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Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14


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    [post_content] => We set off from Lehfor the Markha Valley on June 9th. The nine members of the group in addition to our guide, Dorjay; a cook , Rigzin; and two camp assistants Namgyal, and Angdus; and a driver piled into a van along with all our gear and enough food for eight days. (Diligent readers may note that we had the same guide on the Sham Trek and the same cook at Tsomoririlake). The van drove us as far as the Zanskar River where the road abruptly ended in an unfinished, skeletal bridge. Beneath what would someday be a bridge the bank cut steeply down for maybe thirty feet before meeting the swiftly flowing Zanskar. The trail head awaited us on the other side of the river! Unfortunately, as I have already stated there was no bridge.

Luckily there was a system in place for dealing with such difficulties! Stretching from one side of the river to the other, was a single sturdy steel cable hanging from which was what looked like a flimsy vegetable crate. The crate could be pulled back and forth over the rushing water with a rope. First our gear as pulled across, and miraculously the vegetable crate held and nothing was sacrificed to the mighty river. Following the successful crossing of our gear it was far less nerve-racking when we ourselves were placed in the placed in the crate in pairs. Still everyone was much happier when the whole business was finished.

On the far side of the river we were greeted by our seventeen pack animals and their two handlers, Dorje and Namgyal, the final additions to our group. At this point I’d like to take the opportunity to thoroughly applaud the ponies and mules, who carried far more and walked far faster than we did.

After a quick lunch on the bank of the Zanskar, we departed for parts unknown. What followed was eight days of gorgeous scenery and no showers.

The first three days were short, easy, slightly up hill walks. Afternoons were spent setting up camp, reading and playing cards. During this time we also started “Trek-ins” (a combination of Trek and Check-in). Each “Trek-in” was led by one of the students and used to debrief our time in Ladakh and discuss our imminent return to the US.

After reaching camp on day four our guide, Dorje, told us that there was an archery tournament in the nearby town of Markha. Sammy, Will, Michael, Naveeta, and I went with him to go check it out. The tournament had a small town fair feel with ten or fifteen archers shooting, in no particular order, at a piece of sod. The ragged arrows hit the dirt with a wet thunk. But despite the humble setting, disorganization, and ancient equipment the archers themselves were quite good and when they let us have a chance only Michael got anywhere near the sod.

Day five was especially memorable because it snowed. The snow started falling out of what had been a sunny sky moments after we finished packing up our gear in preparation for the day’s hike. This was followed by an immediate scramble to unpack gear and retrieve warmer clothing. We left camp later than expected, but far better prepared for the cold day ahead.

Day six brought us to the highest campsite of the trek. That night we camped at the highest altitude to which many of us had ever ventured. It was beautiful in the harsh way that inhospitable environments often are. Cold, shear, stark hills rose all around the campsite and the next day’s pass loomed over us as we set up our small yellow tents. The stream that ran through the campsite froze before the sun even went down. That night was too cold for sound sleep.

On day seven we crested the only pass of the trek, but what a pass. It clocked in at 17,200 ft and the slopes on either side, which we climbed for a better view, were even higher. At the highest point, we reached 17,500 ft, approximately the height of Everest Base Camp. We hung a kata, prayer scarf, near the top. Our scarf joined the many fluttering prayer flags which bring color to the desolate peaks. Dorje taught us a Ladhaki victory chant, which we shouted into the valley below. At last it was time to begin the steep decent. For six and a half days we had climbed and now it would be a day and a half of going down.

The last day turned out to be the longest. It started out much like the day before, with decent down steep trails, though not as steep as the preceding day. After three hours we met up with the paved road for the first time since we’d crossed the Zanskar. We followed the road till we reached Hemis Gompa Monastery.

