Sonam and Lopsang, both 12, arrived in Dharamsala just as the sun rose over the mountain tops. “For eight days, we had trudged on through deep snow”, says Sonam. “I only had thin canvas shoes and I got frostbite on my feet and legs. It was so terribly painful. When we finally arrived at the refugee reception centre in Kathmandu in Nepal, I had to stay longer than the others, until my wounds had healed completely. During our journey I had to throw away almost everything I had packed. It was too heavy to carry. The only thing I have left as a memento from home is a pair of black and white photos of my grandparents. I love them and look up to them very much. They told me all about Tibet’s history."
Refugees from Tibet first go to the refugee reception centre in Kathmandu in Nepal. That is where Lopsang and Sonam met. When refugees come to Dharamsala in Northern India, they must first meet the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and get his blessing This is called having an ‘audience’. After that, the refugees begin school, go to a monastery or look for work. This is what happened when the boys came to India:
Sonam and his friend play cards at the refugee shelter
Dalai Lama speaks to the new arrivals.
“We will return to Tibet one day', he says. “But as long as we are refugees in India we must keep the Tibetan culture alive. And you children must study hard and look after your health."
After the talk, everybody is invited to greet the Dalai Lama and they all receive an envelope with a picture of Tibet’s national deity, holy pills to hang as an amulet around their neck and much more. With their new belongings under their arms, Sonam and Lopsang run home to pack. Their new life begins tomorrow!