July 16-24, 2017, Ladakh
Bergslyne Thomas, Philadelphia, PA
When I first met my host family my expression was ‘woah’ and it was because they were very nice people. Also, because they have a huge house. Before I met my family, I was really scared and happy at the same time. I was scared because I did not know how they were going to be character wise and also if they were going to have tissue paper or not. But it was totally different from what I expected. They are really nice and sweet like honey. And I was really happy because they had toilet paper to use in the bathroom. The first thing we did when we arrived at our host family’s house, we walked around the house and then I went with my hostmom to her shop to help her with some customers. Then, when I got home I was helping my group with the field. Later, we helped our host mom to make the best food which was ‘skev’. This dish was the first dish I liked during my stay in Ladakh. This is an experience I won’t forget for my entire life. I don’t even have words to describe how amazing the time was that we spent with our host family. I hope one day I get to visit them again.
Marisol, Washington DC
July 15, 2017, Leh
To the Mountains
The group had an early start – 345pm- to get to the Airport for their flight to Leh ,Ladakh and the main part of their trip . Few had an idea of the type of place which would be their home for the next two weeks. So it was not surprising when the inter group banter and other distractions came to a quick end when the splendor of the Himalayas became visible out of the their windows .
Below are the reactions expressed by them to what they saw.
The mountains were very luring and they told a secret. – Aisha
When I landed here I was astounded, so amazing. Landing in this place with huge mountains and crazy landscape reminds me how small I am and how unimportant some of the problems I think I have are. That i can overcome them. Humans have a way putting themselves on a pedestal and making everything bigger and more dramatic than it really is and I’m no exception. All the problems I thought I had that were taking so much space in my brain are nothing because my brain in comparison to a mountain is so miniscule and if everything on Earth truly has a soul or brain I can’t even imagine what they think are problems. – Bergslyne
It felt like we were in another world. Like Mars. Breath taking. – D,Angelo
It did not look as if anyone could live here. – Daviontea
The tips of the mountains represents my goals. – Divyabharthi
As I closed my eyes and the spirits of the mountains beckoned, I took a breath of that fresh mountain air, …. and then weezed. – Elan
I thought of their beauty and couldn’t wait to see them close hand. -Ernie
They looked steep with few people there. –Farhan
It was a sensory overload. -Glenny
My first impression of the mountains was that they were so big and I couldn’t believe we were going to hike on them. And I thought maybe I couldn’t survive. When I got off the plane, it was hard to breath. But now I adapted to the climate. Being adapted, I’ll be able to go out with the group, have fun, and learn new things. – Marisol
As I saw the mountains of Ladakh from the plane, it reminded me of movies where you see such views. It amazed me to see how beautiful Ladakh i: The mountains, road, and buildings were such beauty.- Nazia
No one could prepare you for it. Neyhla
Seeing the mountains made me want to get in touch with the Nepalese in my blood. It sparked a desire to trek the mountains. Then I found out I had low oxygen… – Prashant Izon Rai
It looked so amazing : different because there were no trees. – Reisa
Mountains looked huge and I wanted to go to the top of one. Sakshi
When I first saw the mountains it was a breathtaking moment. I had never seen mountains this big and it made me so much more excited to be here and to be experiencing this with everyone. – Serena
its really awesome over here such mountain ranges which are really huge and dry… also most of the higher part are covered with snow its a challenge for me to grabs my breath and say hello to Ladakh… i hope i will make something which really carries a great great experiences and achievement from the unknown world…– Shomrorphi
It was breathtaking : nothing like I had seen before. – Tierney
When I first saw the mountains, they looked like a green screen. – Veronika
It was everything but a cliche moment. – Zenab
After arrival the group split into two and went to their respective accommodations . Today was the first of two acclimatisation days to get used to the high altitude . No Activity, plenty of water and just chilling playing Uno or having their make-up done by Elan. Lively evening discussions around identity and other topics followed by dinner ended the day for one group .
July 14, 2017, New Delhi
Session on climate change with Dr. Vandana Shiva
The Leadership Collective had the opportunity to have a discussion with Dr. Shiva who is widely known for being a environmental activist. Since reading some of her research and findings from a precious assignment, I had been very anxious to meet with Dr. Shiva and hear more about her work. I personally really appreciated how casual this conversation was between the students and Dr. Shiva. We learned more into depth about how climate change is directly affecting Ladakh through many different areas. We also touched on the importance of organic farming in areas not only like Ladakh but globally. Something Dr. Shiva said that really stood out to me was “A dead system cannot adapt.” I really held onto this and took it to heart because of my own connection with my native community. The resilience that is required for communities to continue to thrive through great challenges can be found in almost any indigenous group. Hearing Dr. Shiva confirm an idea I’ve always believed in was amazing. The discussion with Dr. Shiva has truly been the one of the most memorable moments on this trip so far.
