Mountains and Temples

For most of monsoon, the walls of fog around us felt a little suffocating. In rare moments, we caught glimpses of India beyond our small community, but most of the time, we stayed on campus and adventured only to the nearest bazaar for errands.

But soon after the fog lifted and our true horizons revealed themselves, we came to our first school break in the second week of October. Activity Week is a time for staff and students to get out of our comfort zones. The younger kids visit nearby villages and get gently introduced to hiking and overnight camping. In 10th-grade, all students cram into buses and vans for a 6-day overnight backpacking trip in the Himalayas, and this was the trip Leaf and I were assigned to.

Though our trek started only about 90km from campus as the crow flies, it took about 8 hours to get there on the winding roads we traveled. In the US, roads like these are legendary among recreational drivers - the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina has its own website and boasts 318 curves in 11 miles - but that’s the norm for every road I’ve seen in India north of campus.

Leaf and I chaperoned 20 sophomores under the wise and charismatic leadership of Mr. Ben, whom we’re lucky to count as a new friend. We had great conversations and quality time, and our group formed a special bond in those 6 beautiful and challenging days.

Upon returning to campus, Leaf and I unpacked our tents and sleeping bags and packed t-shirts and sunscreen for our trip to Amritsar (in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab). We began and ended that week with visits to the Golden Temple, and we ate so much kulcha in between.

After Amritsar, we were back to teaching until the December holidays. One weekend, we went camping with students a short drive away from campus. A few weeks later, we took a day hike up to a Surkhanda Devi, a temple at 10,000 feet, and a quick weekend trip to Rishikesh, epicenter of commercialized Indian spirituality.

I hope you enjoy the pictures of these adventures below. Next, we’re planning to explore Rajasthan, Singapore, Malaysia, and more of Taiwan!