Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Activity Week Part 1

Well, I survived Activity Week! I return tired, covered in bug bites, and with bronchitis—but triumphant. Yes, triumphant. I really think that may be the best word to describe how I feel about Activity Week. I can’t really say that it was incredibly “fun” or “awesome” or any other gushing superlatives, but I feel very good about myself having completed it. I survived some serious hiking, camping out for a week, unfriendly cows, and trench toilets, not to mention keeping 15 9th graders in check for the week. Not a small feat.

But before launching into Tales from Dwarghar Village, I need to put the week into perspective by mentioning that the Friday before we left, I got the worst case of food poisoning ever. At least I assume it was food poisoning—I can’t think of anything else that could make you throw up 25 times in one night and then feel (relatively) fine the next day. But that was Friday/Saturday and we left Sunday so I was not quite as eager to go as I might have been!

Be that as it may, I was packed and ready to roll at the prescribed hour of 9am. I thought I had been quite restrained in my packing, but my rucksack still managed to way around 40 pounds. This doesn’t seem like much when you first hoist it, but after stomping around the mountainside with it on your back for an hour, it seems to gain significantly in mass (more on that later).

Our destination for the week was the village Dwarghar, located not far to the northwest of Mussoorie. Getting there, though, is not a walk in the park. We took a bus for a very bumpy two hours, prompting me to pop a motion sickness pill. That was not a good plan because I was still super lethargic when we arrived at our drop point. The road turned inhospitable to buses about 12 km from our village and we had to walk the rest of the way in. Fortunately, we were able to pile our bags onto a jeep and only had to carry ourselves for most of the way. This still took a good 3 hours because the kids are NOT particularly big fans of walking uphill in the blazing sun for hours on end. Funny. I brought up the rear most of the week and really got a lot of insight into the life of a sheepdog. Lots of herding, some barking; I even considered nipping a few of the stragglers but decided that might just cause greater difficulties.

After our 3 hour march, we caught up with our bags at a roadside village. But was that the end of the journey? No no. The best (???) was yet to come. We shouldered our packs and then faced an hour long hike UP further into the mountains to our village, which was off the main “road” (using the term loosely). I thought I was going to die. No, seriously. There were moments when I was utterly convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to continue. My pack weighed a ton; I was dehydrated from all the puking over the weekend; I was groggy from the pills; it was hot. But in a situation like that you really have no choice. There was simply no option other than staggering onward. And at last I made it. And all the kids made it. And we were there.

And waiting to greet us at our campsite were no less than 50 village children. I’m not kidding. I counted them. They moved around a lot, but I’m positive that I counted at least 50.

To be continued…


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