Forts of Jaipur

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Hello all.  Two weeks ago our program had a mid-summer break, and a few friends and I went to Shimla.  My post on our adventures in the far north of India is taking a while to write, so in the meantime, take a look at my pictures of the three forts in Jaipur:  Amber, Nahraghar, […]

On Christianity, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, and Being Sick in India

This has been an eventful week here in Jaipur.  Last Sunday, I visited the Catholic church with one of the other language students.  In addition to being my first Catholic mass, it was also my first service in another language.  What was striking to me was the uniformity across space and time.  The service was very traditional (as far as I understand) with really the only difference being the language medium.  Afterward I spoke with some of the nuns who run the adjoining English-medium school.  I’m finding it’s easier in India to claim my name is Asha, since that is a name they recognize.  One nun asked if I was Catholic.  When I said I was Protestant, she got worried and immediately asked if I took the Eucharist.  I said no, and she was visibly relieved.

On the fourth, a few friends and I went to Jantar Mantar, which is adjacent to City Palace. The maharajah built a series of astronomical instruments between 1727-1734, and the clocks are very accurate. We then walked over to Hawa Mahal (the Wind Palace) and caught an overhead view of the city.

The following day came the monsoon.  For many, it was a time a rejoicing as the waters were a reprieve from the summer heat (the temperature dropped about 15 degrees instantly).  Our power went out right as we sat down for dinner and did not come back on until it was time for bed.  We spent the evening watching the lightning storm.

The monsoon’s dampness as well as India’s dust finally got to me, and my asthma kicked in.  I went to the doctor on Friday, and I have some kind of respiratory infection.  He gave me antibiotics and cough syrup.  We also had a discussion about needing air conditioning in order to breathe more easily (A/C units take dampness out of the air while trapping allergens in the filter and the cool air is easier to breathe).  So it looks like I will be trying to find another living situation, since issues with dust and heat and dampness (also pollen and mould) aren’t going to change any time soon.  Until then, I’ve checked into the Ramada Inn across the street, since I hadn’t been able to sleep for a few days because of coughing.

That bed feels so divine!

The first thing I did after check in was take a real shower, my first in almost 20 days.  Then I tested the bed, as you can see.  Next I ordered a burger and fruit and Diet Coke from room service, all of which I have been craving for days (especially the fruit).  Everything was so fantastic, I slept in until 1pm the next day!  I think the rest, cool air, and antibiotics are helping considerably.  I still have a wicked cough, but at least I’ve been able to sleep through the night without waking up.

On Saturday I decided to get a massage, particularly since I didn’t have time to get one in the US after the quarter ended (my usual treat to myself).  Let’s just say that American ideas of privacy and touching are very different than here in India.  Though I was a little uncomfortable, everything was okay.  I wish I paid that little for a Swedish massage in the US!

This week we have a mid-summer break.  One of the other students and I are trying to go up to a hill station in the mountains.  Perhaps Shimla, if we can find the right train to take us up there.  I’ll be sure to add pictures next week of wherever I end up going.  Until then, have a good week!


This gallery contains 63 photos.

Yesterday, our program took us on a field trip to Sanganeer, a city known for textiles and industry which has since become incorporated as part of Jaipur.  We visited six places:  a Jain temple, a screen printing factory, the area where fabrics are washed and prepared for sale, a paper factory, a pottery factory, and […]

Daily Life in Jaipur

Sorry for the almost week-long silence, but not much has been happening here.   Though, it’s wedding season in Jaipur.  As I write this, I can hear fireworks from across the street at the Ramada Inn.  Some lucky couple just tied the not; they weren’t the first this week and they won’t be the last.

Every day we get up early (it’s so hot, I cannot sleep past 5:30am), have breakfast, then go to school.  We get there around 9, but class doesn’t start until 11.  The school is air conditioned.  Need I say more?  There are about 10 or so teachers at AIIS, and though we have the same types of classes every week (reading comp, listening, grammar, vocabulary, etc.), the teachers switch around.  We have four classes every day, yummy Indian food lunch (though it’s always vegetarian), and tea time.  After 4, some of us head over to Brewberry’s, the closest thing to an American coffee shop we could find that has wireless internet and air conditioning.  It’s just across the park from our house, and cold bottled water is only 20 rupees (35 cents).  My flatmate and I started walking in the park adjacent to our house to get some exercise, since there are virtually no workout facilities here for women.  After doing homework at Brewberry’s and our walk, we have dinner.  Indians generally eat dinner late, so we eat around 8.  By 9:30-10 I’m ready for bed.  So that’s generally what my days are like here.

I’ve met a lot of interesting people here.  In the program there are over 70 students, and there are about 30 with whom I’m in direct contact.  Students range from undergraduates to graduate students, and we span a wide age range.  I am excited to be here with my friend Tara, with whom I took Elementary Hindi last summer at Berkeley.

A few of the students are Christians, and they have been visiting a Catholic church on Sundays.  Jaipur has a smaller Christian community (most are in South India, not the north), so there aren’t many church choices.  I’m planning on visiting the church this Sunday with them.

It was suggested that we volunteer with an NGO while we are here.  I’m looking for an opportunity to tutor students in English.  You all know how much I love tutoring.  🙂

This Saturday we are taking a trip to Sanganeer (a small town that has become incorporated into Jaipur proper).  This place is well known for their textiles, particularly block printing which put Jaipur on the commercial map.

Some of the students are going to Agra this Sunday to see the Taj Mahal.  I decided not to go for several reasons, but a few of us are trying to find an alternative date to make the trip.

I will try to bring you some more pictures this weekend.  Until then, have a great week!

