Archive | May, 2011

spreading my wings

28 May

Every time I go outside, I feel like I just stepped out of  one of the Twilight movies. My sweat causes me to glisten (“sparkle,” one might say), and I have an unquenchable thirst. And I’m super pale compared to everyone here. And everyone stares at me. I have a newfound sense of compassion for celebrities and vampires.

So… A lot has happened since last time I wrote. An Indian guy has professed his love to me, but he couldn’t speak English and didn’t understand that my “I’ve only known you for a week” was just a nice way of saying “no.” Then later I think I offended him when I asked if he was mad, because in India, mad doesn’t mean mad, it means crazy. I’m still learning.

Today was my first solo metro experience. I was dropped off at Dwarka Mor station and someone was coming to pick me up at Dwarka Sector 8 station (only a few stations down). It seemed like it would be a pretty hard job to have any problems getting from A to B… I managed it. I bought my token and got on the metro (in the women’s car, which is really nice) and we went one station down. Then the train went backwards. I got off at the same station I started from, very confused and now on the wrong side of the tracks. After briefly considering jumping across and then deciding that the risk of death was a bit too high, I found my way back around and got on the same train again. This time it went where I wanted to go, and I was picked up from the final station on a motorcycle (which I had sworn to myself that I would never ride again).

So I found out that Indians have been ridiculously overcharging me for everything. I’ve been paying 600 rupees (about ten dollars) for an hour-long taxi ride, which seemed reasonable to me, seeing as it would be more than triple that in the states. But today the Indian man I’m going to be teaching English with found an auto rickshaw that would take me on the same drive for 180 rupees (less than four dollars). I’ve been overcharged by 300%. And in the market where we were supposed to bargain, everything suddenly becomes “fixed price, fixed price.” I guess I’m just a walking dollar sign to them since I’m obviously a foreigner. But even though they are taking advantage of me being naive, I feel so bad only paying four dollars to the taxi driver when they’ve taken me so far, or buying a scarf for just three dollars.

Okay, so my plans for the summer have been made. I will be teaching English to adults at a language school on the edge of Delhi, close to the IT hub in a bordering city. Tomorrow I’m moving into the school, and that’s where I’ll stay (for the most part) for the rest of the summer. I’m excited for the teaching, but there are a few things I’m a little worried about. Like the no air conditioning thing. And I’m going to have to cook my own meals on a gas stove most of the time since there are no nearby restaurants in that part of Delhi. And the fact that the bathroom doesn’t have a shower– I’m gonna have to use a bucket. I actually took my first bucket shower today and it wasn’t terrible but for someone who used to take hot 30-minute showers back home, it’s definitely an adjustment. But there’s a real toilet in the bathroom. And it’s a beautiful thing.

one of our friendly neighborhood lizards (he eats bugs so we like him)

the view from my window. this will change soon though

blank slate

23 May

It’s become a recurring trend that I find myself saying, ‘what was I thinking?’ But this always happens when it’s too late. Like when the food is already in my mouth. Or when I’m hanging on for dear life on the back of a motorcycle flying down Indian dirt roads.

The other day at the hotel they gave us fruit salad at breakfast. Note to any future travelers to India: if you ever get a craving for fruit salad, make sure you specify to whomever is making it that you would prefer it to be unsalted. Unless salty fruit is your thing. Just throwing that out there. And is there really a way to say no when someone asks, “are you okay riding on a motorcycle?” That was my first time to ever ride on a motorcycle in my life, and India may not have been the best place for my first ride. It was an adrenaline rush to say the least.

On Saturday we went to Agra to see the Taj Majal. Agra is a four hour drive from Delhi. We rented an AC car (definitely worth the extra money) and squeezed into it. Squeezing into cars has become a pretty common thing for me. Everyone in India squeezes into cars. Like it’s ridiculous how many people can fit into one auto rickshaw, which looks like it could only comfortably hold two people. On one of my first days there, when I was a newb, I expressed some doubt about how seven people and five suitcases were going to fit into a car with five seats. I was then told, “this is India. Anything is possible.” True dat.

