Photo of the Week
Photo Title


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    [post_content] => I often find myself trying to encapsulate the momentous in some epic poem, or sprawling prose, or scroll of dialogue that accurately dictates the entirety of an experience in a package of artfully hand-picked words, edited to maddening perfection. The truth is, I am currently sitting alone in a crowded Leh coffee shop that is playing Avril Lavigne (circa 2003) and I find myself thinking only of a phenomenon once created and explained to me by a friend/gifted playwright: the Timehole. The period in which one undergoes a transformation that flashes by at such a speed that cannot be qualified or quantified in the human parameters of time/space/words until the inevitable wave of retrospect crashes upon the shore of the Past. This friend would go on to identify and capture time holes through his words, grasping them in a tightly clenched fist to further dissect and explain. However, I am finding that time holes, like love, are best lived with an open palm, allowing them to unfold as their stories are written.

And so, I am (for the first time) at a loss for words, and I believe in this instant that language would simply do a disservice to this particular timehole of India. With only a few short days left, I will live the rest of my time here with palms wide open. You cannot catch a timehole, but if you are lucky, you can notice them flash by like trains rolling into other worlds, other planes of time and space, and thank them. And then, let them go just as you would an old friend at the end of a visit. For the wheel turns, and timeholes continue to happen, and sometimes, language can only get us so far.
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Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: North India 6-Week

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Timeholes

Jesse Osborn,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

I often find myself trying to encapsulate the momentous in some epic poem, or sprawling prose, or scroll of dialogue that accurately dictates the entirety of an experience in a package of artfully hand-picked words, edited to maddening perfection. The truth is, I am currently sitting alone in a crowded Leh coffee shop that is […]

Posted On

08/1/16

Author

Jesse Osborn

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    [post_content] => Trekking in the Himalayas might be one of those irrational yet inevitable decisions that I had made in my life. Traversing on the goat trails by the steep mountain slopes definitely gave me lots of mini heart attacks, forcing me into this new 'embracing my fear' learning zone. Gladly, the nature challenged me but also rewarded me: admiring the Himalayan majesty and amused by the running yaks on the hill side.
Although seven to eleven hours trek was sometimes despairing, the hot Oma Chai (milk tea) at village homestay could lift the pain and sore almost instantly.
Remember that the village is just behind the monastery, and we are always one step closer.
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SUMMER: North India 6-Week

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Behind the Monastery

Mia Wang,SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

Trekking in the Himalayas might be one of those irrational yet inevitable decisions that I had made in my life. Traversing on the goat trails by the steep mountain slopes definitely gave me lots of mini heart attacks, forcing me into this new ’embracing my fear’ learning zone. Gladly, the nature challenged me but also […]

Posted On

08/1/16

Author

Mia Wang

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    [post_content] => We like to believe that our lives are somewhat static. We plan for the long term and build pillars of consistency to move around and lean on. We learn that marriage is "till death do we part," that a stable job or source of income is the way to success, material wealth, and therefore happiness. Most of us stay in one place for much of our lives, inhabiting a seemingly permanent physical home. When we travel, we bring home souvenirs, tangible objects to remind us of experiences come and gone. The irony here is that the most fluid and central piece of our human experience is ourselves, and this ephemeral nature acts as an earthquake to our structures of relative solidity. People change, the spark of new love fades or putters out, infidelity, divorce, or unhappiness crack the life long marriage. Our interests or desires shift, our studies or careers grow tiresome, and we gravitate towards new ones, glistening with the unknown. Wealth shines with value but rarely yields lasting satisfaction. Our home towns become oppressive in their familiarity, we grow bored and seek new places. We expect ourselves to remain more or less the same, but who we are is only a momentary constellation produced by innumerable environmental factors, destined to change in the blink of an eye. Perhaps this is why we latch onto symbols and institutions of relatively static nature, and doom ourselves to suffer when we fail to meet their requirements. Perhaps when we come to recognize this constant evolution of the entity we embody, and offer compassion, rather then fear to that impermanence, we will be closer to realizing true peace and happiness.
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SUMMER: North India 6-Week

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Impermanence

Mirabel Levine,SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

We like to believe that our lives are somewhat static. We plan for the long term and build pillars of consistency to move around and lean on. We learn that marriage is “till death do we part,” that a stable job or source of income is the way to success, material wealth, and therefore happiness. […]

Posted On

08/1/16

Author

Mirabel Levine

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    [post_content] => Our group has arrived safely in Leh after a welcoming village homestay and awe-inspiring trek. Well have more stories to share soon but in the meantime enjoy this picture. Our group had faced wind, rain and high altitude to arrive triumphantly at Konski Pass at 16,000ft.
    [post_title] => Back from Trek!
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Back from Trek!

