katrinasadventures' Travel Journals


  • From Massachusetts, United States
  • Currently in Jakarta, Indonesia

Fall 2009: Northwest India

Join Katrina as she shares her adventures, stories and feelings throughout her journey across India's spiritual land. Traveling with a consortium of New York Schools (Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Hobart and William Smith, and Colgate), Katrina will spend time in various locations, such as Musoorie, Delhi, Jaipur, and Varanasi.

WWOOFing Week

India Jaipur, India  |  Nov 27, 2009
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Sun, Nov 22nd:

After the last night in my bed, I woke up to pack and organize my things.  Lisa met me around 11ish and after Mridula packed me my last lunch (yummy French fries and purata) we loaded the car and Sheel took us to the bus station.  The bus station was in the middle of the main road and so there were many people lazing about.  There were two noticeable beggars that really liked to touch and harass Lisa.  After we both found out that the bus we wanted would come in half an hour, we sat down at a chai stand.  There was a teenage boy and hjjra that were very aggressive in trying to get Lisa to give them something so after one of her death stares and loud yells they vanished.  It is difficult dealing with beggars because you want to give them money, but if you do you run the risk of inviting other beggars to come and harass you.  Also, Mridula said that these beggars are usually lazy and simply do not want to work.  In one sense I agree with that, but with disabled people it seems that they do not have many options for work or income. 

At 1230, we loaded the run-down bus.  There was a huge rush to board the bus; everyone waiting jumped up and ran to get on so we followed suit, thinking it was going to take off before we got on.  Little did we know we would end up sitting there for another half hour before departing.  Everyone had put their luggage and larger items on the roof via a ladder on the back; we unknowingly brought it all with us and proceeded to take up four seats.  The few people left standing were not pleased.  The two of us and our five bags took up the entire back seat of the bus.  Surrounded by villagers heading mostly to Chaksu, they were surprised we could understand Hindi.  We paid the 48 rupees for the two of us and tried to give the assistant directions about where we were going with the help of the people around us.  On the bus, we were stared at by various members of the community—ranging in ages and gender.  One girl was very fixated on Lisa, while another boy kept resting his hands on his leg close to Lisa’s legs.  He also kept yawning and stretching his hand back towards us. 

After an hour we passed Chaksu and because we did not know exactly where we were supposed to be dropped off we got a little antsy.  The directions told us that we should be dropped off 15 minutes after Chaksu and right after a dry river bed.  Well, Rajasthan has been in a drought for the last seven years and it was the dry season, so I bet you can guess how many dry river beds we passed… In other words, the whole landscape contained dry river beds.   Eventually, though we passed the mother of all dry river beds.  The bus driver signaled to us and we took a little longer than he had wanted to get our luggage off, so he got a little angry…

Okay, so picture this: With our heavy backpacks, Lisa and I were next to the side of a village road (single lane, many pot holes) in the middle of the desert.  We saw a road that seemed to match the qualifications in the directions we were given.  So, we started heading down that road.  A few men on motorcycles passed us and the expressions on their faces made us think that they did not often see two young woman walking on the side of this road.  We got to a patch of buildings and a man jumped off his motorcycle shouting us down. 

First impression: He had the whitest teeth I have ever seen in an Indian.  He had a beautiful orange shirts on that brought out his exquisite features.  He hopped off the motorcycle in slow motion and smiled at us.  He put his thumb on his chest and exclaimed to us, “This is Raju”.  Lisa laughed and we walked down his dirt road.  The pathway to the house was lined with large trees that he had planted 10 years ago when his family bought the land (it was amazing to see from photographs they showed us how much they had changed the landscape from desert to green lands.  They also have built many more buildings, including a school that they recently built for the village children). 

            Raju walked us to the front building, where his two brothers and mother lived, and took us to the back where our room was.  Our room was big with light periwinkle walls and a large queen sized bed for the two of us.  The inside was quite cold.  We settled in and then went out to the front of the building to see Raju and a woman wearing a pink and white nighty suit that Lisa’s grandmother would wear.  We thought that she was his wife, but without any help from Raju, we discovered that she was a teacher on sabbatical and was looking at the school in order to help the Indian teachers teach better.  We later found out that her father was one of the donors for the Dutch sponsored school that Raju was in charge of.  She left her husband and two boys (13 and 16 years old) for two weeks to come here. 

After that introduction, we met up again for chai out in the front yard.  We admired the beautiful birds Raju had on his property, including the Huppah.  He listed what type of animals his family had: cows, horses, chickens, dogs and… I enthusiastically shouted “pigs”.  He gave me the most disgusted and appalled face.  He replied, “Sweepers.  Do you know what that is?”  Thinking that it was a type of pig we both said “No”.  He then continued to explain that untouchables, harijans are the only ones that keep pigs, “They are the ones that eat the pigs because the pigs eat shit”.  We made the best of the rest of the conversation, attempting to find out about his family and property.  The mom, an 86 year old woman, sat with us during chai and it was astounding the lack of humor she had.  She must still be tired from popping out those nine boys and two daughters.  Raju has a daughter (2.5 months old) and his two brothers have sons. 