Now after eight days of trekking, I’m proud to report that Bridge Year India 5.0 has returned to the land of showers. Unfortunately showers at Hemis Gompa Monastary are brutally cold and many group members, though I won’t name any names, are still refusing to shower for two additional days until our arrival in Leh on the 19th.
    [post_title] => Group Update Treking in Markha Valley
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Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

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Group Update Treking in Markha Valley

Zach Feig,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

We set off from Lehfor the Markha Valley on June 9th. The nine members of the group in addition to our guide, Dorjay; a cook , Rigzin; and two camp assistants Namgyal, and Angdus; and a driver piled into a van along with all our gear and enough food for eight days. (Diligent readers may […]

Posted On

05/23/14

Author

Zach Feig

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    [post_content] => Hey all! This might be coming a little late - 9 days to be exact - but we just got back from a whopper of a trek about which Zach will be posting shortly. The topic I'll be addressing is the pre-Markha Valley trek camping event at Lake Tsomoriri, one of Ladakh's gorgeous mountain lakes.

Before we headed off in the travel van to the lake, we spent a day in Leh enjoying ourselves and participating in a scavenger hunt around town organized by our newest instructor addition, Navita. Navita's trekking expertise, toughness, and shopping prowess has proved to be a great addition to the group in both general knowledge and group dynamic. The scavenger hunt brought the various pairings of BYPers to cool spots around Leh. Some favourites (notice the British English spellings we've picked up) include the view from the top of Tsempo Gonpa, the Donkey Sanctuary much removed from the main streets, and Moti Market. Speaking of Moti, readers should make sure to look up the results, reactions, and analyses of the Indian 2014 General elections, with Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi and the BJP party now in the spotlight after a decisive victory.

Now to Lake Tsomoriri:

It's hard to put into words, but I will try and do justice to the beautiful mountain lake. The area in which we camped, after a motion-sickness filled car ride, was a small, grassy patch that fell beside Lake Tsomoriri ("Tso" translates to the English "Lake," so it might be more appropriate to say just Tsomoriri from here on out). The lake is about 20 km in length, and 3 in width. It sits in a 15000 ft. high valley, with large snowy and rocky mountains alike hugging the lake's circumference, and the clouds either obscure the peaks from view, or come down and kiss the surface of Tsomoriri. The center of the lake remained frozen throughout our stay, with the outskirts melting during the day time and refreezing at night. In the heat of the afternoon, which ends up being very cold by anyone's standards, Emma, Zach, and Will enjoyed a nice (read: cold) dip in the shallows of the lake, and most of the group invested in playing cards and walks around Tsomoriri's edges at sometime or another. The group combatted the wind and cold by all staying in a crowded but merry big yellow tent. Other highlights of the trip include experimenting with the PAC bag, which mitigates altitude sickness, visiting the local police station, and eating extraordinarily good food, made by our trusted chef Rigzen. The entire adventure at Tsomoriri served as a great place to adjust to the altitude, spend some quality time goofing around together, and soak in the picturesque Ladakhi environment. As a group, we're excited that we're being exposed to so many new things even as we wrap up the program soon, and we hope you readers are looking forward to seeing us as much as we are looking forward to seeing you.
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Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

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Tsomoriri

Sammy Kunitz-Levy,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

Hey all! This might be coming a little late – 9 days to be exact – but we just got back from a whopper of a trek about which Zach will be posting shortly. The topic I’ll be addressing is the pre-Markha Valley trek camping event at Lake Tsomoriri, one of Ladakh’s gorgeous mountain lakes. […]

Posted On

05/23/14

Author

Sammy Kunitz-Levy

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    [post_content] => In the depths of the night in Delhi, the dragons lugged their stuffed packs—filled with new striped purple thermals and quality “Wind Stopter” knockoff jackets and headed to the airport. We knew little about the land we were about to enter except that it was rumored to be one of the most stunning places in the world, and every time we mentioned Ladakh, we were met with either fond memories or burning desires to come along. This was a sharp contrast to the last time we were in transit and mentioned our Banaras destination, and were met with either groans of disgust or admiring pats on the back.

So, after a quick check in, we boarded the plane and were off!

Ears popping and nose pressed against the window, we watched the land slowly change from metropolis to farmland to snowy peaks that burst out of a sea of mountains. Slowly the plane descended, lightly brushing down onto a small smooth patch of ground within a ring of slopes. In the airport, greeting us with a silk scarf, a traditional gift of greeting, we met by our new instructor, Navita. A native of Bangalore but a Ladakhi mountaineer and traveler at heart, she immediately became part of the group, sharing insights about Ladakhi culture and Buddhism.

