Mary: First week in Jaipur

August 8, 2011

Namaste everyone! What a wonderful weekend I’ve had (:

On Friday after school, Emily and I spent the afternoon on the roof top terrace of our home which we just discovered! It’s absolutely breath taking. You can see for miles in all directions. We sat on the ledge of the roof for hours, marveling at how green the landscape looked, despite the fact that we were in the middle of a city, and watching a pair of bright green parrots flitting back and forth between clothes lines strung up on other roof tops. We talked about what our life ambitions were, where we wanted to travel in India, and a lot about Emily’s adventures in Tanzania. The next morning, Emily, Sam, Jordan, and I went on a grand yoga adventure, waking up at 5:30 and heading out to Central Park, a surprisingly large park which is right in the middle of the city. We had no idea where the yoga was supposed to be, just that it was going to start around 6, so we wandered all around, finding these crazy giant stone statues, beautiful little domed temple structures with benches underneath to rest on, and a ton of people power walking, doing their own little yoga sessions, and just lounging around. We finally came to this little cluster of trees with giant green mats rolled out under them and a little stage with a microphone and big speakers up front. There were a few people stretching and an old man sitting on the stage (jumping around like a madman doing what we assumed to also be warm up moves of his own special sort) so we figured we had come to the right place. We sat down on the mats and did some stretches while more and more people kept coming until there was a group of about 40 or so gathered. Around 6:30, the man on stage started talking in rapid fire Hindi, welcoming everyone and starting off the opening prayers, which everyone but Emily, Sam, Jordan, and I knew by heart and joined in for (I did catch the last line though: “shanti shanti shanti” which means peace peace peace). It was a beautiful, poetic prayer that gave me goosebumps of happiness. I really hope that I can understand more of what they were saying as my Hindi gets better. The instructor led us in some extravagant breathing exercises for about 45 minutes which made me more relaxed than I have been since arriving in India. Then we moved on to simple stretching exercises for the next half hour. We didn’t end up doing any of the yoga poses I’ve done back in the states, like tree pose or downward facing dog or any of those, which made me realize that the idea of yoga is much broader than Americans typically think of it. Any form of breathing and stretching here is considered yoga and the specific poses that are so well known to American’s are just one branch of that. My favorite part of the morning came at the very end of the class though. The entire group got onto our hands and knees and out of the blue everyone started to yell as loud as they possibly could while sticking their tongues out. It was quite shocking at the time and I couldn’t help but start giggling. Then all of a sudden, everyone was laughing a loud and full bellied HAHAHA together! It was quite delightful and just made me laugh even more at how jolly everyone seemed. I definitely think these two exercises should be added to yoga classes in the states.

Afterwards, we all slowly meandered through the park, taking in the still cool weather and generally just marveling at the fact that we were actually in India. As we made our way back to the main road, we started to hear trumpets in the distance. When we walked out of the park gates, there was a stupendous parade going down the street! At the front were four or five elephants, with painted faces and ears and three or four people riding atop them in magnificent attire. Then came the marching band we heard, with men dressed in fantastic white uniforms with elaborate head dresses.  Next were six groups of three men each carrying little platforms between them with a coconut and idol of some god sitting on top. Maybe this was a parade for the beginning of coconut season? We never actually found out. There were big groups of dancing women in beautiful bright pink sari’s and a couple of naked men holding peacock feathers to cover their unmentionables, then finally bringing up the rear was a big crowd of people just dancing and following along happily. It was all very exciting and festive and Emily, Sam, Jordan and I were thrilled to walk along with the crowd at the back for about half an hour until we made it back to the part of town where our houses are and we all went home for breakfast. I worked on Hindi for a few hours, ate lunch, took a cat nap and woke up just in time for afternoon tea. After that Emily and I went to the mall downtown and got our first Indian clothes! It was all very exciting. On Sunday, we had a lazy day of sitting around and reading or working on Hindi. In the afternoon we went over to Raja Park, a big bazaar a few streets away from our house. I needed to buy a plug adaptor for my laptop (I found one for about 75 cents, what a steal!).  Emily and I wandered around for a couple of hours, exploring all sorts of nooks and crannies. We found this really neat shop with tiny little elephant carvings that we definitely want to come back to at some point. It’s still kind of weird being constantly stared at while we’re walking around but thankfully it isn’t nearly as bad when just Emily and I are together, rather than walking around with all 8 of us students. It’s so nice being in a city where everything is accessible on foot, it makes exploring so much easier! I haven’t taken a ride in an auto rickshaw yet but it’s definitely next on my to-do list.


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