Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sachin’s favourite pics

Well- that is just a title for the blog. Doesn’t mean that I don’t care for other pictures taken by me or others.. But since, I dare not turn an AI collaborative blog into a personal picture gallery of sorts- I am posting just a few of the pictures, which, to my mind, give the glimpse of the vast expanse, space, which last few weeks have been- both in physical and psychological sense for me..
Well- the small comments about the pictures - I just dont know how to align them with the pictures. So let us turn it into a guessing game and see how many you get correct.. Just needs a little bit of Yoga concentration!

Rope trick by Jon on an Indian Road

Someone is homesick and writing feverishly under a beautiful sky..

Nishu in an inhospitable canada (role play)!

Shepherd keeping an eye on his flock!

A shepherd sleeping in forest..

People from a different world..

A picnic at the top of the world..Was it worthwhile?

Vast mind in a small body- Vaster Spirit behind a small mind..

Hope you all have moved in a new space, new rhythm, equally vast, equally fun!


Monday, June 18, 2007


My trip was started with lots of apprehensions, whether I will be able to live up to the expectations of being a translator or not or will I’ll be able to overcome all language and cultural barriers or not …but I tried. In jakatar I found my unknown India and love it too much .The whole group including Madeleine, afrousheh, Nora, sara,john,trish, raman,abhishek,Chelsea,Lauren,mohini,nishu I really love them all. As you all were curious about India, I was too curious about you all. I really loved the Canadian culture. I still remember once Chelsea telling me that she feels really awkward wearing such colorful and nice clothes in front of the jaunsari villagers, this showed her love and care for jaunsari people. I was also touched by the ‘thanks and sorry culture’ of Canada. I never been so close to everyone but I was always showered with love and care. Trish and Madeleine always used to encourage me during hikes.Jaunsari culture is very rich in every aspect. They shower love and affection even to strangers and they all are always ready to give their precious time to us. It always been a good time asking them questions like “are you married? Or how many children you have? Being a translator, I enjoyed every translation because of huge support from my team member including Jonathan who was always used as bouncer (I am sorry john).during translation whenever I found problem with special keywords, dr.sachin always used to help as Google search engine. It was always been a wonderful time walking with nishu and Dhanehwari ji and sometimes with Belum bhaiya in group called “slow walkers but first coming group” it sounds weird but only this title came to our mind during walking uphill… Mohini was always been a great bunch of interesting talks. Nora was always been a sweet little princess with a beautiful boon of sketching and drawing .Sara always ready to help everyone as a beautiful nurse but with brain and golden heart. Lauren: a bold and beautiful girl with a power to judge every situation very correctly. Raman: he has beautiful style of saying ‘namaste’and off course he has done a good work as editor.
Every SIHI accepted me whole heartedly and I am really thankful to them for their enormous love and support. By the way my engineering entrance test and my UGAT (under graduate admission test) is over and I had cleared them all. Sometimes it was hard to enjoy beauty near me because of nostalgia, but when the time arrived to go home, I felt nostalgic about SMTA. A tight hug from afrousheh brought tear to my eyes. A lovely and warm farewell from SIHI made me touched deep down at heart. I am thankful to Dr. Sachin and Maggie aunty for their love and care towards me. You all became my second family there. I apologies for any mistake during trip and bloging.

Lots and lots of love to everyone
PRIYA (Your translator)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Reflection: Education In Jaunsar

Education in the Jaunsari Region

Education is an essential component to the growth and progress of any society. The World Bank reports that an educated society has fewer child marriages, better family planning, better hygiene, and more political participation. Over a period of 3 weeks the SIHI students have been able to get a first-hand perspective of the education system in the Jaunsari region and compare it to the education system back in Canada.

Boys and Girls

The SIHI students encountered many differences between the education of girls and boys in the school system of the Jaunsari region. In a typical classroom in the region, boys and girls sit separately on different sides of the room. This may lead to fewer behavioral problems. In Canada, on the other hand, boys and girls mix freely in most schools, and many obedience problems there can be found within boy-girl interactions. In Canada, single sex schools are becoming more and more common.

We were also surprised that in many schools we visited, girls rarely or never option for the math field. At one school that has been running for almost 30 years, no girl ever opted for math. On the other hand, no boy at that school ever took Home Science. This is not necessarily because of the education system; the teachers at the school expressed that they believed that girls were as capable of mathematics as boys, but that many girls feel uncomfortable in a classroom of mostly boys, because of the boy-girl separation that Jaunsari culture encourages.

