Sunday, September 6, 2009

Entries for The Day Before Yesterday and The Day Before That

I wrote this entry the evening of Thursday, September 3rd.

New Developments:

Tomorrow, after some more orientation meetings, a driven tour of Jaipur and a tour of the MSID offices, we will move in with our host families! I have learnt that my host father is a jeweller who owns his own shop, my host mother is a housewife, and they have two young children! A boy and a girl, "both very affectionate and excited to have a didi (big sister)." So the children's book I bought won't go to waste =). The family has never hosted before, but their relatives who live in the same apartments have. Four other MSID girls will be living in the same building as Rachel and I. I am excited, but also very nervous! I haven't ever lived with small children.

Health status:
My throat is still feeling fuzzy, but definitely no fever and no other symptoms of illness.

I've never thought of myself as someone who eats an unsual amount of food, but I seem to eat twice as much as all the other girls here/be the only one who ever has an appetite.
It wasn't until lunchtime today that I saw women on the hotel staff (a total of two, whereas we've seen maybe 20 different male staff members). Unlike all the men they appear to be East Asian.
Today when I was trying to nap I heard the drums that welcomed us to the hotel playing; it turned out to be many many men in black polos and slacks. Apparently they occupy 60 rooms, so there are probably at least 120 of them. They are on a company retreat for Samsung.
The sun sets about an hour to an hour and a half earlier here than in Chicago at this time of year.

Animal sightings:
A six inch long lizard that a girl who once had one as a pet said looked like "a bearded dragon," whatever that is. It had a kind of spiky head.
Also when I was getting my moisturizer out of a box inside my bag, I found a big insect inside >:(. Keeping my bags zipped from now on!
I forgot to mention this last time but there are big, angry geese in 2/3 empty fountains here.

Things I've Adjusted To:
Cold showers--although so far I've been very fortunate and right after resigning myself to it staying cold forever it surprises me and warms up. Actually I was surprised to have showers at all (both here and at the YWCA).
Swervy driving--early on I decided that the drivers here are just incredibly skilled, and that I should trust in them. If I actually pay attention I would think that we would get into an accident/hurt a pedestrian in 80% of our maneuvers, but somehow everything always works out fine. Also I should have listed this under 'surprises' yesterday, but the roads here are soooo smooth! No potholes whatsoever.

Yesterday our group was split into 3 cars to travel from Delhi to this hotel. Two other girls and I were with the director of the program, and it eventually became clear that something had gone terribly wrong with at least one of the other cars. After containing my curiosity for a long time, understanding only a bit of the Hindi ("where are you? How many are in the car? ) and the smatterings of English ("flat tire," "foreigners," "just keep going," "foreigners," "it's just a scratch right," "foreigners"), I finally asked what happened in a lull of the frantic cell phone conversations. Rima-ji explained that one of the cars got a flat tire, and the other had rear-ended another car. Despite it being the fault of the non-MSID driver and there being hardly any damage, the people in that car were demanding a lot of money because they saw foreigners in the MSID car. Interestingly, when everyone finally arrived at the hotel, the MSID directors did not tell all of the students about the demands for money. One just said "I guess the other driver just wanted someone to apologize, and say it wasn't his fault." When I spoke with some of the students who were in the car, they said the situation had just seemed humorous to them, and that the people in the other car had smiled and waved at them. I feel weird that the MSID staff wasn't completely honest about the situation with the group.

They had a deposit box at the McDonald's we went to for unused packets of ketchup. Genius! I bet so many of those get thrown away in the US. (Someone had scratched off some of the letters on the box though, so it actually read "Please drop the unused con men s in the box."
In Delhi we saw lots of vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) which pollutes much less than regular gas.

"I don't think you crossed all oceans to eat your own food." -Rekha-ji (Sadly this seems to be false in several cases...)
"[mentions some bad thing that a foreign student could experience] Although it will never happen. But it does happen." -ibid.
"Information is given to you in a chewable chunk." -Rima-ji on Indian/Old European style teaching
Also, apparently "kitter kitter" is used here to describe what English sounds like.

Written the evening of Friday, September 4th.

Unexpected Things I Need To Adjust To:
- Bugs. Bugs bugs bugs. There are ants in my room, there are little crawlies in the bathroom...they are everywhere and they are not going anywhere.
- Monkeys. Being a threat. Today my host father told me not to leave the door open at night because the monkeys would come in. (!!!!!) Then later he came in and told me not to be afraid, and that they wouldn't come in as long as the door is locked. And that if anything "happens" or "goes wrong" I can come ask for help. Lol...
- Nicknames. The sister of our host father lives across the hall (with her children; she is a lawyer arguing for her own divorce, it's all very much an off-the-table topic) and today she granted Rachel and I nicknames. Rachel is "Rasgullah" like our eleven year old host sister Kanchi--rasgullah is "a dessert, a white, round sweet dessert." This was awkward/hilarious. Our host mother told Rachel Kanchi looks like her, and both she and our host aunt told Kanchi "this is your future" (gesturing toward Rachel). We laughed about this later, but we were kind of taken aback in the moment. Our host aunt kept explaining over and over how she and Kanchi and Rachel are "fatty" and therefore "Rasgullahs." ... Anyway. And my host mother and aunt both independently concluded that I "look like a Barbie doll." Our host aunt taking it to the next level of course and insisting that this become my official "home name." (While Zena can remain my "school name.") So now this has been propagated among the children and her children and the host father's brother's children (they live downstairs). So. Yes. I don't know how to feel about this.
- Okra. Arrrrgh one of my least favorite vegetables EVAR. But apparently commonly served here as a main component of meals, so I am grinning and bearing it.

Saw my first elephants today while driving from the hotel into Jaipur; their faces were beautifully painted and there were some men riding them and waving.

My sore throat is now gone! =)

Learned today that Rajasthan is roughly the shape and size of France; a little bigger than it in fact.

Jaipur is crazybeautiful.

So far no harassment of any sort on the streets, woohoo! Of course so far I've spent the whole time walking with my eyes downcast, which feels interesting. I kind of like the conscious modesty of it, but at the same time I start to wonder what I'm missing and wish I could see everyone. But I think I'm going to keep up with the avoiding eye contact until I have been seen around more, and am thus less likely to be taken as a n00b. I want people to get used to the idea of me. I'm only taking pictures in places where no one can see that I am (ie from a car or the rooftop). I will probably still carry my camera in case anything extraordinary happens, but for everyday sights I will wait till the end of the trip to whip out the camera.


  1. hahaha, weird, didi means younger brother in chinese.

    :( slightly sickish myself. fuzzy throat and... weirdly... when i woke up (and still, now, 20 min later) the area above my eyes is all puffy. any ideas?

    It's the same thing here for driving! I fear for all the bicycles out here, but somehow they all drive in harmony (with a lot of honking) for the most part. There are a few accidents, though.

    gahhh, insects? >.< i'm impressed you're dealing with it.

    haha, can we start calling you barbie, now?

  2. oh no, that's sort of really flattering but sort of awful to live with (the barbie thing i mean!) but i second lizzy, that is SO your new nickname ;)

    wow... i love the con men s :) that sounds like bad english you'd find in japan or something...

    ahhhh i STILL cannot believe you are actually having all of these adventures and not just sitting at your computer in macalester and making these up :) i misssssss youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu ....!!!!

  3. ps. i just told my dad about the okra thing... he laughed really hard cos he had EXACTLY the same experience with okra :)