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Published: December 23rd 2013
-- So it's raining here. I'm going to take this opportunity to blog real quick about the first day or so in Chennai. We arrived pretty late the day before last to the Chennai Airport, SO MANY PEOPLE. Trying to get our bags was just.. well.. it would have been funny if I wasn't so tired. Basically there are a million people trying to do the same thing at the same time, with no queuing, or lining up. Everyone is very helpful, it is just hard to get anything done fast when everyone is trying to get things done fast.
Driving in Chennai [
We get into our cab, and we have a substitute driver- because our original driver hit a cow a few days ago and his car will not be fixed for a while or a few days, not exactly sure. We arrive at the hotel and the guards at the gate knock on the window and give us these mint things that are like small mentos candy. They always seem so happy to see us. Get to our room, and shit-you-not the show "Outsourced" is playing.. ( I am not making this up)
The rickshaw began as a two or three-wheeled passenger cart, called a pulled rickshaw, generally pulled by one man with one passenger. The first known use of the term was in 1887.
Now there are also the cycle rickshaws, also called pedicabs, auto rickshaws and solar rickshaws.
Pulled rickshaws created a popular form of transportation, and a source of employment, within Asian cities in the 19th century. Their popularity declined as cars, trains and other forms of transportation became widely available.
Auto rickshaws are becoming more popular in some cities in the 21st century as an alternative to taxis because of their low cost.
Fast forward to the following morning. We headed out to Spencer's mall. Spencers's mall is like a high end flea market. The good kind. Stores have names but items don't have price tags. You haggle for what you want. The driver dropped us off in the basement, we used the ATM machines to get rupees. Which when you see your bank account number in rupees, you feel like a millionaire because the ratio of rupees to USD is ridiculous. Something crazy like 10,000 rupes is 160ish USD. Your bank account ends up having like a ten digit number when you print your receipt.
We went to the "rock shop" first, where some of the other people we are with had items on hold with this one vendor. It was kind of crazy to watch how the haggling went down. Chelsey wanted some jingly ankle bracelet things, and she could not decide, so the vendor hands her and entire bag full of silver chains and told her to take them, pick through them, and then let him know which one she wanted in a couple of days. This would never happen in the US. Who the hell hands you a
bag of silver and says come back later when you decide. I have heard that it is not uncommon for this to happen, one story was told to me that went along the lines of a guy wanted a rug for his house, but he wasn't sure of the three he had picked which one his wife would like. So the vendor sent ALL THREE carpets (at no charge to the customer) to the house where she was able to pick which one she wanted and to send the rest back at the vendors expense and then negotiations on the rug that the lady picked out would then begin. Crazy. Okay, well crazy to me.
Spencer's is great because it has this one store, the Cookie Man, where (did you already guess??) cookies are made! They have all kinds and always give you a free sample when you walk up to the window. Spencer's Mall also has anything and everything you have ever wanted or not wanted. Barcelona (and every other team) jerseys, Dr. Dre Bose Headphones (50 bucks by the way), silver, gold, carpets, incense, healing rocks, nick-nacks, carved elephants, lock boxes, jewelry in all stones, golds, silvers,
and anything you can imagine. Once we were done wandering around Spencer's, we walk down to the basement where our driver dropped us off, and he was taking a nap in the van, and when we were ready, we took a drive to the beach.
One game commonly played here is how many people you can spot on one motorcycle. The most I have seen is four. But I think someone holds the record of seeing 5 people on one motorcycle. It's kind of a fun game once you get used to it.
So driving down the beach, it is depressing, and interesting at the same time. I saw this kid maybe 10 or 11 years old stripped down to his underwear dipping a bowl in a huge trashcan size bucket of water and splashing himself clean. Other people were not so lucky. I'll let the pictures show you what I saw, but it is truly poverty. You don't get in the water. It's not that kind of beach.
We get back to the hotel and got another mint from the guards, and drop most of our belongings off at our room and then head
out to Phoenix mall. To get to Phoenix mall, we have to walk out the doors of the hotel, down the path, past the guards (who this morning I saw take a mirror around the entire car to check for bombs or people or something) Here's where the fun begins. You can't walk on the sidewalk because there really is no set sidewalk. It is all kind of crumbled and covered in trash, and the trees grow over and around it and barbed wire hangs down, so if you are not careful, you get a face full of barbed wire (happened to Susan last night). Instead, you walk in the street, but see, everyone else is walking in the street too. And there is so much honking. They are not honking because they are mad or anything they are simply letting you know that they are coming up on your side and don't want you to step out in front of them. So, walking in the street you are looking up to not run into people and things, and looking down to make sure you don't step in animal feces, or on a dog laying down, or over a person,
or into a car, and you are looking left and right and behind and in front of you constantly because traffic comes in ALL directions, regardless of the road you are on and/or how thick or narrow the road is. There is no such thing as a "lane" or "traffic light" and the biggest vehicle has the right of way.
So back to crossing the street. I think I deserve a gold star or something for making it across a major intersection, not just a street, but a barrier divided two lane road on both sides coming to a "T" with another cross street. This is the street we have to cross in order to get to Phoenix mall. I am sure I will become fluent with street crossing soon enough, but for the first 24 hours, that was enough. So all in all, to sum up the first day,
1. People are so nice here. Like super NICE.
2. Haggle for everything. Nothing is really priced what it seems
3. Crossing the street is scary as all get out
4. If you see a mosquito on someone squish it first, then apologize AFTER you
5. Tip everywhere. People remember you, your name, and where you are from. They will remember if you were rude or not. I don't know where they store all this information because I cannot possibly remember everyone's names, but they sure do. It will come back to haunt you or help you, so treat people very nicely.
That's it folks. I'll keep you updated with new adventures... I have heard rumors of snake catching (catching cobras with sticks and whatnot) and I know we are trying to get to the Taj Mahal around January 4th. There are many activities and places to go and people to talk to and pictures to take. Love ya'll and take care!
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