorrow, but at the same time im ready to head home!

Don't want to say goodbye

Today we visited Men-Tsee-Khang, which is the Tibetan medical and astrological institute. The purpose of the organization is to preserve the traditional systems of medicine and astrology practiced in Tibet for thousands of years.  The first floor of the institute featured hundreds of different medicines and plants that were used to cure a variety of ailments and diseases.  There were natural remedies for arthritis, insomnia, neuritis, and even dumbness! Any ailment you can think of, there was most likely a medicine for it.  The basement level of the building had the history of Tibetan medicine.  Large paintings, called thangkas, displayed intricate drawings of the human body, including nerves and blood vessels.  There was even a thangka with the entire process of human embryology. Many thangkas also featured various systems that doctors used to diagnose and treat a disease or ailment.  It's mind-boggling to think how advanced Tibetan medicine was in the 16th century. 

It's my last day in Dharmsala and I do not want to leave. Goodbye to the perfect weather.  Goodbye to the Himalayas. Goodbye to the noisy cars honking their horns way too much.  Goodbye to the Buddhist monks who never sport a frown.  Goodbye to Cafe Coffee Day, Restaurant Curry Leaf, and the delicious 20 rupee espresso.  Goodbye to the adorable Tong Len kids. Goodbye to my favorite shop owner, Mustafa.  Goodbye to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.  Dharamsala is my favorite city in India; it will definitely be missed. 

Last day

Today was our last day in Dharamsala.  I am really going to miss it here.  Everywhere we go we see the Himalaya mountains.  I have seen some of the most breathtakingly beautiful views.  Today we returned to the youth hostel to see the children.  One little girl painted my fingernails bright orange!  We spent the day laughing and playing games. We played duck-duck-goose, hokey pokey, and clapping games.  One little girl taught me a new game and I taught her one that I had played in elementary school.  I gave her my email address and wrote down a rhyme for the game I had taught her.  She tried to teach me to say, "I like mangos," in Hindi, but I had a difficult time remembering the words.  It finally was time for us to leave and I hugged her goodbye.  She turned to walk into the building, but kept turning back to wave goodbye.  She finally made it into the window, but went to a window to wave out.  It was so hard to walk away.
I will be glad to be back home, but I will really miss the time I have spent in Dharamsala.  I hope to come back again soon.     

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The other day we had the priviledge of seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  In the morning we got up early to see him pass by in his motorcade on the way to speak at a school.  Many people crowded the streets to catch a glimpse of him.  He smiled and waved as he passed by and he seemed to radiate positive energy.

Later we went to the campus, where His Holiness was speaking to school children.  To get there we had to do a bit of treking up the side of a mountain.  Some people had radios to listen to the speech from the outside, but unfortunately I was not near one.  After waiting for a short while, we heard a thunderous applause and he descended the stairs to his vehicle.  Once again, he seemed joyful to see the people who had come to see him.  He seemed to be filled with a great inner peace.  I felt honored to be in his presence.  I was so glad to have had this opportunity. 

Don't Make Me Leave!!

It crazy to think that just 3 weeks ago i landed in Delhi and entered a whole new crazy world. Now the world that foreign and loud had become normal and a place to call home. I have fallen in love with India, the people, the culture it is all so different from home that i could not have asked for a better study abroad. The children of Tong Len have melted my heart and i'm so thankful we got to return to the hostel today as well as having visited the slum yesterday! They are the most genuine and lovable children. No dream is too big and they are determined to get what they want, even if its a piece of candy! Knowing that this trip is ending fast is killing me. I look back on all the crazy adventures and can hardly believe the time is gone. I can't wait for the day i can return to india hopefully Tong Len!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Having fun in the Slum...

I thought Rishikesh was my favorite place but i was definitely wrong Dharmsala takes the cake. Today we went to help the kids in the slums and it reminded me of the days when i lived in the refugee camps back in Bosnia. The kids were all happy to see us there, we tried to distribute candy out but that didn't go as well as we thought. I love kids and my mom is a elementary school teacher so i always help her out. The slums were no different i couldn't wait to play with the kids but they wore me out between climbing on my like i was a tree and picking them up i got to say it was a great day. It really opens up my eyes to how different people live on the other side of the world. We take so many things for granted like we should have them when these kids don't even have clean water to wash themselves with. I am really glad i went on this trip not only for myself but also for my family so maybe i could shed some light on them and change a few things on how we have been living. Before i forget Tibet is not part of China so Free Tibet.

