#10. The people: My father was posted in Leh for two and a half years, away from family and his new born (me) and the one thing (and the only thing) he fondly recalls about Leh is how wonderfully courteous the people of Leh are. I now see why he says so. People here are so obliging that they go out of their way to help you, if you ask. I’ve hitch hiked my way to Leh city several times in the past month only because even strangers are so trust worthy. They always involve you in every celebration, every new gossip (coz not much happens around here), and keep filling you in with facts and trivia about their lovely city.
#9. Learn a new culture: Like with all my travels (and all travels for everyone) you learn of a whole new world you never knew existed. That’s why I like to mix my travel and work, because I believe one cannot possibly learn or absorb a culture in 2 or 7 days. “When in roam be roman” is my personal travel mantra. From Ladakhi food, clothing, dances, songs, customs, traditions to movies- you learn it straight from the locals and get some real perspective.
#8. Teaching the most diverse group of students: The kids I teach are the most diverse bunch I've taught yet. My class is has mix of hostel kids, day scholars, visually impaired kids, monks and nuns! Never did I ever think I'd teach a bunch of monks! who are both naughty and serene. And there is a boy in my class, who might not be able to see but plays the guitar like such a pro that it makes me want to quit my guitar. Every day during assembly I see a boy showing the way to our guitar friend till his line and I think to myself: if Empathy is the skill you want to instill in your child, this is where you should send them! While the People with Disability (PWD) Act 1995 and the Right to Education Act (RTE) reinforce the inclusion of differently able-ed children into mainstream education, how many schools actually implement this law? Mahabhodhi is diverse in that sense as it not only provides free education and boarding for rural kids who cannot afford it, but also creates an environment for development beyond classroom required skills by teaching monks, nuns and the visually impaired all under the same roof. This is what I call holistic education in the true sense.
#7. You learn to braid hair like a pro! Growing up as a tom boy I missed out on a few things. Staying with 150 girls has been a great time to catch up on those things. Ladkahi girls are amazingly skillful at tying hair in a 100 different knots and styles. If only we knew all these different ways of braiding hair, we wouldn’t have hated wearing two plates to school as kids.
#5. Stealing apples: There are some experiences which are priceless. Blowing bubbles at your dog, ice cream cones at midnight, dipping your fingers in paint, jumping off a swing when it’s at its peak- let you feel like a child again. The thrill of climbing the apple orchard fence and stealing apples while the warden is asleep is one of them.
#4. The view to work every day: It’s that one hill right in front of the school, the hostel and the playground that makes me pause and appreciate Nature every single day, every time I look up. That’s one thing that you can never get bored of. The mighty Himalayas have that power. #nature #profound
#3. Sweet tea 5 times a day: and not just any tea, but tea made with condensed milk instead of plain milk. I was never a tea or a coffee person and took pride in having stayed away from those addictions. After coming to Leh, I found myself addicted to tea right after my very first week. I am on detox, as I have switched back to green tea; but I do indulge in a cup of chai with the other teachers in the staff room every now and then. Tea time is a great way to socialize and get to know people you otherwise would not get a chance to spend time with here in Leh. kids drink tea here from the time they are 3 and it's weird for me since I didn't get used to it till 2 months ago, but as I understand your body needs that kind of calories for the weather here.
#2. Momos and Thupkas: You can learn how to make Momos from the wardens in a biweekly special dinner session and enjoy other local delicacies like SKU, Timok, Thupka 3 times a week. Every week! Although, it can stop being a good thing after a while. :/ Get ready to eat some Momos the next time you meet me!
#1. The KIDS! The KIDS! The KIDS! I was saving the best for the last. In all of the above points, the kids are the pioneers. The smiles of the little ones, twirling them, holding hands and walking them to school each day, the endless hospitality of the older ones, early morning hair braiding sessions, late night ghost stories, wake up calls, breakfast, lunch, dinner table conversations- they are all worth it, and more. They drive you nuts, but make up for it ten times more in magnitude.