Friday, September 11, 2009

Anticipating India

By Laurie Wong
Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching graduate

The first day of school for my Professional Development Program (PDP) at SFU has finally arrived! On October 3, I will be leaving for Dharamsala (pronounced Da-ram-sa-la), India with 15 other students and one faculty associate as part of the International Teacher Education Module. We’ll be there for a little over two months.

Dharamsala is in a district called Kangra and is located in a northern state of India called Himachal Pradesh which borders Pakistan to the west and Tibet to the east. It is about a 12-hour drive north from Delhi and is perched across the lower ridges of the Dhauladar Range, which is the part of the southern spur of the Himalayas.

Dharamsala is the home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and approximately 9,000 Tibetan refugees. We will be working in a Tibetan refugee settlement and will be teaching in one of three schools. Two schools are K-12 with most children boarding because they are orphans either due to the death of their parents or because their parents are still stuck in Tibet.

We will be mainly teaching English and doing extracurricular activities with the students. Some of us will also be working in an adult school of mostly women, many of them still suffering from the psychological shock of a dangerous five-month escape from Tibet to India over the Himalayas on foot.

Over the summer, our faculty associate Mati Bernabei gave us reading and writing assignments to prepare our minds for this extraordinary experience. I read several novels about the lives and the cultures of people in India (by Rohinton Mistry) as well as several books written/translated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I also watched many documentaries on India and about the Dalai Lama.

We have already started bonding with one another with an overnight retreat. I think we will have lots of fun learning and experiencing challenges together in India. Mati has traveled to Dharamsala, Nepal and other places in India over the last 20 years. She has a wealth of knowledge and has many close friends in the region. I feel very safe traveling with her! Just 22 more days to go.

Laurie Wong will be filing stories for doug during her adventures in India – stay tuned.