Friday, May 23, 2014

Daragaon IV: Tea, Couchsurfers, and Buddha Purnima

I'm a big fan of the organization Couchsurfing and have been very lucky to have surfed in many countries. In Seattle I began to repay my debt, and hosted several times with my family. Since I first came to Daragaon I've wanted to host here as well. I was able to host just once last fall, and resolved to host more this time around. Coincidentally, my 'brother' in the village, Sobhit Daju, decided to start up a homestay around the time I came to live with him. So, we've been hosting Couchsurfers at his homestay. Unfortunately it is unrealistic to have them stay for free (the way proper Couchsurfing works), but Sobhit Daju and I have come to a compromise of 400 rupees per night for Couchsurfing guests, which is about six US dollars.

Since there are few hosts in the Darjeeling area, I've gotten a lot of requests. As there is very little internet in the village, I'm not able to get on the website often but have posted my number, so people can contact me via text or calls. Over the course of less than two months, we hosted five times. All were wonderful experiences, and each surfer brought unique skills to the table.

Kim, from Korea, stayed for a week and came to the school everyday. She taught the kids the Korean alphabet (at their request) and how to write their names. They absolutely loved it and the kids are still asking me about 'Kim Miss.'

Kim Miss in action - the Korean alphabet

Class five eagerly learning

Rahul in class six practices writing his name

Kaavya, from the US (with South Indian heritage), taught the kids fun songs.

Other surfers taught not just the kids, but me and the family as well. Nandan from Kolkata taught me some Hindi, as well as a new technique for rolling roti or chapatis.  Nadirah from Malaysia and her friends told us about what it's like to work at a hospital in India, and entertained us with crazy stories.

Rut, from Sweden, taught the family how to make friendship bracelets, and gave them as gifts.

Martha learns from 'Rut Didi'

Some of the surfers have done the Singalila Ridge Trek as well, and have hired Sobhit Daju as their guide.

With the rainy season around the corner, the number of surfers has lessened, but I look forward to hosting more in the fall, when the weather is beautiful and it is the high season for tourism again.

By the way, if anyone reading this is interesting in coming and staying with us, please feel free! All are welcome.

Couchsurfers have taught the family many things, and the family has taught them as well.


At this time there is a lot of tea to be picked. Tea is an essential part of life in the village, with multiple cups being consumed per day. Whenever you go to someone's house, they will give you at least one cup of tea. This can add up to a lot of tea in one day when you visit many houses (as I love to do). Currently, my record for the number of cups consumed in a single day is thirteen.

The first step of making a delicious cup of tea is picking it.

Kaavya, Amma and Rut picking tea

After that, it should be slightly dried...

...and then rolled....

...until it looks like so:

Then it sits overnight in a container. After that it must dry very thoroughly, for many days, until it turns black in colour.

Partially Dried

Then it is ready to be made into a cup of deliciousness!

May fourteenth was the birthday of the Buddha, or 'Buddha Purnima,' which means Buddha full moon. I had been hearing about the day for months before, from both Buddhists and Hindus. I was invited to go to a Rai Buddhist temple, in Daragaon, with some of my students.

When I arrived, I was surprised to see that I knew one of the monks, my neighbor, and the father of one of my students.

Prajwal (class three), and his father on the right

It was my first time to this temple, and it was very beautiful. 


People had brought many delicious edible offerings.

And many candles were lit.

There was a few hours of 'ceremony' - chanting in Tibetan, and prayer. Afterwards all were given a snack of tea, selroti, and alu dom (fried potatoes in a sauce).

Then, some students and I went to another Buddhist temple, my favorite one, in the neighbor village of Rammam. We stopped by some houses and a stone carving on the way...

Unfortunately we were late, and the ceremony was already over. But we still got to see some beautifully dressed people, and to have more selroti and tea.

Traditional Tamang Clothes
Both of the temples gave us goodybags to take home, filled with candy, popped rice, fruit, and other delicious treats. They are made up from the offerings that people bring to the temple.

Kids with their goodies at a cave temple on the way home

I finished the day off by going to a friend's house for evermore special snacks.

Keer (rice pudding), more selroti and tea


  1. Homesick as usual. Can't wait to get back!

  2. Thank you for sharing these with us. Love, Dad.