A candid description of my trip from NYC to rural India and finally to U. of Michigan, Ross School of Business. Go Blue!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Gangs of Jaisalmer

# of Allergic Reactions: 4
# of Chai Teas Drunk: 76

I apologies for not writing a quality entry in quite a while, but things have been quite hectic. I have decided to add a stat counter on the top of each entry a la Bridget Jones Diary so you all can know my vitals (aka, how often I have eaten a nut after being told it was safe). I've also decided to have more interesting titles for my entries- so I am using modified movie titles.

Anyway, here's a recap of the week:
Last week I was incredibly busy with work. We went out into the field every day to interview women for my case study project. However, my superivisor Mr. Vyas read my first rough drafts and wasn't very pleased with the results. Apparently he wanted much more of a story-telling feel to the case studies, whereas I stuck to mostly facts. The only problem with rewriting is that we didn't get nearly enough of the detail he was looking for when we were interviewing the women. But he is fine with a couple of the case studies being less detailed, and then ongoing we are spending much more time with the women to learn as much as we can about their entire lives. Some of these women are absolutely amazing and it's great to see how much they have overcome. Anyway, more about that later.

On Monday, a dutch girl came to PEDO to visit and learn about microfinance for the next 2 weeks. Her name is Marlies and she has lived all over the world because her father works for Echo, which I think is the equivalent of USAID for Europe. She has even lived in Pakistan and Angola! It's nice to have more english-speaking company and to have someone sharing the upstairs "apartment" with.

On Tuesday, I got back from the field around 9:30 at night. It was 4th of July and we stopped in Dungarpur to load up on a bunch of fireworks that are completely illegal in the US. The interns in Udaipur had quite a celebration too but I was happy with my small but quality display. After the show, Mr. Vyas told me he wanted to apply for the FSD grant competition. Basically, the organization that sent me here (FSD) has a competition for all their interns all over the world- Africa, India and South America. You can apply for up to $500 in funding for a project for your organization, but you have to write a full detailed grant proposal. I didn't think I was going to need to do one because we had been completely busy with the case study work, but then Mr. Vyas came up with an excellent project so I rushed to write the 7 page grant and submit it by thursday morning! So last week I basically worked investment banker hours, except this time for free.
The grant, if I win, will be used to plant bamboo trees in a village and train the villagers to make fine bamboo furniture and other handicrafts. Then they will be able to sell them at much higher prices either directly in the cities or to agents who visit the villages. I find out tonight if I got the money....but keep in mind I'm competing against a bunch of smarty pants ivy-leaguers so it's anybody's game!

On Thursday night I headed back to Udaipur because we left early friday morning for our FSD mid-term trip. That day we crammed 14 people in 2 SUVs and headed first to Kumbalgarh, a remote fort that is probably the most amazing one I've ever been to! It has the second longest wall after the Great Wall of China, and it was so much fun exploring it all. From the top of the fort Olen, Kristen and I spotted some more ruins in the distance and decided to go on an Indiana Jones expedition to find them. We eventually did and I'll post pictures of the trek...I was quite sore the next day!
Next we stopped in Ranakpur where one of India's biggest and most important Jain temples is located. We ate lunch there and saw the temple and also ran into my weekend host family who were en route of a pilgramigge to another Jain Temple.
By evening we reached our destination for the night, the city of Jodhpur. Jodhpur is an amazing city with another giant palace that overlooks a sea of blue-painted houses. It's totally gorgeous and I can't wait to post pictures.

On Saturday, 7 of us interns got really ambitious and decided to take on the SUVs and head to Jaisalmer, the desert city, for the night. Jaisalmer is located in the far northwest side of Rajasthan and it's only 50 km from Pakistan! It literally sprung up in the middle of nowhere in the Thar Desert. It took 5 hours to drive there from Jodphur and perhaps the most fun part about the trip was four of us rocking out to Journey songs that we syched up on our Ipods. I really think the driver wanted to kill us and was praying that the Ipods sponteously exploded before we began the drive back to Udaipur. It was fun nonetheless, and here's a picture of us jamming along:

We reached Jaisalmer around 10 pm. About 25% of the city lives inside the fort there, so it's so cool to explore and the alleyways and little shops- almost like Venice. We went to dinner that night at one of the many Italian Restaurants that exist in the city- we have no idea why there are so many but even the "French" Restaurant we went to for lunch the next day only seemed to serve Italian food.
Despite probably being closer to Osama's hide-out then any American ever should be, what really scared us most that evening were the dog gangs of Jaisalmer. Although it was a very short walk back to the hotel from the restaurant, the streets were filled with gangs of stray dogs. The first gang we came across, we'll call them the Crypts (might be murdering the spelling), came out one at a time until they fully surrounded us barking and screeching. At first we tried to scare them away but it didn't work. So there we were, a group of 7 interns with their arms linked thinking our combined intern power would ward off 20 angry dogs, and silenty cursing ourselves for being too cheap to get that darn rabie shot. Eventually, we survived the attack by the Crypts, but we still had a ways to go.

After we rounded a bend more dogs began shouting at us from the top of a small overlook. These were the Bloods. Soon, they had come off the overlook and emerged from the darkness to surround us and frighten the hell out of us yet again. But we kept walking and eventually perservered unscathed. Yes, that night we did overcome adversity and learned that together interns can accomplish almost anything. End Story.

That night we slept for about 3 hours and awoke to get to the desert for the "sunrise"- which we never really saw because there was too much of a sandstorm. After that we rode camels in the desert and then explored the fort city before having to pile back in the car for the 10 HOUR ride back to Udaipur.

On Monday I ended up staying in Udaipur for the day to sleep off my exhaustion from the weekend and to celebrate YeYe's (one of the interns) 20th birthday! Namrata, aka the Martha Stewart of India, threw a party at her house and everyone dressed up in Indian clothes. Most of the girls wore Saris but I wore traditionally Rajasthani attire that I will post pictures of shortly. The best costume went to the wittiest intern, Ryan, who had left all his traditional clothes at his village. Instead he wore jeans with an Indian scarf tied around his waist, a tight Indian shirt that was obviously meant for a slender girl, and carried a hand-carved/painted elephant that was damaged and cracked on the backside. The description doesn't do it justice, I'll have to post the picture soon!

Okay, now I am back in Dungarpur and my blog is fully up to date. Oh yeah, I forgot to add that I had my 4th allergic reaction yesterday to something I ate at Namrata's house. We didn't think it had nuts in it but I def. got very sick and had to wait for 3 hours on the bus to Dungarpur before I got back to PEDO and could vomit properly. I was out of commission for most of the day but now I feel fine and am about to head out to the field.
I hope all is well with everyone in the states and you had a wonderful 4th of July. In case you are wondering, I have seen the bomb blasts in Mumbai all over the news and thank goodness nobody from my program is anywhere remotely near it.
Take Care and leave your comments!


At 9:24 AM, Blogger Justin said...


Glad to hear you are well. I always begin all of my great stories with "Once upon a time," or "So here's how it went down," or "Seven beers later." When I was in Italy I one time whistled really loud and 15 dogs came out of nowhere and tried to take my ice cream cone so I can relate.


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