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Mount Billing Ghad, "Wild Cattle Beast" and PARAGLIDING!

Yes, that's right: I jumped off a mountain and paraglided yesterday! :D I consciously left that plan for the weekend out of the last message as I can remember how horrible it was when Vivian informed me she was going to do a skydive and then disappeared off the face of the planet for days...

So I can confirm both of us made it down in one piece and it was absolutely amazing!! Though except for the part where they strapped you in and you had four guys shouting at you to 'run,run,RUN!!!!' the whole thing was pretty relaxed...

 But I'll start at the beginning of the day because the whole thing was quite the experience... One of the other girls volunteering here had been dying to go paragliding so over the week we made plans to try and do it this weekend. ('plans' here meaning getting the guy who runs a travel agency across the road- but also does our laundry and owns a taxi- to make many many calls and coming back to us with rather contradictory information). Basically, because we're in the middle of the monsoon season (yes- it's raining harder than I'd ever experienced in my life right now), there wasn't really any telling whether we'd be able to go. So the plan was for the paragliding guys (about 100km away) to call our laundry guy at 4am on Saturday morning to let us know how the weather was over there and if it looked fine we would have gotten into a car around 5 to be there by 8 am... When we looked at our alarms on Saturday morning and they showed 9am it was clear that it wasn't going to happen that day. So the next plan was for us to set off at 7am on Sunday and then just wait on the mountain (Mount Billing Ghad) for a gap in the clouds during which we'd be able to jump... So that's what happened. The first two hours of the journey were chilled enough (one gets used to the fact that sides of the road are a defined in a pretty flexible way and that horn-honking replaces most traffic rules- anything slower than the car will just move out of the way- mostly without even looking whats coming and then shift back into the middle of the road once the honking object has passed. of course with the exception of cows which have precedence over everything and if they decide to go for a nap on the middle of the road everyone else will just slowly move around them). But after two hours we had to go up the mountain and that's were it got interesting. The view was stunning (at the times we weren't driving through clouds) but the path wasn't the widest and the fact that there was a dead cow lying on the middle of it at one point, and that we got stuck at another and all had to get out at another didn't make the whole thing particularly reassuring. Most of us concluded that as daunting as the prospect was it would probably be actually safer to paraglide off the mountain than to drive down again. Anyway we made it to the top- and there we were. The paragliding guys came up after us with all the equipment and from then on we had to wait... The next six hours were interrupted only by us going for chai in a little hut propped up against the hill, Indian tourists driving up the mountain- getting out to take pictures- and driving down again, and a group of about 20 men coming up in a truck and inviting us to join them for the hoisting of what they claimed was the longest Indian flag ever (if they're to be believed, look out for our picture in the next guiness book of records ^^). During all this the weather was decidedly foggy (we were literally sitting in a cloud) with sunny spells in between when one cloud passed over the mountain and the next one arrived... So by four o'clock you can imagine we were all rather cold, wet, tired and pretty sure that that paraglide was not about to happen anytime soon. We set off back down the mountain- the fog at that moment so dense that we could literally see about half a meter in front of the car. We'd just made it almost all the way down to the bottom when the car of the paragliding guys pulled up behind us. Much discussing in some Indian dialect followed- and then our laundry guy informed us that the weather had cleared and we could definitely jump now. Looking out of the window the view had actually cleared and we set off on a wild chase back up the mountain attempting to beat the next set of clouds to the top. Once we got there we literally ran out of the car, onto the peak from where we were supposed to jump and where the guys had unpacked the gliders, got strapped in, gave our cameras to those of us who weren't jumping and started running!

 Off to supper now- we're being fed by the family who runs the monastery. exciting tibetan food!


Will work on some pictures soon (or check out Vivian's on facebook)



16.8.10 15:36


India - or: How Indian streetkids turned into Tibetan monks...

So.... nearly two weeks in and I've finally managed to a) set up a blog, b) work up the motivation to write it and c) do so at a time the internet is up and running.


But to start from the beginning- for those of you who don't know- I decided to volunteer in India this summer for 4 weeks teaching English. The organisation me and my sister went through gave two options for where we could be placed- Delhi and Dharamsala- and as neither of us was overly keen on boiling in Delhi in August we decided for Dharamsala. The organisation did say from the outset that it couldn't provide us with specifics regarding our exact placement and tasks but it was strongly implied that we would be teaching Indian children from less privileged backgrounds. So although we knew that Dharamsala is the home of the Dalai Lama in exile you can imagine we were a little surprised that when we got out of the taxi  (after over 50h of travelling) we were greeted by three Tibetan guys. They led us over the road and into a building where they told us the "daughter in law" would show us to our room in a moment. Only after we'd settled in there and had started chatting to Megan and Amalie, the two other volunteers living in the room next door, we realised we were staying in a  Buddhist monastery, run and inhabited by Tibetans in exile. Also, although the monks in our monastery are mostly children from 4 to maybe 15 years old, our students are grown-ups, aged anywhere between 20 and 60.

All this might sound a little negative- but actually the whole thing is absolutely AMAZING!!!! The students are incredibly motivated ('teacher,teacher!') and friendly so that although the facilities are far from what we are used to (one room with barely enough chairs for everyone, no tables, and the white-board came crashing down during one lesson last week) teaching is extremely fun and rewarding. It also turns out that teaching is one of the best ways of getting to know most of the population of Dharamsala. After a couple of days we couldn't make it five minutes up the road without bumping into some of our students- in most cases enthusiastically waving out of some shop (and calling: "teacher, teacher!". Yesterday I even met two of them in a cafe I had sat down in to do some reading for my dissertation (haha- I've reached p.3 of the one book I brought so far...). They insisted on buying me tea and cake and invited me back to Myanmar where they originally are from. (These particular two aren't Tibetan but are staying in India at the moment to study Buddhist philosophy- maybe to become monks). Just unfortunately most of our students still have so limited English that it is very hard to find out more about them. It also doesn't make the teaching any easier not having any common language one can fall back to to explain grammar or more abstract terms. As it is we're doing our best explaining as simply as possible and gesticulating A LOT...

 More soon... (oh- btw: I'm using an Indian mobile here (+919736540711) which I don't think it is horrifically expensive to call from skype\ with cheap pre-dials)



14.8.10 15:04

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