It was off to a somewhat stressful start as I swooped down onto the runway and entered the tiny airport of Jaipur. After making a friend on the plane I was quite oblivious to my surroundings and probably should have been scouting for my driver instead of being involved in an in depth conversation. In a flash I was spitted out of the arrival hall and into the heat of the desert as 100 or so eyes glared back at me, some holding signs others shouting “Taxi!” And many others just taking a good look at the one white lady with blonde hair that just came from no where.
Once I eventually tracked down a helpful security guard that was willing to let me borrow his phone I found my driver. We zig zagged through dirty roads and continuous beeps for about 40 minetes before I arrived at my new home for the next month! To say that my senses were overwhelmed by India would be an understatement (see previous blog for an in depth description haha). The guest house where the volunteers are housed is lovely. From what I had seen coming from the airport my hopes were not set too high. We have 3 floors all to ourselves consisting of a lounging area/eating area, TV, wifi, roof top terreace, kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. It’s situated on a rather busy street though so horns are buzzing throughout the day.
View from the rooftop:
At the moment there’s about 10 of us in the house which means we have a good amount of space. There are 5 of us working at the orphanage (more on that later) and 5 working at the street kids school. All from various countries, Canada, Australia, England and Spain. It turns out I arrived at the perfect time as Diwali was to start in the evening. It was incredible! We stood on our roof top and watch the sky around us, stretching for miles, illuminate with various colours and flashes. Kids played in the street below, some extremely young, lighting fire works and then running away before a car would veer out of the way. We had some ourselves, huge ones that fell on us once we had lit them. No health and safety whatsoever. We went down onto the street at one point and rolled out this huge wheel of fireworks that looked like a spike trap police lay out on the road to stop a criminal. It was like being on the frontline of a war. Sparks darting off in every direction, some flicking at our legs as we faced away. I thought to myself, I wonder how many casualties dewali brings? Babies were being held 2 metres or so next to a giant firework, kids danced and stood upon spinning fireworks on the ground. It was crazy. Buildings were covered in blankets of light, as fairy lights dangled from windows.
We also partook in the religious aspect of dewali. For about 2 hours, in the ground floor of our house, the owners had a prayer ceremony. We were told it was only a 10-15 minete thing that ended up lasting a tad longer. Lots of chanting and repeating what the priest would say, throwing Mari golds over the Ganesh (the Hindu elephant) and covering yourself with the light from a flame. At the end we each got blessed and had bracelets tied around our wrists and a dot on our forehead as well as some Indian sweets.
The next day it was off to Pushka! I would be travelling for a further week before starting my placement. Pushka is beautiful. There is a large lake that sits in the centre of the city. It is a holy place and you must remove footwear be in the possession of no alcohol or non-veg food (which I thought was awesome!) and various other non-holy things. We visited the markets where we wondered for hours on end and I brought a ring and some delish street food, a falafel burger for $1! I noticed something about Indian culture that I never knew. Of course I have nothing against this whatsoever but it caught me off guard at first but the men hold hands. And it’s not what it would mean in the western world, it is not considered gay but more of a friendship/protection action. Now I was the one staring. At first I thought they must be gay and thought it was strange how open they were about it in such a heavily religious country but then reaslised every man was doing it, young, old.
The sign at Pushka:
Speaking of religion, we came across a man on the street who was talking to us about his marriage. He was only about 21 but was explaining to us about how when he was 10 his parents came home one day and said they’d found who he was to marry. He obviously didn’t think much about it at the time but when he was 17 his wedding day came. He had to break up with his girlfriend at the time to marry this stranger. It was sad, he was telling us he doesn’t want kids but if he did he would never arrange their marriage for them. I couldn’t even imagine being set up and having no control over who I was to marry. This is how it is with their culture and I assume the children just accept and most even embrace arranged marriages but it saddens me that those who do not wish for it don’t have a choice. Aside from seeing all the poverty on the streets and realising how lucky I was with all my materialistic things and even basic needs, I think this was the first instance where I realsised I was extremely lucky to come from a country and culture that empowered women and the freedom I have that enables me to dictate my own life.
After the usual few million photographs on random people’s phones, we left the markets and settled in for a night at a hotel with beautiful grounds and architecture. Driving to Jaisemer, a long 8hr car ride, was on the agenda for the following day. It was a drive that showcased Rajasthan’s barren desert that stretched beyond the horizon, cows that roamed the middle of the roads, camels that walked the sand dunes, villages that seemed all the same, and the great uneven and bumpy structure of its roads. Once we arrived in Jaisemer it was with great excitement that I realised our hotel was just across the road from a fair, Ferris wheel’s and all! That excitement soon fizzled when the power went out twice which resulted in all the rides stopping mid air. So it was straight to bed.
Hotel in Pushka:
We visited Galdisar lake for sunrise (which was so peaceful and picturesque) then onto Jaisemer fort and it’s markets within. I really enjoyed this fort. The view was spectacular, all of Jaisemer was in view. The markets and residents within the fort also addded another element. I brought a few books from a quaint book store nestled in between the cobble stone alleys. The man who owned the store couldn’t speak and was such a gentle soul. We then went to this beautiful building just down the road from the fort but there were so many tourists inside I felt like a rat in a maze with a million other rats and had to escape. There we were ushered to our car by some children begging, singing frere Jacques and banging on our windows, insisting we spare some change. It’s so confronting when the kids or just beggars in general come up and tap on your window. At many of the toll roads or traffic lights, anywhere you have to stop there are kids singing or men with monkeys on a chain or selling toys outside your window.
Beautiful Galdisar lake:
Jaisemer fort and markets:
View from the top:
That night we were really in the desert. It was amazing, we slept under the stars with the camels and our blankets. I’d never seen so many stars. I saw 3 shooting stars and battled with my eyes to stay open for as long as possible to gaze up at the best bedroom ceiling ever.
Jodhpur was next, After a lunch of ‘green salad’ that ended up being just tomato and red onion, I’ve quickly learnt that that is their interpretation of salad everywhere. More markets with a very sarcastic merchant and an authentic Indian tea and spice shop saw me spend probably more money than I probably should have.
We scaled Mehrangarh fort before heading back to Jaipur. I’m also learning that forts here are like what temples are to Thailand, exist in an excessive amount which end up looking the same very quickly. But with this fort I had an audio guide which made for a more interesting wander as I could learn about the background of it more. My favourite part was the meditation room and of course the stunning architecture. As with any place swarmed with tourists we were asked to take pictures on multiple occasions but now have learnt that we do have the right to refuse! Driving back I noticed the women do everything in their saris. Traffic wardens, farmers, all at work in their sari! Parents also place charcoal under their children’s eyes which makes them look as if they’re wearing eyeliner. I’m not sure what the aim of this is? But it looks So funny having a little baby wearing eyeliner.
Much love, Rose xxx