Tong Leng

Although it was yesterday that we visited tong leng i decided to name my post that because what i witnessed today. We were at the slum known as Charan Khat today and it was a sight that id probably never forget. After what i saw today i cannot even explain the amount of respect that i have for the tibetan monk Jam Lan (i think that how you spell it). He is the man who started the tong len organisation pretty much from scratch just because he felt the need to help the community in the slum. These people were ignored by the government in both their original place of living and now also the people in charge of this area. Jam Lan has not only helped them out with better living conditions (free access to 17000 litres of water a day) he has improved the general health and hygiene of the community and also provided the children of the slum with a way of getting out this lifestyle. I couldnt help but marvel at the way he has changed the lives of 70 individuals who presently reside in the hostel he has built. The hostel is equipped with all sorts of things that the slum children could not even comprehend before being involved with tong leng, this includes a brand new computer lab which could even put the computer labs at ECU to shame. I hope the kids at tong leng grow up and surpass what Jam lan has done for their community. 

Free Tibet!

Today we went to an art institute. The place and the art was beautiful. Plants, trees, sculptures, a fishpond, a temple and hotel, and a bunch of workshops gave the place a beautiful yet rustic view. The workshops had painters, wood carvers, metal artisans, and doll makers. The painting was my favorite because of the hard work put into it and the natural colors used. The paintings took anywhere from a few hours to a few months. First the paintings had to be traced by photograph precisely to every angle, then the it was painted very slow and steadily using natural colors, like flowers from the mountains in Tibet. After the art institute we went to a Tibetan temple that was used primarily as a place to pray and study for nuns. After the temple and an awesome Chinese lunch we made our way to the slums to play with the children and better understand their situation. The kids were grateful to leave the begging life and stay at a place where they could sleep, eat and study, providing them with a promising future. One of the babies, Sanju had a huge impact on the group. He could not speak, hold his head up or smile and his heart and breath rate was irregular and he had a fever . As I held him he struggled to drink water and as I took a piece of candy out of his mouth blood came out too. He fell asleep for a good hour and me and Tyree prayed for him. Through this experience I don't understand hour the goverment puts so much money into a cricket stadium but refuses to put any of their money into a slum right across that could benefit many lives.

Charan Khat

Today we went to Charan Khat which is a slum where about 750 people live. As soon as we got out of the vehicles children started running to greet us and ask our names. Several people brought gifts and were giving them out to the kids.  The kids were going crazy and continued to ask for more continuously. As we walked down into the slum we could see where families lived. Some had a concrete slab where others only had the rocky dirt ground. As we passed one family, there was a newborn twenty days old. It was so tiny. As the day went on we were able to watch the kids learn math. They were learning how to do exponents.  The way they were taught was different but seemed much easier than the way I learned.  I met a girl named Jada who was twelve years old with a huge smile! As we talked I found out that she knew Pinky, the girl I spent time with at the hostel.   She loved my earrings and wanted them along with my sunglasses.  She would ask over and over again "Please ma'am." in the end she gave me her bangles and all I had to give to her in return was a hair tie. Overall, it was a great day and I'm glad we were able to put smiles on the kid's faces. I can't believe time has gone by so fast and we will be flying out in under 3 days! 


Today we went to the Tong-Len slums. It's truly amazing to see how little some people have but yet still have the most positive outlook on life. The most simple things such as a pen or finger nail polish create the biggest smiles on their faces. It's really heart breaking to see the sick and dying children that don't have enough money to seek medical help.

- Taylor

Jyoti Squared

We went to the slum today. Some of the kids there have brothers or sisters at the hostel we went to on Sunday.. I can't imagine being separated like that and one of them knowing that the other is in a worse place than the other. I met 2 girls named Jayda and... Jyoti! Ironic that out of all the kids in the hostel and in the slum, I ended up spending my time with two different Jyotis! They were all so sweet and loved nail polish and stickers At first it was soo hectic with all the kids running up and wanting you to give them something. But once things settled down, I had just as much fun there as in the hostel. It's crazy how these children live, and so many people have absolutely no idea. We watched some of the kids being taught their math lesson with exponents in the tent that ECU students made years ago. It was pretty cool to see what an amazing job they did and that it's still standing. It's even cooler that it's used as their school. The last few days here in Dharamsala have been great, other than the huge storm tonight. I thought our windows were about to bust through! The table on the balcony was blowing all over the place but it's cool, we're safe :) Only 3 days in India!

