Add to GoogleReader

Add to Google Reader or Homepage


continuation of "It's India"

After our hours long car ride to and from the IT city, we drove into a
swanky neighborhood of Bangalore, to an apartment where we had been invited
to tea. On elder doctor, dressed in head-to-toe white lounge-wear welcomed
us to his "terrace garden," a roof top terrace that he had managed to grow a
prickly but quite green lawn upon. His lodgings were quite luxurious; he and
his family occupied the entire top floor of the apartment building, and his
garden felt like an oasis in the city. Complete with a mini waterfall,
swinging chair and outdoor loo, the garden reeked of luxury, and after our
long day, we drank it in, rolling in the grass, sprawling out, and generally
making fools of ourselves ­ especially when a group of monkeys appeared.
True to our American tourist status, we all barely fell off the side of the
building in our attempt to get a closer look at the creatures. One monkey
obliged us by climbing a couple telephone wires to land on the apartment
roof, where I was able to snap a few pictures of him before he swung off.
The chai tea was especially delicious at the doctor¹s house ­ I
even took seconds when he offered. Tea in India is amazing ­ sweet, and
spicy and creamy ­ but they never give you enough! If you buy it on the
street, you get it in tin cup about the size of a thimble! And even at a
restaurant or our center, there is no such thing as a Starbucks Grande, or
heaven forbid, a Ventii. Oh, well, it gives me a kick-start nonetheless.
After our relaxing tea we returned to the center to take care of
less calming matters. As we were moving into our apartments the next day, we
needed to retrieve our monthly stipends from Achu, the librarian and general
task man. Whatever he did in our absence, I don't know, but he certainly
didn't prepare our stipends or attempt to make the moving process any easier
for us. We waited around for a couple hours while Achu carefully counted out
our stipends and I fretted over how we would get a taxi and get to our new
digs. I must have looked as worried as I felt, because poor Anita, the field
trip coordinator and general awesome woman, saying not to fret while I
peppered her with questions.
In the end, moving into our apartments went well. After
haphazardly packing all our things up from Vishranti Nilam, the women's
mission, we called a city taxi Saturday morning and waited for them to pick
us up. When the car arrived, we were a little dismayed to find a rather
compact car, with a barely-there trunk and a corral like roof-rack. However,
the driver managed to squeeze all our baggage in ­ I definitely had the
most, though everyone has agreed that I brought some darn useful things ­
and fit us in comfortably too. Using some of our memories and directions
from several passersby he stopped, our driver got us to our new apartment in
Benaka Clusters.
 Our next-door neighbor were there to give us our keys ­ a
sweet woman with little kids and a drop dead gorgeous husband. We spent the
day cleaning up the apartment after we bought some much needed supplies,
which confused our neighbor, who repeatedly mentioned that the apartment had
been cleaned by the maid just the other day. When I noted that it was still
pretty dirty, as evidence by my dark-as-soot rag that had been brand new
just a few hours ago, she gave perhaps the best quote yet, with a shrug,
"It's India."
Settling into the apartment was great ­ Alex and I each have a
bedroom and a bathroom ­mine has a squat toilet! We share a common room with
a tv and two terribly uncomfortable chairs, and kitchen with a stovetop and
fridge. Each bedroom also has a balcony, as does the kitchen. Our
neighborhood is cute, busy but not bustling. We can hear cars passing during
the day, but at night we just hear the voices of our neighbors and the
squeals of their children. In the morning, vendors call out their wares,
like a scene from Oliver Twist. Our neighbors seem to find us a bit of a
trip ­ they¹re not used to western visitors, I reckon. Also, one of our
neighbors nagged our landlord when he stopped by, to make sure we didn¹t
cook any meat in the apartment, since she was Jain and this is apparently a
Veg apartment building. Guess I won¹t offer her any of the beef jerky I'll
be getting in the mail.
Most of the weekend we spent catching our breath and feathering
our nest. We hadn't thought about how to contact all our friends from
school, but we enjoyed the break from socializing, though apparently we
missed out on a banging party. Shucks. Alex and I grocery shopped, bought
some cookies for our sweet neighbor at a neighborhood bakery, and explored
the area. We found a charming park ­ the only place I have seen Indians
working out- that featured children taking karate, old ladies chatting, and
boys playing cricket. We've decided to spend as much time as possible there,
reading and relaxing in that green retreat. Nearby, we discovered a nice
little restaurant, where my Western antics apparently charmed the employees.
We¹ve been back since, and they wave and welcome us in. When I was sick,
they also packed up food for Alex to bring home to me.
Monday began the second week of orientation. It certainly didn¹t
feel like we had only been in India for a week ­ so much had happened that
