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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011


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    [post_content] => After a tiring walk on our first day, we were all waiting in anticipation to reach our "Trekkers Hut" destination. These would be the places we would stay along the trail. We had no idea what to expect. One person thought they would be these stone little buildings with merely a tarp as a door. We were all not expecting the wonderful "hut" that we finally reached on our first day. It was a cute wooden building, more of a house than a "hut." We didn't even need to use our ridge rests because there were beds! It wasn't exactly as strenous as we had previously thought. It was wonderful to stay in such nice accomidations. We even had a shower for the first two days that some people joyously took advantage of before entering higher altitude.On the second to last day trekking wewalkedin the pouring rain throughout the morning, and we definetly looked forward to the warm trekkers hut. It stormed all that evening and even in the girl's room that was a bit drafty with some leaks everyone appreciated that we weren't actually in little tents. The trekkers huts exemplified a lot about the trekking - it was a lot more luxurious than we had all previously thought. This is mainly thanks to the awesome preperation in planning for these huts and the wonderful staff of porters / cooks that took care of us with hardy meals each day. 
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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Trekkers Huts

Abi Moeller,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

After a tiring walk on our first day, we were all waiting in anticipation to reach our "Trekkers Hut" destination. These would be the places we would stay along the trail. We had no idea what to expect. One person thought they would be these stone little buildings with merely a tarp as a door. […]

Posted On

06/21/11

Author

Abi Moeller

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While the experience of trekking through one of the most picturesque mountain ranges in the world was spiritual enough in itself, we had the opportunity to pass through many small villages and witness / take part in their unique spiritual connection to the land and the mountains. On the first afternoon (the afternoon after the first day of trekking) we stayed in a small village which had a small but beautiful gompa (place of Buddhist worship) next to our trekker's hut. We had an insightful discussion inside the gompa regarding the reading on Buddhist philosophy and what the different lineages of Buddhism are really saying. The next morning, we got a later start because we found out that the 15th was a special holiday and the local Lama came to preform a ceremony. Although we did not stay for the whole ceremony, I enjoyed the experience of witnessing a Lama in action.

For me, the most spiritually significant area which we visited on the trek was at the end of the third day and we were staying on the ridge of the mountains. After a rest, Zach, Hunter, and I went out for a stretch and a brief post-hike hike up the ridge on which we were located. Although it was a little foggy, the sun came out and made for an amazing view of steep mountain sides with extraordinary rock formations. After hiking further we discovered that we were located right on the Nepal/India border based on some vague stone posts. Along this border we discovered a few brightly colored rock shrines located at the peaks along the ridge for spiritual reasons. After experiencing the overwhelming nature and spirituality of the area, it is easy for me to understand why so many people find these places so sacred in their religions.

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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Thoughts on Spiritual Geography

Miles Bloomenkranz,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

While the experience of trekking through one of the most picturesque mountain ranges in the world was spiritual enough in itself, we had the opportunity to pass through many small villages and witness / take part in their unique spiritual connection to the land and the mountains. On the first afternoon (the afternoon after the […]

Posted On

06/21/11

Author

Miles Bloomenkranz

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    [post_content] => The trekking team traveled with an extensive crew of porters, chefs, and our guide Baijung. The crew constantly amazed us, whether it was with fantastic in-field meals or their adept methods of quickly traversing the trails. The cooking staff almost always sang as they worked. The head chef, Mauri, had a tough atmosphere surrounding him. Mauri could always be seen on te trail with his big moustache, his camo rain pants, and his rubber boots. He could walk across surfaces that we all slipped on or take the steepest path with ease. I once saw him leap from a dirt staircase that I had chosen to avoid. The porters also showed similar amazing feats. Every once in a while, we would be passed by the fast moving train of men carrying huge packs. They were also willing to ease the burden of any sick trekkers by carrying some pack items. Lastly, Baijung was an informative and knowlegeable guide who always seemed to know which path to take at a fork in the road. He could even do this in the midst of dense fog. We were all informed that Baijung had been awarded for being the best guide in India. He definitely made our experience fantastic!
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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Guides, cooks, and porters

Robert Fearon,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

The trekking team traveled with an extensive crew of porters, chefs, and our guide Baijung. The crew constantly amazed us, whether it was with fantastic in-field meals or their adept methods of quickly traversing the trails. The cooking staff almost always sang as they worked. The head chef, Mauri, had a tough atmosphere surrounding him. […]

Posted On

06/21/11

Author

Robert Fearon

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The cloud blurs my vision in all directions, obscuring even my hiking partner in a dark, hazy mist. Step after step, all we can see beyond our own hands is the shadowy sillouette of the trekker in front of us. Eerie in a pleasant way, as if to suggest that something larger lurked just beyond our eyesight.