Back to the Taj Mahal. Agra is one of the hottest cities in India, and it was somewhere around 12o degrees when we were there. And as soon as you step out of the car, you’re barraged by people trying to sell you things or to be your tour guide. We rented a little horse cart to get away from them, but they chased us. One little boy sprinted after us for like half a mile trying to sell snow globe keychains. He was so out of breath, and I felt so sorry for him that I ended up buying twelve of them for 100 rupees total (about two dollars). So if anyone would like a cheap plastic Taj Mahal snow globe key chain, I can hook you up.

It probably took about ten minutes to see the Taj Mahal. It was actually pretty boring, which was disappointing to me because I had really been looking forward to it. But the Red Fort was amazing. It’s an old castle pretty close to the Taj Mahal, and it’s way cooler. If you’re ever in Agra, go see that instead. One of the girls in our group had blonde hair. She was pretty much a celebrity. People were constantly asking her to take pictures with them and to hold their babies. Being white gets you stared at here in India, but being blonde gets you majorly creeped on.

The rest of my Waco group flew out last night, and I’m all moved into the apartment I’m staying at this summer with two other girls, leaving me to begin my unplanned summer. I still have no idea what I’m gonna be doing. My philosophy is this– if you don’t have any plans, your plans can never be ruined. I’ll just see where the summer takes me. I know for sure that I’m going back to Dwarka, the section of Delhi I’ve been in for the past week, to help the school I’ve been working with as it gets ready for a carnival garage sale thing on Saturday. But that’s the only thing about this summer that resembles a plan. No worries though, I have lots of options and I’m looking forward to exploring them.

theek hai

16 May

I’ve been here two days now, which is pretty much nothing, but I’m starting to get over the sensory overload a little bit. I still haven’t taken any pictures because I really don’t know what to take a picture of… There’s dirt everywhere. And trash. And Indians of course. Lots of them. I saw my first Indian cows on the way to church yesterday, just chillin’ on the side of the road. And the smell is really not bad here most of the time, but I have to hold my breath every time we drive over a bridge (which I normally do anyway because someone told me that if you hold your breath when you go over bridges you’ll get a boyfriend haha).

For the past few days I’ve been staying with a woman named Geeta and her family. Mostly I’ve been eating (the food here is epic), sleeping, and getting over my jet lag, which I wasn’t expecting to have because I don’t have a normal sleep pattern anyway. We would all sit in the same room and turn on the air conditioning, and everyone would begin talking in Hindi. I had no idea what was going on, ever. One time they were all talking, and the only thing they said in English was “open relationship,” which was repeated several times over the course of the discussion. I still don’t know what they were talking about.

Today the rest of the group got here, three other Americans from my church (another woman was supposed to come but she got sick and couldn’t make it), and we moved into a hotel for the week. I was so glad to be around people that only speak English. I’ve been feeling linguistically isolated these past few days, because literally everyone is bilingual here, and Hindi is the language everyone naturally gravitates toward. I’m learning a pretty good bit of Hindi, and the phrase I hear most is “theek hai” (pronounced “tee-kay”). This means “it’s okay.” I hear it in almost every conversation. Another important word is “paani.” This means “water.” Every time I think I’m about to have a heat stroke and I hear someone say “paani,” it’s like the little angels start singing and the girl bringing the glasses of water becomes the most beautiful person I have ever seen.

Also, I don’t understand how they drink hot chai when it’s 110 degrees outside on average. And why the women would wear pants and long sleeves and scarves. It just doesn’t seem logical, but that’s just me. Not everyone dresses that way, but it’s common.

And I’ve had a few awkward situations with the toilets here… When I say toilets I really mean holes in the concrete ground of the bathroom. Will someone please tell me how those work??