it felt more like a month. That morning, the chief of police came in to
speak to us about safety concerns in the city and country. Most of it was
common sense, and the man liked the sound of his own voice, but it was an
empowering session, at least in that we learned the Indian equivalent of 911
­ 100. 
We spent some time on Hindi vowel sounds ­ using many parts of the
mouth I'm not sure I've ever used ­ and what gives, RI is a vowel? ­ then a
few of us with certain types of visas went to register with the police. The
police station was more like a wildlife preserve ­ we saw monkeys and bats
in the compound. Along the sidewalk, we saw a litter of puppies. The live in
a hole in the concrete and are absolutely precious. Alex is working on
contacting shelters to have them adopted, but most Indians seem pretty
complacent with the status of the street animals here.
Tuesday, on our walk to school, I started to feel an unpleasant
grumble in my tum-tum. By the end of a tedious lecture on Writing
Expectations, I was SICK ­ laying in the common room, being fed ginger tea
by the cook. I eventually said I needed to go home as my head was flaring up
too. Sudha the secretary called me a rickshaw, but as soon as I got in, the
driver was pulled over by the police for driving the wrong way on a one way
road (hey, soul asylum song!). I was too sick to find another rick, so I
just waited for at least ten minutes while the cop fined the driver.
Eventually, the driver and I set off again, but that was not much of a
relief as the bumpy, smoky ride did little to help my head and stomach. Not
to mention that, unlike U.S. cabbies, rickshaw drivers here NEVER know where
they¹re going, even though they always say they do. This guy stopped a
million times for directions, even though I knew the way and was telling him
where to go. Eventually we made it to my apartment, and he wouldn't take my
money ­ a surprise- so I crawled up the stairs, entered the apartment and
burst into tears. 
I spent the rest of the afternoon alternatively in bed, on
the toilet, or with my head in a bucket. Alex came home after an equally
stressful day and then went of to buy me food and soda water.
I survived the night and made it to school, but still felt
pretty wretched. 
Wednesday was all about language- Kannada and Hindi, both
of which I suck at. I picked up my registration at the police station, and
then that evening we met some of the other students for dinner. Once again
our rick driver had no idea where we were going, over-charged us, and made
us walk 4k to get to the restaurant. We entered, and I immediately knocked
over a glass, which crashed dramatically in the near empty restaurant. I
apologized to all of the wait-staff, none of whom cleaned it up until one of
them tripped in it later and Alex and I cracked up. We had nice dinner, but
Alex and I being the grannies of the group, headed home for bed.
Thursday we had a great lecture from Dr. Kumar on "ethno
relative perspectives" on Indian culture. We talked about caste, life stages
and other issues of Indian life. 
In the afternoon, we had "bonding"
activities. We learned how to make Rangolis, the intricate rice powder or
chalk designs Hindus draw in front of their doors to protect their homes and
families. We used white chalk powder to created the outlines in geometric
patters and then used bright chalk powder and flower blossoms to decorate
the insides of the designs. It was really fun ­ making the Rangolis and
watching what everyone else made, and we all enjoyed the break. After that,
we had a class on performing the Dandiya, a traditional stick dance from
West India. That was really fun -we paired up and learned the steps of a
dance that resembled really graceful sword fighting, with two sticks each.
We incorporated spins and then group dancing-Pride and Prejudice style-
all to much laughter and fear of being whacked in the head. We all survived,
and probably got a good work out too.
For dinner, Ryuta, Ana, Alex and I indulged in a nice, American,
Domino's pizza that my stomach didn¹t mind too much. Alex and I visited Ana,
Sophie and Eli at their apartments, and I decided I like ours better. After
spending the evening fighting with rickshaw drivers who refused to use the
meter to charge us ­ the only legal way, as the police captain told us ­ we
had little problem catching a rick in the mostly Muslim neighborhood. The
driver took us straight to our apartment and charged us 1 and a half meter,
very fair for after dark. Alex pointed out that he was Muslim, and Islam is
expressly against cheating people. We both hoped we'd be lucky enough to
find more Muslim rick drivers!
Coming home is always nice ­ except for the giant cockroaches
who have decided to move in. I have to kill them all ­ Alex is too much of a
wuss. They are gross and make me feel a bit on edge all the time, but I
guess I'll get used to us. We bought this chalk that Anita recommended that
we are supposed to draw around areas that get in through. It's pink, so at
least it'll be pretty.
Tomorrow, after school, Alex and I are going to see the ruins at
Hampi! We're so excited to get out of the city and see a bit more culture.
Updates soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a thought? Share with the class!