First Post from Jaipur

 Posted by Brooke Ramsay at 1:09 pm  India
May 132011

What an adventure this has been already. My senses are overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, smells, and temperature of Jaipur. Poverty (as I have never seen it before) amongst grand buildings, incredibly busy streets (taking a bit of getting used to) with constant honking (I think around here it’s less rude than it is somewhat courteous… to say “I’m coming! Get out of the way!), an odour that comes and goes in different areas, of garbage and urine and cows, and 47 degree (Celcius) heat are just some of the myriad of completely new experiences for me. I can’t comprehend a place more different than Canada. I am definitely still adjusting to the culture shock, and yesterday shopping at “Big Bazaar” was quite good for my spirits- inside was my first encounter with air conditioning here, there was music playing, and I purchased Sunkist juice! What a funny place to feel at home (it had the air of a Walmart), but there was comfort in familiarity.

There has been so much going on the past few days- so far have been to a few bazaars, two days of volunteer training, and a cricket match. Amongst all that, bucket-washing my clothes, showering also from a tap and bucket, and getting to know the 20-30 other volunteers staying here at the Idex camp- many from Germany, a couple from the US, and more from Switzerland and the UK. The staff is so friendly, and while communication is not easy, it is so nice to visit with them. A young man, Pramod, has taken special care of us, walking Marie and I and helping  us bargain for our first “tuk-tuk” ride alone, and making sure we get enough to eat. He gave me a gift today- noticing I didn’t have sunglasses the other day, he has given me some aviators! I was quite touched by this. All of the Indian people are so social- even on the plane here, people would just strike up a conversation, asking Marie and I everything about ourselves and our trip! It would be nice if in Canada people were so friendly!

Now the cricket match was quite an experience. One of the volunteers from Britian organized this outing for all of us, so 18 volunteers piled into three tuk-tuks (gasoline-powered rickshaws, without windows, sort of golf-cart style transportation) and traveled to Sawai Mansingh Stadium to watch Rajasthan (the largest state in India, where Jaipur is located) play Bangalore. When we got there, we walked through gated lanes towards a security  point. I was near the front of the line upon finding my camera in my fanny pack, the female security guard said, “Not allowed”.. I couldn’t get into the game! All of the other girls behind me, though, also had cameras. What a shame it would be for us to have to turn back! After some pleading, we somehow got told to “run for it”… none of the rest of our group was checked, we simply all went in a mass through the security. We had made it! But then, another security point! At this one, the men and women broke into separate groups (I was embarassed to first go into the wrong line!). The men passed through without being searched, but all women went behind screens where two women patted- like REALLY patted us down. Again, they found our cameras, sunscreen, deodorant, and gum… and none of these were to be allowed! Some of the girls were able to get their cameras through, but many had to throw away the other items, told that they could use them to “throw” if a riot broke out! (Now I was alarmed at the suggested frequency of riots!). I was pleased to keep all my items- I had a unique experience that while I was being checked, one of the head officers, a male, came behind the sheet and told the women, “She is a friend of India, here to visit so she goes through.” Well… things are certainly done differently in this country!

I quite enjoyed the match, although it was about four hours! I did not know the rules of cricket, but they were explained to us, and we cheered right along with the crowds when Rajasthan scored fours and sixes! We made up probably 90% of the female fans there, I only saw one woman at the game, with who I assumed to be her husband. The males were having a great time! Whenever music would come on, many were standing on their seats, dancing like crazy- hip-shaking, hand-waving dancing. I tried to imagine this happening at a hockey game at home… never! Us girls got into it as well, we painted blue across our cheeks (the home team colour) and many were given team flags by men in the stands. The stares at the game were constant, as they are every time we are out on the street, really. At first the staring was a bit unnerving, but I have gotten more used to it. At the game, these same men and boys who were staring, eventually visited us- asking what countries we were from, our names, even if we were “on Facebook”. Once again, I was struck by the outgoing nature of the Indian people. They just wanted to learn about us, and joke with us, and definitely did so without shame!

 Today I am off for my first day of volunteer work. Unfortunately, myself and the two ladies I am volunteering alongside (a 42 year old from Spain and an Irish girl I assume to be around my age) have not such a good shift! We will be working during the hottest hours of the day- 12-4. We have a twenty minute tuk-tuk ride to the particular slum we are working in. I visited it yesterday, and the ‘classroom’ where we will be teaching English is about the size of  a North American master bathroom. I am feeling anxious and definitely a bit nervous for this first day, and meeting the women which I hope to learn from, and teach.

Hopefully this entry was not terribly long… I will try to keep my posts relatively short so that the reader does not fall asleep! =) I look forward to writing about the specific volunteer work soon. As it is Friday, I will wait until next week, when I will be more familiar with the situation, to try to explain it to others. This weekend will be full of some touring around the massive city of Jaipur.



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