From Australia to McLeod Ganj

Lha Main Photo 1Volunteer job at Lha: English Elementary Class and English Conversation Class

After nearly three and a half years of travelling, I decided to put my teaching skills and awful singing voice to good use.  I am from Australia and somehow found myself living in Mcleod Ganj and teaching Elementary English at Lha to Tibetans in exile.  I’ve always felt for the Tibetan community and their situation, their commitment to nonviolence and Buddhism had always resonated with me.

As I soon discovered, teaching students who know absolutely no English can be a challenge at first, it’s hard to know where to begin, and the puzzled looks they give you most days are not reassuring.   Thankfully I have a wonderful Tibetan teacher’s assistant, who can translate my jumble when things get a bit confusing, we are so grateful to Tsering Dolma for all her help and time.

The students are eager for new information, more phrases to allow them to communicate and express themselves, and knowledge about the world.  The student’s appreciation is overwhelming, I will never tire of the students saying “thank you, teacher, see you tomorrow,” at the end of every lesson.

The course is open to all, including my Spanish student.  As I can speak a little Spanish I occasionally assist her with definitions,  and as these are often repeated by the rest of the Tibetan students, I do wonder whether there are going to be Tibetans in Mcleod Ganj speaking Spanglish with an Australian accent!  The course is not open to monkeys as students, even though they try to climb through the window for a visit!

The moment I walked into Mcleod Ganj, it felt like home only with more impressive mountains. I grew up in Tasmania, and haven’t felt so much a part of a community since I left my hometown.  Here it’s hard to leave your guesthouse here without someone, from the shop keepers to the students and staff from Lha, stopping to have a chat and drink endless cups of tea with you.  This is where tea addictions and friendships begin. Through volunteering I have got to know so many people, their stories, their lives, their hopes, dreams and disappointments.  The Tibetan staff at Lha are warm and friendly and always there to help.  And then there is the Lha volunteer community. Quite a few of us are staying long term and we regularly get together to hike, go on day trips, eat meals together, and go out. It’s a nice mix of expats and locals and tea.

I am amazed by Tibetan hospitality and their openness about themselves and their lives, they have taught me so much about their culture, history and life in exile. The past six weeks have been amazing and I can’t wait for the next six.  And like many other volunteers have said “I’ll be back!”

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