Saturday, June 16, 2007

The UnsHEAThing of India...

HOT and HUMID. From my first step off the airplane, I was faced with humidity in the bare airport under construction, not the usual airports I am used to. However, I had arrived successfully, and went through visas without any trouble (and quite quickly to my pleasent surprise!) While waiting for my luggage, I met a nice Indian woman whose daughter was clinging to her leg and started crying everytime her mother tried to detach her so that she could get her luggage off the roundabout thingy... to help her out, I handled her luggage for her, and while waiting for her second bag, we began to converse. She explained that she lived in Washinton D.C., but she had spent the past couple of months in Scotland where her husband was a guest finance professor at a university. They had just adopted their daughter from Guatemala and the little girl was going through withdrawal and strong insecurity issues, resulting in clinging desperately to her new mother in fear that otherwise she would leave her. It was inspring to see how the daughter was so comfortable and felt so protected by this fairly new stranger who had become her mother. I commended my new acquaintance on the obvious bond that had already developed between mother and daughter and wished them the best.

As the woman gathered her final bags and went through customs to find her parents, someone tapped me on the shoulder and i turned to find my friend Daniel from MIT! I had forgotten that he was flying in on the same day, so it was exciting to run into someone i knew. I had originally planned to document his work in Lucknow, India, but the community he was working with had requested not to be photographed, so we had cancled our plans. However, due to automobile transportation to RAI Foundation at Meadows where Daniel would also be staying for 2 days, we had planned to take same-day flights: and then forgotten to contact each other about meeting up. Luckily, we happened to arrive at similar times, and happened to bump into each other!

After exchanging money ($250 for 9910 Rupees) in the airport where the exchange rate is supposedly one of the best, and by far the most convenient, Daniel and I got through customs without a glitch and found a RAI Foundation staff member awaiting us with a sign! Stepping outside of the airport, we were hit with a wave of even stronger humidity and heat, but were relieved to find that the car had air conditioning. :)

As we were driving to campus, and in my first couple days here, I think what amazes me the most are the things that are so similar to things I've seen before. We went to a school assembly yesterday, and it could have been an assembly of a U.S. high school. except for the whole speaking in hindi and me not really understanding anything thing.... :) There are stray dogs walking the streets as in Korea (a certain breed that directly translates to "poop dog" is also found here!), and the traffic is not as bad, but the driving is crazy! Apparently they put lines in recently, but noone bothers to follow them and street signs and stoplights are rare. There is a lot of honking and "dipping" (known as "high beaming" in the U.S.) and these are used regularly to tell someone that you're going to pass them or to "get out of the way because I'm going to keep going and I WILL crush you to get by if I have to." The people wear different clothing and have different colored skin, but they take pictures in front of monuments, eat at McDonalds, gossip, and play basketball just like we do.

There are, of course, many new and exciting things. There are monkeys walking around the campus (the first one I saw, I yelled out, "Oh My GOSH! THERE"S A MONKEY RIGHT THERE," providing amusement for those around me who pointed out all the other monkeys that were casually strolling around). Cows randomly walk along the street, and shacks and lean tos can be seen between concrete buildings and more permament structures.

I am lucky to be in a room in the guesthouse of the university along with the students that I am documenting. I am in fact rooming with one of the students, Catherine, and they accepted me in right away as part of their group, incorporating me into all their activities and explaining what they have already learned. My best friend, Jess, is also here, so that's an extra bonus! The guesthouse has doubles with bathrooms and showers, cable internet access (not so reliable, but its here!), and AC! What a luxury. The room is simple but clean and much much more than what I expected. The doors are very interesting because they require a separte lock and key as a simple pole lock keeps the door closed. There is a television, but every channel has the same game on it... There is a refridgerator and a little store nearby that sells bottled water which we have been buying in bulk at 12 rupees per bottle. What a bargain! I will leave you now with some photographs as I am wiped out from a day of a bit of touring Delhi, but will tell you all about it in my next blog :)


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