Where to start…
We have been in India for less than a week and already there is lots to report. When we first arrived we were really really jetlagged having spent the previous 24 hours or so either last minute packing or travelling.
It was all quite smooth during check-in – they didn’t find anything wrong with my luggage this time which was a relief and I packed very light so I was in no danger of going over the limit. Apparently this means I have more room for souvenirs for all of you nice people at home. The flight was split into two as we had a stopover in Amman for around three hours. The first five hours were quite nice… I had several people grant my request for plane letters which helped while away the time. Katy and Lauren went one step further and made us a plane goodie bag with all the plane essentials which was really cool, but now sets a precedent for the future!
Have to say I was still rather disappointed at the lack of television screens in the back of the seats and miniature Xboxes or whatever it is they have now. Ah well spose I got my moneys worth. The stopover in Amman was proving to be very boring until on our third or fourth round of the duty free shops we bumped into a guy called James from Scotland who is a project coordinator for a charity in Mumbai. We spent the rest of the time just chatting and I was quite high from not having slept for ages so that was fun.
The next flight was mindnumbingly boring and we tried to sleep but it wasn’t happening. The good thing is that we had this flight attendant who really was err… attentive. He kept on bringing us food and Hello! magazines etc and cups of coffee. Admittedly the food looked and tasted like an assembly of plastic and cardboard, and I took a picture for proof that I will post up soon hopefully!
When we arrived we were greeted by the Rev. Baskar Onawale, and then we met his wife Neela (great name). Normally they send a driver and we only found out when we got to the cultural centre that we are among the chosen few haha. They are really lovely genuine people, so smiley and really good together. Like two teenagers it’s so sweet. They both look about 55 odd but are actually in their seventies… Must be the optimism! Check out their picture on http://www.deepgriha.org
They laughed as they told us that we arrived on the first day of the Monsoon, so we bought the British weather with us typical! They took us to Macdonalds, on our first day here! It was so funny because they did it because they didn’t want us to get ill, and to get used to the indian food first, but Baskar ended up feeling sick poor thing!
It took us over six hours to get to Pune from Mumbai which is insane because it is about half the distance I travel to Exeter. But the scenery for the most part was amazing…driving through valleys and over mountains… It was still a shock to see poverty on such a grand scale…it was evident as we were landing with the aerial view of huge areas dominated by shanty houses and it almost felt as though we were watching a documentary.
Anyway when we got to the cultural centre there was no electricity so we couldn’t see our room very well. Living by candlelight is actually really nice but the electricity powers the water system so that part wasn’t so much fun. It meant no showers, no water in the taps and worst of all no toilets!! You can imagine so I won’t fill in every nasty detail! There are a bunch of people here but overall they dont seem to radiate positivity when you ask them about their time here. Perhaps their expectations are a lot different who knows.
I was quite intimidated at first. Just walking down the street you tend to look staight ahead and look quite demure which is funny for me because I’m so used to looking people staight in the eye. Every single eye is on you, especially in the slums where some of the people have never seen a white person before. We have felt like celebrities because you have lots of children coming up and asking “Whats your name?” even though they don’t have a clue what it means. I haven’t at all been recognised as Indian although they recognise the name as Indian. Some of the guys will say things like “Want to come back to mine”!! Err no thanks darlin…
We began work on Tuesday. We take a class of nursery kids in the morning and then one in the afternoon. The kids in the morning are really insane and uncontrollable and super excitable. We are working in what they call Balwadis (nursery school) in the slum areas of Ramtikadee. They wanted us to do the creche but I can’t handle more than one screaming baby at a time thanks! Also I think they are scared of us…we must look like ghosts compared to the women there. The kids in the afternoon are so sweet and docile its welcome respite from the first class. We just do simple numbers and words and they love arty crafts too. I hope to get some pictures up of that too soon. The slums are really shocking at first. You cant imagine how people can live under tarpaulin or a plastic shelter or whatever, but when you meet the people they are lovely so you warm to them quickly, and for them its all they have ever know I suppose.
We went fabric shopping and we are going to get shalwar kameez tailored this week so we’ll look less like the blatant foreigners! We live a rickshaw ride from MG (Mahatma Gandhi) road (every area has one!) which is bustling with shops and restaurants. Last night I sold my soul for a slice of pizza when we saw Pizza Hut and couldn’t resist. I know it is shameful! There is plenty of lovely indian food but so far our diet has had little variety… Jen calls it slush and shes referring to the dal chapatti and rice that makes for breakfast lunch and dinner (Im actually not exaggerating this time). We went browsing for a bit. I shall definitely be returning for dirt cheap indian sweets mmmm! Also saw the most gorgeous salwar kurta… if I ever marry my spouse to be will have to agree to wearing one of these complete with pink turban (he won’t get a choice in the matter).
On the way back we ended up semi-arguing with the rickshaw guy over fare prices, because you can see them all running to get the white girls who they can rip off! Then I realised we were arguing the toss over about 3p and thought I’m not even that cheap, and gave in!
This among other things is what has characterised India so far. Of course I don’t really mind it too much, it is to be expected and until I can speak fluent Marathi/Hindi they wont realise that when I get home I revert back to my lowly student status. Ah well. Guess even in India my miserly sensibilities are being offended, how on earth will I cope with the reverse culture shock haha!
Sorry about this post. Future entries will not take a week to wade through. I’ll finish by summarising India so far:
Cheap – yes they treat us like walking wallets but its still cheap as anything and I am loving it. Jen and I are conspiring to open up several student accounts and move to India after third year and live off the overdrafts for all eternity! If only…
Needless bureaucracy – Indians are great at making things far more complicated than they appear or need to be just to create the pretence of organisation and sophistication! They are absolutely in love with forms. When we got off the plane, they handed us a ticket only to collect it 5 paces later. And the chocolate comes in a packet within a packet haha!
Suicidal – Anyone who has travelled by rickshaw doesn’t need an explanation, but for those of you who haven’t it is just insane. I love it because their reactions are so quick. Whilst it looks really dangerous people wander slowly across the road and the drivers seem to be able to cope with 6″ breaking distances.
Muddy – India is just one mammoth puddle when the monsoon strikes. Muddy goats, cows, children, stray dogs, general roadside rubbish (nice clean feet!) you name it.
Insane weather – For any of you who thought I’d be returning several shades darker can I just take a moment to completely banish the idea. The rain comes down in sheets and whilst its warm it is constantly overcast and I hear its warm and lovely in London right now haha
Okay thats about it… apologies for the length you can go and watch telly now… if you think I am worthy of your comments please lave some and make me feel loved…