The plane circled Leh for 10 minutes before the Captain announced that due to dense cloud, rendering a landing unsafe, we were now en-route back to Delhi... So it was a 4a.m. check-in again the next day but this time the weather gods were smiling on me. I descended from the plane in Leh, squinting in the dazzling mountain light, as I took in the 360degree panorama of towering craggy mountains against the vivid blue sky...and was mighty glad we hadn't attempted a landing with zero visibility yesterday!
Leaving behind an airport even smaller than Knock, I taxied 20 km out of town down a dusty potholed track to an isolated spot nestled at the foot of the mountains, beside the River Indus, where 'Secmol' have their campus. It's a very impressive place, effecitvely run by the 30 or so 16 & 17 year old students who live and study here,
under the guidance of its founder and 3 managers. Most of the kids have failed their school leaving exams, due to an absurdly inappropriate education system, and are here for a year before re-sitting. They live in simple dorms with communal facilities and, in addition to 6 days a week of classes in English, maths, science and environmental education, they rotate
all the jobs involved in keeping the place running: cleaning, cooking, growing veg., milking cows, cleaning out hen houses etc etc. The whole paces is designed on eco-friendly principles, being solar powered, with organic gardens and greenhouses, composting toilets and so on : this is 'Green Schools' in the extreme - Teresa, you would just love it!
I'm teaching some English while I'm here as well as helping out with the general jobs. In my introductory class, the students were very keen to learn about where I live, never having heard of Ireland. They came out with a few tricky questions, for example: "Are there any dangerous animals in your town?" (Obviously I thought of Sligo men in Abrakebabra at 2.30a.m. on a Saturday morning, but I don't think they would have
understood). There were then the inevitable gasps of horror when I answered that I was 40 and that no, I wasn't married! Totally beyond their comprehension (although if they met some of those fellas in Abrakebabra at 2.30 a.m. it might make sense to them!). They are all very smiley and keen and are fantastic at entertaining themselves with few resources and at taking responsibility for themselves. I'd love to ship out a few of our kids to learn by example...