Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Strange weather in India..and a leaking roof

Yesterday the roof of my penthouse was almost gone. I saw school dresses blowing in the air over Barkat Nagar. Two marble plates lifted of my roof and fell on the floor. Seems a little storm raged over our neigboorhood. Good news is that everything in my room is still pretty much ok; the roof is still at its place, only the layer on top of my roof has now become a little bit fragile. I`ve got only one leak, and even that one is in a corner where nothing important is present. It only almost touches my eletricity plugs. Today the strange weather continued..hail came falling from the Jaipur-skies! Almost feels like I am in the Netherlands.

Ah..and next week I`ll be going to Shahbad to start take some interviews with the local population. In total I`ve got about 50 questions..so I can ask them questions till they drop death..or just fall asleep.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Last sight-seeing in Jaipur before exploring Rajasthan! (?)


Yesterday I finished the last great landmarks of Jaipur so that I can now honistly say that this city has nothing really, really special anymore that I have not yet seen. Yesterday I went together with Mauro to the City Palace, the observatory, the tiger fort and the palace of the winds to go...sightseeing. The City Palace is the place were the current Raj of Jaipur is reciding. He is a kind of king of Rajasthan. His home is pretty impressive, and pretty big. Only part of it is however open to the public, and part of this part is open as a museum. So I have seen two gigantic silver mugs in which the king kept is water of the Ganges for when I went to ENgland. I have also seen the royal clothes, polo shirts, guns, paintings, carpets, books, elephant-carrages and a small miniature train of "the royal coach" (sorry dad, tried to take it but too many guards around me). It was pretty impressive, although I liked the palace of the winds more. Situated in the middle of the Pink City, this old but beautiful building once served the purpose as window for the Kings 300 wives. SInce they were not allowed to go outside the palace complex, but still wanted to see something of city life, the king built a house with a lot of windows. These look down on the busy streets of Jaipur..a pretty nice sight.

We also went to an observatory (where Mauro had to pay a 50 rupee fine because he was making pictures without a ticket that allowed him to take those pictures. All astronomical machines where pretty weird, and all of them served the purpose to determine the position of the stars and the heavenly bodies..and sometimes the time.

Finally we went up to the tiger fort to enjoy the sun set..and to get away from the hustle and noise of the pink city. It was a nice temperature, the sun went down slowly, and it was a great sight to see.

Ow yea, along the way I was almost but on the horns of a cow (I think it accidently moved its head like that to scare some flies), and Mauro got attacked by another (pregnant) cow. Seems the warm weather also makes these creatures a bit cranky some times.

An Indian wedding

On Tuesday and Wednesday we went to a wedding, and not just any wedding, but a Rajasthani Wedding. I have been told that people all over India come to Rajasthan to see these weddings, and to enjoy them. I was thus very happy to be invited to one by Sunny, an aiesec trainee from India. Besides me, many other people from my house were invited, so I was luckily not the only foreigner at the party.

The first day was especially a womens day, where different women from the family showed their dancing skills on the center stage. Some of them were actually pretty good dancers, and so it was fun to watch. A bit later in the show however we, the foreigners, were invited to the stage. And so we went up on the stage, and started dancing on one strange Hindi song..and Shakira. Luckily I stood a bit at the back, so that I wasn`t to prominent on all the camera's that were pointed at us. Afterwards we had some great food, what it was exactly I don`t know, but it was a great variation of tastes. You had everything on your plate: something sweet, salty, sour, bitter, gentle, soft, hard, spicy, fresh, strong..and on and on. It was thus a great time for the thong to taste all those different flavours!

Around 22:00-22:30 the party of day one was over, and we went back home.

On the second day the big party started around 20:00, and we arrived a bit late at 21:00 (something that was almost impossible to avoid, since I went with 4 ladies). We already missed a bit of the ceremony, but we were on time to see the bride and the groom sitting ready for a sh*tload of wedding pictures. They were both beautifully dressed in traditional Rajasthani dresses, decorated with everything that shines and looks expensive. Pretty soon we could again start eating our dinner their, and this time it was even more expansive. About 30 to 40 different dishes were waiting for us to taste. Too much to taste them all thus. The indian hostes after that again forced us to dance, especially Eveline who the night before amazed the crowd by dancing the Indian way on the centre stage, without any serious practice. The day after she already had some young (and very old) fans, and soon she was again "forced" to dance (not really forced, cause she loves to do it). The rest of us soon had to join in on the small disco-floor...and again Shakira was played.

After all this dancing it was already getting a bit late (22:30), and the place was slowly streaming empty. We thus also went, but not before we had to search about 1 hour to find transportation home. Life in India takes place between different times than in the Netherlands...



what to say about holi?

It is the color festival, and I think it celibrates the coming of spring, and hopefully a good future harvest. People walk and drive along the streets, carrying bags with colored-powder in them. Anyone passing gets painted with the color, sometimes gently, sometimes pretty rough. And so after a few blocks of walking, you end up being completely colored. I ended up with three layers of watercolor on my face, with a load of powders on the rest of my body and with a few stains that will never get out of my just bought white shirt (bought especially for holi).

We went together in a big group of about 15 people, and along the way on the streets we met a lot of Indian..drunken..people. Note that it was only 14:00, and then you know that this was a crazy party. The ladies in our group even got more color than the men, cause the drunken Indians use this festival as an opportunity to finally touch the women (In normal life they are not allowed to, except for their wife of course). Thanks to the colors you can even see that they were touched on inappropriate places (although they sometimes did that to themselves to).

