Saying Hello to Everyone You Meet

Volunteer Job at Lha: English Teacher

By  Addison Kamb from the United States

I was raised by a former Buddhist nun from Myanmar – raised to value meditation, raised on mantras of peace, raised with a respect of the way Buddhists view the world. So when I was applying for a fellowship at my school, the University of Michigan, that funds students to work and research in India, and I stumbled across Lha, it felt like a perfect fit.

Addison Kamb with Students
Addison Kamb with Students

I had always longed for an opportunity to learn from a community so deeply connected to Buddhist principles, and to give back in the small ways that I can, closing the circle that my caretaker opened when she first held my two year old hands.

So I embarked on a 28 hour journey to Delhi followed by a long and bumpy bus up to Mcleod Ganj, alone for what felt like the first time, truly alone. I was to teach English, a language I do not remember learning. I was anxious, excited, the big question circling my mind, “Am I up to the challenge?”

Two months later I was packing up my things in my cosy guesthouse room situated at the bottom of the seemingly bottomless stairs on Jogiwara Road. I had taught a bit of beginners English and advanced English, I had helped Lobsang with some data entry, picked up trash on the road, and led countless conversations about debate, the existence of God and football teams. I had made friends and lost friends, trekked to Triund, eaten my weight in momos and watched the sunrise from the temple. I had found a community of people to whom I owed much and who still called me teacher. That, to me, is what I will remember from Lha – the community.

When you lose your home, your connection to the land, that is a huge blow to your sense of community, of belonging. What Lha does for the people living in Mcleod Ganj, and what it did for me in fact, is build back up the community, and provide not just physical aid but educational and emotional and spiritual aid. It was, for me, a place of gathering, of bright hellos and amused “tashideleks”. It was where I felt safe, and what a gift it is to grow from anxiety to safety in a new place. When I first met Sarah, a dedicated volunteer and now a life long friend, she told me “you seem like someone who will come back”. I think she’s right. Until then, if you are in Mcleod, please pet the local dogs for me and say hello to everyone you meet.