Other than Holi, the past few weeks have been slow and monotoneous. The only other American left in Jodhpur is my friend Emily and we only see each other once a week when I go to the city on Sundays. At this point I have begun to realize my time is coming to an end sooner rather than later.
I have been a bit sick lately, but being that I get sick about once a month, it’s not that big of a surprise or ordeal. I tend to have stomach problems about once a month on a bigger than average scale but that is because I am still not used to the bacteria in India despite being here for almost 6 months. It has become less frequent though and this time it was coupled with the extreme heat that came on abruptly. Last week it was temperate weather with highs in the upper 80’s but now the sun has gotten extremely strong and within two days the heat is already in mid to upper 90’s. The mornings are temperate still and the nights are agreeable, but once the sun is in full blast, walking outside is like walking straight into wild fires. The sun beats down on my fair skin like a magnifying glass on an ant and even in the shade I start to sweat like I have been exercising for hours.
Unfortunately, here in the Thar desert, this is mild temperatures and as the summer slowly creeps up, the heat will only rise and scorch the earth with it’s harmful yet life giving rays. I am a bit sad that I will be leaving right after the worst and hottest month of the year, May, because I will not be able to see the monsoon season. During the rains, the spirits of everyone in this arid and dry desert supposedly get lifted and renewed as the plants are getting life again. The lakes/ponds in the area are already almost dry and being that the hottest months are still to come, this could be a very bad sign for the livestock and wild animals that rely on the watering holes for relief in the hot, dry sun. Not to mention the villagers that use this water as well.
As for work, I am still waiting to hear back from Whole Foods on whether or not they will place orders for small products to place in their grocery or Whole Body stores. I sent them a marketing package as well as a detailed explanation of the organization and products hoping to secure some orders for the center. I am in talks with a shop in Jodhpur who may order products wholesale to place in their storefront as well. Marketing is hard for products both here in India and abroad because the prices of the Sunder Rang products tend to be more expensive due to higher wages and costs associated with running the center and the over-saturation of both markets with fair-trade artisan products.
I accomplished one of the past interns projects and brought a tailor from Jodhpur to teach the women new skills and help train them in proper skills needed for sewing. Although this was not the exact training the other intern had placed a grant for, I thought it was better than having to give the money back to FSD for not completing the grant. There is a computer proficiency center being built behind the crafts center that is being funded by the Norwegian donor who supported the building of Sunder Rang, which will provide valuable skills to the village. The greenhouse, however, has been halted and put on hold due to extreme heat that is coming on fast. There will be no way to start growing seedling in the summer heat and without having a way to grow there is no point to build the structure until it is closer to a time that growing will be sustainable. This proves a cautious moment though because if I leave without putting a structure in place and teaching the necessary knowledge for the greenhouse, the plans will very possibly be forgotten about and no one will oversee the project.
That is the problem with development though: if no one cares about a particular project and no one in the area is properly trained to oversee it and continue it’s sustainability, there is no point to pursue the project. If there is anything I have learned in the past projects in development I have worked on, it’s that without sweat equity and ownership of the people, a project is likely to fail once the sponsoring organization is gone. This makes me wonder if it is just better to give the money back to FSD from what was given for building the greenhouse. I expressed my concern with my supervisor, but the response was not the same concern. He wants it to be done, but does not have time to oversee the project at all. Although the compost bin has been completed and I have step-by-step directions on how to building a hoop house style greenhouse, I still don’t believe the project will be completed or implemented in a sustainable fashion without someone to pursue it once I am gone.
My job as manager of Sunder Rang continues on a daily basis and the only reprieve I get from working at the center is on Sundays in Jodhpur, which end up being shopping days for the center. I am excited for a tourism trade show that is coming up in April that I will be attending with my host father/supervisor in order to promote the hotel and crafts center to local and foreign tour operators. It will three days of marketing at a trade show but includes cultural activities in Jaipur, including a polo match and visiting historical monuments.