Aarohi Village Haat

This past weekend featured the Aarohi sponsored Village Haat (fair)! Our students have spent the last two weeks learning a Garhwali dance (Garhwal being the western region of Uttarakhand, with Kumaon, where we are, constituting the eastern half of the state). They also created a series of skits towards raising awareness of the critical need for solid waste management in the mountain regions. Their efforts culminated in performances at the Haat on Saturday and Sunday afternoons this past weekend. Aarohi staff and villagers together sang high praises to the UW students for their fine rendition of local folk dance and their comedic skits on an all too important waste management need. Below are some images from the performances and Haat festivities!!


The Haat grounds with the stunning Kumaoni high Himalaya in the background.


Performing the Garhwali dance!





Molly W. and Hemant-ji!


Niva A. getting pre-performance assistance from Renee C.


Jade H. – “That’s some spicy noodles!!”


Jade H. fully recovered from spicy noodles sporting stunning rainbow shawl!


Prof. Virginia Van Dyke, program co-director, with Jade H. (behind rainbow shawl), Leila R., and American India Foundation Wm. J. Clinton India Fellow Lakshmee Sharma enjoying the Haat!

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Meet the Cohort!

This post marks three weeks and a day that we’ve been immersed in Indian Himalayan village life. Our initial forays into the community have been through our two host NGOs, Aarohi and Gene Campaign. This week we are in midst of final preparations for the annual Aarohi Haat (fair) where the students will be performing humourous skits on solid waste management (a perennial challenge in the de-centralized environment of the mountains). They will also perform traditional Kumaoni folk dances as part of the cultural program at the Haat!

As we share more about the program in the coming weeks we invited Molly Woerner, one of four students who will be working with the Education outreach program at Aarohi as part of her internship, to write a blog post this week. Molly interviewed the group to give our friends and families a richer introduction to the extraordinary cohort. What follows is the fruit of Molly’s interviews with the group over this past week.

Molly writes, It has been about 3 weeks into our study abroad trip in India. I’ve grown to appreciate many of the simple joys throughout the program. From hiking 30 minutes to get a chocolate bar to watching a soccer ball repeatedly go over the fence while playing with the local school kids at Aarohi (non-profit organization involved in the rural development of rural Himalayan communities). Most notably, my time with other peers on the same journey has supplemented many of such joys. I am humored, comforted, and taken back by the wonderful cohort of 12 students I live and learn with daily. I thought it would be a good idea to showcase each student on the blog in the early stages of the time in India to give readers a sense of who is contributing to the program. Answering unversed can be difficult, but the honesty in an unrehearsed answer is beautiful and I am pleased I had the chance to explore that. Without further ado, meet the students of UW Study Abroad India!

Niva Ashkenazi – Major: Socio-cultural anthropology, hopefully journalism


Q: What has been your favorite part of the trip so far/favorite memory?

A: I love being in transit with the group. Whether it is in trains, by taxi, or on foot, I always love the idea of being on the way somewhere. There’s a lot a potential for what you are about to do. I always find the journey exciting. It’s an interesting phenomenon: you’re in a place that is the same for a while so your mind drifts or you interact with those around you. You’re in a liminal space. Things get more interesting, seeing the land with the group because we are all sensitive to the area. Its never the same, were always in different space and time.

Q: What encouraged you to join your major?

A: I love the way that anthro trains you to think. It always complicates things. In my first anthro class at UW, my professor said a quote that anthro is meant to make the unfamiliar familiar and the familiar unfamiliar. To think about your life in ways you didn’t think was possible and the way that you look at it. The discipline has a lot to contribute to the world but its only in higher academia, and it should be more accessible to people.

Leila Reynolds – Major: Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Minors: Human Rights and Spanish


Q: What encouraged you to join your major?

A: My mom majored in anthro and I thought the connection was cool. I always felt connected to the way that people think in anthropology and the way the discipline explains the world. My mom was super excited about it. I studied abroad in Chile and studied Spanish and I have always felt related to Latin American culture.