            We also discovered that Raju’s well is 40 ft, while the guy next door has a 200ft well.  He has 252 hectares and much of it is forest.  He is trying to start an orange orchid (and has experimented with which one does the best on his land). 

We took a nap for a bit and then met up with his younger brother Norton (I spell his name many different ways throughout this write-up) to milk the cows at 5 PM.  We arrived at the cow shed and there were around ten larger cows and four small calves, one of which had been born five days prior.  The mother of the new calf attempted to charge me, I thought I would be at the hospital from a spear in my gut!  After calming down from that, Norton taught us how to milk the cows.  He first brought a calf over the mother to “warm her up”.  Next, he put a bucket underneath.  Applying pressure the entire way down the utter, he just kept repeating “pressure, pressure”.  Lisa started in first and was shocked at how warm and slimy the teat was.  Her attempt was dismal and so I decided to give it a try.  I got in there and as soon as I touched that teat I was in awe with the warmness and firm-squishiness of the utter.  It looked so much easier when Norton pumped out the milk with both hands.  We were hopeless and so after a few more tries with another cow, he took over and finished the job.  We met the horse and bull that lived at the other end of the open courtyard. 

There was a young boy who watched us.  Norton told us that he “came from a poor, very poor no money family down the street.  He comes and does a little work for me and I give him a little bit of money”.  Norton’s wife came by with their son and dropped him off.  Norton just let his son roam about with the baby calves and cows.  They were cute together.  After an awkward conversation about chickens and our consumption of eggs and if we wanted to eat eggs, we headed to dinner.  Dinner felt like an assembly line since Lisa and I were taken upstairs to the “cage” kitchen where chapattis were being made.  We were given a little rug to sit on and Norton brought out a plate with some dhal.  We then proceeded to eat five to six chapattis with our cup of dhal.  Organic ghee tastes so good!  The meal was delicious, but after we were done eating Rhinka (the Dutch teacher) came in and so she took our place on the rug. 

Lisa and I headed down the kitchen steps, we passed by the eighth brother’s wife, Bherka, who is a teacher at the school and mother to a three year old son.  While she was washing our dinner dishes with a large clay water container (and letting the water run freely as she talked to us) we spoke Hindi to her and she spoke English to us.  Her English was better than our Hindi.  She told us that her hobbies are singing, cooking, and being a housewife.  She wakes up at 530 every morning to have chai and then makes thick, millet chapattis (about 13 of them) for the dogs’ and cows’ evening meals.  This seemed typical as a village wife in Rajasthan (let alone the rest of India). 

Norton took us downstairs to show us some picture of the previous WWOOFers they had had.  We discovered that Raju had been a yoga instructor and through that had made connections with some wealthy foreigners who eventually decided to donate money for the school that they were running. Raju had traveling all over Europe to observe and look at organic farm methods. 


Monday, November 23, 2009: 

The morning consisted of getting up at 630 to milk the cows, then watch Bherka make thick millet chapattis for the three dogs (we watched her as we drank chai and sat close to the clay stove and fire to keep warm).  Next, we watched the grandmother make lassie out of yesterday morning’s cow milk.  She churned the previously boiled milk with a long wooden stick with a churner on the bottom in a plastic bucket (like the ones we get for detergent from Sam’s club).  The churning pole was attached by rope to another pole stuck in the ground with rope in order to make it easier and more systematic to rotate the churning pole.  The grandmother used string wrapped around the churning pole to whip the milk and water bucket (it is a good arm workout).  She added hot water to the mix  every now and again for 15 minutes or so (excluding the interruptions from her one year old grandson).  When she felt that the consistency was satisfactory, she proceeded to scoop out all the light butter that had floated to the top.  She scooped some of the butter onto our hands and forced us to try the fresh fatty substance.  Lisa tasted it and exclaimed that it was the best butter she had ever had!  We then tried the milk and it was a similar taste to curd milk, sweet and sour; it just tasted like pure nutrition.  Lassie is a huge part of the Rajasthani village diet and I am glad that we got to experience the joy of creating it… I should mention that the grandmother’s technique for making lassie was quite messy and most of the milk seemed to end up spraying out of the bucket into the corner she was in and onto our clothes.  It kept the observations entertaining.

Post lassie lesson we worked in the fields for an hour, weeding from the coriander plot.  The fields that we worked in were right next to the house and they were manually created with a shovel.  Next to the coriander, there was garlic, potatoes, cow food plants and radishes. Amazing that things are still growing even with intense lack of rain.  It was tough weeding the small amounts of coriander among the copious amounts of weeds!

Rhika, the Dutch teacher that was here to examine the school, took us on a quick tour through the long building with eight door less rooms coming off of one long hallway.  The classrooms comprised of a rug and a blackboard.  The students must get such bad back pain from sitting cross-legged from 8-10am and then 1030-1pm. 

