20 February 2018
After 24 hours of travelling, we got hundreds of new impressions and a first glimpse of India on our way from Jaipur airport to Ajmer. At 6 pm we finally arrived at Mayo College in Ajmer.
They greeted us with a huge sign saying: Welcome Lycee Michel Rodange Luxembourg.
Immediately, we were met by our kind hosts and they gave us a warm welcome with personal letters about the exchange and a program of our stay. We then got the first taste of typical Indian food, which was of course not spicy at all! We shared the first ideas and got to talk a lot before we got to our houses, where we settled into our rooms.
Mathis and Paul sleep in the boys’ school whereas the girls sleep in the girls’ school.
Compared to Geesseknäppchen, the campus of Mayo College is enormous and has an air of an American boarding school from the movies. By sunset, the girls showed us the eight impressive boarding houses and their ‘little’ mess hall for 800 girls.
Despite our tiredness, we played a game of cards and then got ready for bed.
As the campus is located in town, we heard honking cars, barking dogs and people singing until 2 in the morning when we finally all fell asleep.
for Team India, Ajmer, 20 February 2018
21 February 2018
Today was a fun but very tiring day. We started the day with our breakfast. Then we had a really interesting presentation about Mayo College itself. For example, we were told that the first student ever was a Maharaja (I don’t remember from where.) After this presentation, we filled in some official forms and then we had some fruit – more food. Then we had a Hindi class organized especially for our group, in which we learned things like “My name is …” (Meera nam … he.) Afterwards we had a history lesson telling us in 30 minutes almost the whole history of India. Then in geography we learned about the different climate zones of the country. After lunch, we were taken on a campus tour and visited the school stables, golf course and polo grounds. Tomorrow we will then have the opportunity to actually ride horses. The horses all have creative names, like High Authority or Renault.
Afterwards, we visited a Jain temple on the outskirts of Ajmer. There we learned that the Jain religion is very strict and 100% vegan. They are neither allowed to hurt any living being, nor to eat any vegetables that grow under ground, such as carrots, potatoes or onions.
Later, we went to see a light and sound show at Ajmer Museum about the history of the fort throughout the centuries. Finally we enjoyed several cultural performances and some tasty but very spicy food in a traditional show village, called Krishnam Dhani.
After this a long and fun-packed day, we were happy to get home and have a good sleep.
For Team India, 21 February 2018
22 February 2018
Today after breakfast, we had a school assembly, which started with mantra singing and prayer. All the teachers were wearing their black gowns and we had dressed up in our Sunday best. The headmaster introduced our exchange project and Mr. Dohn presented LMRL’s history and explained the origin of our school logo. After the ceremony we took an official photo in front of the main building.
Then we went to visit the Arts and Crafts Department and we drew a still life, so we could see who is talented and who … you know what I mean.
Still in our super chic clothes, we got hands on at the technical skills department. We experimented with cutting and engraving glass, cutting and welding metal, and woodwork. As a result, our clothes were dirty and we suffered from the heat, but we had made beautiful glass art.
After lunch, we tried out several musical instruments at the Music School, cheered on the gymnasts at the inter-house competition, watched a polo match, and practised our swing on the school’s putting green (yes, because we actually came to India to play golf, obviously). Finally we went horse-riding at the school’s range. I’m sure now you can imagine the size of the campus and the variety of activities offered by Mayo.
For Team India, Ajmer, 22 February 2018
23 February 2018
Having spent the last few days mostly at the Boys’ School, today was the first day we had a look at life in the Girls’ school. We started our day with a tasty breakfast before we joined the assembly, where we were greeted very warmly with speeches and songs. We were even given some chocolate and roses. Later on the Indian girls visited the school temple with us and took us afterwards to a dance class, where we rehearsed for our performance on Sunday evening. Even though we were first showed the typical Rajhastani dance only yesterday, we already managed to dance quite well today.
Afterwards, we had a cooking class, where we made some ‘Vegetable Lollipops’ with the Indian students using typical local spices and we taught them to make pancakes. After sharing those little snacks, we joined a workshop in which we designed and made our own tablecloths using the typical Rhajasthani block print technique. Then we joined an English class, where the teacher explained phonetics. Later on we had lunch and a little break before we played a soccer match and then a basketball match with the teams from the Girls’ School. We managed to represent Luxembourg quite well and had a lot of fun. Nevertheless, the games were really tiring and we were happy when we got one hour to rest.
