Happy Valley

Inside temple


Temple in Happy Valley

Part of Happy Valley secondary school

Saturday, I walked down the road to the Tibetan community of Happy Valley, home to a few thousand Tibetan refugees.  The “walk down” proved to be 7km, each way, and in the blazing sun and 95 degree heat, was quite the work out.  It was wonderful to pass through each of the smaller communities along the way and to see the vibrant life that hustled and bustled its way through each turning corner of the narrow and winding road.

I have to admit, my expectations for Happy Valley were perhaps a bit too high.  Upon my arrival, I was surprised to see so much poverty and so much desolate landscape.  I was able to take in the main temple there and visited with two Buddhist monks who were preparing what appeared to be some sort of paper mache product.  Next to the main temple, which was quite small, there was also a large prayer wheel, which when spun, rang a large deep sounding bell within the same room.

I tooled around the area and was surprised to see such extreme poverty and such desolate conditions in most of the community.  There were several schools, with the largest being very run down and packed with young Tibetan grade schoolers leaning out the windows eagerly offering up their English greetings to me which made me smile widely.

On the other side of the community were two more secondary schools which appeared to be segregated by gender.  I was rather impressed with children’s uniforms and their eagerness in saying hello to me, each with a bright smile on their face.

Just my first trip to Happy Valley, I look forward to my next visit in a few weeks after I return from Dharamsala.  Two of my Hindi teachers have extended an offer to connect me with Buddhist leaders in the community that can help me with my research of exploring the role and impact of new social media on the Tibetan diaspora living in India today.

Casting aside my preliminary expectations, the day trip to Happy Valley was a wonderful experience that offered me my first encounter with life outside of the very sheltered Char Dukan area.  The sea of humanity in the streets and the cars, motorcycles, and rickshaws, weaving their way to their destination was worth the trip itself.


Week 1 Complete

Saaf panee mez par hai

Homework lesson

Landour Language School

Namaste everyone,

Yesterday, I completed my very first week of Hindi language studies and I am in awe of the beauty and deep history that surround the language.  Week one at the Landour Language School was a little overwhelming at first as they tend to move quite quickly.  It’s my understanding that they try to get students through the entire text book in just about 8 weeks’ time.  My first week was spent primarily on learning to read and write consonants and vowels in the short and long form; nouns; adjectives; formal imperatives, and numbers from one to twenty.  I have made connections with a few teachers here who are simply amazing and are truly dedicated and passionate about helping students learn Hindi.  I’ve also learned to take what I have learned in class each day into Char Dukan’s  shops each evening and see what I can stir up in conversation with some of the locals.

I found myself in a pretty good groove with the language towards the end of the first week week and I realized that I can slow the speed of MY lessons to what fits best for me and that I most definitely do not need to finish the entire text book in 8 weeks.  This, in addition to pairing my Landour Language School textbook with Rupert Snell’s “Teach Yourself Hindi” is proving to be quite a powerful set of resources.  I’m excited for what week 2 will bring.

Shifting Gears

Its 7:00 AM Saturday morning here as I write this update.  After breakfast, which I have so fondly fallen in love with Anil’s banana pancake and coffee with milk, I am walking down to the Tibetan community of Happy Valley.  The one hour walk will wind me down the hill and take me through Landour Cantt., The Bazar, Camel’s Back Road, Landour, and the through Mussoorie as well.  Happy Valley lies just on the opposite edge of Mussoorie and is home to a few thousand Tibetan refugees.  Today I am just doing some reconnaissance work for the second purpose of my trip, which is to conduct research for my Honors thesis topic: “The Role and Impact of New Social Media on the Tibetan Diaspora Living in India Today”.  I pretty much can’t wait to make it down there and take everything in this morning.  This will serve as a nice little warm up to my 9 day trip to Dharamsala, the home of the Dalia Lama and the Tibetan government in exile, in just 8 days!

This life is amazing…


Arrival in Mussoorie

Walking up to Chardukhan for breakfast

Morning friend just outside my room

The garden just at my guest house

Arrived in Mussoorie Friday afternoon after 3 flights, 3 taxis, and nearly 23 hours of travel time.  The Hill Stations of Mussoorie, Landour Cannt., and Chardukhan all seem to blend together, yet each offer up their very own feel and uniqueness.  The temperature is pleasant during the day and cools off a bit during the evenings.  There is a haze that hangs in the air, limiting visibility of the nearby Himalayan Range, that I am told is due to the nearby forest fires that can be seen burning in the evening hours.
I have met so many wonderful people in my first few days here and feel very welcomed by everyone I come across in my daily travels up and down the very narrow and very steep road that winds itself through each of these communities.  My host, Mr. Pawan Gupta, has been remarkably kind and gracious in welcoming me into his guest house and I was able to spend a wonderful morning yesterday drinking coffee and chatting with his wife and visiting sister and brother in law from Mumbai.
Today was laundry day and I hand washed a few items of clothing, by hand, in a small wash bucket that sits inside my shower.  I soon realized the convenience of washing machines and dryers are something I have never really thought about and most definitely have always just taken for granted.  2 pairs of pants, some socks and underwear, and two t-shirts took me about an hour to hand wash, rinse, ring out, and hang to dry; a definite sense of accomplishment before heading up the hill for breakfast at a rather fancy guest house that overlooks the valley and is situated just down from the Landour Language School.
Classes begin tomorrow at 11:20 and I am extremely excited to begin my 8 week intensive Hindi language immersion at the Landour Language School….

Touchdown in Delhi

Arrived last night around 10:15PM local time to a rather balmy 96 degree evening.  Short sleep at the AIIS guest house, a little breakfast, and will soon be heading back to the airport for a one hour flight to Dehradun and then a one hour taxi ride will have me in Mussoorie where I will be studying Hindi language this summer.  More to come…

Today is the day….

I’m here in Chicago on the morning of my departure to India.  Enjoyed a wonderul dinner last night with my father and my cousin Jim at a local pizza joint.  Nothing beats Chicago style pizza!  Off to O’Hare around noon for check in……1 stop in Newark…..next stop Delhi.