Our new volunteer, Lakshmi, who went to Ladakh to teach IT and English, shares her reflections and experience at the school.
Reflection: Expectations reconciled with reality
My initial expectations of coming here were based on: A PBS special (narrated by Brad Pitt) focusing on the school’s sustainablearchitecture, a small brochure on the school and the school’s website. As a result, my impressions thus far have changed from what I expected prior to my arrival of Druk White Lotus School, or Druk Padma Karpo Institute, as I have come to know it in Ladakh.
The PBS documentary showed absolutely stunning views of lush green mountains and barren dirt valleys. It also showed a school, at times devoid of students, and clean simple buildings which looked nearly brand-new. The mountains of Ladakh are breathtaking, and not just because the acclimatization process was difficult at first. But the mountains I now see covered with snow and it is hard to believe they ever turn green in the summer time. The school I have been seeing six-days a week for almost the past month is never without at least a handful of students running about, and though the buildings are indeed clean, they are also lived in.
The students in the brochure are shown with their uniforms. Light blue shirt, black trousers, and grey hat, but on the first glance I failed to notice the winter uniform, complete with a traditional Buddhist dress which looks like a full-length coat which is worn over numerous pairs of trousers, shirts and sweaters to keep children warm in with the winter chill still in the air.
Finally, the existence of a website would imply to some that internet access is readily available. While the Principal’s office at one point in time had an (irascible/mercurial) connection that occasionally took 2-3 hours to ‘dial-up,’ the school does not, at the moment have an internet connection, and the computers (all 14 of them) are shared among the 400 and some odd students. Though there is internet in Leh, perhaps what surprised me most is the lack of connection I felt to the outside world, especially through my personal favorite form of news: the newspaper. I was so baffled by the fact that the closest newspaper, The Hindustan Times comes 2-3 days late (if you are lucky), that I wondered momentarily how people knew to strike, after violence in Tibet. I had, of course, momentarily forgotten about TV and radio media, as well as the ever-increasing usage of mobile phones.
Overall, the school and my life here is both none of what I expected and all of what I had wanted.
March 29, 2008