Instructional Methods in the Jaunsari Classroom

Most Jaunsari schools are forced to operate on a small budget while teaching hundreds of students. In many of the classrooms, a teacher supervises 40 or more students at one time, putting a strain on how much time she can devote to each individual student. In one village school that we encountered, 2 teachers supervise 70 students, and when one teacher goes on leave, the other is forced to manage all the students. In contrast, Canadian classrooms usually do not exceed 30 students.

Many Jaunsari teachers employ a “repeat-after-me” approach to teach a large number of students at once, either writing on the blackboard or saying something that the students are then expected to repeat. The lesson plans move in a methodic and predictable manner. There is some interaction between teacher and student, when the teacher may call upon a student to answer a question or read a passage. There is rarely misbehavior in the classroom, and if it appears, the misbehaving student is warned for his behavior. If he continues his misbehavior, he may be reprimanded physically with a light slap.

In Canada, the classroom instruction often involves more classroom interaction. Students are often asked to give presentations to the class at an early age, such as putting together a poster board with information about a certain subject, such as different countries in the world. There are also activities that are considered fun and relaxed, such as “story time” (where the teacher reads a story to the class) and “show and tell” (when students bring in something to class and talk about it). There are often more behavioral problems among Canadian students, as there is less of a sense of respect that a student has towards his teacher. If a child misbehaves, the teacher will usually give him a warning, and if the behavior is repeated, send the child to the office.

Access to Resources

The SIHI students found that many Jaunsari schools are lacking the resources to provide a quality curriculum in the higher grades. Many schools were lacking toilet facilities, and the students and teachers were forced to use the bushes. Some schools were not able to offer higher-level science courses because they did not have the necessary teachers or laboratory equipment, dissuading many students from eventually going into professions such as medicine and engineering.

By doing this, the girls feel more comfortable in their group and the boys feel more comfortable in theirs. In Canada, on the other hand, boys and girls mix freely in the classroom.

The Jaunsari Area in which the SIHI Program has conducted an appreciative inquiry has an extensive educational system including Grades 1 to 12, allowing students to meet the prerequisites for higher education such as medicine, law, and engineering.

By SIHI 2007 (student?)

Refelection: The Games children play!

SIHI 2007: The lessons that come from playing games

After experiencing the SIHI 2007 core module in a rural area of the Himalayas I leave with new experiences, memories, friendships, lessons, and discoveries, all of which have changed the perception I have of myself, and the world. Flying across the globe from Canada, I came expecting to be immersed in a culture where everything would be different; language, customs, traditions, beliefs, values, relationships, livelihoods and so on. It is true that differences do exist, but differences provide terrific opportunities for us to learn from each other. I have learned a lot about Canadian and Jaunsari cultures through cross cultural interactions in the form of recreational games and I will summarize my observations and personal lessons in the discussion to follow.

The first aspect of Jaunsari culture that struck me is the unwavering level of acceptance amongst the Jausari people toward everyone, outsiders and insiders alike. This is especially true for playing games. Despite our entire SIHI team’s inexperience with various Indian games such as KhoKho, Pithu, Indian style hop scotch and more (see the explanations of the games below this reflection) we were enthusiastically welcomed to play and treated with patience and understanding. At any time during the core module there was never any hesitation in the villages to let us participate in their games. When we would make mistakes they would never get angry, there would only be laughter and further explanation. Although many of the tribes are fairly isolated in the Himalayas, we were always welcomed with open arms. This may be because SIHI has been operating in the region for several years and has been able to develop a rapport with them, it may also be because we are white, but I feel the main reason is rooted in the Jaunsari culture of respect, love and community that extends across racial, cultural, religious, ethnic, economic and national boundaries. Although there are always exceptions, this starkly contrasts from my experiences in Canada. In Canada you can’t go up to a group of people playing basketball, hockey, hop scotch, tag, dodge ball etc. and receive the same level of acceptance and non-judgmental attitudes that you find in the Jaunsari culture. We like to associate ourselves with our circle of friends and are often hesitant to expand that circle outward especially if it means inviting differences in.

