Sunday, August 2, 2009

Indian english cum twist

Before I get into this, I'm excited to announce THAT I FINALY HAVE INTERNET. That (theoretically) means that I'll be able to stay in touch with y'all a bit more from now on.

Anyway, since arriving in rural India, one of the things that has struck me most is the hilarity of the things that get lost in translations. Alot of the time, what someone means to say and what you hear are two COMPLETELY different things, especially if you don't understand the context it which they're talking. Intead of trying to explain what I mean, I'm just gonna list the top 5 funniest phrases (and questions) that I've encountered over the past 2 months. Keep in mind these people were compeltely serious at the time.

5. "Your watch is very big and shiny. Why?" - Krishan
4. A 94 year old villager slowly enters into our meeting room. Krishan looks at the old man and says "This man is very very old. So what do you do with your dead in Canada?"
3. "Stephen, you look like very sensual boy" - Husn Ara
2. "Being sensual is my favourite pastime" - Krishan
1. "mmm....I'm lonely...very bored..I have nice room....this weekend, you come to my room and rest?" - Sureg

The other thing that has consistently thrown me off is the kind of questions people will ask when first meeting you. What we see as being fairly personal, they see as being normal friendly conversation. Upon asking your name, villagers will usually ask you what caste are, if you're married, what village you're from, as well as your age. If you say that you don't have a caste, they'll stare at you blankly...pretend to understand, and then move on. The concept of a casteless agnostic or aetheist doesn't exist in their concept of the world. I've learned just to lie and say I'm muslim, mostly because I prefer avoiding the awkward silence that would otherwise ensue.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bussing to Nowhere

As I type this, I should be on a bus heading back to my village (Bhorugram)....but I'm not, thanks to India's ridiculously confusing bus system. For those non-hindi readers out there, you pretty much have to rely on the kindness of strangers to help you get to where you're going....because all schedules and destinations are posted only in Hindi.

So basically, this is my story.I left my trainee guesthouse in Jaipur at 6:45 this morning and caught a rickshaw to the main bus depot. Upon arrival, I tried talking to 2 ticket agents, both of which insisted on speaking to me in Hindi, even though they understood exactly what I was saying in English. But finally, on my third try, I found someone who was wiling to help me out. The conversation went something like this.

Me - "Kya bus jao Rajgarh hai" (very broken hindi translating to "What bus is go Rajgarh"
Him - "Rajgarh mummble mummble leaves at 7:35"
Me - "Thike" (Ok)

So I bought my ticket for a whopping 2 dollars, and got on the bus. About an hour into the ride, I noticed the shadows of the trees were pointing the wrong way......we were headed east.....and I knew I was supposed to be going north. Faaaaack. I knew that ticket was too cheap. Another hour later, we came to our first stop where I got off, and hopped on a bus headed straight back to where I came. But of course, that bus wasn't heading to the main bus depot, but rather some random bustand on the outskirts of the city. Thank god for rickshaws. Anyway, 6 hours and several dollars later I'm back where I started, a little wiser. Good thing my punctuality is unheard of in this country.....otherwise my bosses would be pretty pissed haha.

Work? What's that?

Wow it's been a while since I last posted. I'm gonna try to write as much as possible in the next 2 days to keep y'all up to date. So I guess I should start by talking about my "work".

Basically, work is kinda a joke. There is one computer with internet in our office, and about 10 people.....about 4 of which are working at any given point in time. Deadlines are more of a suggestion rather than a rule here, so it's pretty common for people to show up to work when they feel like it.....and finish assignments at their leisure.

As for me, I haven't really been assigned any work. I've been told to "document" everything I see in the field, but I don't really know what that means. There's absolutely no structure to my "assignment"....and to be honest, I'm not even sure they understand why I'm here.

Having said that, I plan on making the most out of my visit here. I've taken it upon myself to help write their annual report for next year, as well as gain some detailed knowledge about their grassroots projects.

If you were wondering, my daily routine looks kinda like this:

7:30 - Wake up in a pool of sweat, bathe in bucket water, and walk to the local private school for breakfast.

8:30 - Finish breakfast and head to the main office

9:00 - Read paper, if it's available, drink my first chai of the day, and wait to go to the field

10:00ish - Head out to a local village with our crazy civil engineer, Krishan....usually on the motorcycle, sometimes in the jeep (when the manager joins us)

12:00 - Eat at some random villager's house. Then spend the next 3 hours either napping in their bed or talking about how they want to come to Canada.

