Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I was sitting at my desk, feeling guilty about not posting to the blog yet today (it's almost 4:00). Suddenly there was a crack of thunder and it got dark. The lights all went out. [Thank goodness for the backup generators; they were back on within a minute.]

I grabbed my camera and headed to the balcony outside our office. Just before I took this shot, there was a beautiful fork of lightning close to the TV tower. But I am not the kind of photographer who has the patience or skill to capture that. The TV tower was built during the 1970s when we were here on staff. As it was built, the rubble was just tossed down the nearest nullah -- the crease formed between outcrops on the mountain. Much below the construction site, the nullah passed right outside our house. And in the monsoon of 1977 the rocks and mud overflowed into the back side of Palisades, where we lived. It was quite a mess. We were moved out into Stone Ledge for the next couple of months until they could clear up the rocks and remove the mud and water from our house.

The new gym is shown prominently in this photo.

Another shot heading more to the east. The sky was very heavy and gray.

On the opposite balcony several other people were watching the storm just outside the Quad Library. (Formerly the young girls' Long Dorm.)

Soon it got very loud -- there is nothing quite like the sound of hail on a tin roof! It is hard to get a good shot, but this one of the inner corner of the roof above our office shows a few of the hailstones.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Staff areas

Woodstock has some good facilities for staff relaxation. The Lyons Lounge has a pool table, which is a popular pastime at lunch hour and teatime.

The lounge also has a nice sitting area with magazines, TV, and wireless internet.

Just outside is the tea garden area, much unchanged for the last 50 years or more. The Health Centre is now inside the door shown below, so students walk through here. At afternoon teatime, you can find staff enjoying a few minutes in the sun after a busy day.

And at the opposite end of the tea garden is the familiar lyre tree, long-time symbol of Woodstock. Last week a visitor asked me "What kind of tree is a lyre tree?" I think he was hearing it as a new variety. However, it is a long-needled cheer pine which just happens to have the beautiful shape of a lyre.

Monday, April 26, 2010


It's been a busy few days, with not enough time to post. Thursday and Friday the school hosted Jane Cumming's Himalayan Odyssey tour group. There are over 20 peopl in the group, a combination of Woodstock alumni and other friends. They spent time in Bhutan and Rajaji Park near Dehra Dun before arriving up here. Thursday afternoon I assisted by taking half the group on a school tour and then running the store. We sold lots of T-shirts, hats, and other memorabilia. Friday they were here again, touring the residences and Hanifl Centre (for environmental and outdoor education).

Friday afternoon I left for Delhi, escorting two students to the Dehra Dun train station. I went to attend the Executive Committee meeting of the Woodstock Board. After a rather short night in a hotel, we met from 9 to 4 in the Habitat Centre. The meeting was for the purpose of approval of the Strategic Master Plan for 2010-2015. I took notes and tried to keep track of all the suggested changes. Fortunately, most were fairly minor additions.

When the meeting was over, four of us got into the school vehicle and headed back to Mussoorie. We stopped briefly at the Cheetal Deer Park for a quick supper. I arrived home at Oakville about 11:30 that night. A very quick trip all together! I was quite tired on Sunday and stayed at home all day.

Sunday evening Steve Alter hosted a dinner for the Himalayan Odyssey tour group at his home, just across the tennis court from our house. It was good to visit with them again. I already knew several of the members and enjoyed talking with some -- two sisters had only been at Woodstock for a year in 1950-51. For some it was a first visit back to India, for others one of many such trips.

Today (Monday) we again had the tour group at the school. In the morning they attended the dedication of the new Kaplani School, with which a number of people associated with our school have been involved. Immu was away today, so again I sold lots of items from the store.

This is our last week in Mussoorie. I will try to post a few times again before we leave.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I mentioned a few days ago that it had rained in the night. We've now had three days and nights with occasional rain (more in the night than in the day). At one point yesterday afternoon it rained and hailed. Fifteen minutes later the sun was shining. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the rain has reached down to Dehra Dun or back into the mountains; it is still very hazy and dusty.

The rain has been very welcome after a poor monsoon last summer and very little precipitation over the winter. There are always water shortages in Mussoorie, perhaps this year worse than usual.

Signs of spring and rains are in the flowers I saw this morning on my walk to school.

The rhododendrons are pretty much finished, as evidenced by the petals on the ground.

This morning I noticed for the first time this house high on the hill above the road. I'm not sure quite where it is from the chukker. But it must have views in nearly every direction.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Distinguished Alumni Award

On Monday afternoon Bob Fleming, Jr., received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Woodstock School. Full details are on the website at Woodstock School. Middle and high school students attended, as well as a number of alumni and other guests. Introductions were given by George Taylor '68, Darab Nagarwalla '80, Dr. Laurenson (Principal), and Rev. T.Z. Kundun, Vice-President of the Board of Directors.

Bob's talk was fascinating, as always, with photos of natural phenomena from all over the globe. He usually gives talks in the form of a quiz, and this was no different, with focuses on the Himalayas, Tibet, the Zambezi River, Antarctica, and the Amazon Basin, among others.