In the evening, after a quick dinner, we had a rehearsal at the amphitheatre for our cultural evening. We saw the students of Mayo College sing and dance to traditional Indian and Rajasthani songs and had the possibility to practise our poems and songs prepared already in Luxembourg.
For Team India, Ajmer, 23 February 2018
24 February 2018
We started the day by practicing inhaling and exhaling techniques in a yoga session.
After breakfast, we were taken to the music and dance school. We rehearsed the Rajasthani dance for the very last time before the performance day.
Then we finally received our costumes. The girls were dressed in red and blue skirts with a colorful scarf and the boys had yellow trousers, colorful vests and a turban.
We also got to know the culture a bit more as we learned a few lines of a Rajasthani folk song.
Afterwards we visited the College Museum, where they have a varied exhibition ranging from a stuffed peacock, which is the school logo, to unborn babies kept in a glass. The big collection of currencies, among which we even discovered a Lëtzebuerger Frank, gave the visit to the Museum the final touch.
Our daily fruit break was followed by a visit to the Junior school, where our exchange partners got nostalgic, remembering the happy times they had spent there as kids. The gardens that surround the Junior houses are so beautiful. We discovered quotes hanging outside the classrooms which made the atmosphere even better.
One of them was: “May all who came as guests leave as friends”.
Lunch was served and afterwards we hopped onto the bus to drive to Pushkar, a city nearby. Halfway there we stopped at the Anasagar Lake, which is a tourist attraction but we had the feeling that we were the main tourist attraction today.:)
It is a peaceful lake with marble pavilions next to the water.
Arrived in Pushkar we were surrounded by honking motorbikes, holy cows and the smells of a bustling Indian market town.
Many shops sold colorful pigments as there is only one week left until Holi, the festival of colors. We made our way through the shopping roads. We bought spices, earrings and scarves. At the end we drank a coconut as a refreshment and ate Malpuwa, some kind of sugar pancake swimming in oil.
Coming back we got ready for our dinner at the house of the Principal of Mayo College Girls School. We were invited to a garden party with lovely performances by both Indian and Luxembourgish students and ate some spicy food. Tired and exhausted from this long day we all went to bed and slept well.
for Team India, Ajmer, 24 February 2018
25 February 2018
After waking up early again, we took the bus at 7.30 a.m. and drove to the city of Ajmer. As we were walking through the streets of the city to go to the mosque of Dargah Sharif, we saw a totally different side of India than the one we have been used to till now. The streets were crowded, already at 8 in the morning, and a lot of people were living in extreme poverty and difficult conditions. It was really something we hadn’t expected to see and will never forget. Having taken off our shoes and covered our heads with scarves, we bought flowers to make a poojah to Allah. It was pretty impressive to see the mosque so crowded by people doing rituals which we know so little about.
After the visit, we returned to Mayo College and, after a quick breakfast, we took the bus again to go to Tilonia village. Even though we didn’t get a tour of the village, a local showed us a collection of puppets which the puppeteers use to teach the villagers in a different and maybe sometimes more lively manner.
Later we went to the marble factory in Kishangarh, where we first had lunch and then began our tour of the factory. We were driven in golf carts around the site to see tons and tons of different kinds of marble and to watch how the marble is prepared to get sold afterwards. The whole visit was very interesting and fun.
After the visit, we went back to the college and, despite being very tired from the eventful day, we had only half an hour to rest and then we got picked up and had to get ready for the big event of the night: the cultural performances by both Mayo College and Lycée Michel-Rodange in the school’s massive open-air amphitheatre. It took us over an hour to get dressed in typical Indian dresses and costumes.
And at 7.00 p.m. the show began after the arrival of the Ambassador of Luxembourg to India, Sam Schreiner. First, two groups from Mayo College presented musical performances, and then came our turn. We now had to present the Indian dance we had only been shown two days earlier in front of a humongous audience. Even though we were really nervous and excited, we didn’t do so badly. Marysia and Chloé also performed a song and dance number, Mathis played the piano, and Kyra, Alisa, Mathis and I recited a poem. Paul was our moderator and announced each of our performances. Later we went to have dinner at the principal’s house with our exchange students and the ambassador. We had so much fun, but unfortunately it was our last evening at Mayo College. We are all going to miss the people there and we can’t wait to see some of them again in May, but this time in Luxembourg.
