I'm taking home my curiosity, newfound faith in life, quality friendships, and pieces of Bhutan in the form of images and knowledge.

            I found that curiosity was really at the center of my learning over the past two weeks. I asked so many questions out of curiosity, things I never would've learned had I not been curious and inquisitive. It felt like learning for its own sake, not for a test or a grade, but just satisfying a question mark in my head. I also appreciated how I could kind of drive this process, because I could ask people to elaborate on things that I wanted to know more about. I sat with one of the speakers at dinner when we were at ELC high school, and I got to ask him about questions I had harbored in my mind for a long time, about regions near Tibet and the urbanization of those spaces. I really want to hold this curiosity close to my heart, and try to explore more of the world this way.

            A number of factors have come together to restore faith in myself and the future - meditations and reflections, sporadic knowledge of Buddhist teachings that could be applied as universal truths and as ways of life, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, beautiful temples and mountain views, and appreciation from others. I had been stuck in an unhelpful mindset, had many doubts about myself, and I really needed to be mentally and physically away from my life for a little while. In Bhutan, I went about and learned about the things I was truly passionate about (culture, history, hiking, reading), and I felt that some part of me that had fallen apart was restored. I no longer had strained, fixed views on things like grades, academic success, or how many people I befriended. I let go of the lines that had bound me so tightly I wasn't able to see the light all around me. It feels like a weight had just sunk back into myself, reassuring me about everything ahead.

            When we finally came to the gates at New Delhi Airport, already having bid farewell to Miraya, I had been sad for a while, emotions that fluctuated by various degrees. I was so glad to be able to hug every single person, and see that the group all looked at me so sincerely, which made me so happy and so grateful, because it somehow made me feel validated. In the same sense, I was relieved that I had made good friends at ELC high school, some of them even made me cards, gave me souvenirs, and we took photos together. It felt so pure, these friendships, because we weren't trying to gain anything off of each other, and we weren't competing for anything, we were just cooperating and dancing and learning and having fun.

            Bhutan has left its mark in my mind, in my photo album, and in the form of the many souvenirs I brought home. I can still remember the intricate patterns inside the temples we visited, how all the bright colors fit together so well, how I could make out the chords chanted by the monks and nuns. I remember reading about Bhutan's politics, trying to remember the ministries in Thimphu city and the key elements that make Bhutan unique. I still have all the photos of mountains, villages viewed from the mountainside, photos of the exterior of temples, and of all the wonderful people with whom I shared these views. Bhutan will also be with me in the kira lying in my closet, the fridge magnets with Punakha Dzong, postcards, and purses made of unique Bhutanese textile. I will physically and mentally carry these parts with me, as I carry on with my own journey.

            I wish I could be back in Bhutan at some point of my life, maybe next year, maybe ten years later, maybe twenty. It would be wonderful just to be in the same geographical location, perhaps finding a little bit of the vibes of this summer left over in my veins. Perhaps I would visit the same temples and finding different details, meet the same people and connecting again... relive a summer dream. One other thing I learned from all the bumpy rides on this trip is how to not regret losing anything, but be content that something happened in the first place, to be grateful, to do additions and not subtractions. Everything is a gain, not a loss.

- Skylar