Author Archives: ricaperez

About ricaperez

I am a 34 year old college student who is only one semester away from getting a degree in Biological Anthropology. Most people want to know what that is and it is the study of the human lineage, understanding of where humans originated from and where they are going. I have started a blog because I am going to be studying in India this summer 2012. I will be learning about the culture and specifically studying Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga.

In The Land of Dhrangadra

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Today is my last day in Dhrangadhra and I have to say it is a bittersweet feeling.  I am happy to get back to my life but sad to be leaving all the people I have met.  I can’t say I will miss the smell of cow poop in the morning or dodging the droppings as I walk down the street, but life is much simpler here and there is no rush to do anything.  I will miss the evening talks in the garden with Bapa and the breeze as it flies by with birds humming in the background and frogs croaking all the while.  I will miss bedtime talk with my roommate Elayna and the laughing that ensues when we talk about our days.  I will miss dancing with Suman. I will also miss Mehul’s ideas on Ayurvedic medicine and yoga; I will also miss the fact that he and I share a lot of the same ideals. I will miss afternoon tea and the samosas that sometimes accompanied my drink.

The air is different here, it is thick and hot and most of the time it is filled with dust and grime, your skin is dry and chalky and you think it will never be the same again but you desperately hope that it will.  When you walk outside of your door in the morning the heat slaps you right in the face, and you want to turn around and go back into your comfortable room with an ac unit, but if you do you know men will be banging down your door screaming, “Breakfast!” So you keep moving and sit down to drink your tea with lots of milk and sugar and eat your bran and coco puffs. What you know is that the heat will only progress as the day goes on and your legs will be dripping sweat and your back will have beads running down.  This is inevitably your day but you proceed and actually enjoy it.  The dancing is silent with only a young woman’s voice calling out beats and the slap of your foot against the floor, then you hear a dog cry out and wince because you are unsure of what is actually going on, but wish you could help but can’t. All mornings are like this in this strange and foreign land, and even though you know this is not reality it is yours for the next 30 days.

Well that’s sort of how my mornings felt and there were days that I just ignored the staff banging on my door, but then I found out they cannot eat unless we all have, and I made sure to be there at a reasonable hour because I felt guilty for being so privileged.  They got up early and made my breakfast and they couldn’t have theirs until I had mine; I think it’s a bit strange, but I do not understand old customs and especially those of royal people.

Every morning and evening there is the call to prayer for Muslims and it can be heard throughout town, it is beautiful.  I was never able to find out where the man was calling from but wherever I was I could hear his voice.  The best time to hear him was in the early morning as the sun comes up.  I would wake up and hear him calling out and he always gently put me back to sleep.

There is a lot going on in the land of Dhrangadhra ,but it is so small one would never believe it.  There is one main road that leads in and out of the town and there are a lot of people selling and buying in the market everyday, but there is no nightlife, only men can go to the movies, and everything is closed by 11 pm.  But at the same time there are things called night programs that are constantly happening with music, dance, and drama.  They can go on from 9 pm till 4 am, and people perform for their gods and goddesses all night long.  These programs can go on for days ,and people go into trances and become healed, and gods come to life.  This is the amazing and magical part of this country; art comes to life in ways that most Americans can’t even imagine and until I got here neither could I.

I will be posting more pictures and videos of the trip when I get home since I will have easier access. Thanks for reading and hopefully I will see most of you soon.

The Taj Mahal And Other Various Forts

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The Taj Mahal is magnificent! I can see why it is one of the “seven wonders of the world.”  It has a way of tricking the eye and it makes the world look so much brighter with all its marble.  I only wish I had seen it in the morning when it’s not white but pink, oh well, maybe another time.

