During November 2011, I left Australia for India to spend 3 weeks in McLeod Ganj teaching English to Tibetan refugees at the Learning and Ideas for Tibet or L.I.T, and a week sight seeing through Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Searching for a rewarding experience and having a keen interest for culture, the opportunity to volunteer and travel via Ekno Experience presented itself. As a female travelling on my own to such a diverse country, naturally I was a bit apprehensive. Sharon Thrupp, the director of Ekno was brilliant. From the very beginning, Sharon answered my many, many questions and kept me informed. My whole trip down to the smallest details was taken care of quickly and thoughtfully. The support I received throughout the whole, amazing experience was outstanding. Although I did travel on my own, never did I feel alone as Sharon and her dedicated local team were always there making sure I was okay. There knowledge of the area is extensive which allowed me to learn a lot about the Tibetan culture, India and the best places to eat, shop and visit.
Teaching English at L.I.T was a very gratifying experience. Monday to Friday was spent immersed in the Tibetan culture as dedicated Monks, Nuns and other Tibetans would enthusiastically come to class with their pen and writing book ready to soak up whatever knowledge I was able to pass on. Their eagerness to educate themselves in order to better themselves and their country is inspirational. We also shared many laughs along with stories of isolation they are enduring. The group of dedicated Buddhists who run L.I.T are some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I have ever met. I believe I learnt much more from them as what they learnt from me. The people I met and the experiences I had will always hold a special place in my heart. I would go back tomorrow if I could. Weekends were pre-organised with sight-seeing trips, shopping, eating great Indian food and learning about spiritual wisdom. The countryside I was fortunate enough to see along the way was breathtaking.
After my stint in McLeod, my husband flew over and we spent the week together sight seeing the Golden Triangle. This was a real eye opener and completely different to McLeod Ganj. Booking a self-paced tour through Ekno was the best decision we could have made. Accommodation, transport and local knowledge was all organised which was a blessing as India could be incredibly overwhelming at times. The sights, smells, sounds were absolutely amazing.
Everywhere you looked there was something going on. Indian culture is so completely different to Western culture. It seems there are no road rules and time is just something that exists, but not to be taken seriously. The history behind the places we visited was incredible – the colossal Forts, the Taj Mahal, the Black Taj and Baby Taj. The memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, ancient Mosques and palaces were mind-blowing. Through Ekno’s connections, we had the benefit of fluent speaking guides who knew the complete history and connections of these places. They also told us the do’s and don’ts and also had thorough knowledge of the area being local.
All in all, the trip I planned to get me out of my comfort zone and enable me to grow more as an individual was an experience I will always remember. The history, people and culture of India is like no other country I have visited. I have already started saving to go back.