Sunday, 25 June 2017

Volunteering in Jaipur

So this coming week is an interesting one as it marks six months of living in India and six months working and volunteering with the kids in the slum.  As is usually the case, in some ways it feels like I have been out here forever and in others it's hard to believe that I have known these particular kids for six months.

I've always had a great relationship with them and they have been warm and playful with me but these last six weeks the children have become much more affectionate towards me.  They love to come and snuggle up with me and give me hugs and hold my hand.  Recently we played a game of shops, where the children had to try out their money handling skills and counting.  It was great fun and made me laugh as so many of them wanted to buy me things from our shop because they didn't want me to do without.

It's also funny to look back at some of the children and see, not only how far they have progressed but how much they have changed as children.  There are a core bunch who come almost every day and who, as time has gone on absolutely love coming everyday, they try hard and want to learn and you realise how much their behaviour has improved.  They no longer want to climb the school walls or constantly fight, in fact the only children who do that are the ones that rarely come to school but come every now and then so have not learnt how to behave or respect our new school rules.


When I first started, these kids weren't particularly interested in coming to school, where as for the last three or four months they will come running to school and want to know what we will be doing that day.  They will actively ask for work.  Recently I have been teaching them how to write their name and the big challenge next, is teaching them how to read, which is going to be tough considering I only know some Hindi myself, but teaching these kids to read could open up a whole new world for them.

Their counting has improved, as has their social skills and creativity.  We have been teaching them a little English to help them get by and we have been teaching them through so many different methods, from pretend money to playdough, to making music out of old bottles, to counting using a ball, to learning the alphabet through snap games.  It's hard to believe we have been working together for six months and the impact and importance they have on my life.  I absolutely love them, they are a joy to work with and when your having a crappy day, that look of recognition and happiness on their face as they walk into school and see you is priceless.

These children make my day and I hope in some small way, I make theirs too because I can't change their situation and the life laid before them but I can help to give them an amazing experience now and if I can teach them something that will improve things for their future, so much the better.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

In No Man's Land

So at the moment it's a bit of a strange situation, equally frustrating as well considering i was signed up to do a ten day Vipasna course, however i am currently without my visa or passport!  The joys of Indian bureaucracy means that despite starting the visa process two months early, because of how difficult it is at the Foreign Region Registery Office and how they change their mind so many times, i still only just got my paper work in on time.  My visa was due to expire on the 29th May and i was able to get it to them for the 25th May, result?!  No!  That's when they inform me that they will be sending it to the Rajasthani Government and it will take up to a month!! So that means no travel, no going anywhere and no staying anywhere else.  Which meant that my Vipasna course had to be cancelled.

It's kind of  a crazy situation that makes me smile, that at this point in time i am in no man's land, unable to travel or leave the country and yet no official paper work to say that i am allowed to be here.  It's kind of funny and typical of the situation out here.  It was a pain in the arse due to the fact that my mobile and internet have been cut off due to not having a current visa but as i have come to realise in India, i have good friends and they have sorted out my phone and internet issue for me and got me the necessary sim.  

You have got to love Indian bureaucracy though because at the same time as applying for a visa extension the head lady there told me to apply for registration for my residency permit which i did.  The thinking at the office was hey we will give her  a residency permit for the 25th May when she put in the paper work until the 29th when her visa expires!!  Like i want a piece of paper for four days.  Common sense would tell you i was applying for visa registration to go along with the visa extension but no apparently common sense did not register with these people.  So all the paper work i put in will have to be submitted again for the second time and knowing this scenario, i will have to pay a fine for applying late due to the fact that they have my to love their system!

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Hopefully it will be back with me soon and that will be paperwork complete for the next year with regards to the visa and i can go stay in a hotel or take a train without any problems.  Got to say, it makes you realise how difficult it must be for people when they move to the UK and the frustrations or complications people face because they were not born in a specific country.

It's still all worth it though and i'll glad when the passport is back as i am in need of a little break and it is time to go and explore some of India for a few days or head up to Spitti to escape monsoon when it comes. 

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Animals of India!

I love driving through the old least when someone else is driving!  I haven't quite ventured in to driving here in India, but there is still plenty of time and I am really beginning to miss driving, although it's not too pleasant an experience in India.  However on Friday night I went to the Light and Sound show at Amer Fort with two of my friends, a great show detailing the history of Jaipur and Amer Fort and why the city had relocated from Amer to Jaipur.  Well worth watching for something different to do in Jaipur on an evening, although I also tend to think that there are plenty of places to go and have a drink or relax on a rooftop terrace, but this is something that you can only do here in Jaipur;-)

In order to get there though we have to go through the old part of the city, with its beautiful pink buildings, with Hawa Mahal and it's breathtaking facade, with vehicles pulling out in front of you in all directions.  It really is a unique experience!


Firstly, the journey starts with us sharing food because in India everyone shares food and what food is someone else's is also yours.  So munching on our paranthas and sabze we set off!  As we try and make our way through the old city, we see the monkeys coasting along the pink rooftops, see cows just decide to wander in to the street and as we continue to Amer we pass camels finishing their days work at Jal Mahal, better known as the palace on the lake.

The two guys I went with are really great guys and along with our other friend they make me realise that although India may have somewhat of a reputation with regards to guys and them not knowing how to treat women, there are also plenty of men who are defying that stereotype and show such courtesy, respect and friendship.  I enjoy hanging with these guys and spending quite a bit of time with them and being shown a different side to Jaipur that only a local would know, which goes for enjoying street food or finding the best places to shop.  These guys are a wealth of information and their good fun too!

The light and sound show was fun and interesting all at the same time and made me chuckle!  Firstly, we missed the English performance because we were late as is typical Indian style, however we were able to make the Hindi performance which comes after.  Now, I hear Hindi all the time so was happy to watch the performance even if I couldn't necessarily understand it and fortunately my friends could translate.  As the performance started at 8.30pm, the back section was full but the rest was empty, however 15 minutes after the start, it begins to fill up with Indian people in all their lateness and 25 minutes in to it, I would say the last few people had arrived for the show, which was now almost half way through.  It made me smile and think of how India is on its own time, of which these days I am definitely into my Indian time keeping and need to get better at sticking to the correct time again!

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After the performance finished we drive back to the city and as my Indian friends are talking, I let out a squeal of surprise, as an elephant plods along in the darkness.  My Jaipurite friends were not phased having seen it many times before but I wonder if  I will ever get used to seeing these beautiful animals plodding along in the street.  They are so majestic!  We come to the end of the road and also in the darkness are two camels and it got me thinking of the animals you get to see on a regular basis in India in places you wouldn't expect to see them if this was the West....but then this is India in all its beauty:-)
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