Friday, June 13, 2014

The Best Day Ever

It seems like Dr. Maher saved the best for last when he arranged this trip for us. This entire study abroad experience felt worth it after spending five days in McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala, where cooler temperatures reside. To enhance the already wonderful surroundings, our hotel provided us with an amazing view of the snowy Himalayan mountains. The great atmosphere there made it much easier to enjoy the entire day compared to hotter areas such as New Delhi or Varanasi.

Immediately after we settled into our hotel in McLeod Ganj, we set off on a late afternoon trek to what Dr. Maher referred to as a "wonderful place." It really was a wonderful place, as it was the residence of the Dalai Lama and its associated temple. Although we weren't able to enter the Dalai Lama's residence, it felt surreal to be standing less than a hundred feet away. What occurred the next morning still seems unbelievable to me... I actually got to see the Dalai Lama in person! Unfortunately I was unable to snap a picture of his Holiness as his car drove by us on the way to the airport, but I guess all that matters is that I saw him with my own eyes. Although the moment only lasted a few seconds, I felt a certain holy and spiritual energy in the air as he charismatically held up his hands to his audience as he passed by. I am eternally thankful to have had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see him.

As if that day wasn't already the best day ever, we proceeded to visit the Tong-Len hostel later that afternoon. This turned out to be one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. All of the children there smiled from cheek to cheek when we arrived. Listening to the stories of the children who gained the life-changing opportunity to receive an education and exit the slum life allowed me to realize the stark difference between poverty in America and poverty in India. Impoverished children in America attend school through compulsory education, by which they must attend school from age 5 until age 18. No such taxpayer funded system exists in India, which is why I have seen so many poor young children here begging on the streets. Most of the children at Tong-Len used to beg to help their families before being chosen by the grace of God to come to the hostel. Seeing these eternally happy children made me feel happy as well. I was delighted to meet all of them and truly hope that they make a powerful and positive impact on the world. They have already left a lasting impact in my mind with their influential stories. It would be a blessing to return to Tong-Len, a place that truly changed my perception of life, in the future.

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