So I made it safely to Devpur, Gujurat, a village about 40km outside the city of Bhuj. I'm staying at Devpur Homestay, with my absolutely wonderful host Krutarth and his family. There are quite a few other guests here at the moment also, since today is the national holiday Republic Day.
The region around Bhuj is called Kutch, a dry semi-desert area. There are many small villages separated by stretches of blacktop. The salt plains are about a three hour drive from here - I saw them with two girls from New Delhi.
Krutarth said to me over breakfast that it is quite surprising that I ended up in Kutch as most first-time visitors don't come to this area. It's not exactly famous, but it's a lovely place for all that. Village life is much quieter than in the cities - although the mosque nearby wakes me every morning around 4:30 with the call to prayer.
The building is an old fort which has been in the family for six generations. It survived the terrible 2001 earthquake that centred on Bhuj. It struck 13 years ago today, taking many lives. No one was hurt here, though buildings were damaged as the earth shook for over a minute.
There is a school attached to the homestay called The White Eagles school. It was founded by Krutarth's father in 1994. About 220 students from Devpur and nearby villages attend for kindergarten to grade 12.
The girls in grade 11 have been very kind, sort of adopting me and showing me around the village after classes. Maybe it's because at first they thought I'm around 18, a lot closer to their age than I actually am. The first day I was here we played some ping pong and they asked me if I know how to dance. I said I know how to salsa, so they asked me to show them. We did some basic steps, and then they showed me the basic step of a dance called the 'garba' and we all did the garba around the ping pong table. (So learn to dance, you never know when it could come in handy).
Yesterday I went with them to the field where they play tennis and field hockey, and Ruchita and Hency did mendhi on my left hand. I had tea with a young couple from Rajasthan who are volunteering at the school while they travel the country. And I had a visit with the mother of one of the students at the school and her neighbours. She doesn't speak English and my Hindi/Gujurati comes out of a phrase book (at best) so we mostly talked in signs. But it has been a quiet stay so far, just visiting and reading and relaxing.