Wednesday, January 26, 2011

There's A First For Everything

This saying (yes, Dad, I know it's a cliche) more than anything else, describes the life I’ve been leading in Jaipur, India over the past four weeks. From a camel safari to renewable farming I've seeming done it all . . . for the first time!

The TBB mission during our time in India is to study sustainable agriculture. This objective has landed us the lovely job of volunteering on an organic farm which develops cow byproducts such as  biogas, organic fertilizer, and diabetes medicine. I’ve seemingly stomped in, walked through, and rolled up more cow dung than stars in the night sky, but what more could one expect in the land where cows are sacred?!?

When I am not scooping poop, my time in Jaipur is spent trying learn as much as I can about the diverse Indian culture. This has included Hindi lessons with my 12-year-old host brother Sashwat, bargaining for cheap “tuk tuk” rides, and eating a strictly vegetarian diet. I’m enjoying these experiences, but at times it’s overwhelming. It is very difficult to know when I can relax and be myself in this male dominated society. I feel self-conscious wearing my jeans, going to the gym, and simply walking down the street with a few friends. Most women in India do not have the freedom to enjoy such simple pleasures. The societal expectations of women is such that whenever I am asked my age, the next  question is invariably, "Why aren't you married?” I'm tempted to say, "Because my Dad would disown me," but I don't think they would understand the humor!

Aside from my culture shock, I have been trying one new thing after another. This past weekend I decided extend this pattern of behavior to an athletic endeavor. On a whim, Lauren and I decided to take part in the Jaipur half-marathon. I regretted this decision as soon as I found out there were 40,000 participants, but my ego stood firm like a brick wall - I couldn’t back down. On Sunday at 7:30am  at Ram Niwas Bagh the race began and Lauren and I were ready to run. As soon as it began I knew I made the right decision, it was possibly the greatest way to view the city and boost my ego at the same time. 

Being two of only a few hundred females amongst thousands and thousands of men of men led Lauren and I to be the center of attention. We were constantly photographed, asked our record times, and hollered at. Other than being sprayed with henna dye (to mark that we did not cheat) and having to run around natural obstacles (cow dung), the run was surprisingly pleasant. After 2 hours of running Lauren and I made our best attempt to sprint across the finish line! I must admit I am pretty proud. Finally, Mom (and Laura Hughes wherever you are), I have made up for my first track meet when I collapsed after only two laps of the mile run.

 I only have 10 days left in Jaipur and while I can’t guarantee I will be running 21 km again anytime soon, I can guarantee you that I will be trying many more things for the first time.

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