Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Delhi

VISpas visited Dillihaut for some handicraft shopping, Majnu Kutilla, the Tibetan Refugee Colony, and the National Gallery of Modern Art near India Gate, to see some amazing photographs, paintings and sculptures. While shopping at Dillihaut, Laura was asked by the popular tv show "India's Got Talent" to provide the 5 second opening line, (India's got talent!), which she performed perfectly. They said it will air in June. Here's Laura with the henna painted on her hand.

Parents, we're getting ready to head out to dinner and then the airport. We spent yesterday and this morning with Curtis, who brought us some chocolate from home. Students are excited to be going home to see you guys, though sad to be leaving each other. (Delhi, however, will be nice to leave, it is incredibly hot and sticky)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Well, we're back in Delhi after a tearful goodbye to SECMOL students last night and this morning. Big dance party and then the screening of Nick's movie/documentary of the semester. Students are mostly napping this afternoon and catching up on missed sleep and also catching up on ice cream intake at the cafe across the street, something we've definitely missed while in Ladakh.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Village of Ursi

Ella, surrounded by the children of Ursi, overlooking the village

Lamayuru Monastary

Pheylan at Lamayuru Monastary, begining of trek

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Exhibition Photos

Here are some photos of the GREAT exhibition work presented to the SECMOL community by students

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Independent projects and internships underway

VIS Exhibition Topics Spring 2010

A major feature of The VIS Academic Program for high school juniors and seniors is Exhibition, an independent study capstone class. Long-established VIS connections with people and organizations around Ladakh benefit internships that allow students to delve deeper into local communities, and contribute to the work of organizations and local society. Research is often undertaken jointly with SECMOL students. Final exhibition projects include written as well as audio/visual components, and are presented to students, teachers and mentors at SECMOL, and to various communities back at home. Students currently in Ladakh have chosen their exhibition topics, and this month will be devoted to research and internships to culminate in presentations at the SECMOL campus at the end of April. For more information on exhibitions, and the VIS Academic Program, see www.vermontis.org.

Laura Yurkosky (Thetford Academy): Nomadic Culture. Laura aims to explore the changing lifestyles of the nomadic groups in Ladakh, covering ideas such as nomadic settlements, schooling of children, and family traditions. She will speak with members of nomadic and semi-nomadic communities.

Nora McKay (Middlebury UHS): Amchi Medicine. Nora plans to focus on amchi medicine, specifically on the herbs and their uses as well as other healing techniques. She will be in contact with local amchis and organizations such as the Ladakh Society for Traditional Medicine.

Dan Noel (Whitcomb HS): Building Ladakhi Homes. Dan plans to build a scale model of an actual Ladakhi home, and investigate whether any aspects of that building or the process it required might be improved with modern techniques.
Schuyler Klein (Middlebury UHS): Ladakhi Construction/Sustainable Building. Schuyler intends to research the traditional building techniques used in Ladakh as compared with modern techniques employed, and to create a model and/or sketches of such buildings and the processes they require.

Marga Kempner (Burlington HS): Family Structure. Marga will study issues of family including structure, changes caused by modernization and the demand for higher education and jobs, and possible domestic issues and their solutions. She will collect drawings of families from her interview subjects.

Emery Boudreau (Burr & Burton Academy): Climate Change. Emery will investigate the causes and effects of climate change in Ladakh, with a specific focus on pollution and CO2 emissions. She will interview local NGOs and collect thoughts from locals.

Nicole Tamayo (S. Burlington HS): Global Warming. Nicole will focus on the effects of global warming on village life, specifically with regard to water supply. She will collect villager's thoughts on the issue during home stays, and will interview NGOs in Leh.

Bo Attley (Leland & Gray HS): Appropriate Technology. Bo will research how appropriate technologies have been employed traditionally in Ladakh, and which new methods are now used. He aims to intern with a local NGO.

Pheylan Martin (The Sharon Academy): Pheylan will research local beliefs about paranormal activity. He will gain a stronger sense of Ladakhi culture as defined by local views about spirits, ghosts, and superstitions.

Mikey Piscitelli (The Sharon Academy): Tibetan Refugee Escapes. Mikey will interview Tibetans who fled Tibet and learn how they accomplished their journeys. He will collect stories from the older residents of Choglamsar and maybe second-hand stories from their children in some cases.

