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Photo by Caleb Brooks

McLeod Ganj

On our first full day in Dharmsala, we went to the Tibet freedom museum, which details the history of Chin’as attack and subsequent occupation of the Tibetan plateau. We wandered through rooms papered with the stories of Tibetan refugees. An entire room was dedicated to the 148 Tibetans who have self-immolated (burned themselves alive) in protest of the systematic destruction of Tibetan culture and the Chinese occupation of Tibet. We learned about the journey of the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet for Dharamsala in 1959, 10 years after China first entered Tibet. Dharamsala is now one of many Tibetan settlements outside of Tibet, with over 80,000 ethnic Tibetans.

A few days after touring the museum, we met with a representative for Students for a Free Tibet. He told us about his personal journey with the movement, from his childhood in Tibet to his current work in preventing environmental degradation of rivers in Tibet. Students for a Free Tibet has chapters around the world, and they work to raise awareness for the plight of the Tibetan people.

We also heard from a Tibetan astrologer, who told us how the time, date, and location of where we were born can affect everything from our love life to our health. She described Tibetan astrology as an intersection of Indian and Chinese astrology. Tibetan astrology is highly calculated, and our speaker had attended 5 years of higher education in order to become an astrologer. She was able to tell us a little bit about ourselves from the day of the week we were born, but did not have time for full readings (I am meant to have a long life and a good husband, not to brag).