Baylor - India 2018
We made it to our home on the banks of the Rangit River.
Grace: After 46 hours, three planes, a jeep ride, and a walk across a long and tall suspension bridge in the dark, we have officially reached our home base for the next four days.
Lauren: 46 hours seems like a long time, but with the right group of people, it flies by.
Bryson: I had fun in Amsterdam, of course, but I can’t poop.
Avery: I have probably felt every emotion possible over the last 46 hours. I am just happy to be here-- it’s beautiful.
Josh: I got to pet a cobra in New Delhi and I’m still hobbling around on one foot - thanks dad.
Joe: Honestly, I don’t know what day it is or where I am, but it has been pretty fun.
Isabelle: The fact that I survived walking across a 200 foot suspension bridge over a river in the dark and was more scared about that than 46 hours of international travel is giving me high hopes for the next two weeks.
Colette: I slept a lot on the plane and drank some good coffee, so it’s a good day.
Kit: My disposable toothbrushes saved my sanity while being in a state of uncleanliness for two days.
Sam (last because he was showering): The entire weekend felt like one day.
On the way here, I wondered if I had gotten in over my head. Today I knew that I made the right decision. We rafted along and passed many smiling faces, all eager to wave. One little boy ran down the bank until he could jump in and climb into our raft. The pure joy on his face as we paddled him back to shore was so sweet. I am happy to be here smiling and waving. We are all doing well and we are excited for what is to come.
Monastery Section - Rangit River
I woke up at about 5:45 this morning to the singing of birds and the churning of the river. After a few rounds of UNO and some breakfast, we visited one of the holiest sites for Tibetans, Legship monastery. Padmasambhava (a monk) meditated in a cave there for a year. Sitting in the cave felt like a dream. Everything felt like a dream; lunch on the cliff, rafting through valleys, even sitting here at dinner. I am so grateful to be here.
Monastery Section round #2
We spent a lot of time with and in the water yesterday, rafting the longest time and distance we ever have. After being knocked out of the raft the day before, there was a bit of a pit in my stomach. The water flowed more forcefully, and my heart beat slightly harder. My rafting group paddles in “Big Booty Judy”—a raft who is just one size too wide for some of the slim-fitting rock passes. Nevertheless, our paddling was the strongest and smoothest we have done. We passed through the rapid section where I rolled in the day before, and we did not bump or even scratch a rock. I stood up in celebration because for the first time in any “outdoorsy” activity, I felt as though I had conquered it. I stayed in. In the process of pushing me out of my seat on Wednesday, the water also ejected my bright purple water bottle. Of course, getting me back in the raft took precedence over saving the bottle, so it ended up mysteriously floating away. Thursday, just after conquering the rapid, Debbie Sue spotted my water bottle waiting for me on the side of the river. By watching the powerful current, feeling the rush of water around me after falling out, and finding my water bottle, I’ve better experienced and appreciated the true infinite power of water. At the conclusion of our rafting yesterday, a storm began to chase us. We were in the river, running from a storm. As soon as we got back to the eating area at the hotel, the water began to pour from the sky. All in 24 hours, water knocked me around, pushed me down a river, pounded down from the sky, and brought my bottle back to me. The power of water.
Drive to Ralang Monastery
Just as the river levels and weather escaped our ability to predict, leaving our riverside bungalows is also a lesson in Buddhist dharma - everything changes. Today’s change brought dusty jeep roads, a battle between Hanuman’s monkey army and the local dogs of the Hindu temple at Legship, a traditional Lepcha meal, and an evening listening to Tibetan monks chant as we drifted off to sleep as guests of Ralang monastery. Tomorrow we venture into the protected jungles of the Lepcha people in Dzongu.
