Sunday, May 22, 2011

Going Down Day

Each semester there are two major travel events for students at Woodstock. Coming Up Day at the beginning and Going Down Day at the end. When the majority of students were from mission families stationed in small towns across northern India, these travel days sometimes meant two or three days on a train before arriving at Dehra Dun. Parents took turns chaperoning the students. Each person had a tin trunk with their possessions and a "bister," a canvas-covered bedroll containing bedding both for use on the train and in their dorm room once they arrived. Some had musical instruments and other assorted paraphernalia. You can only imagine the "tamasha" (somewhat chaotic major event) of corralling 20 school-age kids who were excited to see each other after the long winter break or eager to get home and see their family after a session in boarding.

Today Coming Up and Going Down are still major events, but very different. Very few people travel by train. A large number of students fly to/from Delhi and are brought to Mussoorie by bus. Students who live in Delhi or other areas within driving distance are driven up by their parents. Teachers chaperone parties to and from Delhi. Cars and taxis drive to Ridgewood where luggage is unloaded near the dorms instead of being carried by coolies from the Picture Palace bus stop.

Today (Sunday) is our Going Down day. Yesterday we packed up our trunks with clothing and some household items we have collected here. They are stored in the attic of the Quad. Three of the bearers who work here came about 4:00 and stowed it all away. We also packed up our suitcases -- we actually managed to have only one each, so no extra luggage fees going back. It seems we always have more than one bag per person on the way coming out, as we bring quite a lot of stuff for other people as well as for ourselves. We are leaving at 12:30 to have lunch with our friend Ajit in Dehra Dun, then catch the 5:00 Shatabdi Train to Delhi.

Last night was the second of the two Spring Concerts. Over two nights we heard three choirs, four string groups, and four bands. It was the first time all groups performed -- for some years, the beginning ensembles played earlier in the week at 4:00. It did make for long evenings -- two hours on Friday, two and a half on Saturday. But it was fun to see how well many of the groups are doing. Dan accompanied the beginning string groups on the piano and guest-conducted one piece with the Advanced Orchestra. After the concert last night, we hosted a gathering for all the music staff in our apartment. We used to do this regularly when we worked here, but it hasn't been happening in recent years. They all seemed to enjoy themselves, so maybe they'll continue it. The last people didn't leave until 11:30. And we got rid of all the food and most of the drinks!

So long for now. I'm not sure if I'll post from the visit to England on our way home; maybe after I get home and get my iPhoto up and running. We'll be returning to Woodstock in September.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

License Plates

License plates on vehicles in India are different than those in North America. When you purchase the vehicle, you get a registration for life and it stays with the car despite ownership. The first two letters indicate the state of origin. The type styles vary depending on the dealership. This car is from Delhi. Around Mussoorie, we dread the influx of Delhi-wallas on the weekends.

This car is from Kerala, in the far south. I'm glad I didn't have to drive it all the way up here!

A yellow license plate signifies a taxi, truck, or other vehicle for hire. The approximate age of this one is easy to figure out, as when this state became independent of Uttar Pradesh in 2000, it was first called Uttaranchal.

In 2007, the state name reverted to Uttarakhand, as the area had been known for many years. This scooter has a slightly italicized plate.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday WOSA Tea

Computer update:  I have a new hard drive, borrowed a startup disk and am back in business. However, only mail and internet work, as I don't have application disks to install software. I am using iPhoto on Dan's laptop in the meantime. Everything else is fine and can wait until I get home at the end of the month.

Every spring the graduating seniors at Woodstock are inducted into WOSA, the Woodstock Old Students Association, at a special tea. The first such tea recorded was in 1911, and we are celebrating the first 100 years of WOSA with a special event October 19-23.

Today was the tea for the class of 2011, Luminescence. It has been the custom for many years that each class has a special class word. Some years in the past it was a made-up word, but recently the classes have been choosing words that have a special meaning for them. Each class has a flag and the recent custom is that the flag is revealed at the WOSA tea.

In the morning all the Development Office staff were busily hanging flags from all the balconies around the Quad. By the time we were finished, it looked great. Here are a few views:

Just before the tea Dan was chatting with Saroj, long-time teacher and friend.


Two members of the class of 1950 were in attendance, including Bhavenesh, who welcomed the seniors into WOSA.

The staff band played before the tea and for several numbers during the program.

Students at the tables during the program.

The 2011 class flag unfurled by the two class governors. It is beautifully quilted.

In the evening, after all was still, I took a brief walk. The moon is almost full, shining over the quiet Quad.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Morning Sounds

The Woodstock campus is a mountain-side bird sanctuary. I am not a good bird-watcher; I am usually still trying to find the bird by the time someone else has spotted and identified it. My mother is especially good at it; she is a long-time member of the Audubon Society. In the early mornings when it is just beginning to get light, the Himalayan Whistling Thrush sings. There must be a nest in a tree very near our bedroom window, because I often hear it--and it's loud. I have timed it as long as 10 full seconds, although 5 to 7 is usual. Click on XC19596 below and then the arrow to play this recording I found online.

