Cut loose, foot loose

Kick off your Sunday shoes...

Second- and third-years practice a Hindi dance routine.

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Playing in the mud

Lopen Kinzang Bhutia, the master of mud

The first weekend I spent in Sikkim, the students set to work making mud casts for masks. Well, Lopen, our resident-monk and traditional artist, made casts for the masks. The rest of the kids just got dirty. You’ll have to wait for the final outcome — absolutely stunning costumes for a traditional Buddhist dance. More photos below and after the jump.

Their fingernails were dirty for weeks.

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Hop, skip and a jump

I'm not coordinated enough to teach them double dutch

I have worked a bit with the kids on their rope jumping. Remembering the two visits I made to a boxing gym in St. Louis. Karina, in the middle, is the best so far out of my second-years.

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Learning to lace them up

Shoes are difficult when you're that little

This is Anurag, one of the younger students at the school where I volunteer “teach.” He’s four and some change.

He knows how to tie his school shoes, but hasn’t quite figured out how to put them on without collapsing the heels. I help him from time to time, but he doesn’t have much patience and often just runs off with shoes half on.

I also order him to clean his nose regularly, because he’s usually snotty. “Tumhara nak saph karo!” Damn cute, I’ll say.

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Lazy mutt


More portraiture of my adopted dog that I’ve named Bhasha. He spends much of the day sleeping. In the dirt. On the stoop. In the road.

Tough life.

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Misty foothills of south Sikkim

The view from my school of the Bhuriakhop valley

The school where I “teach” is tucked away near the end of a valley along winding mountain road. At about 6,000 feet, we’re officially the foothills of the Himalayas.

The topography of the area also means that clouds roll into the valley destroying visibility on many days. I’ve been on a few jogs now where I can’t see more than 10 meters at midday.

The monsoons have also come early this year, according to my local colleagues, so most days are wet, misty and gray. Every now and then, we get sun for a few minutes or hours (as above) but mostly we’re shrouded in fog and cloud (as below).

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Dung flats

Dirty work, but someone's got to do it

An overhead of the muddy yard of a poor farming family in Siliguri. Their primary occupation: collecting dung from their cattle.

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Pristine Siliguri waters

Hooray for pollution!

And by pristine, I mean the Mahananda, a stream mixed with sewage and garbage. Shot taken on my way to Sikkim last month.

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Darjeeling tense as Gorkha movement heats up

Gorkhas know how to paint

The hillside roads of the Darjeeling region share an artistic vein: Demands for Gorkhaland. Signs are painted everywhere calling for the new Indian state for Gorkhas, Indians who are ethnically Nepali. Green and white flags — Gorkha colors — hang everywhere.

Now, the region is growing more tense by the hour, as a leader of one of the Gorkha factions was killed at a rally. Gorkha groups have been demanding their own cohesive state for years. They don’t want to simply be a part of the larger, Calcutta-dominated West Bengal.

They above and below photos were taken when I visited Darjeeling in January. I was conveniently there during one of the Gorkha movement’s regular, bandhs, or strikes, of area transportation and business, to press their cause to the state and central governments.

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Hello, Himalayas. So nice to meet you.

The mountains came out to play

The Kanchenjunga range of the Himalayas, as viewed from a balcony in Namchi, Sikkim at about 6 a.m. late last month.

It was incredibly hazy; I needed a few seconds to distinguish snow-capped peaks from clouds on the horizon, hence the grain and contrast adjustment.

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