After 9 unforgettable days in Dharamsala, it was with a very heavy heart that I bid farewell to this most amazing city and home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Kelsang Chukie, the proprietor of the Pema Thang Guest House saw me off and presented me with Kata scarf, the traditional arrival / departure gift among friends, which made my eyes swell with both joy and sadness at the same time.
As my cab slowly pulled away and we began our downward journey back to Kangra Airport, my head was swimming the week’s many activities, the people I have met, and the sights and sounds of the city that so quickly and openly pulled me into its arms and has refused to let me go.
This week brought forth a lifetime of memories and afforded me the opportunity to attend 3 days of Buddhist teachings by H.H. in the Main Temple; the opportunity to meet so very many wonderful people that I can now sincerely call my friends and to create relationships that will indeed span this lifetime; the immense amount of progress I have made towards my Honors thesis topic of investigating the role and impact of new social media on the Tibetan diaspora living in exile, which to my utter amazement, included conversations with the executive director of a local NGO (The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy), Tenzin Geyche Tethong – the husband of Kelsang Chukie and former secretary to H.H. for nearly 40 years, and my friend Yonten – who came to Dharamsala from Tibet, on foot, nearly 12 years ago and now owns and operates 2 small cafes, speaks decent English, and great Hindi. Each of these people made for an incredible week and were paramount in helping me answer, and ask, the right questions regarding my research. I am proud to call each of them my friend. I also took in the sights of Dharamkot, a small hippy type town about a half hour’s walk from McLeod Ganj and ended up bumping in to H.H. personal interpreter, Chhime, who somewhat remembered meeting me 2 years prior when H.H. presented a lecture on the power of education at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. I won’t mention the Sufi Qawali music concert I took in or the incredible restaurants and coffee shops that permeate this mile high city.
I am sitting in the Delhi airport waiting for my connecting flight to Dehradun and my return to the Landour Language School in Mussoorie for another 6 weeks of intensive Hindi language study.
Ahhhh, Dharamsala…These last 9 days have left a deep and never fading imprint on my heart and soul and I anxiously await the next time we may cross paths again.