Saturday, June 16, 2012


So Monday we traveled to Jaipur which is the capital of the desert state, Rajasthan and I wish we had been able to spend more time there!
Traveling! Leah, Ritika (our colleague,translator, coordinator, expert shopper, etc.), and me!
The pollution seemed a little worse than even Delhi’s, but the city seemed well planned,cleaner, and very colorful. We spent the early afternoon touring a handmade paper factory which was fascinating. They took us from the beginning steps of sorting the cotton fabric scraps from the synthetic ones all the way to the flower petal picker and pressers.

I honestly don’t know how some of these guys work over the hot water and pulp in such heat, but the conditions weren’t crowded and the facilities were clean which was nice to see. Later we of course went to check out the markets before a late night dinner and sleep.
The next morning we woke up early to make it to an elephant ride up the mountain to Amber Fort which is the most picturesque and breathtaking place we’ve been to yet. SDS was so amazing to have arranged this once-in- a lifetime experience for us and everyone had an amazing time. That said, I feel the need to address my feelings on my personal experience.
I regret taking the ride immensely.I had reservations once we entered the city and I saw one of the elephants walking by. It didn’t seem that happy and he looked tired. Nonetheless I went about our busy day without time to think about it more. The next morning as we prepared to go I came to the conclusion that it was a once in a lifetime experience, that it was a ‘when in Rome’ situation, and that this was probably a good place that cared for the elephants and provided them with a good life. Upon arrival the next morning I was still a bit hesitant, but the arrangements had been made and so I decided to enjoy myself, feel the amazing experience, and watch to make sure the elephants were actually happy. I saw one smiling and it brought me immense comfort.

By half way up the mountain I realized I had made a huge mistake and wanted nothing more than to get down or cry. As we passed another elephant ‘driver’ I witnessed a small iron spike in his hand which he jabbed underneath the cloth covering the elephant where I’m assuming none of us were supposed to see. But I did see it and my spirit collapsed. I watched my ‘driver’ with an eagle eye after this. He was an elderly man and seemed kind. He only had a small bamboo rod and he never once touched the elephant with it. I guess it goes to show that you’ll always have some bad eggs in a crowd, but the fact that the other driver was somewhat blatant led me to believe that these practices are at least somewhat tolerated and accepted. I loved my elephant though, and I got to stroke his ear when I got down before an armed guard yelled at me to leave the platform. Our elephant was a graceful young thing and while I wouldn’t do it again I’ll never forget him carrying us up that Indian mountain in his swift lumbering gait.

After we left the elephant I lost myself in the beauty of the fort and the picturesque views of the misty mountains and ancient walls.
About 30 minutes later I stumbled upon snake charmers and was so surprised and entranced at such an oddity I found myself sitting down with them and helping them play. Once again I suddenly looked at the snakes and realized, “what in the world am I doing? This cannot possibly be a good life?” and quickly took my exit with a confused and shaky conscience. We all laughed at my strange adventure and walked on to enjoy more of such a beautiful destination, but the feeling of wrong never left me and became more solidified as the day went on.

So! Sorry for the downer but I just hope that some reader will learn from my mistakes. I was thrust into situations where I didn’t have the opportunity to Google “elephant rides – good?” “Charmed cobras in a basket –happy?” and was forced to make quick decisions on my own with only my moral code to guide me. I failed and in that I have learned and grown. This is obviously a part of my soul that needs strengthening and I at least thank the experiences for teaching me that. From now on if it is suspect of harming another, then it’s not worth the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience…at least for me. I’ll obviously let you decide for yourself. Kind of a tumultuous day for my heart and moral compass, but I’m better for it in the end, and the overall experience at Amber Fort was one of awe inspiring beauty.


  1. You are one of the most kind-hearted and moral people I have ever met, so there is no doubt of your good intentions. I can't imagine the emotions dealing with the mystical and the tragic side by side in such personal proximity. It's not always as easy as black and white.

  2. Thank you, Cert. That brings me an incredible amount of comfort and is so kind. You are very wise :)

  3. Hi Colleen! I saw a link to your blog on USI's Facebook page. It looks like you're having a great experience in India! Have fun!
    Rick Hudson

    1. Thanks!! I had no idea it was featured! Thanks for following along :)