This quarter, I’m studying abroad with the UW South Asia Center in India’s mountainous northern province of Uttarakhand. Along with 11 other students from Seattle, I will be studying forest ecology, sustainable development, and culture of the Kumaon region, over a span of ten weeks. In addition, we will be working closely with Chirag, a well-established non-governmental organization in Uttarakhand which works to promote development in the area.
Every time I travel to India, I begin to convince myself that I’ve become accustomed to the 20+ hour journey. However, every time I visit again, it becomes uncomfortably apparent that there’s no getting used to the long flights, extreme time difference, change of climate, and of food and water.
Since this is the first time I’ve visited India outside of the peak winter season, I was surprised to find that the 747 we boarded in Amsterdam was carrying less than a third of its capacity for passengers. Upon landing in New Delhi (after spending eight hours stretched out across multiple economy class seats), our group quickly cleared customs, picked up our baggage, and climbed aboard a chartered bus heading towards our hostel at Connaught Place.
We spent two days in Delhi – just enough time to decompress, orient ourselves in the city, and get some shopping out of the way – before escaping the heat with overnight accommodations on the northbound Ranikhet Express. The next morning, we arrived at the railhead in Kathgodam and transitioned to yet another method of transportation, this time onto three jeeps which carried us upwards on winding mountain roads to our final destination at Sonapani.
In the past week, we’ve spent some time becoming familiar with the area, our coursework, and Chirag’s ongoing projects. I plan to continue blogging over the next few months about our work and travel excursions in the region.
Stay tuned for more!