This week our team of passionate volunteers share another summary from their Nepal and India Adventure below.
After a long 7 hour drive we finally arrived in Amritsar. We were hit with the heat and the crowds of people trying to sell us various Indian memorabilia, but the events ahead made it all worth while.
After a short break we made our way down to the Pakistani border, passing through various security checks and ques to get a good seat to watch the famous Wagah Border ‘Lowering of the flags’ ceremony. This ceremony is a daily military practice that the security forces of India and Pakistan have jointly followed since 1959. The ceremony takes place at Wagar border, part of the grand trunk road which originally was the only road that linked the two countries. We waited patiently whilst the crowd excitement grew. Soon the ceremony was under way, complete with chanting and full ceremonial uniforms. Both sides marched forward one by one or in pairs towards the gates where the flags were hung, kicking and performing extravagant gestures towards to gates. Finally, the flags were lowered and the ceremony came to an end.
By now it was dusk, so we decided to go to the Golden Temple to see it in all its beauty at night. Everything was lit up so the sight was incredible. The Golden Temple is the holiest temple for Sikhs. Nearly 100,000 people visit the temple each day. We walked through the crowds of people to the communal eating room. This is where everyone eats and cooks together. It really was an experience as they feed 60 to 80,000 people per day so to see this operation in full swing was great.
The next day we woke up early to go to the Golden Temple again, this time in daylight. We had more time to explore the temple and understand the importance it had to the Sikhs. Some of the boys bathed in the holy water around the temple and we all had a chance to bathe our feet.
Soon we were back in McLeod Ganj. We went back to our usual routines, which usually consisted of layed back breakfasts, teaching our students and conversation class in the afternoon. We all loved the experience of teaching the Tibetan refugees and gained so much from the volunteering. We found out so much about the situation in Tibet first hand from our students and it made a huge impact on us and made us passionate to campaign for a free Tibet when we returned home. Each day we also attended conversation class, so after the two weeks we got to know lots of people from different walks of life and each day was different.
On Wednesday we had the honour to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was visiting McLeod Ganj with the American congressional pannel, who pledged that America would help Tibetans get back their freedom. There were lots of emotional speeches about the situation in Tibet and how America would try to change this. Inbetween this there were various songs performed, including the national anthem and there was also some traditional dancing. Finally, we got to hear His Holiness speak. He was full of grace and just his presence was truly magical, unfortunately he talked in Tibetan, however my student told me he had talked about the one day that Tibet would be free.
On Friday we had our last day teaching and our last conversation class . Many of our students gave us presents. At conversation class we were presented with a scroll and scarf, thanking us for our volunteering work.
Our time here in Mcleod ganj has been truly amazing and we will miss it very much, but the rest of India is left to explore !