Jodhpur, Udaipur, and village home stay

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Amritsar, Punjab, India

Following the camel safari half the group spent the day in Jaisalmer taking a night train to Jodhpur, and the others took a (quite bumpy) early bus ride to arrive in Jodhpur with the intention of exploring the fort . And that we did.  

The uphill walk from the hotel to the fort was checkered with cracked cobble stone. From atop the fort we saw the city scenery of low stacked buildings colored all sandstone or painted turquoise and teals. 

The audio tour informed us that the royal family lived in India's most expensive hotel looming as one of the tallest buildings in the skyline. Other than the views from the fort, it also housed ornate wall paintings, carvings, and mirrored ceilings. I am always taken aback by how overwhelmingly meticulous every royal building we have visited is, with every inch of a room filled with ornate details of paintings or designs, and by extension every centimeter of your visor is filled with color and texture. 

After the fort we all went about exploring the city. I and many others went in search of spices and teas (which the city is known for) in markets around the clock tower

The second half of the team arrived at night and the next day we moved on to Udaipur (a very uncomfortable and fragrant public bus ride) where we reunited with Rishi-ji. How I remember our visit to Udaipur was a sea of thali. We ate thali almost every lunch and dinner. 

The first day in Udaipur we all went to a batik art workshop and learned about the traditional batik design process. We met some amazing artists, saw their work, and experienced the painstaking process ourselves by creating our own designs then tracing it onto cloth, then filling in the spaces we wanted white with hot beeswax on both sides. I think the batik workshop was an artistic release for a lot of the group members and gave us an appreciation for the otherwise unknown art form.  

One of the most notable moments of Udaipur was later that night on a boat ride to one of our fancy thali dinners . It was nothing short of romantic. Five star hotels floated in the water like little islands and the city surrounding the lake was decorated with lit up rooftops. I sat in the back of the boat laughing with Jordan, Juliet, and Jack......all the J's. And Allison and Kippy could be heard from the front being jovial as always. 

After a few days in Udaipur we pulled up to the village in a fancy bus with leather seats and the word tourist plastered on the front, a stark (and slightly embarrassing) change from the public bus. 

The first two nights in the village we all slept in the school in one room, with our beds (too short for most) lined up in two rows. (Think the second Harry Potter movie when all the students slept in the same room on cots.) 

We taught students, having to make up our own lesson plans to teach in English to girls who knew very little, if any, depending on the age . This was difficult considering the language barrier. The girls were shy, and some didn't pay attention, but it was surprisingly rewarding and heart warming. It was great seeing someone's face light up as you make a silly face, or another furiously writing notes in an effort to remember what you're saying, or playing duck duck goose afterwards with children you might have been frustrated with a few minutes before. 

After teaching and playing the first two days we then went into a neighboring village and spoke with them, and went into the market to get an idea of what kind of goods there is a demand for. We went into the market with the assignment to find something we had never seen before, buy it, and bring it back to discuss what it was with Rishi-ji. This made for a lot of interesting conversation. 

On this third day we also joined our host families, and started painting murals in the afternoon. 

The week was ended with a celebratory dance party, and to quote Kenz "it was like what you want every American dance party to be like" . It was loud and packed and very sweaty but everyone was completely unbridled, jumping, and smiling. You were not judged, dancing however ridiculously as you could. It was a very rambunctious send off.

The task of putting this village home stay into words is difficult because of how meaningful it was to myself and others. I don't think my written word could fully express the weight and emotion tied to it. I think this was one of the most impactful weeks we've all experienced. 

Maybe it's that we've all grown more comfortable in who we are as travelers, or that 'roughing it' doesn't faze us as much as it did before, but this home stay was one of the most foreign and yet comforting settings I've been in. 

We slept on the porches in the open with our families on the floor to one side, and usually a buffalo on the other. 

I've never felt such a strong sense of community, between yourself and your family . And, everywhere you walked in the village everyone knew one another, and they knew who you were staying with and why you were there. 

There were moments that felt as if the language barrier melted in the fire that back lit the evening. Something that had felt so tangible before was gone. I felt like the people I had known for days were not strangers, the cultural blocks broken down by universal human emotion, like laughing at my inability to roll roti, or a child making a funny noise. 

During the bus ride back from the village we all shared our 'highs and lows', as we do in all of our meetings, and so many said this was their favorite week. Many had to keep adding to their 'highs', talking about the connections they made with the students and the camaraderie they had with their families. 

I could go on about the intimate moments of the village home stay but I will leave the rest for stories to be told when we get home. 

However, an honorable mention to the great one man omelet shop in Jodhpur, and to everyone who got sick the first few days in the village and took it like a champ. (especially Allison my home stay partner)





Exotic and yet such a real experience!

Our US experience is so "truncated" by the lack of olfactory inputs. Some of my finest memories of a South American sojourn 60 years remain -- and they were the wonderful as well as terrible Smells!