I've been back for three whole weeks - and I've still barely begun to sort through pics and write down all the stories and missing gaps in my journal. I'm going to post a few of my favorite pics so I don't get completely out of the blog habit!
Carmen asked me the other day "what the most moving or impressive experience?" It's truly hard to pick just one. So here are a couple :)
1) In terms of sightseeing, I would have to say its a toss-up being the Taj Mahal (which truly is as spectacular as everyone says - I wish I could have seen it at sunset or sunrise) or the Kumbhalgarh Fort near Udaipur. Visiting the fort was a total afterthought - suggested by our wonderful hostel guy in Jodhpur - since we were getting a driver to get to Udaipur, he said we should stop and see the Jain temple and the Kumbhalgarh Fort. Sure, why not? Both were incredible - I'll write about the Jain temple later. We barely made it to the Fort before it closed (our driver definitely broke some speed records on those back rounds). We raced up to the top to see if we could get in and made it just in time. Then we were able to climb all the way to the very top of the fort - and you could see for MILES. An absolutely amazing view of the wilderness surrounding the fort - which by the way, has the second longest wall after the great wall of China! Breath-taking with a 'top of the world' feeling. I don't think I will ever forget it.
2) There were alot of moving moments during the build. We were able to attend a 'door blessing' ceremony at one of the houses with a Hindu family. Our last day at our house was also very moving. We didn't get to spend much time with our homeowner Sheela, since she was at work most of the time. But she was there the final day, made chai for us and then we exchanged prayers. Mel spoke for our group, thanking Sheela and Natrayan for allowing us to help build their home - it was really incredible to realize that our one week of hard work will provide a home for them. One where their daughter will have space (and electricity!) so she can study. All the families we met in the community were very focused on their children's education and a huge issue was children not having a place to study or do their homework.
It's still so hard for me to express what the trip meant to me. Life-changing, inspiring, heart-breaking - I want to keep those feelings with me and not let it fade away.
Here's a great little summary produced by Habitat for Humanity India on the build. Our homeowner family is featured, along with a picture of my team setting some of the concrete blocks.
And now for some of my favorite pics (so far :)