Monday, January 5, 2009

Kiddie science and stars and hummus!!


So the day after we visited the monuments and mosques we had academic orientation. Anyone who thinks that Haverford registration is stressful should come here! It’s ridiculously hard to reconcile classes and build a schedule, as, unlike Haverford where a class might be MW 11:30-1, here, the typical class is M 2-4, T 9-10, F 3-4, or something equally random. Since every class has similarly random times, it hard to build a schedule with no conflicts. This has forced me to take 3 English classes, which all look really interesting. Unfortunately however, this puts me in danger of being unable to fulfill Haverford’s 19 courses outside the major requirement. Hopefully it will work out…

As part of the academic orientation the SIP (Study in India Program) coordinators talked to us about things we should and should not do, and what may be expected of us. Apparently the stereotype of Americans is that we get drunk a lot and are loud and promiscuous. Great. I guess I’ll try to combat that. Also we (especially women) should avoid walking alone around campus, particularly at night, and we should also avoid flip flips or other open toed/hard to run in shoes because as Mr. Das (the director of the guest house) says “There are lots of creepie crawlies around, both human and non-human.” Heeheehee. Haven’t seen any of those little guys yet, but I have seen a lot of cows and water buffalo around campus, and once as we were walking up a street a herd of wild boar burst out of the bushes and crossed in front of us!

After the long process of academic orientation I went with a group of people to an open air market/handicrafts fair. We took a car, which was good I think. I’m not sure that I was quite ready to face Indian traffic in a rickshaw! People drive so fast, and weave in and out of traffic often driving on the wrong side of the road. Many cars don’t have side view mirrors, as they would likely get lopped off when passing too close to other cars. Instead, people constantly honk their horns to let other drivers know of their existence.

The market was big and beautiful and loud and crazy. Not only were there vendors, but there were vocal and instrumental performances, and shadow puppet demonstrations! I didn’t buy anything, as I just wanted to take it all in, but other people went a little wild, as everything (obviously) is much cheaper here. People also wanted to try their hand at bargaining. Most people didn’t do so well (one guy, Kyle, tried to bring down the price of a scarf, and the vendor just laughed at him. My roommate, Emily, was great though! She managed to bring a pair of shoes down from 1600 to 900 rupees! A natural. She also brought down the price of the scarf that the abovementioned Kyle was trying to buy. Not bad.

As we left the market beggars descended on us, which was a little overwhelming. One girl followed us all the way to the car and tried to get in. She was tiny, and was holding an even tinier baby. It was quite heartbreaking. As we drove away one of us threw some money to her out the window. I guess that’s really the only way to do it.

That was Friday the 2nd. Saturday the 3rd a big group of us went to Cyberabad to register with the police. I didn’t go, so I will have to do that Monday. However, I have class Monday 9-11, so I’ll have to miss that. Since I didn’t have to do anything Saturday morning, I walked to the main campus and explored the English dept to check out where my classes would be. I guess I looked lost because the head of the English department came out and asked if he could help me. I explained to him that I would have to miss my first class due to police registration, and he asked if I would like to speak to the professor. He led me right to the office. I talked to the professor, who understood the situation. He even gave me the first text that we would be using! Everyone was so nice and helpful. I think I’ll like the English department, which I’m happy about as I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

After the group got back from police registration, 6 of us headed into the city to go to the Birla Planetarium and science museum. Supposedly, the planetarium is ranked a lot better than many in developed countries! It was quite corny, but a lot of fun. The narrator really enjoyed talking about bacteria, and used them in all his analogies. The many universes are like bacteria floating around in a cup, as are the galaxies. And the planets. And stars. And us. After the show we went to the science museum, which was great. It was basically one of those kiddy science museums where you look at holograms and optical illusions and mechanics demonstrations (spinning yourself on a spinny chair for example) and stuff like that. It was in horrible disrepair though, and a lot of stuff was broken. Somehow this made it even more fun, as we tried and failed over and over again to see the intended optical illusions. The museum also had a “dinosaurium” which was fun. Apparently, India is a very rich site for paleontology.

After the museum we went to a restaurant called Fusion 9, as a lot of people were craving western food. I wasn’t yet, but went along anyway. It was such a nice restaurant! I felt totally underdressed in my Hawthorne Valley t shirt, gaucho pants and chacos. Everyone was really nice though, and ignored our grunginess. They did all the fancy restaurant stuff like pulling out your chair for you and calling you “sir” or “ma’am”. I got an “Arabian mezze platter” which had great hummus, which I must admit that I’ve missed a lot. Other people got lamb chops, pizza, quesadillas… Though I do love India food, I have to admit that this was a very nice change, and a very nice piece of home. However, at home this would have cost untold amounts of money. Here, it was approximately 400 rupees each. That’s about 8 dollars! That’s including drinks too. It’s kind of unreal.

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