Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween, as it happened.

or, "one major holiday this week isn't enough", or, "yes, I've been a bit homesick, thanks"

So my friend Victoria (from Seattle, from Couchsurfing) is studying abroad in rural India. She and 11 other students are here in Uttarakhand taking two classes about development, social issues, environmental issues, gender issues, and probably even more issues. Then they'll be working with a local NGO for a month.

They're at a place called Sonapani. I guess people vacation there sometimes; there are some little bungalows. It's about the prettiest place ever.

It's also way the heck out there. To get there from Delhi, you take a train to Haldwani or Kathgodam (6hrs), then a bus to Nainital (2hrs), which is a resort town big enough to have a Cafe Coffee Day. Then you take a bus/share-taxi to Bhowali (30min), which is big enough to have a couple restaurants and hotels. Then you take another bus that is headed toward Mauna, but you get off at the Satkhol Ashram in Sitla (2hrs). Sitla has a store. Then you walk about 45 minutes to Sonapani. They walk 1 1/2 hours to and from school every day. But I suppose I should let her tell you about it herself on her own blog.
She invited me to visit this weekend. Worked for me. It also happened to be Halloween. Costume parts, you'd imagine, are in short supply, but that didn't deter anyone at Sonapani.
Victoria and her roommates Erin and Rachel improvised nature-inspired costumes. (Unicorns are part of nature, right?) I should mention that Erin's got poems all over herself, as she is (wait for it) a poetree. Pun pan!
Meanwhile, I took the easy solution of joining the sari brigade.
However, I was outdone by the two couples running the show, Casey (professor) and Sage, and Keith (program coordinator) and Chiku, who all went as each other. Awesome.
Hooray for Keith (I think it was his doing): we carved pumpkins. (Pac-man by yours truly.) And bobbed for apples. (sorry, didn't get any photos of this one.) Throw in a bit of Rum & Thums Up, and you have undoubtedly the best Halloween party in all of Uttarakhand. More photos in Picasa.

The next day I sat in on their class, checked out their experimental farm, and moseyed back to Nainital. They're right back to work, writing midterm essays due Thursday. I am super impressed that they're doing soil analysis and water spring tracking at the same point in life when I was studying at a pretty normal university, marveling at how the Dutch have a slightly sillier language and slightly better beer, and blundering my way around Europe.

But even more, I'm thankful to them (and particularly Victoria) for inviting me to join them for a taste of home. Until about now, I didn't know how much I'd miss being in an environment where Fleet Foxes is common knowledge, we all miss Victrola/Vivace/Bluebird/Mighty-O/Stumbling Monk, you can talk about Gandhi without mincing words, and well Bananagrams. Exactly what I needed. Thanks again, and good luck to you all with your midterms, internships, and not getting pneumonia or bit by a viper!


  1. Nice clamface-pumpkin; but I can't tell if it is a boy clam (cigar), girl clam (curl) or sheriff clam (badge). Ahhh grasshopper, you have much to learn.

  2. You look pretty good in that sari ;-) The colour suits you :-)

  3. The photos of the Sonapani look very similar to home... The vegetation, altitude, and ruralness perhaps? Very beautiful...I'm happy that you got to touch base and reset for the rest of your travels. Cheers!