Saturday, July 29, 2006

So, the whole "blogging the trip to India" thing didn't work out very well. It isn't that I don't have time to blog, and it isn't that I can't afford the R10/hour fee for internet access. It's that I just don't have anything to say. Some of the silence is due to the fact that every day life is just that...every day and pedestrian. I get up at 7:00, shower, study for 30 minutes, have breakfast at 8:00, walk to the Institute with Andy and Andrew at 8:45, spend the next five hours learning Hindi through various means and media, then go home, bathe (because by then I seriously need it, even if the water in the bath bucket is dirty), try to get out of eating dinner, study, sleep. There's a lot of variety in the afternoon, but not so much that I feel like writing about it.

Yesterday, for instance, I stayed in the Institute until 5:00 p.m. reading my book, after which I went to a coffee shop at Gaurav Tower and read some more. Took an autorickshaw home, and who's to say the driver wasn't intoxicated? Not me. The day before, Andy and I wandered around the marble-cutting area of the old city, watching men work on life-size sculptures of Krishna and Ram. We watched two different groups of women make bangles. Some kids threw rocks at us. Some kids asked us for money. I bought a marble turtle that reminded me of Saidji ("Yeh aapka face hey!").

I guess I could have written something about my trip to Himachal Pradesh. A group of us went up to Shimla for mid-term break. The nicest thing about Shimla (except, of course, for the cool, wet weather), was the shower. This is the first shower I have had since arriving in Jaipur. That is a big deal, given how much we sweat here. I also liked Shimla because no one hassled me. When people are complaining about how Indian men behave on the streets? Don't roll your eyes, because it's all true, except probably worse.

We went to Pushkar for "Hindi Camp." I followed Walterji and one of our teachers, Upmaji, around a lot, and tried to figure out what they were saying. Unfortunately, they were speaking Hindi, so that was a total loss. Not much connecting with my teachers. In class, they are the kindest, most patient "koi bat nahin" kind of people. Outside of class, I grope for things to say that a) I can say in Hindi and b) don't make me sound like a kindergarten student. This is always a failure.

The biggest challenge here has been living with a host family--or host person, since there is only one woman who owns our house. I feel constantly watched and monitored, because that's how it works here. Unfortunately, being just short of 39 years old, I am used to making my own decisions. I am becoming a master at deception, inventing friends with whom to eat at the drop of a hat, just so I can leave the house without hassle. There is no real privacy, and after awhile, that wears on you. Also, the upper classes of India eat a lot of food. People are constantly trying to shove food down my throat, and there is no protocol for refusing, you are always supposed to accept. I am often faced with the choice of being openly and confrontationally rude, or eating more and throwing up at the table. This is the big challenge for me. So, I guess the message there is that if I come back to do research, I need my own apartment.

I also need a scooter, washing machine and iron, but that is something to be covered in another post, another time.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How many weeks? I've lost track. I think only four tomorrow, but I never have any good idea about the date here. I'm out of the loop with news, too. I try to read the paper every morning, but I usually just end up looking at the pictures because the words are too hard. Sometimes someone brings in an English newspaper, but the only American news comes from the entertainment world. So, we know about Ashley (sp?) Simpson, but not about George Bush.

Yesterday, I ended the day feeling like classes were going pretty well. Today, I am really depressed and tired of the whole endeavor. Can I drop out of school? No. I just have to climb the wall, I guess, instead of beating my head over it.

Maybe it's just that I've seen too many movies this week. Tuesday we went to see Krrish!, the second half of which I liked. Overall, I'm afraid that Krrish! once again proved my argument that all films are better when they include Preity Zinta. Last night, we went to see Superman Returns, dubbed in Hindi. Junk. It's interesting how all the American students were saying, "Oh, Krrish! what a stupid movie, who believes anyone could do that?" yet somehow managed to accept that Superman can stop an airplane from crashing into a baseball field. Stupid. Superman Returns definitely needed more songs and dancing.

On a slightly but not completely related note, I'd just like to point out that Beth and I are definitely not existing in the same India. Not that I'm complaining, but I could use a little time in that luxury hotel right now. Well, not really. I like what I've got. A cold Limca, though, I could do with that.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Three weeks, celebrated last night by Andrew, Priya and I at Mocha, where we watched Argentina play Brazil in the World Cup.

Right now I'm suffering from what can only be heat exhaustion. I know I've got a good sunburn going on, despite a head covering and sunblock. I am generally all about our field trips, but I have to say that running around the old city in 100 degree weather is not the smartest idea anyone has ever had. Still, we finally got to the City Palace and the Hawa Mahal today. I am planning a return trip to the Hawa Mahal after monsoon season arrives to take pictures of the jantar mantar.

Today we had a great thali dinner at Surya Mahal--the bean dal was great. I have to say the food has been really good. I complain about it all the time because it's simply too much to eat and there is no (polite) way to refuse more, but it's really quite good. I wouldn't say no to a good pizza or pasta situation, but so far, I've manage to cope with all the vegetables except bitter melon. Mango season is supposed to end in something like 8 days, and then hopefully we will move on to another fruit.

I'm making progress in Hindi (slowly slowly--that's a Hindi construction for you to contemplate), and doing quite a bit out on my own. I've had a couple of unfortunate encounters with rickshaw drivers (I kind of thought one was going to end up with people pulling out sticks and beating on me), but overall am doing pretty good with them. It's good to be somewhat independent, even if my host person doesn't encourage it. We got a really good rickshaw price back from Gaurav Tower last night, which means we're all making progress in our cultural assimilation. I'll never fall for that "As you wish, Madam," line, let me tell you.