Leaving Ladakh

This morning started early- 5 AM to be exact. I needed to pack all of my things before it was time for us all to leave SECMOL and get on our flight back to New Delhi. While packing, however, I realized I didn’t have something very important: my phone! I didn’t use my phone other than for its camera within the past week, and even then seldom took it out of my room, so I had no idea how I could have lost it. I searched all over the campus for it, but came up with nothing. Although defeated, I finished packing because I knew I had to continue on. I got over it by accepting that it’s a funny story to say I lost my phone in the Himalayas.

After we all finished packing, we put all of our belongings onto our bus which was going to take us back to the airport. I then said goodbye to all of the new Ladakhi friends I had made during this time, and it was a very emotional goodbye. I’m so happy to have gotten to know such amazing people in such a short amount of time. They’re definitely a group I will never forget because of the huge impact they’ve made on my life.

We all piled on the bus and waved goodbye to our friends. On the way to the airport we sang our favorite songs in unison like it was an elementary school field trip, and it felt great. Once we were back at the airport I was reminded of the heavy militarization of the area by the abundance of men with guns that I saw, but they didn’t scare me like they did when we initially landed.

Us running through the back streets of New Delhi to our hotel

I got onto the plane and slept for the whole flight. When we landed, I could already feel that hot, sticky New Delhi air again. After further inspection of the weather, I saw that it was 106 degrees outside. This was in great contrast to the perfect 70 degree weather that we had in Ladakh. We pushed through the humidity to get back to our familiar hotel, the Mantra, and ate Domino’s pizza for lunch since we had been eating lentils for the past week. (Honestly, I’d have to say I definitely prefer lentils to New Delhi Domino’s…)

After a long, long nap and a meeting with our cultural geography group, we then hit the town again for dinner. This time, we decided to go to a South Indian restaurant. Previously, we had only eaten North Indian food, so we wanted to mix it up a bit. This food was much different than anything else we had eaten before. It was very bread and rice based, rather than meat or vegetable based like North Indian food. Although the food didn’t necessarily taste bad, everyone agreed that we liked North Indian food a million times more.

Some of the South Indian food we ordered

Once we got back to the hotel, we all went to our rooms to relax for the rest of the night. I borrowed one of my roommates’ computers to message my family on Facebook to tell them about how I lost my phone and then got a shower. I showered for what felt like forever, and I’m pretty sure I ingested some shower water during that time. I also realized that I forgot to take my malaria pill for the day, so overall my health was doing GREAT!

I went to bed very late that night, tired out from my day of travel. Even though I was in the comfort of the large hotel beds, however, I could not help but think of the amazing time I had in the Himalayas and how much I missed my friends back in Ladakh.

An amazing day I was reflecting upon- when we summited the small peak with some Ladakhi friends during our trek

Ruins and Dancing

I started off the day at SECMOL on a rough note, with a breakfast of burnt chipote and some strange, unidentifiable greens. After I managed to eat it all, though, my day quickly improved as I went to hang out with some SECMOL students who taught me how to hand wash my clothes. One of my new friends Sonam showed me the right methods to get out stains from my shirts. It was actually pretty fun to learn to hand wash, a skill that I’m sure will definitely come in handy in the future.

Because I took so long to wash all of my clothes, I arrived late to a presentation we were receiving from a guest speaker that day, a French archeologist who specialized in Ladakhi ruins. After the archaeologist’s introductory presentation ended, our group then got on a bus so he could show us his places of study.

An art exhibit at LAMO

Before going to the ruins, however, we stopped by a place called Ladakh Arts and Media Organization, or LAMO for short. At LAMO, we walked around different galleries and workspaces of local Ladakhi artists who were working on different media forms ranging from paintings to sculpture. It was amazing to see some of the local art forms, as these artists were all extremely talented.

The view from atop the lookout point on the first ruins

After this tour, we left to go explore the Ladakhi ruins with our French specialist. We first hiked up a small hill through a grassy pasture to an old military lookout, atop which we could see for miles around the open area of Ladakh. We then drove to a more barren land with large walls, where the archeologist explained that these walls used to be the structures for living spaces from hundreds of years ago.

A group photo we took at the second set of ruins

Once we finished this archeological tour, we returned to SECMOL to have dinner. Since our time at SECMOL was coming to an end, we took part in a sort of closing ceremony with the SECMOL students. We were all prese nted with a small handmade scarf and a card, in which all of the students signed their names and wrote nice sentiments to us about the impact we had made on them during our time there. We also all gave a small “token” to the school which was a small item with sentimental value to us that we wanted the school to have. I gave up my small rugby ball keychain, and explained that it was because I played rugby back home which was extremely important to me.

A photo with of me with some SECMOL friends atop the first set of ruins

Later that night, the Nat Geo students and the SECMOL students both performed dances for each other to celebrate the time we had spent together. Our group danced to “Party in the USA,” while the SECMOL students danced a more traditional Ladakhi dance. After our choreographed dance, all students then stayed in the large meeting room and had a farewell dance party. We listened to English, Ladakhi, Hindi, and Spanish music. Even though at least half of us could not understand the music at any given point, we all had an amazing time hanging out with each other for one of the last times. It was very emotional, as we had all become extremely close during this short time we had spent together. Even though we were sad to soon be saying goodbye, it was a fantastic last night together.