We got a tour guide because it seemed like the most practical thing to do and he was good.  He kept all the pickpocketing kids away from us and yelled if they tried to get too close. He told us the story of the tomb and showed us little secrets about the mosaics. Did you know that on a full moon it costs 5000 rupees to enter instead of 750 rupees? No, well it does because apparently when a full moon shines on the Taj Mahal the jewels in the mosaic shine and give off red and green colors.  The pillars are at a 1.5 meters angle away from the tomb in case of earthquakes.  There are two buildings on either side of the tomb one is a mosque and the other a guest- house that are identical to each other.  It was wonderful, and if I haven’t complained enough about the heat I will do it again.  It was hot and I swear the marble made it hotter.  The sun has never been so bright in my life, it was as if there were snow on the ground but 120 degrees, can you imagine that? It is a marvel!

After we left the Taj Mahal we had lunch in air conditioning (YAY!), and then proceeded to go to the next place, Red Fort. Ok, we generally do not leave the house during the hot hours of the day and a part of me wish we had taken a nap before Red Fort.  I thought the Taj Mahal was hot until we reached the fort at 1230 pm with a fully belly.  There was a point where my translators thought I needed sun block because my face was bright red, but no, I was just overheated. Red Fort is where the mogul family lived.  It is also where his son imprisoned him when he spent too much money on a tomb for one of his beloved wives, the Taj Mahal.  It was red, obviously, and had dance halls, libraries, and really fancy living quarters.  Their sleeping spaces were all marble with fountains and views of the Taj Mahal as it was being built.

We also went to Akbar’s Tomb which is 19 km away from Agra.  It was also red and held he and two of his wives.  He built the tomb with 41 spaces for his whole family, but no one else ended being placed there.  It was the last stop on our tour and at the end of it all I could think of is how much these people honored their dead.  The tombs that were built are some of the most extravagant in the world and so grand.  I could not wrap my head around why every tomb was so large.  Ojasviba told me it was so Indians could visit them and pay their respects and never forget what great rulers they were; she said that if there is a large building more people are likely to remember them and visit.  I guess she is right because I felt I couldn’t leave India without seeing the Taj Mahal.  People come far and wide to see this woman’s tomb and marvel at its grandeur.

There’s A First Time For Everything

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For the first time I made a Punjabi dish with my dance teacher Suman.  Julie and I wanted to learn to make a dish and she said we could come over, practice, and then she would show us how to cook.  We made potatoes with puni, fried bread; everything was vegan and also very tasty.  We started with the potatoes, she put them in the steamer and walked away, then she took out a few cloves of garlic, onions, jalapeno, and tomatoes.  She cut all that up on the floor and stuck it in the food processor; she then started on the puni, which is just water, salt, and oil.  She kneaded the dough and started pinching off small pieces and made them into balls and smashed them flat.  She took out her rolling pin and the small table that goes with it and taught us how to roll the dough.  We both tried it but she laughed and told us it was wrong, apparently if you do not roll them out perfectly round they would not fry correctly.  So she rolled all of ours over again and fixed them.  The potatoes came out of the steamer and the skin basically fell off and instead of cutting anything with a knife she just pulled the potatoes apart with her hands into perfect squares. The sauce was already on the burner and she threw that on top of the potatoes and dinner was ready.  I took video of the whole process just in case I couldn’t remember, so I will probably show some of it here as soon as I get home. The dish was delicious and I might actually make it when I get home. It’s funny, Suman is only 23 years old and she seems so much older since she has a family and household that she takes care of while teaching dance.  We cannot communicate by talking but she has taught me a lot in the past month.

