Thank You, Spasiba, Xie Xie, Sukriya!
Post by Rebecca Jacobs (’17) and Jessica Thevenoz (’17)
The last few weeks in India were very exciting! One of the highlights was our action-packed week in Rajasthan, India.
First, we traveled all the way to Jaipur, a major city in Rajasthan, also known as the Pink City. This region, one anciently filled with royalty, is known for its jewels, its palaces, and its pink-colored buildings.
During our two days in Jaipur, we went to visit the City Palace and saw the beautiful architecture around it. We also visited Amber Fort where many of us rode up in elephants to the top of the palace, just like they once did in the past!
In addition to cultural visits, we were lucky enough to share in Diwali, the celebration of lights in India, in many ways. We observed the excitement of those celebrating as lights filled the city, every shop was completely lit up, sales were left and right, and colored strands filled the streets. Additionally, we went to the house of the head of tourism in Rajasthan as he showed us what the first night of Diwali celebrations looked like. We even participated in a Diwali pre-celebration in our hotel. It included lights, a puppet show, a traditional dance show where we joined in twirling in circles and stomping feet with anklets on. Not to mention, we were provided with a private DJ to dance and celebrate.
Diwali is a very significant holiday in India, though we too had a very important day to celebrate while in Jaipur – Jay Coffin’s (’17) birthday! As part of our celebration, he was treated to the Happy Birthday song and cake from a famous dessert place in the city.
After our experience in the Pink City, we made our way to Bal Ashram, located two hours outside of Jaipur. Bal Ashram is a center where former male child laborers can be children once again. They are provided with housing, food, and an education of either an applied or academic nature until they are able to transition into external educational institutions or the workplace. This center serves to empower their students so that they may end the cycle of child slavery. If you would like to learn more about their mission, please visit their website.
As soon as we arrived at Bal Ashram, we knew we were going to have a great experience. The boys greeted us with huge smiles and bracelets. In the two days that we spent with them, they shared their stories, played two huge games of soccer with us (we won one, and lost one!), celebrated Diwali, danced, made arts and crafts, and more!
Finally, we celebrated Rebecca Jacobs’ (’17) birthday with them and it was a memory she could never forget. In her words,
“The boys of Bal Ashram, who were strangers less than one week ago, have completely renewed my faith in humanity. When I walked onto their soccer field on the morning of my birthday and was greeted with a birthday song, I knew that these boys did not need my pity. Rather, I needed them to remind me what it felt like to love others unconditionally. Later in the day, when I was surprised by a huge handmade birthday sign and dance party, I was brought to tears with joy. Finally, when I was invited to be a part of their ritual to celebrate brothers and sisters and was showered with flowers, I was left completely speechless. In my past six months of studying abroad, I have encountered a spectrum of individuals, many of whom have forced me to grow thicker skin and adopt a more individualistic perspective. The children of Bal Ashram did the exact opposite. If a group of kids affected by slavery are able to show love to a woman they barely know, then perhaps there is hope for humanity.”
Overall, Bal Ashram was incredible. We loved playing with the children, learning to be a child again, and fully living in the moment.
As the few next weeks went by, it was insane to believe BRIC as we knew it had come to a close. It has been a beautiful three months with our family of twenty-three (we can’t forget Emily!). There were so many ups and downs but overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better semester abroad. We learned so much about Russia, India, China, each other, and finally, ourselves. Thank you for following our journey. If you have any questions, feel free to contact any of us!
Rebecca and Jess
For more stories from the 2015 BRIC study abroad program, please click here.