Breaking the Cycle in Ladakh

Sep 21

Padum to Phe and GHE Himalayan Innovation Centres

Published at 03:19
Dispatch created from email
12th - 13th September 2018

Now back in Leh for a couple of days and the best internet access I will
have in Ladakh, I will attempt to update you all with a couple of blogs
in succession. Here’s the first one.

Day 10

Padum to Phe - 33km

Total distance - 627km

From Phe, after struggling with the internet, I set off in the late
morning for Phe. There was no rush as it was meant to be just a simple
ride back to Phe, via a couple of monasteries, to meet up with the
Global Himalayan Expedition team that was due to arrive in the late

First stop was Sani Monastery, and just in front of it, the Holy Lake of
Tuthot. The lake is formed by dozens of springs that jet water straight
out of the hillside. On the far side of the lake was an enormous statue
on Buddha set in the grassy floodplain of the river. The stupa inside
the monastery is presumed to date back to the 2nd Century AD, the oldest
stupa in Ladakh.

Continuing towards Phe on the south side of the valley, I then diverted
12km to see what I think is one of the most special monasteries I’ve
seen, Zunkul. Set into a cliff high above the windswept valley, at an
altitude of around 3900m, it was a serious side excursion to get there,
but worth it. With winter approaching, this place will soon totally cut
off from the world, as it is for half of the year. A monk said that this
is optimum as there is little else to do except meditate and reflect.The small cave / puga (prayer and meditation room) was particularly
special. Set high up and half into a cave, the ceiling was lined with
hundreds of coins, I guess were once offerings.

From there it was back to Phe to meet the rest of the GHE expedition.
It had been an extra long day’s drive for them from Kargil. It was a
large group - Paras Loomba, Jaideep, Gaegan, Stephanie, 18
expeditioners and a staff including guides, catering and several
others. The rest of the group had been together for several days,
acclimatising back in Leh and getting to know each other before
spending two days on the road to get to Phe. The first thing I had to
do was introduce myself to the group and try to catch up. We camped
that night on a spare field in the village.

Day 11


13th September 2018

The aim of the day was to set up two Himalayan Innovation Centres in
schools in Skiagam, a few kilometres from Phe, and then in Phe.

Skiagram primary school has 31 pupils. The very impressive 29 year old
principal (who has a masters degree in education) decided to amalgamate
three tiny schools to have a better educational outcome for all. The
principal had options to progress his career in a larger place, but
being from the region, he wanted to stay and make a difference in his
own region. In applying for GHE to provide the computers and RACHEL
(wifi and education resources), he’d written a seven page essay as to
why his school needed the Innovation Centre.

Not just the students and teachers were there to welcome us, but the
whole community were involved. It was a big deal - after the
installation, not only were the students keen to learn how to use the
computers and virtual internet, but the parents were also inquiring
whether they could access the technology perhaps after school hours.

We were entertained by the school assembly and then singing/dancing
performances by the students and women.

The afternoon was spent setting up the same technology at the larger Phe
School. There was an equally enthusiastic welcome, great hospitality and
rounds of performances from all age groups. It too was a great community
event - the whole community was appreciative. After it was all
installed, I gave a presentation to the older students and most of my
GHE teammates in the new computer room.

There was a fair amount to fit in one day, but we came away feeling it
was incredibly successful and that each community was incredibly excited
to receive the Innovation Centres as this is going to provide many more
opportunities in a region often overlooked by the government.


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