Q: What has been your favorite part of the trip so far?

A: All the new food is so delicious, I like the structure of the trip: I had a busy busy summer so its nice to have plans laid out. Also the lovely people and cows.


Nuansi Ngamsnit – Major: Comparative History of Ideas


Q: What do you think is an attribute or quality that you bring to the group dynamic, community, or India?

A: I bring artistic style, and I also share creative ways of communicating. Language is more than words. I also like exploring. And I bring my smile!

Q: What encouraged you to join your major?

A: I chose CHID because I like to wander and wonder. I like learning in different contexts, not just being inside a class but being adventurous.

Allison McDonald – Major: Comparative History of Ideas


Q: What are you most excited for in your internship?

A: I want to do non-profit management in grad school, and I volunteered for 5 years but I’m excited to get behind the science of how non-profits work. I don’t expect it to be like what I am going to experience in America. But the knowledge of what happens up the line. Excited for millets as well. The millet festival will be fun I’m excited to create a cool event. I already have millet puff peanut butter balls in mind.

Q: What do you think is an attribute or quality that you bring to the group dynamic, community, or India?

A: With my CHID background I am constantly trying to make the conversations we have intersectional. I always want to see what isn’t visible and make thoughts things visible. I am always conscientious of what is missing and out of the narrative.

Renée Chaffin– Medical Anthropology and Global Health (MAGH)


Q: What has been one of your favorite parts of the trip?

A: Yoga every morning at 6:30, it has drastically changed my sleep schedule. I appreciate how were forced to get up super early, it’s a good transition to start the day.

Q: What is something most people do not know about you?

A: I did karate and have a black belt. I like reading and hiking. I wrote my entry essay for UW on Buddhist mummies, I really like mummies from different cultures. I think that’s a reason I went into anthropology too. Maybe I am drawn to what people are repulsed from; maybe I have a strong morbid curiosity.

Shayda Golshan– Major: Sociology, Global Health Minor


Q: What are you most excited for your internship?

A: I think I am excited to look deeper into how the way women gain their independence through work as portrayed with their health status. How that fluctuates based on the opportunities they have or lacked.

Q: What has been one of your favorite parts of the trip?

A: Being totally immersed in a different culture that you would never be able to see in the US or a developed region; in any culture if there’s tourism, its going to lack some aspect of the purity. Because everyone is influenced by western culture. Being here you are immersed in a pure culture.


Sky Stahl – Major: Communications


Q: What do you think is an attribute or quality that you bring to the group dynamic, community, or India?

A: I come from a music background and in music the conversations that we have are dependent on our ability to listen to each other. We have to listen because if we don’t then what we play won’t make sense in the music we are making. I also come from a leadership background; I’ve held many leadership roles in my life so I am often looked to as a role model for guidance. So with those two attributes I think I can help the group and communities that I am working with to flow cohesively.


Q: What encouraged you to join your major?

A: I think that communication is the single most important skill for human beings. Communities and networks are historically how we have shared ideas and grown as a society. And in this new day and age of digital communications and social media the ways in which we communicate are being redefined. I seek to find why we do what we do and how we do that within the context of a community, that’s why this trip is so important to me: its an opportunity to get a first hand look at what communities look like in rural India but also develop relationships with this group of students while we share this experience.


Kaia Boonzaier– Major: Economics and International Studies


Q: What have you learned on this trip so far? About India, yourself, or travel?

A: Being in India thus far has made me much more aware of my gender, even in the short time we have been here so far I have been inspired by the hard working women in the community. The more I learn about modern day sexism within India, the more motivated I am impressed by the women stepping out of traditional gendered norms despite the burden of their circumstance.


Q: What encouraged you to join your major?

A: I chose my majors because I want to try to make a real difference preserving our environment, but I am not very scientifically inclined so I think I can make the greatest impact through facets such as policy reform.