            Lisa and I went on a quick walk into town, which consisted of four stores and a government school.  The rest of the brick and mud buildings in the village were houses.  Some of them were very colorfully painted with intense blues, pinks, and greens.  We passed a chai stand on the way and it seemed like that was the place to be if you were male, older than 30s and enjoyed wearing white.  There were a few kids that were no in school, but most of the villagers were either working in the fields(mostly women), constructing a building (women were carrying bricks and men were putting bricks together) or enjoying  chai (most men).  A few paces past the center, we were in the fields.  Women in colorful saris were bent over the growing crops and men were loading up their camel carts with goods, such as timber.  We passed a few large water buffalo that gazed at us with their large, popped out eyes. 

We ate a beautiful lunch of beans and peanuts, milk curd with black pepper, and with Dutch cheese paratas (onion, pepper).  We talked with Rekha about her family (husband, son and daughter) and the school here (mainly memorization and disconnect between what the children memorize and how they can apply it to their lives).  After lunch we continued wedding our patch.  Raju came over to check up on us and as we were talking and weeding… to Lisa he said, “That is not a weed.  That is coriander.” Lisa felt embarrassed so she tried to put it back in.  Raju replied in a “jokingly” manner, “That will not grow back!”.

The blue shirt that I was wearing has gotten a lot of wear and therefore has stretched.  The collar was especially loose and so when I bent over to weed, my cleavage was quite shocking to Lisa.  While we weeded in one patch, Naravatin (Norton) came over to work on the Fennel Greek fields that needed irrigation dividing.  So, while we were weeding he was shoveling.  At one point, he started some intense talking to himself.  It was funny because they whole time we thought he was talking to one of his brothers… It started to get dark fast as the sun set and so Naravatin allowed Lisa and I to get in some shovel ploughing  practice.  Around 630pm, we made our way upstairs to the kitchen balcony.  Bherki was sitting in the main kitchen about to cook maltas, Punjabi food.  She made this delicious, sweet chutney with raisins!  Being the fat Americans that we are we decided to get in our nut fix after the delicious dinner…  Lisa attacked the peanut butter, while I the sesame seeds brittle.  It gets so COLD when the sun goes down.  If I did not have so much insulation I would have to put on all my layers.  The room is perfect though because it is cold during the day and warm at night.  So, with our stomachs filled with nuts and thick blankets we slept well in the cool room.



Tuesday, Nov. 24th:

            I awoke to someone whispering “kaaatrinaaa, kaatrina, katrinaaa”.  That was Lisa trying to whisper me awake, but with no avail.  Finally, when it clocked 700am, I abruptly jumped from the bed because I knew that it was time to weed.  Lisa and I removed the crust from our eyes and headed straight out to the coriander fields to pull out the weeks.  The farm that we are staying on has a few vegetable fields next to the house, but most of the fields are a 40 minute walk from the house.  Besides the few fields they have at the house, they also have a school for 160 students a minute down the road.  The school was built by a Dutch donor and he has a house across the way that Raju (our official host) lives in when the Dutch man is not there.  The Dutch guy was the international lawyer for Holland and so he is a wealthy man that decided to create a school in India. 

We visited the school to see the pottery man do his magic (made water jars, earthen pots, piggy bank).  When we got there the boys were beating the chunks of clay into smaller pieces, while all the girls were sitting quietly watching the pot maker.  They were very gender segregated.  Lisa and I sat next to the girls and attempted to strike up conversation.  These kids were about 8 to 9 and they were very shy.  They were learning Hindi, English, and math.  Like all the kids in the village, they spoke a local dialect at home.  So, with a tiny bit of Hindi and some English we discovered what all their names were and how many brothers and sisters they had.  There were many students who had two brothers and two sisters.  Most of the families were four kids or more. 

            I got a little restless after a while and so I got up and slid down the one piece of playground equipment they have, a clay slide.  The kids followed suit, and before I knew it, we were running around playing tag.  I needed to get my energy out and they did as well, so we would chase around one kid until he or she got tagged and then switch.  It was fun and the kids enjoyed running around.              The school is run by Raju, Norton and their family, but was financially created by a Dutch donor, who comes for two weeks every year to his house, that Raju lives in, and checks in on the school.  School goes from 8am until 1pm and the kids have only one break in between.  That one break is half an hour long and is the lunch time.  Even though people in the villages get up much earlier and go to bed earlier, I still think that 1030 is an early time for lunch.  The kids at this school were recruited manually by Norton, who went door to door to tell the families about the school.  About 60% of the students are female and a large percentage of the students are from the “untouchable” caste. 

This school is unique because there are two computers for students to play on and type.  Today, after we had a little breakfast at 1030pm, Lisa and I headed to the school to play on the computers with the kids.  We were taken to the locked computer room (the only room with a door) and there were fifteen girls waiting for us.  They were all dressed in their green and blue checkered uniforms, which ranged in cleanness.  (Uniforms seem to be a good idea since they provide clothing for kids who cannot afford nice clothing and they identify which kids belong to which school).   

