Archive for the ‘Emily in India’ Category

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Emily: Arrival in India

August 9, 2011

Sorry to keep you all in the dark for the last week. Things move slowly and I just got the internet on my computer yesterday.  I have been writing down my experiences a bit as I go along though…

The Palace in Delhi

08-03-2011

After a two hour trip from Minneapolis to Newark and a fourteen hour flight from Newark to Delhi (neither terribly comfortable, but totally manageable) I met up with two other girls who are also staying in India for nine months (Sam & Lauren) in the beautiful New Delhi airport.  We were picked up by a driver, led to a fancy SUV with air conditioning (yay!) and crazily driven to the YWCA Hotel in Delhi where we spent the night.  The drivers here are crazier than in East Africa, with lanes obviously considered “guidelines” for driving than the actual area to drive in. Luckily the pedestrians, bicyclists, rickshaw drivers, motorcyclists, and regular motorists, most of which seem to drive Hondas or Suzikis, have very quick reflexes and somehow manage to stop within millimeters of demolishing each other.  Everyone uses their horn more in one drive than I’ve ever thought to use one in my entire life, but it’s more of a friendly reminder that you are there than it is rude.  I didn’t sleep very well my first night – woke up every hour or so I’d say after another nightmare of something going wrong.  My ukulele snapped in half, I was stalked, beat up by a pack of rough lookin’ hombres, friends were kidnapped never to be seen again, but finally the sun came up and it was all over. 

Lauren and I, who shared a double bed that night, went down for a complimentary breakfast of hard boiled eggs, toast, chips (fried potato wedges), and tea, then met up with the rest of our group for orientation.  All in all, I think there are eight girls, and our guides/professors, Rekyaji and Rasheetji, were extremely welcoming.  We left the hotel for a drive-thru tour of Delhi, cruising past lots of government’s buildings, embassies, parliament, and even the royal palace.  For such a populated city, Delhi is full of trees and gardens, and “going green/reducing your footprint” is advertised everywhere.  You know I was a fan.  From there we took the seven hour trip down National Highway 8 to Jaipur, stopping for lunch at McDonalds for lunch (definitely not my choice, but the McSpicy Paneer was alright & the fries were the same as they in the U.S.) and then for chai at a roadside café.  I rode with most of the girls and Rasheetji in a touristy looking bus, shivering from the air conditioning which was kept at full blast.  Traffic was slow as there is A LOT of construction going on here; the highway being widened to six lanes, housing complexes popping up everywhere, and the traffic of workers that comes with it all.  I saw beggars wandering through the stalled traffic, camels, cows, and skinny dogs, the Top Ramen factory, and the headquarters for Panasonic and Pepsi…quite an interesting mix.  As the sun was going down the road began to curve and the red rock hills became more numerous.  We went through a rocky passage way and turned the corner to see the beautiful lake at the bottom of a hill with a flooded monsoon resort in the middle – the north entry to Jaipur.  The streets were ridiculously colorful, as the festival Teej had just taken place and vendors and customers were wandering everywhere.  We got a little tour of the city as we drove through, Raseetji telling us about the history of Jaipur, the significance of the fort lining the tops of the hills on the north side, and pointing out all the best shops along the way to our new homes. 

