We have been wringing out our hours on the subcontinent so far. Truly, between many hours of travel on windy, breathtaking (in a few senses), and busy roads and all of the things we’ve done to explore and understand the places we’ve visited so far, there has been almost no time to share with those of you not with us. Finally, I bought myself a little window while the rest of the crew walks down to the confluence of the Saryu and Kali rivers to update our digital space.
First, and perhaps most importantly, an update on the group:
- Milly is thinking a lot so far on this trip. Although Dramamine had its normal impact on her energy level during our windy drives, she took SO MUCH in through her passenger seat window. When we got a new perspective on the snowy Himalayas or an interesting village, she would always alert the rest of us – “Kean, look!” When she has wondered about the lifestyle of the people we met or the food we were eating, she has always asked. Settling in to the rhythm and the flow and the feel of a trip like this has had its challenges but Milly is really rising to the occasion. This is already an adventurous journey!
- Davis is quietly leading and engaging. His thoughtful eyes make it pretty clear that he’s paying attention and connecting the dots. And he has been consistently helpful and cheerful thus far. We chose him as our Leader of the Day today and he has modeled engagement, excitement, and presence without forcing his own perspective or experience onto others. I’ve been really impressed with his maturity and his kindness. I look forward to sharing his blog post with all of you soon.
- Reed is connecting with his fellow travelers and lots of people along the way and sharing lots of great thoughts about how the places we visit compare with his home and other places he has visited during his young life. He’s keeping up with his 100 push ups a day and maintaining a clear connection with his identity but he is also open to the unexpected things involved with a trip like this. It’s fun to watch him go!
- Ignacio is doing what Nacho always does – making people smile, sharing his thoughts when they’re needed, looking after his friends, and generally going for it without forcing everyone else to know he’s going for it. He’s asked good questions about differences in food and religion and seems to be up for the challenging opportunities to think and really observe. And, hey, he even seems to be enjoying all the vegetables! This afternoon’s challenge is a fun one – to see if he can catch a mahseer before Peyton does.
- Lucia is quietly maintaining a 10/10 participation and self-assessed happiness rating. She has been smiling the entire time – even when many of the rest of her van companions were car sick or worn out, Lucia was smiling. She spent at least an hour this morning hand-in-hand with a local girl who wanted to show her around her village and lead us all to the local swimming hole. And even when she isn’t physically making contact with people, it’s so obvious that she is connecting. There’s no doubt this trip will be a better one because of Lucia’s decision to join us.
- Hali is keeping her watchful eye on all of us and literally jumping into the experiences. The long drives were hard on her but she immediately recovered and has done everything from jumping off a high rock into the Saryu to joining Lucia and Milly on a “girls tour” of the village adjacent to where we’re staying currently. She has become fast friends with Suman and Praveen as well – pretty sure Rachel made sure her little sister knew to trust those guys right away. I expect a lot of good observations and maybe another vlog like the one she did for the Guatemala trip in the near future!
- Kean is working to get as much understanding from this trip as he can. Even when we were winding around the Himalayan roads, he was trying to read about Hinduism and the history of the subcontinent. And he has quick questions – the kind that show that he has already been thinking about the subjects we discuss. I think Kean is going to continue to share more and more as he gets even more comfortable with this group. It’s fun to watch the layers of Kean’s mind reveal themselves to the rest of us (and perhaps even to himself).
- Peyton is the veteran of the group – the first CCS student to go to India 3 times (and I think it would have been 4 if COVID hadn’t eliminated the trip his sophomore year). He has been eager to share his knowledge and his connections with the place and the people we’ve encountered so far. He is currently helping to guide the rest of the group for a few hours of fishing (and to hopefully catch one himself!) but he has shared a lot more than just his love for chasing India’s finned creatures. He has helped introduce big ideas, calm nerves about food and the overall experience, and generally lead his peers. It will be fun to see how his role continues to grow as we approach Agora, where his senior project is unfolding.
- Blake is modeling truly exceptional participation. In addition to what several of the other students are doing (buying in, going for it, and being helpful), Blake is journaling as much or more than any student ever has. He’s trying to capture this place for his family so that he can share it when he gets home. He’s trying to make sense of it. He’s trying to be both a “Middlesex Guy” (his term) and an international explorer all at once. It’s very uplifting to watch. Honestly, his experience and his role in shaping that experience is the kind of things that will keep an educator educating. It’s growth but also traditions and a firm sense of self. So glad he chose to come!
And here’s a basic timeline of what we’ve been up to:
- May 31st – we flew from Washington DC to New Delhi (~24 hours of travel)
- June 1st/2nd – we landed at 2 AM on June 2nd in New Delhi and then drove directly to Bhimtal (8 hours of additional travel). We saw some big new highways, some small country roads that feel like portals back in time, and so many different human activities. We ate our first Indian food. We had our first trip discussion (and it was a great one!). We peddled boats on Bhimtal Lake. And we celebrated Mr. Pausic’s birthday in style with a feast and some beautiful cake.
- June 3rd – we woke up at 5:30 AM and drove east to Pancheshwar. The drive was breathtaking – dramatic views of nearly a dozen 20,000+ ft. mountains, lots of terraces to contemplate, great food, and constantly changing landscapes. When we arrived at our destination on the banks of the Saryu, we swam, fished, and enjoyed some relaxation time. We ended the day with a big buffet and a nice discussion about change and lots of issues and topics connected to it.
- June 4th – most of the group slept in (Mr. Alter and Peyton went fishing at 4 AM) and then we all ate a leisurely breakfast before walking to the nearby village. In the village, we hung out in a local family’s house, ate mangos from big mango trees dotted throughout the village, spoke with several families, and learned about a disease plaguing local cattle (they saying it’s Cattle COVID). After the nice tour of the village, we stopped at the area’s best swimming hole. The entire group enjoyed jumping into the perfect water and learning Mr. Pausic’s flipping techniques. We returned to camp for some lunch and most of the group is now off fishing or exploring.
Tomorrow, we’re going to explore the religious and spiritual history and realities of this area. It will be fun to watch the students think about something absolutely different from our reality back in the United States but also tangibly smiliar to the spiritual life of the school. We’ll walk to a local shrine, the main temple at Pancheshwar, and to the worship hall for his mom or sister.
It’s hard to believe how few hours whe’ve actually been here. We’ve done so much! Luckily, there is so much left to still do as well.