The past ten days I spent at Secmol, which is located in a beautiful mountain valley just a 25-minute drive outside of Leh. The school is very sustainable by heating water using mirrors and solar power, composting for gardens, recycling, and the buildings are heated using direct sunlight. Secmol has been recognized worldwide for the practical skills that it gives students. Our days are filled with a number of different activities, which include playing ice hockey, English class, speaking and conversation classes, and they also share the work of dishes and cooking. After dinner students make announcements, share local and global news, then there are presentations, singing local songs and finally introspection time.
I started off my time here (which was supposed to be two days), by teaching the kids more about the basics of hockey with Alexis, Corey, Tim and Owen. We had shown them game clips, drew plays, and demonstrated the basic elements of stick handling, passing, and skating.
January 25th: The day I was supposed to leave to Delhi but unfortunately due to snow and low-lying clouds that did not take place. The airport was a mess because no one knew what was going on so I was there for 5 or 6 hours trying to figure everything out. I went with one girl and she was able to help me book a flight for the next day with Goair. The unfortunate thing is that my credit card did not work so I had to use her card and give her the cash for the flight. I then left the airport and went into Leh, to the Lehling coffee and book shop, a place with good Wifi and reasonable coffee. I needed to arrange everything with Oman, where I was supposed to go this evening with Jenni, but that was not going to happen. Back to Secmol I go.
January 26th: This morning I left with the Secmol kids on the bus into town, but this time I did not even go to the airport because the snow and weather was just horrible so I just went straight to the coffee shop again to get wifi and hopefully sort everything out. I had heard through a friend, Chamba, that my flight was delayed and then later cancelled. The frustrating thing is that once I made it to the coffee shop I soon found out that in all of Leh there is no internet, that means that I have no communication with anyone and booking flights will now be a challenge. Furthermore, flights for the next two days are fully booked (as I found out at the airport yesterday).
January 27th and 28th: There was nothing I could do at this point, I had no wifi and they said it would likely be out until March. Also, some roads were closed due to an avalanche that was said to have killed 20 people. However, I did find out that we satellite internet back at Secmol but it can only be used at certain times of day and only has 2GB of Wifi per month for the whole campus so I am not allowed to use high data things like Facebook, Skype, etc. Also, we finally just received a sim card which can be very difficult to get here for foreigners because the army here controls these things and the internet due to Lahdakh being a strategic military area placed between Pakistan and China.
January 29th : Last night I tried to use the internet at the campus but it seems as if my two credit cards did not work because the internet was just too slow, so that option is out of the picture. Also, I made a long call using our phone to both Goair and Air India to refund both of my flights, both said that they will refund me (so thankful) but I have to go through the third parties I had booked through originally to get refunded. Also, because I used that girl’s credit card at the airport to book my second flight, I now have to contact her and see if she will send the money to my bank once she is refunded on my credit card. This will be a long process that I will have to deal with once I get back to Delhi.
January 30th : Yesterday and today have been brutal weather, just snow on snow, so there are no flights flying out at this point and we don’t now what the weather will look like for the next few days. I feel like I am starting to be stuck here and everyone at the school keeps on bugging me saying that I should just stay here until summer and then fly out. Now we have flights that just keep piling up and so many people are trying to get out.
January 31st : Alright, here we go. Today we went into Leh for the boys’ hockey tournament and I coached them into a draw, very well-played game. Then I went to a couple of the travel agent booking places in Leh and it seems that they cannot book flights without internet either, not sure why they still go to work. I finally found one travel agent who was calling to book it but kept changing the price on me. So once I made it back to the rink I tried calling Goair, but their price has gone up to 7000 Rupees + (approx. $150 CAN) which is pretty overpriced for a flight. I hung-up and opted to call Air India instead, they quoted me a much cheaper price for February 1st and 2nd so I tried to book. I spent almost an hour on the phone with them spelling out my name (S as in Sugar, H as in hotel, A as in Alpha, U as in Union and N as in Nice), what a horrible experience with a limited connection and only to get to the end of the process only for them to say you need an India issued credit card. While still on hold, I ran over to a friend and asked if he had one, he suggested that we just book through his friend in Delhi because he had booked one earlier for 4400 Rupees ($80 CAN), sweet let’s do it!
After calling his friend he had found a Goair ticket for the same price on the February 2nd, right on! After about half an hour he said that the Goair website was down and couldn’t book the ticket, but that’s okay we can wait a bit. After getting back home to Secmol, he called us again and said the ticket prices have skyrocketed and some airlines were now quoting 19,000 Rupees ($400 CAN), most likely due to all of the cancellations this past week, wonderful… After about 4 hours later he called us saying the prices have now gone down and do I want to book for February 2nd for 5700 Rupees ($115 CAN)? Yes!!
February 1st: Today we tried to print the ticket but because of Microsoft Outlook having the security check when trying to login on computers in other countries, therefore, I have not been able to login and print the ticket. So, hopefully it will be fine once I get to the airport on Thursday and check-in.
February 2nd: My heart sunk when I arrived at the airport and they told me the plane was delayed 3 hours, I thought, “Great another week here.” Thankfully the flight still left and I successfully made it to Delhi!