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    [post_content] => During breakfast on the morning of the 17th, we were informed that we were to be staying with monks for the night. At around 2:00 o'clock we piled into a couple of jeeps and headed out to the monestary. Us boys were to stay in the monestary while the girls were to stay in the nunnery. As we piled out of the jeeps, Alex and I entered into the monestary. It was an apartment complex that surrounded a large temple at the center. We were shown to our spartan accomodations and then headed down to nunnery were prayers were taking place. It was a long, complex cermony that consisted of drum beats, prostation at the alter in front of the Budha and singing. The prayers were fascinating, but I was tired and didn't want to be culturally insensitive by taking a nap in the middle of service, so I headed back up to the room. After my nap, I woke up and had tea with the head monk. We talked a little (he had limited english) and then headed down and ate dinner together (it was another round of dal bhat). A monk who spoke fluent english arrived later in the evening. Alex, the monk and I talked for around two and half hours about Buddishm and its practices. He was curious, so I also explained a little of my religion (I am Jewish). It was a enlightening cultural exchange. The last item of note took place at lunch the following day. We sat down with six other monks to eat and although we couldn't exactly speak the same language, we were joking about he food and how hot it was (I could have blown fire out of my mouth at that table). It was then that I realized how surreal that whole scene was, two white kids and a bunch of monks joking about spicy food in a monestary in the middle of India. As I have learned time and time again, we are all far more connected than we seem at first appearance.
    [post_title] => A Sleepover at the Monestary
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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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A Sleepover at the Monestary

Aaron Guggenheim,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

During breakfast on the morning of the 17th, we were informed that we were to be staying with monks for the night. At around 2:00 o’clock we piled into a couple of jeeps and headed out to the monestary. Us boys were to stay in the monestary while the girls were to stay in the […]

Posted On

07/18/09

Author

Aaron Guggenheim

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woke up @ 5;30 - our last morning at the schoolhouse

the ten school girls who opened theirroom to us were up and cleaning

the sun made everything outside and inside seem golden

I had a feeling that i could have a glimpse at the himalayas, considering sikkim was glowing today

ran outside and there they were...two wonderous peaks ..so magical and statuesque. they were addictive and you couldnt take your eyes off of them and it made me want to see more

the snowypeaks were so multifaceted and crystal-like...cutting throughthe sky .

so powerful.

of course my camera ran out of battery. :P

we said goodbye to the school.

we said goodbye to theamazing, broad-mindedprincipal...a man with a vision.

we said goodbye to thoughtful &hospitable students ...artists, basketball-players, musicians, prefects, little chefs....so much talent and potential in these kids...

Anyways, on our way to Yuksam, we stopped @ a waterfall. climbed to the top with alex aaron sarah germaine and sid. It was huge and magical and i started thinking about how this waterfall just keeps going and going and never gets bored.

Germaine just climbs over the rail and gets in the water, so, naturally, we follow...spontaneously deciding to go swimming @ the base of this gigantic waterfall.

I roll up my pants, not thinking about getting back in a jeep soaking wet.

Everyone under in 1..2..3!!! we all dunk our heads, start splashing each other.

we were all so happy because, before this, we were all so tired and not wanting to climb any more stairs .. but we did... and we found this wonderful oppurtunity.

We lay out on boulders in the sun, overlooking hills of green, and we all realized how cool and unique this was - how lucky we were.

constantly being sprayed by a satisfying mist.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Another Universe pt 5

Sarah Randolph,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

woke up @ 5;30 – our last morning at the schoolhouse the ten school girls who opened theirroom to us were up and cleaning the sun made everything outside and inside seem golden I had a feeling that i could have a glimpse at the himalayas, considering sikkim was glowing today ran outside and there […]

Posted On

07/18/09

Author

Sarah Randolph

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-18 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Tashi Delek!

This morning we woke up to blue skies and a view of Mount Kachendzonga, the world's third highest mountain. Even through the monsoon rains we have had glimpes of the Himalayas throughout the trip. What a blessing!