We had been told that we were going to be teaching the teachers how to write blurbs up about their students, but apparently that was not the case because when we got there those fifteen girls were waiting for our lessons.  They were around the ages of ten to twelve (standard 3) and they had not had much computer experience, like many of the students at the school.  Since we had not planned to teach a bunch of young girls how to play on the computers, we scrounged around for things the girls could do.  Four options came to mind: solitaire, typing on word, paint, and a “Roman journey” game that had been loaded on the computer.  We spent the next hour and a half drawing with the paint program, typing the alphabet, and finding little icons in the Roman journey game.  I think that the girls enjoyed playing on the computers and they were very good at sharing the two mouses; however, you could defiantly observe the pecking order that was there.  They were not good at moving the mouse around and clicking on things, which I think that I take for granted.  Knowing how to use a computer is a skill that I forget millions of people do not have.  It has changed my life so much and it is strange thinking that other people’s lives are not simplified/ made dependent on machines that don’t work sometimes…

            Lunch was great with some spicy subzi, chapattis and rice.  It is an interesting meal schedule that we have.  We eat breakfast, pauy, at 1030 and then have lunch at 1pm.  Then dinner is at 6pm.  All meals are crunched into the middle of the day. 

Post lunchie, we headed out for an afternoon walk to the family’s fields, which were about 3 km away next to the main road.  Many farmers in India have small plots of land that is dispersed and they must spend time and energy transporting back and forth to the sections they own.  The government has tried to alleviate this situation, but it is a difficult process. 

Norton’s family had bought the land from a Muslim family that was in debt and needed the money.  I do not think that Norton was very keen about Muslims because he stated that his neighbors, which he described as Muslim, used to steal his wheat and so he was forced to put a fence up.  The fields were next to two main roads, so he knew that he would have needed to put up the fence sometime.  Later, I found out that he had some Muslims friends that he would spend Eid with, but on the whole he did not seem to be too enthusiastic about Muslim families, but maybe he was just using Muslim to describe a family like we would in the US.  Who knows?  Norton, himself, is from a lower caste and the gardener jati, Saini. His ancestors had been farmers and so it seemed natural for him to follow suit. 

At his fields, he was growing wheat mainly.  He had three different sections that were interrupted by neighbor’s fields.  I couldn’t help but wonder why Norton did not switch with his neighbors so that his land could be connected.  As I looked around though I saw that there seemed to be different amounts of water dispersed on the flat lands. His neighbors were growing vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplant, which are usually wet season crops.  We stopped by the neighbors straw hut and met the five women and seven little kids (all under the age of five).  They were relaxing in a hut with one cot in it.  Next to that hut was another smaller hut where the hay and water buffalo chilled. There was three-month-old baby girl lying on the cot and the mother asked me if I wanted to hold it.  I nodded my head and next thing I knew I was holding the little baby girl in my arms.  They said some words in Hindi that I did not here and the next thing I know Norton is laughing telling me to say “Dudh ke pas nehe” (I do not have milk).  They had run out of milk and so had asked me if I had any milk to spare.  My first impression was that they thought I was pregnant and that I had milk to give; however, this was not the case and they actually wanted to know if I had cows or buffalos that made milk.  As we left the family (after smoking some biddies with the women of course, which is a rare scene), one of the toddlers was crying on his mother’s lap.  We asked why and they replied it was because she was hungry and there was no milk for her…

On our walk to and fro we also passed many students that we had been working with at the school.  By chance, we passed by a vet (wearing quite nice attire) pushing his hand in the rear of a buffalo to check to see if it was pregnant.  The family had artificially inseminated the buffalo five months ago and thought that it took and so wanted the vet to check if it was successful.  Unfortunately, the cow was not pregnant.  The family looked very disappointed, but they were also very interested in the two white girls that had walked through their part of the village. 

I passed a woman on the fields and told her Namaste.  She replied quickly in another language and Norton retorted back to her.  She had said that she didn’t speak English and Norton had said that Namaste isn’t English it is Hindi. 

We visited the family that owned the spawn of Norton’s horse.  The family had bright blue walls and a little lapidary room where they made jewels for extra cash.  They also had small plots of fields surrounding their house. 

The men were beautiful with their white shirts and hoop earrings.  Lisa would stare at some of them to a point where I felt a little uncomfortable.  Quote: “When they wear a vest over that white shirt, oh my gosh, take me now”.  There was also a little boy with broad, strong shoulder that was VERY cute and Lisa could not take her eyes off of him.  He was really good looking though, he had huge eyes and a very muscular build, even though he was only nine.   (The next day we discovered that he went to the school that we work at… yay!)

