Journey to India: Gracious and grateful reflections

Mount Madonna School students gather for a class portrait on a

Their journey started months ago. But 15 student from Mount
Madonna School have completed their journey in India. Their
two-week venture is known as the Vidya Dharma (Path of Knowledge)
Project – part of MMS teacher Ward Mailliard’s two-year

Value in World Thought

Their journey started months ago. But 15 student from Mount Madonna School have completed their journey in India. Their two-week venture is known as the Vidya Dharma (Path of Knowledge) Project – part of MMS teacher Ward Mailliard’s two-year “Value in World Thought” program.

For two weeks in April, Morgan Hill MMS students have written about their experiences as they travel India – including a meeting with the Dalai Lama, no less – and sent photos straight from the scene. You can read and see more about their travels right here.

Today’s entry is “Reflections on India.”


Emma Petersen, MMS senior

May 3: “When looking back on our trip to India so much comes to mind. I think of all the unusual sights we saw, people we met, experiences we had, and the memories we made. When people ask me, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” the first thing that pops into my mind is the Sri Ram Ashram.

When I think about it a little more, however, it’s so hard to pinpoint just one experience. After all, we interviewed His Holiness the Dalai Lama, what can top that? Then I think of all the amazing people that had some part in our journey, who took time out of their lives just to help us; many of whom hadn’t even met us yet when they committed to helping!

They put so much trust into what we were doing and what our teacher, Ward Mailliard, said about us, that they were willing to help, even with little things like guiding us through train stations or helping us pick out the hottest Indian trends, so we could feel good in clothes we weren’t used to wearing. Looking back on the many ways people assisted us truly touches my heart.

During our two weeks in India, we visited four very different schools and each was wonderful in its own way. At Heritage School, for example, the kids are all so smart, and not afraid to stand up for what they thought. We had a lively conversation about how to teach ethics, and it turned into quite a debate, with people trying to prove their points and all of their points were articulate and insightful. Pathways World School where we went next was a whole “different universe.” The students there are from all over the world, with more than 40 nationalities represente! We spent 4 hours at Pathways, though it felt like so much longer. I made many new friends and didn’t want to leave.

Later, in Haridwar, we were guests at Sri Ram Vidya Mandir, which is the school associated with the Sri Ram Ashram. This school was a more traditional Indian school: the kids had to stand in perfectly straight lines first thing in the morning, by grade, and say prayers. The kids there are very serious about school and are focused on the goal of passing the 10th class test and getting out of high school. Many of the kids we met here were very focused on their future and what they want to do with their lives. This was unlike other kids we met during our trip, who were mostly uncertain of what they wanted to pursue or do when they get older, and this is very unusual for Indian children.

The last school we visited was the Tibetan Children’s Village in the Himalayan foothills of Dharamsala. This school is dedicated to helping keep the culture of Tibet alive. Because of everything going on in Tibet, a lot of families send their kids to India, where this school offers a safe haven. They live on campus and go to school and practice traditional Tibetan culture, so as to not forget where they came from. Many of the kids we met here hadn’t seen their parents in years and for being so young and so far from home, I found them to be very strong people. Almost all of these kids want do something improve conditions in their homeland. After college, they said, they want to figure out a way to return to their parents and help save Tibet.

All of the kids we met throughout our trip were so moving and so comfortable with who they are, even through all the hard times they have endured. It was very inspirational. Many of the kids related easily to me and my class, and I made many friends. My classmates and I gave our email addresses to many of the kids, and when we came home and got onto Facebook, we had so many friend requests! All of kids were so caring and excited that we had been able to come to India.

This trip will forever be with me, and I am trying to bring back what I learned there and put it into my reality now, and not make it a thing of the past that I just ‘experienced’. The time I had there was life changing and very moving, and there isn’t a way that I could have not been affected by it or the people we met. I could never express in words, the gratitude I have for the people that allowed this to happen. First being our teacher, Ward Mailliard, second being our school and parents, and third being all the people in India helping us get the interviews, figure out where we were staying, what we were eating and of course, still allowing time for us to shop! I will always be grateful for this experience and will carry it with me throughout my life.


“On ethics and living”

Noah Limbach, MMS senior

May 4: “Jet lag, train rides, cricket, the sensory overload of Old Delhi and the serenity of the Golden Temple, the luxurious Taj Palace hotel and the YWCA hostel, singing “One Day,” car horns, the smiling faces at the Ashram, the pulsing masses at Aarti and elderly Tibetans mumbling prayers as they walked the streets, the smells of burning trash and Indian food, small group discussions, excitement, confusion, contrast, challenge, connection, inspiration, the Dalai Lama_s infectious laugh, and Krishna Sharan’s grinning face as he frantically scrambled over our suitcases to escape the moving train. Just a few outstanding memories from the two weeks I spent in India; a brief peek into a country so vast and varied that no one could possibly comprehend it.

We skimmed the surface of thousands of years of history, adding in our own small way to the infinitely complex web of experience and memory that defines India today. If there is one thing I took away from India, it is a sense of deepened wonder and curiosity about the world I live in. The spirit of wanderlust, drugged into sleep by the comforts and petty worries of everyday life was once again awakened within me. Like Rama, in the ancient Hindu epic, “Ramayana,” discovering his true destiny when faced by the terror of the demon army, an encounter with the intensity, diversity and (barely) controlled chaos of India has reminded me of my duty to myself to experience as much of the world as I can, because in the end, genuine experience is all that really matters. The day after I returned, I saw a marathon runner with the words DIE LIVING tattooed across his chest. Every day, when he looks in the mirror, he is reminded of his commitment to truly experiencing the world, even if it kills him.

When I was in Guatemala, a fellow traveler said to me that he could never truly know himself unless he subjected himself to every possible situation, and by traveling, he meant to come as close to this as he could. The focus of our trip ha been the question of how to integrate ethics into the classroom environment, and encourage students to build a strong, independently formed set of values to guide them. When in India, I realized that the reason ethics cannot be truly taught in a classroom is because school does not provide the diversity of experience necessary to form them and test them simultaneously. The best we can do in school is to build a rudimentary framework of ideas to help us process what we see once we leave.

I also realized that in terms of the Learning Journey, everything I have yet experienced, even my travels to other countries are still part of the first phase, the Call. All the small journeys so far have really only awakened my interest and helped me to keep moving on, if each such experience continues to inspire me further, I wonder if I will actually ever reach the real journey. I hope that I, too, can die living.”

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