Ralang Monastery - Dzongu
None of us seemed to be prepared for the cold that we would encounter the night sleeping in the Monastery. Some slept while others listened to the hurried footsteps of monks by their windows. Once we woke up we looked outside and could see the peak of one mountain that was first mistaken for a cloud. At breakfast we ate dough balls, cooked cabbage, soup, and Tsampa, powdered barley that you mixed with tea...pretty much oatmeal. Following breakfast we met with the Karmapa Lama’s main teacher, Gyaltsup Rinpoche. He gave a lesson of compassion and love. We then walked up a hill to a completely locked monastery where the monks were meditating for three years three months and three days. Then we loaded up the jeeps and set out for another long ride. stopping about halfway for a lunch of samosas and chips. We arrived at the house and got unloaded into our rooms. Some of us went on a little bit of a hike to a very small monastery here in the village. On the way down I found a piece of bamboo and made it into a hat that make me look like a Lepcha king. We ate dinner, got packed for these next three days of a trek, and went to sleep.
Trek to Changa
Sikkim is a restricted area that requires a permit and some friends on the inside to enter. Dzongu is a region of Sikkim that is even more restricted. The Lepcha people of Dzongu wisely limit who can enter this beautiful and remote region. We were the guests of Tashi, our Lepcha friend and jeep driver. Dzongu is spectacular.
Trek to Tholung
Josh - The trek was amazing and a character building experience.
Kit - I am not afraid to walk over a moving bridge made of three sticks anymore.
Lauren - I literally put my blood, sweat, and tears into this trek
Colette - The mountains were worth the twelve miles.
Grace - I did more than I ever thought I could.
Trek to Dzongu - Gangtok
Today was a long adventure. We woke to clear skies and 20,000’ snow-capped peaks. After descending what we climbed the past two days, we said goodbye to the Lepcha community and drove from North Sikkim to Gangtok in East Sikkim. After a few days in India, our Baylor students experienced the joy of meeting the girls of Taraloka. We will spend the next two days with them - making momos (steamed dumplings), drinking tea, the inevitable dance party, and the gift of simple time together.
Isabelle - Thought I reached my breaking point, but I kept going. I also got more leech bites than anyone else.
Debbie Sue - If it were easy, everyone would do this trek. It was well worth every step, squeal, cut, outchy, and tear. Thank you!
Sam - While my duck boots made the trek a little tougher, they protected me from the leeches.
Joe - I did not think I would make it, but the scenery was incredible.
Avery - I finished leech free. Slow and steady won the race.
Bryson - Big mountains, small twigs on bridges, and hot dog fire water make for an interesting few days.
Gangtok - Sikkim Happiness Home
I woke up yesterday morning to the sound of Ryan at 6 am yelling about clear skies and clear visibility around the little house we stayed in. We drank our morning tea and walked over to the monastery, partially destroyed by an earthquake in 2012. We hung prayer flags with positive blessings for our family and loved ones before heading out on our twelve mile trek back down the mountain. The trek was highlighted by me falling on my butt (but not crying), getting my seventh leech bite, singing Taylor Swift to pass the time, crossing probably the most dangerous suspension bridge ever with little hesitation, and drinking water that tasted like hot dogs from the pot it was boiled in. But we made it!!! We then drove about four hours to Gangtok, much bigger than any place we have been so far on the trip. Along the way, we drove through some beautiful villages and took a pit stop to change a flat tire at a gas station that had really good mango juice. We finally arrived a the Sikkim Happiness Home just in time for dinner. We were greeted by tons of smiling faces and nervous giggles. The girls all walked around and introduced themselves and we quickly made friends. Grace and I are sharing a room with two girls our age and it was so awesome getting to talk about everything going on in our lives as senior girls about to go off to college. We had a delicious dinner that included me reaching my spice limit with spicy potatoes. The little girls showed me around the house and we had an impromptu dance party on the roof of the Happiness Home with the lights of the city all around us. A group of girls and I hung out together until around 11 pm talking about school, life, and all of the above. Chicky and I bonded over our dislike of math and Binita and I sang Hannah Montana songs together. I took my first shower in three days before going to sleep - excited for the rest of the time I will get to spend with the girls before we head home. We are having a great time and hope all is well at home. Special birthday wishes to my friend Evelyn who is turning 18 while I am gone!
Momos are steamed dumplings stuffed with cabbage, onions, carrots, and spices. The girls the Sikkim Happiness Home are very skilled at preparing and cooking them for such a large group. With the help of the Baylor students, they made over 400 momos for dinner. Before this trip, the record for momo consumption was 34. After much effort, motivational music, and cheering from his classmates, Josh ate 35 momos! We will let him write the blog tomorrow to let us know how he is feeling in the morning.
