Ok, I’ve never written a blog before, so I apologize if this is really boring. (Also, you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.)
Anyway, today was my first full day in India. I got in yesterday after flying from Dulles to Heathrow, then from Heathrow to Hyderabad. Not too much sleep! I had fun though. From Dulles to Heathrow I read the British newspaper, Daily Mail, which was fun. Gotta love British snarkiness. Here’s a headline describing Zara Phillips’ choice of hat (her hat had an enormous bow on top): “Zara takes her hat for a spin.” The caption read, “Zara Phillips, on royal church parade yesterday, appeared to have a propellor on her head. In fact it was a Phillip Tracey hat.” Heehee. Their review of High School musical went as follows. “Amid the customary failures…there was one truly execrable production which, dammit, did well: the sugary High School Musical…this appalling non-entertainment is the theater world’s version of E-numbers. Those parents who feed it to their children should be ostracized.”
Being so sleep deprived upon arriving in Hyderabad, I completely messed up the landing form thingy you have to fill out (the university address didn’t even fit into the allotted space!) but it turned out not to matter. Customs in India is nothing! I handed them the landing form, which they didn’t even look at, they stamped my passport, and that was it. Also, everyone was setting off the alarm at security, and no one cared.
I got in at about 4am India time, so I got to see an India sunrise, which was very pretty. People were pretty sleep-deprived; one person definitely asked “so, does the sun still rise in the east here?” I giggled (on the inside. Can’t really laugh at someone you’ve just met...).
We arrived at the university at about 7 am. We’re staying in the international guesthouse, which is really nice. We found out though, that this current building is going to be torn down really soon. We’ll be moving into the new building in a few days.
We heard some orientation speeches today (12/29), in which we learned some very important things: if the water is not bottled, then it’s not water, for example. Oh, also, we heard all about travelers diarrhea, and malaria, and dengue fever, and the very appetizing symptoms and preventions and treatments. They also told us about Japanese encephalititis, but didn’t really go into details at least nowhere near as many details as the other illnesses. They just said how it was very rare, and how the vaccine was really difficult to come by, but that was ok, because no one would actually get it. Finally, someone asked what the symptoms were. There was a bit of an awkward pause, then the woman answered, “Well, it destroys the lining of your brain…” Lovely. Haha. Hopefully I will not be one of the <1% style="mso-spacerun: yes"> Seriously though, the orientation was interesting. One of the speakers was incredibly flowery in his speech, and quoted a lot from Dagore (an Indian poet). It seemed like he pretty much had a book in his head. It was quite amazing. He also spoke of how honored he was to greet us, and how special we were to want to come to India and learn about it. These sentiments sprung from “the core of [his] heart apparently. I read that Indians really value eloquence; I see it’s true.
Also, I’m guessing everyone knows that handshaking began as a gesture of peace: giving someone your right hand means that you don’t have weapons. Anyway I found out today that the “Namaste” gesture (hands together) shows a coming together of self (right hand) and other (left hand). The idea is that they were once on different planes (x and y axis) but the bringing together of the palms puts them on the same plane. Blah. It’s hard to explain without gestures, but do you know what I mean?
Also today (12/29) we went to the “inauguration” for the new SIP building (the new international guesthouse). It’s REALLY nice, and huge. Seriously, some of the “common areas” could easily house an indoor soccer or hockey game. It’s pretty overwhelming to realize how privileged we are though. The workers (who helped build the guesthouse) and their families have set up a tent village right behind it. So basically, there’s this enormous dorm, with a grand entrance, and beautiful architecture directly adjacent to a shanty town, where the “houses” have been made from pieces of garbage. It seems really unfair, but sights that like this pretty much sum up India. I read that people here don’t see the unfairness quite as much as we do, because of the notion of karma. People believe that the life handed to them came to them for a reason, and it is their duty to live out that life. Maybe the next life will be easier. I’m sure that people have conflicting emotions about this though. As we walked into our dorm, the children of the workers stared at us as though we were total aliens (which we pretty much are). We’re very likely the first white people they have ever seen.
Later we took a bus trip into the city. We got out for a little while, as some people needed to buy adaptors. I have never felt so white or conspicuous in my life. As soon as we got out of the bus, a woman with a baby came up, and would not leave us alone. Everyone on the street was starting at us and laughing, and a bunch of boys actually climbed into our bus, and sat there until they were chased out. I guess I knew that things like this would happen, and I’ve also had some experience with it in India and other countries too, so I wasn’t too shocked, but some of the other Americans were very troubled when they realized that they would “have to be assholes” to be able to get around in India without constantly being heckled. I guess we’ll have to get used to it. We also passed by a massive protest going on. I’ll definitely be staying away from those…
We also saw a movie shooting going on, which was pretty cool. I’m excited to see Bollywood and Tollywood (Tamil language) films here. Supposedly we’re all going to go see one in a few days with our peer language tutors “whispering translations in our ears.” Should be interesting.
After the trip we saw a “music fusion” performance which fused classical Indian music with more modern music. It was very cool.
Randomness: phone booths here are called “STD’s” . I still don’t know what it stands for. I have to admit, the first time I saw on I became twelve years old again and laughed. There are also a lot of trucks with “PMS” emblazoned on the sides. I also do not know what this stands for. Hopefully I’ll find out soon?
On a different note, food here is good. No Delhi Belly yet, but I guess we haven’t really gone out much, and the guesthouse food is supposed to be pretty safe. Hopefully I won’t have too many problems. Also, we have “tea time” twice a day, during which we get tea and biscuits. Biscuits probably left over from the Raj? (not the actual biscuits, just the idea of eating them with tea.) Anyway, we’re insanely spoiled.
PS pictures take FOREVER to upload, so there may not be too many. Sorry.