Here is Bob just before the event, seriously preparing.

Dr. Laurenson giving his introduction.

And "Bobby Sahib" during his talk.

As is customary, a nice tea followed, with sandwiches, samosas, cookies, and gulab jamuns.

Monday, April 19, 2010


The weekend began with an invitation to dinner at the home of a student I taught in the 1970s. He lives in Mauritius now, but his mother is here in Mussoorie. He was visiting with his wife and son, who hopes to enter Woodstock in the fall semester. The mother lives in the building that used to be the Whispering Pine Lodge, a school-owned property that was used for camping and other events. It is now unrecognizable, as it has been built up to three stories. The top level opens onto the "New" Tehri Road and is a restaurant. There was quite a large group for dinner. We enjoyed eating with Dana and Judy, who have been at Woodstock over 30 years.

When we arrived, Arjun pulled out a magazine and said he wanted to read us a poem. It turned out to be the 1979 Motif (WS creative arts annual) and the poem was by our son Dirk in the 4th grade.

Saturday was a quiet day at home for me, as Dan went off with Jon to explore. Sunday I woke up with severe dysentery, so had another unplanned quiet day at home. I was sorry to miss the bazaar trip with friends. By evening I felt well enough to attend a dinner at the big Oakville house. The Wintergreen Foundation Board is here for a meeting and it was good to meet up with them and other old friends.

This will be a busy week. Today Bob Fleming is here to receive his Distinguished Alumni Award. It will be a gala affair in Parker Hall with tea in the Quad to follow. I'll post more about that tomorrow.

Oh, yes, something good -- it rained during the night and again some this morning. It has been extremely dry and hot and everyone has been hoping for rain.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Yesterday Dan arrived back from Delhi with his brother Jon and Jon's wife Anda. They will be here until we leave on May 2. They are staying at the Ivy Inn Guest House above Mullingar Hill. (We stayed there in December 2007 with Dirk's family -- a nice but simple hotel with a lovely terrace.) The Shatabdi train they took from Delhi was delayed for over two hours, which is relatively uncommon. Someone here in the office said that yesterday was the last day of the Kumbh Mela, although when I looked at the website linked here, it says April 28 for the end, with the 14th as an important festival day. In any case, lots of people have had trouble getting train reservations during this time, as the Hardwar trains are the same line as the Dehra Dun trains. Update added later: see this article in the New York Times online about April 14 and bathing in the Ganges.

We took Jon and Anda in to Golden Restaurant in Landour, where we frequently have our Wednesday dinner. We rode the scooter down to the top of Mullingar Hill and walked in together. They both were very interested in the variety of shops along the way. I'm sure Anda will spend time looking at fabrics and other interesting things to be found. We pointed out some of our favorite shops.

This morning Jon came to school to meet with the head of the elementary school. He is a former first grade teacher and reading consultant. They are looking forward to having him do some in-service training for the teachers.

Tonight J&A will come to our house for supper. They will get a taste of our daily evening meal -- tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I do have some nice homemade flax-seed bread that was made by a woman on the hillside. We had it last fall and enjoyed it a lot. And Prakash sells excellent cheese.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Well, yes, more about food and drink... About 10:30 every morning, a school employee comes into our office with a tray of cups filled with coffee from the kitchen. We gather in a large office and talk about whatever is on anyone's mind (generally not school-related topics). Some of us drink tea, so we heat filtered water in the hot pot. Some prefer a different kind of coffee and make it in a French press. But we almost always have a snack. Today there was some leftover salty/hot mixture from yesterday and some chocolate biscuits (cookies for you Americans). Some days we even have home-made cake that someone brings from home.

Everyone but Pete got in these pictures; the shot I got of him was just not flattering at all. The new Quadrangle had just arrived, so everyone was looking at it. We all liked the better-quality binding.

Immu, Casey, and Steve

Chris and Karan

Around 3:30 or 4:00 is tea time. Tea for students is given out in the dining room, but tea for staff is still served in the tea garden, where we can sit on benches in the sun and contemplate the Lyre Tree. Yesterday we had somosas, and the day before it was carrot cake. Life is good!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


As we did last fall, we have hired an ayah, Guddi Devi, to come in twice a week to clean the house and do some light hand washing. Last week her father-in-law died, so she couldn't come. When she arrived yesterday afternoon, she was a little later than usual. She was very apologetic, saying that she had fallen asleep. It didn't matter at all to me. I tried to express my sympathy about the death, and she said she had been very busy cooking for all the people who came. She looked pretty tired out.

While Guddi Devi was there, the school plumber came to look at the hot water tap in the bathroom. It was leaking on the floor and I had turned off the wall tap that leads to the sink. After looking it over, he said that the problem was inside the wall tap and he would have to come back today with parts to fix it properly. In the meantime, the geyser (hot water heater -- pronounced "geezer") had to be turned off. That meant no hot water for a shower this morning. I heated up some water on the gas stove in the kitchen and had a bucket bath, which is common all over India (we are fortunate to have a very capable shower in our apartment).