Instructor Team,SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

Our group has arrived safely in Leh after a welcoming village homestay and awe-inspiring trek. Well have more stories to share soon but in the meantime enjoy this picture. Our group had faced wind, rain and high altitude to arrive triumphantly at Konski Pass at 16,000ft.

Posted On

07/31/16

Author

Instructor Team

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    [post_date] => 2016-07-20 10:34:44
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    [post_content] => Hello Family and Friends,

The North India team is happy and healthy as they set out for their big Himalayan trek today.  They have very limited internet access and likely wont be posting while they're on trek.  They will be checking in with the office via satellite phone and we'll post when we hear from them.

Please have a look at this itinerary for their trek so that you can follow along at home.

20-24 July: Transition to village homestay in Taar Village

25 July, Trek, Day 1: From Taar we will walk 2 hours to the road, and
drive one hour to Lamayuru. We will see the historic monastery and
then hike an easy 3-4 hours to the village of Wanla.

26 July, Trek, Day 2: Today we walk 6-8 hours. We will go to the
village of Urtsi.

27 July, Trek, Day 3: We will walk 2-3 hours to the village of Hinju.

28 July, Trek, Day 4: Today we hike over our high-point, Konzke La
pass (4950 meters). 7-9 hours hiking; our longest day. We will go to
the village of Sumdah-Chenmo.
29 July, Trek, Day 5: This is a rest day in Sumdah-Chenmo, with an
optional day hike to Lanak La.

30 July, Trek, Day 6: 5-6 hours walking with several stream-crossings
to the village of Sumdah-Choon.
31 July, Trek, Day 7: We will walk 30-40 mins to Rong Dho, where our
Jeeps will be waiting to take us to Leh.

1 Aug: Rest day in Leh!!!

Namaste!!

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 10.28.49 AM
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SUMMER: North India 6-Week

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Update on North India

Dragons Admin,SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

Hello Family and Friends, The North India team is happy and healthy as they set out for their big Himalayan trek today.  They have very limited internet access and likely wont be posting while they’re on trek.  They will be checking in with the office via satellite phone and we’ll post when we hear from […]

Posted On

07/20/16

Author

Dragons Admin

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    [post_date] => 2016-07-20 09:52:36
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    [post_content] => The fact that we've reached mid-course is unnerving and triggers a myriad of emotions. By the third week of this experience I expected to be wracked with home sickness, and craving the luxuries of my privileged, first world life. Instead, I'm struck with melancholy by the realization of how little time I have left, and baffled by how I'll manage to reconcile the two very different versions of myself I've come to know. Preceding this trip, I was reluctant to wash dishes, concerned more with my wardrobe then current events, and based many of my "friendships" on the common denominator of substance abuse. Perhaps I'm being overly critical but the past is easily looked back upon harshly, and the person writing this entry, shrouded by the Himalayan mountains seems absurdly disconnected from that foreign former self.

Since embarking on this course, I've delved whole heartedly into meditation, a practice I had previously dubbed tedious and futile. I've found solace and comprehension in Tibetan Buddhism rather then believing that religion and science are in opposition, and investing solely in the latter. I've learned that bettering oneself has absolutely everything to do with bettering the lives of others, and that holding hatred and resentment hurts no one but the harborer of negativity. I've felt connected to the earth, and the nourishment it yields in completely new ways, participating in the natural but incredibly rare cycle of Ladakhi composting toilets (turning waste into soil into vegetation into dinner into waste again). I've learned that communication transcends language, and that shared humanity is more then enough common ground to grow connection, if not conversation.

I'm struggling to imagine how the me I am now, or the me I'll be at the end of these glorious six weeks, will occupy the space the former me left vacant. How will I transition from this indescribable place, shimmering with vivid enchantment, to my home which feels as foggy and distant as a dream? How will I swap my daily conversation (often baring heart and soul) with my brilliant and distinguished twelve peers, for the occasional Facebook update or text? I feel utterly comfortable expressing every aspect of myself here in an unfamiliar way that's difficult to practice non-attachment towards. According to Buddhism, there is no concrete or consistent element of the self. Everything is in a constant state of flux, and we are no exception. I can trust that the tides of constant change, and my own adaptability will wear down the rough edges of returning to a newly alien environment, but nerves and anxieties are inevitable so long as I am invested and bound to the physical realm. For now I'm continuing to attempt to learn all that I can, and do my best to completely revel in the "freshness of nowness".

