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Service and Internships in Darjeeling

It’s hard to believe our time here is coming to an end! Regardless of our limited days, we are still diving into life here. The kids are enjoying their home-stay families and have each taken to their internships in their own ways. Zach and Jacob can’t seem to get enough time with their internship mentor – they are making "khukuris", traditional knives – and are often in a hurry to get back to the shop. Yesterday they enjoyed tea with their mentor after their work was finished. Sophie and Colleen started off at Hayden Hall – a Catholic refuge in town for women and children – but the timing didn’t work out with our schedule, so they’ve since jumped over to help out a friend of mine spiffy up his little restaurant. They’ve just started and the new prayer flags, table cloths, and murals already make it feel incredibly more homey and artistic already! An hour ago, I was helping paint a "delicious filtered coffee" sign as Colleen and Sarah were drawing on the walls inside (Sarah is helping out too), as the rain poured down and two other female travelers chimed in their ideas and opinions. Aric is jamming on Himalayan instruments and within the first 3 minutes of meeting his mentor already hopped on an accordion and played away. Sarah is shadowing a local tour guide – an old friend of Dragon’s named "KayKay", an elder Nepali man whose personal stories are intertwined with the history and legends of Darjeeling. Each time we visit a new place, she gives us an account of the history. Yesterday she taught us about the history of the Himalayan Institute of Mountaineering and the Zoo during our visit and tomorrow she’s teaching us about Darjeeling tea when we hike to a tea garden and get a factory tour. She has also booked us tickets on the "Toy Train" for our last day here. The Toy Train, as it is fondly called, is a two car train deemed a World Heritage Site that is a coal run and slowly chugs through the little towns around Darjeeling.

Colleen, Sarah, and I had planned on sitting in on the afternoon Buddhist chanting at "Dali Monastery" but the onslaught of rain deterred us and we stayed to paint my friend, Sudip’s, shop instead (photos enclosed). Sophie went home early today (at 3PM) so she could attend "puja" (religious ceremony) with her home-stay mom. I’d say that the kids have jumped in!

Many of the photos enclosed are from our morning’s service project where the kids painted the kitchen of an itsy-bitsy, 3 roomed school house that sits just below some of their home-stay houses. Colleen’s mother teaches at the school and welcomed us warmly. The other photos are from this afternoon’s painting of Sudip’s shop as a part of Colleen, Sophie, and Sarah’s internship, giving back to the local community. (The photos won’t upload, I’ll try to get them up on a separate post.)

Navita and I are loving our time here, the company kept, and the activities that keep us busy from morning to night. Our thoughts go out to the rest of the Hawken group, who by now, should be home in the process of battling the jet-lag that comes with traveling home from Asia. We only have two more full days here in Darjeeling before flying down to Calcutta, and I think I speak on behalf of all 8 of us when I say that the time is flying. I wouldn’t mind another week!

We hope this finds you all well and happy!