Dalai Lama and hostel

Today was a pretty exciting day. First we stood in the street to greet the Dalai Lama while he drove up to a school to teach. After we trekked up the mountain we could hear the Dalai Lama while he taught the students and then we saw him again while he left. It was crazy to actually see him in person, I still can't believe it. Later that day we visited a hostel where children from the slums can go to school, sleep, and eat. It was so much fun playing with the children and they were all so happy and energetic. A girl that I talked to who was 16 asked me if I would come visit her again and you could see how sincere she was and it really touched me. And even though they don't have much they were more than willing to give us a present. I really enjoyed meeting them and I wish for their dreams to come true.

The little things in life

Today was probably the most humbling experience of my life.  We visited a slum sponsored by the Tong Len organization.  When I first saw the slum, I was speechless.  I don't even know how to begin describing what I saw.  However, despite these conditions, the people genuinely seemed happy.  We had the opportunity to play with the little kids, and it was definitely one of the best times of my life. Each of us passed out small gifts we had brought for the kids, which they sincerely appreciated.  I had the time of my life having spin top races with the boys and playing hand clapping games with the girls.  I hate to say this, but I had a favorite kid.  Her name was Manisha and she was only two and half years old.  There was just something about her that brought a smile to my face every time I held her.  She was the perfect child.  Even thinking about her right now is bringing tears to my eyes because I miss her so much.

The best part of today was just seeing the kids smile and laugh.  Even if you gave them just five minutes of your time, you would instantly receive a 100 watt smile. It made me realize how much we take the little things in life for granted.  A high five or a piece of candy makes a world of difference for these kids; that's all they need to be happy.  I just wish we took the time to do the same. 


When we visited the Tong-Len hostel, I wasn't sure what to expect. Right at the gates were children of all ages, from the smallest to those about to enter college. They all smiled, and had a pretty decent command of English, which you could see got better as you met the older ones. That day I got many names, and made many friends, and it is my biggest wish to help Deepak and Nisha go to college. Both had really big aspirations: Computer Engineering for Deepak and Nisha wanted to become a doctor. I believe they would be some of the first to graduate from this hostel in the upcoming year.
The work this organization has done for these children is just amazing. Today we had the opportunity to visit the slums from which these children and their families originate. You haven't seen poverty until you have seen these shanty-towns. However I am an optimistic person, and judging by the goals of the children being helped by the organization, they could possibly help provide for a better future for themselves and their families.
I want to come back to Dharamshala after graduation so that I could offer my help to this organization, to the Free Tibet movement, and to further study Buddhism in depth. 

The Best Two Days Of My Life

Sunday and today were honestly the best two days of my entire life (at least so far). On Sunday our group was blessed enough to see the Dalai Lama twice: once driving past us on the street and once getting into a car as he was leaving a lecture. To see him the second time, we trekked up yet another mountainside to listen in on the Dalai Lama's lecture to some students. The translation was a bit rough to understand at times, but it was so interesting to hear to what he had to say and extremely exciting to see his beautiful, big smile twice in one day. Later that day we went to Tong-Len and met some of the sweetest kids in the world. I was overwhelmed by how many of them hugged me and took my hand so quickly without even knowing me. No stranger has ever looked more excited to hug me than Pinky did. There were at least three girls named Pinky, but there is no way I will ever confuse this girl with anyone else. I didn't think any smile could be more genuine and bright than the Dalai Lama's, but Pinky's smile surely proved me wrong. Pinky, Nitu, Nisha, Vishal, Rainu, and so many other children laughed and played with me for hours. They took great pride in showing me their beds in the hostel and were thrilled when I gave them my email address so they could write to me later. I have never had more fun doing anything in my life compared to the time we spent playing with those kids. We played soccer, tag, hand games, pick up sticks, sang, got henna done, ran away from John's farting friends, and so much more. I gave some of the children nail polish, my earrings, and some bracelets I was wearing. It took my by surprise when they refused to take my gifts unless I took theirs. Pinky and Rainu gave me their favorite bracelets and Nisha put a beautiful henna design on me. As of right now, if there was any day I could relive of my life, it would be that one. I have never felt so loved and have never experienced such pure happiness than I did on that Sunday.

