Let me start you off with the highlight of my week. We are about to board our train to return to Jaipur and my friend and I both have to go the bathroom. We board the train and head straight to the eastern toilets. I was about to go back to my seat when Audrey flings open the door laughing, yelling, and hopping on one foot with only one shoe to be seen. What happened? She took a wrong step and fell down the toilet shoot and lost her Birkenstock to the tracks! Dying laughing, a few of us spill out of the train alongside Audrey, still hopping on one foot, creating a hysterical scene for everyone on the platform. The shoe could be seen under the train, and after a minute, another citizen who was riding our train generously hopped down climbed under and retrieved her shoe.
It was too funny.
Our journey home continued with not enough beds for all 20+ of us, so a few adjustments were made with two people in on a beds and blankets on floors!
Anyways. Another week in India has passed, only a day away from one month! Last week, we started out our travels at Vendana Shiva’s farm, Navdanya (nine seeds or new seeds), which I will dedicate an entire blog post to later probably. It was interesting how many of the same sustainable agricultural practices that I have seen in the US being applied there and promoted across India. Some rough stats are : 70% of employment is in the agricultural industry and only about 10% of those farmers grow their crops organically. Navdanya’s main focus is seed saving. (they had about 600 varieties of rice seeds there!)
From there, we visited Gujjar tribal community. We had quite a frightening bus ride along a winding rocky road. I think that most of my nerves came from the fact that we had just re inflated our tire with a slow leak before embarking on this journey and that you could see the ground through the rusted out holes beneath our feet. It was a thrilling ride and we arrived at a gorgeous village surrounded by wheat fields and alongside a wide river.
We hung out with the kids for a bit and then ate a wonderful lunch and some sweet, sweet chai that they had prepared for us.
It was difficult to visit a community and to leave so soon, especially when it functions so differently than any community I have been apart of. I realized that the experience left me with an unsatisfied feeling, because I want to be traveling to get to know places, people and cultures, not just glimpse at them. In the larger picture of this abroad experience, I am sure that these smaller experiences, that I am craving more from, will merge together to create a deeper understanding of India than I am realizing now. I just need to keep reminding myself that I cannot understand, see, or know all of India at once, it’ll come slowly, day by day. Anyways, at the rate I am going, it’s pretty clear that I have already invested too much time in this region of the world for it to end after this semester. I’ve got the rest of my life to keep exploring this mystical place.
One of the most difficult parts of this experience may be balancing getting to know the many members in my group, getting to know India alongside a group of Americans, and getting to know India for myself.
A couple of days later, we traveled to Rishikesh, “The Yoga Capital of the World”. It is a pretty amazing place, mostly due to the fact the Ganges, the holy river of India passes through. We arrived in time to see the sun set and the evening hindu ceremony to take place.
In the morning, a couple of us woke up just after the sun rise to sit by the river, enjoy some breakfast, and to take a yoga class at an ashram. I’ve got to say, the brisk breeze off the water chilled the surface of my skin and reminded me of how much I miss Portland, ME.
Now, back in Jaipur, the days are a bit more consistent, which is nice. I am learning to accept that many of expectations and assumptions that I subconsciously established about India, are not always true. I am coming to terms with the fact that I don’t need to deny western culture here, but rather I must try my best to adapt to this culture. Are you ready for another analogy? (Hopefully the entire previous post about biking didn’t turn you off too much) India can be looked at as a large and colorful puzzle. When you travel here, you can’t expect to fit into the picture, because you are a piece from a different box. Over time however, as you’re jostled around in the wrong box, your edges wear down and you might appear to almost fit in. Never will you fit in perfectly, but that’s how the story goes.
Today I drank coffee, ate a salad, browsed in a bookstore (where the Governor of the state and his security guards happened to be), and had toilet paper in every bathroom I used. A week ago that would have made me uneasy, but I am starting to see that it is not necessary to deny all things that are a part of the developing India. I experienced a part of India that I didn’t expect to see here, a part that is very similar to an American lifestyle.
Farewell for now, it’s time to learn some Hindi.