Friday, January 26, 2018

For the Kids.

Original Post Date: June 30, 2017.

We awoke this morning to the news that heavy snowfall had fallen over night in the area around Khardung La Pass.  For safety reasons, the road was closed.  Dorje was in contact with the office as well as several of his fellow drivers.  At best, we could begin to make our way back around noon so for now, we were stuck in Sumur.  Not idea but nothing anyone can do so we just had to be patient.

We just so happened to be standing outside, talking with Dorje and the guesthouse manager when the owner happened along.  Her daughter was with her.  We told them the news of the delay in our return to Leh.  Somehow, someone asked her what she was doing and she replied that she was going to school.  We learned from her that most children in the area attend private schools except for those who come from families who cannot afford to pay for private schooling.  She teaches at a school for these underprivileged children.  She just happened to be on her way out to catch the bus to the school.

Without missing a beat, Chantale asked if we could come along with her.  We even offered to pick up some school supplies for the children.  We even offered for Dorje to take us all there.  After all, he wasn't busy at the moment.  I think the owner was taken aback for a few seconds but then she gladly took us up on our offer.

I never got the owner's name but her daughter's name is Tsering....a classic Tibetan name though I always thought it was a man's name but I've since learned that only a few Tibetan names are gender specific....most can be given to either males or females.

We all piled into the car and headed back to town.  A few doors down from the restaurant that we had had lunch at yesterday was a school supplies store.  We let Chantale work with the woman to figure out what supplies to get - we didn't set a limit on how much she could spend as the supplies are so reasonably priced, there is no need to hold back.  She would buy all that she and the owner thought was needed.  The woman told us there are six children at the school and we wanted to get the same stuff for Dorje's two young children as well so everything came in 8's.

Chantale and the owner picking out supplies for the children.

Tsering flashing me a smile.

As we were inside the store, groups of children passed by outside....on their way to school.  These are the private school kids.

While Chantale and the guesthouse owner were getting the educational stuff for the kids, Ayşe headed back to the convenience store to get some candies for the kids.  They have to study but they deserve a treat too.  In this part of the world, I don't think poor kids get many indulgences.

Chantale is forever on the lookout for interesting faces.  She stopped this man and asked me to take their photo.  I don't take good photos of people so I hope this works for her 😁

With all the purchases done, we all piled back into the car and Dorje drove us to school. The ride took about half an hour.  Along the way, I had a very nice chat with Tsering.  She's home for summer at the moment but during the school year, she attends university in Delhi.  I asked her what it was like for a small village girl to be in the big city and she's very comfortable there.  In fact, I think she's become a city girl.  She's currently studying a discipline that her parents want her to study because it will ensure that she will be able to support herself in the future.  In her heart, she wants to be a graphics artist.  So, I told her that it is difficult to want to please your parents but it's not your passion.  I grappled with exactly the same struggle when I was her age.  In the end, my parents guided me down the correct path and I think hers are doing the same.  I told her to keep the artist in her alive - as a hobby because she will be something she can turn to in stressful times in life.  She has a good head on her shoulders and as long as she finishes her studies, she will do well.  Seems like she's also very close to her family.  She could've easily found a way to spend the summer in Delhi but it seems like Sumur is a good place for her. 

Dorje dropped us off outside the gate to the school.  A simple sign, painted by Tsering identified the school.  No fancy name.  Just "Govt. Primary School Youlkam". Youlkam is the name of the village.  Don't bother Googling it.  It's such a tiny, remote place, it doesn't come up on any search results.  I already tried.

We went through the entry gate and down a path.  I kept my eyes out for any sign of a school like a playground perhaps but saw nothing. At first, I thought this yellow building was it but no.  We walked past it.

At points, I felt more like I was going on a hike than heading to a school!

Seriously.  Where's the school building?

In the middle of nowhere, we arrived at a small building.  I could hear the voices of children.  This was it.....the school.

Inside, six kids had lined up against the wall.   This is how they greet their teacher every day.  Of course, we were surprise visitors.  All of a sudden their voices stopped once they figured out there were strangers in their midst.  The were very shy but incredibly adorable!

All the kids had uniforms on and the owner, now teacher, told us that these are donated.  They are actually uniforms for another school.  It's nice that the kids have them - makes them feel like every other kid here....they are no different than their private school counterparts.

Based on height alone, it was obvious that the kids are of different ages.  The teacher has a curriculum that caters to all the ages so everyone receives the level of education appropriate to their age.

Before classes would begin for the day, the students got their gifts from us.  Chantale did the distribution duties making sure that every student got one of every item that had been bought for them.  Chantale had also picked out a couple of educational posters which the teachers will hang up later.

Chantale had bought pencil sharpeners for the kids.  For the girls, she picked out Hello Kitty ones.  She had to show one of the girls how to use her Hello Kitty sharpener.

Ayşe soon got engaged with the students as well, asking them very simple questions.  Some would answer, in a very soft voice while others were simply too shy to speak.  The teacher told us that the kids learn English, Hindi and Urdu.  Of course, they speak Ladakhi at home.  Yes, they are not just bilingual, they are multilingual!  Very impressive!

At one point, the teacher asked the two oldest students to demonstrate their reading skills to us.  I don't know what language they're speaking.

While the kids were reading to us, a woman slipped in, carrying a toddler.  She's the school's cook and he's her child.  Babysitters don't exist in this part of the world so wherever mom goes,  baby goes.  Chantale had bought enough supplies that we could give him a gift as well and there was candy for him too.

For the demonstration of their knowledge of English, the students performed a very cute dance routine that had them practicing their numbers. I couldn't help but smile when I watched them. I know they're not my kids or students but I was feeling proud of them.

We didn't want to stay long as the students have to attend to their studies so after a while, we left.  Tsering came with us.

As I was about to walk out of the school, I noticed the curriculum posted on the wall.  It was from last week but most likely, it's this week's curriculum as well.

It was a very short but rewarding visit to the school and we have a blocked mountain pass to thank for it.  I'm glad we were able to spend time with the kids and make a very small donation towards their education.
Tsering standing alongside the sign she painted. 

In the car, Dorje told us the news that the road had reopened so as soon as we arrive back at the guesthouse, we have to pack up and leave.

Our journey back to Leh can now begin!