The women in the family wore their dupattas over their faces (as is accustomed in the conservative families and Rajasthan has a lot of conservative ones).  When I asked to take a picture, they told me that I had to go into the kitchen where the women were not in front of their brothers.  Since they were married they could not show their faces to their brothers.  Two older women were a part of the family and they both had large rings in their noses.  One of the older woman had spots all over her arms and face because she had been bitten by a snake on her toe and those spots were from the reaction of the snake poison. 

      Lisa and I observed that there were not many grandfathers as compared to grandmothers in the villages.  We brainstormed that this was because they smoke themselves to death with biddies.  Norton later told us that it was because the men are usually older when they marry and that they are more unhealthy and lazier compared to women.  When men get older they tend to eat and smoke and relax at tea shops. On the other hand, the women do more active duties around house and farm and so are fitter and healthier. 

We got back to the house, our home for the week, and since there was light to spare I suggested that we do some work in the fields.  Lisa gave me one of her death stares as I said that.  So, we grabbed our shovels and headed to the fields to dig dividers and trenches in the already planted fields.  She later thanked me since the work warmed her up (it was cold out). 

We had our dinner and chai.  After din-din, I went upstairs to talk to Norton farther; however, he wasn’t there and instead I got caught with Bherka.  Her English is a little confusing and her Hindi is very fast, so it is a little difficult speaking with her.  I learned that she takes a nap at 430 and that she practices abc’s and numbers with her son, who goes to a private school in Chaksu (10 km away).  Her husband was making peanuts in the kitchen and he brought some out to me, “do you want penis?”.  I was a little confused.  He eventually handed me a hot bowl of peanuts and Bherka started talking about how yummy the peanuts, pronounced again like penis, were.  I thought that I was going to lose it, but I contained my laughter. 


Wednesday, Nov. 25th:

We scrambled to get out of bed on time, around 7pm and hurried to the fields to finish the coriander weeding.  A few minutes after we started plucking the cold weeds from the dew-moistened ground, we were called in for chai.  Chai here is very good because it is loaded with sugar and organic milk (organic in the sense that the cows are fed well and are not given any hormones).  The warm chai cups felt quite good on our cold hands and sitting felt good on our feet that we were squatting on.  The weeding is the highlight of my day.  It is so beautiful as the sun rises over the horizon and the birds are chirping away.  Lisa and I gab away about our lives and sometimes work in silence.  It feels so good just to be outside in the fresh, clean air. 

We went to the school again today to do some computer lessons.  The girls seem to be much better at moving the mouse and controlling the clicking than the boys.  After school was done, some of the teachers came in to work on the homework that they had been assigned by the Dutch woman.  The female teachers, who do not have access to the computers that their husbands use at home, are not very good at typing or clicking.  When we were helping them write little descriptions of their students, we learned that no one has a last name in the area.  They all use their jati as their last name.  For example, one of the students was named Gheeta and as her last name they put Mali because she was from the farming jati.  This astounded us and so we could not help but wonder what happens when there is another Gheeta in the same jati.  They simply replied that they add numbers according to age, for example Gheeta Mali I and Gheeta Mali II.

Before lunch, Norton wanted us to see a man and his “trained” monkeys.  That was a bizarre performance.  One of the monkeys was dressed in a raggy dress and the other was more interested in eating than jumping around.  At one point, the monkey got a little vicious at the owner.  The worst part of the performance was when the monkey man made a little boy get his fleas pulled out aggressively by the monkey and then receive a hug from the scratching languor.

After the usual chapattis, dahi, and dhal lunch, I had intended to interview Norton, but he went to drop his wife off at the bus station so that she could visit her mother in Jaipur.  So, Lisa and I spent the free time going into town.  We passed by the pink government school and all the kids were out in the small courtyard playing around.  It looked like a mad house, and reminded me of Danish camp because all the younger kids admired and wanted to play with the older ones.  Norton told us that the government teachers do not teach very well because they are on a stable salary and do not get checked up on.  Usually, they show up to take attendance and then talk with the other teachers and are unkind to their students.  They are paid 10,000 RS per month.  Every once in a while a government officer will check up on them, but he will be fed lots of sweets and given chai, so he approve the school.  Sometimes the teachers must show the officer how the school children are progressing and so they chose the best students in the school and have those kids come and read to the officer. 

After the relaxing walk into town, Norton asked if we wanted to ride his beautiful horse and Lisa, being an avid horse lover but incapable rider, jumped on that opportunity.  So, the saddle was tossed on and Lisa and I took turns “riding” the horse around the school playground area.  I felt like a little kid on a merry go-round.  I could not get the horse to go faster than a walking pace (it was dinner time when we were riding it and so it was preoccupied with going back to the stables).  Lisa got on the horse and at one point it started galloping back to the stables and, as Lisa claimed, she almost fell off of it.  That was a fun experience, but I was more interested in getting some manual labor in.  So, we finished up creating the irrigation walls for the fennel Greek fields.  We created sections divided by dirt swales, so that when one part is filled with water the water does not overflow over to the next section.  Sometimes little gateways are formed in the swales so that extra water can flow over into the neighboring sections. 

