September 13, 2006

Ahhh…. It’s that time for me to ‘re-cap’ experiences and observations from yet another part of the world. Many of these things
were expected; others weren’t. Overall, all of these things made traveling through India and its surrounding countries quite an
experience. I am so glad that I decided to visit this area – so unique and different from what we know at home. I can say that I
would definitely come back to see more of what it has to offer…

  • When driving –whether through towns or major cities – children and adults alike will come up to car windows and knock away to get your
    attention in attempts to get money. The most popular motion is gesturing their hand to their mouth.

  • When driving through a town, there was a man (amidst tons of other people) just walking around naked. For a second I thought I was back
    in San Francisco doing the Bay to Breakers (though this guy was sans fluorescent hat).

  • As for animals…you name it and it is likely to be roaming the streets. Most notably would be the cows. Others that you are sure to find are
    pigs (I literally saw them rolling around in mud which was pretty cute), sheep (many times with their herder close by), horses, donkeys,
    horses, goats, dogs (definitely not the cute, cuddly kind), camels and even elephants (at least in Jaipur). You might also find water buffalo
    in the little lakes that people are bathing in right next to the road.

  • ‘Will brake for cows’ should be a motto here. They are holy, after all. There were at least a handful of times where we came to a
    screeching halt. Cows have a mind of their own and will cross the road whenever they feel like it – even if a car is moving full speed ahead.
    Needless to say, they have proven to me that they are not the smartest animal around.

  • Power outages are all-too-common here. When staying at a family’s house in Delhi, it happened twice. At the movie theater, it happened
    three times. At my hotel in Agra, it happened three times as well. Note to self: use stairs instead of the elevators in this country.

  • Americans are not the only people who get impatient. I was at McDonald’s when an Indian mother lost her cool about having to wait
    seven minutes for her food. Yes, she went up and yelled about where her food was and that it had been seven minutes.

  • This is the first country that I have been to thus far where it is normal (at least for middle class and above) to have a bit of bling on their
    left-hand ring finger. Everywhere else (Europe included) women seem to just wear a simple wedding band. The most elaborate I saw in
    Europe was a band with pave diamonds. People here have an actual diamond – this was only emphasized more by the Bollywood movie
    that I saw (as the main female actresses were sporting some major rocks).

  • People here eat late. I knew it was common in Europe – I didn’t realize it would be the case out here. Even little kiddies are seen outside
    with their families waiting for a table around 9:30pm.

  • The family that I stayed with in Delhi was middle class and lived in a nice, modest home. They had a driver and somebody to do the
    cleaning and prepping for the cooking. This seems to be the norm here.

  • The chaos on the roads has brought its way back into my life. Almost identical to Cairo. It might appear that there are two lanes but that is
    not the case. Three lanes are always made on the highways. Out here, sometimes even four. Is it possible that these lines in between the
    two lanes are painted just as decoration? Even if somebody is passing and using the other side of the road, it does not matter that a person
    is driving on their correct side. The bigger car or the car who presses on the horn the longest (sometimes for insanely long periods of
    time) seems to always get the right-of-way. This leads to the question ‘Is it possible for a car horn to run out of noise?’

  • There were many local tourists in Rajasthan. These people walk down the streets carrying their luggage on their heads.

  • It is actually surprising to see that not too much of this country smokes.

  • There is ‘roadside entertainment’ of people coming up to the car showing you their dancing monkeys, charmed snakes

  • There are mosquitoes galore out here in Rajasthan. I am currently paying the price. I must have at least forty bites on me. A Spanish lady
    at dinner put this sealant stuff on my arms in order to spare me at least some of the itching. I have to say that whatever this stuff was, it
    was a miracle worker!

  • Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi is rather difficult to find at certain restaurants out here. And if you do find it, many times it will cost twice as much
    as a regular soda. And if you’re only option is Diet Pepsi, it seriously tastes like medicine out here. The recipe is completely disgusting and
    anything else is a better option than forcing that stuff down your throat.

  • Bug spray is more than essential out here. I have spent the last five days scratching just about every part of my body. It has literally
    woken me up at night. As if that isn’t bad enough, I have at least forty bites on my arms and legs. Very attractive. I pretty much look
    diseased and I am sure there are some people that have kept a generous distance from me in the case that they feel I might be contagious.
    In Nepal I had so many bites that I literally Googled 'malaria symptoms' to see if I am at risk...

  • Most accents are next to impossible to understand. They may as well be speaking Hindi. I almost always just nod my head and act as if I
    understand what they are saying. Funnily enough, I think that is what they do to me 90% of the time.