Another first was watching my translator, Ojasviba, ride a plane for the first time.  In order to travel to the Taj Mahal Bapa said we needed to take 2 people with us since there are so many pickpockets and con artists. Ojasviba was one of the people and I found out later that she had never been on a plane.  She is 31 years old and has never left India and is pretty innocent by American standards.  She was very excited and it wasn’t until we got to the airport that she realized she forgot her ID.  All I thought was she will never get on, in America you forget your ID then go home and get it, no if, ands, or buts.  Not in India! She managed to get into the airport by using her mobile number and then when we got to the desk she told the attendant that she was pickpocketed in Ahmedabad.  They told her she just needed a copy of her ID and that would be fine.  She called her brother and he sent me a copy and we were on our way.  I have to say I was a little nervous we wouldn’t make it, I got the email as the plane was boarding so we were rushing, but being that this is India and nothing is ever on time we got to the gate and they hadn’t started boarding yet, thank goodness! We got onto the plane and I gave her the window seat and she was like a kid in a candy store, it was so funny.  She asked me to take her picture and then she couldn’t stop looking out the window and asking me questions.  She said that the windows should be the whole side of the plane so that you could look out and see everything.  She wanted to be outside on the wing so she could look down and see the land.  When we finally got into the air she was so amazed that she was in the clouds.  She told me,  “When I was a little girl I always wondered how I would be in the clouds, now I am in them it is like a fairy land.”  The whole ride she would look out the window and tell me what she saw and when she got excited she would grab my hand and tell me that she saw a mountain or a river.  It was fun to see it anew, I have been flying since I was a little girl — the wonder was lost on me a long time ago, and it was nice to see it through someone else’s eyes.  It was as if I was flying for the first time and it made my trip to Delhi that much more memorable.

Stepwells, Sun Temples, and Minivans…Oh my!

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This morning I woke up at five and got ready for our long journey to an ancient well and temple.  Of course I was in my minivan of fun and disco music and good company.  I sat in the very back with seats that face each other and started the journey with a cup of tea and some parle –g’s in me.  If I didn’t mention it before Parle-g’s are gluco and wheat, well that’s what the package says, but basically they are animal crackers.  I have to admit I was a little worried about this long trip because I do not particularly enjoy Indian toilets, you know the hole in the ground instead of a seat, but I was prepared and had hand wipes and everything!

The Stepwell was the first stop, three hours away and we made it there with only one rest stop for tea.  The hotel we stopped at was not ready for breakfast yet and I have to say I was glad, because the onions were on the floor in the kitchen and it didn’t look too good back there.  We drank tea and then drove the 3 kilometers to the site.  The Stepwell is the largest in the world and so intricate.  There are carvings all along the walls and the steps were different in every direction.  It was beautiful and over 900 years old.  Apparently, it was created many years ago for people to retrieve their water and then was covered up, and in 1989 it was rediscovered.  They have been renovating it ever since and people come from all over to see it.  There are also monkeys all over the grounds so we got to see them playing.  It felt like a zoo except that the monkeys could run right up to you.  I’m still having a hard time with the fact that wild animals are everywhere.  There are 8- foot cobras in the backyard of the palace and also a 12 -foot anaconda. I have not seen them and I kind of hope I don’t.  The peacocks meow like cats and the water buffalo are just intimidating.  There are a swarm of bees near my bedroom door and everyone that works here look at me like I am crazy for being worried about them.  It takes some getting used to.

I digress, the well was something I had learned about before I came here and I was excited to see it and I hope my pictures do it justice.  By this point it was about noon and we had not eaten much of anything so the whole was getting a little cranky.  We got into the car thinking we were going to lunch, but about 200 meters down the road they stopped and told us to get out of the car.  There was an old lake we were to look at, and then we walked down to the lake and there was no water.  It had been dried up for years and so I sat and looked down at a barren desert with some pillars in it.  The more exciting part of this story was the animals.  It was like Animal Kingdom; I looked down on the ground and thought I saw something breathing but it was hard to tell what it was it was so camouflaged.  I got closer and saw a little tiny iguana.  Once it realized I saw it took off and jumped onto a tree. It fit into the scenery so perfectly I almost lost it.  Then the squirrels decided to do a dance around the trees so quickly that I couldn’t get a good picture of them.  I say squirrels, but they look more chipmunks.  In India the pronunciation of the word squirrel is pretty funny, it sounds like squeerel because their i’s sound like e’s.  So we finally left the waterless lake and jumped into the minivan for our long trip to lunch.

Oh but they forgot to tell us we had one more temple to stop at before lunch. At this point I was in what one would call “food emergency,” and I did not get out of the car because I was so hot and hungry.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures either so I never saw the inside of the temple. We finally left and got to the “hotel” where we had lunch.  There are many places here that are called hotels but really they are rest stops to get food and use the bathroom, some of them have rooms but not all do.  We were told that we could order whatever we wanted and this was a nice change from being told what to eat everyday.  I had saag paneer, tikka masala, and some potato dish; they were all good and the roti was thinner, closer to a naan, so it was really good.  I ended up having to use the Indian toilet but I got lucky it was pretty clean!!

