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Published: June 30th 2010
Life in Mcleod is getting better by the day. Would I be having these experiences without LIT and Lhamo Tso though? I think not. So here I will write a little more about her and LIT, what they stand for and the amazing work they are doing.
I now spend my mornings sat at the bus station with Lhamo Tso while she sells her bread. I know I say everything is the highlight of my day, but she is too! I spend around half my day with her and still want to go back for more. If she wasn't so amazing I wouldn't be getting up at 5:30 to go and sit with her for three hours. She's like a ray of sun. You cannot help but fall in love with her and her incredibly sweet nature. She teaches me Tibetan, I teach her English and we share many an intimate detail from our lives. She's like my Tibetan best friend. Does anyone want to help me smuggle her back to England?
As I said, LIT also is making my time here so exciting, testing and rewarding! They contain the perfect ingredients for a well run non profit organisation.
They saw a cause that wasn’t being catered to here in Mcleod, that is, to give people a relaxed environment where they can learn first hand information about Tibet. They have skills that they can use to fulfil this goal. They are full of unique and fun ideas. But most importantly, they are truly committed to their cause. Financially they are living day by day, but their spirits are never dampened. Both Lauren and Sangpo, two of the founders, have a real energy about them that clearly leaks into every aspect of the centre. I’ve been getting more and more involved in the centre and despite how gratifying it is, I do crash every night. How Lauren and Sangpo can still seem full of life by 9.30pm (sometimes later) when they’re closing up after doing so much more than I, will remain a mystery to me.
Maybe it’s the army of volunteers they have that want to help out in every way possible. But I will bet you have a picture of many western volunteers all asking ‘is there anything I can do to help?’ but that isn’t quite the whole truth. Lauren and I are usually the only
two ‘westerners’ behind the scenes in the evenings. Many of the students, clearly grateful for the free education LIT provides them (being the only school in the area to be free of charge) they all want to help out in any way possible to repay the debt. The Tibetans aren’t just sitting there with their hands out asking for help. They’re helping the centre, which in return is helping them. It’s a beautiful relationship. Not only is it heart-warming but also amazing for me, because I get to hang out with Tibetan monks pretty much all day. Tibetans and especially Tibetan Buddhists, have the most inspiring nature. To give you an example, one Tibetan monk who served the longest political imprisonment sentence of 33 years, says that not once did he become angry with the men who tortured him. Despite the fact that they repeatedly placed an electric cattle prod in his mouth and made him kneel on ice while they electrocuted him, causing him to lose all his teeth. He feels no hatred towards them. He remains compassionate towards all. It takes one hell of a person to feel that way. The very people I am having the privilege
to share my life with right now.
But back to LIT…when Lauren first arrived in Mcleod, she was surrounded by Tibetans in exile, but didn’t have the opportunity to learn about their experiences. It’s not exactly the norm to walk up to a monk and ask them ‘so how did you escape Tibet…what happened to you?’ This all changed when she met Sangpo, whilst taking part in the protests regarding the killings in Tibet, in March 2008. She found a gateway into learning first hand stories of Tibet from Sangpo and his friends. They remained close and when in 2009 protests were arising again and nothing had changed in Tibet, they felt compelled to join forces and help change the situation in Tibet. LIT started out as a small cooking school, where Sangpo (a chef) would teach cooking classes and they would discuss the Tibetan situation whilst teaching the cooking lesson. This evolved into a fully fledged cultural centre and school with a jam packed schedule, just one year later. They now have many classes, including Buddhist philosophy, both Tibetan and English grammar, English conversation, sometimes other languages, yoga, dance or massage depending on the skills of volunteers and obviously, from where it all started, the Tibetan cooking classes. But where does the goal come in? How is this raising awareness for the situation in Tibet? This is where the nights come in. 4 nights a week events are held, including Monday night momo party, Tuesday thenthuk talk, Thursdays cultural evening and Friday night movies with Tibetan pizza. They’re mixing education with entertainment. The perfect way to do it. No-one wants to be lectured at in a monotonous tone where the best you can do is fight to stay awake. At LIT it is far from this scenario. In this way they’re appealing to everyone, even those who pretty much just come because it’s free and something to do! These same people leave after having learnt about the cause with a full stomach of traditional quality food and have done so in a welcoming environment where they can ask any question they like. Job done. They want to keep the fire of Tibet LIT and I truly believe they are doing so. They have certainly taught me more than I expected to learn.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to be done though, as there is. Fundraising for one thing. They’re living day by day, as I’ve said before, so there is always a worry that they cannot pay the rent and always hindering their efforts to keep their teaching stable as they cannot pay permanent staff. For this reason I am organising a festival. It will be full of Tibetan culture with an English fare twist, with tombolas, cake sales, and the like. So if you’re reading this and will happen to be in Dharamsala on Saturday the 2nd of July, come along and learn how to make and eat traditional Tibetan food. Watch (and join in if you like) with the traditional Tibetan fashion, music and dance show. Treat yourself to a t-shirt made by a local Tibetan artist at our T-shirt sale, or a delicious cake made by the best baker in Mcleod Ganj at our cake sale! My favourite part… win yourself a prize in our tombola or by playing some Tibetan games (their version of bingo)! Having tons of fun and all for a good cause… why wouldn’t you come?!
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