Norton showed us some of his orange trees and we ate two of the ripe oranges.  He told us a secret that we are supposed to keep on the down low:  if you put lassie at the root of the orange tree when the flowers have started to bud then the oranges will taste much sweeter.  He told us that an old man at the tree nursery told him that and now that the man has passed he must guard the secret.

 Norton was keen on giving us a tour of Raju/Dutch man’s house and so we received a l tour of the large house.  The house mainly consisted of a large living room with two bedrooms and bathrooms.  There were some Indian magazines on the table and we made sure to get an update on what modern Indian women are reading about, mainly tantric sex, poverty, and decorating the home.  Also, the stars had aligned and the Dutch women had left LICORICE in the fridge and so I snacked on some of those yummy treats.  I miss Danish licorice.

            After a freezing cold and defiantly refreshing shower, I headed up to the kitchen for dinner with Lisa and Norton.  We had chapattis and a curry-yogurt cream.  During the meal we learned about Norton’s family.  The three youngest brothers live at the farm (Norton, Ranesh, and Raju), while five others live in Japiur and work as car mechanics, hospital electricians, and a government servant for the railway company (he is in charge of 4,000 people). One brother lives in Amsterdam and runs a jewelry exchange.  He seems to be rich since he has a farm in Portugal that Raju visits sometimes. The father had passed a few years ago, but their mother is still alive and kicking and she helps out with some of the farming.  Since she has experience she understands how to maximize their resources to create a good harvest. 

The night ended with some poi practicing and juggling of tomatoes.  Norton also told us a few stories about concentration and how if you put your mind to the fish eye in the reflection of oil, you can hit it with a bow.  This family also knows JASBIR JAIN, the director of the Jaipur component.  She is following us…


Thurs, Nov. 26th: Thanksgiving!

As usual, we went to out to the fields to finish up our weeding in the morning.  Actually, this morning I spend most of my time trying to unplug the squatter toilet that Lisa and I and the rest of the family was using.  I think that the toilet was blocked from Lisa’s toilet paper… (ha ha don’t tell her)…even though she only put one tiny little piece in there on the first day…

            Our 1030am breakfast was a spicy South India dish with peanuts… it was quite mushy.  We then headed to the school for our usually computer session.  One of the girls wrote on my computer:   “My name is chenda”.  The kids are really cute but they are not given any time to explore the two computers here on their own.  School today was very frustrating because two of the teachers came and took over the student’s time to use the computers.  The students came to learn how to type and the teachers were so adamant about doing it themselves that they did not give the students a chance.  At one point, the kids wanted to play the “Romance of Romans” game and so we started it up and the teacher hogged the mouse and played for them…

As a WWOOFer, I do not know when I should step in and say something or when I should just let it pass.  The teachers need some time to explore the computers themselves so that they can help and allow the students to explore on the computers during the school hours; yet, should that come at the cost of the student’s time?  Hmmm…

The (Indian) curriculum at this school consists of memorization and memorization.  From the early age of four they go to school and memorize numbers, letters, and colors.  The younger kids here sit in the sand outside alone and write numbers over and over again.  Then they show their teacher and if they do it well they go back and write it again, but if they do not do it well they get beaten or they have to stand with their head in between their legs.  Today when I went to the bathroom outside I passed by one of the younger teachers hitting a kid with a stick.  He was crying and I felt so bad for him.  I gave that teacher the death stare. 

At 1pm, the pots were clanged together and school was done.  The naughty kids still had their head between their legs, while the older girls got ready to sweep the whole school.  In the computer room, many kids and the teacher were enthralled in the “Romance of Romans” game.  Lisa and I were a little frustrated with the LARGE involvement of the teachers during the students’ practice time and so we were ready for our lunch. 

            Bherka, one of the teachers and main cook for us, rushed back from school as usual to prepare our lunch.  The roles in this family are very traditional since the women do all the cooking and cleaning and the men are in charge of the socializing, construction and farming.  Lisa was not feeling too well, so after our usual curd, subzi, and chapattis meal, she headed down to take a rest… and I joined her.  She looked so comfortable in the large bed of ours that I could not help but jump into that bed as well and take a quick (well it had intended to be quick, but ended up being around an hour) nap.  I struggled to push myself out of bed around 3pm and then woke up Lisa so that we could go to the school computer room to watch the BBC movie “Story of India” that Naravtin (Norton) really wanted us to see.  That British narrator is very captivating to watch because he interviews people that do not speak English and pretends to understand them when he has no idea what they are saying.  After a painful few hours we escaped the computer room.              