Old City Jaipur

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Yesterday some of the other language students and I visited the original city of Jaipur.  You can see in the pictures why it was called the Pink City.  We first went to see the City Palace (the pink one), then we saw the Jal Mahal (the palace on the lake).  On the way home, my […]

Buses, Bucket Showers, and Lizards, Oh My!

Namaste friends,

I apologize for the absence, but I finally have internet access in India.  We just finished the first week of classes, and I am now sitting in an air conditioned cafe (the one in Anokhi) with fellow classmates.

Let me bring you up to speed with what’s been happening:

Another student, Alicia, also came late to the program, so we left from Delhi together for Jaipur via bus last Saturday.  It was nice to have a traveling companion, particularly since she’s been to India before and knows much more Hindi than I do.

On the way to Jaipur!

As expected with any long trip (five or so hours), we encountered a big problem:  first, the A/C shut off, then the whole bus broke down!

View outside while bus was broken down.

Alicia and I during the bus breakdown with no A/C! It was crazy hot!

The bus was fixed within about 15 minutes, but the A/C didn’t work again.  😦

Here’s a view of my bed.

We arrived in Jaipur around 4 and were immediately taken to see possible living situations.  We viewed a few (somewhat sketchy) apartments and one home stay family.  Luckily the family had two rooms available, so Alicia and I decided to stay with them.  The family is really nice.  Our Jaipur family consists of a mother and father and a sister and brother.  The kids are older teens, and both go to Rajasthan University.  We eat breakfast and dinner with our host parents every day.  Alicia and I have two rooms and a bathroom in the ground floor of a two-storey house.

This is the view into my room (from Alicia’s door)

This is a view of our bathroom.  Though there is a shower head, it doesn’t work as well as desired.  So we’ve been bucket showering it!

Though Alicia and I have separate rooms, I do in fact have roommates in my room:

Lizard from behind one of my curtains yesterday. Why?!

Anyone who knew me as a kid can guess how I reacted to having critters in my room.  Yes, I do squeal every time I see one, and sometimes I quickly jump onto my bed.

From the first day of school. Please ignore my shiny face and crazy hair. I haven’t figured out how to fix those problems yet.

The other students had an orientation at the end of last week, so Alicia and I were a bit behind on our first day of school on Monday.  It took a few days to figure out what was exactly expected of us and how the program works.  My classes in intermediate Hindi include grammar, conversation, listening comprehension, journal writing, vocabulary, among other things.  My biggest problems are with spoken Hindi, as my general focus in on translation.  Hopefully I can start understanding people and coming up with good ways of expressing myself within a week or so.  Also, though our host father speaks English, our host mother does not, so this forces me to listen and try to communicate with her.  The program is about 10 weeks long (if one includes the orientation time), so we will be finished on August 17.

It’s really hot in Jaipur this time of year (over 100 degrees during the day, and around 100 at night), and most places do not have air conditioning, including our house.  There are a few places where we can find reprieve (the school and our local coffee house are nice and cold), so we tend to spend as much time at such places as possible.  The temperatures should change in the next week or so, as monsoon season will be beginning.  Our host father said that it has already started raining in Mumbai.

It’s also an interesting time to be an American in India for a few reasons.  First, the rupee to dollar exchange has been changing drastically, so it will be interesting to see what happens to the Indian economy by the end of the summer.  Also, some elections will be coming up in the next month, so the political climate may be changing with the rains.

Temple celebration for Vishnu

The other night our host father informed us that there was a several-day-long celebration for Vishnu happening at a nearby temple.  He told us that it was very beautiful, so we decided to check it out.

Here are a few pictures of the temple (below) and the celebration singer (above).

Well, that’s all I have for you for now.  We have some cool plans on the horizon, including a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra and possibly visiting a tiger reserve nearby.  I’ll be sure to take pictures if and when we go to such places.  Until then, I hope all is well with you, and please drink some Diet Coke for me, as that is one of the things I miss the most from the US.

फिर मिलेंगे!  बहुत प्यार!

Namaskar from Delhi!

Greetings everyone,

After a total of 24 hours of being either in an airport or on a plane, I arrived in Delhi today. First of all, Virgin Atlantic is now my favorite airline. And on the London-Delhi leg, I was bumped up a class. Champagne and leather seats? Socks and a footrest? Yes, please.  I didn’t see anything of London apart from Heathrow, as my layover wasn’t long enough to leave but was just long enough to be very tedious.  I stopped off at an airport lounge to have a British pie and tea.  And while there, I made a new friend, another lone traveler/student on a long layover.

Spinach and Lentil Pie with Mashed Carrot and Potato Topping. Yum.

Delhi was a shock to the system after 70 degree California and cold, rainy London.  But I will say this, the drive from the airport was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had.  Why can’t I drive that way in California?  Obviously, traffic laws are more like a suggestion.

Tried to take a pic of the cool apartment building, but the bus got in the way!

Tonight I will be staying at the AIIS guesthouse, and then we (another late-comer and I) will be leaving for Jaipur by bus tomorrow.  After getting settled (i.e. the first shower after two overnight flights), I found that there are two other students staying in the house.  We decided to go shopping.  First we hit McDonalds (Indian style):

Checking out the corner Mickey D’s!

Spicy Paneer Burger. It was spicy and surprisingly delicious. We should have these veg options in the US!

We also did some clothes shopping.  The guys didn’t find anything at fabindia, but I sure did!  I bought four outfits (long kurta, pants, scarf).  Hopefully I won’t get all of the weird stares like I’ve gotten all day.

My first purchase in India! 4 outfits.

That’s all for now.  I’m about to sit down to a full Indian dinner.

फिर मिलेंगे!  बहुत प्यार!