This morning the plumber and his assistant arrived about 9:15 (15 minutes earlier than scheduled, almost unheard-of!). It took them about an hour and a half to replace the wall tap. I checked that the geyser was reconnected and turned on and hope there will be hot water tonight.

We also have a dhobi (laundryman) who comes on Saturdays to take our dirty clothes and deliver the clean ones from the previous week.

Dan left for Delhi yesterday afternoon to meet his brother and sister-in-law. They will be coming up here on Wednesday and staying at Ivy Bank Guest House until we all leave on May 2. Today Dan and his brother are planning to attend the Asian Badminton Tournament in Delhi. Sounds like something they will both enjoy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Food -- School and Otherwise

If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you will probably think I am obsessed with food. Well, maybe I am!

When we first came to Woodstock in 1968, we ate most of our meals at the staff dining room for several months until our sea baggage arrived. The food was quite awful, including the pastiest pasta you can imagine (or not), and lots of fried food that wasn't readily identifiable.

Over the years the food has improved a lot, although boarding school students always like to criticize it. One day last week this was the menu in the daily announcements:

veg & paneer cutlet
stuffed french toast
toast/butter/jam/peanut butter/cheese slice
fresh fruit

morning snack
assorted cookies

green salad
chicken curry
sindhi curry [note: mixed vegetables in a soupy gravy]
steamed rice
masala dal
fresh fruit

evening snack (tea time)
cheese straw

carrot & cucumber stick
vegetable curry
paneer jalfrezi
tava roti
jeera rice
monng dal tadka
phirni [note: creamy rice dessert]

The pictures below are from lunch in the staff dining room: the salad and a steam table with the rice, chicken curry, and dal. (The veg curry had to be obtained from the student food line.)

One day last week we decided to try the pizza at Dev Dar Woods, a boarding house cum restaurant on the back side of the Chukker, owned by Mr. Prakash of the Sisters' Bazaar provision store. We had half chicken, half veg, and it was delicious. The leftovers heated up nicely, too.

Our regular trek to the bazaar for poori khana on the weekend was somewhat thwarted this week as our Agarwal restaurant was closed. So we ate at Green Vegetarian instead, only a very short distance away. The pooris were a little thicker but it was a good lunch.

Friday, April 9, 2010

On Sunday we visited friends in Dehra Dun and Rajpur. When we left on Monday morning we stopped at the Chayya Cafe in Rajpur. Chayya has a branch in Mussoorie at the top of Mullingar Hill. We love their home-made bread and cookies. They have a nice small restaurant, too. The entry way has a lovely garden area.

The whimsical painted entry way.

Interior of the restaurant with nice views.

After Chayya, we stopped at the Moravian Institute to look at their Tibetan rugs. The school has been there since 1963. For many years, they trained women to make Tibetan rugs as a money-making venture. A few years ago most of their export sources dried up and they have stopped making them. But we did get to see what they had left. Rev. Kundan, the principal, is on the Woodstock School Board and we got to visit with him while we were there.

This bougainvillea was only one of many on the grounds.

A close-up of a flame-of-the-forest tree and its blooms.

More pretty flowers.

Some of the rugs in the storeroom.

Part of the road heading up toward the main Mussoorie Road.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lunch at Wolfs Burn

On Saturday we were invited for lunch at my friend Immu's house. Her home is at the top of the ridge at the western end of the Chukker. We went past Char Dukaan to the hawa ghar, then up the path. We were greeted by these lovely petunias.

The house, named Wolf's Burn, consists of several buildings, including rental units where Language School students often stay. This is the main house.

The views are spectacular in every direction, this one to the northwest.

We sat at a table in the sun, but grateful for the shade. It was a lovely day.

Immu's grandson Tariku was visiting again. His parents Tim and Archna were here volunteering in the PE department last fall when we were here. They spent much of the winter in Ethiopia, Immu's homeland and Archna's childhood home. They are here on their way back home to Australia.

Immu's husband, the Professor, stopped by to greet us.

Immu served a delicious meal combining some Ethiopian and Indian foods.

Immu shared this photo of Wolf's Burn from years ago after a winter storm.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More from Friday

A common sight all over India is the way shopkeepers display their wares. Two of the shops on the path down to Kempty Falls are good examples -- bangles and chappals (sandals).

On the way home, we stopped at an old restaurant that used to be a favorite, Whispering Windows. They were undergoing renovations and we were about the only people there. The location is good; the restaurant is upstairs overlooking a scenic view.

This is the gate at Library Bazaar. The open area where several roads intersect is called Gandhi Chowk. A chowk is like a plaza and these days is often filled with parked and moving vehicles of all kinds.

At the top of the hill above our house is Elcott Lodge. For many years, this was the home of the Buchanan sisters, who were poets and artists.

Friday evening we had dinner at Momo and Tsering's house. This home was originally named Shanty, now called Shanti (meaning peace, a nicer image).

Since we were here last they have added a nice guest room seen at the top of the picture above. here is a view of the room, very comfortable quarters.