Lisa hit the head and I headed out to the forest and beyond with Naravtin.  Naravatin showed me the desert property that they owned, where they let the cows graze, and the government forest that was behind the house.  He pointed out a family of “blue cows” (elk like creatures) that were foraging in the forest (and then we spotted some on his land, which means that they got through the fence).  There seemed to be sand and bundles of grass everywhere the eye could see.  Mainly two trees covered the landscape:  the thorny kharjery and the eucalyptus tree.  On our walk we passed by two women herding goats and carrying fire sticks on their heads. They were very keen on waving to me and it was heart-warming to see their smiles.  Then we wandered into the government forest.  It was very sparse with trees covered most of the top story.  We encountered a herd of wild oxen along the way and the oxen all stared at us while we walked by them.  I was a little afraid of them since they have such sharp horns. 

            I felt a tiny bit awkward walking alone with Naravtin in the forest while the sun was setting because it is very taboo for a man and woman to be alone together, but he is a trustworthy man and very kind hearted, so I ignored the societal norms.  We talked about the god Indra (rain god) and how if people do not appreciate him and give him good thoughts, then Indra will get angry and either not create rain for the crops or make it rain too much.  He gave me the example of the 1981 floods.  In 1981, there had been a major flood that had killed many people since they did not appreciate Indra.  In reaction to this flood the government decided to plant early succession trees on the land in order to mitigate the effects of another flood that may occur.  The forest is on the banks of a riverbed that remain dry in the winter season and runs in the wet, summer season. 

            We got back from the walkabout and I checked up on the ailing Lisa, who eventually threw up all food that was in her stomach.  I am not sure what she was sick with, but she seems to have a sensitive stomach.  I proceeded with the normal routine and went up into the kitchen for dinner.  Before it was time to eat, the family wanted me to meet the newborn baby daughter of Raju (the original WWOOFing host who had been in Jaipur for the last few days).  I walked over to the house and saw the little girl.  While I was holding the baby he awkwardly took pictures of me, so that he could put them up in his wwoofing photo gallery. 

Then, I went to dinner with Naratin and we discussed the finer details of life, including his aspirations for the school (add two more standards to the school and more subjects, especially English) and what his favorite meal was (he said subzi, chapattis, and rice… sounds familiar).  He told me that it was important that all the students learn English better because all the forms that they had to fill out were in English.  If they needed to apply for an ATM card, bank account or even mobile phone, then they would have to do it in English.  I found that fascinating because most people did not speak English in school they also learn Hindi and that is what most people speak in this region, but I guess the government finds it easier to use English on forms since all of India can use them. 

Since it was thanksgiving, I talked to the dad and mother on the phone.  Not much seemed to be happening on their end, but it was only the morning of Thanksgiving.   After getting my fix of sesame brittle—that stuff is funky on your digestive system.  I headed to bed with the recovering Lisa (“Ethel, give me my sandwich”—we remind each other of an old retired couple). 


Fri, Nov  27th: Last day of WWOOFing

            Today we had to cram all of our stuff into our packs again so that we could head back to Jaipur and eventually back to Delhi.  We woke up at the usual time and were ushered upstairs to the kitchen balcony to drink chai with Bherka.  Most of the morning was spent packing and, for me, going on a run since I had so much energy from a lack of manual labor.  My run was interesting because even though the family owns lots of land they have fences everywhere and I could not get through the chain-link fence.  So, I ran miny laps back and forth next to the fence.  There was lots of burrs and prickles that attached to my pants and ripped my shirt.

            After a nice last meal of eggplant, curd, chapattis, we were set to go.  Thinking that the bus to Jaipur went every half an hour we thought that we would just walk to the stop,  Apparently, that was not true and we needed to get to the stop in ten minutes or we would miss the hourly bus.  So, Raju drove us and told us, “Do not take any jeeps or cars.  Only take the bus”.  So… we waited… waited…after two hours the bus had not come.  A nice, well rounded older man informed us that the government had cut some buses that day.  We were stranded.  An empty jeep rolled by and we decided to load the car with the other women waiting at the bus station.  We got dropped out in Chaksu after 15 minutes of comfort in the jeep.

Indian “hitchhiking”:  Chaksu was a mad house and we were not sure where the bus stand was.  So, we kept walking straight down the road where we were on.  People kept telling us to go forward and so we kept going forward.  At one point, a tan car pulled over and a middle-aged man in a leather jacket rolled down his window.  He asked if we were going to Jaipur and we told him we were.  Lisa looked at me with her big eyes that said maybe we should just take the bus, but we were running late to meet Kim and he looked very respectable.  So, we settled on a price and loaded his car.  He drove us safely to MI road in Jaipur; however, along the way he could not help but call many of his friends and have me speak to them about when we were going to have chai.  I told the friends that we were tired and wanted to go back to relax.  The man dropped us off at a random spot on MI road and we collaborated with Kim to find the hotel she had been staying at for the break. 

Kim’s hotel, the Evergreen, was hidden behind many alleyways and so it would have been super difficult to find it ourselves.  Down these little alleyways the sides were decorated in many jewelry shops.  Jaipur is known for its gem sales. 

