Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pancakes in Udaipur

Independent Student Travel was quite an adventure! Julia, Katie, and I went to Udaipur for the weekend and it ended up being possibly my favorite place so far.
The weekend didn't start out so great, though... it actually started out with what was probably the most miserable night of my life. It was traumatizing. We took an overnight train and the horror of that night will never be forgotten. First our train was delayed by like 3 hours until 12:30 AM so we just hung out at the train station waiting. Basically the train was just extremely uncomfortable and REALLY REALLY cold. There were these 3-bunk-beds with really small little pad things on them. It was too small for me to curl up so I struggled to retain body heat and by the time we arrived in Udaipur the next morning my whole lower body was ACHING with the cold. I was basically convulsing with shivers and could see my breath and hadn't moved for the whole ride because I didn't want to change positions and touch a cold part of the mattress pad. I was very concerned about frostbite.

So after that eventful night, it was kind of an out of body experience when the three of us arrived at our hotel which was SO nice and sat down at the rooftop restaurant in the sunlight and ordered - surprise - chocolate pancakes! I have been dreaming about pancakes for a couple weeks now so that was perfect. Slowly I began to believe that this might be a world where I could be happy again. And sure enough, the next couple days were amazing.
We ordered chocolate pancakes every morning (and possibly for lunch one afternoon though you can't prove that). We wandered around Udaipur browsing the markets and buying random souvenirs that I don't really need. We stopped in to many rooftop cafes with beautiful views of the famous Udaipur lake. I mentioned in the last post that a James Bond movie was filmed in Udaipur and pretty much every restaurant claimed to be playing it in the evening but no one ever played it. It was OK though because the food was so good. We tried to visit the City Palace but didn't want to give our cameras to the security people so we just viewed it from the outside. We thoroughly enjoyed our hotel which had comfy beds, a real shower with warm water, AND hbo on TV. It was a very relaxing, scenic weekend. Perfect in every way minus the death train.

In other news, my beginners group at the computer class has moved from mastering control of the mouse to inserting tables into microsoft word. I'm very proud. This is a picture of Asha and me - she is one of my new students who loves the camera.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jaipur *headbob*

So it's been about three weeks since my last post I think, and Jaipur has continued to grow on me. We've done a lot of sightseeing on weekends - I'm pretty sure we've visited almost every major attraction such as Hawa Mahal, Janta Mantar, the City Palace, Albert Hall, Amber Fort... all beautiful. Our host mom took us to Bapu Bazaar, a market in the Old City, and helped us barter with all the shop owners. We went at night and the market was all lit up and busy and loud and crammed with stuff to buy, it was awesome. I have continued to foster my growing love of Indian food, SO GOOD, and we're taking a cooking class in one of the coming weekends. I'm obsessed with warm chapatis and lentils and pineapple and different sauce things that I can never remember the name of.

We started up our work project. Karelle, Julia, and I are working at a women's empowerment center teaching computer literacy women and young girls. It has been fun getting to know the women and we've found out that they hope to apply for jobs with their computer skills or teach them to their children. It's really challenging sometimes because the communication is a bit strained - I'm working with the group of women who are least experienced with computers who also happen to have the least experience with English. But they are all really sweet ladies and they make me laugh. I make them laugh, too, since they make me sing Hindi songs that I don't know the words to for them at least once a week, it's kind of awful.

We also are "beautifying" a school room at one of the government schools, basically repainting and cleaning and possibly doing another mural. We keep pretty busy.

Last weekend was Jaipur's kite festival. We spent the day on the roof with our host family. It was an incredible experience - all our neighbors were out on their roofs too and we put down a sheet so we could lie back and watch the colorful kites that were flying everywhere. It was like stargazing, the more you looked, the more you saw. So beautiful! We had a picnic lunch up there on the roof, too, including festive food like POPCORN and these delicious lentil ball things. Our host family tried to teach us to fly a few kites but it was really difficult - they don't use the nice structured kites we're used to but just tissue paper kites with wooden frames. The next day kites were all over the streets and in the trees.

We also got henna'd. A woman from IDEX gave us all beautiful designs that go up to our elbows and down all our fingers. It's supposed to last for two weeks - it's really cool but I keep looking down and being caught off guard by my ink, so not used to my tattoo. It is awesome, though.

And OK, this all sounds great, but there are two things I have to complain about, I just need to vent, sorry. The tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) drivers here drive me CRAZY! They are infuriating. They always try to rip Julia and me off, charging crazy prices, and when we refuse they just drive away without even looking at us, it's really annoying because sometimes it'll take like 15 minutes just to get a ride somewhere. Plus the driving in this city is out of control, once our tuk-tuk driver hit a motorcycle and they guy fell off and we just kept driving. "Wasn't my fault," he said. Cool. Also, we signed up for the gym near our house which is called Veight Watchers with a "V" and it's nice that we have a gym but the staff there are always hovering over us and won't leave us alone and they also won't let you use a machine for more than 15 minutes at a time. The first time one of the staff guys tried to get me to move I pretended not to see him trying to get my attention behind me... it only worked for a couple of minutes before I had to acknowledge him. Well anyway everything else is great.

IST is coming up and Julia, Katie, and I are going to Udaipur. I'm very excited - a James Bond movie was filmed there once and it looks awesome on google images... It's also known as "Venice of the East" because it's built around some huge waterways. I'll report back on how the weekend goes!