To adjust to the change from sea level Banaras to 12,000 feet Leh, the first day was spent lazing around the hotel. We alternated between drifting to sleep, nuzzled under our plush comforters and shoveling down delicious subzis of carrots and potatoes, accented by the perfect sprinkling of garam masala. It is often difficult for the body to adjust to great changes in altitude, so the blissful relaxation and steaming bowls of thukpa were just what we needed acclimatize to life in the clouds.

Then we were off to SECMOL, a NGO located on the outskirts of Leh that offers alternative education to Ladakhi high school students. SECMOL was founded to change the flawed system of education in Ladakh that expects students to learn through the English and Urdu medium, even though a vast majority of their teachers are fluent in neither. This leads to brute memorization of key phrases and answers that are hastily scribbled onto government exams. This is a problem all over India, but with a 50% pass rate for students of 10th grade, especially prevalent in Ladakh.

We spend our time at the SECMOL center, a haven for students that have failed their 10th grade exams or are studying for their bachelors’ degree in Leh. SECMOL does not want to become another education force that encourages blind studying without learning, so instead focuses on conversational English, development and sustainability, and other core subjects.

As volunteers, we lead the conversational English classes. Even though most kids have been studying English since first grade, most are at a very low level and are unable to fully communicate. So, to push kids out of their comfort zone and maximize their learning, we would break into groups with the students and talk to them about various topics. We began with the basics, them sharing stories and information about our different lives. They buried in questions, eagerly asking “What type of animals live in your village?” and “Do Americans really think that milk comes from the refrigerator? Do they even know what cows are?!” As we started to get to know the students, the questions became harder and we struggled to find the words to describe our home (a place that seems at times, almost imagined in such a far away land). We tried to describe the intangible hierarchy that lies under the surface of America, illustrating our problems of discrimination of gender, sexuality, skin color and social class. In turn, they explained the different classes and castes, describing how the musicians of the low caste were forced to sit in the back rows of festivals and were sometimes still prohibited from sharing utensils with those of higher castes.

Outside of the classroom, we became part of the SECMOL community by joining the Ladakhi students in their daily routine. We began the morning by running across the chilly, windswept grounds into the deliciously toasty kitchen for breakfast with the students. Munching on thick Tibetan bread slathered in tart, sticky apricot jam, we would chat with the students and play a quick round of pick-up-sticks. Then we joined them for chores-- cleaning the windows, stripping branches for cow fodder, gardening or tidying a beautiful snow sculpture that was an artificial glacier/school monument/Buddhist shrine. Some days we would go back to our rooms to snuggle with a book or would wander over to the volleyball courts for an playful match, but we would always drift back and meet in the kitchen for a cup of chai and steamed bun.

Though we were supposedly volunteers for those 5 days at SECMOL, in the end, we learned just as much from our Ladakhi friends as they did from us.
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Group Yak- Landing in Delhi, Visit at the SECMOL School

Emma Latham,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

In the depths of the night in Delhi, the dragons lugged their stuffed packs—filled with new striped purple thermals and quality “Wind Stopter” knockoff jackets and headed to the airport. We knew little about the land we were about to enter except that it was rumored to be one of the most stunning places in […]

Posted On

05/16/14

Author

Emma Latham

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    [post_content] => Julley from the land of Ladakh, an unbelievable sanctuary amidst the Himalayan mountains in all directions. The space we have explored for the past two weeks diverges from the place we had called home not too long ago; Banaras. In place of the familiar Ganga River, we are now taken aback by the sight of the turquoise blue waters of the Indus River. We have said goodbyes to the countless friends, families, and coworkers whom made Banaras such a challenging but rewarding place.

With only one month till the program wraps up, our journey to Ladakh seems fitting. Today we approached our 250th day together, and slowly realized just how many memories we have accumulated throughout this year. We are surely excited to return home soon to share these stories, but are focusing on the importance of staying present throughout our new adventures.