As we stop to take a breakduring our steepest ascent, a blue- rain jacket clad figure materialized out of the fog. The spectre resolves into a man; wearing jeans and long black hair, he approaches us with a smile and a wave. Within seconds, we are conversing, trekker to trekker. After establishing reasons for hiking and a brief discourse on the odd weather, a thin, but not weak, hand disappears into the left jacket pocket, only to reappear holding a torn, folded business card for an Asian arts store in Plattsburgh, NY.

"Do you know this place?" He asks in accented but decent English. We reply in a vague sort of way (something to the affect of, "Oh yeah, I think I've driven through there to go to wherever...). "My father lives there. I haven't seen him in twenty-two years."

"Oh wow!" We reply, and a long, emotional narrative begins. His father, who had abandoned the man's mother and family so long ago, had run away to America and opened TibetArts. The man had found his father on Facebook and friended him. His father accepted his request, but not the mother's, apparently out of shame. He expresses his wish to find his father and confront him, quite possibly ending in violence.

We part ways amicably. This trekker is on his way to a temple to pray for his mother, while we are headed towards our next warm meal and a bed. While we weren't treated to sights of the Himalayan Giants, we were granted a unique insight into the struggle of one man's lifetime, an arguably greater and rarer experience than the one we signed up for.

[Sidebar] I title this Yak as I do because of the attitude of the man we encountered. For the brief moments that we shared, he seemed like a nice man who happened to have bad things visited upon him. Because of his experiences, he was filled, maybe even tainted, by a sadness and anger that had permeated his life almost from its beginning. As for his father, well, he may be a good man with good intentions, but his actions were interpreted as wicked by those affected by them. Ray Bradbury's novel of the same name tells of two boys lost in a carnival of Evil, torn between a desire to return home and a hunger to dive deeper into the darkness of Mr. Dark's promise of secret fantasy. Interpret as you will.

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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

Zach Voigt,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

The cloud blurs my vision in all directions, obscuring even my hiking partner in a dark, hazy mist. Step after step, all we can see beyond our own hands is the shadowy sillouette of the trekker in front of us. Eerie in a pleasant way, as if to suggest that something larger lurked just beyond […]

Posted On

06/21/11

Author

Zach Voigt

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Our first encounter with the free animals of the Himalayas occured during a mid-trek stop at a small tea hut. A good natured dog trotted up to us and stopped to keep us company. He was a large dog, black and brown, with a daringly crooked smile that made him seam like he was always smirking. Jacob named him wolf, and he followed us for fifteen minutes until we reached our destination. The next dog we met near a military camp as we crested a mountain during a long day of hiking. Perhaps smelling our pack lunches, the newly named Bear, followed us to our lunch stop where he waited patiently for scraps. Afterwards he lead us for the next four hours (no joke) to Sandakphu. Our guide, Mari, seamed to trust the dog's judgement and faithfully followed our canine friend through a myriad of shortcut trails. He stayed the night with us and was there to greet us in the morning. Sandakphu was were we also met a small but loud and jovia dog we named Boots due to his white forelegs. The following night we stayed at a trekker's hut where we met two new friends; Dog and Mittens. Mittens was a small tan kitten with a bloodthirsty appetite for mice. In fact, we watched him kill and devour one small mouse before looking again for affection. We all loved mittens accpet for Miles who was deathly afraid. As we continued on our journey, we met many other animals, amoung them, two dogs named Biscuit and Buddy, and another kitten named Chomper who enjoyed the taste of grass. Through it all, one mantra repeated often by Mr. Harris kept us at arms length and never in contact; "this uniformely fatal disease can be transimitted by the bite or even the lick of an infected animal" (rabies). In order to remain rabies free, we could only communicate with our eyes and that made us appreciate our new friends even more.

Jake and Hunter

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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Wolf, Bear, Boots and Friends

Jacob and Hunter,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

Our first encounter with the free animals of the Himalayas occured during a mid-trek stop at a small tea hut. A good natured dog trotted up to us and stopped to keep us company. He was a large dog, black and brown, with a daringly crooked smile that made him seam like he was always […]

Posted On

06/21/11

Author

Jacob and Hunter

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I knew going into it that trekking would be a completely new experience for me: not only the lengthy exposure to the outdoors, but also to the people I would be spending the week with. I learned in the few days before we left, and during the long jeep ride to Rimbik (our place of departure), that this was a close group of mostly outdoor leadership participants, eagar to laugh and pick on eachother with good humor. The repitoire of games that they possessed was huge. Many of us, including myself, were tortured by "The Schrodinger Game", "The Green Glass Door", "The Triangle Game", "The State Game", and many more.

