.....time to wake up mark! travel blog

our new and permanent Indian jon

The Kate Winslet poster that adorns our crappiere....it was up when we...

My bed on the sleeper train where I slept for 13 hours....

Argh I just spent like 2 hours trying to upload the last of the Kolkata photos and some new ones from Kalimpong....and then the power went out and ALL was lost. Luckily I had been typing my entry in Word and saved it. heres what I wrote yesterday:

Ok so I've FINALLY arrived in Kalimpong. It's a totally different India up here. I never really realized before how high in the Himilayas it really is. We're talking HIGH. The town is literally built on the side of a mountain....i don't understand how the houses haven't fallen down the side yet. The drive up here from the New Jalpaiguri train station was so nice that the 6 of us in the jeep hardly said a single word for 3 hours because we were so mesmerized by the scenery. It's so hard to describe and I actually completely forgot to take photos of most of the ride up. But it is definitely the most beautiful place I have ever seen. You'd have to come here to understand. And you should! It's a lot different than Kolkata though......its mainly a retirement/boarding school town and everything closes really early at night. But its strange because the people here start their days at 5 AM.....as soon as the sun is up just a little bit. It's going to take some getting used to for sure. Everything is......bathing has actually gone one step down from the facilities you saw in the Kolkata pictures.....now it is nothing but a bucket...and a smaller bucket with which you scoop water onto yourself from the larger bucket. Its hard to believe that the people here don't know anything different.

Strange thing though....I think I sort of skipped the whole culture shock step that I was warned so much about.......although I would say that I often find myself feeling like I am in a section of universal studios or some sort of theme park. Things in the town really aren't as accessible as I had thought.....hence why I only got into the internet café today...there are only two that I know about and they open and close whenever the owner feels like it.....as does everything. The people are so laid-back....even the high class people with the top jobs seem to do almost nothing with their time. "Captain Pradhan"....the guy who is hosting us.... basically does nothing all day other than tell other people what to do....and even then they seem like very mindless tasks. Oh ya, the servants! I've noticed that if you live in India you are one of three types of people: 1) A rich person(with a servant) 2) a servant, or 3) a beggar.

My partner Joe(from England) and I were welcomed to Kalimpong by the Captain and he put us up in a really nice hotel(by Indian standards...to us...not nice at all) for 2 nights while he was arranging for our permanent accommodations(which he described as a bed and breakfast with a beautiful view)......that's basically it. Bed, breakfast, view. Just see the pictures. Luckily our the owner of the home is very cool. His name is Byoosh(spelling?) and he is the librarian at the college(library consists of about 20 books)....to add to my earlier point....Byoosh has a relatively upper class job for Kalimpong....and he just sits there talking to people on msn ALL day.....oh there is so much to say, its hard to get it all in.

I'll talk a bit about teaching. I've given 6 music lessons as of today and they kids are so cute. They WILL NOT enter the classroom until you tell each individual one to come in because they are so polite! And each of my days starts with "good morning sir!" by over 200 children consecutively. There is a morning assembly everyday where the 1400 students of Rockvale Academy line up like soldiers in complete silence while the Captain addresses the daily issues....and our first day the Captain had Joe and I stand up on the terrace as he introduced us to the entire school population. Not a single set of eyes wasn't staring at us. It was very intimidating. But all of the kids are so respectful.....even the ones who are older than me still call me nothing but sir. Some are older because it doesnt really matter when you start school in India....so some people finish high school when they are 20-ish. I've only been teaching younger kids though. I had an entire class singing "Imagine" by John Lennon while I played guitar along and they were sooo good. I want to record it somehow. Today I taught them Edelweiss. I think the kids really like me because I am not nearly as strict as their regular teachers and I force them to dance and stuff. I had them sing as loudly as possible today and I opened the music room door so that everyone could hear and surely enough there was a huge reaction. I had a teacher tell me that no one has ever heard these kids sing like that before, which made me feel really good. The kids also find my harmonica to be the funniest thing in the entire world. So when they are good, I play it. I'll try to take some pictures of the kids sometime soon too.

I've made friends with a guy named Samib, who is not only the nephew of the Captain, he is the son of the English teacher, the grandson of the hotel-owner,and the cousin of the guy who owns this internet café. Everybody knows everybody here, so we really stick out like sore thumbs. The stares have started to subside, but I still feel like a complete outsider, which is normal I guess. Joe and I are planning on buying some bikes so we can cruise down the hill to school in the morning. Oh ya......the house I'm staying in is at the absolute TOP of the town.....so it's a lovely walk down in the morning and does have a great view.....but man.....i was sweating so hard walking up it today. Luckily the temperature here is a lot colder because of the elevation....but its still relatively warm and it is only going to get hotter. The short cut path up to the house reminds joe of Indiana Jones. I would agree. Its not very safe....and kids walk up and down it every day. There are no guard rails to prevent falling into the abyss below, except for the strip that is lined by a barbed-wire fence near the top. I think kids learn to toughen up a lot earlier here. They have to. Yet it's strange because people are still considered children until they are 25. So, lots of the fellow teachers are taking a while to take us seriously. Wow, I've written a lot for 20 minutes......I need to go back for dinner now. Be sure to check the last pictures of Kolkata I'm about to add.

Oh and another thing. Apparently indian people have really small feet...and nowhere do they sell above size 10 men's. I had hoped to buy some sweet sandals when I got here and my plan failed. I had to go to the most expensive store in Kolkata....the reebok store and pay 2100 rupees for a pair of size 12. 40 rupees is equal to 1 canadian dollar....you do the math. Regular sandals here cost 40 rupees...so I was mad. They looked at me like I was a freak for having size 12 feet.

Also, if anyone feels like sending me letters or something.... my address is at:

Mark Fossen

Dilkusha Kothi (<---house name, they dont have numbers)

Upper Cart Road

P.O. Kalimpong

Dist. Darjeeling

West Bengal, India


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