Anyway, from there we drove another 2 hours and arrived at the Sun Temple; this is a temple that has been around since the Vedas, over 2,000 years old.  It was built when people prayed to the sun and moon and was made for the sun gods.  There were steps that led to a pool and along the walls were carvings of Kama Sutra positions.  It was a really nice park, but I got sick on the car drive there so I found a shade and sat under it until everyone was done.  Lucky for me Liz took pity on me and took pictures with my camera. The only thing that was not so great about this park was a family that decided it would be cool to take pictures of me while I was sitting alone.  I was nauseous and overheated and a lady and her family all huddled together about 5 feet from me and took pictures with her Nokia phone.  They first asked me if it was all right and I said no but they didn’t listen and took me picture, then they walked closer to the temple turned around and stared and took more pictures of me.  It was really weird and I felt kind of violated, but I just hope they don’t put me on the Internet because I can guarantee I was not looking so great.

To sum up they day started at 5 am and ended at 830 pm.  It was very long and I was exhausted when I got home. India can take a lot of you even when you are sitting in a car for most of the day.  There is no easy trip here, from what I have heard and experienced the heat can exhaust you without having to do anything.

What Year Is It Again?

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Lately I have been waking up eating breakfast and going to dance.  It doesn’t seem that interesting, right? Well, it’s always an adventure in India. Bapa wants us to learn the art of stick dancing and the gentleman who teaches it is about 60 years old and he smiles the whole time he is fighting you, a little creepy, but he’s cute.

He taught me how to fight him with a bamboo stick and twirl around as if we were dueling, it was fun, but the part that gets me is that he only works with men.  He is the leader of a performance group called the Bharvai, an all male troop that dress us as women when needed.  He has been in the group since he was 15 years old and says that he was destined to be the leader because of the lines on his palm.  Apparently if the three lines on the palm meet and form one into the arm then you are a born leader.  He was filled with mythical stories and grandiose ideas, he was amazing; although he would not act out any parts of the play with me, he could only act with a man.  He said that women were born with failure and therefore could not play roles because they would ultimately ruin the play.  Yet another thing that is hard for me to understand.  The culture is so, male dominant that sometimes it feels like we are just here to be stared at.  The boys are addressed when we are out and we are not acknowledged unless there are no males with us.  If you think the language barrier is hard then imagine not being able to join in on a conversation just because you are a female.  The first two weeks were really hard for the women in the group, because we were not allowed to leave the compound without a chaperone.  Now that we have been here for three weeks we are allowed out with a boy, it doesn’t have to be with one of the interpreters.  It gives us a little more leniency, but it’s still annoying.  In America we can come and go as we please, and here must be covered up and ask permission to leave the compound.  It the staff feels it is unsafe to go somewhere then we cannot go, but the boys are in and out whenever they want.  Sometimes I look around the town and I think I have travelled back in time.  The era depends on the day, sometimes it’s the 1800’s, sometimes the 1940-1950’s, but never do I feel like it is 2012.  It’s weird but it really makes you wonder what other places are like.  It makes me want to learn about other countries that are not westernized and see what else is different.  Would I feel like this in Africa? Would it be the same? I think it would probably be really different, but now I want to know.

OH YEAH ABOUT THE FOOD

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As most of my friends know I am not much of a foodie, but I do like to eat.  We are given 3 square meals a day and afternoon tea with a small snack.  This is more food than I would normally eat, but being that I am a dancer now I am starving at every meal.  The food at breakfast consists of cereal, either choco puffs or cornflakes, eggs- hard boiled or omelet, bread- toasted or plain with mixed fruit jelly, and tea.  This is the same every morning and we have not had a traditional Indian breakfast yet.  I would like to see what it is since I am not a traditional American breakfast kind of person.  Lunch is the spiciest meal of the day and usually has the most variety.  There is always chapatti or roti, flat breads that are to be eaten with the vegetable dish.  There is also white rice with peas and pomegranate and a soup, which you are supposed to eat with the rice.  Then there are corn chips and fried spicy flatbreads too.  Dinner is a little less spicy, but it still burns the mouth! There is a type of fried rice at dinner and a vegetable (Indian term is sabzi) and more flatbreads that are either fried or cooked right over gas.

Basically the food at the palace is cooked for our safety.  Bapa worries that we will get sick and has slowly introduced different meals to us, as our stomachs grow used to this environment.

So far, no one has gotten very sick and only mild stomach- aches have occurred.  The problem with the food is that, for most of us, it is too spicy and a little monotonous.  When I visited Surendranagar last week and had lunch outside of the palace it tasted a little like heaven because it was from a different cook.  Anytime I am invited to eat somewhere else I take the chance just to see the different styles and tastes.  My dance instructor has invited me for Indian Chinese food and I cannot wait to taste it.  Will inform everyone about it when it happens.

We got ice cream cake the other night and everyone went a little crazy and we downed 4 small cakes between the 12 of us, it was fantastic.  It’s so funny how the little things are so great here.  Life is so much simpler and moves slowly.  Time is not of the essence but enjoying the situation you are in is.  They believe that food is even predestined.  Their philosophy is that every grain has someone’s name on it and if you buy 2 samosas at the market and someone sits next to you and wants it then it was meant for them to have it.  They believe in sharing food and that one should not eat alone.  If there is someone sitting next to you on a bus and you are eating, then you share what you have with the stranger and no one will want for anything.

These philosophies sound great in theory, but really this nation has many starving people and animals and there are so many that need to eat but have no way of getting it.  Karma is supposed to have a lot to do with the reasons why some have a lot and others have nothing, but from a western point of view it is truly hard to understand why it is someone’s past life that governs their poverty.  Someone is born into a particular caste and that means they were not good in another life and therefore they have to live in slums, have no education, and they should be looked at as untouchable.  It baffles my mind! Sorry, so far from the food topic, but here I am complaining about how the food is too spicy and boring while I ride past people starving in alleys and they are completely malnourished.  Apparently this is one of the richest areas in India, but it doesn’t seem that way and I can’t imagine what other places look like.  The slums here are just tarps covering up mats on the ground and the goats and cows live among them too.  The children chase you down the street begging for money and pinching you to get your attention.  It’s hard to ignore them but we are also told not to give them money since it will perpetuate the behavior.  Bapa told us to have candy to give to the children instead so we have little stashes just in case.  Life here is so different from anything I have ever seen and as beautiful as it is there are a lot of ideals and customs that are hard to understand.

Lost in the Desert, In the Desert Tonight!

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Getting lost in the desert doesn’t sound like fun does it? Well, it’s not what I would call fun, but an adventure none the least.

At around nine o’clock last night they threw us into a cattle truck and set us on our way.  It smelled like hay and cow but at least it had a tarp on it.  We didn’t have to sit and remain still or anything so I got up and watched the night pass us by.  The breeze was amazing and the people waved or stared as we drove by. We left the town limits and then it was almost complete darkness except for the random street -light that made no sense.  Under those lights I saw a family eating dinner with their camel and dogs snacking on some trash.  Our truck had flashing red and blue lights and sounded like a dance truck and I think we were all hyped enough that it seemed like we were on the back of a party bus. There was music being played on cell phones, people singing songs, and we also had a tin drum that one of the staff was playing on and off throughout the night.

We entered the desert around 11 o’clock and the smell of salt and sand was overwhelming; it was really weird because I couldn’t see the land but it smelled just like the beach.  The truck rode on and on and then stopped. The staff jumped out and also our translator, Ojesviba, but nobody told us to get out and we sat there waiting.

.  Finally, I had to use the restroom so I jumped out with another girl, Shera, and we investigated the area.  The moon was out and shining bright but other than that it was dark and flat.  We started to walk away from the trucks to find a place and realized that the land was also a little wet in some spots, which seemed really odd being that we were in the desert.  All of a sudden I heard our leader of the trip, Bhaila, he is an older man and cousin to Bapa and gets very worried when we stray from the pack.  He told us to stay away from the darker land since it was soft and sent Ojesviba to help us find a place.  The dark land was wet because of the way the people there procure salt.  The land is so salty that the ground is not smooth, but rather it is cracked and the openings go very deep.  We had stopped on land that was mostly hard and soft salt and then we found out that we were lost.

Lost? Really, we are lost in the middle of nowhere? We were supposed to end up near a temple and a hill that had agate in it. Bapa had said that we could take a handful of agate and bring it home and make jewelry, so I thought I would grab some for my jewelry making friends and call it a day.  Nope. We were nowhere near that area and one of the trucks went out to see if they could find it; a half an hour later and no luck.  They decided we would just sleep where we were and we did.  The staff started to take the cots out of the truck and hand them over to us. They advised that we take it to an area not too far away and sleep.  I failed to mention how windy it was. Well, it was very windy and we had to keep our faces covered so we didn’t inhale too much salt. I also put my glasses on so I could see and not have salt flying into my eyes.

I lay back, looked up, and I didn’t care about the wind, being lost, and breathing in salt air, the sky was gorgeous.  There were stars everywhere and it felt like being in a planetarium in fifth grade. The moon was behind me and the stars were in front of me and I’m not sure if it’s true, but the wind stopped.  That’s how I fell asleep. I woke up a few hours later and the moon had gone down and there were even more stars in the sky and it felt like the sky was wrapping me up in one of the many galaxies.

I awoke at 5:20 a.m. and was told to bring a bottle of water and walk into the sun. I started walking and got some pretty pictures and watched the sunrise over the desert.  The sunrise was peaceful and quiet and I stood there and watched it all by myself.  We had all separated to meditate and enjoy the quietude.

Disco Minivans are So Much Fun!

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Yesterday we took a ride out to a town by the name of Halvad. We were told that we would get to see a few temples and Bapas’ old palace. The palace is over 500 years old and abandoned by humans, but there are many other species that live there instead.  It was creepy and beautiful at the same time. There were fruit bats, which if you are not aware are much larger than the bats we see in Philadelphia.  I took a trip up to the top of the castle with the boys and saw them flying around and hanging high from the trees.  It felt like they were all going to turn into vampires, that’s how big they were.  There were also dogs walking along the ledges up high just waiting for a bird to swoop too low. We also saw a large honeybee hive, and I was a little too close for comfort, but it was neat to see such a large hive.  There were all kinds of birds and it was all a little surreal, considering my professor is the owner of this medieval castle.  I have seen old castles in Europe that are open to the public, so one can see the way people lived hundreds of years ago, but I had never seen an old castle that someone I know owns and has been passed down to him by his forefathers. Amazing!

A view of the castle

Where the bats are living.

We also went to a temple that was made for all the people who had sacrificed their lives for India. It was made for men and women and all castes.  There were symbols on the tombs of either a hand, which symbolized a woman, or a man on a horse, which symbolized men.  All of the women had sacrificed their lives after their husbands had died but not the other way around.  The story got even more interesting when I saw what looked like a large grill and asked one of the interpreters, Dipta, what it was.  She explained that it is where people bring their dead relatives to cremate them.  When I looked down I realized that the ashes around the grill were rather new and that it had most likely been used within the past few weeks. This was not just an ancient tradition it was still going on and then I looked up and there was a funeral procession walking right past us.  I have to admit I got a little nervous; I was sure that they were going to walk right up to where I was standing and light the dead person on fire, but they kept walking.  Dipta called out to them to ask if we could follow and we started walking.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch a body get burned, but I kept walking and then suddenly she stopped.  She turned to us and said the body was a little boy and they were walking to another area so we did not follow them.  The one thing I noticed was that there were no women in the procession, and she said that generally only men go and the government preferred that women not follow because they tend to become to upset.  Although, if the family did not have any sons then the daughters are to go instead and start the fire, then Dipta told us her story about when she lit her grandfather’s right toe and leg at his funeral.  She said that whatever remains are left after the fire has died out will go into a container and stay at home for a few days and then they bring the remains to a river and release it so that the person can move on.  In the Hindu religion, one is not allowed to worship or go to a temple for three days, because one has seen an impure object, so they need to cleanse themselves before praying to their gods.

I must apologize because I did not get a picture of the grill I was too stunned by the funeral procession. Above are some of the stones for the people that sacrificed their lives for India.

This fieldtrip was a little heavy at times, but at the end of the night all of the girls piled into our minivan and the driver played disco, Enigma, Akon, and Tokyo drift all the way home.  We all laughed and danced all the way home.

It’s A Hot One Here In Dhrangadhra

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I have been here a week and it has been very different from what I know; from the shower being in the middle of the bathroom with no stall, cows, pigs, and goats on top of carts stealing food, rickshaws all decked out with tassels and music blaring, dogs sitting on park benches taking naps with old men waking up next to them.  I have to admit I had a good start to the week, but going from spring weather into mid-summer heat has been a little tough.  We do not have washing machines so we all went out and bought detergent. What we didn’t realize is that the detergent is in the form of a bar of soap and it has raised lines like a make shift washboard, so I have been taking a shower with my clothes and washing them and then drying them on cots in the hot sun.  I have to say my clothes feel like they are hot out of the dryer but stiff as a board.

All is Well

The heat can be a bit unbearable. Yesterday it was 104 degrees in the shade and the Indian government turns off the electric once a week to purge the system and conserve energy, so needless to say it was one of the hottest days I have ever experienced.  The best part is that I started the day with yoga and by 10 a.m. I was dancing with no fan.  It was rough! I ended up spending the rest of the day at the palace and relaxing and went to bed very early.  The nights are beautiful and dark.  There is a cool summer breeze that is so enveloping you would think you were sitting on the beach rather than the middle of a desert, and the smell of flowers from the trees make you think honeysuckle is wafting right into your mouth all while I sit and listen to Bapa talk about the origins of his family and how they conquered over the rulers before them.  Bapa is a prince of the town and his family has ruled the area since the 1700’s; he talks to us about how we should make our projects wild, and do something we have never done and encourages us to use our imaginations to take us where we need to go.  The discussions are interesting and helpful and make you want to get up and try something new.   My only problem is that the doctor I would like to interview is very busy and I have not been able to get an appointment with her.  Hopefully I will be able to get a hold of her today and set up time for an interview.

We were all invited to a Muslim wedding this Sunday, but it did not happen. There is a custom to have meat and alcohol at this event and being that we are not to eat meat or drink it was decided that we should not go just in case something were to happen.  Instead we all spent the weekend doing yoga and dancing. Well let me rephrase that; the women spent the weekend doing these things, the boys were able to go about as they pleased.  Apparently it is not safe for women to walk around alone and we are to have a chaperone every time we leave the palace grounds.  This is a hard custom for me to grasp, being that I have been living on my own for the past 16 years. For example, last night a few of the girls wanted to go to a performance to see one of the cooks play drums, but we were told it was too unsafe and were made to stay in. I didn’t mind having accompaniment the first few days, but I guess I figured that once I got comfortable I would be able to leave when I pleased and I still cannot. I guess I will just have to get used to being catered to and living somewhat like a royal person or in the least a guest of the royal family.  There are ups and downs to this whole experience. Living like royalty: perk. Being an independent woman: not so much a perk.

Pictures of India

Standard

The palace is beautiful and I spend mornings sitting on a porch and writing my thoughts of the day before, but sometimes the internet can be a little testy and not let me download pictures. Today I got lucky and I am going to download as many as I can for you. I hope you enjoy!

Below are pictures from music class.

This is my dance and drum partner Julia playing the tabla.

Con

Here is the dining room and all its glory. This is where we spend about 4 hours a day eating, talking, and figuring out what we are going to do next.