Ladakh Project 2016 — Teesta Rawal, Y12
There’s no point in taking up a challenge if you aren’t willing to push yourself till the very end. That’s something I’ve learnt every step of the way in the 2 weeks I spent in Ladakh, surrounded by the lofty and seemingly unscalable peaks of the mighty Himalayas. This trip was definitely one of the most exciting experiences in my entire life. Our first day itself involved climbing 500 steps to the Shanti Stupa and walking across to a monastery, which seemed like a Herculean effort at the time. But the work at Lamdon Model School, Thiksey was to be even more so. The main purpose of this service project was to build one room of the dormitory for the boarders at this school, who take days to come walking from places that are really far away. Our group of 22 appeared to be a highly motivated bunch right from the start, and over the course of time, we worked tirelessly, and made sure we surpassed all expectations. We started off with loading bricks weighing about 8kgs on to tractors, and moved on to stacking them, laying them, mixing cement, and even sawing logs.
At first I was apprehensive about sawing logs and passing heavy cement bowls on to the roof, but technique, patience and lots of teamwork, were key and in the end it turned out just fine in the end and I was a bit disappointed that we finished so soon! In the end completed not only one, but two rooms of the dormitory, which was essentially double of what our target was, and everyone was really proud of themselves. We spent our rest hours with the children in the hostel.
I really enjoyed playing football with them, by the end of our stay I could survive a whole match without tiring out, something I never thought I could do at this altitude! Since we were divided into 4 groups, each group got 2 days for “Domestics” which meant cleaning up the dorm, teaching school kids, and planning the evening’s entertainment. I really loved teaching the Grade 6 students at the school, we bonded quickly and by the end of it I could count from 1-20 in Ladakhi! We also had some exposure to Ladakhi culture through some Performances the students of the school put up for us. On the last day of our stay we both were sad to part ways and they kept asking if I could stay longer.
Doing my own laundry and bathing with ice cold water, living in bare accommodation was also a different experience. The little things we did, such as crack jokes at the table, sing and work, play innumerable games of Uno, drink hot chocolate all day were what brought everyone so close together. Even the visit to the gorgeous Pangong Lake mid-work, with its crystal clear, ice cold waters, allowed everyone to bond. Perhaps that’s what made the trek so great as well. It was a really strenuous, arduous and mind numbing trek, honestly, through the depths of Hemis National Park. And when I thought it couldn’t get any tougher, I found myself having scaled a height of 5000m above sea level.
The terrain was insane valleys, ledges, streams, rocks, steep climbs and slippery slopes, I had never pushed myself this much ever before, both physically and mentally, and I was determined not to give up to the very end. By the end of those 3 days, we were so fit that we ran the last 2 hours of the trek, through the river valley and along the river.
It was the most refreshing experience ever, with the cold wind and clear air all around. Our last day was spent in the market, shopping, eating and relaxing. Everyone was really sad to bid each other farewell when we touched down in Delhi, but we made a lifetime of memories with strangers who became family.
- Teesta Rawal, Y12