“East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.”
Shams of Tabriz
Having said (rather quoted the above) i think a journey without does help you to journey within …especially if it is set 11000 feet (around 3500 M) above the sea, amidst snow topped mountains, brown sandy mountains, sometimes purple (yes , purple), sometimes red mountains. With streams with water so sweet, so clear, you can just cup your hands and drink it (and yet not spend the rest of your days confined in your WC/Ladakhi toilet)…smelling the sweet apricot and apple blossoms, watching weather-beaten, shy faces greeting, “Julley” along the way.
Of course there are other reasons too. The fact that its freezing cold, without any heating in room/cars etc, no hot water showers (in fact , no showers at all: bucket style baths with just about lukewarm water, that chill your bones further are all you get on a shoe string budget), coupled with wearisome weather , such that on some days one can experience all four seasons in the span of a few hours. Even the air is so thin that a short hike can make you totally breathless (unfit that i am), in a way that your loud panting can be, am certain, heard many kilometers away.
And that’s how it was for me. For over three weeks. In Leh, Ladakh, India.
When i reached Ladakh end of April , i really did not know what awaited me. All i knew was, i was going to be teaching at the IBEX COLONY GOVT PRIMARY SCHOOL for around a month, try to share some tips with the teachers there and basically have a gala time with the Kindergardners! (To be honest: this way i could officially get away with playing around with puzzles, crayons, nursery rhymes, read a lot of children’s stories etc… It’s after all, important for the kids!). I had armed myself with a lot of books (no, really they were for the kids, not just me 😉 ) for the kids, craft material to play around with, a few toys, some videos and lots of new ideas. I wanted to make a real difference, introduce some modern methods of teaching, make a difference. Everything would be hunky dory. After all, Ladakh was a dream destination, right?
Of course, as you know, i was not quite right. A bit off the mark. Ok, really off the mark.
I struggled. I was sometimes frustrated. I asked myself, why was i here. I left a job i loved for this? “Ooh, so breathking”, is what all would probably say on seeing the pictures of Ladakh. But the mountains are tough taskmasters. They demand you prove your worthiness. As beautiful as they are, they demand you rise to their heights and show your mettle. I shivered (literally and figuratively. After all, it was often around zero degree Celsius in the night, at that height!). I felt cut off from everything i had known (well trust me for a month, i didn’t send a SINGLE SMS, i could not…Network was that inconsistent), i was alone (was travelling alone). But somehow i stayed on. Despite all these doubts i managed to hang on. So much that i want to go back to the mountains as soon as i have some moolah (Or if i find a/some sponsor, i can go there NOW) This is the beginning of a love affair for a life time.
In the next 3 blog entries i would like to write about my experiences in the school, a little about the very little travelling i managed to squeeze in and about the lovely people i met along the way.
I am a bit slow in writing. So it might take a few days, but it will be online…that’s a promise!
Till then, Julley