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Blog 2015

India 7

Communications Officer

So on Thursday we went into school feeling refreshed after a break day due to the transport strike. The day started quite slowly with people alternating between painting, teaching and taking breaks (which involved sitting out in the sun and quite leisurely reading!) However, after lunch, the three plumbers arrived and set us our penultimate manual labour-centred task. The aim was simple- to unearth a water pipe which was currently supplying the school with water in order for it to be replaced by one that would lead directly to the new water tank. You may think that this would be easy to undertake but there was one catch; we had to avoid hitting the water pipe at all costs or else it would burst. Rachel and I had dug up about six metres of the pipe before the first leakage arose. I accidently hit into the pipe when trying to remove a stone from on top of it. At this sight, Meg ran over with some duct tape and tried to salvage what water she could by taping up the hole. The calamity of the situation attracted quite a large crowd. At this point, Ashley, Lucy and Lily came and relieved me of my task and I went off to do some painting, which was somewhat more relaxing. On returning, I noticed that the pipe was now taped up in not one, but six places. The worst, however, was yet to come. I took to moving back the dirt once more. Warily at first after the previous incident(s) but with every harmless hit I grew more and more confident that I could uncover the pipe without bursting it. Alas, it was not to be. I hit at the ground and heard the crack of plastic and the water began seeping out from beneath the soil. We tried desperately to mend it with what little tape we had left but it was too late. The damage was irredeemably done and the pipe had been split in half. At the sight of this the plumbers (slowly) came to the end of their tea break and cut the water supply off. We then finished off rather a stressful afternoon by re-filling the trench we had dug up, after which we were all ready to go home. Of course, it goes without saying that at this point I had pretty much been assigned the spoon for the following day.

On Friday we arrived ready to start digging the trenches for the new pipes. Which we proceeded to do almost immediately. It took until just after lunchtime to complete the digging; the fact that we knew that it would be our last task which involved any form of manual labour certainly helped hasten the pace. After finishing, two of us left early to go into town (of which, I was one) to pick up sarees while the rest stayed on to continue painting the doors and windows. That evening we all prepared for our weekend trip to Dharamsala- a place where the Dalai Lama himself once lived.

The next morning we woke up in time for our 08:00 breakfast, following this we all piled into two cabs and travelled for an hour and a half to Dharamsala. The journey, albeit uncomfortable, particularly for the five of us crammed into the four seater, was very beautiful. We first arrived at our hotel at about 10:00. It was a lovely place, with king-sized beds and mountain views. We dropped off our belongings and headed straight into town. The town was small but bustling with both locals and tourists. Its Tibetan influence meant that it had quite a different character to Palampur. We popped into several shops along the high street and bought trinkets upon trinkets. We then went and had lunch at a little restaurant on the main square where the staff were all very proud to have served Pierce Brosnan once, however random this may seem.

Following our lunch of mainly pasta and some curry, we wandered up the main street to the Buddhist temple at its top. Visiting the temple was a fascinating experience and the highlight of the weekend for me. The floor on the first level of the temple was overlaid with mats, on which the monks were practicing some form of martial arts.  On the top level, there was a shrine to the Dalai Lama. Here, some information was given about Buddhism and how it is practiced within Tibetan monasteries. This gave us some insight into their way of life. From the temple we went to the Tibetan museum. Here, I was able to learn a lot about Tibet's history and persecution which I otherwise would not have been aware of. The whole afternoon was a really interesting experience. After this, we very gradually made our way back to the centre of town. I say very gradually as we were 'forced' to stop in multiple shops on the way back in order to keep out of the monsoon as much as possible. We also stopped at a bakery and got some delicious doughnuts and muffins. We then settled down to have dinner and a few drinks at a hotel bar. This was a great experience as it gave us the chance to see some live Indian music. Well it started off as Indian and then the band began playing songs which one could only imagine being featured on a 'Christmas number 1s' CD. The general atmosphere of the place was great though, lots of people were laughing and dancing and it was a really good evening out. During the course of which, Joey gave himself immunity from the spoon by eating two chillis* at once, which cannot have been a pleasant experience. After dinner, we all headed back to the hotel, everyone was absolutely exhausted and we all fell straight to sleep.

The next day we woke up early in order to go to a Hindu temple. The Temple was next to what appeared to be a holy bath for men. We walked about it for a bit and noted the different offers that were being made to the god and the fumes from the incense which were thick in the air. We then walked a very, very steep walk to the waterfall. Although the journey was taxing, it was well worth it. The waterfall was stunning and we were able to paddle about in the (freezing) cold water. After this, we walked further up the mountain side to a café. The café was absolutely beautiful. Because it was quite a bit further up and people couldn't be bothered to make the climb, it was quiet secluded and it had the best views. It was here that we all thoroughly enjoyed a late breakfast. I had a honey porridge, which I had been craving since I first arrived in Delhi! The others had Nutella pancakes, which also looked amazing. After this, we lazily headed back down to the centre of town in the midday heat. In town we went to yet more shops! We bought what little we could with what money we had left or, some, myself included, simply eyed up the little gifts which were everywhere around us, unable to buy anything. We then went back to the same restaurant that we had lunch at on the previous day. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and awaited our taxis to Palampur. When we got back we had our dinner and crashed, in preparation for the busy teachers' day which was to take place at the school the following day.

Jen