Suppose this will be our final report. We are returning home in 5 days.
To say that our feelings are mixed would be an understatement of biblical proportions. Indeed we will miss this place, it has a very unusual charm (again unusual being a major understatement!). At the risk of ruining the effect of the term understatement- it could be said that we have certainly had some very high- ups and some very low- downs. One of the hardest things about leaving this place will be how to describe it. It is possible that understatement could just be the very word to use: to say well done for the team winning the Minto shield swimming competition would be an understatement; to say that the kids were great would be an understatement; along with saying we had fun, the power cuts being annoying, food being slightly below average, the politics being ridiculous- all are understatements. To try and explain this experience is impossible. All that can be expected to achieve is to describe feelings, little snippets of the effect this place has on you. And where to begin?
I suppose an update would help. So after months of 5am starts our first swimming competition was drawing near, our team roster was complete and we were ready to kick some serious arse. Unfortunately, with 2 days to go, the not so helpful PE teacher (cough understatement cough) decided to tell us that the heights and weights of our swimmers didnt match their divisions. You see, whereas in the UK, divisions in school sports work with respect to age groups, in India where everything is so much simpler (wink wink) divisions work through a formula- calculating: height, weight and age. What a flawless system however this was not explained to us, what also wasnt explained to us was that all the schools send smaller children pretending to be older children for their heights and weights. So, back to the drawing board we went. After 2 days running around like headless chickens, we managed to get our team sorted into rough divisions and low and behold it was race day. To say that we were nervous- Im sure you can guess- thats right: an understatement.
After a good old fashioned prep talk, the kids [and young adults (some are as old if not older than Sarah)] were pumped up and ready to go. After a long morning and an incredible performance from the boys and girls of Dr Grahams Homes including the usual amount of controversy that can be expected at a sporting event in India, i.e. wrong timings, wrong people being declared winners (good luck with the common wealth games by the way) etc etc the Homes team rocketed to a fantastic victory, last year they lost by 32points, this year they won by 102!!!!! Thats right 5 exclamation marks, and you know what? Its still an understatement!
Sadly, some sad news as well, Kyle traded the life of his camera for the life of a small girl from the other school. In the youngest division during the long distance swim a girl lost the fight with gravity and was too tired to keep going and the water was too deep for her, Kyle being the closest went to help her, and lost the battle with his pocket and couldnt get his camera out of his trousers in time and in the heat of the moment panicked as she wasnt re-emerging from the water and he jumped in, so to add to the drama, the girl was ok after a little rest, and Kyles camera left for the big photo shoot in the sky to the sounds of cheering spectators. At least that justifies travel insurance!
Our opposition left with its tail between its legs and minus one trophy, and we went for a wee celebration which was organised by the Principal, and was really something. Every time we sat our drinks down they became full again, and a banquet prepared by 2 boys was presented with food to die for. I say to die for because some of it was so nice yet so spicy that to the untrained pallet- death could possibly result ok, so that was perhaps a slight exagetration. After that fantastic meal we ventured back up to Jubillee House, home to the brave CEO of Dr Grahams homes- Phillip, and his wonderful wife Eleanor. If I havent mentioned before now, Phillip and Eleanor are the reason we came here in the first place, they have become great friends and are truly doing this establishment good beyond belief, dare I mention understatement?!
We now have 3 days until our next swimming competition and unfortunately our plans are being thwarted by people who just dont seem to want us to succeed, so after reshuffling our team again, we are looking readyish. Although the culture here often seems to be to cheat to win, our team is going to compete honestly and by the book, and if that means they lose, frankly I dont give a damn. They are all absolute troopers and have come along so far, and in my mind Im proud of every single one of them and they are all winners in my book.
So after the competition we come back from Darjeeling to our not so wee hill town of Kalimpong for our last night in the hills. The following day we begin our 37hr journey home to Scotland. So whats left after that but memories? Hopefully what we have done here will help the kids in life, hopefully our mark doesnt get lost like raindrops in a pond, hopefully we will have helped the children to understand more of our culture, hopefully they will pass on their training to the younger years. We know that the childrens mark on us will never fade and hopefully, just a faint hope our mark will remain somewhere up here in the hills like a footprint ever emortalised. Because what are footprints but memories? Photos, bits of train tickets, letters from kids, sweet wrappers found in pockets weeks later, familiar smells, tastes, noises- all ways in which inexplicable memories manifest. I apologise for when I get home, if you ask me how this experience was, the best I will probably be able to give is nice. Like I said at the start, any more would just be an understatement.
Lots of love and looking forward to seeing you all again. Kyle and Sarah xx