One of the many things that I have loved most about this trip is the opportunity to interact with and get to know studets that I had previously had little contact with. Though we all had had tough days of trekking, I found the evenings spent in the guest houses very lively and high spirited. As the week progressed, the optimistic and teasing conversations continued along with the many games. I learned one of Hunter's favorites, "hearts", Navita's favorite, "gin rummy", Enjoyed Zac's proposal of the card game "Mafia", and participated in the fun but failing "story game". We played the card game, "BS", and the ever loud and rambunctious game of "Scrabble Slam", in which there was some jovial shouting, tackling, accusations of cheating, and made up words involving the, now famous nonsense word, "shigs".

I can't say that I will miss some of the days of cold and rain, but I know that I will miss the wonderful company that I found myself a part of this past week. From Max's stories of "The Valley Walker", my knew knowledge of Mr. Harris's passion for singing, down steep hills and up narrow short cuts, I will remember most the people who I got to know and many came to be close with. As I said before, I knew going into it that trekking would be a completely new experience for me. I left the journey with feelings of self-accomplishment, several new friends, and many fond memories.

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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Our Trekking Community

Colleen Schikowski,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

I knew going into it that trekking would be a completely new experience for me: not only the lengthy exposure to the outdoors, but also to the people I would be spending the week with. I learned in the few days before we left, and during the long jeep ride to Rimbik (our place of […]

Posted On

06/21/11

Author

Colleen Schikowski

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    [post_content] => 	I think it is safe to say that our group approached day four of our journey with much excitement but also nervous anticipation. Day four was scheduled to be our longest hike; we were told approximately ten hours. However, what we worried would be a difficult and grueling day actually turned out to be one of the most enjoyable. The whole hike was along the ridge of the mountain way above tree line. It would have been spectacular to have a view but the fog that encircled us also provided for quite an experience. As we walked along the ridge I felt as if we were in Ireland or Scotland. In fact, in many ways it reminded me of a scene from Macbeth. It was difficult to see very far ahead or behind which made for a mysterious experience. This lack of visibility provided a feeling of solitude and peace as we moved along in small groups. Some said that they felt as if they were alone on top of the world. To end what was a very serene day the hike only ended up being approximately six and a half hours. We were quite surprised and relieved to reach camp early as our trekkers hut almost miraculously appeared in the fog. All and all I would have to say that this was by far my favorite day on trail. I will never forget the feeling of being up so high and so far away from home. At the end of the day I think we were all very proud of ourselves and happy to have a warm sleeping bag to climb into.


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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Day 4: Phalut- Sandakphu

Sarah Jammal,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

I think it is safe to say that our group approached day four of our journey with much excitement but also nervous anticipation. Day four was scheduled to be our longest hike; we were told approximately ten hours. However, what we worried would be a difficult and grueling day actually turned out to be one […]

Posted On

06/21/11

Author

Sarah Jammal

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Hello Hawken friends and family!

My apologies for not writing earlier. We had posted YakYaks two days ago when the electricity failed mid-post. I'll write more later, right nowwe are packing up and gearing to head back to Darjeeling after an incredible week away in home-stays and in Gangtok. Just know that everyone is well - in both health and spirits. Your kids were rock stars in the village - they dove into the uncomfortable territory of staying one-on-one with strangers and by the end of the week, they had created touching relationships with their new families.

We hope this finds you all well!

Megan and Sweta

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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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In Gangtok, headed back to Darjeeling

Megan Fettig,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

Hello Hawken friends and family! My apologies for not writing earlier. We had posted YakYaks two days ago when the electricity failed mid-post. I’ll write more later, right nowwe are packing up and gearing to head back to Darjeeling after an incredible week away in home-stays and in Gangtok. Just know that everyone is well […]

Posted On

06/20/11

Author

Megan Fettig

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The words “rural homestay” can be misleading. We know that we, at least, implied from them a rustic lifestyle beyond comparison to anything found in the United States. We went into the trip with images in my head of earthen huts and dirt flowers, picturing villages without electricity and people without any knowledge of the English language. We expected hardship, physical, mental and certainly emotional, and we anticipated being the first ambassador to Western culture for these “rural” people we were about to meet. That couldn’t have been more wrong.

