This past week we went on our second excursion as a group. We spent the beginning of the week scrambling to get our lives together before we left the city. On Tuesday I attempted to visit an organization for an interview but was never able to find the place. On the plus side, I did get a serendipitous tour of a neighborhood I had never visited before.
On Wednesday morning we left for our excursion. We rode on the bus for a few hours until we reached a town called Tilonia, where Barefoot College is located. Broadly, the college is an intervention made “by the poor, for the poor” that endeavors to teach rural people relevant skills that will benefit the community and not require them to acquire a formal education. We were able to meet some of the “unschooled” personnel at the college, including doctors and solar engineers. They have an international program called the “Solar Mamas” that empowers women by teaching them how to solar-electrify their own villages and bring those skills back home.
Later that evening we had dinner on the campus and then headed off to visit some of the night schools the organization supports for rural children. We taught the kids the timeless classic “Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes,” and they sang us some songs in Hindi in return. By the time we got to our hotel, which happened to be a decadent heritage hotel, we had been up for far too many hours and our heads quickly hit the pillow.
In the morning we went back to Barefoot College and learned about a few more sections of their organization, such as the community radio station. After having lunch, we began our journey to Jodhpur. It was an enjoyable six-hour journey despite the fact that a large bump in the road unexpectedly launched me at least three feet into the air. After we arrived at our hotel, we took our hungry selves out to dinner. I ordered some delicious pesto pasta, continuing our trend of indulging in non-Indian food whenever we travel. The hotel we stayed at was more like a villa, complete with open courtyards and a swimming pool which we made good use of. Our suite was the “pool house,” and we were blessed with extravagantly large bathrooms.
On Friday we talked with a woman from an organization called Shikshantar, which works to provide radical alternatives to the current system of education. She unmercifully attacked the education system, which was challenging for many of us who have been profoundly shaped by education to hear. Later we heard from a man who works with Pakistani refugees in India in preparation for our visit to a refugee settlement the following day.
Thankfully, we had the rest of the afternoon off. We journeyed to a stylish restaurant overlooking a lake and sampled some delicious local cuisine. Afterwards we went to a fort, but didn’t go in because it was too expensive. (An exorbitant seven dollars). We did get a lovely view of the city and were able to walk down through the vibrant blue buildings and visit some artisan shops. When we got back to the hotel, we quickly jumped in the refreshingly cool swimming pool and floated away our blues.
Subsequently, we went to a restaurant called On the Rocks for our night of “clubbing.” The food was delicious, with many comforting continental options. After dinner had our first and last experience of Indian nightlife. The staff had gotten a private room for us to dance in, complete with flashy lights and a DJ (who was not very good). It was hot and sweaty, but we all had a blast nonetheless
On Saturday we had another meeting with the woman from Shikshantar. We were able to air some of our concerns about her work and some of our feelings of angst subsided. After lunch we visited the settlement where the Pakistani refugees live. We were given the chance to interview some of the residents, but it was very challenging to take in everything when we were surrounded by so many curious faces. When our time was up the whole community walked us back to our bus and many of the children shook our hands and wished us well. I always enjoy spending time with children the most, even though communication can be difficult.
That evening we needed some time to relax so we got take-out and watched a movie in our room. I ordered Chinese (obviously) and we watched How to Train Your Dragon. It was exactly what I needed. On Sunday we had one last free afternoon so we visited the City Palace. All of the artwork was beautiful and contained and interesting mix of Eastern and Western influence. We spent our remaining time in the Blue City relaxing by the pool until we were finally dragged away. We took the train back to Jaipur and finally reached our respective homes sometime after midnight. It was a simultaneously a taxing and enjoyable trip, and I am now sadly realizing how little time we have left in Jaipur.
Until next time,
A traveling fool