  • As we were driving through Rajasthan today I realized that there is no way to have somebody understand what India is like unless they
    have been here. Literally every scene that I see from the road I want to capture somehow. Cows in the middle of the road. Beautiful trees
    and landscape. Colorful traditional outfits being worn by the women. Men in turbans. A woman in beautiful colors walking with a large
    pot on her head walking into the fields that stretch forever. Buildings with Hindi writing on them. Watching people bathe in what was
    essentially one huge puddle. I had some friends who showed me their pictures before I came out here and while it was great seeing them, I
    could not grasp what it was like to see those scenes. Now I can.

  • While sitting at a railroad crossing waiting for the train to pass, kids and adults alike were standing at a tour bus with their arms up
    (looking similar to people at Mardi Gras who are trying to catch beads or girls trying to catch a bridal bouquet) while people throw out
    pads of paper and pens to the lucky recipient that can grab it.

  • While in Mumbai, I noticed my television was not working. It turned out that the cable company shut off all of the television in Mumbai
    because the police were reprimanding them for some adult-content stuff ending up on air.

  • There are tons of people from Spain, France and Italy tour around India. I would not have guessed that I would see so many people from
    these countries. In addition, there are Israelis galore in Northern India and Nepal. This was first made apparent to me in Delhi when I
    noticed that many things were written in Hebrew. This was again the case all throughout Rajasthan and Nepal.

  • I find myself reading up on the Bollywood gossip. I guess I feel since I now ‘know’ five or so actors (because of the movie I saw), I find it
    interesting. One of the guys…’SRK’ as he is known here (those are his initials)…compared cola to ‘mother’s milk’ (I am assuming this is a
    holy thing) and he is in hot water with a group out here. In case you didn’t know, there has been a huge deal out here over the possible
    pesticide levels in Coke and Pepsi. The state of Kerala has even banned these products. ‘SRK’ and other actors endorse cola brands out
    here. His point was basically ‘Well, let’s see how much worse the pesticides in cola are next to the pesticides in ‘mother’s milk’.” People did
    not really like that argument.

  • Auto rickshaws are not allowed in the center of Mumbai. This sucks because taxis are much more expensive. Plus Mumbai is massive (it
    took my cab 1½ hours to go from the Colaba neighborhood to the Juhu Beach area).

  • I learned some stuff from the ‘India Times’ about yoga. The ‘Gyan Mudra’ is when the index fingertip and the tip of the thumb touch.
    Doing this for 15-30 minutes is supposed to bestow wisdom, purify the mind, cure mental ailments and cure addictive habits. The ‘Purn
    Gyan Mudra’ is when you sit with your legs crossed Buddha-style with your fingers doing the same thing as in the ‘Gyan Mudra’. The right
    hand then goes near the chest and the left hand is placed near the knee. Doing this for 15-30 minutes is supposed to increase clarity and
    understanding, improve memory and soothe irritability. I still have yet to try doing this but it sounds as if I could definitely benefit.

  • I feel so dumb. I had no idea about the bombing in Mumbai on 7/11. Everything here is talking about ‘7/11’ – well, there are lots of
    articles about survivors of the victims in the newspapers. I know some people like being out of touch with the world for stretches of
    time…but I don’t. I feel so stupid about not having any idea about major world events.

  • I saw something about Salman Rushdie in the India Times today. It reminded me of the ‘Seinfeld’ when Elaine was working for the
    publishing company and she kept talking about Salman Rushdie.

  • Here’s a question that has been brought to light while in India… Would you rather spend a whole night barely able to sleep because you
    can’t stop itching the mosquito bites all over your body or would you rather deal with buzzing flies swarming all around you non-stop
    while you are trying to sit outside???

  • When anybody else saw that my driver’s name in Rajasthan was ‘Kumar’, did anybody else think about floating White Castle burgers???

  • It is humanly impossible for Indians to say the word ‘no’. I am not exaggerating at all. They just nod their head around when you ask them
    a question and say ‘yes’. Even when it is not a yes/no question. This can test a person’s patience. There were many times I thought I might
    lose it if I didn’t get an actual answer. Here is an example:

    Me: When will I get my laundry back?
    Response: (Head nodding up and down) Yes.
    Me: (Trying to do some charades to show the clothes coming back to me) No. When will I get it back?
    Response: (Head nodding up and down) Yes.
    Me: (Trying to do some charades to show the clothes coming back to me) No. When will I get it back?
    Response: (Head nodding up and down) Yes.
    **Repeat this sequence four more times.
    Me: Just forget it.

