Saturday 15 April 2017

Gilgit Baltistan Diaries March 2017

Once again this road has called on to me but thankfully i have my team with me for a crazy ride 🎢
I always cherish how travel brings up in in depth conversations around every topic alive - educational landscape always being the centre! Reaching Gilgit Baltistan is in itself an introspective educational experience one must venture upon 😊

Firyal's first ever flight !! Or i should say first and a stretch of consecutive flights to the north most part of Pakistan and the world, and back to the sea level :) Traveling with Teacher Development can be highly invigorating ... Welcome on Board !

And we met these mountains too.. At night they reflect a dark and ruthless personality or a firm and strong one - perspectives!

When educators across age, region and professional positions hold balloons 🎈and engage themselves in activities of using space and pitch, there is strong hope that these RSDUs will visit the  middle schools they supervise, with a rekindled spirit and enthusiasm :)

When a traveler from Karachi confuses desi butter with boiled potato πŸ₯” and takes a wholesome bite throat reminds of the stupidity :p Visited Badar's immensely polite and hospitable parents and a serene house :) Ate Pako, Shuwanchal and Desi anda !!

Badar's mother Zareen Nama is a symbolic gesture to the struggles mothers undergo to dream for the prosperous future of their children. Originally from Hundur, Yasin she arrived in Gilgit after marriage as her husband Zarb Ali Khan joined the army. His army travel took him to UN peace keeping force in Congo, and across the country of Pakistan, while Zareen was left with 5 children, and a job of Grade 1 Govt position at Public School Gilgit. The school gave her a medium to channelize her dreams and her children were enrolled .. she learnt subjects with them and acted as a teacher, mother and father to her children. As time passed so did the hope and struggles strengthened. Today they have a beautiful house of their own, all 5 have excelled in their respective fields and their own third son - Badar, is traveling to Zareen's home town Hundur with Aga Khan University Examination Board to strengthen their Middle Schooling Programme :)

Its a door way !!

It was always a dream to run πŸƒ down to the people playing cricket in the mountain fields .. and so Badar and I did :) It was a semi - final match played between players from Somal and Yangal - near by villages to Gupis. The air was freezing but with 22 to score in 12 balls both teams were heated in their cheers and silence. Yangal won on the second last ball with a six !!!

Sometimes the beauty is so spellbound and magnanimous that eyes spark with excitement and a smile of calmness appears on the face :)

A morning tea with Ali Jan, receptionist at PTDC Gupis for past 17 years, strengthened our purpose to be here!! He is a resident of Gupis and his three children study at Diamond Jubilee School Gupis. The conversation started with the stories of tourists flowing in and out through the years, and then went into the lives of his children and how after encouraging conceptual learning in the middle years his son Ahtasham Ali who is in 10 grade has to appear in a local board lacking quality and accountability thus causing frustration. He was glad to know that his daughter who is now in grade 7 Neelum Ali will undertake project based learning with AKUEB and hopefully when she enters grade 9 will appear from Aga Khan Univ Examination Board. We shared a couple of hearty laughters when nature of projects were discussed including the one on endangered animals, as a body of Ibex was sitting in the reception area. Ali Jan also spoke about his younger son Tanweer Ali who studies in Grade, sometimes Ali Jan sneaks into his books and gets surprised how much they already learn at this age, which he did not experience till very late.

It is amazing how a systematic change can positively affect so many lives in so many ways - and the role we individuals play within it :)

Gupis PTDC. Its a chilly morning - socks are up, muffler is tightly locked on the throat, ears are packed yet the wind finds its way and shivering begins !! Balance is what my mother has always advocated for. But what is 'balance' i continue to search. So when i do yoga in this serene and solid ambience, i do find an expression of balance - when the breathing clears within and the parts of the body crack open, the body and mind find a way to connect with the fresh air outside. Its experiential Its amazing 😊

We lost him and then we found him :p Lengths residents hop for fishing the unique Trout !!

Diamond Jubilee Gulagmoli - at the height of above 3000 meters above the sea level. Met Naveed Hayat - SST teacher and Rustam Khan, English teacher from another DJ school. This school has 380 students enrolled who come from 10 diff villages, and many students walk for about 40 minutes in snow and cold!

PTDC Phander - This is the view from my room πŸ˜‡ It was the most cold night i have ever experienced. The last i stayed in a snowy night was in Boston but houses had a heating system. Here i had a small one rod electric heater - good for warming hands if i made an effort to bring them near the rod. After two layers of clothing, throat tightly locked with the muffler, double socks, woolen cap, ear cover and 3 blankets, the frozen lake gave me a tough time. They say, if sub comes then you can take a bath otherwise ... i was lucky to see the shining rays of the sun whitening the snow at 7 am and Naeem bhai, the care taker was on time with a bucket of sizzling hot water. Shaving and taking a bath was another feat altogether 🎢 I wonder...What a feat it must be, day in and day out, for students from 10 different villages who walk 40 minutes to reach the DJ Gulagmoli School every morning!

Teacher Development Team has reached different heights - Gulagmoli 3250 meters above the sea level - enroute to Chitral via Shandoor Pass

Had the pleasure of meeting Javaid Hayat at his 200 year old residence in Gulagmoli. His family like many others in the village, migrated from Swat and Chitral region. They are Pakhtoons who accepted Ismailism and speak the language Khawar, a common lingua franca of the northern Ghizer and Chitral region.

Javed Sb.'s family belongs to the Kaka Khel community, majority of whom are in the Swat region, and consider families like Javed's outsiders yet insiders. Insiders because they are from Kaka Khel, outsiders because they dont speak Pashto anymore, are Aga Khani and  non-rigid in many ways of practicing religion and life. We laughed at some of the anecdotes shared regarding this :)

Javaid Sb. like his father and his son Naveed Hayat is an educationist at heart. He served Aga Khan Education Services Pakistan for 30 years as a primary school teacher. The school her served most was DJ Gulagmoli, which was initially a government school, then incorporated within AKESP, and now also affiliated with AKUEB for Middle School Programme.

We had some wonderful conversations over a hot cup of tea, potatoes, boiled eggs, fried chicken and fresh water coming directly from a chashma :) I also had the honor of listening to a few couplets from Javaid Sb's to be published book of poetry in Khawar, called Gurzen or Garden.

Met students at Al Amin School Gulmit. The traditional beautiful caps are a part of their uniform, connecting them with the Gulmit culture. Our interaction started with a quiz of where am i from - from Islamabad to Iran to Afghanistan, all were guessed :p 

The students had experienced the project of Border Demarcation and when they acted as the boundary commission body, they took the map of Gulmit itself and drew administrative borders along the lines of people speaking different languages: Wakhi, Shina, Brushaski ... Each administrative block received equal access to river water, mountains, land area and other resources. The overall purpose of borders and its possible benefits and consequences were also briefly explored, raising many unanswered queries :)  

This feels like January in Gulmit, says Qasim - a resident. One foot snow in the month of April is quite uncommon here, thus i accept this snow fall as a welcome for me :p 

Students unprepared for the snow, in shalwar kameez and spring shoes walk up hill 30 min and more to their respective villages - some making a snow man, others throwing on each other, cheerfully tread this common path :) 

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