On the topic of adventure, we recently returned from our first trek in the mountains. We completed what is known as the Shamm Valley trek which lasted four days and three nights. We began in Khalt-Se and hiked for four hours to Temisgen, situated at 3,650 meters. Day two proved more of a challenge as we hiked on a steeper incline for 5 hours and passed two individually impressive mountain passes. We eventually reached Hemis Shukpachen, a lovely village at an elevation of 3,750 meters. Day 3 involved only 3 hours of hiking. By then, we felt more at ease carrying our fullypacked hiking bags. We climbed 200 meters to reach one pass and then descended to the lovely Yang Thang village. Having arrived to our homestay so early, we spent the afternoon and evening in Yang Thang finishing our books and playing many card games. On our last day, we reached the pass known as Po Bi La after approximately 3 hours of hiking. Our cars met us soon after the first pass, but we insisted to continue walking for one more pass. Perhaps this is a testament to our eagerness for exploring the backcountry after spending 7 months in a city.

Seeing as we are not expert mountain-explorers, this trek suited our abilities. We had the opportunity to live with home stays each of the three nights, families which served us yummy food after a long day of climbing, While on the trails, we piled many rocks to carry on the Ladakhi tradition of adding to aleady-existing stuppas (rock formations which are meant to represent a sitting, enlightened Buddha). We also were awe-stricken by the sight of the 5-colored Buddhist Prayer flags which are strewn at each mountain pass of Ladakhi trails. We have many photos to share, but with the limited wifi access we have here in Leh, it seems impossible for us to post all we wish we could. The sweeping valleys and almost graspable clouds are truly sights that cause one to feel the vastness of nature’s creations. Stay tuned for more updates, that is when we find wifi access once again!
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Group Yak- Shamm Trek

Alissa Lopez Serfozo,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

Julley from the land of Ladakh, an unbelievable sanctuary amidst the Himalayan mountains in all directions. The space we have explored for the past two weeks diverges from the place we had called home not too long ago; Banaras. In place of the familiar Ganga River, we are now taken aback by the sight of […]

Posted On

05/16/14

Author

Alissa Lopez Serfozo

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    [post_content] => The village of Domkhar had been described to us as “the most beautiful place on Earth”. While I would wager that many places here could compete for that title, Domkhar seems like a sure contender for the win. We came at an especially exciting time of year – all the apricot trees were in full bloom, and the valley was carpeted with petals carried away by the wind. The lower portion of Domkhar, where most of us stayed, is built along two slopes of a valley. In the center, a stream runs along polished boulders and slippery rocks before opening into the tumultuous, still-blue Indus River, no more than five hundred meters away. All along the river and connecting every house, prayer flags sway in the wind. Built for any number of reasons, from giving thanks for newborn children to commemoration of elders, white stuppas solidly frame the mountain.

The mountains around Domkhar are arid, tall and stupefying. But the village itself, nestled in an oasis of greenery, was incredibly welcoming. Every time we crossed someone on the road, we burst into cries of “jullay, jullay”, and were evenly matched in our enthusiasm. Every person stayed in an individual homestay for four nights and five days, but in this short span of time, we forged warm bonds with our families. During the day, we were invited to work at the local government school, whitewashing stuppas, digging irrigation ditches, teaching every subject from Urdu to Environmental Science and engaging in breathless games of volleyball that more than once sent the ball tumbling down the mountain.

While we were in Domkhar, an annual ten-day Buddhist festival was just closing. All of us were invited to partake in the festivities, which involved a lot of sitting around rolling prayer beads, spinning prayer wheels, and chanting “om maneh padmeh hum.” I totaled about eighteen hours there, but the great majority of that time was admittedly spent outside with my two host-sisters and their friends from school playing “ice-water” (basically freeze-tag), singing about a thousand different songs (Justin Bieber was a favorite) and entertaining them with slow-motion cartwheels. After long evenings of prayers, our patience was rewarded with warm food – skyoo or thukpa (thick vegetable stew with hearty doughy pieces) or pappa (heavy raw dough made from barley flour and dunked into greens).