  • Indians have this head-bobble thing that they do. This makes it absolutely impossible to know what the heck they mean or are trying to
    say. Are they agreeing? Are they saying ‘no’? Are they annoyed with me? Who even knows…

  • There is absolutely no shame to begging out here. Whether it is people coming up to your car/taxi/rickshaw and holding their hand out
    and then to their mouths or if it is people coming up to you on the street either trying to engage in conversation (‘Hello. What country
    you from?’) or just hitting you up for rupees right off the bat. And if you do give a few rupees, there is no gratitude (at least we get a little
    of that back home if we give the homeless a bit of change). In fact, I urge anybody to not give any handouts. It might look like that one
    person is the only person around. But that is never the case. They literally go back and brag to the people on nearby blocks/areas and
    throw their shiny rupee in their face and before you know it, both kids and adults are just everywhere and they will swarm you until you
    give them money. I met a couple girls who were followed and tugged at for one hour…yes, one hour…and stuck to their guns. The boy
    (around 8 years old) finally mouthed a few f-bombs at them and pushed them and went away. And if you give food, they will never share it
    with the people around them. Tease them? Yes. Share? Not a chance. I gave my almonds to one kid when getting off a train. His friend
    wanted some. He wouldn’t share. I pulled out some leftover biscuits that I had and gave them to him. Well, now there was a third kid with
    nothing and I didn’t have anything else with me. I felt like a mom when I was gesturing that they all had to share and I did not leave until I
    saw that the third kid was being given something.

  • As many times as people come up to vehicles (both with and without windows), you absolutely never feel unsafe or in any danger about it.
    If that were to happen in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, I would be doing some sort of prayer for the stoplight to turn green so I could
    get the heck out of the area before some sort of gun entered my line of vision or somebody tried to enter my car (I know this is very
    judgmental but I can’t help it). Here, you almost start to laugh after a while. Even the person begging will laugh, too, when they see that it’
    s not working.

  • In Delhi especially, the streets are a symphony of different types of honks…all different depending on what type of vehicle you are
    driving. And hierarchies here aren’t only used in social situations; they are also used on the street. Here is how it can basically be summed

  • Humans  bike rickshaws  auto rickshaws  cars  taxis  trucks  buses  cows

  • Indians strive to stay as pale-skinned as possible. I am sure that they find it odd that us Westerners always want to be as dark as possible.

  • Southern India is definitely a contrast to Northern India (at least Rajasthan and Delhi). People down here are all about being friendly
    without expecting rupees in exchange. I am far less cynical out here. A common interaction will go like this:

    Local: (Big smile) Hi.
    Me: Hi.
    Local: Where are you from?
    Me: America.
    Local: Oh, U.S.A.? Welcome to India.

  • I am quite the novelty in Munnar (Southern India). They obviously are not too used to seeing a white girl walking around. Little kids
    come running up to me with big smiles. They want to shake my hand and ask my name. Today a group of teenage boys did the same and
    wanted me to get in a picture with them since they had their cameras. They were seriously excited about this. They thanked me profusely
    and were totally giddy.

  • There should actually be an official language in India called ‘Hinglish’. In conversations, movies and commercials, Hindi seems to always
    be mixed with some English. Just when I start to hear the English words, they switch back to Hindi.

  • When having a meal, you always wash your hands immediately before and after. Actually, you really only need to wash your right hand
    immediately after as it is highly offensive to eat with your left hand. And they do eat with their hand. They have quite the skill of mixing
    the food with the sauces and then getting it in their mouths using just their hand. It is quite impressive. I have a hard time since I am left-
    handed. This made we wonder if they try to discourage kids from becoming left-handed???

  • I thought this was the coolest thing: The main beer out here is Kingfisher. Because no advertising can be done for alcoholic beverages, the
    owner of the company decided to buy an airline. Obviously the airline is also called Kingfisher. This is so that he is now able to advertise
    his company’s name. Even though the advertising is done for the airline, people will think of the beer when they see/hear it. What a
    genius...a very rich genius!

  • At first I was shocked when coming to India that there was a such thing as ‘½’ time zones. Now that I am in Nepal, I come to find out that
    there are ‘¼’ time zones as well! The time here is fifteen minutes later here than in India.  

  • Nepal is the cheapest country I have been to so far. It is definitely even cheaper than India!

  • Nepal is breaking me into the hacking and spitting that I have soon to experience in China and Southeast Asia. I hear this non-stop. It is
    oddly getting a little bit easier to tolerate.

  • The Maldives was a piece of heaven. If anybody wants to do a nice beach vacation at a resort, this is the place.

  • Only I could come to India and brush my teeth with tap water, eat fruits from vendors off the streets (even in some rather remote areas)
    and drink a few beverages with ice (by accident)…oh yeah, and eat an entire bag of cashew-stuffed dates…and end up being constipated
    for over a week…

  • There are soooo many different gods in the Hindi religion. It would take me a lifetime to learn everything about the different beliefs. The
    one thing I do know is that the Brahmins are the highest caste. From what somebody told me, the reason they don’t eat cows is because
    they are the lowest caste of animal.
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