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A woman sitting in a chair at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind) in Jaipur, India. Photo by Eliana Rothwell (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist).

From Varanasi to Rajasthan

On Monday, December 11th, we left Varanasi. It was two weeks before our expected departure and one week after we found out we would be leaving Varanasi for two months, rather than three weeks. The pollution levels in Varanasi had been hazardous for almost a month and we needed to leave until they drop to a safe level. While I, along with the rest of the group, was originally very upset to be leaving my life, homestay family, and the service site, we soon discovered how much we would love Rajasthan.

We left on an overnight train, arriving in Jaipur the next morning around noon. From there, we headed to our lodgings, a beautiful house with very nice bathrooms. There, we ate dinner and stayed up watching a Bollywood movie about girl’s field hockey and playing a trivia game. The next morning we spent time in a park playing games and exploring before taking another train to Udaipur. We arrived that night and headed off to our hotel. Over the next four days, we explored India’s most romantic city.

We went on a “Wisdom Walk” of the city, which showed us the non-touristy spots and gave us a better feel for the city. We visited The City Palace, a must see spot in Udaipur; unfortunately, we discovered the prince was married last year, squashing our dreams for the Paris of India. We played games on the roof of our hotel. We visited an NGO, Jagran, where we learned about their work preserving traditional medicine, which is being overtaken by western medicine. We visited a village to meet with women who sew clothes for a fair trade business, giving them more financial freedom, and hear their stories.

While in Udaipur, we also spent many of our meals at the Millets of Mewar restaurant, where the meals organic, mostly vegan and low in oil, not to mention insanely delicious. I highly recommend the Lemon Rice, the Pad Thai, and the Millet Cookies (a type of grain that is very healthy). While we were there, they helped us make millet muffins and latkes for Hanukah.

On Sunday, December 17th, we left Udaipur and headed to a village two hours away. In Kotri Village, we stayed at a beautiful haveli. While there, we toured the village, had discussions on caste and religion, and studied skills, which included embroidery, tailoring, and brick making. One of the days we drove to a nearby village to do pottery. We have also assisted in the meal preparation. I’m proud of say that my rolling of chapattis has significantly improved, even if they still look like blobs instead of circles. We even had a sari and turban wrapping competition! Our evenings have also consisted of many rounds of the card game “President.” We have just arrived in Jodhpur and are starting our student excursion. We will see where that takes us!