This morning I woke up ready for a big day. I packed my bags and was ready by 9:30 AM. Today, we would be leaving for our two day trek through the Himalayan mountains.
We all got on the bus and counted off to take attendance, then began our drive- it was going to be a few hours. I sat with two SECMOL students during the ride and discussed Indian and Ladakhi culture with them. It was amazing to be able to ask people who actually live in India about things, rather than relying on what I learned in school to be the ultimate truth. For example, I asked the two Ladakhis their view on Pakistan. It has often been taught to us that Indians hate Pakistanis and vice versa, but I wanted to get an opinion from actual Indian people (especially since Ladakh is so close to Pakistan). These students reported to me that older generations, such as their parents or grandparents, do not look favorably upon Pakistan. Younger generations, however, typically don’t have an issue with Pakistanis. This led into a conversation about American politics, such as the similar trend of younger generations typically having more accepting viewpoints than older.
After making a quick pitstop at a local market, where I learned my new skill of extreme price haggling, we arrived at a huge, beautiful monastery. We were given a tour of this monastery and got to learn even more about the Buddhist religion.
After we finished learning and exploring, we walked to a large field to eat a lunch of peanut butter and jam on chipote bread and hardboiled eggs.
We then drove to the beginning location for our trek, and we were on our way. A SECMOL student, Namgail, led us through the mountains, as our Nat Geo expert Sandesh taught us about the different types of animals that live in the area.
After about two hours of uphill trekking, we arrived at our homestays in the village of Ulley. There were three different houses, so we split up into groups of about six.
As soon as we got into our home and set down our backpacks, we had tea time and girl talk. As a mixture of Nat Geo students and Ladakhis, we discussed boys back at SECMOL and made pretend of who was “marrying” who. We also sat together and watched the Indian version of Days of Our Lives on the tv in the kitchen/dining area. Then, we helped our homestay mother make the dinner we would be eating that night. We folded dough circles into small dumpling-like pieces that our host then cooked for us. It was extremely delicious, and tasted even better knowing that we helped to make it.
After dinner, some people went outside to take pictures of the stars and Milky Way which were visible in the light-pollution-free Himalayan sky. Instead, I just went back to the beautifully colorful room our homestay mother set up for us, and fell right asleep. I was tired from the long day I had just experienced, and I needed my rest for the second day of our trek which we were going on in mere hours…