Wednesday, July 1, 2009

4th update from India

So this is my first ever blog entry on my first ever blog… I feel so behind the times that I thought I would give this a shot and see what its like! There is a good chance you’ll see future blog posts from different blogging sites while I get a feel for things. I guess what made me change to updates on blogging sites instead of those mass e-mails is I’ve been quite interested in web development recently and since I’m doing all this research about the new trends in social media, I should really start participating as well!

Anyway, I am posting this now because I’m in such a good mood right now. Today is just going amazingly. I played ultimate for the first time in India and it was as much fun as I had hoped. Ultimate people are just really cool. They are really new to the game so its not quite like playing in the states, but the players were all really friendly. One of the guys gave me a ride most of the way back and gave me his number so I can ask him questions about where to stay this weekend in Goa. Even though they play at 6:30 am, I’m pretty sure I’ll be going to 2 games a week from now on! The only problem with playing there was all of the cricket games going on around us which meant there were always about 5-10 people running around our field at all times which we had to dodge. There were also a group of 4 people just standing around in the middle of our field talking and when one of our players asked them to move they said that we don’t own this ground… That would definitely not fly in the states. First off, no one in their right mind would stand on an obvious playing field just because they can, and second, if they were asked to move, 99.9% of people in the states would get off the field. I still find that behavior shocking.

Anyway, on the way back to IISc this morning after the ultimate guy dropped me off, I took an autorickshaw the rest of the way back and he didn’t try to rip me off! He tried to get his meter working but when it was obviously broken, I suggested 20 rupees which is probably what a meter would have cost and he didn’t argue. We then had to go farther than I originally thought to a back entrance and almost got into 2 accidents while I was giving directions to him and he still didn’t complain about the price. I ended up giving him more than that anyway just because he didn’t try to rip me off. haha, I probably ended up paying the same amount as I would pay an ordinary rickshaw driver who haggled the price with me, only at least this guy knows he was doing honest business.

So recently I traveled to Kanyakumari on the southern tip of India. Siva took us there on a 14 hour train ride. The ride there was really nice. It was an air conditioned sleeper car with reasonably comfortable mats, only 2 levels of beds, and came with sheets, blankets, a pillow, and a curtain for privacy. So that was really sweet. The way back though wasn’t nearly as nice… There was no AC which meant a lot more bugs, there were 3 layers of beds which meant a lot less space, no curtains so there was exactly zero privacy, much less comfortable mats, and no blankets, sheets, or pillows. Somehow I still got a great sleep though!

While Rachael and I were at Siva’s in law’s place at Monday Market (about 20 minutes from Kanyakumari) we were treated really well. They gave us the upstairs guest room which was actually a really nice accomodation. We had our own western style bathroom with hot water for showers too. His mother in law cooked us 2-3 meals a day. Eating there was a little awkward though. Because we were the guests, we were supposed to eat first before everyone else. We would sit at a table with just food in front of Rachael and I and Siva, his Father in law, his mother in law, his brother in law, and sister in law would all be there watching us eat (sometimes not all of them since they would also do other things). His mother in law would stand literally 5-10 feet away and wait for our plates to start getting empty and whenever they reached a certain point she would come over and scoop us some more. So that was sure an interesting experience.

Probably the most shocking experience there was the early morning church. This was a Christian community and there was a very nearby church that held service every morning at 5am-6am. Simillar to the Kenyan churches I experienced last summer, this church had incredibly loud speakers pointed away from the church so everyone in the community could hear every word loudly and clearly. In our room it was significantly louder than sitting right in front of a TV set to normal listening volume. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep for that hour either morning. The crazy thing is that that church service happens every single morning and the residents don’t seem to mind! And speaking of things similar to Kenya, we found out that Siva’s in law’s move at a speed comparable to our Kenyan friends! Friday night we were asked to be ready to go by 8:30 saturday morning so we were up and ready at that time. We ended up sitting around playing with Siva’s newphew, talking, and really doing almost nothing until leaving at about 11… So then Saturday night they apologized for leaving so late and said we should sleep in until 11 Sunday morning. But then Siva’s mother in law said breakfast would be ready at 9:30 and that we should be ready to eat then and we would leave right after breakfast. So sure enough we wake up and get down there at 9:30 to eat breakfast. But we end up sitting around waiting for people to shower, play with Siva’s nephew some more and don’t leave until after 12! haha its kind of ridiculous, but at least I’m used to it so it doesn’t make me think less of such a welcoming family.

