Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Today, Natalia, Pat, Rajah, and I visited Kurseong, which is a town in Darjeeling (the region) in between the lowlands around Bagdogra airport and the peaks surrounding Darjeeling (the city). It is home to Makaibari, Castleton, Ambootia, Goom, and several other tea estates.

The focus of my visit was Goethal's, a school that just celebrated its 100th birthday. Goethal's is a prestigious, private, boys-only school. The students seemed happy, confident, (in many cases) fluent in English, and happy. We visited a few classrooms and I told one group of young students the story of Arachne, which they were reading for class. (I knew my college degrees in textiles and art would come in handy someday!)

It was interesting enough, but the real purpose of the visit was not Goethal's itself, but a small, girls-only trade school for students who would not be able to get a formal education elsewhere. They taught the regular school subjects, but also taught trades ranging from typing to hairdressing to sewing to cooking to professional driving. (Strangely, the cooking classroom only had bagged tea. I said something about the value in teaching about loose leaf tea to the school's headmaster, who said he'd have to do something about it.) The students were quieter and less confident than the boys in the next building, but you could see that their confidence was building as they learned new skills. And they looked happy, which is (I think) the most important part. Natalia (who teaches high school in NYC) led the classes for a few minutes, asking questions about their studies and things like "Indian Idol" (which is still EVERYWHERE up here... "Vote for Prashant" ads are in every storefront and people are canvassing for money to use on text messages to vote for him). It was an inspiring visit; I left with thoughts of tea and craft education buzzing around my head. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.

Natalia and Pat will be leaving tomorrow. We've been running around like the Three Muscateers. I guess when they go, they'll be the Dynamic Due and I'll be The Lone Ranger. I'll really miss them! Rajah invited us to a farewell dinner of carrot-cucumber salad, tomato-pumpkin soup, a grilled local, eggplant-like vegetable wrapped in whole-wheat chapatis (flat breads), aloo muttar (pea and potato curry), and gulab jamun (sort of like milk dumplings in sugar syrup) with fresh double cream. Oh, and wine and whisky (both premium items in India, as the import tax levied by the Indian government on them is quite high). What a lovely way to say goodbye!

Side note: I finished "The One-Straw Revolution." It was excellent.

No comments: