October I – The Commonwealth Games? Out of the City!Delhi, Fall 2010
The IES Delhi team, in large part because of the extra long break afforded by the Games, but I also in part believe a potential security risk, took us up to West Bengal and Sikkim, in the eastern part of India in the Himalayas for the first week of the Games. Most of my time the night of the opening ceremonies was spent doing homework. :-( I did manage to catch the ceremonies online after they over and they were amazing! I especially like the mehendi drawings by the children that were literally finished in 30 seconds! The general consensus of the Commonwealth Games has been, in classical Indian style, mismanaged and bureaucratic until the last minute, where it is pulled off beautifully.
Shortly after the official start of the Games IES flew us up to West Bengal, and Sikkim. We flew into Bagdogra, and then rode by jeep up into the mountains to Rinchenpong, Sikkim. There we stayed at a small working farm nestled in the mountains. Everything was so quiet and peaceful – the air so pure and clean that it really felt like I was breathing Delhi out of me.
Maya, Karissa, and I got the best of the rooms. It was on the second story of a building attached to the dining hall, and had a terrace out the back of it (over the roof of the dining hall) that had the most beautiful view. The first morning there we all did nothing but stare at the majesty of the Himalayas, bathed pink in the light of the sun. Apparently on really good days, we can see Kangchenjunga, the third tallest peak in the world. Over the course of the next couple of days everyone relaxed and did a little exploring. From there we hiked to a monastery and a Buddhist grave. The monastery was 300 years old - literally almost as old as the U.S.. It was up on a plateau further into the mountains. The entire path up to it was lined with Buddhist prayer flags, and there was a breeze that was keeping them forever waving. It was beautiful! The food at the guest house we stayed at was AMAZING!!!! I didn't want to leave.
Afterwords we went out of Sikkim to Kalimpong, West Bengal, up to an orchid nursery. To help support the nursery they run a guest house. We only had a two nights there, but our program Director, Cate, ran into the owner of the nursery during one of the meals, and he himself took us all around Kalimpong and showed us all of the local sights – a cactus farm, a homemade paper factory, and the best part, a tour of the monasteries nearby while giving us a detailed history and introduction to Buddhism. He was wonderfully kind and explained everything so well! After our two days there we drove back down to the Bagdogra airport and flew back to Delhi.
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