Secondly I have learned the tremendous value of time. There is a lot of material poverty in the area but it is made up for in the spirit of hospitality, community and friendship prominent in the Jaunsari culture. They offer us the gift of their time. Despite their grueling work schedules in the fields, schools and homes, it all stops when we enter a village. We are given no limit for how long we are able to interact; they stop when we stop. This gift is given in many forms, including through games. We visited a variety of schools and at each school, lessons would stop and the entire school community would gather around as we learned how to play their games and reciprocated by teaching them some Canadian games. When playing, it is easy to loose track of time, and differences and get caught up in a transcending spirit of sportsmanship. In fact even when school would end and children were allowed to go home, they still stayed to play with us until we were ready to stop. The gift of time is so precious, yet rarely given in Canada. We often seem to be in a rush for various appointments and daily tasks that we can only manage to give someone 10 minutes of our day. How often do we see someone and ask “How are you?” as we walk past them and don’t wait for their response? I know I am personally guilty of this. Has it ever happened that a group of people visit a Canadian school and all classes stop to meet and interact with them? If it has, it is very rare. Interacting with the Jaunsari culture through games as well as other means has made me very aware of our fast paced individualistic society. One way to change this is to try and practice giving the gift of time.

Lastly games provide a great opportunity for bringing people together. For instance, before interviewing a group of students we would try and learn to play a game. This would often act as an icebreaker and result in much more fruitful conversation since we were all more comfortable with each other. Games are also a great strategy to surpass the language barrier we were up against since most of us don’t speak Hindi. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and interacting with the children through games reminded me of the myriad forms of communication beyond speech.

Games bring out the kid in everyone, and this experience has reminded me that we all need to take time to play and have fun. It doesn’t matter what resources we have available, with the right attitude we can create a fun time out of anything. For instance, here rocks and compressed plastic bags or socks are often used as toys needed for some of the games. A principal at one of the village schools warmly welcomed us saying that ‘When the Ganga and Yamuna rivers meet, it becomes a Holy place; this is also true when two cultures meet and we are very glad you are here”.

Through recreational activities I was able to enjoy cross cultural interactions, where we could learn from each other’s differences. The more I learned, I realized that we share many commonalities simply because of our human connection. I look forward to making changes in my own life and sharing my experiences with others.

Indian Games We have Played

1) Hop scotch Indian style

l There is a rectangle made of 6 squares

l the first person will take a stone and move it to each sqaure by standing on one foot. They will move in the length wise direction. When you get to the fourth square you can take a break and stand on two feet, but then you must continue on one foot again and finish to the end.

l The difficulty of this game is that both the rock and your foot cannot touch the lines and your foot can’t move to another square until the rock has.

l Once you have finished one round successfully you will throw the rock to the second square and start from there and then third and so on!

Similar to Canada’s hop scotch!

2) KhoKho

l There are two teams. One (let’s call them Sitting Team) sits down in a long line. The other, Standing team, runs around- avoiding being tagged by one of the members of the sitting team. Once tagged the players are out. Whichever team lasts longer is considered the winner.

l Several kids (approx. 6) of Sitting team squat in a line, facing opposite directions to the people on either side of them.

l Standing team kids can run around and through the sitting line, to avoid being tagged. But the one kid (of sitting team) who starts tagging them, is not allowed to run through the line. S/he must run around it. S/he runs short distances and quickly touches one of his squatting colleagues, who in turn gets up and tags any one close by. Their aim is to tag the other players standing up and running around them.

l The trick to this game is that the person who tags is not allowed to run between the people squatting- unlike the other players. S/he can only run around the entire group; however, s/he can trade places with anyone of the people squatting to help tag the other players out.

l This game takes some strategy, short bursts of intense energy and is a lot of fun!

No similarities that I can think of in Canada

3) Pithu

l There are 2 teams: 1 team throws a ball at a stack of rocks and tries to rebuild them, and the other team tries to peg members of the other team with the ball before they can rebuild the stack of rocks.

l The team throwing the ball to knock the rocks down in the first place has three chances to try and hit it. If they miss after the third try they are out.

l The team trying to peg members of the opposite team before rebuilding can occur can move about, and pass the ball to each other, but who ever has the ball in there hands is unable to move.

l If a person gets hit with the ball before the stack of rocks can be rebuilt they are out. However, if they get hit after the rocks have been rebuilt they are safe.

Similar to Canadian dodgeball!

3) Duck Duck Goose Indian style

l Everyone sits in a circle. Their focus should be on the middle.

l One person will walk along the parameters of the circle with a hanky in their hand. They will secretly drop the hanky behind one of the player’s who is sitting. If a player is suspicious that it is behind their backs they can look behind them. If the hanky is there, then they must chase after the other player and try and tag them. Once the first player reaches the open seat they are safe.

l If someone doesn’t realize that the hanky is behind them and the person who dropped it makes a full circle, they can beat the person with it.

Similar to Canadian duck duck goose!

By Patricia Golesevic (Trish)

Reflections: Disability group

Reflections: Comparison of Disabled Children in Jaunsaur and Canada

Disability is one of those unique happenings that transcends borders. Whether you go to the richest communities in the Western World to the poorest communities in Africa, disabled children are found all over. In accordance with appreciative inquiry, one of the two groups in the Student International Health Initiative (SIHI) focused their attention on disability. The definition of disability was kept quite broad to include anything that really stood out about an individual which was different from the rest of the village population – physically or mentally. Coming into this study, most members of the group, if not all, had painted quite a different picture of disabled children than what was really shown to be in the villages. The typical stereotypes that were the norm all surrounded the idea that disabled children in India probably do not get treated very well by society, by their families and many thought that poorer families would see disabled children as a burden. However, visiting the different villages in the Jaunsaur region proved that many of our initial perceptions and stereotypes were wrong. By examining a few disabled children in Jaunsaur, showed us that the way disabled children are treated here is not an accurate reflection of what people think of disabled children – in fact these are two very different things.

The treatment of disabled children in the villages of Jaunsaur is quite favorable and certainly beyond the expectations that many group members had. About five days into the core module, the group was able to interview the teacher and mother of a boy named Sanjay Singh. Sanjay was an 11 year old boy who had been deaf and mute since birth. He was studying in grade five and was quite capable of doing any basic things that a non-disabled child his age could do. He demonstrated to us that he could write down the names of children in his village and the days of the week as well. Right away it was very apparent that the child had built a very strong bond with his teacher (who was also his cousin). The teacher had given him extra time and attention that was needed for him to learn how to read and write. We also got to see Sanjay play a game of ‘Kho-kho’ (a popular children’s game in India, similar to tag) and it was very rewarding to see that Sanjay’s disability did not keep him from interacting with the other children. On the contrary, none of the children discriminated against him in any way and treated him like any other student. In comparison to Canada (from my experience), children with disability do at times face hardships when interacting with other students. At younger ages, children tend to be meaner and it is quite possible that a disabled child like Sanjay might not be so well received in Canada by other students of his age group. Although, there is no evidence to confirm this, it is possible that due to his disability, children in Canada might view his disability as a serious limitation for certain games. However, from what we saw from Sanjay’s friends, teacher, and mother, his charismatic smile and loving personality made him no different than any other child in the village.

As mentioned previously, the treatment of disabled children in India was certainly a surprise for most SIHI members, however the perceptions of disabled children in some ways did match the stereotypes we had. When speaking with Sanjay’s mother, we were saddened to learn that despite Sanjay’s ambition and desire to keep studying, his fate was destined to be a tailor master! His mother had decided that unlike his older brother (who was in Dehradun studying in grade eight), Sanjay would stop his studies after completing grade five. There were many reasons given for this. One being that since Sanjay’s teacher was his first cousin, his mother did not think that another teacher would be as patient or as caring with her child. Another reason was that due to his disability, he would have to go to a special school for the disabled which is in Dehradun and this would require a parent to attend school with him. However his mother let us know that this was not affordable for the family to do. This had really saddened the group because from what we saw, Sanjay was quite an intelligent boy who had a lot of potential.

Upon visiting other villages, we learned that many of the schools in Jaunsaur (mostly government schools) said they did not have disabled children; however these were very open to accepting them if parents would register them. Quashi, a village which had a large government school (500 students) reported that it had no children with disabilities. However upon further interviewing a few boys, we found out about two children with disabilities – one student who was partially deaf and one who had a club foot. When speaking with these boys, we asked what their initial impression of children with disabilities was and they all seemed to agree that children with disabilities were treated no differently in school.