3:30 - Leave the villager's house, and do a few hours of work

5:30 - Run some errands in the "bigger village"

6:30 - Get home, shower

7:45 - Go to the cafeteria for dinner

10:30 - Chai with other interns and friends

11:30 - Bedtime

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Welcome to the fires of hell

In case you were wondering, yes....I'm still alive. I arrived at my worksite last monday and have been adjusting to the heat since then. Living conditions are spartan, but I can't complain because the locals have it much more tough. For starters, the power and water supply are very eratic. There was no tapwater for the past 24 hours so we had to truck some into our work colony. Electricity will go out for about 3 hours a day on average. And clearly, there is no a/c.

Cold water is also a luxury....and good luck trying to find ice in this village. I'm convinced it doesn't exist here. The average daily temperature is 45 degrees celcius....and there's no way of escaping the heat. Most of the guys will just pass out from 1pm - 3pm and return to the office when things are marginally cooler.

I can honestly say that i've never sweat so much in my life. I drink about 5-9 litres of water a day.....and urinate rarely. When I stand up, you can see sweatmarks on my legs, back, chest....pretty much everywhere. I'll take a picture of my glorious sweaty self....just to drive the point home.

Internet is very hard to come by at the moment, but that should be fixed within the next week. I'll edit this post later and give a few more details.

Oh, did I mention that india has a 6 day work week? Yaaaaaaaaay! My weekend started this morning, and now its over lol.

Cheers Y'all!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Adjusting to life here...

It's kind of odd, but I haven't really experienced much culture shock. In fact, of all the places I've been to, I'd say the middle east is more intimidating than India. Why? Well for one, you can get by pretty easily with english alone....which is always helpful when you're placed in a new environment. But more importantly, because the people here are so damn open and friendly! Granted, half of them are nice to you because they want to sell you something (sidenote.....soft-selling is alive and kicking over here). But for the most part, people are willing to give a helping hand at every corner. They're are genuinely intrigued with foreigners, and are eager to learn as much from you as they can. 

So what adjustments have I made thus far? It's taken a few days, but I think I'm getting a handle on haggling with rickshaw drivers. It's a pretty standard routine once you know what to do. First off, you should agree on a price before getting in the rickshaw, and always pay at least 25% below whatever they quote you. Sometimes, if there is a group of cabbies, they'll collude on a which case you just have to name your price and walk away. Within 10 seconds, one of the colluders will inevitably break rank and undercut his peers.....thats when the bidding war starts :)

Haggling has also taught me a lot about reading people's body language. Indians are very slick with their words, and can be extremely convincing at face value. BUT....if they quote you a price and crack smile, you know that you're being fleeced. Usually you'll haggle over 30 or 40 rupees (75 cents to a dollar). It's not the money, but rather the principle that counts. You shouldn't let people take full advantage of you just because you are a foreigner. Nonetheless, I have to admit that it's damn fun....and is usually done very jokingly.

I guess that's all for now. I've got a few more things I'd like to write about later, most notably the ridiculously chaotic "driving" that endemic in this country, and the zoo that lives in the streets.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Arrival In Jaipur

So 30 hours after leaving my frontdoor, I arrived in the pink city, Jaipur. The airport kinda reminded me the one in Bahamas, but bigger. Bassically just one big room with a luggage carrousel (sp?). Being the genius I am, I decided to risk drinking the water at the airport seemed legit....I had paper cups and everything. I guess my bowels will tell me if it was a bad choice in the end.

Stepping outside the airport, I was greeted by my internship manager, Anuj. He took one look at my bags, and exclaimed how pleased he was that I had packed light (because that meant we could take his motorcycle to the guesthouse instead of cabbing). Soooo, in my half-drunk insomniatic state, I got on the two-wheeler and prayed for dear life that I wouldn't go flying off. The ride was really fun, but kinda terrifying. Note to Brent: Royboy's got nothing on Indian drivers.

I'm friggin exhausted....gonna go nap and finish this post tonight.

Back from the nap. First impressions of the guesthouse are good. There's an American, and British guy here, as well as a French and Chinese girl. An all around chill crew. The house itself is pretty standard student housing. The cost.....a whopping 100 INR per night.....or $2.50 CDN. Not bad eh? It gets better. I had an awesome lunch consisting of pizza, and an indian dish I can't remember the name of.....all for 55 rupees, or just over a dollar. All in all, things are looking up. Tomorrow, I'll be going into downtown Jaipur to check out the sights.

Catch y'all later.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Disclaimer for the Know-it-alls

Ok. Before I get into blogging, I want to voice a little disclaimer: to all those who read this and think its pretentious crap....(Justin, Azim and Brent, I'm looking in your directions)..... congratulations on identifying the essence of blogs. It's kinda hard to ramble on about your day without sounding like a conceited twat. But I'll try.

If you've actually got a bone to pick with anything I say, comment away. Feedback will be much appreciated, and as long as it doesn't end up putting me on a "no fly" list, I'll get a kick out of it.