Mary Brickle and I were dropped off with our luggage at the rather fancy home of Professor Rama Rani Lall, an English professor who plays sitar in her spare time.  Her eldest son Taron (I think that’s his name, oh geez) who is a doctor and leader in artificial intelligence in Canada, and Rama’s ninth grade grandson, Ayush, from her youngest son are also staying with us.  They welcomed us with the cutest welcome cake I’ve ever seen and showed us to our rooms on the second floor.  Honestly, I would consider this a vast upgrade.  I’ve got my own room, bathroom, tons of cupboard space, and a balcony all to myself (the door to which must remain shut or the monkeys will get in).  After we settled in a bit, we headed down to dinner with the family.  Rama and her servant boy, Moti, brought out dish after dish and I ate more than I wanted despite my telling them I was stuffed.  I love Indian food!  Oh. My. Yum.  We chatted for a while about…a little of everything.  Taron promised to let us observe the trauma ward in the hospital sometime soon, which I’m really looking forward to.  After conversing for some time, we were shooed off to bed, but I sat up for some time, too excited and too hot to sleep.  Blankets really aren’t necessary here.  After waking up all through the night, the sun finally came up again and I enjoyed my first bucket shower.  Already I’m drenched in sweat again, but it was refreshing while it lasted.  Today Taron will drive us to school, overly concerned that we’ll be lost on the five minute walk.  Nothing too special today – another day of orientation to meet our teachers and get a little intro to Hindi.  So far the program seems pretty well structured and my host family is more than I could ask for.  It feels like one gigantic, goofy field trip so far…hopefully as time passes things will become a little more relaxed and I can venture out on my own a bit more.  I’ll be more than safe here as long as a stay hydrated and steer clear of drinking tap water—everything is pretty modern….though we are in the middle of a power outage.  I’m excited to learn Hindi so I can communicate with everyone and feel even more at home here.  

Mary & I separately decided to skip dinner tonight on account of being so catered to all day that there was no desire left to eat.  I have drunk more chai (Hindi word for tea) in the last 72 hours than I have in the last 72 weeks of my life, and never have I been so doted upon and coddled.  Eight million times now I have been told about every monument on JLN road, the main street by my house, every tidbit worth mentioning is still ringing in my ears.  I’ve been driven around essentially everywhere I have gone so far, no chance for exercise besides when I’m alone in my room.  I’m dying to get outside and explore on my own instead of being led around like a toddler, but hopefully that will come all in due time. While being carted around the city I’ve also noticed most of the poor beggars have a darker skin than the richer appearing families.  A residual mark of the caste system perhaps?  This city is so strange.  Today was an especially bad one for traffic, (on account of it being the second day of the Teej festival as well as Wednesday, the god Ganesh’s day whose temple is a few blocks away) but Ramaji’s daughter insisted on taking us for a stroll – which was, in fact, a ride up and down the main road in her car.  Half naked children pressed against my window begging for money and food, but sadly I had nothing to give.  I was told there is an extensive mafia system behind most of the street beggars in which children are forced to earn 10 rupees a day in exchange for…well I don’t really know.  It was rather depressing but I suppose in the future, if people set their minds to it, these won’t be things people see when they travel to India.  Amongst the redundant information I’ve been fed, I have been learning about the history of India, the time of separation from Britain, the time of unification amongst the states, the banning of marriage dowries, the empowerment of women, and the current struggle for subsidized education and farming.  There are lots of problems to be dealt with here, but as always it must be taken bit by bit, one day at a time.  The family I’m staying with is overwhelmingly gracious, Rajasthan is ridiculously humid, the staff members at the American Institute for International Studies where I will be learning are so kind and open hearted, and I’m off to a great start.  Sorry for keeping you all in the dark thus far, it’s been a busy couple of days and I still haven’t found time to get on the internet long enough to do anything but scan for important e-mails.  Within the next few days I should be getting a cell phone and mobile internet card so I can be in contact more often.  I’m exhausted now, so I bid you adieu. 

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Emily: The Jumping Flea

July 23, 2011

Namaste, world!  Little ol’ Emily here, howdy do?  I’ve decided to make this little bliggity-blog to share my experiences in India with you and hopefully settle the fretting minds of my loved ones at home…  I’m scheduled to arrive in Dehli on August 1, 2011 and until then I’m afraid I don’t have anything very interesting to tell you all.  Oh, wait!  I DO have something I want to explain ever so briefly: I have titled my blog “thejumpingflea” as it is the Hawaiian word for the ukulele which just so happens to be my traveling companion (courtesy of my mum & her husband, john THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU BOTH!) Also, my energetic disposition as a wee-un earned me the nickname “Flea” from my dear Uncle Jerry (aka The Silver Fox) and it has stuck ever since.  So now ya know. Time to finish packing!

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