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SUMMER: North India 6-Week

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Mid course meditations

Mirabel,SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

The fact that we’ve reached mid-course is unnerving and triggers a myriad of emotions. By the third week of this experience I expected to be wracked with home sickness, and craving the luxuries of my privileged, first world life. Instead, I’m struck with melancholy by the realization of how little time I have left, and […]

Posted On

07/20/16

Author

Mirabel

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    [post_content] => I have so much to say but not enough time to write. We just returned to our rooms from an emotional send off ceremony for one of the students here at SECMOL. Every student was whole heartedly crying and sharing their favoriting memories with the student who was graduating. My first impression of SECMOL was amazement but I did not realize how special this place really was until the graduation ceremony.  SECMOL is a place where students come to not only learn but to grow. Discit, the graduating student, expressed to me earlier in the kitchen while we were rolling out dough for noodles soup, how the people at SECMOL have treated her like family. They do not care whether you are Buddhist, Muslim, black, white, Chinese, or even a girl. The students at this school find an unmeasurable amount of compassion and love to share with both their peers and the many volunteers who come in and out of the school. I did not know anything about this school before coming or anyone here but on only the third day at SECMOL I feel fully welcomed into their close nit community. Not only does every student here go out of their way to learn each dragon student's name but they also truly want to make connections with us on a deep level. I continue to have an extremely hard time learning each student's name, but the guessing game is becoming easier as a I learn life stories and family recipes from different students.
During conversation class today, after I had asked one student if he would like to travel to the U.S., he responded with a simple no and explained that he first needed to fully explore Ladakh before even venturing into Delhi. This comment struck me specifically because i have always found travel to be an important element in my life that was usually rooted in the desire to explore the unknown. What I had not thought of, however, was finding the unknown in Indiana or even the Midwest. I don't know. Just something to think about. I'm going to go join the dance party in the other room and hope to not embarrass my self too much by my interpretive Indian dance moves. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and that my mom isn't worrying to much about me. Much love to everyone back home.
Xoxo
    [post_title] => Update from Lucy
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SUMMER: North India 6-Week, Uncategorized

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Update from Lucy

Lucy Keller,SUMMER: North India 6-Week, Uncategorized

Description

I have so much to say but not enough time to write. We just returned to our rooms from an emotional send off ceremony for one of the students here at SECMOL. Every student was whole heartedly crying and sharing their favoriting memories with the student who was graduating. My first impression of SECMOL was […]

