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On This Course I Learned….

On this course I learned…..

About resourcefulness, community, and exploration. In Sittong we spent an entire morning preparing lunch. We pounded rice, cut all the vegetables, grinded the spices, and killed a chicken. While many of my friends wouldn’t watch the cutting of the chicken, I was in awe by how resourceful Sharon’s family was. No part of the chicken went to waste. I was shocked by the amount of effort that went into pounding rice, and from that day on I’ve appreciated my full plates of rice and dal significantly more. Before we ate the meal we had all spent hours making, we all took a moment of silence to appreciate our food. I felt so lucky in that moment to be a part of the community in Sittong, even for such a short time, because what the meaningful morning helped me understand. Sittong showed me what true community looks like. At home I associate “community”  with my civic education program, my sports teams, and my friends. The families in Sittong taught me what a community should look like. I’ve never seen such a welcoming, caring, grateful and dedicated people. My homestay family consisted of my ama, apa, bai, and bhaini, but for the nights I stayed there, my little cousins stayed with us too. I’d come home after a long day of language lessons and farming to see my ama making tea for me with her friend who worked a store on the road in front of our house. Her daughter, who is 3, would be in my room touching my hairbrush in fascination. At 4:45 PM, my sister Sheha would come home from school, and we’d walk down the road to meet up with her best friend, Leoom to go to the church. Everyday I looked forward to dinner with my family. Yes, my Ama was a fantastic cook, but I loved sitting in the tiny kitchen, Sheha, Ronnie and I on a bench, my Apa on a stool, and my little cousin, Deeju on the floor , and a feeling a complete sense of belonging. This family lives in an environment so different than mine, eat different foods, and speak a different language, but I still felt a home. I felt safe and loved with them. I realized I felt this way on the last night, and this understanding really surprised me. Without meaning to, my family gave me an invaluable lesson about how it should feel to be part of a community. Every place we visited I was able to explore the physical place but also my own mind. At home we are always distracted. Friends, college, drama, and social media fill my mind constantly. At first I hated the boredom and the lack of things to do on a car ride, or during down time in homestays, but after Rumtek I took advantage of those times to let my mind wander. Overall I’m so grateful for what this trip taught me about myself and what it means to be part of something.

Much more about myself. Even though I came on this course to learn about Sikkim and West Bengal, I also found myself discovering new things about my own preferences and limits in the process. For one thing, I definitely didn’t realize how much weather, food, and privacy, and cleanliness affected my mood. That said, at the same time I learned the extent to which certain things were more difficult for me, I also learned that I was capable of enduring much more than I had thought, and I believed I came out much more resilient having face certain challenges. I learned that I am stronger and more capable of adapting to different situations than I gave myself credit for and that I will likely rise to the challenge more frequently in the future if I gave myself the chance.

About others lives and myself as well. I learned more about helping the people close to me and recognizing what they might need. I learned about the culture here too, and all the time we are learning something from our instructors. I have learned more about other cultures, how to cook new dishes (my homestay sister taught me how)… I learned lots of little things but I’m’ sure that I will bring what I learned in India into my life at home. I also learned how to take a cold bucket shower!

Everything I wanted to learn and expected to learn. But I also learned a lot of things that I wasn’t expecting to learn.  For expected, I learned about music, culture, religion, how people live and as much as I could about the Indian culture. For unexpected, I learned these things mostly at my homestays. I learned to treat everyone as if they were family, regardless of their connection to you. Also, how India is so vast, regarding not just size, but culturally, linguistically, their traditions, religions, and many other things, and how people are so kind and have such large hearts here. I experienced that when I went to my homestays and although they didn’t know me or anything about me they opened up their homes to us and gave us food and love (a lot of love!), really treating us like we were part of their community/family!

A lot about myself and the way in which I can create my own happiness by what I decided to take our leave from different situations and moments in my life. I learned that some things don’t have to be perfect or ideal for me to learn from them. And more than anything, from the Kempo at Rumtek, I learned that ignorance is when one’s own suffering prevents them from showing kindness and compassion to others. On another note, I learned a new appreciation for other parts of the world and cultures that differ from my own. I learned that I do in fact like showering in cold water out of a bucker, or eating bitter gourd, or planting rice, or (surprise) singing!  I have come to appreciate things such as bug spray, toilet paper, and clean clothes a whole lot more, and I have been reminded of the happiness that small things, such as a game of soccer can bring to an entire village. I have learned that I can be happy, sad, exhausted, energized, and crazy in one day and that dogs don’t like being stepped on (even if it’s accidental). I have learned many things on this course, and I am forever thankful for the memories I have made in, and the things I will take away from India.

About people’s values and how different they can be. From my homestay mother, waking up at three am to my to meditate because it was more important than a full nights sleep. Food, water, and rest are basic needs and valued differently based on one’s access to each. After a day of trekking in the rain, a cup of hot tea becomes much more appreciated. I want to return to the US keeping with me a greater appreciation for all that I have and am able to do, and remember what merits value and what is unnecessary in order to lead a happy life.

About what is important to me in my life. Being away from home with no connection to anyone made me value the love I get from home. This course inspired me to look more into different cultures and exploration. I realized that I really want to live this life to the fullest and experience as much of what this earth has to offer as I can. The whole trip has made me put my life into perspective and I’ve realized how lucky I am to have the opportunities that I have.

Words cannot describe every single thing I have learned on this trip, but I can explain some main lessons that have come to mind. I learned the importance and feeling of community. The students on this trip act as a group that is supportive of everyone. The families of Kalimpong and Sittong have known each other for so long they can associate certain character traits by which family they have come from. I also learned the true price of meat. Each service of meat has come from an animal that has suffered and given the ultimate sacrifice, something that I have witnessed firsthand. I learned that by controlling my mind, you can control your life. In Rumtek, we went on a retreat and listened to the wise words of monks. They are very friendly.  I learned how to plant rice, to farm, to make knives, and to wash clothes properly by hand. I learned a lot about myself.