Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Bridge

The path between Edgehill and the hospital, which we take on our way from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the bazaar, has had a bad break in it. The landslide that took part of the path goes all the way down to the road, probably 300 feet or so. I had to tread very carefully, staying close to the khud (hillside). Last week it was repaired by spanning the break with beams, rebar, and cement to form a bridge. It’s a little creepy walking on it, knowing that there is nothing under the outer side. But it appears to be very strong and does the job. It’s not a place where a new pushta (retaining wall) could easily be built, as is done at many spots where the mountain falls away. All this reminds me that the Himalayas are the newest mountains in the world and are still continually on the move. (We felt a small earthquake just last week.) It will be many many centuries before the loose land has completely settled and it becomes like the Shivaliks, the mountains to the south of us that are some of the oldest.

View of crumbling rock from on the bridge.

View approaching bridge from the bazaar side.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The birth of a child or grandchild is a celebratory event in India. The new parent or grandparent often provides sweets for the friends and neighbors.

My co-worker, Immu, has two daughters who are living in Australia. Immu is Ethiopian and her husband is Indian. They live at the top of Landour hill. Immu’s daughter gave birth to the first grandchild a year ago. Now she and her husband and little Tariku are here volunteering at the school in the P.E. department. Last Saturday was Tariku’s first birthday. Because Tariku was born in Australia (and Immu went there to visit during that time), she did not celebrate his birth here in India.

So on Friday we had a special tea put on by Immu, with a nice cake and freshly-made samosas. All the staff were invited. It was a lovely occasion and I have a nice picture of Immu with her grandson.

During the gym dedication on the 18th, Tariku enjoyed playing around and another staff member caught a good photo of him.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I don't know if you can see it clearly here, but all the potato chip and snack products that are in sealed bags swell up here. The high altitude (6500-7000 feet) affects the air pressure and the bags look like they are almost bursting. It looks funny when you first see it.

Yes, Lay's is here, along with other brands. A popular flavor of Lay's is "India's Magic Masala." Kurkure are cheese doodles with added spices. Recently I've seen "Hippo" brand chips, which advertise themselves as baked, not fried. What we call crackers in the U.S., I guess.

There is no lack of snack food here. Another one we like is called "Cracker Nuts," and they are peanuts coated with a kind of pakora batter and fried (I'm sure). Very tasty! And of course the very best are the samosas freshly made from a sweet shop, not packed in sealed bags.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Test Post

No great new information; I'm just testing the Notes Link feature of Facebook to see if my blog posts will automatically come in as status updates.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Household Help

It is a common thing in this culture to have employees who help with daily household chores. Last spring when we stayed in the school guestroom, someone came in daily to sweep, clean the bathroom, and remove the garbage. He also changed the sheets and towels weekly. I washed my personal laundry by hand and hung it out on the balcony and we hired a dhobi (washerman) who came to take our outer clothes for cleaning weekly. This time our place is more remote from campus and not served by the regular school cleaners.

We’ve been supplied everything we need – two sets of sheets and towels, table linens, pots, dishes, fridge, two-burner gas cooktop, etc. But we have had to arrange for our own additional helpers. There is an association called Mussoorie Clean that sends someone around to all the houses daily to pick up garbage. It is taken to a central place, sorted, recycled, burned and disposed of properly (a great improvement over the past, when garbage was dumped anywhere). Our neighbor volunteered to share the ayah Guddi who works for her. She comes in for about 45 minutes to an hour twice a week. She cleans the bathroom, sweeps the floors, mops the kitchen, and does my hand-washing. She is a lovely, pleasant woman and she is happy for the additional (although small) income. Her husband works as a security guard for the school.

More on the dhobi next week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I always enjoy looking at signs in English (especially when they have humorous misspellings) and like to photograph them when I can. Here are a couple from our last bazaar trip. The menu from the Inder Restaurant (above the well-known Inder Bengali Sweet Shop in Kulri) is painted on the wall of the building. Sometime I must try some of their interesting items. I see this every week when we go for pooris at Agarwal's.

This one is a small shop right across the corner from Picture Palace. I couldn’t resist its spelling of communication – an area in which we all struggle at times. And how great that you can have a cup of "espressoo" while you get your Xeroxing done.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It’s a Small World After All

Everyone who has ever been associated with Woodstock School (or other international experiences) has multiple small-world stories. I always enjoy them and of course have many of my own. Here’s a new one that happened Friday evening after the gym dedication during supper.