After settling our things in the hotel room and taking a refreshing shower, we were out the door to explore the pink city for some Hindi calendars.  We got through the familiar gates of the pink city and decided to cut through some alleyways to get to the next main street.  There was so much going on in the little alleyways.  I did not realize how large the pink city district was.  There were hundreds of families that lived within the ancient walls of the pink city.  These alleyways were where they chopped their firewood, bought their vegetables and let their cows roam.  We found the calendars we were looking for and I pressured Lisa and Kim to walk to my home stay house so that I could say a final goodbye to Mridula, Jhoti, and Sham.  It felt good walking through the gate way again and through the squeaky kitchen doors.  Krishna-ji, Jhoti, and Mina were in the kitchen preparing vegetables when I popped in.  We stayed for dinner and I enjoyed the last Pareek family meal, subzi and chapattis.  At one point in the meal, Lisa started to fall asleep and she resembled Sheila sometimes during lectures. 

Mridula had been working, or doing whatever gynecologists do, and so she arrived later.  I said my goodbyes to her and then she kindly drove us to our hotel.  Lisa and I hit the hay, while Kim went out on the town…



Sat, Nov. 28th: On the Road Again…

            So, Lisa and I had gone straight to bed after we were dropped off by Mridula at the hotel in the city (we were bumming off in Kim’s room).  Kim, on the other hand, who had spent her vacation waking up at noon, had lots of energy and went out to meet a rickshaw/political science student she had meet during her week in Jaipur.  Previously she had had a few drinks with him and this was the last night (of the two nights) that they were going to see each other.  So, Kim wandered to the bar that they decided to meet at only to see her rickshaw man beautifully dressed in a nice scarf and clean shirt, new shoes, suit jacket and pants.  He told her to get in his rickshaw because he needed to run a few errands, so Kim enthusiastically hopped in.  He drove around and stopped at a well-lit flower stand.  He bought her a rose.  A few minutes later he gave her a pair of earrings.  They then proceeded on their usual plans for the night and headed to the hotel/bar.  They loaded the elevator together and as soon as Kim and her rickshaw wala got off the elevator, he turned to her, got down on his knees and proposed. 

            After hearing that fabulous story in more detail at 6am in the morning, we completed our packing and snuck out the hotel to the Sindh Camp Bus stand.  I walked since we had many bags and I did not think they would all fit in the rickshaw.  The bus stand was crowded and confusing at 7am, but we managed to reunite with each other, buy some breakfast snacks, and load our luxurious “Volvo” bus to Delhi.  While Lisa and I loaded our luggage Gorav called Kim to say one last goodbye.   He called her the love of his life and claimed that he would never forget her.  The Indians sure know how to woo a girl (the next week Kim would find that this man could not stop calling her—she had to terminate whatever relationship that they had through a text message). 

We spent the next five hours sitting in the bus…           There was one man across from us that was a loud being: he talked on the phone loudly, he snored loudly, he sneezed loudly, etc.  He was entertaining to listen to…  We arrived at the bus terminal and all three of us squeezed into a rickshaw.  There were some points where I thought that we were going to tip because when the driver went around corners one side of the rickshaw seemed to be loaded more than the other and so was much heavier.  Rickshaws (or tuktuks) have high centers of gravity.  Looking out the rickshaw I noticed how cosmopolitan and “Western” Delhi truly is.  In the beginning I was experiencing too much culture shock to observe the attire of the city residents. 

            We got to the YMCA hostel to hang out for a couple of hours and then head off to the Delhi train station to catch the Varanasi sleeper train.  At the YMCA, we were reunited with Rebecca and Adele (who went to Goa), Cynthia (Gujarat), Anna (tiger watching with dad in Madhya Pradesh,), Martha  (touring with sister, mom, and aunt in Agra and bird sanctuary near Delhi), Marissa (Jodhpur with Deepoli’s family), and at the train station we met up with Milly (Kerala).  Six members of the group (Matt, Jeremy, Fernando, Jori, Chelsea, Hannah) went to party in Goa together and they intelligently booked their flight to arrive very late in the day.  That day their flight was delayed further and they landed at 620pm to catch the 645pm train. 

We all got on the train without major problems.  The tricky thing was that the Goa kids had left some of their luggage to take to Varanasi and so we had to lug all their things onto the sleeper train.  Some were heavy packers… The Goa kids landed and rushed to the train station in a rickshaw.  They arrived at the train station at 644 and ran to catch the train at platform 12.  Apparently, Matt was on the train when it started rolling, but was confused and jumped off.  So, those six missed the train and had to find their own way to Varanasi. 

The sleeper train was tight and cozy.  We slept six to a compartment, which was about 4X6 ft.  Cynthia almost got in a fight with some men and the train conductor because they wanted to take (and did take) two of our beds that were technically for the Goa kids.  All of their luggage was on the bed because we had so much luggage and not enough space.  After much hassling Cynthia gave in and we gave away 4 of our 6 beds that we had bought.  Often the beds get double booked and some people get stuck without a bed when they load the train.  I was on the top bunk and slept like a baby!

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