This holiday season was the first I had spent away from the familiar setting of friends and family. To distract myself from that fact I headed to Rajasthan for a week, which coincided with the office closing for the holiday season (It pays to have an Italian boss).
Starting off in Jaipur, I only had about a day and half in each city, which made everything stressful but also forced me to be very realistic and diligent about seeing what I wanted to see. Jaipur was relatively stressful since it’s part of the Golden Triangle and therefore attracts so many tourists that it’s impossible to escape from the tourist traps and every auto ride involves one or more stops at “my brother’s daughter in law’s cousin’s one of a kind jewelry store”. Thus, after seeing its admittedly beautiful sights, I was glad to escape the bustle of Jaipur.
My next stop was Jodhpur, which was a breath of fresh air after the craziness of Jaipur. Nestled in the magnificent blue old city, my guesthouse was cozy and relaxed while allowing me to see all of Jodhpur’s sights relatively easily. Looking down from the impressive fort and palace, I felt very much like a tourist but one with the presence of mind and a deeper appreciation of the country’s history, having tried to stay on top of not only recent, but also older history. Furthermore, the landscape became more barren and I saw the third type of landscape. Having already seen the mountains and the relatively lush plains surrounding Delhi, I was now privy to the unforgiving, and surprisingly cold, expanses of the Indian desert.
Though Jodhpur was much quieter than Jaipur, it nevertheless remained a bigger city. Jaisalmer on the other hand was truly a small city. In terms of attractions too, aside from the wonderful fort and the plethora of camel safaris, Jaisalmer does not have much to offer, which, however, instead of being dissappointing, was actually extremely relaxing and a nice change of pace from having to run through 10 sights in the lonelyplanet guide.
Once again, the diversity of India was brought home to me and I came back to Delhi exhausted but very thankful for the experiences and sights that I got to see. Traveling is a rare privilege and those of us who get to indulge in it have a responsibility to appreciate it and share the stories as best as possible. That is actually one of the biggest things I look forward to at midpoint, for which we’ll depart tomorrow.
In addition, the new year got under way with nice New Year’s celebration with fellow fellow Veronica and I reflected that, while 2012 will most likely not turn into the cataclysmic end of days as forecasted by everyone, it will, as 2011 did, bring with it a lot of changes. I am still horribly unsure of what I will do after this fellowship and where I want to do it. India has been great and I have thoroughly enjoyed living here. Though my immediate plans pull me elsewhere, given the right conditions, I could see myself staying here. That said, I have no idea. Also, in the less distant future, a lot of exciting work awaits me with mHS as we’re reexamining our work and evaluating our partners as well as ourselves. This self-reflection will hopefully lead to some interesting projects and even more chances to travel.
Best regards and a belated Happy New Year,