I took my plate of dosa and sambar into the staff dining room area where it was quiet and I could sit at a table to eat. Two high-school students were in there and I started talking with them, asking them about themselves and their future plans (they are seniors). The girl, Han-Sol, said she was hoping to attend the new college of New York University in Abu Dhabi. Immediately I told her about our alumna and former staff member, Susan Downs, who teaches in the American School in Abu Dhabi. She was here with her family for the gym dedication, so I went out into the Quad, found her, brought her into the dining room, and introduced them. Susan knows some of the people involved in getting NYU started there and she was able to exchange contact information with Han-Sol. I hope it works out well for all of them! I would guess that many of you reading this blog have your own stories that are similar. I'd be happy for you to share them in the comments.

Sorry, no pictures today!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Win Mumby Gym Dedication

This place really knows how to put on a gala event! Friday afternoon began with a special tea served in the Quad. The area was covered and twinkling lights were installed overhead. Many invited guests were there, along with representatives from the Mumby and Downs families. By 4:45 everyone was seated in the new gym for the dedication ceremony. Not only is it world-class, but it was constructed in record time, under budget, and with every brick and supply brought up on mules from Tehri Road. (See April posts "Noontime Walks" and "Win Mumby Gym" for more on the gym construction.) The equipment is all top-notch. The bleachers can seat over 750 people. And it was full with students, staff, and many guests. There are many more (and better) pictures and information on the Woodstock website at Marc Mumby, nephew of Win and Carol Mumby, has been blogging about his trip and the new gym at He has good pictures on his site, too. Following the dedication, a wonderful dinner was served in the Quad for all attendees. There were food stations for North and South Indian food, burgers and hot dogs, salads, and a variety of desserts (the lemon tarts were amazing!). Thanks to Sanjay Narang for bringing in special chefs.

Some special guests at the tea. (Amita Alter, Saroj Kapadia, Ellen Alter, Bhavanesh Kumari, Bob Alter)

The hit of the event was the Woodstock Tiger. Later in the evening he even went to the elementary school residence to tuck the youngsters into bed.

Exhausted and hot! The fan inside the head wasn't quite enough. (Darab Nagarwalla)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Board Meetings

Last week was a busy blur of meetings and activities. Thursday the various committees of the board held meetings. These include Buildings and Grounds, Development Advisory, Education, Audit, Finance, Governance and Nominations, and Student Life. Much of the work of the board gets done in these committee meetings, and the chair of each reports in the full board meeting. This year I was invited to sit in on the full board meetings. They took place Friday from 8:30 to 3:30 and Saturday 8:00 to 12:00. I found them very informative and helpful. I was very impressed with the dedication and caring for the school that all the board members showed, alumni and others alike.

In preparation for the major event of the weekend, the dedication of the Win Mumby gym, brown and gold windbreakers were given out to board members, staff, and others. Here is a picture of Ajay Mark modeling the jacket. (More tomorrow on the gym.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Walking to School

The house we are staying in, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is above Edgehill, on a level with Maple Cottage. My walk to school descends on a major path past the entrance to Edgehill proper (dorm for young students), above Woodstock Villa (where we lived 1968-71), outside the door to Tafton, and down to the gate. It is wide all the way, with concrete steps at the steepest parts. Here are some of the views:

Flowers (a bit like petunias):

Sunshine on the Springview corner:

Drying (dying) ferns:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Sunday morning we awoke to one of the best sights of the monsoon season – a clear sky and bright sunshine. It lasted until about 10:30, when the mists began to roll in again. Our place has been sitting empty for a while so is a bit musty. It will be good once the rains are finished and we can open it up to the outside air. I did a little handwashing of quick-dry items Sunday morning and they were still slightly damp Tuesday morning.