However, we also quickly learned that when asked what disabled children would do after finishing schools, the boys seemed to agree that they could not do anything but continue to work the fields. It became quite clear to the SIHI group, that the general population had undermined the potential and capacity of these disabled children. Although society does not treat these disabled children harshly, they still do think that their role in society has been marginalized due to their disability. In Canada, this is quite different. Because there is so much focus and studies done on children with disabilities, more and more Canadian teachers are being trained on how to work with disabled children in order to make sure that their education and role in society is not diminished due to their disability. The perception of people with disability in the Jaunsaur area is quite sad. Many people, including parents of disabled children and teachers, do not see the potential that these people carry and thus do not give enough attention and resources to teaching them.

As one can note, the treatment and perceptions of disabled children in the Jaunsaur area are two different things. Speaking with the village head of the Jaunsaur area during an interview session, we learned that disability was a new area of focus for them and that they were starting to make people in the area more aware of how to deal with disabled children. They had planned on training schools in the area on how to work with children with disabilities and also try to deal with other problems that people with disabilities face in Jaunsaur. This assured me that there is something that is trying to be done and although it is not easy, it is a start! Hopefully within the next ten years or so, we will start to see the perceptions and attitudes of society towards disabled children change!

(Nishu, Disability Group)

For Nishu and Trish

Dear Nishu

Thanks for the hand made pressed flower greeting card you left behind- great sentiments, which will tower above my head constantly, as beautiful Goals to keep working to. I have put up your reflections on disability. This is a good analysis and deep perception of what is not so obvious at first glance.


Dear Trish (Krisssh)

Thanks for the hand made pressed flower greeting card- and the beautiful words. I was about to put up the card in my drawing room at a very prominent place. But my cousin, as usual, smiled wryly- “Not there; keep it in your heart!”

Your intelligent company was a pleasure on the eco-trek.. Looking forward to more of your Dad’s quotes!


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Safely Back from the Abode of Siva!

Everyone is safe and fine and back from trek. The group left for Delhi this morning. Raman for Ghaziabad.
I am back in an urgent meeting (- dont ask with whom).
Here are two pictures embodying the ethos of Himalayas (for me) ..

I saw a shepherd sleeping with a baby goat- I didn't have heart to wake him up for the water (I was thirsty and without water)..
Second pic too is that of a shepherd carrying a very young baby sheep, that was unable to walk. People care so much for animals! There is hope for us! This is what I thought, when I saw this.

Hey everyone- Madeleine, Raman, Loraine, Sarah, Norah, Chelsea, John, Trish, Afrousheh, Nishu, Mohini- thank you all!
Have a good time!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mountain reflections

I have been thinking of you trekkers each day, as you approach the end of this extraordinary journey. Whenever I have hiked in the Himalayas, I have found it an unforgettable experience. I hope you have a stash of great memories, and lots of photos, too!

Thanks to each one of you for your reflections and thoughts about the SIHI trip...each year we make changes based on student feedback. This year, with the blog and my frequent emails to parents, I think we did particularly well on communication with families and friends.

Looking forward to our annual Potluck at our home in the fall, where we get to share photos, experiences and reflections.

Sachin, thanks for all your hard work!

All the best for the remainder of your trip!

Karen and Pradeep

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Reflection time!

Reflections: Sihi 2007

Everyone is safe and back in Vikasnagar. Tomorrow we leave for Eco-trek. Here is my reflection piece, as agreed.

‘Posing as a Teacher!’

‘Leading’ a group of young people is both a privilege and a serious responsibility. One has to constantly challenge oneself to meet the same standards, if not higher, as the ones expected of the group. But at the same time, you know that you must not submit another individual to the same standards as you would apply to yourself, because of cultural and generational differences. For example, I can squat on the ground, eat rice and daal with my fingers and feel quite satisfied. Can I expect the same from a young Canadian? On the other hand, if I can walk 16 km to a mountain village, shall I not expect the same from a fit young Canadian less than half my age?

Both these approaches are valid and require a fine balance. I was fortunate that I had almost seven years to get the hang of this balancing trick. Nevertheless, I still suffer from ‘self-doubts’ sometimes :-(

Maybe this is a healthy kind of self doubt which keeps us open and alive to every moment of learning from life. And my learning comes from observing interactions within and without:

Within: interactions between my various ‘selfs’- the “organizer”, the “facilitator”, the “communicator” and the “witness”- which just observes and wants to do nothing else! When I organize or facilitate, I expect certain outcomes. These outcomes are influenced by my culture and their (students’) culture. This expectation is almost unconscious on both sides. The ‘witness’ cringes whenever I pose as the ‘teacher’ or the ‘leader’; both are difficult jobs for anyone. But while doing this- this posing as a ‘teacher’- I become aware of all those little ‘kinks and bends’ within, which are normally invisible to myself, when I go around just doing my own thing.

