So, the St. Xavier’s story. Ms. Chandra kept me well fed. Every morning she would show up with a traditional Nepali breakfast along with one or two of the children. Same in the evening with dinner. Lunch was at St. Xavier’s. The food was always very good and the children beautiful and very well mannered.
I was at the school for two days, staying each night in Pelling. When I arrived the first day I was given many Khadas. These are the ceremonial shawls showing how pleased the person is with the person they are given them to.
The day was filled with performance. Nearly, every child and staff member danced traditional dances or sang, sometimes traditional or not, and chanted/sang Buddhist prayers. The performances went on for three hours. They had a table set out in front of their largest room for me and Ms. Chandra decked out with serving dishes and homemade traditional “munchies.”
At lunch time Ms. Chandra and I retired to another room for a meal. I felt I wasn’t eating enough with plates left only ¼ eaten, but seriously, the food never ended, and it was always very good.
Then, I had the tour. I saw all the teaching rooms and the bedrooms. I will post pictures when I get a chance. The computers, printer, and projector have their own room. You have to go through two doors to get to it and each has its own lock. Eventually, the equipment will be locked in a work cabinet.
The school has some railings to keep you from falling down the hill and from falling off stairs in the building, but needs more. The roof can hold additional floors, but at the moment it too needs some sort of railing for safety.
But the school has many more needs: more beds, more rooms, better classroom space, etc. The list could go on. The school succeeds in spite of a myriad of issues. The children are incredibly well mannered. All are on their way to learning English, some more advanced than others, of course.
Day two started with a trip to the police. When I had gone to Hotel Dubdi the first day, I was met by an officer who said I had to have further evaluation on Monday. Apparently, all visitors to the area must do this because we are relatively close to the Chinese border. So, we visited the police. It was a decent sized building with other administrative functions housed there.
When I had gotten my inner line permit to visit Sikkim Province, I gave myself an extra two days on the official documents given the uncertainty of the helicopter service. The officer didn’t understand that. He wanted me to stay the full term. I explained that my ride was coming the next day and I couldn’t stay and see the sights. He finally understood, but there was another problem. I was the first person from outside Sikkim Province to use a helicopter to arrive in that area. His notebook didn’t allow for that. He decided that the only thing to do was to start a new notebook for “chopper tourists.” He was very pleased with the title.
We then went to the school where I tried to load the Microsoft Office software that Lee Lastrapes had helped me with. Lee also got some of his own software for me that I could load which will allow him to get into the St. Xavier’s computers to deal with any problems that may arise. I also wanted to load an anti-virus program that I had.
This probably should have taken no more than 90 minutes. It took us the rest of the day and into the night, and we still weren’t finished. The computer downloaded very slowly and there were numerous complications with I.D.’s and passwords. We finally got that straightened out thanks to one of Ms. Chandra’s former students who is very computer literate and was a wiz at all of this. I’m not even a wi. He will be able to finish up everything. So, no touring, no visiting. Just computer work. But it was gratifying to see the progress.
The next day Ms. Chandra, some of her relatives, about a dozen of the students and I gathered at the Pelling helipad at 10a to meet the helicopter. By 10:15a, of course, no helicopter. I called my contacts with the Sikkim Tourist Development Corporation and they said no airplanes or helicopters were allowed to land or take off from the Bagdogra Airport due to military air exercises. They didn’t know when they would be able to get to me. [Sound familiar?]
This dragged on. I built my schedule for such an eventuality. My flight to New Delhi was scheduled for a 1:45p takeoff. I received a call from STDC [I am on abbreviated name basis with them] and they said that it was possible that the exercises would be over soon. However, their regular flight from Gangtok [You remember Gangtok, right?] to Bagdogra was due to use the helicopter at that time. They suggested that if I agreed and their Gangtok passenger agreed, they would go from Gangtok to Pelling and then to Bagdogra. I said as long as I made my 1:45p flight, it would be ok with me. The Gangtok passenger agreed. And at 12:30p the helicopter arrived with the passenger.
Meanwhile, all my entourage, except for Ms. Chandra’s mother, had stayed at the helipad. They gave me more Khadas and a box from Ms. Chandra’s mother, which I learned contain food she prepared herself for me.
I took pictures which I will post, got on the helicopter and made it to Bagdogra Airport in time to make my flight.
This is really brief, but it gives you the idea. Now I have to finish packing for the return trip to the U.S.