I arrived in Delhi at 10pm. It's always crazy to arrive in Delhi because hundreds of drivers are waiting for people after you walk out of the airport. Hundreds! All carrying little signs with printed names in small font. I would imagine it's like being a celebrity and having hundreds of photographers waiting for you. But there were no cameras for me, only tiny signs that my sleepy 39 year old eyes were having a hard time deciphering. Then--in a sea of white signs--I saw a young man holding a yellow sign with my name handwritten in large letters. It was even spelled correctly. Success! My driver, Gajendar.
I hopped in the car and he took me to my little AirBNB flat that I booked way back in December. It was completely dark out, but somehow we made it. I carried my one bag up three flights of a spiral staircase, found the bed and crashed.
The next morning, Gajendar picked me up at 5am. He had packed a cooler full of juice, water, and diet coke. We were off to Jaipur.
Side note: Jaipur is about 5.5 hours away from Delhi. Road trips in the US are very different than road trips in India. It's really important to have a great driver, one who is kind and drives safely but efficiently. In December when I went to Jaipur and Agra, I had the misfortune of having a horrible driver. He was cranky and very unpleasant. But Gajendar is super nice and conversational and interesting. He knows where fun things are and very rarely has to ask directions. He is the perfect driver for long road trips. Call him when you go to Delhi! I will hook you up!
We made it to Jaipur in record timing and went straight to the room I booked that very same morning (at 3am mind you: I was a bit behind on my travel accommodations). I was staying in a room on a private floor of a family home. The lady of the house loves having visitors, so she sort of turned their home into a bed and breakfast. Once I checked in and unloaded all of my things, Gajendar took me out to Ladli.
Ladli was the reason for my trip to Jaipur.
"Ladli is a self-owned social enterprise of street children, young adults, and women belonging to disadvantaged communities. Ladli ensures empowerment and sustainable opportunities for its beneficeries by creating quality handmade products based on the principles of fair trade."
I will be working with Ladli during the 2015/2016 school year, teaching creative workshops and entrepreneurship skills. So I was meeting with the organizers of the program to discuss next steps and get an overview of the housing and programs being provided to the participants.
What an incredible organization . . . I loved meeting all of the young people there and they were all so welcoming!
The vocational center has two open-air classrooms and a computer skills room with 10 donated desktops.
The young people working on the Ladli social enterprise side of things get paid for all of the work that they make, and the money is put into a savings account for them. When they leave Ladli, at the age of 18 or 20, they have a bit of a nest egg to work with. One of the girls I met had been at Ladli for 10 years. She was now in nursing school. It's an amazing organization, and I look forward to working with them.
Once we got back on the highway, we started on our way back to Delhi. And I saw the sparkly beauties hanging from the bottoms of trucks again (just look how fabulous they look when in action, below right). I wanted them really badly when I saw them last December, but my driver wouldn't help me get them. I just couldn't take it anymore: I had to have them. So Gajendar stopped and I bought 6 of them from the young man in the picture below. He asked me to take a picture of him. It was the only time I saw him act like what he was: a child. Before that, he was all sales. No smiles. I'm going to use my sparklies in a video I'm making this summer in school. I can't wait . . .