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March 31, 2011

Guess Who We Saw?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama waves to Westridge students as he leaves his monastery

After eating a delicious Tibetan breakfast, our group headed over to hear a speaker from the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), Tenzin Chokeyla. She talked to us about the situation in Tibet and the organization that she represents. TYC is the oldest and largest political movement associated with the struggle for Tibetan independence. Despite the Dalai Lama's advocation of the Middle Way, TYC has not changed its principle and still strives for independence for Tibet.

Okay. Give us a minute to compose ourselves before relaying this next bit of information. We realize that this is going to be going up on April Fools, but we are not kidding when we say that we saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his car and HE WAVED AT US! Not even caps lock can encompass the level of excitement that we felt at that moment. The Dalai Lama was going to Delhi from his residence in D'sala and so we lined the streets with hundreds of other people to catch a glimpse of him. It was unbelievable!!!

Afterwards, we went to the LIT to help Tibetans learn and practice their English. Many of them had incredibly moving stories, and we were all fascinated with their journeys.

Then we traveled back to the hotel and met our homestay families for the first time. Over chai and cookies, we connected with our respective homestay families and then went to our temporary homes for the next three days. All of the homestay amalas and palas (mothers and fathers) were friendly and welcoming, and we can't wait to get to know them better!

Kelley and Erika

P.S. Thanks to Mirannda for sharing this fabulous picture!

March 30, 2011

Windy Roads

Having a dance party at the village!

Waking up before sunrise we struggled to quickly pack our things and make our way to D'sala. At about 4:50am we were downstairs loading four cars full of students and luggage to make our ten hour journey to the home of the Dalai Lama.

On our way, we briefly stopped for breakfast and had a chance to stretch our legs. Afterwards we loaded back in to the cars and made another stop at a Punjab Village and interacted with the women and children. We were welcomed with open arms and danced with one another. The children were ecstatic to see us and took advantage of the opportunity of being in front of the camera and taking tons of photos with us. We introduced ourselves to one another and quickly bonded with one another over dance and an attempt to converse with each other. Just as we were in the middle of taking our photos it was time to continue our trip to D'sala.

When we arrived at our home we quickly refreshed ourselves and went out to dinner. Before dinner was served the power went out, and we took advantage of the intimate candle light dinner and made the best of returning back to a blacked out hotel room.


March 29, 2011

In Dharamsala

The full day drive from Delhi to Dharamsala gave the students plenty of opportunities to observe and interact with the more rural parts of India, where an estimated 70-80% of the country's population still lives.

The group reached the cooler temperatures of the Himalayan foothills and the dense pine forests surrounding the Dalai Lama's home-in-exile in the early evening, just in time for dinner and a good night's rest. Today they are diving in to learn firsthand about Tibetan culture.


March 28, 2011

Delhi Day

The group at Jama Masjid

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The group in front of India Gate

Hi everyone!

We've just finished our first full day in New & Old Delhi and we're absolutely exhausted. We started our morning by eating breakfast together and enjoying REAL chai tea - not the Starbucks fake. Afterwards we gathered together and had Deborah and Peter introduce us to the culture and what we should expect. Piling in 5 separate cars, we made our way to the Jama Masjid Temple, saw the prophet Mohammed's slippers, footprint, and a hair from his beard, then climbed a 150 step minaret. After having taken a billion photos with friends, we made our way back to meet with Deborah and Peter where we were surprised to find out that we were going to ride a rickshaw to the Red Fort. At the Red Fort we were given a brief history followed by time to take more photos and gather ourselves before lunch. For our first Indian meal we ate in New Delhi where each and every one of us devoured our food until we were stuffed. With a full stomach we drove to the India Gate and were confronted by starving children and beggars. During our ride from location to location we were faced by children extending a sad hand pleading for money. Our hearts were pulled at and we were filled with several different emotions that did not correspond. After visiting the India Gate we made our way to FabIndia for some SHOPPING! The hand woven clothing we found was stunning. From the designs to delicacy of each salwar or any attire sold, it was an experience to remember.

Veronica & Brittany

March 27, 2011

Delhi: Red clay, Incense, Asphalt After Rain

Hello families and friends!

When you last saw your dearly beloved children, wide-eyed and anxious, at LAX, we can guarantee we were a lot better rested and clean but are no less happy now. We have arrived in Delhi, safe and sound, after a two long flights and an exhilarating driving experience. Driving in Delhi is very much an interpretive dance, you're just praying everyone knows the right moves. We are staying the night in the World Buddhist Center and our neighbors are Buddhist monks. We are very lucky to be staying here and everyone is incredibly warm (in all meanings of the word) and welcoming.

One of our favorite things about India so far is the smell that instantly hit us as we walked out the airport. The most accurate description that people have agreed upon is a mixture of red clay, incense, asphalt after rain, and burning wood.

The drive, while thrilling, was eye-opening and some girls were shocked to see a Mercedes Benz dealership juxtaposed with an abandoned, worn-down building. Another surprise was that the majority of the ads around Delhi were in English, which is slightly comforting but took time to realize how strange it is.

Our guides, Peter and Deborah, met us at the airport and are really friendly and helpful.We had a light meal when we arrived at the Center and everyone has retreated to their rooms. Tomorrow we have been invited to join meditation before breakfast which many people are excited about. We are so excited to explore Delhi tomorrow in the daylight and would love to tell y'all more, but we are falling over with exhaustion at the keyboard.


-Mirannda H. and Charis R.

Safe arrival in Delhi

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The Westridge India 2011 Group Arrives in Delhi

Deb just confirmed that she has met the group (and all their bags) at the New Delhi airport and they are en route to the hotel for the evening.

More soon....

Pushing back from the gate...

Willa just called from her seat on the plane on the Newark tarmac to say, quickly, all are aboard and about to take off for New Delhi.

March 26, 2011

Passing the first Threshold Guardian

As Lao Tzu famously wrote, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."

In the case of our intrepid Westridge travelers bound today for India, the first step--clearing TSA security at LAX--has been successfully accomplished and only 7,900 or so miles remain! Willa just called to say the group is ready to board their flight to Newark and that she'd call again once they are about to board their onward flight to Delhi.

Stay tuned as the long-awaited adventure begins at last. And feel free to use the blog's comments feature if you'd like to add your voice here in the days ahead.

John Eastman