Published: January 21st 2006January 21st 2006
Namaste or Tashi Daleh or Namaskar or Hello,
This is Keif and Blythe checking in from the Indian Subcontinent.
We arrived the night of the 12th expecting to be picked up by someone
from my CFHI internship (this is Blythe). We were picked up by a gentleman with a sign with my name (spelled incorrectly) on it who knew absolutely nothing about my program. After a little uneasiness on our part (worst case scenarios running through our minds - we are going to be mugged, drugged or some other inglorious fate - perhaps we’d been reading a bit to much!), I had the program guy on the phone and got things figured out. Turns out the gentleman was hired from a taxi service, etc, and wanted to follow the instructions his "owner" gave
him about where to take us but the program guy, Mr. Khanna figured
things out. Anyways, we made it to our guesthouse at around 12am a
little frazzled but relieved to be where we wanted to go.
We awoke the next morning at the Wongdhen House in the Majnu Ka Tilla Tibetan camp in Delhi. It is very quiet with narrow streets (not even big enough for cars, YAY!) and our room looks out over the Yamuna river. We met Dr. Nyima, our Tibetan doctor friend, and he took us to his home where we saw Dorjee and they introduced us to their three children (home for winter break) and Dorjee’s father. Dorjee, who is trilingual and one of the most patient and good humored people we have ever met, took us around for most of the day to find some clothes (its pretty cold here, at least compared to Thailand!) and to buy a cellphone (so we can stay in touch when I am doing the internship and so we can contact our SERVAS hosts). What we accomplished in a couple hours with Dorjee would have taken us three or four days on our own!!
Our second night at Wongdhen House (our new favorite place to stay) we had a funny experience - at about 9:30pm as we were reading and watching Indian pop music videos on TV before going to bed, we got a mysterious call from the front desk announcing they would come up to deliver the quilt. As we had not asked for a quilt, we were a bit puzzled, but it was cold so we thought, okay. We expected a person to arrive at the door and hand us a quilt. One person did not arrive with a quilt. Three Indian men who work at the guesthouse walk into the bedroom with the quilt and proceed to pull off the duvet, blankets, etc. They then enlisted Keif to help put the duvet onto the new, heavier quilt which seems like a straightforward task but turns out to be pretty complicated. After much talking and gesturing and quilt shaking by the men our bed is made again. The leader of the three men exclaims a victorious "Yes!" (Napoleon Dynamite-esque) as they finish laying the quilt on the bed. Then, as quickly as they arrived, they disappear out the door.
Keif and I stood there for a minute, then burst out laughing at the production that had just taken place, but I must say, we have been
very impressed with their service.
Some of our impressions so far:
The poverty issue is something everyone raises when talking about India, and it is very very unsettling. You can read about it and think about it, but it is a different story when there is a little girl tugging at your elbow asking you for rupees and motioning for something to eat. When it happened the first time in Delhi all I could think of was that this is probably what this girls mother did and probably what her children will do and you feel very helpless. Perhaps it is more shocking coming from smaller communities in the US. It will be interesting to see how things are in the smaller villages in Uttarunchal during my CFHI internship.
The Metro, a new train system, is probably the cleanest train I have ever been on...Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic!! It's so clean you forget you're in India! And it was cheap! Our first motor-rickshaw wallah (man) spoke not English but Spanish. We were more than a little surprised he immediately said "Como esta?" In a country where English is more commonly spoken (even before the national language of Hindi!) we were not expecting Spanish. But, the saying “Always expect the unexpected” seems like it should be the national motto.
Well, we apologize this entry is a little late - we are doing a quick tour of Rajasthan. In the words of a wise little girl from Australia that we met at the train station with her aunt, "I do believe, India is much to large to see in just one trip." We'll post some pictures and details about Jaipur, Pushkar, etc, in a day or two - we are going to do another SERVAS homestay in Udaipur.
Just a few enticing details of the blog to come...Keif learns how to play cricket from the 8 year old son of our SERVAS host family in Jaipur, Blythe and Keif have their palms read (how many children will we have? who will be the money-maker?), and we have the worst 7 hour bus ride yet in Asia.