Thursday, June 4, 2009

up up and away!

Tomorrow afternoon I'm heading to the Boston airport where I will catch an Air France flight (don't worry!) to Paris, meet up with a friend and then fly to Delhi. From Delhi I'm taking an overnight bus to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh where I'll meet up with Connie! I'm super excited about that. It'll be just like old times, except with much better weather, fewer rules, no curfew, and more comfortable clothing. We're staying in Shimla one night then heading out on the road from Shimla to Reckong Peo. Connie's going to lower Kinnaur, so I'll continue by myself up to Spiti, where I'll be staying.

My ultimate destination is the Dechen Choling Institute near Kungri Monastery in the Pin Valley. It's an hour or so drive from Kaza, the capital of Spiti, (which has a hospital and internet access mom, so don't worry!). I've pin pointed Kaza on the map above, so you can zoom in and out to get a sense of where I'll be. The Pin Valley is about 12,500ft. I've never been up that high before, so I'm planning on taking my time and making hydration my new favorite activity.

My stay at the Dechen Choling Institute was coordinated through the Jamyang Foundation. They are an organization that arranges volunteers for a number of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the Himachal Pradesh/Ladakh/Zangskar area. I have friends who have volunteered at monasteries in other regions through the Jamyang foundation and met the organization's director at a conference on Mongolian Buddhism at Smith this winter.

I'm particularly excited about working at Dechen Choling because the nuns have a new greenhouse! This is their first season utilizing it and I'm very interested in helping out in any way I can and learning about how to tease new life out of the soil in such an arid, cold region. I'm sure the nuns will show me a few tricks but hopefully I can also be of some assistance in the process. I will be there for ~2 months. I am planning on leaving the monastery a week or two before my departure flight so that I can travel the opposite route (north), from Kaza to Manali, and visit a number of other monasteries and temples along the way.

This area of Spiti and then farther north into Ladakh and Zangskar (where I won't get to go this time) encompass the area I researched for my undergraduate thesis. Many of the temples I studied still exist, some of which date back to the late 10th/early 11th century, and a few have even preserved their original wall paintings! It will be sort of like taking a walk through history for me.

I'm taking a bunch of books with me, probably more than I should given how much they weigh, whoops. As well as music to keep me sane and a pair of jeans to keep me comfortable. I've learned from previous trips to India that my quality of life is just not the same without those two items. I don't know how frequently I will be able to update this blog, since I'll be an hour or so from internet service, but I will at the very least keep a journal and post a slew of blog updates when I return. In the meantime, if anyone wants a postcard, send me your address!

Big hugs to all and see you in August!


  1. you're gonna have so much fun! (and I will missssss you!)

  2. Thanks for all of the details and map!