We are currently in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. As Reed mentioned earlier there is a bandh, or strike, in the district of Darjeeling, making travel in and out of the region not possible at the moment. We have therefore shifted the duration of our program to Gangtok, literally meaning "hill top." Very suitable for this urban center built along a steep ridge, layers of multicolored buildings coating the hill side.

The group is currently staying at nearby gompa, or monastery, and at an ani gompa, or nunnery, respectively. Through this experience, students are able to observe and particpate in the life of the monastic community, offering a unique glimpse of Buddhism in practice. Gangtok provides numerous opprotunities to delve into Buddhism, as well offering a variety of ISP opporotunities. Yesterday we attended a lecture on Tibetan Buddhism with Tashi Gyamtso, a very knowledgeable and respected community member, which seemed to leave the group with more questions than answers. A success!

Throughout the next week we will dive into ISPs and continue our studies on Tibetan Buddhism with a visit to Enchey Gompa, one of the most important monasteries in Sikkim and tomorrow students will begin their urban homestays, quite a contrast to the rural homestay in Tashiding and semi-urban in Kalimpong.

Overall the group is doing awesome, rested and recovered from our trek and our adventures in West Sikkim.

Many more adventures to come and we will keep you posted now that we have easy internet access. Hope this yak finds you all well!

Peace,

Germaine

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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On a Hilltop

Germaine Bartlett-Graff,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

Tashi Delek! This morning we woke up to blue skies and a view of Mount Kachendzonga, the world’s third highest mountain. Even through the monsoon rains we have had glimpes of the Himalayas throughout the trip. What a blessing! We are currently in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. As Reed mentioned earlier there is a […]

Posted On

07/18/09

Author

Germaine Bartlett-Graff

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    [post_content] => So we are currently in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, and an amazing place to be. As I sit here in the Matrix Internet Cafe, thinking of what to write, so many incredible memories come to mind. I will never forget my homestay family in Kalimpong- my Ganga Deedee, Shachi Bahini, and Bandana Bahini...Dancing for hours to Nepali music, and attracting every neighbor with the sound of music and laughter. I remember thinking, "This is one of the most incredible moments of my life". The trek, which was at once the most challenging yet beautiful experience of my life. Staying the night at a boarding school after our trek, which had the best girls basketball team in all of Sikkim. Singing the Beatles with the entire school, an amazing moment to say the least. Hiking to a cave in Yoksam for hours on end, only to find millions of leeches (which not only crawled up our legs, but jumped from bushes and fell from trees) and painfully spiny plants. I can't believe there's only 10 more days! It's amazing how time flies. 
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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Memorable Moments in Sikkim

Olivia Marder,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

So we are currently in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, and an amazing place to be. As I sit here in the Matrix Internet Cafe, thinking of what to write, so many incredible memories come to mind. I will never forget my homestay family in Kalimpong- my Ganga Deedee, Shachi Bahini, and Bandana Bahini…Dancing for […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Olivia Marder

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-16 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => I love momos. Imagine a nicely shaped dumpling with delicious filling steamed to perfection. While we were at the residential school, we became experts at making momos. It all started with Aaron crying over his onions whilea few of us girls unsuccessfully rolled out the flour. After being corrected many times by the students at the school, we got the hang of it and started developing our own shapes and patterns. Sarah Randolph made a cat while Aaron created deformedlumps of doughy deliciousness. But once they were all steamed, they were perfect! All they needed was some meat, but that had to wait until last night, when the group split up and half of us devoured 3 whole cows, some chickens and a pig here in Gangtok.
    [post_title] => MOMOS
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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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MOMOS

Sarah Blau,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

I love momos. Imagine a nicely shaped dumpling with delicious filling steamed to perfection. While we were at the residential school, we became experts at making momos. It all started with Aaron crying over his onions whilea few of us girls unsuccessfully rolled out the flour. After being corrected many times by the students at […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Sarah Blau