Our time in Domkhar felt altogether too short, but we were sent off with bagfuls of locally grown walnuts and dried apricots, and I trust that, reverberating from the prayer wheels that line the winding street of the village, my sisters will keep on singing You Are My Sunshine on the way to school.
    [post_title] => Group Yak- Domkhar Homestay
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Group Yak- Domkhar Homestay

Maddy Pauchet,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

The village of Domkhar had been described to us as “the most beautiful place on Earth”. While I would wager that many places here could compete for that title, Domkhar seems like a sure contender for the win. We came at an especially exciting time of year – all the apricot trees were in full […]

Posted On

05/16/14

Author

Maddy Pauchet

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    [post_content] => 
How is this night different from all other nights? Every year this question is asked at countless seder tables around the world. A seder is an annual meal on the Jewish holiday of Passover where friends and family come together to tell the story of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. The question and its four answers, all recited in Hebrew, emphasize the ways in which we modify Jewish ritual on the night of the seder so as to set it apart for communal learning, great food, and the commemoration of our ancestral freedom from bondage. The question is about using variation as a ritual and change to stimulate deeper memory, and never before has it felt so relevant to me on Passover. This year the first seder night fell on one of my last nights at home in Varanasi. Our group of seven was busy with final to-do lists and last-minute goodbye dinners, and there was no time for an official Passover seder, which often last more than five hours. Other than some matza (unleavened bread that is special for this holiday, received in a package from New York) and a few blessings, my night did not have much in common with past Passover seders. Or did it? Although I did not spend the first night of Passover with my friends and family back home reading through the story and singing the traditional prayers and songs, I did spend the night around a communal table. In fact, at the final dinner in Will’s honor at Little Stars School there were many familiar rituals. We had dancing, singing, prayers, lots of talking, good food, and great company. The atmosphere was close enough, but the annual re-telling of the Passover story was missing. Every year Jews around the world use the seder to tell the story of a people long ago who, against all odds, survived slavery and escaped to freedom. The story is full of hardship and pain, but always ends on an up-note with games and songs of praise. This year, it almost seemed like we skipped straight to the fun part at end without taking time to recognize the sad and scary parts. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The day before my dinner at Little Stars was my last day of service at Guria. Maddy and I spent the day at the center, giving the kids there our maximum energy and wishing that we could stuff our pockets with hugs to be saved for later. Over the past seven months I have grown to profoundly love these kids. Even so, I can barely say that I have even begun to understand the type of lives they live. As the children of sex workers in Varanasi’s red light area, the kids who attend Guria’s center are impoverished, sometimes unhealthy, and particularly vulnerable targets for human traffickers. With Guria, I’ve spent the year learning about human trafficking, its causes and effects, and the extent to which trafficking really is an evil form of modern-day slavery. Passover is about despair with a light at the end of the tunnel. At the seder we tell a story of bondage that ends in freedom and sing songs of an ancient peoples’ hopelessness that ultimately becomes joyful liberation. This can be very beautiful, and are certainly important stories to keep alive. But never should we, the memory-holders, in our eagerness to get to the story’s happy ending and finally serve some matza-ball soup, overlook the realization that slavery is not gone. And it’s not almost gone, either. Slavery exists today as cruel and ugly as ever before, and as of yet, nobody has proved able to recreate the Passover story and end it all at once. This Passover has not revolved around traditional rituals (unless you count my early morning bath in the GangaJi-- but that one belongs to a different religion) for me, but the traditional themes of paying attention to slavery and hardship and suffering have been stronger than ever. Whether it is sex trafficking, racism, genocide or something else, let’s not forget the slavery of modern victims when remembering the liberation of past ones. As we celebrate successes of eras past, let’s remember that although the manifestation has changed, the logistics have changed, and (if you’re me) your entire environment may have changed, the issues remain; and it upon us to work towards today’s successes that may one day be celebrated by generations to come. [post_title] => All the Wrong Rituals, All the Right Reasons. 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All the Wrong Rituals, All the Right Reasons.

Talya Nevins,Picture of the Week, Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

How is this night different from all other nights? Every year this question is asked at countless seder tables around the world. A seder is an annual meal on the Jewish holiday of Passover where friends and family come together to tell the story of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. The question […]

Posted On

04/21/14

Author

Talya Nevins

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-21 14:27:25
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-21 20:27:25
    [post_content] => Dear Family & Friends of BYP India 5.0,

After several busy weeks wrapping our time in Banaras, our group is on the move again. Bidding farewell to our host families, work partners, and community was indeed sad, as they have contributed so much to our experience, learning, and well-being over the past 6 months, but we departed with warm hearts and smiles.