Interactions in the outside world include those within the group, among members, between the group and my Indian colleagues, local rural community and finally between the group and myself.

One of the worthwhile lessons learnt in this process is: culture deeply influences our communication, our perspective and our responses. Profoundly so. A facilitator caught in such a scenario has to anticipate, act proactively and go out on a limb to get the meaning across. She or he also needs to learn to listen with the whole body and mind rather than just ears. When we listen in that fashion, we know how much structure versus spontaneity is called for in a given group situation, for example.

On the other hand, exercises like “Authentic self” challenged me and took me beyond my comfortable corner of the swimming pool!

Lastly, can you EVER take a group of young people for granted, no matter how many years you have been running the course?

This is what renews my faith in myself as a learning individual, even while ‘posing as a teacher’- as my cousin would phrase it.

Lastly a quote from The Prophet:

“Verily, you often make merry without knowing!”


Saturday, June 2, 2007

21st to 25th, 28th to 29th

May 21, 2007

Today we went to Myrawana village. It’s a village we can see from SMTA hostel in Jakhadhar, where we’re staying. So you can picture how far of a climb that is. First we had to climb downwards to the stream we love so much. And then followed an intense 2000 ft climb steadily upwards to the village. I think its about 6000-7000 ft. This walk I will never forget. We crossed potato farms and on the way had to ignore many barking dogs. They really don’t do any harm. We also saw the biggest pine-cones… some I swear the size of footballs. There was lots to see in Myrawana, but we spent our time in the intercollege (Grades 6-12). Our SIHI boys taught the local boys how to play baseball. It was funny because the boys they were playing with were used to playing cricket. Instead of leaving the bat after they batted, they’d run with it in their hands to all the bases. And they also assumed that they could make infinite rounds around the bases to gather many points if they hit a homerun. Finally, there was a Kho-Kho showdown that ended it off. The SIHI girls learned a traditional Jaunsari/Garwali dance called Jhumela. We all formed a semi-circle and did a fine job getting a hang onto the intricate footwork. We taught them some classic country line-dancing steps and shared a bit of the Spice Girls “Stop Right Now” dance. Haha! The girls also enjoyed some Stella-Ella-Olla with them. Some of them knew it already because a past SIHI group taught them. Their memory really impressed us! We shared the Canadian national anthem and the entire school together and shared with us the Indian national anthem. The hard trekking we did to get to the village was forgotten when we met with their kindness, love and high spirits. It was an awesome day! We learned that by sharing our childhood with the students we met today allowed us to form a relationship with them. Sharing and exchanging is another scope of what we are doing here, and an important aspect of what appreciative inquiry is all about. J

“Don’t let the world define you.”

Loving the people here and missing the ones back home.



May 22, 2007

Today is Lauren’s birthday. That’s her 19c birthday (aka 21st) !!!

So Dr. Sachin let her decide what we would do today, and we reached consensus on visiting Tiger Falls.

After breakfast, we hiked to the falls, which were about 5km away. The trek consisted of climbing up and down hills and ridges, and over irrigation channels and past cactus trees, fig trees, aloe vera plants, rice fields and through jungle-like forests.

At the falls, we spent about an hour of bliss. To try to describe it is next to impossible, but here’s an attempt:

Three waterfalls, one on each side of an alcove, and the 4th side is an opening through which we entered the mini-paradise. Lush greenery, hanging vines, rocky cliffs, and the powerful sound of water crashing into a small pool, a stunning place which I wish I could take home with me and place into my own garden J

So we rested here, taking photos, reading, journaling, sketching, relaxing. We enjoyed cold drinks that were bought from a local man … not cold from a fridge, but cold from the cool river.

Everyone was very reluctant to leave Tiger Falls, and the trek back was especially long because we knew what we were leaving behind L

Returning to SMTA was a huge reward indeed, finally able to sit, change, drink, and eat. Hiking through the Himalayas is exhausting, in case anyone was wondering!!! But reaching the destination and overcoming a challenge results in a feeling of huge accomplishment and satisfaction, a happy feeling indeed!!!