The monsoon is probably the most beautiful time of the year in Mussoorie. Everything is green: paths are overgrown with vegetation, trees have ferns growing out of their trunks, and flowers are blooming (hydrangeas and cosmos are the ones I recognize). The end of the monsoon is heralded by the ferns turning brown on the edges, and that seems to have already begun. The temperature fluctuates, but is mostly comfortable. When I wear a sweater in the morning, I will take it off and put it back on numerous times throughout the day. The evenings are cool in our cabin.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Settling In

We are staying in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a cottage on the Edgehill Estate, which was purchased by Woodstock School last spring from Interserve. It has been sitting empty for a while but was nicely outfitted by the school’s hospitality department (thank you, Mrs. Chelvam!). It is cozy but spacious, with three bedrooms and a nice-sized kitchen and living area. We had left a number of things here – clothing, kitchen items, books, etc. Everything got unpacked and stowed away in the roomy cupboards by suppertime. [The picture isn't bad; that's monsoon mist floating around the cabin.]

It rained lightly most of the night but let up mid-morning. We headed into the bazaar to pick up some basic necessities – tomato soup mix, jam, fruit, juice, etc. I also wanted a soap dish with drainage holes. Mine is solid and the soap just melts in this kind of damp weather. Mr. Goel, whose store sells all kinds of plastic and crockery items, welcomed us back and reminded us he is now 80. Dan told him his father is almost 91, and Mr. Goel replied that after all he is 85, but he feels younger! Last spring we would often see him walking in the far end of the bazaar, so he does get around pretty well.

We are at a good location for getting to the bazaar quite quickly. We can cut down through the hospital just around the bend below us. The path that goes more directly to the top of Mullingar Hill is overgrown, narrow and full of trash. In the other direction, it’s a quick walk to Woodstock Villa, down to the road, and into the school gate.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Back in Mussoorie

We arrived back in Mussoorie on Friday, September 11. It wasn’t raining, but the monsoon mist is here.

Our trip out was excellent; we spent five days in Amsterdam and one in Delhi. In Amsterdam Susan Strickler-Polstra ‘77 met us and showed us around the city. We stayed in the Van Onna Hotel very near the Anne Frank House. It was comfortable and a great location. We walked miles all over the central city, including a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. On Sunday afternoon, Susan hosted some other former WS students – Maria Franken Affourtit ’70 and Afshaan Shafi ’78. And Susan’s daughter Anya Polstra was a SAGE student in 2007-08. It was a pleasure to visit with these students we knew long ago. On our last day, Tuesday, Susan took us to The Hague by train where we were able to visit Liana Gertsch ’80. We went to the beach, where we saw people frolicking in the cold North Sea waters – it was an unusually warm day. We also walked through the historic parliament buildings on our way to the train station. When we arrived back in Amsterdam, Susan’s husband Thijs picked us up at the station and we drove to the village of Marken for Dutch pankoekken for supper. A lovely end to a great trip. We also got over the major portion of our jet lag while we were there, making the transition here in India very easy. The picture below is the canal outside our hotel.

We didn’t do much in one day in Delhi. It had rained record amounts in the 24 hours previous and right after our arrival. In the afternoon we took the Metro to Connaught Place where we hoped to visit Doma in her shop. However, the rain had kept her home and her grandson Tashi was minding the store alone. Our friends Sandeep and Anju Lal ’91 Tikku picked us up there on Janpath and drove us back to Karol Bagh and our hotel. We had a pleasant evening of visiting and dining.

As always, we were happy to board the Dehra Dun Shatabdi train early on Friday morning. We met up with Peter Bittenbender ’77, whose wife is now teaching at WS, and shared a taxi up the hill. It’s good to be back!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Heading back to Mussoorie

Our trip back to India is just around the corner - we fly out on Thursday. We are fortunate to have a bus service from Mishawaka (about 45 minutes away) with a parking lot where we can leave our car for the entire time we are gone (for free!). We've done this several times for long periods of time and had no problems starting up when we returned. The bus goes directly to O'Hare Airport. We'll catch the 9:50 AM bus to make our 4:15 flight to Amsterdam. We are staying for a few days in Amsterdam, looking forward to seeing some former students, visiting museums, and walking along the canals. We might even get in some bicycle riding.

We'll arrive in Delhi on September 9 and have a day to recuperate. Then we'll take the Shatabdi train to Dehra Dun on the 11th and a taxi on up to Mussoorie. We'll be living in Uncle Tom's Cabin on the Edgehill Estate this time, so that will be a bit different from being right in the Quad.

I'm planning to start posting again regularly on Monday, September 14, when I'll be back in the Development Office at Woodstock.