We are currently in Delhi, with just a few hours to catch some shut-eye before we head to the airport to fly to Leh, Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir State, where we will spend the next month. We have an exciting itinerary ahead, combining some service opportunities with homestays and high mountain adventures. We'll spend the first few days acclimatizing to the altitude (3,542 m / 11,562 ft) and staying on the campus of SECMOL, a.k.a the Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (http://www.secmol.org/index.php) and join activities there. Following, we'll drive west to Domkhar and begin a week-long homestay and have opportunities to get involved with the school and community. Then almost two weeks in, we'll start our first trek along the popular Sham route, a warm-up for our group to test our capabilities in the Himalayas. This should be a moderate challenge for our group and will allow us to continue gradually adjusting to the altitude. Following this trek, we'll return to Leh for a day or two and then bus up to Tso Moriri, a large high-altitude lake that sits at 4,595 m /15,075 ft, where we will camp and take in the stunning landscape. Now nearly three weeks into our stay, we'll set off on our biggest challenge, an 8-day trek through the Markha valley and Hemis National Park that will have us crest Kangmaru La, a pass at 5,285 m. We'll finish up at the Hemis Monastery, spend a day there in reflection, and head back to Leh for final day of exploring.

During our month in Ladakh, our access to communication will be quite limited. We will only have internet access during the days we spend in Leh and the students will no longer be carrying cell phones. However, the instructors (myself and our newest team member, Navita Shyam) will have mobile phones, as well as our local coordinator. If you need to contact one of the students, please do be in touch with the BYP or Dragons admin staff who can relay the message.

Warm regards, and many stories to come,

Michael
    [post_title] => Transition
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Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

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Transition

Michael Woodard,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

Dear Family & Friends of BYP India 5.0, After several busy weeks wrapping our time in Banaras, our group is on the move again. Bidding farewell to our host families, work partners, and community was indeed sad, as they have contributed so much to our experience, learning, and well-being over the past 6 months, but […]

Posted On

04/21/14

Author

Michael Woodard

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-21 13:59:50
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    [post_content] => It’s never easy saying goodbye. With service in Benares finished, and a handful of days left, we spent our last time in Varanasi running errands, filling out paperwork, and spending as much time as possible saying goodbye to the people who have been important to our lives here.

On Sunday was our independent study presentations. Though all were phenomenal, we ruled the most impressive to be Shiv’s (Dolly ji’s son) act in which he handed out scraps of torn paper and stickers. Alissa performed her Kathak dance, taking breaks to explain the mudra hand movements and show how each movement symbolizes the worship of a goddess or a specific mood. Zach cut cloth to make a western shirt for Shiv, explaining the entire time the nuances of tailoring clothes and comparing them to the other pre-made products. Sammy played the Yaman raag on the Sitar and finished with his own rendition of “Blue Eyes” by Yo Yo Honey Singh. Emma performed the Basuri flute, explaining the ins and outs of the different types of flutes and how each is played. Michael played Amazing Grace and the Yaman raag for us on the Saurangee. Maddy shared some favorite lines from shayari, Muslim poetry, before translating all of our names into Urdu, and Talya and William performed Banethi and Poi fire dancing to end the night.
On Monday, the hostel girls and Asha ji at William’s work site, Little Stars, invited the group over for a farewell dinner filled with games such as musical chairs, swinging the little ones around, and dancing to the booming Bollywood beats playing overhead. While this was happening, Sammy and Alissa were spending time with their friends from Nirman, saying goodbye and remembering the year.

On Tuesday was the final banquet. It began with a final classical music concert performed by Santosh Mishra and his brother on the saurangee and violin. All homestays, friends, and coworkers were invited to enjoy food and each other’s company, a way of us thanking them for all they have done for us over the year.

After cleaning up the program house, we feverishly went about our chores for the last two days, spending time with homestays making food, giving gifts, talking, and shifting our minds to what lies ahead. We waved goodbye at 4 o’clock on Thursday and boarded the Shiv-Ganga train overnight to Delhi.