Geographically speaking, Tumlong is definitely rural – it took 3 planes, an overnight train, a bus and a shaky 7 hour jeep ride through the winding mountain roads of Sikkim to get there. But we was surprised when we arrived to see families waiting in Western clothes, one even with a car ready to carry bags down the mountain side. The houses were wooden and stone buildings, not a mud hut at all but a substantial two-story structure, everyone was surprised to find a furnished room waiting for them with a sofa, a bed, a nightstand and a table. Sophie found 3 outlets in her room alone and Aric even had an electric water boiler plugged into a wall outlet and already filled with clean water. The adults all carried Nokia cell phones, and played western music like Justin Bieber constantly from their pockets. Maybe it’s because we expected the worst, but it was almost disappointing. So much for living simply – We’d come all this way to find a village all too familiar with the Western way of life. But again, that couldn’t have been more wrong.

They may have had electricity and cell phones, but the people of Tumlong didn’t live the chaotic, technology dependent lives we did. In fact, at first glance a person who hadn’t been expecting the worst might have called them poor – they wear the same clothes to the point of disrepair for days at a time without showering, the eat the same meal of rice and aloo on nearly a daily basis. But that person would not have seen the way in which they lived, with an inner peace and satisfaction that’s hard to find state-side. They accepted life for what it was – if that meant modern technology, great, but if that meant long days working the fields in the monsoon rains, so be it. They abused nothing, relied on nothing, and so nothing seemed to phase them. And without realizing it, in just 5 days we were beginning to live that way as well. Whether it was leech bites or outhouses, jumping barefoot into muddy rice patties or climbing the seemingly endless steps uphill, we quickly came to accept the worst parts of village life, and embrace the best parts. Just as a beautiful Ning-mappa monastery awaited us at the top of those steps, we began to realize that we could find happiness if only we looked past those small difficulties in our way, noticed the joy on chidren’s faces when they snapped their first photo, or the simple satisfaction of meditation. Like the people of Tumlong did every day, we were not living without any contact with the outside world, but we were living simple, day by day, in the present. And that, simply, is living.

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Best Notes From The Field, Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011, Homestay

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Living Simple, Simply Living

Sophie Kerman and Aric Floyd,Best Notes From The Field, Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011, Homestay

Description

The words “rural homestay” can be misleading. We know that we, at least, implied from them a rustic lifestyle beyond comparison to anything found in the United States. We went into the trip with images in my head of earthen huts and dirt flowers, picturing villages without electricity and people without any knowledge of the […]

Posted On

06/20/11

Author

Sophie Kerman and Aric Floyd

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After 7 hours in a squashed jeep that often seemed to move more up and down than horizontally.I can only describe my emotions with clichéd expressions. I expected both the best and the worst at the same time.

To try and describe my experience in Tumlong is impossible. Early every morning, I woke up to the rooster’s song, mountains spanning infinitely outside my window. Each conversation with my Apa (mother), Duma, though broken and full of misunderstandings was priceless. Every time I listened to my Apa (father), Pem Tshering, chanting prayers in Tibetan, his devotion moved me. When my host brother, Tshering Topden, asked me, “Sister, when are you coming back?” I was touched to have established a close relationship in such a short time. The lessons I learned living in this village, both intentional ones taught by our instructors and the ones that the village people taught me without knowing it, I will never forget.

One lesson, or one thing that struck me about the village was the juxtaposition of modernity and tradition. The name “village” is even slightly misleading. Each home has at least one power outlet, and three or four years ago, each family began to acquire least one Nokia cell phone. The women do not have a song they song while planting rice. Instead, if someone wanted to listen to music, they can pull out a cell phone and blast their favorite Nepali songs. They live simply, surviving off the land, but they also cook their rice in a rice cooker, allowing them to save hours of time and energy. The kids play Brickbraker on their handheld video games instead of sitting on their grandfather’s lap to hear his wildest tales.

However, with the convenience and usefulness of technology comes a price. From conversations with village woman, I heard of some deterioration of tradition. Duma explained that the younger generation is forgetting about original traditions. To them, it doesn’t matter if you pass the dhal with your left hand instead of your right, sometimes considered sinful. Duma still frets over an instance where an American girl stepped over her son years ago when he was a baby (Without knowledge learned from humans, the baby is considered a being close to God. Conversely, the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body. By stepping over her baby, the girl committed a sin.) Though sometimes challenging for foreigners to catch on, traditional beliefs like these are what define a culture. It’s interesting to watch the role that technology has come to play in remote villages, and how it will further affect life and tradition. I became so attached to Tumlong in my short time there, that I would hate for it to change at all.

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Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

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Tradition in Tumlong

Ally Markovich,Hawken Sikkim Summer Course, Summer 2011

Description

After 7 hours in a squashed jeep that often seemed to move more up and down than horizontally.I can only describe my emotions with clichéd expressions. I expected both the best and the worst at the same time. To try and describe my experience in Tumlong is impossible. Early every morning, I woke up to […]

Posted On

06/20/11

Author

Ally Markovich

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