Sage Abate – Major: Comparative History of Ideas


Q: What are you most excited for in your internship?

A: I am excited to get to take a look at the daily lives of the women in the Himalayas and how they provide for their family while also working in the field.


Q: What encouraged you to join your major?

A: I chose CHID because it doesn’t confine you to one area of study and allows you to explore different disciplines. I was also drawn to CHID because I love to travel and CHID is very accommodating in that it encourages you to step outside of the University life and experience new cultures first hand.




Tyler Lincoln – International Studies Major and Political Science


Q: What are you most excited for in your internship?

I am excited to talk more to Dr. Sahai, as a women who founded her own NGO, has a presence in the community, and opportunities to talk in the UN, its amazing to talk to someone whose been so influential. And since I see myself in international development sector, I see a lot of things that she does inspiring me to go above and beyond in the future and see how her experience has shaped her life.


Q: What has been one of your favorite parts of the trip so far?

The Arya Samaj fire sacrifice has been one of my favorite experiences here. During the ceremony I felt so welcomed. And when they explained what they were praying for, I liked that they pray for everyone, and there was a universal acceptance there. You didn’t have to believe what they did to be blessed by them. It was beautiful way to look at prayer that I haven’t been exposed to before. One of the first times I felt accepted to be there.

Athena Anderle – Public Health BS Global Health Minor


Q: What have you learned on this trip so far? About India, yourself, or travel?

A: Being here in such a remote place its really putting in real time how much women do. In a lot of my classes they talk about getting water. You see the water pumps, everywhere you go and how long to get there. Its really different and I didn’t ever fully realize what it meant to live in a rural remote area and how difficult it could be.
Q: What has been one of your favorite parts of the trip so far?

A: Going to Aarohi has been fun and learning about how a community can come together and improve the lives in that community drastically. I’ve also really liked to get to know everyone and see how people interact and making friends. All of you guys are people I wouldn’t have met at UW on my own and its cool to engage with each other in this setting and learn from one another and see where the connections are.


Jade Hoiby– Cultural Anthropology Major, hopefully CHID minor


Q: What have you learned on this trip so far? About India, yourself, or travel?

A: This is my first big international trip; it was a substantial step of coming out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned I’m excited to start traveling after the program and how much I enjoy leaving my comfort zone.


Q: What are you most excited for in your internship?

A: To learn directly about alternative education. Right in our neighborhood there’s one child going to Aarohi and one child at a government school and we get to see how the different pedagogies are at work. I am also excited to be working at after school programs playing games and spending time with children.





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Kumaon adventures begin

Our brief two days in New Delhi were packed with orientation activities, shopping for kurta/pajama at CP, a mix of North and South Indian foods (including a spectacular lunch at the highly acclaimed Cafe Lota at the Crafts Museum) and a wonderfully compelling introduction to the work of Dr. Suman Sahai, founder and chairperson of Gene Campaign. Gene Campaign offers internships to our amazing UW students in policy advocacy (social, economic and health costs of under/mal-nutrition), public health outreach education targeting under-nutrition, and planning/organizing a “mela” (fair) for the end of November in Nainital town on the many benefits and uses of millets in our diets. The group is excited to learn more about Gene Campaign’s work on our 3 October orientation visit to the Orakhan village office.

Last Friday we were introduced to the work of our other internship hosts, the NGO Aarohi, who work with the region’s communities in public health, education, livelihoods and grassroots renewable energy solutions. We join them in preparing for their annual “Haat” (fair) later in October when the areas villages turn out in festive spirit to celebrate the year past. This year is particularly special as Aarohi is celebrating their Silver Jubilee!

Classes have started in earnest with Professor Virginia Van Dyke. The week to come promises a rich plunge into the academic and village life of Kumaon!

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Week One! Delhi to Sonapani

This gallery contains 10 photos.

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