By Anna Zanoli, Italy

“These four days have been not only probably the most significant ones of my experience in India, but perhaps amongst the most important of my life. I think that in future, while looking back at my exchange year, I will always remember these couple of days spent in the rural areas of this country because I learnt so many new things and now I’m a big step closer to understanding this place. Those glimpses of “real India” made me think a lot, and even though I thought, I was somehow prepared, it is always a different thing to see it with your own eyes. I’m really grateful to the AFS chapter of Pune for having organized such an amazing and unique activity, for it would have been almost impossible to have an experience of this kind otherwise. People in the rural villages live surrounded by stunningly beautiful landscapes of almost untouched and pure nature. Their homes are simple; made to meet just the basic needs of life and not all of them have toilets. They live almost without electricity and have very less contact with the world outside the village. Their clothing are used and reused over the years and are simple, in order to be comfortable for their daily routine which consists of working and providing food for themselves. Their food is entirely prepared by them with what they get from the earth, cooked on simple wooden fires and eaten from metal plates sitting on the dusty floors of their huts. Even though the conditions in which they live in would seem unbelievable to any western-minded, they do not live unhappily. They appreciate the small things and seem to have found happiness in other ways.”

By Agnese Sensi, Italy

“It is absolutely difficult to describe the feedback of this experience because these four days didn’t give me only information about the lifestyle of rural area but it also gave me an important contribution for my personal growth. In fact we visited different villages in which people survive with limited water and food, the majority part of families doesn’t have bathroom, no light, and no bed. In these days, we saw that people also without all the thing that we believe are essential are happy and they enjoy the life without asking more facilities. So, this was definitely an important lessons for us. On these days, we visited a lot of different villages so we could notice some difference between each other but also a lot of common features. The most important common characteristics are that the villages are always situated in green place with always a river nearby and they use this to wash themselves because they don’t have bathrooms. The house are generally little to keep the warm of fire during winter. The space that they use to cook and to eat in used in the night to sleep. People eat a lot of rice because they grow a lot of rice in the farm. Village people wake up early in the morning and work in the farm, sometimes also children work with parents but sometimes the few literate people teach the children basics of some subject.”

By Gil Vayssier, France

“The experience of visiting the countryside and the tribal parts of Maharashtra was very interesting! In fact, I already had this kind of experience in Cuba or in Tanzania, it was still really rewarding. By this experience, we could see that even if people don’t have that advance lifestyle and development as big Indian cities, or occidental cities, they are very welcoming, and they took care of all of us. For them, it seems that relationships (family and friends) are more important as everything. Their houses are so different from our homes or even the homes in Pune. It’s always shocking to know how people live here all the time. And, I kept wondering how they can live life in theses houses. But as I told, these people are more focused on the immaterial values as love or friendship than on material values. I think that is the major difference, or lag, between these people and us. Food was different than Pune food but it was very good, even if it was too spicier than usual. Weather was also different than Pune weather, there was too much heat and humid, but apart from that, weather was good, and supportable.”