Serena Natonabah, Santa Fe, NM
The Archetypes Games
The evening’s session – organized by Junoon and run by the artist facilitators – helped the group move closer towards becoming a community. It gave the students a way for them to identify how they tend to behave in particular social contexts, as well as take control of their own personal stories – to determine their stories, rather than react to an ever-changing world.
The students re-told their stories to each other in the form of third person narratives, allowing them to recognize the symbolic power of their own stories and find empathy with each other’s experiences.
July 13, 2017, Agra
As a member of the leadership collective, I was honored to visit the Taj Mahal ,one of the seven wonders of the world. I learnt how water was so important in building and maintaining the Taj’s structure.
My experience began by entering the complex through the nursery and hearing a group of people performing a “ceremony” that celebrated the joy and intoxications of God. We also saw tombs of nobles along the way.
Nùr Jahan, the wife of the emperor Jahangir, was a significant part of Agra becoming a major city . She possessed enormous. wealth.
We went to the Haveli of a Nobleman on the river . The river was significant to the Mughals as trade was conducted there. The bend of the river was unique from the rest of the river since that part of the river never flooded. Plantations also rose and helped sustained Agra’s long life. After visiting the river, we finally entered the Taj Mahal . We had been told that the Taj was built on wells that contained water and then filled with wood inside them. This increased the life of the wooden foundation.
The four minarets of the Taj were made leaning out so that if the minarets were to fall for any reason, they would fall outside rather than on the Taj. The appearance of the Taj consisted of pure marble. It is completely symmetrical and balanced. There was also a beautiful deep garden and a pond, both of which serve to help people visualise Jannatul Firdous, the most beautiful heaven according to Islam. Throughout our way, we walked on a path of pink and brown sand stones some of which showed markings that the workers made while constructing the Taj. Brown stones meant that the stones were older, while pink stones meant that they were new.
Then, we entered inside and saw the tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz. Although the Taj Mahal and the excesses it represented was sort of responsible for the Mughal Empire’s decline, I think that its 20 years of construction was worth it.
The Agra Fort consists of twelve Hindu and Muslim palaces in sixty acres of land in Agra. Palaces built out of marbles and sandstone offering cool and hot atmosphers for the emperors.
Shah and his daughter were held in Agra Fort after his son imprisoned.
The architecture of the palaces have intricate designs that portray the emperors that built them.
Izon Rai, Ukiah, California
One word to describe the atmosphere of the Taj Mahal is captivating. Contrary to popular thought the Taj Mahal is actually “dressed in marble”, meaning that the surface only has marble. The Taj Mahal is a complex structure, and I found beauty in the iconic romance story and the incredible mathematical logic used to built the structure. The intricate designs carved into the marble indicates how patient the people of the past were. One lesson the people of today should learn from the past is that everything we do should be done out of love and good intentions rather than greed. Standing on the top level feels like being in heaven because you are surrounded by white marble and in the distance the Yamuna river is flowing eerily. Small things such as walking barefoot and being silent allowed me to be in tune with the structure. As I age images of the Taj Mahal will fleet from my mind but I will never forget how the place made me feel- serene.
July 12, 2017, New Delhi
On this day we spent time with the Itihaas team venturing Delhi’s fascinating Fatehpuri Mosque & Ugrasen ki Baoli.
· I learned that a Baoli is a step well used to hold water for villagers’ access.
·The lower the ground water level the deeper the Baoli is drilled.
·This Baoli has been around for about 20 generations (14th Century) 600 years.
·Every 6th stair in the Baoli was wider. Their was a wisdom attached to this
· The wider step being safer could carry more sensitive things.
· Baolis were made around the country in hotter places because people need a cool place to chill, a cool place to swim, a cool place to sleep, a cool place to eat or go to a mosque for prayer.
·A Baoli gives the vibes of a hotel.
· Over 100 Baolis in India.
· They stored Water.
· Last water in this specific Baoli was in the late 70’s.
· It Is now drained out because it did not have any fresh water in it only ground water, which has receded to greater depth . Ground water isn’t the best anyway
I perceive this protected monument as a really beautiful place for multi-purpose use.