The afternoon was spent reading, relaxing (again) and basking in the sun on the roof or in the orchard.

Sara and I went to help Maggie make a special birthday dinner for Lauren… Dumplings!!! So much effort went into preparing them, but the result, as agreed by everyone, was well worth it!

It was a wonderful day, who wouldn’t want to celebrate their 21st birthday in India by a waterfall?!!!



May 23rd

Hello everyone!

We are well into the core module at this point of the trip, and still learning each day. Today we revisited a village we had felt a particular connection with earlier in the trip to have further discussion with a group of school girls. We started off by playing an Indian game called Pithu, which was a lot of fun once we understood how to play! However, as usual, we are always beaten by the Indian students! We had a really interesting conversation with the students afterward and discovered that there are no washroom facilities at the school for students. They must depend on the bush. We also realized that we both experience winter (up in the Himalayas it snows) and they do many of the same recreational activities as us, such as snow-ball fights and tobogganing. A few of us also had some pictures to show them of our lives in Canada. They really enjoyed this and were very surprised at how clean our houses are and how we dressed (it is not custom to show your shoulders or cleavage). We also asked about birthday celebrations since they started singing a song related to this occasion and we got mixed replies. This is because of the caste system; the higher up you are, the more likely you are to have the privileges of celebrating a birthday. Each society has its upper and lower limits, including Canada, this one way it is played out in India.

We then Walked the 8 km distance back to our home base and called it a day!

Lots of Love to Canada


May 24th

This is my second assigned entry on the blog thus far – and what do you know – another rest day! I don’t have any crazy adventures to tell you about because just like my last entry (which was also a rest day) – we basically just relaxed! Some of the group went on a two and a half hour hike while the rest of the group stayed back and relaxed. Most often a typical rest day around here includes laundry, sun bathing, card playing, lounging, journaling and reading.

This afternoon I helped Maggie out with lunch – cleaned up the rice and made roti (similar to a pita bread) from scratch!!! One things for sure – it’s not as easy as it looks – kneading the dough is pretty tough – great way to let off some steam though if need be ;) haha. Mohini helped us cook the roti’s – the three of us had quite an efficient system going! We ate after the rest of the group - I got to be the roti girl (you serve the roti’s to the table as soon as they are ready – hot and fresh – mm mm mmmm). Mohini, Maggie and I ate together and Mama Maggie shared some more of her crazy stories. Today she told us about the building of this Jakhdar location of S.M.T.A and what herself and Reuben had to give up in order for it to all happen. Basically they relocated from the comfort of their home. They traveled by bus which could only take them so far because of landslides occurring in the area. The bus took them as far as it could at which point they had to continue on foot with their luggage while dodging landslides – CRAZY! When they arrived to the building site – their living arrangement was an old cow shed which was full of dung and was so small they had to crawl on all fours – they lived in this shed, a tent, and in nearby villagers homes for an ENTIRE YEAR! Maggie shared how hard it was at times for her and the moments she asked Reuben if they could turn around and go home – his response: “You have lived a great life for so long can we not give back to others now?” This totally stopped us in our tracks and challenged us to stop and think. The lessons here never end – there is always another challenge awaiting us – and on so many different levels!

In the evening Mohini and I headed back to the kitchen to help Maggie out with dinner – with the addition of Trish this time around. Believe it or not we made samosa’s for the FIRST TIME in India – yes that’s right today was the very fist time we had eaten samosa’s this entire trip!!! This was an exceptionally special occasion for Trish because not only was this her first time making/eating samosa’s in India but also her first time to EVER try a samosa J It didn’t take long for us to understand why it was our first samosa thus far – they are NOT easy to make – but it was well worth it – everyone left the table with a smile!

So that pretty much wraps up our day off – everyone is good here – we are all LOVING LIFE !!!

Food for thought: “In order to keep something you must give it away”

~ Peace and Love ~


May 25th

Today the SIHIs woke up at the crack of dawn as usual (well, maybe not the boys) and wolfed down a yummy breakfast by Maggie before heading to the home of a traditional herbalist near SMTA. The herbalist was a man who had immigrated from Nepal when he was 25 (roughly 30 years ago) and he settled down in the Jaunsauri area, marrying a local Jaunsari woman. The herbalist described the details of his remedies and even showed examples of the herbs that he uses to treat a variety of ailments. He treats arthritis, jaundice, pregnancy problems, and many other ailments with herbs that he collects from the mountains.