Later that night we were brought to a small courtyard of a school by Mr Singh (the husband of the landlady), where a giant stack of hay was being burned in some kind of Hindu ritual. Since any small open fire is prohibited in the netherlands, seeing this big fire was pretty amazing. Especially since it was in the middle of a school-courtyard with children running around it, hehe.

All in all..holi was another great weekend in Jaipur..

Friday, March 02, 2007

And a little recent update


Last week was the first week after the one week field-trip. I`m almost at one month in India now, and the good news is that time is flying here (which means that I`m having a great time).

The sad news is that I am the only guy in the house right now. I hear some of you thinking now: "What is he complaining about, he is surounded by beautiful women"

Yes..I am surrounded by beautifull women, but beautiful women don't drink alcohol and they talk a lot about men and clothes and jewelry and haircolors..which..really..does not interest me. In short..I need somebody to talk about soccer..beer..euh..rock-music and electric guitars. About 3 days ago I still had one of those people in my house with whom I could talk about that. But he, Ahmed (Afghanistan, but living in the Netherlands, great guy) left for Amsterdam. So now I`m the one representing the male-race in our house. Maybe I just have to get used to that role :D

Ah..and this weekend is holi! The color festival where all hindus will throw with colored powders, water and paint to everything that moves. So I already bought myself a very cheap (80 euro cents(!!!) but nice) white t-shirt to start the fight.

will post a message afterwards!


Finally, the field-trip post!!

Tuesday was up till now the longest trips I have made. About 350 km seperates Jaipur and the local office in Shahbad. It is not so much an office, but more a campus. On the way to this place I got a taste on how big India really is. I’m still in the state of Rajasthan, even after a trip of 11 hours. What I`ve seen along the way is simply amazing. Farmland, barren land, small secluded villages, buffalos, cows, dogs, pigs, camels and especially a lot of surprised faces when they saw my face passing them by. “Wow, a white man, what the hell is he doing here?”. We arrived around 21:30 and when I stepped out of the bumpy city bus and looked up, I saw something beautiful. I`ve never seen so many starts in my life. High concentrations of them almost seem to looks like nebulas. For a sf-fan like me an amazing sight. The dorm-room was ok, and I had a relatively good night. I`ve got an own toilet (Although it does not flush authomatically). This morning they started to wake people up at 6am. Seems Cecoedecon, my ngo, has set-up a campus/school for tribal-girls, who fell out of the government-eductional-system. Those girls were just singing a moment ago in the courtyard. A great sound to wake up with.

The next day…..

Well, we’re on the second day now and up till now these place really suites me. I`ll defeinitely would like to return here, especially after my friends in Jaipur have left. It is a nice compound. It houses a school for girls, a training office, an official office and a sleeping quarters with appropriate sanitation.
The first day we went to 3 villages.
The first one was pretty smalle and very, very dry. Immediately the local kids went to the car to see who was in there: A pink-skin? We were there to inspect the activities of my company, and to inspect the local forest protection committee. Seems there were two in this village. There seem to be so many people in the village who wanted to become a member, that the forest department (the government) decided to make two of them. Both are now defunct. Woohoo!

The next village was a bit larger, and a larger crowed soon gathered around us. A lot of faces were staring at me as we entered a building and sat on some improvised beds. At the moment of writing this sentence I`m getting some comments on me being a left-handed writer. Continuing with the story, my unit head, Dr. Tiwari, held a speech and he asked me to ask some basic questions to the local population. Is there a forest protection committee here? No? Why not? Ah yes..no forest (anymore). After that visit we went to visit a farm of a local farmer, who with the help of my NGO, created a pretty nice place for himself.

The farmer himself was also a pretty nice character; All dressed in white, a little beard, getting grey hair here and there and best of all, I was wearing some sunglases that looked like those old airplane-pilot glasses from World war II. A pretty funny character, but a good guy. I noticed that although the people living in the country might have a bit more primitive excistence, there is something in their faces that most city-folk miss – honesty and pureness. Especially at the village of the scheduled tribe (formerly known simply as dalits, or untouchables by indians) I noticed that what you see is what you get. These people don`t have any secrets that they keep from you. My boss, mr. Tiwari called them “simple folk” at one point..while I was more thinking about honest and pure. Not yet spoiled by the smell of money and the ambition of getting more, more and even more of it.

The next day we went to visit the local forest department office. It was pretty small, with some old guards standing out in front of it. While we were waiting in the office for the local leader to arrive, I did not expect it to be a woman. But there she came, speaking perfect english and nicely dressed. I wonder if she was forced into this job, as a kind of side-step to climb the governmental job-ladder. Running a regional forest department office in the middle of nowhere in rajasthan did not seem such an exciting job for any person, especially for a woman who still seemed to be pretty young. The meeting was nice though, and she explained me some things in general, and I again asked some initial questions. After this we went to one of the forest enclosures, or parks, where the forest is being protected from grazing cattle and wood-chopping humans. It was a very nice place, late in the afternoon, and we talking a bit with the two men who guard the area. They do this by circleing the 50ha area with their bikes, keeping the people and cattle on the other side of the 1.20m high stone wall.

All in all these 3 days where a very interesting experience, and I certainly will go back in the near future. But first I have to wave goodbye to some friends I made in my first weeks in Jaipur.