Daviontea Bass , Chicago, IL
The Secular Walk
After visiting the Stepwell the Students went to a Church in Old Delhi for a short presentation on the city of Delhi, its origins, growth , trade connections etc . From there the group navigated the crowded streets of Old Delhi and visited the Fatehpuri Masjid
Where they had s conversation with the Imam and then went to Sis Ganj Sahib a Sikh Gurdwara to get a short talk on Sikhism and then watch the daily prayers .
Throughout the day I’d experienced a range of emotions. Going into the mosque and the Sikh temple enlightened me in a way and broke stereotypes that I had held and countered many preconceived notions. Hearing the love and admiration of the imam to Sikh businesses and Sikh traditions reminded me of the respect shown to Islam from the Sikh temple. There was an overwhelming sense of equal tolerance that washed over our entire group. Essentially this showed a lovely undertone of appreciation from both sides and illustrated that love and respect can create a beautiful and supporting community.
Zenab Nafid, Mdison, WI
July 11, 2017, New Delhi
On the return a showdown with an Alpha male Monkey was avoided by a strategic retreat which added ten extra minutes to the journey back to VYK.
After breakfast the group went to hear a story about another animal – the now extinct Dodo – at the People Street Studio . There Graphic artist/Illustrator Orijit Sen told the group the story about the Dodo, the first animal to become extinct because of Man.
Orijit invited the group to help him find ways to finish his story on a more positive note and not just stating that the last picture of a live Dodo was painted by an Indian artist in the early Moghul times : a picture which now hangs at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Over the next few hours the group , subdivided into smaller groups , pondered the options including the possibility that humankind itself was heading the same way as the Dodos , with its disregard for the sustainability of our planet . The group presented Orijit with five possible endings from a future cloning of Dodo DNA to a scenario where Bliss in human form conveys the urgency of combating Climate Change to a group of young people in the expectation that they will not make the same mistakes as their parents and forefathers. Only time will tell.
picture of DODO.
After a brief break the Group reconvened at VYK for another interesting workshop/game hosted by Junoon on the theme of Building a Nation . The group subdivided into four subgroups then spent the next few hours creating their nations based on separate constraints for each but all charged to chart a eco-friendly path. Names, costumes, flags, history, , topographical features, etc had to be designated for each Nation and shared with everyone. The differing contiguous topographical features in each groups design had to be reconciled. Using recycled boxes, cardboard , paper tape etc the physical attributes of the nation from mountains to rivers to forests had to be created and placed in the designed spaces. Issues like immigration and environment policy had to be finalised under supervision of a World Body. The emergence of a new fifth island landmass with both fossil fuel reserves and a flourishing wildlife led to some bargaining between the group to determine its future . There were many learning including the role of group dynamics in making and communicating information and taking action .It was a long hectic day . Tomorrow is another early start .
July 9 & 10, 2017, USA / India
During the day each of the Indian students had created an installation /drawing /artifact relevant to their home locations . These mixed media installations were fabulous . Over the previous two days the students had been exposed to storytelling , puppetry etc and they combined all these skills in creating their personal versions of ” My India” . Using their installations and drawings as props the Indian students weaved the story of a young girl/boy who had seen her/his village change over the years . Each one also sang and/or danced a piece appropriate to their culture /location. The creativity was fabulous and the effort taken to introduce their India to new found friends was much appreciated .The presentations which were done by each Indian student to their US counterparts set the scene for the final sharing of expectations each had from the trip . The day ended with dinner and suggested lights out at 11pm.
Tomorrow is another day .
July 7-9, Indian Students’ orientation, New Delhi
The students first shared stories of their homes and their lives in the diverse landscapes they come from through storytelling and craft-work.They visited the Crafts Museum, getting a sense of the diversity of Indian crafts and the incomprehensible variety of craft traditions practiced near rivers.
They explored the stretch between the city of Delhi and the privately constructed urbania of Gurgaon via the metro, arriving at an impression of the use of resources in the city as well as urban attitudes towards the environment.They built an exhibition sharing their own stories and local dilemmas in relation to water with a group of young children at the Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust studio.
And finally, they built an elaborate exhibition as a greeting for the American students – to give them a sense of the diverse and complex culture they had arrived in. As a spontaneous surprise, the Indian Students even shared songs and folk dances of their particular regions, in an endearing and disarming display of their world as they understood it.
