Thursday, June 4, 2009

Week One and Two in Jaipur Inida

*I want to let you all know that this is a long note, so I have organized it into sections if you feel you only want to know about a few subjects. Feel free to send me any questions and I’ll get back to you as soon! My email: or you know, you can always facebook as well

First impressions!
Well hello! Sorry I haven’t written anything since I’ve been here. I’ve been here for two weeks and things overall are pretty well. I’ll start with the obvious, it’s HOT here! My first week was 114 degrees, and there was no A/C, just fans, in my office and at home. Thankfully Monsoon season is quickly approaching so even this week the weather has dropped to 108 degrees during the day – And you really can feel the difference! Lately it has been storming just slightly before nightfall, the weather feels so great right after the rain! I swear if feels like it is in the upper 70’s but it’s probably much closer to somewhere in the low 90’s! Once the Monsoon hits we’ll get more rain; but I’ve been told that it’s not heavy rainfall, but it will be nonstop for days at a time. The temperature will be more comfortable but I’m not looking forward to walking in the streets: All the dirt, dust and trash with the combination of constant water does not add up to a pretty picture!

My first day was very welcoming and quite different from any of the other trainees’ experiences. I was picked up at the Jaipur Airport after a long 9 hour layover in Delhi. It was still early so Sahil (My AIESEC manager here in India) brought me from the airport to his house for breakfast. I was welcomed into his home (and India) with the traditional Tilak painted onto my forehead and flowers tossed above me at my arrival. We had a wide selection of Indian food for breakfast alongside (filtered) water and tea. Tea in India is served premixed with milk, sugar, and spices. After breakfast they offered me a bed to nap in before heading over to my trainee house, which would usually be my first stop after arriving to Jaipur. So I guess I really lucked out with getting Sahil!

Trainee House
I recently switched houses because my work office moved this week into the same neighborhood of another trainee house. In my last house I share it with 2 other girls: Emily from Canada and Shoko from Japan. The new house has 14 trainees right as of now, but I’m told that 5 more will be coming! There are plusses and minuses to go along with each house. At the old house we had no cooler (somewhat like A/C) and no internet. But out house had a servant (from the untouchable caste, which is still very prevalent and important in India today) who lived in our house. He would cook us dinner and pack us a lunch for work each day! I now miss that because one) I can’t cook in the first place, and two) cooking Indian food is impossible because there is no such thing a curry, but rather a million different spices added at different processes of the cooking, oh and the bread is all made by hand as well! The New house is equipped with the old house’s missing features but now I must cook for myself. My lunch is now consisting of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and raw green beans or a banana.

The traffic here is unreal! I really don’t think rules exist and the painted white lane lines are apparently invisible to everyone but me. It seems as if every driver has the tendency to accelerate straight into oncoming traffic only to pass on the left side at the very last second. Helmets are only worn by the driver and you can often see families with small children riding the on these motorbikes, the baby just barely being held on to…. Vehicle share the roads (highways and all) with cows, camels, elephants, dogs, cats, and sometimes even monkeys. I have already started to find it normal to pass Cows, which are owned by no one, and Camels pulling carts filled with fruit or some other type of merchandise. Elephants are not seen as frequent, they are mostly in the touristic sights or on the outskirts of the city.

Indian food is wonderful! I’m trying more things than I would ever even think about touching at home. Often times I don’t ask what it is until after I’ve tried it and I’ve only refused to try one thing, salted milk, so I’d say I’m doing fairly well. Overall the food is pretty spicy but it’s defiantly a different kind of spicy then back home: it has a distinct flavor. After trying the yogurt here once (and already not liking yogurt back home) I’ve not been able to turn it down. The electricity is not reliable and food goes bad very quickly so you need to be extra careful with dairy products. The yogurt is usually curded and unflavored, but salt or sugar can be added. I haven’t had any meat. I thought that I would still be able to get chicken and lamb but I have found it very hard and the few places that I have found defiantly do not look up to western health codes! Some of the other Trainees went to McDonalds the other day; apparently you can get Big Macs and all, though every burger is substituting the beef with Chicken burgers instead!

