I have to write swiftly because my adapter doesn’t work and I want to be able to write as much as possible before my computer becomes useless for documentation purposes (temporarily).
India is hot. I got off the second flight and was inundated with a smell similar to a smell I would associate with Guatemala, and a heat to match. Kamlesh Chavan, the Administration Associate met me as I exited the airport. I was happy to see a nice sign with my name, drawn in an educational style; outlined in red crayon, filled in with blue. I feel like sooner rather than later I should change my name to Ana with them, or else I will permanently be Oriana – it might already be too late. In the heat, waiting for the driver to come around, I got another shock wave. Ohmy! I’m in India! There wasn’t much talking that went on for the rest of the ride or morning, it was 3:00am so Kamlesh was very tired and it was dark out. I used this time to observe my surroundings. This is what I got:
I don’t know when I missed the fact that they drive on the other side of the road too. It makes perfect sense, it was just something I passed over. That in itself was pretty trippy. The driver was by far the fastest guy on the road. Rules of the road seem to be that if you’re driving, you usually drive between two lanes. If you are passing, you honk several times and sometimes flash your high beams. Intersections are ruled by size and flow; if there are already cars going in your favor, you continue, however, if you’re bigger and there is a space open, you can cut through. There are lights that blink, red or orange, but I couldn’t seem to see the difference between either or no lights. Also, one should honk when going through intersections as well. I did see and experience some crazy road practices (from a New Yorker, American perspective). A word to my mom, please do not read this if you’re going to freak out. There were several cars that were on the wrong side of the road, going against traffic, some cars had no lights, the highways weren’t lit up by anything else then the cars on the the road, some parts of the highway were made up of only cobblestone. I let myself drift to sleep for what must have been an hour or so. I woke up a few times. One of those times was when the driver stopped at a gas station to either relieve himself or get food or both. When he came back in the car there was a lovely belch released. The second time I awoke to the horn (already a sound I feel like I am getting used to) but we were in between two small trucks, neither of which were in their lane. We weren’t either though. But the driver was determined to pass between them. I decided I should keep my eyes closed and go back to sleep. Motorcyclists are content without helmets, many of them wrap their face in a scarf.
Leaving the airport I could see some of the poverty that exists, along the side of the road people slept, sometimes just in a blanket, sometimes in makeshift homes out of tarp or plastic. It seems as if there are many parts (most parts) of the city, both Mumbai and Pune are under immense amounts of construction. There are many buildings with just the structure or roads completely torn up.
I got to the Adina Apartments around 7am. I met Basil, the owner, and Kamlesh promptly left. He said Suzie, the Education Manager will come to meet me at some point today and will come get me for work tomorrow. I’m still kind of confused how that’s going to work out, but if anything I have Mansi and Ananhi’s phone numbers and can call from here to clarify. I thankfully hopped into the shower while Basil prepared a breakfast for me. It was cold (Basil only told me after breakfast about the switch I should flip and the 20 min wait) but it was refreshing. After, I had a simple, yet amazing omelet, with the best tea ever. I love Chai. He gave me warm milk to have with corn flakes – I can’t remember who said that I wouldn’t like the milk, but I can’t say I’m a fan. It might just take some getting used to.
He also provided me with two different types of water; mineral and bottled. The mineral is an unopened bottle of water, the other is just filtered through their system. I feel like I want to take the dive and just drink the filtered water. Maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow. I was given rest time until 1:00, when there will be 15 people here using the living room for a conference and lunch. I am to join them. I would love to go for a walk, but I feel like I should heed the instructions of Basil and Kamlesh and just rest. Maybe I’ll stretch and yoga first.
This is nuts, I am crazy, I am excited, I am nervous, my mom gave me permission to come home if I want. I want to go home. I want to stay. I need to understand that my freaking out is ok. I want to change the world. I want my mommy, I want my sister and my friends, I want those I love. I don’t feel lonely but I feel sad and tears come often and hard. I can get through this.

Triumph! The little things in life get you by. I went for a walk this afternoon. Basil, the hostel caretaker and my provider for the moment told me to be careful because of traffic. He wasn’t kidding! I now realize there are lights, but I’m not exactly sure how they work. I took a long walk along North Main Road and turned down some smaller streets here and there, went across the Yerawada Bridge, but swiftly turned around due to scary traffic. People just walk right through; I waited and watched two women maneuver through moving cars and how they judged the ebb and flow of traffic to get to the other side. Wow is all I can say. On my way back a woman who wanted me to buy something from her store followed me down the street, kept saying, “miss, miss,” and even was bold enough to grab my arm.
For any of you who know Pune, I now realize I’m in Koregon Park. I think I will end up living here as well. There are a lot of white folk around, well not a lot but I saw at least 5 while walking around. I heard a couple speak, and from what I heard they don’t sound American.
So, why am I triumphant? I bought a converter for 60Rupe. This is equivalent to maybe $1.25; definitely less than $2. I bought one in the airport that works for my phone but not computer for $7. Crazy! I also bought a juicy bottle of water. This is bottle 2 for the day, not to count the 4 cups of tea.
I also spoke with Anandhi. She knows I’m exhausted – I had to lie down after lunch out of pure exhaustion. Susie will pick me up tomorrow morning at 8:15 and take me to one after school center and then the office. Anandhi will take me in the afternoon to another few centers; she’s leading another group but those centers will the ones I’ll be working with. For the rest of the evening I will stay in, read, practice Hindi, and sleep. I’m in India!

    • V. Manivannan
    • November 2nd, 2010

    Oh, traffic. It’s one of my favorite things (sarcasm intended) about the Indian subcontinent. One of my relatives told me once, “The brake is an accessory–the horn, it is a must.” Naturally, if you’re playing chicken with every other car, bike, motorcycle, lorry, and livestock herd on the road. On the drive from Colombo to Batticaloa, we ran into elephants on the road, and there still managed to be about 4-6 lanes of traffic (using “lanes” loosely, as nothing was really discrete) on the road.

    Glad you made it safely, though I guess that’s a little belated. I’m also glad you’re surviving the disjuncture of such a colossal move. Will keep reading–I’m in my office hour right now, and ought to be grading, but eh 🙂

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