In Delhi, we have stayed at the Wongdhen guest house in Majnu ka Tila, New Tibetan Refugee Colony. A cultural microcosm within Delhi, the bazaar here is filled with Tibetan handicrafts, men and women with shaved heads draped in burgandy robes, and a mixture of Hindi, Tibetan, and English chattersf from the alleyways.In addition to enjoying the Tibetan bread and new cuisine, it has been a new cultural bubble to explore for our two short days in Delhi. The group visited Chandni Chowk in the old city where we had Kareem’s famous kebabs, found kulfi, explored the bazaars, and returned to prepare for the Princeton Alumni Party that night.

The party was hosted by Herro Mustafa and Ran Jan Pal and in addition to our group and Princeton alumni in India, the accepted students from India came, and we got to meet them and share with them some of our experiences in Varanasi. It was exciting getting to meet our future classmates and hear the stories of some of the past graduates and the exciting work they have done in their lives.

The next day, the group drove to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Arguably the most famous landmark in India, the Taj was an impressive landmark, and we really enjoyed getting to learn more about its history and architecture.

Later that night, the group met at a restaurant co-owned by our old friend Ashish (who was our first host at Sonopani in Kumaon during the first 6 weeks of our program) to have a last dinner with our favorite instructor Dolly ji. Dolly and her husband Bantu ji are not only logistically the glue that keeps the program running but also the heart and soul of our experience here, and already we are all planning on how we can return quickly to visit them again. Dolly was a great auntie and friend, and we are sad to say farewell! Also able to make the party was our dear Keith ji, and though a dinner was not nearly long enough to catch up on everything that has been happening since we last saw him, it was wonderful to get to reunite with him again, and we hope to see Keith again soon!

Now in a few short hours, we will be boarding the plane for Leh, Ladakh. We will not have internet access for the last 6 weeks of the program, so it will be difficult to send any communications, but we look forward to continuing our service elsewhere, learning more about a new part of India, and enjoying the grandeur of the Himalayas up close through trekking and exploration.

Namaste from BYP 5.0. We will see all of you again soon!
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Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

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Group Update

William Hinthorn,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

It’s never easy saying goodbye. With service in Benares finished, and a handful of days left, we spent our last time in Varanasi running errands, filling out paperwork, and spending as much time as possible saying goodbye to the people who have been important to our lives here. On Sunday was our independent study presentations. […]

Posted On

04/21/14

Author

William Hinthorn

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-09 09:42:40
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-09 15:42:40
    [post_content] => Dear Friends and Family of India 5.0,

Here's my latest short film from our time in Calcutta back in February. I found the city just as raw as Banaras, but somehow fresher and more vibrant too. While our scheduled sight-seeing was wonderful, I was mostly captured by street scenes, as you'll see.

Enjoy...

https://vimeo.com/91483596

Best,

Michael
    [post_title] => Calcutta Eye Candy
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Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

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Calcutta Eye Candy

Michael Woodard,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

Dear Friends and Family of India 5.0, Here’s my latest short film from our time in Calcutta back in February. I found the city just as raw as Banaras, but somehow fresher and more vibrant too. While our scheduled sight-seeing was wonderful, I was mostly captured by street scenes, as you’ll see. Enjoy… Best, Michael

Posted On

04/9/14

Author

Michael Woodard

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-07 09:24:59
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    [post_content] => Group Yak April 6

The past week with Bridge Year India has been one of the season’s first mangoes, dodging mosquitos, and not-quite final moments with our service sites and homestay families. We began our week with a happy visit from Eva Vanek, who came from the Where There Be Dragons office in Boulder bearing gummy bears, and closed it with a day trip to a gorgeous waterfall in Lakhania, two hours outside of Varanasi. The site’s cascading water, impressive swimming hole, and perfect sun-basking spots made the trip beautiful and just the right recharge for our last two weeks in Benares. Gummy bears and swimming alone would have been enough to make this week memorable, but what everyone has been doing individually with these last moments in Benares is what really deserves to be reported.