For Team India, Ajmer, 25 February 2018
26 February 2018
Today, we had to get up at 5 am to pack our bags. After saying goodbye to all our Indian friends, we were very sad that we had to leave Ajmer and Mayo College to move to Agra to visit the world-famous Taj Mahal.
It took us in total around 9 hours, in which nearly all of us slept because we were so exhausted. After checking into our hotel, we had an hour’s free time, so Kyra, Sophie, Paul, Emma and I took the chance to take a little swim in our hotel’s swimming pool. Even though the water was a bit cold, we enjoyed it for 20 minutes with monkeys eating tomatoes around the pool. (A little cooling never killed anybody.)
At about 4 pm we all met again and our next stop was the breathtaking and marvellous Taj Mahal. For the first time we took an auto-rickshaw to get a bit nearer to the entry of the Taj Mahal because it was impossible for our bus to get through the crowds.
On the site of the Taj Mahal, we took a lot of photos and enjoyed all the different buildings and views. Even though there were crowds of people, we managed to get through and to see the building from the outside as well as from the inside. Moreover, we had the big pleasure to see the Taj Mahal at sunset, so the view was even more breathtaking and beautiful. Having seen the main building, we went out to see the different little market stalls around the Taj Mahal, where some of us bought little magnets and statues with the famous building on it.
Finally we drove back to the hotel and had an excellent dinner; then some of us played cards and others revised for school. This was the first laidback evening on this exciting trip. Śubha rātri (Good night)
For Team India, Agra, 26 February 2018
27 February 2018
Today wasn ‘t as busy as usually.
After our tasty breakfast at the hotel we got onto the bus for a 5-hour trip to Jaipur, which actually turned into a 7-hour trip because of heavy traffic.
Once arrived, we were given with a warm and traditional welcome in the shape of a red dot on our foreheads, a flower necklace and a ‘flower shower’. Sadly, the visit of Amber Fort had to be postponed because of our delay, so we had a late lunch then. After lunch we took our time to drink a coffee in the hotel gardens and then went shopping.
The squares were crowded and full of colourful attractive shops. We tried our best to stay in groups and practiced bargaining so as to get the lowest prices possible. It was fun and stressful at the same time, but we succeeded in buying gifts for our friends and family.
At the end we enjoyed fresh coconut water and went back to the hotel.
It was already around 9pm when we arrived at the hotel and we spent the night in the gardens playing cards and appreciating the magical atmosphere.
Chloé for Team India, Jaipur, 27 February 2018
28 February 2018
Unfortunately, after 10 days our exchange visit to India has come to an end. We spent out last day in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, India’s richest state. Known colloquially as the ‘Pink City’, Jaipur is an enchanting historical city, famous for its forts and palaces. Our local guide explained that it took about 140 years to complete the 7.5-km-long wall that encircles the city’s historical centre.
On our last day we visited Amber Fort, which was built in 1589. The architecture of the fort and its main palace unites Hindu, Muslim and British influences. Fresco paintings, glass from Belgium and different types of marble decorate the splendid interior walls. This palace was inhabited by a king, his 132 mistresses, and his 12 wives, who were not allowed to see the outside world.
Furthermore, we visited the ‘Palace of the Winds’ in Jaipur’s historical centre. The distinctive reddish paint on the buildings in this area was originally used to imitate the famous red sandstone architecture of Mughal cities. As a small memento of our trip to India, the girls got a Henna tattoo before we returned to our hotel.
We concluded our exchange by stargazing, singing and having good conversations on our host’s rooftop terrace but did not feel like packing our luggage until late into the night.
The last ten days have been filled with Indian songs and dances, religious ceremonies, a lot of laughter, unforgettable memories and tons of cultural impressions.
Most important, we build friendships with awesome people from the other side of the world and tied connections that span the globe. During our impressive stay, we got a glimpse of the whole breadth of India’s social structure, and debated topics like the advantages of school uniforms, the pros and cons of co-educational schools, and the differences between developing and developed countries.
We would like to thank everyone who contributed to organizing this trip and every single person who made this exchange so special. We were absolutely not ready to leave India this morning and are counting the days until May, 8th when we finally meet our Indian soulmates again.
Sophie, for Team India, Jaipur, 28 February 2018