This week in Jaipur I spent living in a home with Kajsa. There was a six year old little girl (Navya), her mother (Vinita Ji) and her grandmother. It was really cool to spend time with the family and get to know their story, especially since they spoke amazing English (except for the grandmother). Vinita Ji is a lawyer and works with communications, Navya goes to school and likes to play, and the grandmother cooks he meals and prays a lot. Each meal was so so delicious and I embraced the fact that utensils are not required to eat! They live in a nice apartment and are part of the Brahman caste. (The caste system is something I haven’t quite been able to wrap my mind around.) We spend our evenings with them learning SO MUCH about their culture and some of the afternoons, but the rest of our time was spend with the rest of the group and Rakka-Ji and Rishi-Ji the group coordinators for everything we did that week and the next. Every morning we started with a group yoga session (first thing I’m doing when I’m home is signing myself up for yoga!), had breakfast, had Hindi lessons and then a chai break. After that we did different things each day.
The first day we did a tour of Jaipur and went into Old Jaipur as well. Old Jaipur consists of beautiful 500 year old buildings that are now markets and many ancient forts. We explored the Amber Fort, and it was the funnest tourist attraction we’ve visited so far! This palace used to be the home of many princesses and there were many passages to explore. We only spent about an hour doing so, but we all agreed that we could’ve spend so many more hours there! When we got back to the apartments we were staying at I joined Kathleen in her new families home for a while. As I was leaving and putting my shoes on I looked up and saw a dog. But I remember thinking ‘What kind of weirdo dog is that!’ And it was actually a monkey! That was the size of me! When I got up to our apartment (after casually walking past this monkey in my way) Navya comes running up too and telling me not to go anywhere because there are monkeys! Apparently they like to throw their poop at you, leap and bite you! We had to make sure all the doors and windows were locked so they wouldn’t come in!
The next day after our regular morning lessons we had an India history lesson. In my journal I wrote the heading ‘India History Lesson’ and under it ‘I really was planning on taking notes about what I’m learning, but this just goes to show that it’s a very good thing that i decided to take this gap year…’ Whoopsie!
Over the week we took a few trips to the bazaars in the old city. It was about a 10 minute rickshaw ride which cost us about 40 rupees, less than one dollar. (I love the tiny amount of money I’m having to spend on things!) Each time we went to the bazaar I went in feeling great and by the end of it I felt so crazily stressed! It’s ALOT of fun walking down these markets, but there are people EVERYWHERE and they all want your attention and they all want you to look in their shops and give you their ‘special prices’ because your their ‘new pretty friend’. During these trips I’ve learned many things such as how to haggle ( it’s so much fun now that I can do it!), how to cover my butt while I’m walking so no one will try to grab it, how to ignore all the people wanting my attention, how to avoid the beggars and how to spot AWESOME things to buy. Overall, I’m a fan of the bazaars but I can only do it every so often now!
We also were taken on many tours over the week of various places in Jaipur. We were taken to a block-printing and blue pottery factory, where they hand printed textiles (which were beautiful of course!) and had painted the pottery. We were also taken to folk-art museums and multiple restaurants where we were given huuuuge delicious amounts of food to try. My favourite place that we were taken though were the slums.
Going into the slums I had no idea what to expect. I was really nervous because I was expecting them to be beggars asking me for money or food or my bracelets or bag or other belongings. But as we walked into the community I immediately fell in love with it all. It was definitely a very poor and dirty part of Jaipur and the people were not very clean or well taken care of, but the amount of love and friendliness that they had towards each other and us was incredible. All the children wanted to say ‘hello!’ And hold, shake or kiss my hands. And everyone, from toddlers to their grandparents, wanted their picture taken! I had the biggest smile plastered on my face the entire time. Some of these people are the most beautiful (despite their lack of hygiene) and talented people I’ve ever met. We walked through the community as they taught us how to puppeteer and do their traditional horse-dancing, they also showed us their bead and embroidery work and some of the girls showed us their dancing. This experience has really showed me that you do not need to have money to be rich because these are some of the richest people I’ve ever seen. Their culture is so rich, their community so tight knit and so full of love, laughter, joy, smiles, happiness and so much more. They are so rich in ways that so many people are not. I think that this has been my favourite part of the trip so far, and I’m not too sure if anything can shake that!
We also went to ‘Student Of The Year’ which is a Bollywood movie with some of the kids that were in Paola and Kathleen, and Anna and Katherine’s families. The movie wasn’t in English, and it seemed to be a totally ridiculous story line but it was hilarious! All of us loved it. I think that my favourite part of that was the samosas instead of popcorn at the concession.
I was pretty sad to leave Jaipur. The last afternoon there I spent my afternoon on the rooftop (Every single building has an awesome rooftop with an awesome view !) and again I was warned about the monkeys! I sat up in the sun watching the monkeys on the other roofs, the people on the streets, the crazy vehicles on the crazy roads and thinking ‘Holy crap. I’m actually in India.’