Shampa Shares Her Volunteer Experience at Lha

Shampa 1Last summer during my stay in Dharamkot I met Wolfgang, a German traveler on a spiritual quest. He was a keen listener and well aware of the stubbornness that sets in after a certain age.

His willingness to challenge his own notions and accept new ideas made him a very interesting person to talk to. During one of our extended conversations, he asked me if I was a teacher. I had done some volunteer teaching at my work place few years ago as a weekend activity and I remembered how rewarding the experience had been. His question triggered me to consider it more seriously.

Soon after, I learnt about Lha and its volunteering options to teach language to Tibetans living in exile in town. I knew instantly that I was coming back to do it, not only for my re-found interest in teaching but also because over my repeated visits to the place, my knowledge of the Tibetan cause was increasing and with it, the desire to do my bit in whatever little way possible.! !

Shampa 2So when my summer project came about, I decided to try and merge the two things. For the first few days, I was attending what is called the conversation class. It was a lively mix of teenagers, middle aged men and monks. I met a few very interesting people. We spoke about anything and
everything, from aliens to Buddhism, insects, rains, Tibet, politics, dreams, traveling but food and Bollywood remained my favorite topics. It always seemed to light everyone up.

I made two very special friends, young boys, very enthusiastic to learn new things and show me around the place. We visited Norbulignka, the Indian village named after the Dalai Lama’s summer palace in Tibet and the upper TCV school, a special chain of schools set up by H.H. for the education and support of Tibetan children living in exile. ! !

In the meanwhile, at Lha I opted for the one to one tutorial. It seemed like a more focused approach and would also let me experience a new culture up close. She was a chirpy young nun, very eager to share her stories, so eager that she hardly ever listened. It was a wonderful experience being with her. We began our classes in her favorite cafe in the market over several cups of ginger honey lemon tea but soon moved to her house. A small, cozy looking room, with a bed, a book shelf and a gas stove.

The first time at her place, she made me lunch, her favorite chicken recipe, rice and perfectly round rotis. She spoke very often of her home in Tibet and how she wishes to go back some day. Immensely social, she is very active on WeChat, loves to cook for others and enjoys spending time with her friends, some of whom I met during our lessons at her house. It is very difficult to hold her attention for too long, so involving the internet, camera, eating, hanging around town, all become an integral part of lessons with her.

As eager as she was to learn a new world in English, she ensured that I knew what the Tibetan for it was. It was not just an amazing teaching experience but also the most exciting learning experience for me.! !

Apart from the students, Lha also has a friendly and ever helpful staff. I spent quite a few afternoons reading in the library and sharing a chat with the people here. I met many amazing fellow volunteers, some of us are very good friends now. I loved Mcleoddganj, the first time I visited here a few years ago and this wonderful experience with Lha has only multiplied this love. Thank you. ! !