July 8, 2017, USA
The morning started at dawn as the students woke up in the forest after a short night of sleep. After packing up the campsite, the group had a quick breakfast and we all headed south to catch a late morning ferry from Larkspur to the city of San Francisco. The journey was beautiful and we saw the Golden Gate Bridge and the beautiful natural beauty of the harbor.
On arrival in San Francisco, the group walked along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf, having lunch, site seeing & people watching! It was a grand day in San Francisco, blue skies & light winds & many people frolicking too and fro.
Late afternoon, the environmentalist Julian Wong gave an incredible talk titled “Economic Growth: Good for Human and Planetary Health?” It posed many questions particularly why as a planet do our economies need to grow. Is economic growth a false premise and how is it relevant to climate change? The students were invigorated and after the talk, we returned back to a hotel near the airport for pizza and a good night’s rest before our flight to India early morning!
July 7, 2017, USA
Day three began with Students waking up in their tents with a few adventurous ones braving the elements under the stars with Eli.
After Breakfast the students had a presentation on the realities of Climate Change and its potential impacts on life on the planet. Ian Monroe who did the presentation engaged the students in a discussion of the main causes for Climate Change and actions they could take individually and collectively to avoid and/or mitigate its impact .
The students then departed for The City of ten thousand Buddhas where they witnessed a prayer ceremony . This would be precursor to the monasteries they will visit in Ladakh . Lunch at the same location was a purely vegetarian affair introducing Students to Tibetan momos for the first time .
Post lunch the group moved to Montgomery Woods State Park with some of the tallest Redwood trees in the world. Eli gave a start talk on the Redwoods and their ecosystem of literally supporting each other through interlocking roots . It was pointed out to them that coincidentally the date was 7/7/17 which in Hindi was SAATH SAATH EK SAATH meaning Together , Together , Us Together .
After that introduction the Students had a Peace Circle around the concept of ‘ living in the present’ in the shadows of these giant trees . This included a short period of meditation as the students reflected silently on their surroundings . At the end their one word description of this majestic location included ‘tranquil’ ‘ ‘ Sahada'( Arabic for eye opening) and Woopé( Lakota for beautiful ) .
After a short trek around the woods the group returned to Rancho Mariposa for a chilli and sandwich dinner and a screening of Pocahontas .
Tomorrow the group returns to San Francisco for a final experience of that city before departing for India.
July 6, 2017, Rancho Mariposa
Day 2 for the US students started early . After breakfast the group departed for their main Orientation location – Rancho Mariposa – about three hours North from San Francisco.
Crossing The Golden Gate Bridge was a thrill but the early morning mist did not allow for even a part of the bridge being visible from any of the usual viewing points . The group did go up to the Marine Headlands to view the hillsides away from the mist enclosed Bridge . The group will have another opportunity to see the bridge on their return on July 8th.
The drive north from the bridge was uneventful . In al least one vehicle, loud music was shared over the car speakers by a number of would be DJs.
The next stop for the group was at the Solar Institute which had done pioneering work in the area of solar energy and conservation . The students were taken through various aspects of the facility involving eco- Friendly construction, organic farming, value of permaculture etc . It was a great introduction to the whole theme of Climate Change and sustainability which will be explored throughout the trip.
The group eventually reached Rancho Mariposa in mid – afternoon and very introduced to the realities of camping in the forest and the do’s and dont’ s for safety and comfort .
A visit to the pool fed by the natural springs in the area was a special treat for the group . The cool water was a welcome respite from the 100F heat . Even the dogs Chui and Anouska joined in the cooling off .
Post pool activities included a detailed team based competition on addressing ethical dilemmas based on actual events over the last few years of the Leadership Collective . There was a lively discussion with much sharing of viewpoints and learnings .Doing it in the wilderness in a small clearing was a special treat .
The day ended with a trek and a fireside barbecue under the stars .
July 5, 2017, San Francisco
Arriving at San Francisco
The 2017 Leadership Collective trip began today . 20 US students made their way to San Francisco using buses, cars and airplanes . Some flew direct , others connected through intermediate airports . There were many first time meetings as a start to new friendships . During the course of the travel to San Francisco there were over 200 whatsapp messages giving support , encouragement and even directions . Everyone made it safely to San Francisco tired but eager to start their individual and collective experience .
After a brief period checking in to their hotel in San Francisco the group gathered together to get to know each other through games anchored by Ira Abrams . Ira was one of the trip leaders for the previous two Leadership Collective visits and this year has helped with the Orientation Program.