December 25- January 7
After another long hiatus, I have finally figured out the hostel wifi! As I ease back into my biweekly posts, here is a look at my two week winter vacation- photojournalism style. I apologize ahead of time for the brevity, life in the hostel is paced much faster than I expected. Now that I am adjusted to the schedule, I am looking forward to writing more throughout my last few months here.
After a 14 hour train ride with my host family, we arrived Christmas day in Jodhpur. I slept in the middle bunk, read with my host sister and looked at the window during the train ride. My host mom & I laughed comparing the chai at different stations along the way (some were voted cheeni-paani, sugar and water, instead of tea). Jodhpur, known as the Blue City, is in the Thar desert. We had a beautiful view of the old Blue City from Mehrangarh Fort, which shoots up from a rocky hill.
We drove six hours further into the desert to the Sam sand dunes and the golden city, Jaisalmer. Our first evening was spent on a jeep safari, standing up and being thrown back and forth in the dunes. In the middle of the desert, there was an outpost with a chai stand and camel rides. After a spin on the camel, we headed back in the jeep as the sun was setting. As we roared along in the jeep, tearing up with my host sister and cousin, from laughter, sand in our eyes and the beauty of the sunset is definitely one of the highlights of my entire seven months here. We visited the Jaisalmer fort, which is one of the few “living forts” in the world. About a quarter of the city’s population lives inside the fort today. We made it a family tradition to visit the fort at sunset, from which we watched the old golden city bathing in the light of the sunrise.
Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Just at the six month mark, I met up with my natural family in Agra! We began our trip by visiting the Taj Mahal. It was packed and incredibly foggy, but still very special.
Living in the dense urban environment of Indore, I felt very relieved in the beautiful hill station of Munnar. We visited a tea plantation, where we were walked through the process. After sampling every tea they had to offer, we all tried out Ayurvedic massage.
At Thekkady, Eliza had her first kulfi, Indian-style ice cream. We visited the Periyar Tiger Reserve and took a relaxing boat safari. We saw no tigers, but did manage to spot a whole family of elephants.
Alleppey & Mararikulam, Kerala
We spent the night on a houseboat through the backwaters, followed by two days on the beach! I am a big fan of the beach and spent a fair amount of time convincing Eliza to getting into the water with me. The water was so warm that we swam both nights at sunset, and it still felt like a hot tub, especially compared to my school’s pool water!
I enjoyed the laid-back, welcoming vibe of Kerala, and its contrast from Indore. Spending time with my host and natural families in some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen was the best Christmas gift and way to ring in the new year that I could ask for. That being said, I was glad to land at the familiar Indore airport and find wherever my school scarf buried itself.