We now have internet access so will share some of the photos and experiences of the past few days.
All arrived safely at Delhi airport.
We’ve had very poor wifi reception over the last few days in Agra and Jaipur.
All is well and the group is looking forward to returning home.
Our day started with a bus ride to Qutb Minar, which is the oldest Mosque in India dating back to 1193.Our tour guide, Sumit told us that the tower was started in 1192 and was not finished until 1369. The tower is 73 meters tall with a spiral staircase inside .
Afterwards, we drove to Humayun’s Tomb, which was constructed by Humayan’s widow during 1565-1572. This tomb predates and is the original template for the famous Taj Mahal. We walked around and interacted with the students from some of the local schools. We drove past Parliament House, The Presidential Residence and India Gate. We were then taken to a local restaurant where we were served with some local cuisine. After lunch went to Connaught Place for some retail therapy. One of the groups enjoyed shopping and complimentary coffee and cake from Starbucks, whilst the other proceeded to get lost and circle Connaught Place several times. Once regrouped we arrived back at YWCA we had some time to ourselves.
We had an early dinner at 7PM in preparation for tomorrow’s early start, shared in a reflection time and popped off to bed.
Written by Emma and Sally
Today we left Musoorie and headed to Delhi. The trip began with a two hour drive descending the mountain to Dehradun Airport. The flight was straight up, with a clear view of the Himalayas, and straight down, less than 40 minutes in the air. We arrived and drove to our hotel, sharing the road with millions of other cars, tuk-tuks, buses, pedestrians and even an elephant! The sheer size of the population was our first shock, this single city having as many people as the whole of Australia!
In the evening, Vini, our tour guide took us to a religious hotspot which shared a Sikh Temple, two Hindu Temples, a Mosque and a Catholic Church all in one block of each other. It was really interesting to see the mix of people, religions, vibrant life and colour in such a small place. We then walked to Connaught Place which is like the Central Park of India and has one of the biggest Indian flags towering over 90m tall. To finish the day, Vinnie took us to a local restaurant, that served a delicious and filling traditional Thali meal.
Written by Liam, Evan and Alex
Today the group enjoyed a guided hike through the mountain ranges surrounding Woodstock School. Students were challenged by the terrain, however, rose to the challenge to enjoy the views and remote setting of the Himalayan Ranges. Our cultural understandings developed further as our guides educated us in regard to local practices, edible plants and bush medicine.
The afternoon allowed for a restful break, with a few hours downtime around the Hanifl Centre before our final dinner in Mussoorie. For one last time we enjoyed the evening views over the mountain city as we travelled to the Landour Bazaar and shared dinner with Mr Davies and his family.
Written by Mr Matt
Day 5 commenced with our first breakfast in the dining hall with the students of Woodstock, this also being the last opportunity to interact with the students and teachers.
At 9:30, we set off on a 90 minute drive through the foothills of the Himalayas, to a Samvedna Disabilities Centre in the village of Dhana. The centre caters for students with various physical and mental impairments and happens to be funded by the Australian High Commission in India. We experienced the day-to-day practises of the centre including the vocational centre (where the students learn practical skills such as washing, knitting and sewing), well as the physiotherapy room and the sensory room (used to stimulate senses with light, touch, smell and sound). Some St Stephens students were assisting the local students in simple activities such as counting money and recognising money, colouring in, puzzles and playing instruments. We then had fun playing with the students in the outside playground. After gifting toy koalas and a Australian outback cork hat to the students and teachers of the centre by our very own, Sally Bastow, we then departed back towards Woodstock, stopping on the way to eat a traditional Garhwali Thalli (tasting dish) and also observing the method of which the cuisine is prepared.
In the afternoon, we wandered through the Landour Bazaar, with its various shops and restaurants. Students were able to explore and buy presents for friends and family before returning to dinner at Woodstock.
Signing off, Ethan, Mehul and Damien.
Our fourth day at Woodstock was a beautiful, interactive day, spent with the Woodstock students. The day began with most of our students heading down to a local school in Kaplani to continue painting the library, whilst the rest stayed at Woodstock to help with preparing Thanksgiving celebrations. This included packing donated clothes to give to the ‘Coolies’, those who help in carrying things up and down the mountains.
After lunch, we headed up the mountain to Chukka where we visited a local church, St Paul’s, where we learnt about its history. We then proceeded to walk around and admire the scenery offered to us by the beautiful forests. We stopped at Landour Bakehouse to buy some local goods, including brownies, lemon tarts and chocolate croissants. On our way back to Woodstock School, we were accompanied by some new furry friends, two dogs which we named Frankie and Arthur.
We shared the evening with some of the wonderful Woodstock senior students who accompanied us on a food and culture tour led by Mr Arjun Puri, a visiting scholar-in-residence. Our first stop was at a Tibetan restaurant, Doma, where we ate steamed and fried ‘momos’. Next we went to one of the oldest sweet shops in Mussoorie where we had samosas and chai. Our final stop was a south Indian restaurant where we enjoyed Dosas and some Indian sweets before heading back to Woodstock to recover from all the amazing food.
Written by Sally, Fraser and Emma.
Our third day at Woodstock began with an eye-opening trip to Sanathan Dharam School. The Hindu school consists of students varying from kindy to year 12. Woodstock has played an important role in creating a more welcome environment, improving teaching practices and enhancing learning outcomes for the students. They have done this through painting the classrooms in bright colours, rebuilding toilet blocks, teacher training and encouraging students in extra-curricular and sport programs. The primary school teaches both boys and girls, but the high school only teaches girls. After a tour of the school, we were introduced to a group of girls from years 9-12, who shared with us interesting aspects of Indian culture. Some of the girls performed two traditional dances from the area. We then reciprocated and shared aspects of Australian culture, including Australian wildlife, art, and sport. We introduced the girls to AFL, teaching skills and playing a short game. As a departure we gave them a football to keep practising and playing with.
We then proceeded to walk from the school through to the Landour Bazaar that consisted of many varying shops in which some of us stopped at to buy a chocolate pick me up! The group then stopped at a Sikh Gurdwara in which we headed inside to learn about the practices of the religion. We then drove to Happy Valley where we visited a Tibetan school set up especially for displaced Tibetans. We enjoyed a traditional lunch at a Tibetan Homes Canteen, trying beef filled pastry that reminded us of the flavour of an Australian beef pie alongside a side of Tibetan noodles and chicken dumplings, also referred to as “momo’s”. We chatted with some of the students from the school to find out the difference between the culture in India and where they live. One particular girl shared a moving story of not seeing her parents for over 10 years asa result of the ongoing China and Tibetan conflict.
Coming back from the Tibetan school, we had a meeting with some of the Woodstock year 10-12 students that lead the school Community Engagement programs. The projects that they have been working on include water harvesting, palliative care, farmer education, Litre of Light (solar powered lights in villages) microenterprise loans and Not Just A Cloth (menstrual health education and products) We discussed the differences in which both St Stephens and Woodstock approach the need for service within the community and how we as privileged schools can do more to help those in need.
With a long day of activity, we ended the day with an enjoyable dinner alongside some of the Woodstock students as we reconnected with the rest of the tour group who were tired but excited to finally be with us.
Written by Ellen Soet, Rosemary Wilson and Danae Wilson
Our second day at Woodstock was an insightful and thought provoking day, making many of us reflect on the privileged lives we live back home.
In the morning we commenced our day with a 90 minute drive through the narrow, potentially deadly terrain with spectacular views of the distant snow capped mountains of the Himalayas. We arrived at the rural and colourful village of Dunda, with a population of roughly 300. There we participated in a question and answer session with the head of the village and his son, Dhiraj, age 16 and fellow local townsman. The session was an insightful opportunity in which we gained valuable knowledge on the day to day runnings of a traditional Indian village, including education, employment and culture. During conversation and sharing the towns people were very generous, providing us with a delicious traditional Indian snack called Pokodi (which is fried locally grown potatoes, coated in a lentil batter with various spices and chillies) as well as traditional tea. Following on from the shared cultural experience, we presented Dhiraj with an Australian Rules Football while also demonstrating the fundamentals. We then were privileged to enjoy a tour of the village, where we were blessed to see the pure happiness and joy the townspeople expressed in the face of extreme adversity, with the village experiencing a monumental natural disaster in the form of devestating floods and landslides in 2014, resulting in widespread crop failure and infrastructure damage. Since this event, Woodstock School has partnered with Dunda to overcome these challenges and work towards sustainable solutions that build the strength of this village, it was a honour to see and better understand this life changing transformational work.
On the way back to Woodstock, we indulged in a traditional local Garhwali lunch at Hill café. Garhwali is a Thalli (taster plate) which represents the regional delicacies including, stinging nettle paste, local daal, and roti – with it being so tempting that even a monkey entered the restaurant and attempted to indulge in the delicacies with us. Following on, we then visited the dorms of Woodstock Boarding College with the aid of two visiting Australian Eechange students (MacKenzie and Claire) who are completing a 6 month exchange from Adelaide.
In the evening, after a beautiful dinner at our residence. We were invited to Richard Davies house to attend a talk on human trafficking by a Humanitarian worker, Amanda. Here we gained insight of the horrors faced by the Indian people in the form of extreme poverty and the implications centring on human trafficking. This was a challenging evening as we begun to realise the complexities of these issues and consider our responses.
After a confronting day, the students were pleased to retire to their residence for a well needed night sleep to recharge for the next day.
Written by yours truly, Ethan, Mehul and Benjamin.