Leisure Days in Little Switzerland - Ashley Sackville

    Let me go back a day to give you a few quick highlights of yesterdays festivities. It was cultural exchange day.  We had a chance to visit all of the schools it was a much anticipated day as we were all excited to see where everyone else had been spending their time teaching.  The teens finally got to perform the song and dance they had long been rehearsing.  The schools were all so different.  It was interesting to see the different parts of town and how the size and condition of each school differed. From the tiny hill top school to the more urban school with a large yard, one even had a playground. I was of course the most excited to visit our school CPS Kakan, we were last and were overwhelmed with surprise when our kids had a full program ready to perform including costumes and all. We were so proud, it was like were were watching our very own children perform.

    After our school we headed to shop the market in Chamba town. The hustle and bustle of the market was exhilarating.  My favorite part was the fresh fruit and vegetable stands.  The colors are so vibrant.  I yearned to grab a crunchy carrot but resisted.  We all found a few treasures to take home with us.  It was a long day but more excitement was in store.  We had an amazing dinner with the YMAD Girls, Momos, Chicken Tika and even some good old mashed potatoes with gravy.  The little taste of home was a spirit lifter.  After dinner we had the pleasure of watching Charlottes Web with the YMAD Girls outside by the fireside. We have been reading Charlottes Web to them first so the movie was the perfect touch to bring it full circle.  We popped some corn and snuggled in for a great movie night. The girls all seemed to really enjoy the night out.  I was so proud of the way our group embraced having the YMAD girls over.  They made them feel right at home asking them about what they had done that day in school and asking about their friends and family.  These types of encounters where they can work on their conversational english is so important and so much fun.  Such a simple thing for our teens to do makes all the difference in the YMAD Girls english.

    Now on to today, Sunday our day of leisure and boy was everyone ready for a day off.  We had been keeping a feverish pace and a slower day was at hand.  After a late breakfast we loaded up the cars and headed to Khajjiar with the YMAD Girls, AKA Little Switzerland. The drive was one to remember.  Up, up, up the windy mountain on basically a one lane road.  Our driver is fantastic.  We feel safe with him even when passing a bus on a one way road with a cliff looming. Our first stop was a a beautiful temple where we were each blessed and given a bracelet for safe travel.  This was a beautifully spiritual moment feeling like we were taking part in an Indian ritual.

    We made it to little Switzerland and wow it is a strange place.  It’s basically a huge open field full of men holing bunnies you can pay to hold, horseback riding and these crazy balls you get in and roll down the hill. Zippy and I jumped in first and it was hilarious.  We were in tears we were laughing so hard.  After all the activities the YMAD Girls did Henna as we lounged in the sun on the grass. This was a highlight for all of us.  Participating in something so quintessentially Indian with these amazing girls was a delight. They are so talented it was so amazing to see all the different designs these gils can just pull out without any picture or direction. Just sitting close to these beautiful girls and sharing a few moments engrossed in their tradition was so calming.  

    I have said it before but I’ll say it again.  I am so proud of this group of teens.  I have honestly not heard a single complaint.  They have been on time and so respectful.  I have to give a special thanks to my team Lizzy R, Abby, Braden, Dallin, Emma and Emma.  I am so proud of each of you.  I love you each like my own.  I’m sorry if I have been overly motherly to you but I have such respect for each of you and am so impressed with your compassion, love and patience.  I think these days have not been easy but you have been so amazing.  The little kids at our school love you so much and I truly believe you have made a difference in their lives.  You have represented YMAD and America so well.  I feel like a very proud mother.

    Finally I have to say a few words about Allison, Brooke and Raj.  They are nothing short of a dream team.  The time they put into making this expedition what it is blows my mind.  I have known Allison for the better part of my life and have always known she is amazing but after sharing this trip with her she has been exhausted to a new level.  Thank you Allison for letting me be a part of this.  I love you with all of my heart.  Brooke is the picture of calm.  She is so welcoming and loving.  I will never forget the way the YMAD Girls look at her.  They absolutely adore her.  It is a beautiful relationship to witness.  Finally Raj, works don’t do him justice.  He is truly the magic man.  He can make things appear seemingly out of thin air  The work he does behind the scenes to make sure the schools get what they need is outrageous. He is so humble and kind but has a wicked sense of humor.  He is the lifeblood of the YMAD expedition.  I feel so honored to have had the pleasure of spending this time with him.

    We are on the back end of our trip and although I miss my kids and husband like crazy I hope I can take in every last moment of this trip and hope all the kids can do the same.  Like Brooke says “you can’t get these days back”.