From the Christmas through summer breaks of the 2015-2016 school year, I was fortunate that Bill Kemeza, Steve Hughes and the Social Studies Department were graciously supportive of my leave of absence from BC High to return to a part of the world that was critical to my personal and professional formation. It was in Nepal that I would meet my wife, a fellow Jesuit Volunteer who was also happened to be from Boston. In total, we have spent nearly 10 years in the Himalayan region, and with three boys who had only heard stories of the land that was so important to us, we felt blessed that the networking of the Hyde Center for Global Education at Boston College High School was reaching the Himalayan region of India.
Darjeeling, which is perched on a “hill” higher than Mt. Washington, typically has cool winter nights dipping into the low 40’s, a thick fog and mist in the mornings which gives way to a sunny warmth that is ideal for growing its eponymous and exquisite tea. As a result of the Anglo-Nepalese war in 1814, Darjeeling is on the India side of the Nepalese border, but remains ethnically Nepalese with Nepali being the local dialect.
As an extension to being liaisons for the inauguration of a two-week exchange program for BC High in India, we decided as a family to live in Darjeeling, where my wife and I would teach, and my 10, 11, and 12-year-old boys would attend the storied institution of North Point. North Point, which had just celebrated its 125th anniversary as one of India’s oldest Jesuit run boarding schools, is instilled with a palpable pride in its traditions and binding sense community that is a world away from the land of where everyone gets participation awards and positive reinforcement. What follows are excerpts from blogs and journals from a student’s view of the experience. The first is from my middle son Myles on his primary take aways from life in Darjeeling. For those looking for more insights into daily life in Darjeeling, you can follow the link to Aidan Kirby’s ’21 blog on his experiences in India.
What my Friendship with Raj Kiran Taught Me By Myles Kirby (Grade 6)
Leaving Boston and all my familiar surroundings to travel to the other side of the world made me realize the most important lessons of my life. When we arrived in India I didn’t know what to think. Everything seemed completely alien, but as I melded into every day life in Darjeeling and entered into daily routines in the community, I discovered while on the outside their culture and way of life seemed from another planet, that people’s intentions and values were similar to ours.
My friendship with Raj Kiran, a vegetable seller, sums up some of my biggest lessons while living in India. As we walked back from school to our small apartment through the bustling street I would see my 14-year-old friend, Raj Kiran, selling vegetables of all sorts. He can’t afford to go to school and as a result is illiterate. When I have bad day at school, I think of Raj Kiran who needs to help his uncle by working every day from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. However, anytime I walk by, he has a big smile on his face as I’ll stop to teach him some English phrases and he will do the same for me in Hindi. By the time we left, we would invite him over for a weekly dinner and share laughs over a meal while we tried to communicate in broken English, Hindi, and my parents translating in Nepali for us both. While in Darjeeling I thought having no heat, shower, dishwasher, and washing machine in our apartment was kind of lousy; but when I compare my current and past circumstances with Raj Kiran and thousands of good people like him, my fortunes seem almost unfair.