 The only other day that even compares to Sunday was today. We headed down to the slum in which we met more amazing, enthusiastic children. Seeing their faces when we pulled out little pieces of candy and offered to paint their nails was priceless. Even the boys asked for one of their nails to be painted because some colors looked cool to them. Giving these children small toys put smiles on their faces that were bigger than those most children have on Christmas. It was so refreshing to see children that are so easily pleased, but at the same time it was heartbreaking. It's difficult to put an experience like that into words, but it's one experience I truly believe everyone needs to have. Helping these kids out with their daily lessons (which included math, reading, writing, and more) was yet another thing I will never forget. They have impressive techniques which allow them to solve even the most intense math problems with such ease. Some of the multiplication and division problems were ones that I could see my older brother struggle over and most likely whip out a calculator to solve. Luckily I picked up some tips that I can use to help him out when I get back.

I don't know when I'll be able to come, but I know I'll be back at Tong-Len one day. Some how, some way, I'll come back and visit these beautiful children again. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to come and see a world so different from the one I grew up in. Thank you to my parents for helping me come on this trip, thank you Dr. Maher and Aaron for planning it all, and thank you India for the best trip of my life. 

The Slums

Today we visited the slums. Going in i really had no idea what to expect. People can tell you all about it but being there and seeing everything is entirely different. Immediately the kids came running up to us all excited to see us. We walked around the slum and got to see there school and the center of things if you will. It was sad at first seeing everything and thinking about how we live our lives and how they live theirs. But once you got to know the kids and played with them it brought out this entirely different side. Though their lives are far from perfect they really appreciate the little things. They were so excited to get little toy cars and silly bands....things we take for granted back home. They were so full of life and loved just being held or playing hand games or being tickled. We watched the older kids school hour...i was really surprised by what they were learning because most of it i had learned when i was older than most of them are now. It was great to see them getting the opportunity to advance and some of them really enjoy it. These kids were so amazing holding the little babys was the best thing ever. This one little boy was sick and it was so sad to watch because you could tell he just wasnt getting enough and yet holding him made such a difference....just being loved and cared about really matters to those kids. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Most important day of my life

My dream to meet the Dali Lama came true unexpectedly in India yesterday. We waited in the street along with hundreds of other people just to get a glimpse of him passing by car. You could easily recognize him by his huge smile and I felt an energy pass through my body as he passed by for that brief moment. The reactions expressed his importance in Dharamsala. Jaws dropping and people crying and praying were just a few of these. Later on we went to one of his lectures. The translation on the radio was hard to hear but what I got out of it was the new medical research of how compassion and love is used for healing and growth. Typical Dali Lama talk. The lecture ended with him leaving the building with his big smile followed by applause and picture taking from his audience. I was in such awe that I forgot to even take a picture. Later on in the busy day we went to a school built to take kids out of the slum and give them a place to live and learn and give them hope for the future. These kids were awsome. Everyone in the group quickly made friends with the kids and everyone had a smile. The kids quickly jumped on my "juice" dance and loved to climb on me, play soccer, and watch me box. So much that I even got punched in the face....I taught him how to throw one hell of a cross. Words can't express how much fun and how much I learned in that day so I'm just gonna stop.

Little Pinky

Yesterday we were able to visit a hostel and play with so many children! When we arrived all the kids came running. The first little girl I got to spend time with was named Pinky. She couldn't speak English so we had a huge barrier.  She loved to be held and flipped upside down repeatedly. Needless to say, I was exhausted in no time but she was having so much fun! I also spent some time with one older girl who was twelve. She could speak English so it was easier to interact with her and talk. She told me she wanted to become a doctor. During a huge gust of wind, she went and grabbed me a mango that had fallen. I tried it and it was sour compared to the sweet ones we ate in Rishikesh.  After many hours of hand games and what not we made our way back. It was so sad to see there faces when we left but I know they enjoyed it just as much as we did! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pinky Promise

Yesterday we visited a hostel with tons of sweet kids. I spent hours with two little girls and time flew by like it was nothing. I wrote their names down but I don't think I have the paper with me, I think they were Jyoti and Kavati. I made them pinky promise to write to me after giving them my address. And then they wanted to picky promise that we were all best friends. It was so sweet! When it was time to leave... it was the worst feeling in the world to say goodbye. Kavati said "when you come back, I'll have a gift for you!" I didn't have the heart to tell her I wasn't planning on coming back. She gave me her hair clip and after giving me a hug and about to cry, she tells me not to cry! But of course I did as soon as she said it. I can't stop thinking of them both, wondering if they actually will write. So many things have happened on this trip where I've said 'its been one of the best days ever', but today may have topped all of those days. Knowing I made those two girls so happy by just spending time with them and actually making one of them cry, I just can't put into words how that makes me feel. One of the best days ever.

