Wednesday, February 10, 2010

14,534 Miles Traveled + distance from Alwar to Mussorie

Feb 9, 2010
Mussorie, India (The Woodstock School)
Rainy, freezing, overcast. Hail in the afternoon, thunderstorms at night.
I’m writing this from the top bunk of a dormitory at The Woodstock School as thunder is shaking my windows and lightening cracks over the mountains for as far as I can see. Like all days, this one began early when I woke up on the train with sudden and intense nausea. All of the western-style bathrooms were taken, so I crouched over hole in the floor and threw up the remnants of a spicy curry and spicy stomach acid, which (a little fun fact) burns coming up too. I wiped my burning nose on some slightly damp toilet paper and stumbled out of the bathroom to grab my baggage and get off the train. I was expecting to fling open the door and take a huge breath of fresh air, but instead nothing but diesel exhaust greeted me.
I hauled my bag up a flight of stairs, down a flight of stairs, and stood barely conscious waiting for a taxi. I think I snarled at several people trying to hassle me. Finally, we were pointed to a car and I got in the front seat, rolled the window down and hung my head out, trying to suck in a few molecules of oxygen that were untainted by the ubiquitous pollution. I was hoping for a short car ride, but when we had been going for thirty minutes and passed a sign that said “4,000 feet,” and I knew we were headed up to 8,000, I all but lost hope.

The driver spoke almost no English and ignored the signs that said, “Speed thrills but kills” as he sped up the sharp turns on the mountain. I’ve been on far less thrilling rollercoasters. Around 6,000 feet, the fog was so thick that we could see only a few feet in front of the car, and I gagged out the window several times after getting facefulls of exhaust from the unseen vehicles. It began to rain, then hail. This was not normal hail. It gigantic, pea to marble sized balls of death ice. When finally we reached the top and I basically fell out of the taxi, a huge hill covered ankle-deep hail awaited us. I dragged my bag up icy hill, tripping and sliding, but then I was rewarded by collapsing into a bed and sleeping for most of the day.

I feel better now. The power is flickering on and off. Most people are preparing for the fifth-grade class our group will teach tomorrow, and I’m catching up on some work. The Woodstock School is absolutely beautiful, with brand-new buildings and gorgeous architecture. In two days, we leave for the Maldives, which will be a welcome change from the insanity of India.
Update: 2/10/10
Today, I was feeling a little worse today so I spent a good portion of the morning in bed. By lunch time, I got dressed and went to go find the rest of the group, who were all on a different part of the campus. The woman at the front desk gave me sketchy instructions of how to find the dining room, and I walked up a gigantic hill, after not eating for two days, at 8,000 feet, only to realize that I was in the completely wrong place. I sat down, dizzy and out of breath, when a man who worked at the school found me and took me back to the dorms. I was given more directions and tried again -- I walked down the road for about ten minutes before a dog started following me and random woman found me and assumed I was lost. Thankfully, she knew the way and led me to the right place, where I encounted Sigrid. We sat down for lunch and were shortly joined by the rest of the group.
In the afternoon, we met with a group of seniors in an AP biology class in order to discuss global warming and biomes. It was very interesting to talk to these kids about their lives as well, and how it was at the Woodstock School. Honestly, it seems like a great place where the teachers are very concerned about the education of their students. Of course, the gorgeous view doesn't hurt either.

Before tea, we went to a PE class. During lunch, I spoke with the PE teacher -- he had been on the Christmas Day flight to Detriot and was sitting just a few rows behind the man who tried to blow himself up. He led the class in a series of jump rope drills, and even got some of us involved. Against my better judgment, I ended up joining in for a few hops over the rope.
Then we went back to the dorms, worked on the internet for a bit, had dinner, and tomorrow we leave at three in the morning for Delhi, then to the Maldives.

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