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A week in Darjeeling

Written by Antje on December 12th 2016 22:29

Today (Friday, December 9th) is the last day of the week’s holiday I’ve been having in Darjeeling, a city in the foothills of the Himalayas. In British colonial days it had been developed into a holiday resort especially for people to escape from the heat of Calcutta. Some spent half the year in Darjeeling. It’s beautiful here! We have a view of the mountains from the hotel where we are staying.

It took a day to get here: almost three hours from LAMB to the border between Bangladesh and India, three hours of formalities at the border and then five more hours from there to Darjeeling. Crossing the border was an experience in itself. The Brits introduced the people of this region to bureaucracy but then it got passed on and on. There were four places on the Bangladeshi side where our papers were checked and four more on the Indian side.

It was also amazing to see how quickly it went from the flat countryside of Bangladesh, like in the Netherlands, to the more hilly regions with the Himalayas in the distance.

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We’ve taken it pretty easy here in Darjeeling. I’ve been out and about with my boss, his wife and his parents, who were my directors when I worked in the south of Bangladesh in 1997 and 1998. A relaxed group. On one of the days we were driven to the top of the highest hill in the area and then walked back down to our hotel. In total about 10 km with many nice views.

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Yesterday we took the train to the next town. Quite an adventure because it mostly runs along the road, to the consternation of car drivers.

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Shops frighteningly close to the train!

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Tomorrow we’re returning home. The next two weeks will be busy with Christmas and normal work. Because I’ve been away for a week, I’m expecting a lot of patients will be waiting to see me.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve there’s no elective surgery, which gives the Christian members of staff the opportunity to have the time off. Work picks up again after that.

This month I also need to go to Dhaka in order to apply for an extension on my visa. It’s take quite a while before I’ll be granted it, but because my current visa expires on the 31st December, the application has to be received before that date. It used to be possible for office staff to obtain visas for us, but now since the beginning of this year we all have to go personally and do it ourselves.

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If you’ve been following the news recently: Overnight on the 14th of November the 500 and 1000 rupee notes were declared to be no longer legal tender. It’s still very difficult for people to obtain sufficient cash. This is one of the many queues at service tills. Where there is no queue, there is nocash in the machine….