Can I Bring them Home with me?

Yesterday we went to Tong-Len and it was the most amazing place i have ever seen. The kids, from the moment we got there were so excited to see us and were so ready to play with us! The first little girl i met was Manju and she was adorable! She clung to me for most of the time and when other girls came over she wouldn't let them hold my hand because she wanted me to only be her friend. Any time i would pick another girl she would be right there waiting to be picked up afterwards. Then her friend Jyoti came over and the two of them were so funny. We started playing hand games so i would start with one and then the other would come and try to get me to start a game with her. It was so cute. At one point i started doing there hair and once i was done they started fighting over who got to do my hair! Words can't even begin to describe what it was like being around these kids. They're so innocent and so full of life....they could literally play for hours! They were absolutely amazing and they loved getting to use my camera! That was another thing they all fought over...who got to use the camera next! I also met this girl Nisha. She's 17 and the oldest one at Tong-Len. She was equally as amazing. When we had to leave she got so sad because she didn't want to say goodbye to me and she didn't want me to leave. She kept asking when i was going to come back. But it was nice because i was able to spend a lot of time with her. She wants to be a doctor which i thought was great especially because i want to be one too. She even gave me henna and its absolutely beautiful! I don't know how she does such intricate designs. She even wrote both of our names on my hand and wrote i love you. Saying goodbye was literally the hardest thing ever. You could tell they were so happy to have us there and never wanted us to leave. They are definitely some of the most amazing kids i have ever met and i miss them so much! Tong-Len is such an amazing place and it really shows in each of the kids i met. It was great to because Erin and I started playing this hand game we love and they knew it, so they would all keep coming over, wanting a chance to play. We even started a big game of one of them and it was so funny because it was one of the boys that won the game every time!

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Now i thought Rishikesh was amazing, but i actually think that Dharmashala tops it! The view from out hotel is breath taking, you can see the white caps on the mountains! But of the entire trip my best experience came from today! We woke up early to see the Dali Lama drive through the city. Now if this was the only time i'd ever get to see the Dali Lama i'd say that a quick glimpse of the man is enough to understand his peacefulness. But we also got to make the hike up the mountain to the children's school to listen to him speak! Now we would have heard the majority of his teachings but someone is always missing which leads to the fun adventures of hunting them down! I found it to be a comical morning despite the lessons we missed out on. But we were able to catch the last few minutes of his session. The translation we were listening to was somewhat choppy and hard to understand at times but still now i can say i've heard the Dali Lama speak and that alone is incredible. Just watching him descend the stairs is a peaceful experience! It was really a once in a lifetime kind of thing and i'm glad to have forgone the hours of sleep for it!
This afternoon we went to Tong Len Hostel and that was equally as rewarding an experience! From the moment we walked in the children were clinging to our legs. They were adorable and so innocent. Becca and i were standing there and decided to play hand games, our favorite game is SLIDE so we thought we'd show them that! Well as soon as we began to play a group of girls ran up and already new the game! For at least 10 minutes we all stood there playing this overly simply game but it was so exciting and eventful to them. But one of the greatest parts for myself was meeting this 14 year old girl named Punam. The first thing about her that caught my eye was her clothing. While most of the other children were running around in jeans and t-shirts she was wearing more classic Indian clothing in a gorgeous turquoises blue. She came up to me asked my name and took my hand, and the moment she grabbed my hand she didn't let go except for when i pulled it free to do something. She has 2 brothers and one sister and her cousins also attend the Hostel. She is 14 years old and wants to be an Astronaut. Our conversations were simple and yet she and i became friends. I admire her, she has a dream and she is trying to attain it, even if that means studying in the dark so she can pass her exams. She is very special and i am glad to have met her! Today's overall experience was unlike any other! Each day on this trip seems to have gotten progressively better, i'm just not sure how one can top a day as special as this!


