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with respect, gratitude, and love

Dear Abbey, Claire B, Claire F, Cleo, Elliott, Finley, Jacob, Jonny, Justine, Penelope, Pia and Sophia,

I am sitting and looking out at the poplar trees that surround the Nyanjen Guesthouse in Phyang and using stolen moments at our beautiful transference to write you all this note.

The budget tool is open in the background and a beautiful song called ‘Sunscreen’ by Ira Wolf is playing. Christy is sitting on her bed and prepping for our course mountain range activity on our travelling white board. For once, I’m not laughing uncontrollably at her jokes, or at myself.

It’s our day of transference and I have already cried about 11 times. I almost can’t find the words to tell you all how thankful I am for this summer. But I am going to persevere because it is so important for me to tell you how grateful I am.

I haven’t been an instructor for very long and yet, I am quite sure, I will never see a student-led ceremony quite like the one we had yesterday. There were songs, gratitude, reflection and so much love. You sat in a circle and told me how smart and funny I am, how much of a role model I am and one of you told me you’re a bit intimidated by me. And as kind as that is, I feel that I need to tell you the same. You are so smart. You are so so funny. You are wise beyond your years. You definitely intimidate me.

This job is not always easy, but the twelve of you have made it exactly that. At the beginning of this summer, I was exhausted, so overwhelmed by the intensity of instructor orientation and so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to be my best self for you. But you showed up with so much curiosity, an eagerness to learn and participate and a willingness to fail and recover. By day two I was in awe of your group. You have inspired me to do better at this job, to do better at life.

As you all harvested barley, helped your homestay parents cook dinner and played with little humans in Domkhar, Aditya, Christy and I sat in our homestay and read aloud your yaks. Every few minutes I had to wipe away tears. Your words were so moving, so validating, so important. Please keep writing. Your words are more powerful than you think. You are, quite literally, the future. I often feel frustrated and fed-up with our complex and seemingly increasingly bizarre world. But then I talk to you all. I see how talented you are, how compassionate and kind, how intelligent and sincere and feel reassured that the future of both America and the world at large are bright. So bright.

I think you would agree when I say that this summer wouldn’t have been as successful without my phenomenal co-instructors. Your father and mother have mentored and taught me as much as they have you.

Aditya- I am so glad that I got the opportunity to instruct with you. I have learned so much from you this summer. Perhaps, most importantly, that it is possible to teach and facilitate without being loud and shouty. You encouraged our students to be gentle teachers and I am so grateful that you showed me how to be one. I’ll try harder. You have also taught me a great deal about life, how one might go about living it and doing so with earnestness and humility. Thank you.

Christy- I remember thinking about instructing with you as though it was a pipe dream. And now we’ve made it happen. Today, when this course is almost over, I know with certainty that I am a better instructor because of you. You have been such a necessary mentor to me, but more importantly, a most wonderful friend. Your presence in my life has become essential and your compassion for the world’s crapiness is both baffling and inspiring. I can only say thank you, but know that I mean much more.

The mountains of Ladakh have always humbled me and now I can say the same about all of you. When speaking about the transition back to school or college and how that might be ‘boring’, Abbey very sagely said that school was a privilege. Just one among the 198439238 insightful things you have all said this summer. I hope you know that this month has been my absolute privilege and that I wish I had more time to spend with and learn from you.

I will always be curious about where you are and what you are doing. I will always hope that you will tell me. I won’t mind if you don’t. I love you so much and hope you know there is a girl in India who will always have your back.

I will be grateful to you and for you forever.

 

With respect, gratitude and love,

Uttara