Seeing The Real Ahmedabad 

** This post is for Friday, July 31, but I was unable to post due to wifi issues. As a result I am posting this from my phone. I’ve not included photos because uploading them takes too long, but I will insert them once my computer is working. Hopefully posts from yesterday and today will be up soon as well, but they’ve been long days so I’ve not had time to write each evening. Thanks for your patience! ** 

We did my favorite sort of travel today — wandering around interesting places. It was something we hadn’t yet done here and I was so excited to finally have the chance! But I’m getting ahead of myself. As always, let’s start with the morning!

 Today, after arriving at school and waiting in Sonal’s office for the others, we attended an assembly. I believe it was for the middle and high schoolers. Today was Guru Purima — a day to honor parents and teachers — so they began the assembly with a thank-you. Then a few students shared international, national, local, and school news. My school at home never publicly discusses what’s happening in the world and I think that’s such a shame! There was one class in charge of running the assembly and they had decided that the theme would be Indian pride. They all took turns sharing impressive accomplishments, statistics, and fun facts about India and its people. The love they have for their country was very clear. Afterwards, we sang happy birthday to a student and then sang the Indian National Anthem. Well, the students sang. We stood there and smiled.As always, our day started with art. It was a short class today because all we had to do was prepare scarves to be dyed tomorrow. It’s a different technique than what we used before. This one is called the spiral technique and involves twisting the scarf into a ball and fastening it with rubber bands. Apparently we’re using paint and paintbrushes to color these ones! We’ll see how that goes.
After art, we went to Hindi where we learned the names of colors and how to write our names! It was a fun class and I can’t wait until I’ve memorized my Hindi name! It’s a very complicated language and the writing is based on sounds rather than letters. As a result, Carlos wrote Cartos when he first tried a few days ago! All it took was one misplaced line. I couldn’t imagine having to remember a symbol for every sound! Just learning how to say a few simple phrases is challenging enough.
We had a bit of free time before our next activity, so we went and hung out on the school lawn. It’s always fun to just chill and goof around with everyone. Then the bus arrived and we were off!
To give us a bit of a different experience, the teachers had suggested we visit another school in the area. This had sounded like a great idea — until we learned the “other” school was simply another branch of our school and was 45 minutes away. But still, we squeezed seven people into a five person van and headed over. It was somewhat interesting to see what a different school was like, but since it functions exactly like our school we didn’t learn much. The campus we visited was only five years old, so it wasn’t quite at the same level of color and decoration as ours either. It was okay, but the ride there and back was quite uncomfortable and in the end, we didn’t gain much. The rest of the day more than made up for it, though!
Our sight-seeing for the day involved returning to the Old City. We went to the heart of Ahmedabad and it was incredible. There were people everywhere, countless stalls selling various products, motorbikes and rickshaws all over the place, and fascinating old buildings. I loved it. The photographer in me was in paradise! We also visited another ancient mosque, which was great — until we were kicked out into the courtyard for being women. Definitely frustrating, but we were, of course, respectful and did as we were asked. Plus I got a few good photos first! We then wandered through the streets of Old City to our next destination.
On our way there, we stopped for ice cream at a Haumor stand. They’re all over the city, but I hadn’t been to one yet! I got something called a cassata cut which seemed kind of like an individual slice of ice cream cake. Whatever it was, it was delicious! We kept wandering until we reached this beautifully preserved old house. It was a traditional Gujarati home which has been maintained as a heritage site and it was amazing. The detailed carvings were beautiful and the views of the streets below and surrounding rooftops was captivating. I could have taken a thousand pictures and still not replicated what it felt like to stand up there, looking out over Ahmedabad. It was surreal and wonderful.
After leaving the house, we walked for a while before piling into three rickshaws back to the bus! I love riding in autos, as they’re called, and this time I took a video! It’s only a minute long, but I think it captures the experience fairly well. It should be up on Facebook soon (videos take a while to upload here). We reached the bus, got on, and then got to watch some sort of parade while stuck in traffic! Our guides said they couldn’t really explain it in English, but it was cool. Lots of colorful outfits and music! The AFS volunteers kept laughing at it, but I don’t know why. I guess something was amusing! We all just found it really fun.
We reached the school around 6:30 and our host families were there to pick us up. Abby, Olivia, and Sujata left right away, but Mandy, Carlos, and I lingered a bit longer. One of the AFS volunteers today was a girl my age who leaves for a year in Denmark on August 7th! She is so nice and had said that she wanted to take us shopping at a store called Fabindia. She mentioned it to Sonal and she agreed to take us! Sonal also invited Carlos over for dinner because his host family are strict vegetarians and he’s been missing meat — in fact, my host family is the only non-vegetarian one in the group!
At Fabindia, they sell the typical Indian outfit of long tunic tops with leggings underneath as well as long skirts, palazzo pants, scarves, jewelry, etc. Mandy got a couple of different things and I got one top and some earrings. The tunic is a very vibrant blue and it has green trim — much brighter than I’m used to, but when in India right? The real focus of the shopping trip, though, was Carlos. He had been dying to get Indian clothes all trip, and today he finally did! He was on cloud nine and got two full outfits plus a pair of shoes. We practically had to drag him away! I do love the Indian style, but I’m worried that if I buy too much I’ll end up having a bunch of clothes I’ll never wear. I’ve already bought two tunic tops! But they’re pretty, so it’s okay.
After shopping, we dropped off Mandy and our AFS volunteer (whose name I can pronounce, but not spell) and came back home for dinner. Carlos went from cloud nine to cloud twenty-two when the chicken was put on the table. It was very tasty, but I don’t think any of us enjoyed it as much as him! It was really nice to have another American at dinner, and I think my family liked it too. Once we were finished, we took Carlos home and stopped for Indian ice cream on the way. I have no clue what the flavors were, but they were all so good! There really isn’t any good way to describe them, so you’ll have to take my wordfor it. Afterwards we dropped Carlos off, came home, and I sat down towrite.
Despite what felt like a wasted afternoon at the other school, todaywas a great day! I loved exploring the Old City and I think I’ve gotsome really good photos from our time there. Tomorrow we’re going to anearby town to do some sight-seeing and have dinner. Should beinteresting! Until next time, अलविदा!

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