Posted On

07/20/16

Author

Lucy Keller

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    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-20 15:47:37
    [post_content] => 
An image holds unmeasurable power. Every pixel of color alone has the potential to inspire a million emotions, stringing together with a predetermined sense of purpose. Add color to dimension, shifting shadows that somehow provide a sense of reality, and we see the thing as a whole. It is impossible to observe something all at once without simultaneously absorbing every small detail. This task is insurmountable, as it's not within human potential to understand comprehensively. I have believed for so long that the way to understand religion was to understand it as a whole: to learn the singular definition of the term and live by that explanation alone. But you lose something vital to the meaning of religion itself when trying to make generalizations about something so variable.I am trying to go back, to somehow understand the internal challenges this subject has posed for me. Trying to simplify my experiences through image: singular, but potent flashes that I know are my best chance to explain how I have lived as a stranger to myself within the sphere of religion. My first ideas of belief were represented by a star. A seemingly innocent shape made from two triangles, but an object that never properly fit in the palm of my hand, or at the heart of my being. While I was fascinated with its beauty and the ancestral power that it represented, I did not feel worthy of the title it brought. It is theoretically possible to identify with a practice by birth, but I have felt like a stranger looking in when I witness my extended family living life this way. I feel guilty. Wrong for calling myself this when I know so little about these supposedly personal cultural and religious practices, from my own disinterest. Wrong because I lack faith, something that I have have led myself to see as the most important basis of religion. Next came the lights. Candles on both the menorah and the Christmas dinner table. I loved to stare into the center, a place so hot it becomes colorless, identity-less. LED displays that we would seek out, pointing out our favorites before they were gone in a flash. They were appreciated for their beauty; if we were to think too much about what they were there for, the fun suddenly felt heavy. Light shining through colorful glass, that held holding forever preserved people. Their actions would never change, and neither would the writings that had placed them there. Admirable, but still emitting some cold, magic strangeness, blocking my spirit from being nothing more than a tourist. What is belief? Faith in something you can't see, but rather, feel? How can we as a species, and on an individual level, even begin to comprehend the almost inherent complexity associated with the demonstrations of a connection to something beyond the physical world? For the longest time, I have suppressed these questions, buried them somewhere so remote inside my being that they became complacent streams within my unconscious mind. And really, if I allow myself to let go of the layers of self-assurance surrounding the things that I have convinced myself to be irrelevant, I know the word religion itself causes feelings of self-doubt, unsettlement, and fright to spring forward from somewhere deep inside of my chest. Religion is a topic I avoid discussing with anyone: even myself. I know my aversion to the subject as a whole, even though it encompasses innumerable customs, ethical practices, and world views that I in theory find beautiful and fascinating, comes from a lack of deep understanding and perceived inability to find information on these topics. Faith-the meaning of this word has never ceased to puzzle me. I do not define it verbally, but rather see it as a something glowing golden for a few people. Personified on a distressed piece of wood, made cheaply in some factory but still somehow out of my reach, the letters painted in an important looking font. Comforting by what it represents-home, love, togetherness-but not by what it means: dedication to something other than the physical. I wholeheartedly believed in what faith was supposed to provide, as I could tangibly sense the fact that holidays were a celebration of my family's love and care for each other. For me personally, they did not go beyond that, did not extenuate into the realm of spiritual belief. And I was, and still am, perfectly content with this. It was still unsettling to not understand, as I had not for all my life, what faith could mean for others. At the monasteries and towns we visited, faith takes both physical and mental effort on the part of the individual, more so than I thought possible. Belief is about action in lieu of staying still, as everything in Buddhism, not just people, is always changing and shifting. Physical demonstrations of a person's internal truth have flooded my eyes multiple times. Neatly filed lines walking, directed by a path that never ends, but only repeats, as life itself manifests. As they walk, they spin cylinder-shaped tubes, a space for many scrolls again and again, symbolically reciting thousands of lines of scripture. The chanting of individual mantras, which can be barely discerned above the humming wheels replaced my own buzzing thoughts for a while. The worshippers seemed to be simultaneously tuned into something beyond the physical earth, and somehow also more connected to what was happening around them. The earth is used to connect to a higher power: climbing incredibly steep caves to gain luck, making the journey up powerfully lonely mountains that broach the impossible themselves, to place prayers as close the sky and higher being as possible. Poles stand alone in seas of soft green, supporting the flight of colors and words upon the air. Golden tipped shrines and buildings rise out of nowhere. And what they hold inside is open for those willing to keep their eyes open to impossible beauty. But seeing and experiencing these places and rituals was not enough to make me understand. All of these still felt too personal; when I pushed my way through darkness to be born again in the Fairy Caves at Lángmùsì, hearing the voice of a woman who did believe resonate throughout the walls, or when I completed a round of the kora, losing myself somewhere between the hundreds of spinning wheels, it was still me, a person who did not understand this phenomena in the first place, completing these practices designed for the faithful person. It would take something else, a single image, to make me comprehend the possibility for some to have a connection to a higher being. A statue was all it took to make me understand what faith is. An image of the Buddha. Even though I am not a Buddhist, the eyes had something behind them. Wisdom, knowledge of the truth, something that surpassed humanity. I could sense the enormous amount of emotion and dedication poured into the indescribably beautiful temple housing the Buddha statue. The depiction of this holy figure was itself an experience that made me understand faith specifically, more so than ever before. A realization suddenly struck me: humans had created this divine statue, to attempt to replicate the devotion and connection they felt to the sage of their faith. It represented the power people felt, driving them to create something that was so magnificent, it could influence even the most misunderstanding, foolish people when it came to the topic of faith. I finally had some insight into how people can have a relationship with something beyond themselves, bringing more compassion, understanding, and meaning to their lives as a whole. I have only begun to reflect upon the meaning and place of religion within my life, which I am already finding to be a unfathomable task. It is unnerving to know that there is no definitive answer to my questions, as religion by nature is a deeply personal journey. But continuing to accept a certain sense of complacency that surrounds this subject will only continue to heighten my misunderstanding. This voyage is only the beginning of maybe not quite understanding religion, but learning as much as I can before I form a more holistic view of various belief systems. It is the start of trying to identify where I belong and who I belong to, in an entirely new way. And most importantly, the first time I have actively tried to understand the ways in which other people see the world, specifically through their relationships and understandings of the otherworldly.
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SUMMER: North India 6-Week, Uncategorized

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Faith

Luis Alvarado,SUMMER: North India 6-Week, Uncategorized

Description

An image holds unmeasurable power. Every pixel of color alone has the potential to inspire a million emotions, stringing together with a predetermined sense of purpose. Add color to dimension, shifting shadows that somehow provide a sense of reality, and we see the thing as a whole. It is impossible to observe something all at […]