Ella Hayslett (The Sharon Academy): The Ladakhi Language. Ella will design a course outline with lesson plans for potential visitors to Ladakh who wish to learn the basics of the language. She will meet with a local language scholar and practice her Ladakhi language skills in villages in order to better understand which items would be most useful in an introductory course in Ladakhi.

Max Hausslein (Burr & Burton Academy): Arbory in Ladakh. Max will research which types of trees are grown in Ladakh, how they can grow in Ladakh’s harsh, dry climate, and which other trees might be introduced successfully into the Ladakhi landscape.

Ali Riggen (U32 HS) : Midwifery. Ali plans to investigate the birthing process, and perhaps how traditional and western approaches compare. She has visited one NGO with a women's health program thus far, and will continue to interview NGOs, doctors and individuals.

2 Days in Rumbuk

We arrived in Rumbuk around lunch time on Saturday after walking for three hours. Right after being served tea, cookies, and a lunch of yellow rice, we decided to get right outside in the wonderful weather to check out the village. Nora, Laura, and I left our house that was at the top of the hill and walked over an unplanted field to get to a tiny stream on the other side of the narrow valley. After realizing that beautiful rocks with crystal pieces lay along the side of the stream, I got addicted to walking with my head down next to it trying to find the best rocks. We decided that we thought some of the best rocks might be hiding so we plopped ourselves down in a pile and starting searching through them. After awhile searching for rocks just turned into sitting and enjoying the sun and the beautiful view of the village.
From where we sat we could see all of the houses of the village, all clumped together on one hill with little stone enclosures in between for the many cows, donkeys, goats, and sheep. Little dirt paths led between the enclosures and were like magical alleyways perfect for exploring. The narrow valley, with a few small fenced areas for the animals and fields that would soon be plowed and planted, lay between the houses and us. The fields seemed to disappear in between two mountains farther up the valley. Some of the mountains were brown with snow still in the crevaces and some were a deep purple color. We watched lambs graze on the grass in front of us and gigantic dzos (a cross between a yak and a a cow) pass by gracefully.
The next morning, the whole the VIS group, except for Pheylan, one Ladakhi SECMOL student, and me , departed down the road for the two hour walk back to SECMOL. The plan was for the two of us to stay one more night to get further information for our exhibition. We waved and said our goodbyes to the rest of the group. It was a strange experience having them leave without us. It felt like we were villagers ourselves, wishing the foreigners a safe journey back. We were alone in Rumbuk!
For my exhibition I am learning about the Ladakhi language. This includes learning how to speak more of the language, as well as the history of the language and how it is used today in comparison to Tibetan, Hindi, and English, the three other prominent languages in the area. To get information about the history and politics of the language I will speak with scholars in Leh, but staying in a village by myself was the perfect way to force me to speak Ladakhi!
I practiced saying phrases that I knew but wouldn’t have had to say if I wasn’t alone as well as learning new words through our little yellow Ladakhi book and through pointing or making gestures at things. The best part of my day alone in Rumbuk was when I passed a village woman working next to her green house. I asked her if she wanted help with her work, “nga nerang-a las yato choya?” She put me right to work shoveling! It was nice to be able to help her, and after a little while we both sat down and took a break together. While we were resting we sort of had a conversation that I think was understood by both of us which was really exciting! I told her that there were three cows at SECMOL plus a new baby calf that was born while we were away on our Changtang Trek.
Before I went to help the village woman, I had set my notebook with all my Ladakhi notes down on the steps to one of the houses. I returned to find it almost unrecognizable. Some goats or sheep decided that it was very tasty! At first I just thought it was very dirty, but then I realized that the only section that was missing was the one that I had taken ALL my notes in! Ah! It was a little upsetting but more just funny. Thankfully I hadn’t taken too many important notes yet.
I am really glad that I spent the night in Rumbuk by myself. It was a great way to start speaking in Ladakhi and prepared me for a longer homestay, which I hope to do in the next couple of weeks. I came back to SECMOL without a lot of notes (I won’t leave my notebook unattended again) but with a funny story, the feeling of accomplishment because I was able to have a conversation in Ladakhi, and a bunch of really cool rocks.
Ella Hayslett