Darjeeling - Early May 2014
It's Sunday morning in Darjeeling. Katrell and I are sitting in Sonam's Kitchen, on the "up up road" catching up on emails and such. The clouds are rolling through the hills, the streets and the cafe. Darjeeling is literally up in the clouds, and they often block our view of the villages below.
It is hard to describe the magic of Darjeeling. Even with eight trips to India under my belt I wasn't prepared for its beauty and tranquility.
I am extremely afraid of heights so I thoroughly researched the area ahead of time to see exactly what I was getting myself into. Of course none of what I read or saw helped allay my fears, but never-the-less I am here. And it truly is heaven on earth.
Darjeeling is a hill station in the Himalayas of India, across from Mt. Everest (which we could see if it weren't so cloudy) and on the edge of Nepal.
And though I am here in this indescribably beautiful place, I am only here to meet the The Learning Tea scholars.
We arrived on Friday to a house full of giggly girls, so excited to see their American mom again. Katrell visits twice a year - clearly not enough for the girls! They immediately embraced us, and welcomed me like family.
After settling in at the The Learning Tea center and getting a tour of the house (which is so lovely and clean and very pink!) we went for a stroll on the "health walk" up on Mall Loop Rd. We didn't step foot off the The Learning Tea property without one of the girls on our arm or holding our hands. Such sweetness and love!
Many people were out, enjoying this early evening walk and there are many street vendors along the way. We bought fresh roasted corn-on-the-cob from a woman sitting on the ground behind her cast iron wok, set on burning coals. Not five minutes later a monkey hopped up on the fence edging the health walk, and someone squealed. Within seconds there were ten or fifteen monkeys, including a few babies, all around us. So we did what anyone would do at such a moment: we screamed, threw down our corn and ran!
We then headed over to meet the other girls and their house-mom, Nita, at Darjeeling's new Pizza Hut for a special dinner out. Yum!
Yesterday was spent shopping for new bedding and a replacement rice cooker. And I was able to have lunch with some relatives of mine who just happened to be in Darjeeling at the same time. What an amazing coincidence! And they even got to meet the girls in person!
Last night Lakmit and Lux made us a delicious meal that we ate together at The Learning Tea center. We played roses and thorns - where you go around the table and say what your rose of the day was, along with your thorn - something that didn't go well or that you'd like to do better tomorrow. Several of the girls couldn't think of a "thorn." Amazing that these girls, who have suffered more than I probably ever will, who came from orphanages and unthinkable condititions, can at the end of the day think of not a single bad thing. It puts life into perspective very quickly.
We leave Darjeeling with full hearts, refueled and re-inspired to break the cycle of poverty one life at a time, by providing educations for young women.
Katherine Branch, for The Learning Tea