Blue Whistling-thrush (Myophonus caeruleus) by David Farrow from Bhutan

Shortly after the whistling thrush sings, the muezzin calls the Muslim faithful to early morning prayer. We also hear it in the early evening.

   (Link)     View more               Human Sound Clips         and        Voice Sound Clips dddd    Before long, we hear the thundering sounds of monkeys running across the tin roof of the Quad. Fortunately, I am usually able to fall back asleep after enjoying the first sounds of the day.

All of this is in sharp contrast to our home in Goshen, Indiana, where we hear a few cheeping birds but mainly the sounds of machines -- cars, trucks, planes, lawn-mowers, etc.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


My mind is being stretched without pictures to rely on as a starting point for a blog. Yesterday was a fairly ordinary day in the office, people coming and going, meetings happening, and a quick rainstorm in the early afternoon.

Woodstock is getting a new principal this coming year -- Dr. Long is currently at United World College in Maharashtra. He will finish his contract there in December and come to Mussoorie. Yesterday was the first time he has visited since we arrived and I was pleased to have a chance to meet him. He was meeting with a core group who are working on updating the next strategic plan for the school. (Some of you reading may have participated in focus groups last winter leading up to this.)

I believe that I mentioned earlier that my primary project this time has been organizing a big celebration we are having here in October. It will be 100 years since the formation of our alumni organization, WOSA (Woodstock Old Students Association). We are planning events between October 19 and 23 and hope to have many alumni attending from all over the world. It will be the first time we've been able to do online registration and payment for an event at the school.

One of the major events we are planning is an alumni cricket match. Our friend Brij Lal was cricket coach for many years, and he and Tom Alter (well-known cricket fan) will be in charge of the match. We've invited all the past cricket players we can find. [I went through yearbooks from 1968 to the present to find the names.]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday Evening Sewing Group

For the past few weeks I've been invited to a weekly gathering of staff members who do sewing-related crafts. The group meets in different homes and the host provides soup and bread for a light supper. I finally got there last evening. There were only seven of us this week, but it was interesting to see what everyone was working on. I took my knitting, a sweater that is nearly finished -- I just put the ribbing on the V-neck last night.

I walked up to Upper Woodstock with Judy. It is one of the closer houses to the school, straight up from the back gate. I didn't count the steps, which seemed to go on and on. I use a walking stick here and it is especially helpful on steep paths and steps, none of which are evenly spaced.

Judy was knitting a sweater. Sue is a quilter and was finishing up a king-sized quilt for her son. The living room was full of her work -- lots of crazy quilting on pillows and throws. She uses mostly Indian cotton print fabrics and it was all beautiful. Bethany is making a crazy-quilted teddy bear similar to one Sue had. Melinda bought a Kashmiri embroidered runner and is adding family names to the branches to make an anniversary gift for her parents. Julie was working on a crazy-quilted neck pillow but spent much of the time in the next room ironing her pieces. James makes stuffed animals without patterns. He was working on a tyrannosaurus rex. The body was done (including a zipper for the teeth in its mouth) and he was making the legs. Quite amazing.

An enjoyable evening with good company! And I was home by 9:00.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bad Start to Week

Dear Faithful Readers -

Bad news. My Mac laptop hard drive has crashed. If I were smarter, I would have my backup drive here. I usually bring it, but for some reason it didn't happen on this trip. I am unable to access my pictures or any other files. Dan is working at getting some things off the damaged drive with some success, but it won't be easy to get at them. I am using an older PC at work so will be fine for that. But I suspect my blogging will slow down a lot--and it will be less interesting without photos.

Yesterday was Mother's Day, although it isn't celebrated all that much here. We walked into Kulri Bazaar and onto Camel Back Road, where we had lunch with a former student at his Filigree Hotel. Faisal graduated from Woodstock in 1979 and moved back to Mussoorie after college and marriage. His family has a small hotel. It is in a beautiful location -- less than 5 minutes from the bottom of Kulri Hill. It looks out over the hills and mountains to the north. There is an interesting view of Landour Hill from a side we rarely see. It is difficult to identify buildings from there, but the TV tower clearly shows where Sisters' Bazaar is. The snow-capped mountains are not in evidence much these days. Even with almost daily storms, the dust and haze obscure them. But we know they are there...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Doma's Guesthouse

Last fall I posted some photos of the work being done to prepare Momo and Tsering's new guesthouse. They brought in painters from Nepal who decorated the whole place. Last evening we walked up above Mullingar Hill to take a look. The outside is very colorful.

The front door has wonderful guardians. The stonework on the lower right is a small waterfall. By the look of the bottom step, you can see how many Mussoorie buildings deal with the slope.

The dining room has a nice decorative painting all around the top of the walls. The light fixtures are twine wound around and stiffened into a globular shape.

