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One of the most rewarding experiences in our travels through India was a village tour near Jaipur. Not only was it fascinating to see first hand what life is like in rural Mohanpura, it was even more gratifying to see how children surmount language barriers to connect. And the smiles were priceless.
Village School Tour
Our tour began in the middle school. Om, our guide, had given us a bag of candy to hand out, but we weren’t quite sure what to do after awkward introductions. So, Alex and Kayla sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then the students took turns singing as well. But what finally broke the ice was when a boy pulled out an English reader. He opened to a page and gestured to Alex, who figured out pretty quickly that he was being asked to read aloud.
It wasn’t long before the classroom was sorted by gender.
And lessons turned to technology; the girls with the camera…
…and the boys gathered around the universal translator – video games.
When it was time to move on to the primary school, all the children were having such fun that it was hard to leave! But there were more songs to sing, and friends to meet.
From the school, we headed to the village homes of these school children. We had been told that everyone here would be friendly, but they were more than friendly. We were invited into homes, offered chai, and pelted with questions that somehow all parties understood (even though we couldn’t speak each other’s language.)
At one point, I sat on a front porch with a baby on my lap – doing my best not to worry that there were no diapers) when the mother pointed at my breast and then to the child. So I pointed to my much older kids, and pantomimed that I was done with breastfeeding. She understood.
Another young woman, a college student studying history, introduced us to her mother and grandmother. Her mother wore the traditional silver anklets and bracelet that are sealed shut upon marriage, never to be taken off until the silver is collected after cremation.
I wondered how much the young girl’s life would differ due to education, and was surprised to hear that she would live at home until an arranged marriage took her to her husband’s home.
As curious as we were about their lives, the villagers were just us curious about ours. A few young women eagerly scrolled through the images on my iPhone searching for photos of my husband and home. And everyone wanted to know what Kayla was wearing on her teeth, even asking her to eat a little bread just to see if she could with the braces.
We met a lot of friendly villagers, many eager to be photographed. Now we just have to fulfill a promise to print and mail them those photos.
The last item on our village tour – and the one that my kids will be talking about back at school – was that they got to ride a camel.
They took turns on an hour-long safari through the village. And while this wasn’t the desert camel safari that can be found in other areas of Rajasthan, there was plenty to see along the way. Water buffalo in the fields…
…as well as more images of village life. In India, I’m told, every day is laundry day.
Not that it mattered much what we saw at that point, it was just cool to ride a camel.
Plan a Visit
We signed up for the Village Tour & Camel Safari at the Hotel Bissau Palace, where we stayed in Jaipur. They arranged for a driver and guide, Om Yadav, the “Rishi Travel Guru” who also took us to a number of other sights in and around Jaipur. The village is located about an hour from Jaipur by car, lunch (boxed Thali plate with boiled eggs & sandwiches) is provided. Cost: 3600 rupees ($65.00) plus tip for the driver.