My Appreciation for Storytellers

September 20th – October 1st

The Act of Storytelling

Storytelling: A beautiful tool of communication I have always appreciated. I am not necessarily talking about the stories that begin with, “Once upon a time…” Rather, I am talking about the stories each and every one of us buried deep inside us. The stories about our lived experiences and our journeys of hardship, loss, heartache, perseverance, courage, and recovery. Storytelling, and story exchange, has helped me understand so much about the world and myself. 

I was born in America, but I grew up hearing about the stories of war, persecution, genocide, and displacement which generations before have endured. The previous generations had every reason to be angry at the world and yet they still managed to have hope in their eyes and compassion in their hearts. Ever since I was a child I admired the courage and strength of those before I had. 

With so much literature, information, and technology around us all the time it is easy to forget to have meaningful conversations with those around us–we often are so restricted by our busy schedules and responsibilities. For a long period of time, storytelling and story exchanging were absent in my life; however, recently, I have been so humbled hearing the stories of those around me. 

My appreciation for storytelling was renewed in my World Geography class a year ago through a project called “Migration Journey” and again this past summer while being a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar at the University of Washington. To hear the conservation stories of my cohort was absolutely touching and empowering. My time in McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala, was no different, inspiring me and deepening my appreciation for storytelling.

I was lucky enough to have caught the sunrise one morning

Little Lhasa

Located in the Western Himalayas is the city of McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala and the current home to thousands of Tibetans in exile. The town’s large population of Tibetans and for hosting the official residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (HHDL) gave the town the name ‘Little Lhasa.’

During my stay in Little Lhasa, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit amazing sites, institutions, and organizations. For example, some of the places include the Central Tibetan Administration, Tsuglag Khang (HHDL’s temple), Men-Tse-Khang (Sowa Rigpa) Museum, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dolma Ling Nunery, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, and Students for A Free Tibet. Together these places showed me the importance of cultural preservation and innovation. Learning about cultural preservation and innovation were just a couple of the themes out of the many we touched while we were there. To capture all that I learned into a blog post will be impossible. There were so many things that happened that will always stay with me–I can probably write a book describing every little detail of the conversations, lectures, and site visits that have touched me.

However, what really stuck with me were the stories that the locals, co-researchers, and my homestay family kindly shared with me. I’ve been so humbled hearing about the stories of lived experiences and journeys of recovery, relearning, and redemption of the Tibetans in Little Lhasa–their stories came from so deep within. No wonder I am still left blown away by their courage to dig deep into the rawness of their people’s past to understand their own experiences of the present. How admirable.

In the midst of all the traveling and learning, Little Lhasa reminded me that there are amazing stories around us all the time, we just have to be open to hearing the voices of those around us. In addition, we also have to be brave enough to share the stories we keep deep inside us. Storytelling allows us to understand ourselves and each other.

Photos of moments and places in Little Lhasa I will forever cherish.

Meeting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

A man of grace. A man of inspiration. A man of resilience. A man of compassion. I never thought this day would never come, to have been in the presence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was a privilege I did not deserve. Our encounter is one I will always hold close to my heart.

Library for Tibetan Works and Archives

The Library for Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) was founded in 1970 by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and has become one of the best places in the world to learn about the Tibetan culture, history, and Tibetan Buddhism. The mission of the LTWA is to preserve and promote the Tibetan culture by storing plethora of Tibetan resources; just to name some, at the LTWA, one can find resources such as Tibetan artifacts, scriptures, photographs, and manuscripts.

Meeting Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration, Lobsang Sangay

In 2012, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) inaugurated the title Sikyong (President) to serve as head and the political leader of the CTA. Prior to 2012, the Dalai Lama was the political leader. Sikyong Lobsang Sangay has served since 2012, making him the first Sikyong of the CTA.

We were so fortunate to have been an audience of his. In our time with him, he deepened our understanding of the role, mission, and goals of the CTA, the lives of Tibetans in exile, and contemporary politics relating to Tibetans. In addition, he shared with us his story on the lived experiences and journeys that led him to be where he is today.

Hearing him speak left me feeling empowered.

Here are some scenic pictures I captured!

The view from Tsuglag Khang (HHDL’s temple)
The view from my home stay house patio! Isn’t McLeod Ganj gorgeous
A picture I captured while searching for Tsuglag Khang (HHDL’s Temple)
Side trail to Bhagsu Waterfall
Lower Dharamsala

Pictures from the day we met His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Thank you for reading!!!

Published by quincyyangh

Junior at Gustavus Adolphus College, Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) Scholar, and Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar.

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