Speaking of inefficiencies, I still can’t get a good grasp on whether or not Indians are fast paced or slow paced. Everyone is rushing around so fast on their mopeds and traffic is outrageously agressive. People are pushing and cutting in lines and always in such a hurry to get their food or any other kinds of service. But then they take these super long lunch and tea breaks every day and don’t start work until about 10 or 11! Seems conflicting so I’m still trying to understand it. haha, I saw one of the most ridiculous wastes of time the other day when I was taking water samples in a village on the border of Karnataka and Andrea Pradesh. Granted, it was not a huge village so life moves slower there but still. We needed samples from a tap and the taps weren’t currently running because the pump had been turned off for the day (people get their water during a 1 or 2 hours of pumping time each day). So we needed to turn the pump back on to get water, but it takes 15 minutes for the water to start up. So we had to wait in the blazing sun for this. First of all, I thought it was incredibly inefficient and time wasteful that all 4 members of our group was standing around waiting for this water. But on top of that, 6 other adults and 5 children were standing around just watching us wait for water to come out of the tap where we would put a bottle under it and be done. hahaha. Seriously, in the US, it would take one person to collect the samples, and during those 15 minutes of downtime (which wouldn’t exist because our water sources are so awesome!) that person would go do something else instead of look at it. 15 people*15 minutes was almost 4 wasted man hours where everyone was bored, hot and doing nothing productive or amusing… very odd.

Yet on the complete opposite side of the spectrum is their unbelievably effecient food service! After taking those water samples we went for lunch at a busy restaurant where there were about 15 tables of 6 people each. Lunch lasted a total of 15-20 minutes from the time we walked in until the time we walked out. Absolutely unbelievable considering how this was a great sit down place. In those 15 minutes, we washed our hands, ordered, got our drinks, got an appetizer (massa vada which was delicious), got another appetizer (jammoon, also delicious), got our main course (mysore masasla dosa, both delicious and filling), got our first desert (curd with lots of sugar), got our second desert (ice cream), drank tea, paid for it all, and washed our hands again. Further, this cost about $1.50. Yes, I was eating about as fast as I possibly could to keep up with everyone, and took my tea so fast I scalded my tongue, but it I enjoyed having such a great meal without wasting a second!

And speaking of food, I had the absolute best meal I’ve had here yesterday. There is a small canteen here for people from outside the campus that I tried for the first time and I had buttered poori with gobi manjuri was that amaaazing. Juicy, crispy, spicy, sweet, flavorful. Sounds a little like panda express right? haha, probably as good as that which is saying a lot considering how much I love Panda. Only problem was, I am getting used to eating meals here with no water during the meals and only taking a drink afterwards. But this meal happened to be one of the two spiciest meals I’ve had here (making it one of the three spiciest I’ve had in my life!) so I was about to die by the end. My face was covered in sweat, my eyes were beginning to tear up, I was breathing heavily, and it was a chore just to talk and order water afterwards! haha, totally worth it though. I think I’m going to get it again today but bring water with me.

This first post is getting long I think. I am going to go now and book some tickets for this weekend. We have a full schedule of weekends lined up to finish off this India trip! This weekend we’ll be going to Goa which is known for its beautiful beaches and almost no crowds during this monsoon season. The next weekend we’ll be going to Kerala which is also known for its scenery and backwaters. The following weekend we’ll be going to Pondicherry which is beautiful and hot this time of year and we can actually go swimming for the first time! And then the last weekend we’ll be visiting Siva’s house again. Hopefully we can also push our flight forward a couple of days to go see the Taj Mahal before we leave. I think I’ll send shorter, more frequent updates from now on. I think I might also add random stuff to this blog in case you want to check it more often. There’s lots of fun things on the web these days that are definitely worth sharing with anyone who cares!