Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn in Ladakh

For our Autumn break we went to Ladakh.  Ladakh is a Buddhist ex-kingdom set among spectacularly jagged, arid mountains - it is a high altitude desert that has sunshine for 300 days per year.  It's full of colourful, fluttering prayer flags and prayer wheels. Traditional homes are large and mostly self-sufficient in food and fuel.  This is an amazing achievement when you consider the limited amount of land, the short growing season and the fact that water has to be channelled from glacier-melt mountain streams.

We stayed in a guest house just outside of Leh in a small village called Sankar (it was about a 15 - 20 minute walk down the hill into Leh).  The guest house was really lovely - as were the people running it (Padma and Sonam) who made us feel like part of the family.  We had a lovely "sunset" Ladakhi room with a balcony that looked out over the Shanti Stupa and towards the Tsemo Gompa.

We arrived in Ladakh at a very beautiful time of the year.  The mornings were crisp but the day soon warmed up as the skies were clear and blue.  During the week we noticed the trees changing from green to yellow and the leaves just starting to fall.  It was also right at the end of the season - many places were closing at the end of September - so everywhere we went was very quiet and not filled with hundreds of tourists.

The garden of the Silver Cloud was lovely - filled with flowers and with organic vegetables - which formed the basis of our meals most evenings.

Here is one of the views from our balcony looking towards the Shanti Stupa.

It was time to collect in the harvest - everywhere we saw stacks of barley and fields of vegetables being dug up to prepare for the winter.

This photo, taken on our last day in Ladakh, shows just how the trees have changed in one short week.  Now the leaves are yellow and starting to fall.  The mountains in the distance are covered in snow at their peaks.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

17 hours in Delhi

Lex, Jenni and I planned a trip to Ladakh for the Autumn break.  Because of the flight schedule we had to spend a day in Delhi.  Since Lex and I have been to many places in Delhi before, we decided to go somewhere that we hadn't been before.  We decided to visit the Cultural Museum.

The museum was full of artifacts from different regions of India.  These included wall paintings and fabrics.  Part of the museum was laid out like an Indian village.

In fact this part of the museum was closed off, but there was nobody to stop us walking through it.

Another part of the museum was indoors.  The buildings were designed around small courtyards filled with other items from different parts of India, for example this stone chariot that is used to wheel images of gods around a village and the birdcage.

We had lunch at the museum and our plan was to walk to the India Gate.  However on the way we noticed an old fort and decided to investigate.  This turned out to be the Purana Qilar.  We decided to go in and look around it.

Again this was a very pleasant surprise.  It was a lovely place and not at all crowded and we were able to spend quite some time walking around the different buildings inside the fort.

Finally we did make our way to the India Gate and Canopy Statue.  The sun was going down and it made a very picturesque photo!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Learning 2.014 Africa

It's amazing to me that this is a school campus - it's so green and is very low rise and in tune with the nature.

We started each day with Ethiopian coffee.

On the Friday evening we were taken to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.  There were 2 different sorts of "plates" (vegetarian and non vegetarian - vegetarian food was called "famine food" as it grows wild).  All this was placed on a sort of large bread plate.  The idea was to break off bits of the "plate" and use that to eat the food.

Red Terror

On my second day in Ethiopia I had some time in the morning before my Upper Elementary cohort meeting, so I decided to walk down to the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum which was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel.  The "Red Terror" occurred in 1977 and 1978 and was a period of bloodshed, torture and mass murder of Ethiopians by the military junta known as the Derg, led by Mengistu, following the deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie.  Around half a million people were murdered and mutilated under the guise of building a "better" Ethiopia.

On the way back to the hotel I walked past the UN building.  I'd previously been told I wasn't allowed to photograph government buildings, but I managed to get this photo through the railings.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Green, gold and red

Rastafarians worship Haile Selassie (who is buried in this church) as the reincarnation of Jesus and believe that Ethiopia is where paradise will be created.  Green, gold and red are the colours of the Ethiopian flag, as well as the Rastafari movement.


If like me your image of Ethiopia is around 40 years old, with memories of the famine of the 1970s, you will be pleasantly surprised by Ethiopia today.  I flew to Ethiopia for the Learning 2.014 Africa conference that was held at the Inter-Community School of Addis Ababa and my first impressions were of a green country with plenty of space.  On the first day I arrived very early in the morning so I had some time before my first meeting.  I checked into the Hilton and had a walk through the gardens to the pool and then took a taxi to the National Museum.  This museum is famous for Lucy - the skeleton of the oldest human which dates back 3.5 million years and which was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974.  About 40% of the bones of this skeleton were found.

On the way back to the hotel I went to the Holy Trinity Cathedral.  It was built to celebrate Ethiopia's liberation from the Italians and is where Emperor Haile Selassie is buried.  Another famous person buried here is the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, who was an anti-Fascist campaigner and who lived in Ethiopia for the last years of her life.  She is the only foreigner buried in front of the cathedral and is in the section reserved for patriots of the Italian war.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Colourful Chennai

The weekend after Singapore I was on the move again - this time to Chennai to do a school verification visit on behalf of the IB.  This was a huge experience, because again it was the first time that I had done such a visit, and because I could see the whole school was very anxious to be authorized to offer the PYP.

I had a little time in Chennai so went for a tour of a couple of temples in the city itself, and then to Dhaksin Chitra, an open air museum outside of the city where buildings from around the south of India were reconstructed.  There were a number of craftspeople who were also making and selling their products.

3 Days in Singapore

Almost as soon as I was back in Mumbai, I had to leave again for Singapore as I was doing an IB Continuum workshop on Flipping Classrooms.  I was quite nervous about this since it was the first time this workshop had ever been offered, and because almost all of the teachers in the workshop were DP teachers.  We didn't have a lot of free time in Singapore, but one evening I managed to get down to the Marina Bay area and watched the Sound at Light show which happens every day at 9.30pm.