*I really don’t mean to offend anyone, I want to make it clear that I am generalizing an entire city which is really rather impossible to do so accurately. So please understand that there is a minority here that dresses much like western countries.
The men here do dress fairly comparable to western style, that is, if we still took our pieces from the 70’s (I do know someone who would love it if we did this though). Jeans are becoming more popular but mostly tight slacks are worn, far too high to be comfortable, with a tucked in button-up shirt. The men’s clothing pretty is pretty bland. Browns are the color of choice, which might not be too bad of choice for hiding the dust and dirt when not able to wash clothing every day. The women’s clothing on the other hand is the complete opposite. They wear traditional clothing: saris and a two piece variation of the sari. These come in the most beautiful bright colors and matching patterns. Some have bead work or embroidery on them as well. The night Saris are even more detailed, they shimmer with every movement of the light! I find it hard to understand the social acceptance for a woman’s stomach to be shown almost completely in the Sari, yet showing shoulders or knees is generally not accepted. So here I am stuck wearing jeans and a T-shirt with a long-sleeved light button-up overtop most days and yet I am still stared at because I am white and an obvious foreigner! It’s quite unsafe alone at night here. Even Indian women do not go out without a male past 8 pm. This makes socializing and getting to know the city pretty difficult as we are all working until 5 or later. We do travel as a group often and then run into no problems just the all too common annoying looks and jeers from men.

I must say I was expecting a lot more people to be speaking English here, as I was told that it would not at all be a problem. Sure in the tourist parts of the city (the Pink City) English is widely spoken, especially went you want to buy something… But in the neighborhoods where they are not used to foreigners it is much more difficult. I am finding Hindi to be very difficult as well. I cannot pronounce anything right! This makes even getting an auto rickshaw (taxi) home and negotiating on a price somewhat of a challenge each day! What I have learned and can say well enough for people to understand me as of now: Hello. Good morning. No. How are you? My name is Kaitlyn. Go away. Thank you (I say thank you in Urdu because it is easier for me to pronounce then the word in Hindi and thank you is one of the words in Urdu that is equally understood Rajasthan, this state of India).


à This is a picture of the computer project we’ve been working on in the government schools à
The first week of work was very typical of other trainee experiences. For three days or so I read about the organization I am working for. After I finished, and sat around for a day, I was able to go to a few of the schools in the slums and take a look at one of the main projects we are involved with right now. We have set up Playground learning centers outside of the schools, the centers consist of two computers built into the walls outside of the school. The Children, as well as the community, are able to use the internet, play games, and practice the material given in their lessons. After these visits I wrote a field report on what I saw and the responses from the children, community members, and teachers. I was also asked to write a skit for the children to perform for their community so that together can inform community members on the work we are doing and how it is profiting the community as a whole with the intention that if they understands the importance of the education their children are receiving, there will be less drop-outs and less child laborers. I have also been working on creating a 6 month report on this project, taking information from previous reports, papers, interviews, field observations, and statistical data.

The Monkey Temple
The Monkey Temple (not really called the monkey temple) has hundreds of monkeys roaming the hills, pools, trees, and buildings of this temple. We walked the hills and were able to feed the monkeys, though tried to stay away from the larger and older monkeys as they had learned to be more aggressive. But otherwise it was nice. We fed them peanuts, but other people were coming with ‘donations’ like fruits to feed the monkeys as some believe it is part of their religious duty. There were also Cow, dogs, goats, and a few homeless people roaming the place. The picture is of a car that drove through to offer fruit to the monkeys.

Agra: Taj Mahal
I am posting pictures… but really they do not even compare to the sight that we saw! This is truly a place worth seeing! To walk barefoot on the marble floors and to understand the labor put into the structure you’re staring at, walking on, or surrounded by! It’s absolutely breathtaking! Anyway I try to describe the Taj Mahal would not come even close to representation so I will just leave it at this: The Taj was so unreal, I can honestly say I had Goosebumps staring at the beautiful structure while feeling a great amount of peace and awe!

Well I need to really leave it at that. I’ll write again within a week. This weekend we’re renting a bus and traveling twelve hours to the south of Rajasthan!

Sending my love,