Back to

YakBoard #1–Update!!

Yak Board #1

By Margaret L. Gaw (Marge)


We began our second day of preparation at Harpeth Hall with toilet paper.

A little ironic, considering the rarity of this commodity in India. But our fearless leader Buffy Baker (CB) gave the command—take as much TP as you need. Each member of the group pulled off one, two three, maybe four or five squares.

For each square, we had to give an unknown fact about ourselves. We discovered that Augusta is distant cousins with Barack Obama, Marguerite T. was once (and perhaps still is) an ardent bird-watcher, and Lillian giggles in her sleep.

So in the end the TP did not go to waste—we not only learned more about each other, but also who not to sleep next to J!

An ongoing theme of our preparation stems from a single question: Who Am I? McKenzie and my tendency is to break out into a Les Miserables song about Jean Val-jean. However, the real plan was that each of us create a Life Map detailing our life experiences and how they have shaped us into the women we are today. The group heard from a few of our talented peers and their unique stories on both of our preparation days.

Someone once told me that India is complexly magical. So it was only natural that we write “magic statements” in preparation for this colorful country. The idea is that we dream about the ideal Indian experience and write about it in past tense, as if it already happened. The journaling solidified in our minds that we will be our best selves and make the most out of the expedition. Magic, indeed.

After the magic statements came a big highlight of the day: watching the riveting Indian film Monsoon Wedding. Kathleen and Ellie provided the group with great history behind traditional Indian weddings. In fact, you will see on the Yak Board 20 different India topics written by each member of the expedition. Each of us will present blurbs about our topic (ranging from Jainism to Edwin Lutyens) over the course of the trip.

After recovering from the film, we lunched in the dining hall one last time before curry and rice become our palette. (CB was really piling on those greens in anticipation for their soon disappearance from her diet).

We reconvened as a group. For the stint of our preparation for India, CB and Eric have not failed to utilize skills learned during their Outward-Bound courses to cultivate strong teamwork. (As a Nolsie, I totally understand the inability to escape the teachings of outdoor education, skills learned while living in the Wild). So we talked leadership and feedback.

While living in a large group setting on an expedition, leadership is not only important but also necessary for success. Thus, each day on our course, someone will be a Team Leader, the point-person for the day. Another student will be Sweep Leader, sweeping an area before departure (cough cough McKenzie). There will also be a time keeper, photographer, yakker, camel (hydrate or diedrate!), and Amma-Mamma (responsible for gauging the well-being of the group).

Feedback will also be important to thrive on the other side of the globe. We discussed the best methods for giving and receiving feedback, including Kathleen’s helpful critique sandwich (two positive things with constructive criticism sandwiched between them). Overall, I can confidently confirm that this crew is cognizant and respectful of one another.

We ended preparation day #2 with one of the most important steps: creating an Instagram. After much careful thought, we decided on namastay_in_india as our username (go follow!!).



A common Indian answer to any question is a head-bobble. Not yes, not no, just maybe, perhaps, I don’t know, etc. Ambiguity and change are intrinsic to Indian life. Without even stepping foot in India, our group experienced first-hand the flexibility and adaptability required to live with the head-bobble attitude.

Yesterday (Jan. 4), Mother Nature canceled our long-anticipated flight to India. We made the best of it, with a trip to Woodlands for lunch and a viewing of Slumdog Millionaire today. We also planned our new next steps which include leaving tomorrow (Jan 6). Margot, Coombs, and others spoke on the group’s behalf to HH leaders to discuss extending the trip which is now a reality! We are grateful for everyone involved in changing plans and are so excited to bring them to fruition.

Though each member of this tight-knit team does not know what the future holds, we are eagerly anticipating it, with some butterflies, with some excitement. What we do know is that when we step back into the States after this experience, who we are and what we value will hold new meaning. And hopefully, due to service and open-mindedness, India will be a better place because of the Harpeth Hall Winterim 2018 India team.

After 17+ plane hours, we’ll get back to you…in saris, and in INDIA!

Dhanyavaad for reading this post.

-Margaret L. Gaw (Marge)