Jaipur is an incredible place. It is completely made up of temples, castles, markets, cows and the most welcoming people. There really is so much to see and do, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to navigate compared to Delhi.
Fun fact: Jaipur was Rajasthan’s first planned city. Everything else just happened…which seems to be a trend in Indian culture…
Monday morning I awoke full of excitement for the education project to begin. The school I am working in is located in Jagatpura, one of the slums in Jaipur. It’s about a 20-minute drive from where I’m staying in Sodala. Upon arrival, we stepped out of the car into the blazing heat of Jaipur and walked up to an adorably painted small building covered in rainbows and clouds. The building is three floors. The first is just a small room with stairs, the second is another room with a small balcony, small bathroom (that hasn’t been cleaned in a very, very long time), a small teacher’s room where we can store all our papers, notes and games, and another set of stairs that leads to the rooftop. But you really don’t want to go up there. You will literally melt.
The school has three small classes; a small group of children between the ages of 10 – 16 who are in the ‘lower class’, they are further behind compared to the rest of the children. The ‘middle class’ is a group of about 6, but that changes everyday depending on if they show up or not. They are all between the ages of 7 – 13. Then there is the ‘higher class’, which is my class. It consists of 3 students: Vishal, Maima and Ahje. Vishal is 12, Maima is 13 and I’m not sure how old Ahje is. None of them know their birth date, because they don’t celebrate it. I also asked them where they live, and they aren’t too sure about that either. They all come from poor families who move around a lot, and they usually come to school in the same dirty clothes as the day before. It is heartbreaking. They are not taken care of at all. They are such beautiful kids and are so smart, and sweet. I get choked up thinking about what their lives are like when they return home after a long day of school and running around in the hot sun with no water.
My big accomplishment this week was that I taught Vishal how to do multiplication, which was probably harder for me than for him. I haven’t written out math on paper in almost 5 years! He usually gets to the solution of the math problem before I’ve even had time to count 8 x 12 on my fingers.
I have a very special place in my heart for Vishal; I’ve grown very attached to him. He calls me 'deedee', which means big sister. He always has a huge smile on his face and we high five every time he gets the right answer to the math problems I write out. He really enjoys learning and he is such a good kid. A young kid with a passion for education isn’t exactly very common anymore.
He got hit in the head with a stone the week before I arrived so he has been wearing a tensor bandage around his head all week. Hopefully we can remove it next week. Poor thing.
In the afternoon, I have my girl’s class. I teach them English and help them with their math homework. Most of the older girls go to the government schools, as they are free, but love coming for more practice and socializing with their friends in a comfortable environment. They love to pull my curls and hear me speak Hindi, and then giggle every time I say something wrong. Sometimes I’m not sure if I said it wrong or if they are just super giggly. They are all adorable and as soon as I met them I thought, it’s going to be really hard to leave them.
This week has been such a thrill. Waking up early to drive to Jagatpura, teaching from 9:30am – 3:00pm, coming back to the guesthouse to prepare for the next day’s lesson plan, and then somehow finding the energy to make it out for another sightseeing activity around the Pink City.
Last night, Anna and I, along with Claire and another new friend from Germany, Cecelia, browsed around the Bapu Bazaar markets, purchasing sparkly Indian shoes, jewelry and spices. Afterwards, Anna and I grabbed a tuk tuk so we could wander through the Birla Mandir Hindu temple, which is made out of the same marble as the Taj Mahal. It is incredibly beautiful, especially at night, lit up by white lights. My picture does not do it justice. It was quite busy at 8:30pm, as devoted Hindu’s gathered for a late night offering to the gods. We watched as beautiful women in colorful sarees prayed silently and men stared at us as we walked past with our louse trousers and bindi’s on. As we exited the temple, a man asked me “excuse me, can you hold my baby for a minute?” “Umm…sure” I responded, thinking he maybe needed to grab something and couldn’t with the baby in his arms. Nope. He wanted to take a picture of me with his baby. And then everyone joined in with their camera phones to photograph the white girl holding the Indian baby. I’m still quite puzzled by it.
Tomorrow I am giving my students a test on all the new English words they learnt this week, as well as a small math quiz. They are actually really excited about it! Afterwards we will have a dance class for both the morning class and girls class in the afternoon. They want me to bring ‘international music’. I’m sure a lot more giggling is yet to come.
This weekend, Anna and I will travel to Udaipur, the most romantic city in Rajasthan. We have less than 48 hours to see 1,000,000 things.
Wish us luck!