And I really feel like I need to reiterate how terrifying it is to drive in India. If ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ was still running, I would have an idea for one of those stupid jokes Drew Carey used to make at the beginning–“welcome to Whose Line Is It Anyway, a show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. That’s right, the points are like the lines on the road in India.” The other day, we passed a sign and Amit told me “oh, that means it’s a two way street but there’s no middle line.” Umm what?

A Jump Over the Sea

14 May

As soon as my plane landed, it hit me that I knew no one in the entire country of India. Or on the continent of Asia. Or this hemisphere. The time difference is ten and a half hours ahead of the US, which is still tripping me out a little (haha I apologize to everyone I told that it was fourteen hours ahead. I had no idea what I was talking about.)

The first I saw of India was through the window of the jet bridge, because my seat wasn’t near a window. Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable flight, even though it was fourteen hours long. I fell asleep somewhere around Canada, and when I woke up I was over Afghanistan. My sleeping skills come in handy sometimes.

The New Delhi airport has approximately 3274637825 moving sidewalks, and I took every one of them to the immigration thing, then the baggage thing, then the customs thing. And then they released me into India. I had no phone, no Internet access, and no Indian money. There were a few people standing by a rail holding cards with names on them. I quickly skimmed those and didn’t see my name, so I set out on my own and walked all the way to the airport door. Then I realized that once I was outside I would literally be alone in India, which was probably not a good idea. I walked all the way back down to the other end and that’s when I saw that one of the guys with the name cards was holding one with the name of the centre where I’d be working, so I went over to him and that was when I met Amit. He pretty much took over from there. He got us a cab and, despite my protests, carried all my stuff.

Okay so even though everyone supposedly speaks English in India, the only English I heard was when someone addressed me directly. Everything else was in Hindi. I sat there with no idea what was going on as papers were waved in faces and voices were raised to shouting level. We got in a taxi that was reminiscent of a Volkswagen Bus (which made me very happy), and set out on the ride of my life. He promised me that the cab ride would only be twenty minutes. That was the longest twenty minutes of my life.

I went to Ecuador last summer and the driving there was crazy, but I was in a huge bus the whole time, so I felt safe. But in India, cars are constantly honking and merging and pedestrians and bikes cross the road at will. Our taxi went within inches of people standing on the side of the road (once, the car even died in the middle of the road). Props to the driver, he was very skilled. I learned some Hindi from Amit on the ride, and he thought it was really funny that I watch Bollywood movies (he even did a Shah Rukh Khan impression for me, though I didn’t realize it until he told me he was doing an impression). Somehow my luggage and I made it intact to the house I’m staying at until the rest of the group arrives on Monday.

And chai in India is SO GOOD.

Okay, I am needed to help with something. I’m so proud of myself for making it this far. It’s gonna be an amazing summer. More to come later. (And I’ll take pictures at some point).

Testing, testing, one two three…

10 May

Just making sure I can do this before I start adventuring. I don’t really have anything to say yet. I leave for India in three days, on the 8 AM flight from Shreveport to Dallas. I’ll then fly to Chicago, and finally to New Delhi (that last leg will be a fifteen hour flight, and I’m very much looking forward to catching up on all the sleep I lost during finals). I’ll be there for most of the summer, somewhere in the neighborhood of two and a half months.

Another thing I wanted to share is a song that I have kind of adopted as the statement of purpose for my life. It’s called “Go Do” by Jónsi, the lead singer of Sigur Rós (an Icelandic band).

It’s a very strange/cool music video, but I really appreciate the lyrics of the song and I take them as a personal challenge. I’m about to “go do” and I hope everyone reading this is inspired to “go do” as well, not necessarily by becoming a world traveler, but by living life to the fullest.

There’s also a good chance that this won’t actually inspire anyone, but just cause laughter at my failings and the awkward situations I tend to get myself into. That’s fine too. Several people I know will be reading this just to laugh at me (you know who you are).

Wow, I’ve said a lot for someone who has nothing to say. I’m catching on to this blogging thing really quickly haha. See you on the other side.