Blog from Elana O. Photos from the Overseas Educators

Last week the Shiva group packed their bags and said their goodbyes to the host families in Jaipur. We headed to the train station and, after many ukelele songs and the death of one flip flop, boarded the train to Udaipur- the Venice of India.

The first day in the lake-filled city included a lovely breakfast and walking tour of the City Palace: a western-inspired building that sat above Udaipur and Lake Pichola. Following the stunning view, we had a thali lunch at a vintage car museum. Then we had free time to rest (or, in my case, find a new pair of sandals with secure straps). For dinner we took a sunset boat ride across the gorgeous lake we had seen from above earlier in the day, up to the rooftop of a hotel. We feasted on paneer butter masala, chapati, and spiced potatoes in the candle light while enjoying conversation with Rishiji and the owner of our hotel.

The next morning was ours to explore Udaipur and catch up with our friends and family at the internet cafe. For lunch we indulged in the “best thali in Udaipur” according to Rishiji, and the endless dishes definitely lived up to expectations. After that, we packed our bags once more for the mountain-clad villages of Jahdol.
We were welcomed into the all-girls school by a plethora of waving and smiling children, who enthusiastically asked us our names and how we were in their best english.

The next morning we sat around mugs of chai- a now multidaily activity among the group- and discussed lesson plans, as we were supposed to teach our first classes that day. Personally, I think my class went well and after the lesson, the kids showed us games and songs in the courtyard outside the classrooms. That night, we headed to our village homestays where we were put to work shucking beans and rolling chipati under the bright stars. Each day and night in Jahdol was educational not only for our class material, but for how to live a more simplistic life. We were able to interview with villagers and local farmers and artisans, conversing about local traditions and norms.

Fast forward one beautiful, stormy night later, and it was Ghandi’s birthday. That morning shiva assembled over post-breakfast chai to create a speech in his honor to read at the concert the school put on later that day. Sunday night also happened to be the first night of a festival celebrating the Goddess Durga and we were invited to a dance celebration. The group learned traditional step dances under shimmering lights. We rested well that night to enjoy the scenic journey back to Udaipur the next morning.

This past week was one for the books as we all had the honor to teach beautiful and intelligent young women and become part of hard-working farming families all while enjoying the magnificent view of the mountains and valleys.