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Photo by Caleb Brooks

W̶i̶n̶t̶e̶r̶ Wonderland

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens; Brown paper packages tied up with strings; These are a few of Julie Andrews’ favorite things.

With Christmas fast approaching, I am making sure to get in the merry mood by playing nonstop carols whenever I have the chance. In fact, I am currently listening to Andy Williams and trying to remind myself that it actually is the most wonderful time of the year despite the barely chilly temperatures and general lack of Christmas decorations. Although listening to carols makes me a wee bit homesick (my family goes HARD when it comes to listening to carols), I would never be able to get myself in good spirits without them. Of course, they will not be able to fully make it feel like it’s totally Christmas because there’s no place like home for the holidays, something which the Carpenters are cruelly reminding me at the moment. But since I am in this strange sort of holiday spirit limbo emotionally, I began thinking about the things that have made Udaipur feel more like home to me.


What are my favorite things, Julie Andrews?


With this question in mind, I set out to think of what my favorite parts of Udaipur have been thus far, and what thing I will miss the most when I am finally no longer dreaming of a white Christmas. After some brainstorming, I believe I have come up with a few of the many things that I love most about my home in India.


My Homestay Fam

I could never and would never post this Yak if I did not mention my homestay family. I count myself so, so fortunate to be surrounded by a family who makes each and every day so enjoyable. Mumi, Sunny, Ashok, Puja, and Ira have all welcomed me with open hearts and arms, and every day I realize how much I will miss them when I finally have to leave. We may not be the most traditional family, but I think this gives the whole home environment a great vibe where every person can fully enjoy their independence but also come together as a family on the daily. I can always count on them for anything, and it is an added plus that I can always visit Sunny at his restaurant, Millets of Mewar, if I am ever in need of some ridiculously good food while in the Old City. Although they may not celebrate Christmas and I will be gone during Christmas day, I will make sure to share that Christmas cheer with them and let them know what the holiday is all about.


Gold’s Gym Udaipur

Let me make it clear how little I have enjoyed going to the gym throughout my life. I did not like the gym. At all. I’m serious. Of course, if you were to ask anyone in our group now, they would probably say I enjoy going to the gym and working out a little too much. I see no issue with only talking about protein, eating an excessive amount of food in hopes of “getting swole”, or preferring to visit Gold’s instead of hanging out with the group. No problems at all. But all jokes aside, I have found another home away from home away from home (not a typo) in Gold’s. I never realized that making gym buddies was actually something that happened, but I can now definitively say it does. I have met some great guys there, and also get the added benefit of feeling in much better shape than I did during my first two months in India. I’m obviously going to continue working out once I get back home, but I will always miss the people who I see on a daily basis at the gym as we all try to show off our gains and shamelessly flex in front of the mirror.


The Thali Place

For those of you who may not know, a thali is probably the best all-around thing you could order at any Indian restaurant. Each place makes it in their own unique way, but you can always count on thalis having some great daal (lentils) and a good range of sabzi (vegetables; pronounced sab-ji though, which confused me at first). Finish that off with some chutney and roti, and you have got yourself a fantastic meal. But not all thalis are created equal. This is where The Thali Place comes in. Notice that I call it The Thali Place, not just A Thali Place. This is in part because I do not actually know the name of the restaurant, but also because it is undoubtedly the best thali in Udaipur. You can quote me on that. This is without question my favorite nearby spot to get lunch any day of the week. Whether I’m still hungry after program house lunch or just need a snack, The Thali Place will have unlimited daal, sabzi, roti, and chaach (buttermilk) for the fine price of Rs. 100. The owner, PK, is a great guy who just makes the place feel very warm and homey. At this point, I think I’ve established myself as a regular, which may or may not be great for PK since I tend to eat between 8-12 roti and 3-4 servings of food every time I visit. I think I’m also slowly converting the rest of the group to The Thali Place,  so I am happy to say it is something we can share together.


Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral

I have been to many a church in my day. Whether I am on vacation with my family or just a little too far from home to make it to our regular church, we always find time on Sundays for God regardless of where we are. But that was all in predominantly Christian countries. In India, I had some concerns that I might not be able to find a consistent place of worship on Sundays. But before I even had time to worry that I might not find a Catholic church, I was able to find Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral, a relatively large church just a 15 minute bike ride away from my house. Although it is not nearly as large and grandiose as many of the other churches I have visited, it has welcomed me in a way that no other vacation church ever has. Now, Sijbren and I have made it our priority to spend our Sunday mornings at Our Lady Fatima, whether we are attending the English mass or the significantly longer and harder to understand Hindi mass. Not only have we met many of the local catholics, but have also had run ins with a few tourists and visitors to Udaipur who were able to pay Our Lady of Fatima a visit. And of course, our Sundays are never complete until we bike another ten minutes after mass to the Lake City Mall and indulge in an unhealthy amount of KFC. I guess now you know why I go to the gym so much.


Although it may not be beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Udaipur, it sure is reverberating a lot of the warmth that I feel back at home during the Christmas season. There’s something about Christmas time makes everything just that much better, and even this far from home it still gives me a great deal of joy to be in the Christmas season. I may not be able to say “Feliz Navidad” to my family in person, but I can share those same words and sentiment with the people around me here. I really have found a home in Udaipur and a family in all the people I have met; and despite the incredibly forced Christmas carol puns in this Yak, I must say that I know next year I will for sure be able to say that I gave my heart to some special people during my first and last Christmas in Udaipur.