Jungle safaris & Parle – Gs.

A short list of thoughts and events accumulated December 26-28th:

Sewage Algae
On a morning walk, you will quickly notice two canals running down either side of the streets in Udaipur, carrying sewage and other waste to the river. Surprisingly, most of it doesn’t smell. But, some street corners (like the one with the hut near our hotel, where people can relieve themselves) reek of stale urine. In fact, India has no centralized waste management. Instead, human and animal waste flows down the streets to the river; the largest source of water pollution in India is untreated sewage, with up to 70% of urban India’s sewage going untreated.
On morning walks, you will also notice a green bubbly plant thriving in the water. Rebecca said that this algae, growing 5 to 6 feet tall, is a tell tale sign of sewage in the water. I have seen it in every body of water thus far within the city, next to children playing, people bathing and women washing clothes .

Hindi lessons 
We have now had exactly four Hindi lessons. Our teacher, Vanita, is patient and has an amazing understanding of our ability and pace; each class is new and challenging, without being overwhelming. Vanita has designed our courses herself; given the short amount of time we have here, she focuses solely on verbal, not written language. We have learned basic vocabulary, in addition to common sentences needed to introduce oneself, and navigate a city or a market. I have really enjoyed these lessons and am surprised by how quickly we have made progress, now able to form basic sentences and pick some vocabulary words out of overheard conversation (a boy asking her mother for water, our driver discussing the best places to buy certain types of food). Equally valuable is the comic relief these lessons offer, as we are humbled by our terrible pronunciation of most all Hindi consonants.

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Watching Cricket
The son of the hotel owner is on the Cricket team in Udaipur and invited our group to one of their practices. I couldn’t quite figure out the rules and intricacies of the game, but the sun was warm on my back and the sky was an open blue. Watching the smiling young boys, I was struck by how similar I felt sitting at my brother’s baseball game, demonstrating the universality of competition and teamwork. I think the similarities humans across cultures share are far more than our differences.

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Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary 
In the jungle within the Aravalli mountain range, we went on a Jeep safari. We saw deer, monkeys and wild peacocks, but did not see the bears or jaguars also present in the park. In the valley, huge trees and bamboo shoots shaded the ground below, making the air cool and moist. As we rose in elevation, the soil changed from a dark brown to a dusty red. The most stunning was when we arrived at the top of the ridge, overlooking the rest of the range at sunset. Unreal.

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Parle – Gs
Parle – Gs have been a godsend on this trip. Parle – Gs are biscuits, but I agree with Meena’s daughter in that we only call them biscuits (instead of cookies) to ease our conscience about eating a whole package (which I have done on numerous occasions- ask my roommate, Shanea).

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Parle – Gs are without exaggeration, the perfect snack. They are a soft golden brown, in a perfect two bite rectangle. They are not weak, and won’t crumble in your bag, but break with perfect symmetry when intentional pressure is applied. Parle – Gs are slightly sweet with a tinge of salt. They’re crunchy, but quickly become soft in your mouth, or after a dunk in the chai. They can fill you up if you miss a meal, or serve as a light snack in between. Best of all, at a small store directly adjacent to the hotel, you can get 5-6 packs for about 80 rupees (a little over a dollar). If I come back 15 lbs heavier, blame the Parle – Gs.

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