I was once told the best way to solidify an awesome experience in your life is to do something , for a lack of a better word, absurd. So when I heared about the momo eating contest, I figured 35 momos would help me remember the first time I visited the Happiness Home in Gangtok. Going into the contest, I was cautiously optimistic because I normally eat a lot anyway, but 35 momos... sheesh. I rocked out the first ten easily. The next ten, not so easy. When I got to the last 15, I knew it was a mind game, so I closed my eyes and continued to persevere. When I got to 29, I really started to feel it... but I couldn't back down at that point. So with the support of everyone around me and the promise of a discount at Rock Creek Outfitters from Aaron, I pushed through the pain. In the end, I felt a sense of accomplishment because from this point forward, I can see a momo and remember the awesome experience of visiting Sikkim India.
Sikkim Happiness Home
A little bit of magic happens when Baylor students spend a couple of days with the girls in Sikkim. The students will write more once we get to Delhi and have some down time. They are too busy playing, dancing, and sharing this time together!
Back in Delhi
Tomorrow's forecast for Delhi is haze (smog) and 96 degrees. There are also 17 million people here. We have good friends in Delhi, but the chaos and heat makes us wish we were back in Sikkim.
The students will write one more blog entry tomorrow before our marathon of flights back to the USA.
As this trip winds down, like they all eventually do, I think we’re all finally finding a little time to reflect on what just happened. What an opportunity to learn and grow in a way that most people will never get or never get to take. As an adult who has both studied and travelled, I can honestly say that I have learned more from my experiences around the world, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, than I have in classrooms. That being said, India is the most vibrant/intense place I have ever been; the smells (good and bad), the sounds, the colors, the people, the culture and most definitely the food (ask Joe); are something that is special to this place and this place only. It can be almost overwhelming, like a shock to the senses, but that does something to you that helps you grow as a person, and I watched these guys grow as people out here and it was something special that I will never forget. Not only did the students grow, but I grew, all of us grew, in different ways, but together. We learned, sweat, bled, had deep talks, got uncomfortable, rafted some amazing whitewater, saw some of the biggest mountains on Earth, some of us cried a little and it was great. I don’t know how to put into words the gratitude I feel to have been a part of this trip and more so, to have shared it with such amazing humans. I hope I taught ya’ll as much as you all taught me. Thank you ALL and namaste, or whatever they say out here.
From Debbie Sue:
We are rounding towards the end of our 2 week adventure here in “Incredible, Unpredictable, Exciting India”. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for this experience to see, touch, taste, hear, and feel what this foreign country has to offer. My senses are sharpened and my eyes are wide open. I am not the person I was 14 days ago, and I believe for the better. I am also deeply grateful for this opportunity to spend quality time with 10 amazing developing young adults. These 10 individuals are world changers and our future. Their lives, I believe, are enriched and fertilized from this adventure. From expanding their palate to broadening their discomfort levels, I have witnessed transformation and growth from everyone. This will be a valuable subtle tool in navigating through this complex and ever changing world we live in. Thank you parents for allowing your children to embark on this adventure, thank you Baylor for supporting the growth of our future leaders, thank you Tim and Ashlee and all Walkabout staff for developing this experience. Most of all thank you to the 10 adventurers and 3 fantastic leaders for the deep belly laughs, the squeals of excitement, the bravery to do the things that awaken fear, to open minds and deep conversations of philosophy, to keep going, to try new flavors, and to soften your hearts to meet other humans on a basic unified level. This has been such an awesome gift to share our light and happiness with each other and India. Deepest most sincere gratitude.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a simple candle, and the life of candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was excited. The time coming over just FLEW by without any problems. For the next three days we rafted and I had a blast. The trek was damp, humid, and a testing few days. Staying in Gangtok was fun and a lot calmer than I expected. Delhi… well, it was Delhi. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to go on this trip. I had a blast and met amazing people and saw things I never expected to see. Thank you and Goodnight.