NIRMAN has been on break after exams, so Sammy and Alissa are using the extra time to grade papers, write progress reports, and prepare the drama workshop that will be their goodbye gift to their students. Sammy is on his way to reaching the famous Guru-shishya (mentor - mentee) bond with his Sitar Guru-ji. Of course, spending the night at his Guru-ji’s house and jamming until 4 AM might not be the only reason that Sammy’s skills are improving (practice could also be part of it), but it truly shows how wholeheartedly he is committed to learning the art. Meanwhile, Alissa is working tirelessly with her Guru-ji to prepare the long and elaborate story that she will tell in her Kathak dance performance for the group next week. I’ve seen the notes for the program, and can only anticipate the foot-smacking, bell-jingling, beat-chanting treat we are in for.

Zach has recently taken on the dual task of updating the Bal Ashram’s website and convincing his boss to start a guinea hen farm at the Ashram’s eco park. Check in on his progress with the website if you’re interested to hear about cows, organic agriculture, lychee honey, homemade garam masala, and of course the boys who live at the Ashram. When not at work or eating kebabs from his new favorite stand, Zach is churning out new kurtas and western shirts in all styles and colors of the rainbow from his work with his tailoring ISP. My personal favorite is his recently finished hot-pink, short-sleeved, half-button-down masterpiece.

Emma, whose family has gone to visit their family in the village for the week, has been couch-surfing between various instructor and group members’ homes. She seems to be enjoying the flexibility of eating and sleeping wherever that night’s dinner or expected company promises to be most exciting. Emma has also found plenty of time to spend out-of-work hours with her co-workers and fellow interns at World Literacy Canada since their staff retreat. Also, if you’re looking for a fully informed opinion about the different lassi stands in the area, Emma is quickly becoming the Person to Ask (perhaps even beating out Will and Alissa for the unofficial ‘most lassis in one week’ prize).

Will is working hard and, as usual, keeping up with way more things in his busy life than most of us can handle. He is especially focusing on helping write a big round of grant proposals for funding of the Little Stars Girls’ Hostel. Half-secretary and half-personal assistant, with some English tutor and potential son-in-law thrown in the mix, Will plays his versatile role at Little Stars with so much dedication that its hard to imagine how he also finds time for all the reading, fire-dancing, lectures with his host father Rakesh Pandey-ji, jogging, and solo bike rides for lassis on the other side of the Ganga-ji that he does.

Maddy and I have officially declared that 100 + degrees Farenheit is too hot to continue biking to work, so we have been spending a lot of time commuting with our favorite auto-rickshaw-wala, Badaku. Guria’s red light area NFE Center recently got a serious paint-job and it looks wonderful. We have been tending Guria’s Facebook and blog, working on an art therapy program for the children in conjunction with a Masters student back in the United States, and recently took a trip to the village outside Varanasi where Guria is setting up a goat bank. The goat bank is essentially a livelihood support system for impoverished villagers that loans out goats as a way to support families without involving any cash. Maddy and I petted, chased, and milked goats all morning on Thursday before getting a household to mud-hut household tour of the tiny village. Urdu poetry reading and firedancing practice both continue as we prepare for ISP presentations next weekend.

Michael and Dolly have been busy holding us together, keeping everyone hydrated, and prepping us for our upcoming time in Delhi, Agra, Ladakh, and Kumaun. The time for farewell notes, goodbye dinners, and parting gifts is approaching more quickly than any of us can believe, but we still have time left and plenty of opportunities to make the most of the rest of our time in Benares. Mango smoothies, frozen lassis, and freshly cut watermelon and coconut chunks beckon. Ganga-ji’s glistening waters and Banaras Hindu University’s greenery call out. Benares, get ready for us to take these last two weeks by the horns (like the two bulls I saw in the street this morning) and make the most of them!
    [post_title] => Group Yak- Not Quite Goodbye
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Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

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Group Yak- Not Quite Goodbye

Talya Nevins,Princeton Bridge Year India 2013-14

Description

Group Yak April 6 The past week with Bridge Year India has been one of the season’s first mangoes, dodging mosquitos, and not-quite final moments with our service sites and homestay families. We began our week with a happy visit from Eva Vanek, who came from the Where There Be Dragons office in Boulder bearing […]

Posted On

04/7/14

Author

Talya Nevins

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