We were surprised when the herbalist told us that he does not make any money or get any gifts when he treats a patient. The man said that if he charged, his remedies would lose their effectiveness. Why does he do it then? “Out of the love of God,” he explained.

Although he is a herbalist, the man’s main profession is farming, and he only treats 2 to 3 people a month with herbs. The SIHIs got to have a first hand experience at farming when they cleared two of the herbalist’s crop fields of stones so that the crops could grow better. It was hard and tiresome work, but extremely rewarding because it taught us how hard the Jaunsari farmers must work. And plus, we were rewarded by a great lunch back at SMTA once we returned.

It was a great day!

- Raman

(PS: Class 12 results are out; Both Priya and Abhishek have passed with good marks! Congrats to both of you! Editor)

May 28th, 2007

WE CAME. WE SAW. WE CONQUERED!!! Today was a great day for the SIHIs. We decided to dedicate today towards having a real outdoor picnic. We had prepared the night before of what we were going to bring with us and cook there. We had planned to leave at 7:30am but as usual became late rushing to eat breakfast and get ready and ending up leaving around 8:30am. We did not reach our final picnic site until about 2:00pm. THAT’S RIGHT, WE HIKED FOR FIVE AND HALF HOURS WITH VERY LITTLE AND SMALL BREAKS!!! Congrats to everyone. We had our doubts and many of us complained but in the end, every SIHI, Dr.Sachin, Bailum Ji, and Danishuri Ji did it. We reached a respectable peak with a great view and set up to eat. Danishuri Ji, along with some volunteers made a great pullhow dish (rice with vegetables) which we all quickly ate. Most of us then decided to take a nap or enjoy the view for about 45 minutes and then would start heading back for the long trek back to SMTA (in order to make it home before the sun went down). However along the way Afrousheh’s ankle gave way and got locked and so she needed to wait until it unlocked in order to go back down the rough terrain. The rest of the group had to proceed back and we made it back in three hours (we definitely rushed back as quick as we could to beat the sun going down). Many of us ran straight to the store to grab cold drinks. HOORAY FOR COKE!!! To our delight, Afrousheh, Dr. Sachin, and Bailum JI were not too far behind and reached home about an hour after us. We then had dinner right away and then went to bed almost immediately after, preparing ourselves for sore legs the next day! Definitely a very accomplished day for all the SIHIs! Congrats! Was it worth it Afrousheh?? HUH? (Inside Joke).I wanted to end this blog off by finishing off with a famous saying I heard from Nora, “An unsharpened pencil is like a child without a bald head.”

- Nishu

May 29th, 2007

This morning quite a number of us woke up to discover new aches and pains, our bodies having been pushed to the limit by the previous day’s picnic/hike/mountain climbing expedition. Today we enjoyed some much needed r & r. The only structured component was a morning meeting with Sachin to learn more about the structure of the core module which we had just completed, as well as some of its history and future directions. We were encouraged to provide feedback about how to improve the core module, as well as think about what we, as Canadian students, could do to promote a sense of continuity between the various SIHI groups that come here year after year. The feedback processes will be slow but thorough. We really want to make the trip as good as it can be for next year’s batch of SIHI’s.

After lunch, we lounged around: did our laundry, tanned on the roof, played cards, etc. I tried to use my newly-acquired Indian flute playing ability to charm Tommy the wonder dog, who always greets us with barks and growls but runs away on approach. We (or I) call him wonder dog because when he comes with us on our hikes, he always finds his own way home, often over treacherous terrain. I held Tommy’s gaze for a brief moment and was sure I had him spellbound, but alas, I failed - the wild could not be tamed! Just before dinner, we met up on the roof to plan our ‘presentation’. We decided to divide the presentation into six general topics, with a more-or-less equal distribution of factual information and audience interaction/participation. It’s still rough, nay course, along the edges, but hopefully it’ll come together in time. After all, we’re university students. When it comes to procrastinating and succeeding, we’re the best in the business!

Festina lente [ do it quickly, but slowly ]

Peace out,

- Jonathan