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Report 1932: Ladakh Takes Your Breath Away

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2011

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Page 25 of 25: A Day Round Nimoo

photo by Michael

House and calf

We spent a full day relaxing around Nimoo.

Our guides had arranged for us to visit the local school. Unfortunately the children were taking exams so we couldnít see them at work. We had chance to meet the Head teacher, a very shrewd woman, and learn about the school. There are 29 children and they have specialist teachers for each of the different subjects. There seemed to be nearly as many children as teachers. The teachers are allocated to a village by the government and move every two years. The children learn Ladakhi, Hindu, Urdu, English, Math, Science, History and Geography, but no art or music. The day is divided into 35 minute periods. At the end of the year they have an exam, which they have to pass before they can move up to the next class.

We were asked if we wanted to do some archery and said yes. This was on a rough patch of ground at the edge of the village. The target was printed on back of a cardboard box propped up against pile of earth. It is not as easy as we expected. The bows are very stiff and it takes a lot of effort to pull the string back far enough to release the arrow, otherwise it just drops at your feet. Michael managed a lot better than I did - as long as he remembered to let go of the arrow... The guides then had a go, among much laughter. They did better than us and did managed to hit the target ... occasionally.

We enjoyed walking through the fields and watching families at work. Stanzin, one of our guides came from Nimoo so we were taken to visit his family's garden. This is surrounded by a tall stone wall. Entry is through a small metal doorway. Inside the ground is divided up into small plots each surrounded by a low earth wall. Planting is very dense and the plots are very productive. There are several apricot trees and tools carefully hung off the branches of the trees. It was a delightful place and very quiet and peaceful.

We were taken to meet Stanzinís grandparents who live in a large house above the garden. Through the gateway was the yard and a pen for the cows. In a corner was a wood burning stove to cook outside in hot weather. We climbed the steps into the the kitchen which is also used as the main living area. A small stove provided heat when needed and there was a small cooking area with a gas burner. In another corner was a TV set and potted plants. Cushions round the walls are used for sitting.

Mains electricity arrived 15-17 years ago. Before that solar panels provided by the government were used.

We were warmly welcomed and offered black tea, dried apricots and traditional biscuits. These are a bit like rounds of pastry with lines cut across the top. They are baked in the open fire outside. They are placed in a metal container and covered with hot embers. They are plain but very good.

We were also offered a drink of Chang, the homemade beer. This is served in a small bowl. A blob of butter is put on the edge of the cup for good luck. A large teaspoon of tsampa (roasted and ground barley) is sprinkled on the chang before drinking. It was light and refreshing although the tsampa gave it a roasted flavour. As guests we were given two helpings. We were assured it was not very alcoholic, but the afternoon seemed a bit hazy afterwards.

This was one of the highlights of our trip to Ladakh and a great way to finish the holiday.

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