So I was on the long bus ride from Shimla back to Palampur today (9 hrs without toilet or chai/meal breaks – read on to learn more), as opposed to the short bus ride (8 hrs WITH toilet and chai and meal breaks) and my eyes went into snapshot mode. My brain started capturing myriad images of quintessential Himachali India. It began with the salwar-clad man riding a horse-drawn cart loaded with mud bricks. Then came the cow patties drying on a stone wall as nature's fuel source to heat homes. We passed a motorbike with a woman riding "side-saddle" in back, her goldenrod scarf called a dupatta flying behind. I caught a glimpse inside a temple dedicated to Hanumant, the monkey god, who stood at the door with his brilliant red-orange coloring. On the grosser side, my fellow travelers left their own technicolors on the side of the bus owing to the winding mountainous roads. And while I'm at it, I know you're dying to hear how I survived the nine hour bus ride without toilet or meal breaks. Well, at hour 3.5 there was a traffic jam due to road construction. The driver shut off the bus and stepped outside - I saw my chance. I, too, stepped off the bus and, at a loss for toilet facilities, found an abandoned building to crouch behind. And then, the buses began to move! I rose to my feet as quickly and gracefully as possible and high-tailed it back to the bus. Desperate times call for desperate measures. On the food front, we had a 10 minute layover and I was able to grab some biscuits, fruit, etc. to tide me over. This, my friend, is Service Corps!
But just so you don't think it's all work and no play (or vice versa), I was in Shimla, the capital of my Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) to meet with people familiar with the Himachali NGO space. Sometimes the first NGO placement just doesn't work and I'm living proof of that. My original host NGO and I came to the table with differing expectations and areas of expertise that led to my current search for a replacement. I do love the mountains so and I look forward to working with a second HP-based NGO. Next time I write, I anticipate sharing exactly which NGO that will be so stay tuned.