WRITTEN BY: Nancy Bucher
India – a population of 1.27 billion people in only 3.3 million kilometers squared. Needless to say, the experience of just arriving into Udaipur's airport and driving to the Channel Youth volunteer’s house was one never to be forgotten. After loading our suitcases onto the roof of our little van, we were met with immense honking, beeping noises, and cars creating lanes for themselves. Since then, all have become almost natural parts of any automotive journey here.
After the long and exhausting journey to Udaipur, we gladly were able to rest and eat (our first amazing Indian meal) before heading out for more surreal experiences. This time we hopped on board a local rickshaw (yes, all 9 of us) and made our way into the town center, exploring the markets and the breathtaking view of the lake that gained Udaipur its nickname, Lake City. Everywhere I looked around there were vibrant colours, rich history, crowds of people, cars and cows – lots of cows.
Our first trip to the local tribe school, Aakhriya, where half of our group of 18 would be teaching, was again an emotional and unforgettable moment. As we drove down the local road, kids jumped into our van, beaming with excitement and filling the space up completely, surprising us volunteers how many could even fit in the small space. Pankaj gave us a tour of the community surrounding the school.
Walking past the local people's homes, greeting them with a wave and a friendly "Namaste", the community was living in the most basic conditions I think I have ever seen - no electricity, women carried water from the communal hand pump tank on their heads, the one-roomed houses with rickety wooden slates as a roof to sustain a whole family of four or more and the small heard of cows, goats and chickens kept for milk and eggs lived around the back.
These people were living stripped down of anything material or superficial, but they had a deep appreciation and satisfaction of what they did have – a strength in their family and relationships. They had so little, yet were so happy and content, smiles on faces, greeting us as "didis" (big sisters) and welcoming us into their homes, keen for a picture of them to be taken.