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A sadu sitting along the ghats of the Ganges River. Photo by Jen Goings, India Semester.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough . . .

After a very pleasant afternoon rain here in Dharamshala, the sky to the north cleared and we had a dramatic view of the two snow-covered peaks that signal the beginning of the Himalayas between India and Tibet. After hearing from one of the directors of a local organization dedicated both to publicizing the present-day events in Tibet and to supporting political prisoners who have been freed, I couldn’t help but look at those mountains and imagine the thousands of original exiles—and those who came after crackdowns at home—risking and losing their lives in their quest for survival and freedom. As a group we have had challenges on this trip: a very long plane ride, extreme heat and seeming chaos in Varanasi, a structure of activities that may have been too ambitious at times; the sensory overload of the Delhi Railway station and the uncomfortable (but, thankfully, relatively short) train ride to Pathencot, a town three hours south of here. Getting used to a country so different and at times so uncomfortable has resulted in some real anxiety. Some of us have struggled with the intensity of the scenes unfolding before us, and our instructors have worked individually with those needing to express their emotions. And witnessing these things so far away from home is not easy. But when I look up at these mountains and envision the icy walk for survival that so many risked their lives for, I hope we can see that our struggles, though real, are relatively minor ones. The students have embarked on their long home stays here in town. We prepared by sharing their experiences in Varanasi and discussing how they might improve their stays this time around. We hope the gracious hospitality of the Tibetan people results in special memories and some very intentional learning. The journey is half over, and we are making plans to share ideas on how we can make the second half joyous for everyone. Until next posting . . . Jake