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-16 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

it is quite an uncomfortable feeling to know that in your mud covered hiking boots, under your sweat and reain drnched socks are tiney black leaches latched on to your naked ankles growing bigger adn bigger with your sweet blood. we were introduced to leaches on our lovely trek. some people escaped the jungle with out getting any bites. others were not so lucky and got a few.

today made our experience with leaches on the trek seem laughable. the group had their hearts set on a day hike to the top of a mountain where the cave of a buddhist goddess lay. one fourth of the way up we discovered that the leaches that lay in the damp plants of the forest were huge. way bigger than the ones that pestered us on the trek. real blood suckers....

the group dealt with the tourture-esk day hike differently. up the trail you could hear the high shreiks of girls adn boys as they peeled back their socks to see leaches feasting. then the shreiking would turn into a small whimper or cry as the leaches slippery bodies slid through fingers, their bites to strong despite our yanking. at times you would hear a plea to turn around, get out of this tourture chamber. this remark was always followed by one of Alex's whity, overly positive comments that made me want to punch him. or possibly a response turned into song by Sarah r. there was always Aaron encouragment, given as he sprinted up the mountain not realizing that not all of us are crazy cross country superstars.

not everyone dealt with getting their blood sucked so elegently. when the rain came and the leaches started faling out of trees, olivia had to literally drop her pants as annie plucked a leach from her butt with plyers. annie was laughing. olivia, not so much.

i for one, was residing in a place halfway between tears at the thought and feeling of leaches suction-cupped to my skin and laughing hysterically at our group as we sprinted up a mountain tweaking out like crack addicts as we itch our ankles and sing to ease our minds from thinking about the pain of that first bite.

i hate leaches

ps sorry about my spelling.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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leaches

brigette barnato,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

it is quite an uncomfortable feeling to know that in your mud covered hiking boots, under your sweat and reain drnched socks are tiney black leaches latched on to your naked ankles growing bigger adn bigger with your sweet blood. we were introduced to leaches on our lovely trek. some people escaped the jungle with […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

brigette barnato

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-16 00:00:00
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This is certainly The Twilight Zone's version of summer camp. Instead of cheery camp songs about friendship, we sing light-hearted versions of popular Beatles songs on the theme of leaches. Some of our favorites as we climbed through Indiana Jones rainforest,prey todropping ninja leaches,to an obscure cavewere "Yesterday, all the leaches seemed so far away" and "Imagine all the leaches...."

Instead of sloppy joes and a half-hearted salad bar, we've been living off Dal Bahdt; yellow potato juice on top of steamed rice. At one point in Tashiding, we ate it every meal of the day for a week. During The Trek, we had hour-long conversations on exactly what sort of cheeseburger we were dying for. After thirty minutes of walking uphill in exasperated silence, I'd look over at Sarah, to which she'd respond, "I know. I want a cheeseburger, too."

We don't play with soccer balls or baseball bats, but we kick around a ball of trash wrapped in duct tape with locals or play cricket with a carvedblock of wood. At one point, Alex hit the trashball on top of a roof. The local kids spent around half and hour scrambling up the moldy siding of the house and poking around the attic with a stick. Alex and I stood on a shaky pile of rocks, yelling, "Left! Right! It moved, oh, wait, it's stuck again...."

Our counselors don't say, "You can do it! I know you have it in you." During the trek, one of the most common phrases was, "Hey, tomorrow's going to be twice as hard!" accompanied with laughter.