By the time we left it was dark and the effect of the multicolored lights was quite spectacular.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


A major event in the Senior School is the current student body elections. Last week they set up debates in the Quad during tea time. Lots of earnest speeches promising to do their best for the school.

Yesterday these booths made of black fabric and posts appeared in the morning. It took a while to figure out what they were for--polling booths! During the lunch hour there were students lining up to vote. It was all very orderly and well-organized. One of the things Woodstock values is the nurturing of leadership skills, and this is an excellent demonstration.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More Miscellany

Last week I wrote about watching the Royal Wedding in the Lyons Staff Lounge with other staff. I didn't have any pictures, but Immu took some and sent them to me this week. I am in the far right rear with my chin on my hand.

This little shop is right below the hospital, across from the majority of the shops in that small bazaar. I think good luck might be helpful in patronizing it.

Walking through the bazaar to the dentist's office on Monday, I passed quite a few Jains walking along. The stricter members of the sect wear face masks to avoid unintentionally breathing in an insect and harming it. I've heard that some are so careful of harming a life that they wear no clothes and carry a broom to sweep away the area where they walk.

The area below the Oral Health Resort is a meat shop. I remember buying bacon and ham there 40 years ago. Now they specialize in chicken as well, and evidently sell it already cooked tandoori-style. Why the name of the shop is Georgy Porgy, I've no idea! The men are congregated in front of a tiny shop selling a variety of keychains that can be personalized. The actual meat shop is to the right and can't be seen in this photo.

As I stood outside waiting for Dan to pick me up on the motorcycle, I observed this small shop. It is probably only about 3-4 feet deep and 6 feet across. I didn't see any paneer tikka in the middle of the day; maybe it is mostly available in the evening. I think they sell a lot of drinks, though.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


All my life I have dreaded going to the dentist. In fact, I dread it so much that it is almost never as bad in reality as it has been in my imagination. Growing up, we went to Dr. Bechtel in Goshen, whom my mother knew from school. He was very nice but I almost always had to have a filling each time I had a checkup. Now those old fillings, many of which have been replaced, are resulting in a need for crowns; there's not enough tooth left to fill. My first crown was done here in Mussoorie around 1978 by Dr. Gandhi. It is gold, which wasn't so outrageously expensive then. At my last checkup my Goshen dentist (Dr. Bechtel is long gone) advised me to get a crown on a rear upper molar. Since I was ready to leave for India, I thought I would look into getting it done here. Dr. Gandhi's practice was taken over 30 years ago by Dr. Thakral. Many of the people at the school go to him and recommended him highly. So I made an appointment. It took three visits -- one to check it out, one to drill and put on a temporary, and the last (yesterday) to put in the permanent composite crown. And all of this was at 1/10 the cost of the same procedures in the U.S.

Dr. Thakral's office is right at Windy Corner at the top of the Kulri Hill. These signs are on the outside and above the entrance. It was nice to know that I was going to a resort for this work. The office is up one flight inside the entrance. (I never saw or heard of Dr. (Mrs.) Thakral.)

At the top of the stairs there is a small waiting room. Magazines help to pass the time, just like we expect in the U.S.

The door to the surgery is closed. Dr. Thakral's assistant comes out every now and then and takes the appointment card so they will know who is waiting. It is very quiet; the assistant doesn't speak, he just reaches out his hand and you are supposed to know to give him the card. (I didn't realize this the first visit and didn't have it with me.)

Inside, the dentist's small desk area is surrounded with awards, degrees and citations. Every surface in the surgery is covered with small tchotchkes. The assistant tried to step out of this picture, but I asked him to stay.

The main surgery (there is a second, but I never was in it) has the usual instruments you would expect. Unlike our U.S. dentist, they still use a spit sink. The drill was a modern high-speed one (thank goodness!). Notice there is a large window with a small veranda.

Once you are lying in the dental chair, you see this angled mirror mounted on the ceiling. It looks out onto the hillside below the office. Although everything in the mirror is upside-down and backwards, it gives a wonderful view of the villages and fields. This view combined with listening to music on my iPod helped me get through the less-pleasant parts of the experience.

The top center of this picture is the back side of the office/veranda seen from the road below. It gives you some of the effect of the building in this steep town -- the office is up only one flight from the street above, but about four flights from this road.

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Food

When in doubt, write about food...  One day last week I took my camera to lunch in the school dining room. Here is the student area:

Adjoining it with a large open doorway is the staff dining area. Some staff eat in with the students, but most (especially teachers) are glad for a break. It is pretty noisy as there is no door between the two areas. About 10 years ago the divider was removed. Now I've heard they are talking about putting a door back in.

On this day one person just had the vegetable curry with rice.

Someone else chose the divided tray and had the fish curry, rice and vegetables, and sliced cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes (it looks like he preferred cucumbers over the others!). Both the fish curry and the veg curry were very good.