Last week I started a new part-time volunteer placement in Udaipur, Rajasthan with a large rural development organisation. I have loved the city of Udaipur since I first visited it in 2011 and living here now is like a dream come true. Not only is it incredibly beautiful, situated in the hills and on the banks of two lakes with large numbers of old and beautifully designed buildings. It also has some excellent restaurants, cafés and bars, along with enough sights and activities to ensure that you are always entertained.
The difference between the location of this placement and my last one is startling. Despite Bhavnagar and Udaipur being very similar sizes (populations of 400-500,000), both being situated in fairly rural, conservative areas and only being 500km apart, the two cities are very different places. Bhavnagar has the feeling of a very provincial city with not much happening outside of festival periods. In comparison, Udaipur (though still quiet by western standards) is a hive of activity. Much of this is due to Udaipur’s status as a fairly major tourist destination, leading to a well-developed tourist infrastructure and plenty of activities to keep western tourists happy. In many ways Bhavnagar benefits from not being on the tourist trail; people tend to be more inquisitive and friendly to westerners and don’t see them as wallets with legs as is often the case in more tourist-oriented cities. However, after almost two years in Bhavnagar it is incredibly refreshing to be able to go to a nice bar for a beer, to have several choices of where to go for a good cup of coffee, to be able to go to the cinema to see an English-language film and to no longer stand out as one of the only westerners in town.
Coming here has also meant that I am once again experiencing how it feels to be a new volunteer, for the first time since I originally came to India almost two years ago. Once again I am trying to understand how everything works, where everything is and how I can best support the organisation I’m volunteering with. I am also once more coming to terms with how difficult it can be to get things moving when you’re new to an organisation. Arranging meetings that actually happen can be next to impossible and I have spent most of my first week reading anything that I can get my hands on, in order to make sure that I know as much as possible about the work that I will be doing. However, the reading is very interesting, as is the work done by the organisation, and I am greatly looking forward to getting more involved over the next few weeks.
I believe that Udaipur is a fantastic place for any volunteer to be based. Much of my 2Way Development work over the coming months will be focused on creating new partnerships with organisations in Udaipur, and I hope that we will have several partners in the city by the time I leave. I will be here for around 6 months and am already thinking about how sad it will be to leave.