Lesson 1: Time and money are always inverse. In other words, to save money, it costs you time and to save time, it costs you money. It took me five flights and almost two days to get from home to Jaipur but it was my cheapest option at $400. I could have spent more and probably flown directly from New York to New Delhi but it would have at least doubled the cost. And this applies to pretty much everything in this world, not just travel.
Lesson 2: Teaching is hard. I already respected teachers and still think they are highly undervalued in the West. But this experience showed me first hand how hard it is to teach, especially with additional cultural and language barriers. I felt like I was finally getting into my own personal, educational groove of course when my teaching time was up. I'm definitely going to be better prepared the next time I attempt to teach.
Lesson 3: India is not as scary as many In the West think it is. Not only did I stay with a wonderful, welcoming Indian family, but all the children and staff at the school were amazing as well. Kat, a new friend from Australia, and I even walked from the house to and around the city unaccompanied. And we felt safe and confident the entire time. In fact, I even felt like a celebrity because lots of people wanted to take pictures with me. It's a shame we only ever hear about appalling crimes like rape and theft on the news. For every one of those, I bet there are a thousand more stories of sharing and kindness.
Lesson 4: Staying at a home beats staying in hotels any day. I had the most genuinely enjoyable experience staying with a lovely family in rural Jaipur. Their house was modest with only two bedrooms yet they gave up one for me - later to be shared with fellow volunteer Kat - and they all four slept in one big bed in the larger bedroom. I had to use a squat toilet and take cold showers and the power went out a few times but I also got to eat incredible homemade Indian meals and wear a sparkly, pink saree. We celebrated two birthdays and I did yoga on the roof while the sun rose and we shared countless stories and laughs. I'm also pretty sure I drank my weight in Chai.
Lesson 5: Pink city is so pretty. I got a personal, private tour of Jaipur and its famous pink architecture. India is full of vibrant colors and culture and this place was nonstop rainbow madness. In a good way. But I still don't think I could ever drive on these chaotic streets.
Lesson 6: How to talk trash. I've travelled to many Asian countries where rubbish is just a constant part of the landscape. At first it made me angry thinking how people can be so apathetic and just toss their trash on the ground and into waterways without a care. But then Kat helped change my perspective. We Westerners consume just as much if not more garbage than they do in places like India, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. We just have the luxury of waste management that comes around to whisk away our rubbish to designated, well-hidden areas. Out of sight, out of mind, right? These countries have neither the education not the infrastructure to discreetly dispose of garbage even if it was stored properly in bins. I'm not justifying it, just realizing how it happens. But we need to treat the disease, not just treat the symptoms. In other words, more effort should go into reducing the amount of trash - especially plastic - that is consumed in the first place; instead of just improving waste management.