Towards the end of the program, we wanted to step up our game a bit in terms of the fun we provided for the girls we worked with. Also they’d been nagging us to take them out for ages and we are very weak-willed. Bearing in mind that they spend most of their lives cleaning up and washing things, we thought it was fair enough, anyway.

So, with an alarmingly decreasing number of days left, we organised (in the loosest possible sense of the word) two trips in the last two weeks of our stay in Jaipur.

For the first, we decided that it would be nice to take them out for a picnic – we figured it’d be cheap, we could play a few games, and maybe even get a tan whilst we were doing it. All of the above were achieved – although we slightly miscalculated on the entrance fee, i.e. we thought there wasn’t one and it turned out that there was – in a trip to Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh, a local garden about 6km out of the city. It was a bit of a task to organise (considering none of us had ever dreamed of heading the organisation of this kind of trip before), but we put the hours in the day before (Sabah, Becky and I stayed up until midnight buying crisps and biscuits from the market and making poha in the apartment – I can’t even explain what poha is, it’s too difficult) and it all paid off in the end.

We definitely couldn’t have done it without the invaluable help of Madhu Ji, the mother teacher of the bodhshala school in Amagarh – she helped sort snacks, arranged the transport (the infamous magic buses – have I mentioned them yet?), and generally provided a much-needed figure of authority for the group of very excitable teenage girls. Absolute legend.

… a bin full of poha

The day itself was brilliant (although some of the girls received our lovingly prepared poha less than enthusiastically – we tried our best ok!) and I had a great time teaching them all English primary school games like Duck Duck Goose (that went down a treat) and Grandma’s Footsteps. It was also good for them to get to interact with the girls from the other community – we took both the Sikh and Muslim community’s girls out together – and generally chill out and have a laugh, which I guess they didn’t often get the chance to do. Naturally, there was dancing – it seems that all girls are OBSESSED with dance in India; can’t understand the appeal myself – which was only improved by the spontaneous interruption of the fountain in the middle of the garden bursting into song (well, sort of – there were some speakers and a little water display).

All in all it was a great success; we were all a bit exhausted by the time we got back but it was definitely a worthwhile endeavour, even with such obstacles as having to take a bin-full of poha (yes we bought a plastic bin for the occasion) on an Indian public bus in the morning rush hour. The general feeling of success was only compounded by the next week’s activity, in which we got them to write the story of “Our Day Out” in English, drawing and decorating one page each – I really REALLY wish I’d got photos of it because it was genuinely so good (and adorable).

For the second trip, we utilised the Bodh headquarters and went to the Kukas campus for the broadly-termed “sports day.” I was all for a full-on competitive day, but we quickly realised that for the majority of the girls, this wasn’t their idea of a fun day out – so we organised a few sport-like activities, and finished off the day with a bit of theatre.

Splitting the girls into two groups, we alternated between volleyball and basketball (because that was what we had the equipment for; my hopes of playing at least one cricket match in India were once again thwarted) – but in the heat it largely descended into a “chill-out-and-have-fun” day, mark II. Volleyball is bloody well impossible, in any case. My group ended up playing football in the volleyball section (initiated by me, surprise surprise – I think the “volley ball” was actually a football anyway), and both groups ended up utilising the very appealing play park during the basketball section. Unfortunately the play equipment was very much designed for skinny Indian girls and not us, as Becky and I both quite painfully discovered – Becky probably still has her war wound.

After that came lunch, something we’d all been looking forward to – I can’t describe how good the Bodh lunches are – which went surprisingly without mishap, and then we went on to the drama section of the day. Essentially we split them into random groups again and then told them to get on with it (obviously in a much more professional and encouraging way), and they did really well – at least, I managed to grasp the gist of what was going on despite the dialogue being in Hindi. We overran slightly on our originally planned deadline (no biggy, T.I.I – this is India) but didn’t mind much because they were having fun, and wandered back to the bus about half an hour late, all ready to head home.

Except the driver wasn’t there, and when we rang him it transpired that he’d ‘just gone for a little walk’, and then we were waiting around for ages on a sweaty bus full of tired teenagers, and then Teena disappeared to talk to her sister or friend or something, and then I was debating whether to utilise my rusty driving skills and drive us back myself (not that a driver’s licence is any kind of qualification to prepare you for Indian roads), and then the bus driver turned up but Teena was still gone, and by the time we finally got going tempers were frayed and our fun day out had been slightly marred by the unnecessary upwards-of-an -hour delay. But still.

It was worth it; both trips were – to give the girls a treat, to get them to interact with each other, to play games and have fun, and to get us out of our comfort zone – we’d spent so long in the same routine and I think we definitely needed a new challenge. It was a shame that everything felt so rushed towards the end; it would have been nice to organise something larger-scale, but I’m glad that we got the opportunities that we did, even so.