Best day ever

I feel like I've been saying this every time I write a blog, but today was easily the best day of the trip so far. We finally arrived at Dharmasala yesterday which is where the Tibetan Government in exile and the Dali Lama are located. We woke up at 7am today to see the Dali Lama pass by on his way to give a teaching at a local school. We then waited outside the school in order to see him leave. He is exactly what you think of in your mind when one pictures the perfect Tibetan monk. He was constantly looking jovial and wore a smile on his face wider then mine, and that is pretty hard to do. At first I thought that the only thing that could take this trip from a 9 to a 10 was actually meeting the Dali Lama, but later on I figured out how wrong I was. We left for a school called Tong Len that helped take slum children out of the slums and educate them to become doctors, businessmen, etc. These kids were honestly some of the cutest and sweetest kids I have ever played with, the second we showed up they were constantly smiling and running up to us asking our names. I absolutely love kids and this was an incredibly heartwarming experience for me. I picked up every child I could find and spun them around or slung them over my shoulder. We then played an exciting match of football, which was convenient because I wore my Manchester United Jersey today. (Also It was the first time I've ran around and played a sport since breaking my leg in January.) Obviously my team won. However what really made today so special was just the faces of the kids as we were leaving, and the fact that they really did love having us there and were begging for us to come back sometime this week. Driving back to our hotel we got to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen, with the sun gently falling behind the Himalayan mountain range. This trip has been full of some of the best experiences of my life and I am not at all ready to see it end. Hopefully we do get to go back to Tong Len and play with those kids again, because I really can't imagine what could be better then the smiles on there faces.

Dalai Lama and The Kids

Today, June 3rd 2012, was by far one of my favorite days. We started the day by waking up at 7:00 am to be in the center of the market in Dharamasala to see the Dalai Lama drive by on his way to the school. I was ecstatic for this opportunity to see the one and only Dalai Lama. When his car drove by it was a lot faster than I thought so I couldn't take a photo and really grasp that I really did just see the Dalai Lama in person. After breakfast we headed up the long and steep pathway to the school with everyone else to see him once again. This time we stood outside the school waiting for him to exit and enter his car. This time we really got to experience seeing him and the emotions that came with it. I snapped a few photos of him and am more than happy to say that I was elated to be in his presence and to see him twice in one day, and ultimately probably the only two times I will see him in my life. After seeing him we went to the hostel and met all the children there. That was by FAR my absolute favorite thing we have done so far this trip. The children of all ages came running up to all of us and wanted to play, talk, and just have fun. The kids that I ended up interacting with were the cutest and most adorable children I have ever met. The one girl I met was named Mumba, and she was so much fan to talk to. I didn't get to sit down for very long with a single child, but I interacting with a lot of them. Since I was taking a lot of photos of the trip there and of the kids, it started a chain reaction of the kids wanting to take photos with all our cameras. Ibwas a bit uneasy at first to let the younger kids run off with my camera to snap photos, but after I saw that they weren't dropping it to its death I let them go off and take photos. One little girl LOVED taking photos and was really good at it too. If I could go back and give a gift I would give her a camera. By far meeting all the kids at the hostel was an amazing experience. I was elated with emotions and heart warming feelings from just being there. I was also pretty amazed at how well mannered and how well tempered they were. They had amazing manners and called us ma'am or sir, and loved to hold our hands an lead us around to show us the hostel and explain everything. I would go back an spend a day with them again in a HEART beat, or spend a year with them. The friendship they showed to me and the group was amazing and loving. It was by far the hardest thing to say goodbye and walk out the door on all the kids I became close with in the few hours I spent with them. I hope in the future I can come back and spend time with them and see them again because I loved being with them. Who knows, maybe one day they will need an on site nurse at the hostel and I could be there (:

Nearing The End...

So the trip is nearing its end. I'm sad it's almost over but at the same time I am getting excited to head home, I'm a bit homesick! Since being here I have learned quite a few things and have had many more experiences than I thought I would ever experience. To recap on some of the things so far during this trip I have enjoyed the most would have to be in Corbett when we went on the jeep safari and elephant safari. I've never touched an elephant before or rode one, so to be able to do all of that in one day was an amazing experience. Elephants are amazing and gorgeous animals. It was also just exciting to be out in the wild with all those wild animals and see them in their natural habitat. Wish we saw a tiger though! Those were by far my favorite things we did up until Rishikesh. In Rishikesh my favorite part was the white water rafting and the cliff jumping. I've never done either of those before. The rafting was way more fun than I anticipated and I really enjoyed the rush and the fun of it. The cliff jumping was indeed my favorite part about that day. To conquer a fear and jump, it felt amazing. I highly enjoyed the rush of adrenaline I got from jumping off that cliff into the Ganga river. I loved it so much I had to jump twice! I definitely will be doing rafting and cliff jumping when I get back home, I found a new love in them. Now we are in Dharamasala and we will see what it has to offer! (maybe some paragliding (; )