The 6th cohort of the UW Environment & Development in India Study Program is as dynamic, wildly curious, deeply engaged and playfully spirited as each of their predecessors. Three weeks ago we hit the ground running (albeit slowly in the 114℉ heat of Delhi!). Two days of that heat was enough and we shuttled six hours north by train to the Himalayan foothills and taxied 3 hours (and nearly 6000 feet higher) to our host institution, the Central Himalayan Rural Action Group’s (CHIRAG) main campus at village Simayal. The dormitories at the CHIRAG office were our home for the first two weeks.
Above a few of the students in the lobby of the YWCA Blue Triangle Family Hostel in Delhi with Dr. Anindyo Roy of Colby College (Maine).
Staying here at Chirag these first two weeks proved to be a wonderful way for the 13 students to bond with each other and with Keith and I. We all feel as though we have been together for much longer than a week and a half (in a good way!). While the very simple accommodations were an adjustment from our Seattle norms everyone adapted to the changes in good humor. Happily, the two week residence at the CHIRAG dorms afforded a different sort of luxury, a great deal more time to get to mix with and grow to know the CHIRAG staff. In informal discussions with the staff here at Chirag, our students are already being praised for their engagement, enthusiasm and for working hard to pick up Hindi.
One week ago, on July 1, we shifted to our “home” for the duration of the program, Himalayan Village – Sonapani, with our gracious hosts Ashish & Deepa Arora, their daughter and son, Vanya and Aranya, and their ever attentive and talented staff. Shortly after our arrival at Sonapani another much anticipated “arrival” visited all of us, the much delayed monsoon rains! The students have been here just long enough to know what a momentous occasion this is. Out on field visits a week ago we all felt a few drops here and there of the pre-monsoon showers and they shared the anticipation running throughout the community. One shower last Thursday culminated with an impromptu outdoor dance to celebrate the coming of the rains.
In addition to the onset of the monsoon, it’s fruit season here in the hills, and we are all enjoying this year’s harvest (plums and peaches, and apples and pears soon!) Mangoes, especially the highly sought after Dasheri mango from the orchards in western Uttar Pradesh, are in the local shops for another few weeks and we are enjoying them fresh and in the Sonapani kitchen’s baked goods too!
In classes thus far, students have shown an impressive facility for reaching a common ground despite coming from varied academic backgrounds. Students have been asking for additional lessons on specific topics they are interested in, such as the geographical concepts of space and place. I frequently overhear them talking about themes from the readings and about their observations thus far. Some of the students are staying after class daily to explain difficult concepts to each other. This week we have already begun to work on creating cognitive maps of the power relationships and connections across scales (individual, household, community and state) related to natural resource management, rural livelihoods and rural development in this area.
We, Kacy and Keith, are so excited about this group! They are outgoing, flexible, caring, intelligent and just plain fun to be around!
Next update – internships!