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A practiced hand paints a thanka. Photo by Cara Starnbach, North India Program.

Final Thoughts

Tashi Dalek, Julley, and Namaste,

I find it difficult to put my experience in India into words because, to an extent, I don’t exactly know how. These past six weeks have been so deeply personal, I don’t think I fully understand the impact they have had on me as a traveller, as a student, and as a person. While I may not know what this impact is right now, I have a feeling it is a deeply profound one that may take me longer than I realize to understand.

In terms of what I have learned, it seems almost infinite. As I am writing this, I am laughing at myself. How could I have considered myself a true global citizen when it is apparent now that I knew so little about India, Tibet, rural communities, and so much more. I have learned so much, it is impossible to fit it into one Yak post. But I can say this: In India’s chaos there is a striking beauty that I have only begun to scratch the surface of.

Besides the knowledge I gained by filling up the pages of my notebook, I have learned things that are so much deeper, things about myself. This trip pushed me and showed me what my limits are.  It allowed me to discover qualities I actually possess versus ones I thought I possessed. It has illuminated and reaffirmed the things I value while teaching me new values as well. This trip acted as the launch pad to a much more complicated and convoluted self-exploration that I think will last for a very long time.

While this trip was an individual one, it would not have been the same trip without the influence of those who accompanied me. My instructors have become very genuine role models for me. They are three people who I look to for guidance, advice, and knowledge of all kinds. I admire them so much, in fact, that I wish to follow in their footsteps and influence others as they have influenced me. If I turn out to be half the person they are years from now, then I would be very proud of myself. While my instructors, who I think of more as friends, were by my side throughout this entire journey, others who I only crossed paths with also greatly impacted me. Tashi Dolma, for example, is a person I will never forget. Tashi was my homestay mother in the rural village of Taar. She and her beautiful family were so full of love, life, laughter, and compassion. They made Taar village seem like a little piece of paradise. I learned so much from Tashi and her family, and we grew so close, that by the end of the fifth day in Taar I felt like part of an extraordinary family. So much so that at 4:30 in the morning, as we left Taar for our trek, in the midst of a tearful goodbye, Tashi made me promise to come back and visit, and I most definitely will.

In order to stop myself from writing about my experience, because I could go on forever, I will end by telling you the one thing I find most important that you know. India has changed me, how exactly I cannot say, at least not yet. It is a journey I must continue on my own in order to find out.