Posted On

07/20/16

Author

Luis Alvarado

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    [post_author] => 95
    [post_date] => 2016-07-20 09:46:05
    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-20 15:46:05
    [post_content] => 
We have just reached the mid-course point, and yet the experiences that I have been blessed with during this course have no bounds.From visiting the holy city of Tso Pema to dwelling in the peaceful retreat area of Deer Park to discussing the wealth of various Asian cultures with my Tibetan father, I have been blessed to experience North India in a fashion that most people can only dream of. However, what I wanted to focus on in this field note is the wonder and beauty of the Secmol School - an alternative school based 30 minutes away from the city of Leh. Essentially, Secmol is in the middle of a beautiful range of surreal mountains at an altitude of 15k feet. The school, which is half high school and half college, is almost entirely self sufficient - unlike any other school that I have ever seen in my entire life. The students here learn life skills by maintaining the various aspects of the school. These include maintaining a lush garden, managing the solar energy, working with the distribution of well water, milking the cows here on campus, running a near 100% recycling system, and cleaning the composting toilets. Staying at this school simply brings attention to the fact that as Westerners, our lifestyle is so detached from the natural world - and therefore it is easier to distance ourselves from the consequences of our daily actions. While I certainly have not been writing field notes with great frequency, I can confidently say that this trip has been the most introspective time of my life and has allowed me to reflect on my entire life through the medium of my journal.
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SUMMER: North India 6-Week, Uncategorized

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The Simple Way of Life

Raj Bagaria,SUMMER: North India 6-Week, Uncategorized

Description

We have just reached the mid-course point, and yet the experiences that I have been blessed with during this course have no bounds.From visiting the holy city of Tso Pema to dwelling in the peaceful retreat area of Deer Park to discussing the wealth of various Asian cultures with my Tibetan father, I have been […]

Posted On

07/20/16

Author

Raj Bagaria

WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 146091
    [post_author] => 95
    [post_date] => 2016-07-20 09:44:52
    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-20 15:44:52
    [post_content] => 
After a series of intense rugged travel by metro, car, train and plane, we safely arrived at the midpoint of our course. I couldn't express how glad and grateful I am for everyone on this trip and for all we experienced. (And I had not missed home, sorry dad) Leh, Ladakh, 15000 feet. To my surprise, I adjusted to the high altitude almost instantly. Everyday when I woke up at the SECMOL school campus, I found myself charged with even more energy to explore and engage in student activities. This place is an oasis, from every aspect. Right next to the Indus River and surrounded by the desertified mountains. There's a sharp visual and sensual contrast: blinding sun, green willow trees, warm-yellow apricots, crisp winds and scratchy sands. Secmol School, based on an extremely liberal mantra, is completely student-run: students elect their secretary, schedule, cook food, make mud bricks, and etc; the campus is also eco-friendly: reduce/use/cycle, biomass from cows, and solar powered everything including outdoor-sunbath-oven. And in a larger context: Ladakh, belong to India, under the Kashmir state control, stuck between Pakistan and China, strangely retains its peaceful balance and resilience.
After a series of intense rugged travel by metro, car, train and plane, we safely arrived at the midpoint of our course. I couldn't express how glad and grateful I am for everyone on this trip and for all we experienced. (And I had not missed home, sorry dad) Leh, Ladakh, 15000 feet. To my surprise, I adjusted to the high altitude almost instantly. Everyday when I woke up at the SECMOL school campus, I found myself charged with even more energy to explore and engage in student activities. This place is an oasis, from every aspect. Right next to the Indus River and surrounded by the desertified mountains. There's a sharp visual and sensual contrast: blinding sun, green willow trees, warm-yellow apricots, crisp winds and scratchy sands. Secmol School, based on an extremely liberal mantra, is completely student-run: students elect their secretary, schedule, cook food, make mud bricks, and etc; the campus is also eco-friendly: reduce/use/cycle, biomass from cows, and solar powered everything including outdoor-sunbath-oven. And in a larger context: Ladakh, belong to India, under the Kashmir state control, stuck between Pakistan and China, strangely retains its peaceful balance and resilience.
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SUMMER: North India 6-Week

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Oasis

Mia Wang,SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

After a series of intense rugged travel by metro, car, train and plane, we safely arrived at the midpoint of our course. I couldn’t express how glad and grateful I am for everyone on this trip and for all we experienced. (And I had not missed home, sorry dad) Leh, Ladakh, 15000 feet. To my […]

Posted On

07/20/16

Author

Mia Wang

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