All in all, everything is excellent. My only complaint is that we can't get to Darjeeling, where I was looking forward to studying Mugalai cooking and tea production. We're in Gangtok now- a city with the most incredible energy. Last night, we split the group into vegetarians and carnivors and pigged out at our respective heavens. I'm looking forward to this upcoming and impromptu homestay and to the healing of the big-dipper shaped constallation of leach bites on my foot.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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The Cheeseburger at the End of the Tunnel

Cecilia D'Anastasio,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

This is certainly The Twilight Zone’s version of summer camp. Instead of cheery camp songs about friendship, we sing light-hearted versions of popular Beatles songs on the theme of leaches. Some of our favorites as we climbed through Indiana Jones rainforest,prey todropping ninja leaches,to an obscure cavewere "Yesterday, all the leaches seemed so far away" […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Cecilia D'Anastasio

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After our trek, we stopped at a residential middle school to spend the night. The students are from rural families and most are the first ones in their family to attend school. Anyways, I stood amidst the crowd of a 100 on a dirt basketball court waiting to be claimed and shown to a dorm where I was going to be sleeping. As the rest of the group was led away be gaggles of smiling students, I was claimed by a group of 8th grade boys who were rather generous with their use of hair gel. They led me up a long winding dirt path smiling and offering to carry my pack. We chatted about my life and theirs and soon arrived at the dorm. It was a run down building with chickens, a wood porch and too many kids for the beds avaliable. I settled down onto a bed in one of the small rooms I was directed toand was quickly surrounded by 15 boys all staring at the small white oddity that had appeared in their midst. Soon, the conversation turned to music and soon after that, three boys arrived with guitars and a tatered song book full of an odd assortment of different sized pieces ofbinder paper that held the lyrics to popular American songs.One of them started to sing "Yesterday" by The Beatles and then we all joined in, singing a whole range of American songs. It was the coolest thing how music could link our different and strange cultures. The Beatles now have yet another special meaning for me.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Singing The Beatles

Aaron Guggenheim,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

After our trek, we stopped at a residential middle school to spend the night. The students are from rural families and most are the first ones in their family to attend school. Anyways, I stood amidst the crowd of a 100 on a dirt basketball court waiting to be claimed and shown to a dorm […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Aaron Guggenheim

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-16 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

I sit in the back of a jeep packed full of dragons students. We are on our way back to Gangtok becuase we are not able to venture on to Darjeeling because of the bunt. I look out the window and watch the windy road swtich back and forth across a lush and green mountian side.

As I sit I watch little children playing on the side of the road and boys and men carrying large baskets of rocks on their head i relize that i need to take a reality check. I need to relize that im not dreaming, that the poverty and suffering that surounds me is real and not something that i should be able to brush off my shoulder and classify it as not my problem.

I reflect on the little boy in Kulkata that followed me around in the market begging for money or food or anything that he could use to satisfy his hunger. I remember feeling heartless and evil as he walked away crying and as i look at these kids i wonder what if eveyone in the world was this hungry. the people i see are malnurished and need nutrients but all they eat is rice and whatever else they can eat.

I realize that as a middle class american i am gifted somuch oppurtunity that doesn't necessarily belong to me. that was my reality check.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Reality check

Leonard (Alex) Henderson,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

I sit in the back of a jeep packed full of dragons students. We are on our way back to Gangtok becuase we are not able to venture on to Darjeeling because of the bunt. I look out the window and watch the windy road swtich back and forth across a lush and green mountian […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Leonard (Alex) Henderson

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We are now in Sikkim's beautiful capital, Gangtok.

We arrived here last night after exploring the sacred buddhist spot, Khecheopalri Lake and witnessing a puja, which is a series of prayers and offerings made to deities, yesterday morning.

Upon arrival we relaxed and then went out for dinner. The meat eaters and vegetarians split up. I went with the Vegetarians to an incredible South Indian restaurant called Parivaar. We ate chapatis, naan, spicy veg dishes, and lassi's. We all ate until we were stuffed.

Today we have the day off to explore the city.

Our third home-stays and ISP's start very soon.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Gangtok

Ella Samuel,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

We are now in Sikkim’s beautiful capital, Gangtok. We arrived here last night after exploring the sacred buddhist spot, Khecheopalri Lake and witnessing a puja, which is a series of prayers and offerings made to deities, yesterday morning. Upon arrival we relaxed and then went out for dinner. The meat eaters and vegetarians split up. […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Ella Samuel

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