Hello Fellow Adventurers and Parents,
Cannot believe that in a little more than a month, we will begin our journey to West Bengal and Sikkim, in the beautiful part of the Eastern Himalayas. A place where the mother deity Mount Kanchendzonga herself is believed to watch over the valley. Your instructor team has been working together to create a course that is meaningful, transformative, adventurous, challenging, and fun for you! We want to give you an idea of some of the experiences we will be engaged in and what you can expect as we move through the summer course.
Our time here is designed in such a way that we are guided deeply by three interdependent themes: GlobalCitizenship, Awareness of Self, and Leadership. Each destination, itinerary decision, activity and discussion is grounded in these values. Our experience has shown that with this kind of intentional framework, a truly magical and transformative experience can gradually unfold.
Below is a tentative itinerary. Please keep in mind that it can be subject to change. As we meet and get to know each other more, we will have the flexibility to tailor certain aspects of the trip according to where the group’s curiosity and interest is heading. We encourage you to take ownership of your course, so that when we meet we can share our individual vision and goals with one another. We can use this awesome collective energy to steer and fuel our course in the direction that we want. Looking forward to meet you all!
Your Instructor Team
Sharon, Hilary and Vincent.
On the night of June 29th, at 8:10pm you will meet your complete I-Team at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. An hour’s bus ride will take the group to the hotel where we will be spending the night and getting the much needed rest. The following morning we begin our program orientation activities. At around noon we will head to Sealdah Railway Station to catch our train towards our destination. The train leaves Kolkata at 2:15pm and after 8 hours of fun-filled orientation group activities and train sightseeing of lush green monsoon scenes, we will reach a smaller city called Siliguri. Early the next morning we will take a 3 hour jeep ride to a place called Durpin Dara. Here, in Durpin we will spend two days having our program orientation. The time here will be dedicated to introducing ourselves to the region and with one another in the group. We will start our Nepali language lessons and receive tools to settle into a new culture and community with safety, confidence and respect.
We will settle into the Program House in Kalimpong, where you will commence your urban home-stays and settle into the daily life of the families. We will be meeting in the mornings at the Program House and this time will be focused on learning about the regions ethnic, religious biodiversity, comparative religion, environmental and development issues through classes, activities, lectures and discussions delivered by guest speakers, instructors and students. The intention of this time is deep immersion into the culture and personal effort of using your new language skills, spending time with host families and ISP mentors, bargaining at the local bazaar, or market, and independently exploring the hill town.
During this time you can expect the schedule to be as follows. Monday through Friday we will meet at the program house in the morning for Nepali language lessons, a guest speaker or an instructor or student led lesson/discussion, followed by lunch. Afternoons will be dedicated to your Independent Study Projects (ISPs), where each of you will dig deep into an aspect that most interests you. You will be using public transportation to move around on your own. The weekends will be dedicated to spending time with your family and student led excursions to places in and around town. We might have an opportunity for a possible service learning project here.
During this time we will begin our retreat in a Buddhist monastery. This is a unique and powerful time on the course. It is also more challenging than you may think– sitting cross legged for long hours and spending time looking inward. Our daily routine will be simple: we rise early, meditate, study the principles of Tibetan Buddhism, engage in discussions and spend time reflecting on the nature of our minds, reality and life! After the retreat we will have our mid-course in Gangtok the capital of Sikkim. Midcourse is the time that we carve out intentionally to reflect on the time that we have spent thus far and to prepare and reset goals for the rest of the course. After midcourse we venture deep into the terraced Himalayan foothills to a place called Sittong where we will have our rural homestay. Our days in the village will be spent sharing in family life with the close knit Lepcha community. We’ll participate in the everyday tasks of our home-stay families: waking up early, helping in the kitchen, working in the fields, collecting firewood and grass for cattle or spending evenings helping in the kitchen prepare dinner on a woodfire. Participating in village life also allows us a rich first-hand perspective to discuss issues of sustainable development and ethnicity etc. Along with language lessons, there will be an inter village soccer or sports activity where you can team up with the village teens and participate in a game.There will be lots of opportunities to practice your new language and cultural skills and interact with locals of all different ages in the community.
After our village homestay, we will start our trek, which will end in Darjeeling. On trek, we wake early, go to sleep early, and walk for hours with our backpacks. Our evenings will be filled with stories, sipping tea, laughter, reflection and group-led discussions. Most importantly, while on trek, we expect each student to step up and lead the group through our daily activities.Your leadership skills, along with maintaining a positive group culture and teamwork, will prove to be essential. From Darjeeling a three hour drive will take us to the town of Mirik. The name ‘Mirik’ comes from the Lepcha word Mir-Yok meaning “place lit by fire/fireflies.” Celebrating our successful trek and looking into our final days of the course we will begin our transference, a time when we reflect back on our course and start conversations around going back home. We will consider how we can transfer back home the skill and knowledge that we have gained here on this journey.
Finally we will travel to Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri and fly to Kolkata to get on the connecting flight back home.
Your instructors will be calling you soon to answer any questions you may have about the proposed itinerary and also about packing, or anything else you might be curious about.
In the next few weeks please: