This past weekend was our Independent Student Travel weekend. I had done some research on places around Jaipur to travel to, but nothing was really catching my eye. So, unmotivated to travel very far, I decided to just stay here. Fortunately and unfortunately, there was a crazy amount of things happening in Jaipur that weekend, so almost every single hotel in the city was booked. Instead, Mary, Hannah, and I decided to go to a village called Samode, about 40 km out of the city for a night. Samode was a really small village with an old palace that was inhabited by a royal family 350 years ago. Now, the palace has been turned into a really beautiful hotel. We stayed a bit out of the village in Samode Bagh, the old family’s farm and country house. Cabins with tent-like canvas roofs were all arranged around a grassy, treed area. English gardens completed the atmosphere, with fountains, walking paths, and badminton courts. Instead of car horns incessantly honking, I could hear birds. It was really peaceful: a needed break from the city. Inquiring at the hotel how to get into the village, we were told to rent a jeep. So we did. The hotel owner insisted that a hotel employee come with us too, so we were not only chauffeured into town, but had an escort as well. There really wasn’t much to do in the village-- we saw bangles being made and a gem cutter, but that was about it. We all agreed that the palace would be a great place for a honeymoon though. The rest of our time at Samode was spent relaxing. In the morning we rode the bus back to the city, trying to deflect the stares we got from strangers.
The Jaipur Literature Festival took place this weekend, as well as a pediatrician conference, the Jaipur Marathon, the Jaipur Heritage Festival, and a stone festival (not really sure what that is.) The Literature festival consisted of seminars and lectures given by authors and other intellectuals on myriad topics. I attended one very interesting panel discussion about Kashmir. Apparently the festival is a pretty big deal: it was swamped with people. Actually, the whole city has been swamped. Definitely the most foreigners I’ve seen on the whole trip. They hail from all over the world, but I’ve noticed many from England. At the festival, it was like a whole different India. The Indians there were clearly very wealthy, and the difference really shows. It was rumored that J.K. Rowling was attending the festival. I couldn’t believe it. But she unfortunately decided at the last minute not to come. Sad. Next year, I hear Barbara Kingsolver and Malcom Gladwell are among the authors who will be attending.
I also ran the 6k Dream Run that was associated with the Jaipur Marathon, which turned out not to be a marathon, but only a half. It was like no other race I’ve ever run in. First of all, there were 25,000 people at the venue. Either I missed the start or there wasn’t actually an official one, because as I got to the start line, there were some people running from behind me and some already on the course. So I decided to just start. I had to weave and dart in between everyone. The majority of participants were men, and they would start talking to me and shaking my hand while we ran. One asked me what I ate to get so strong, to which I responded “non-veg!” (the common term for a meat-eater here.) At the finish, I was the only girl for a while, and so I was swarmed with more people asking to shake my hand and take pictures with me. The trees along the road were adorned with bunches of balloons for the race. One man broke off a branch and made me take the attached balloons. It was overwhelming! I felt so famous, yet so out of place. But it was a blast. Now I can say I’ve run a race in India. And I have a medal and t-shirt to prove it.
We switched worksites last week and we’re now working at a government research facility called SIAM. We’ve been making various products such as juice and gel from amla and aloe plants. A reprieve from the poop.
We’ve been continuing our studies in sustainable agriculture with our readings and seminars. I’m so happy to see that it has been challenging many people’s views on the sustainability of their food. Local organic versus industrial organic versus corporate industrial agriculture is a main point of discussion. I feel like I’ve had a head start in this issue, as my family eats organically all the time and locally as much as possible. I’ve had exposure to the ideas and importance behind the slow food and efforts toward feeding the world sustainably. However, our studies have made me realize the true importance of it all. Without sustainable agriculture, how can we continue to live and feed ourselves? Industrial agriculture, with its CAFOs where animals are kept in confined cages and fed food that is detrimental to their health (and subsequently ours) and genetically modified crops simply cannot be our future. They are unsustainable, and thus by definition cannot last. The health of the environment and the people of the world are declining. It’s so vitally important that we become aware of what is actually involved in the production of our food. So many people simple don’t know the effects of the choices they make when they check out at the grocery store. It’s scary to think what might happen if we continue on our path. I’ve always thought that simply switching to organic was the way to go, the solution to solve our agricultural dilemma worldwide. But after some of our readings, I see that it’s not feasible for everyone. For example, in Bangladesh, farmers simply cannot get enough cow manure to provide adequate nitrogen to their soil. So what can they do? Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides provides for them in the short term, but ultimately depletes the soil of nutrients, forces dependency, and causes numerous other problems in the long term. I think a really important point to make is that sustainable agriculture needs to be exactly that: sustainable. It isn’t a set formula necessarily; it just needs to be good for our planet and us, to ensure long-term success. I still believe in organic farming wherever it is possible. So for now, please, support local farmers, buy organically and locally, consider everything that went into producing your food!
Things in my homestay are still great. Whenever Hannah and I return home in the afternoons, our host dad asks us, “You have come?” to which we respond, “Yes, we have come.” We’re trying to think of dramatic ways to change it up. I don’t really know why I’m about to write this on my blog, but I realized this week that I haven’t done laundry for four weeks. Don’t judge me. I’ve done some handwashing in a bucket, but who knows how effective that has been...
India continues to amaze, shock, confuse, and excite me in new ways everyday. Who knows how many monkeys I might see tomorrow. How many men will I spot peeing on the side of the road? And will we get evening chai? Vital questions. Who ever thought these would become usual, everyday things for me? It seems that the out-of-the-ordinary has become the norm.