Friday, July 29, 2011

so i kicked the auto...

A good Indian friend is pretty invaluable over here. Someone to help you negotiate, get directions, and tell you what food your stomach could probably handle. But when you aren't with an Indian and lack language skills it can be hard to not get frustrated with daily chores and errands here... I can't really hide the fact that I am a westerner here and as such practically have a sign on my forehead that says "Do all you can do get as much money from me as humanly possible."

It is hard in a lot of ways. The poverty here can be pretty overwhelming, so you can see where some Indians are coming from - scraping together to get by. When they see this white girl, from the States, I am sure they simultaneously see a infinitely deep wallet. From the man on the corner selling fruit convinced that I had lots of US dollars and should pay him in US dollars to the lady that used to sweep our apartment asking a roommate for food... A very different culture. It challenges my sense of fairness and my general motto "Everything comes out even in the wash."

Every morning as we've headed to training in Jubilee Hills (a fancier part of Hyderabad, about 11km away) we have to enter into half a dozen negotiations with auto rickshaw drivers. We have managed to "get meter," meaning that we pay only what the meter reads. But, those instances are few and far between. A meter price is about 60 rupess to Jubilee Hills. Each morning we might have auto drivers offer it for 300, or 150, and every where in between and around. Frustrated, we give them "C'mon" looks and usually agree on 70 - 80 rupees. We are talking at least a 15 minute process... and then you do it all over to get back to Mehdipatnam.

Same goes with a lot of things here, Westerners = exorbitant prices and at times harrassment. And two weeks into this, it can really grate on your nerves.

The other night we negotiated an 80 rupee ride home from a late dinner out around 11:30. A rickshaw full of Westerners draws a lot of attention on the road, unfortunately. Common are the guys who try to reach into your ride, or try getting your phone number, follow you on the road for a while, the list continues... By the time we reached our apartment I think we were all at the end of our ropes. Fortunately, we all know never to travel in the evenings or at night by ourselves and feel safe most of the time as we are deliberate about not putting ourselves in questionable situations.

Happy to be back we handed the driver 100 and asked for change.

He just sat there and shook his head.

We asked for 20 rupees we were owed.

And still he sat.

So we raised our voices and called him a cheater (this ride for an Indian probably would have cost closer to 50).

And still he sat, obstinately shaking his head and saying what I imagined were not nice things under his breath.

I was furious. Really, dude?

So. I kicked the auto.

Not hard, just enough with my flip flop so the driver noticed. And we walked away.

Ha. Silly decision, but it did piss him off a little bit. And that made me feel a little better, a little justified over the lost 20 rupees.

Obviously I can't go around kicking things when I reach the end of my rope. But how do you keep your cool and love your neighbors who you feel are constantly trying to rip you off? Again, I have to continue to remind myself that at the end of the day 100 rupees (2 dollars) isn't worth getting upset over, even when I am getting paid in rupees.

And the good thing about this is... I am learning more effective bartering methods. OH and how to stay cool in some ridiculous situations.

Please note, I have met a lot of wonderful Indians (including some rickshaw drivers) and expect to have some amazing friends at the school I will be working at (starting MONDAY) that will become like family. Also, great news is that the school I am at is only a 10 minute bus ride away- no haggling required.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

a break from reality

leaving Hyderabad... ATL traffic is nothing compared to this place...
Last week we took a group retreat to Pragati Resorts, 36km outside of Hyderabad. It was awesome, particularly after spending 5 days in Hyderabad. Upon arrival I realized I hadn't exactly been relaxed since a few days before leaving Atlanta...

much more rural...

Great meetings and a few group activities- in a really pretty part of India, lots of green space. I was even able to run through some orchards. The food was amazing as well. AND there was a pool. Pretty gardens, they pride themselves on being an Ayurvedic Getaway.
First hot shower I had since leaving the States! And a real mattress... Glorious. Beautiful place, made us all excited about the traveling we will be doing- hopefully to some greener places. On top of my list: Goa, Rishikesh, and Kerala!

Lovely to play tourist every now and then :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I love Indian food. And I now know I will have to work out a lot to compensate for it with their sauces, fried dough, potatoes, nan, roti, etc... Getting food is an experience all of it's own. Last night I convinced Nikhil (one of the Indian fellows) to walk with me and order food to go for a group of us. We walked to New Paradise and ordered:

Chicken Afghani
Chicken Hyderabadi (my current favorite)
some sort of Paneer - althought I have recently decided I don't like paneer.
And lots of Roti:

For breakfast, at training this morning, we were served something the consistency of grits, but super creamy with sauteed veggies and a huge punch of spice. Sometimes I just want bland. So, then we eat pb&js, cereal, and fruit to find some balance and save our tummies.

Missing a LOT: COFFEE. Indians love their chai. So pretty much 1/4 black tea and 3/4 condensed milk. Yummy, sure. Effective? The perfect way to start a morning? Great way avoid an afternoon nap during a lecture? No... Shout out to #octanepocketbar at BofA. I am currently trying to find a french press (the one I had in Atlanta broke...).  Life is better with coffee. And I refuse to settle for instant over the next 9 months.

It should be noted that our roof has now become the gym. I think there are a few parks in Hyderabad, but all require transportation to get to. And running here isn't very appealing with all of the traffic, lack of side walks, sideways looks, dirt, pollution, sewage, monsoon season... Intro: circuit training. Jump rope, yoga mat, and hopefully soon some bands sent from my mom!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

India Time

After spending the first night in Hyderabad at the Guest Inn Suites - we moved into our apartment (after some haggling over price with the landlord) Saturday evening. Started with beds, a couch, and two chairs.

4th Floor of Aden Ave, Mehdipatnam
Obviously one of our first priorities was getting internet... We signed a contract and prepaid 6 months worth of internet on a Sunday. After lots of phone calls and many missed appointments - we got internet installed around 8pm the following Friday. For some reason they didn't bring the router and were actually surprised that we expected to recieve the router at installation, the one we had already paid for. We were thus left with just one ethernet cable to share among the 5 of us. We were able to get them to come back the following day and get the router... AND THE GOOD THING ABOUT ALL OF THIS IS - I am learning patience and how to operate around Indian time.

We also have had fun dealing with furniture rental, gas stove (which I should be getting today), and plumbing issues.

But it is a great apartment with 4 other very cool girls. We are also down the hall from 4 of the male fellows, two of which are Indian which has made life a lot easier. We have a nice balcony and usually keep windows (with fans on high) open.

We are in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. Interesting, I wake up often to the call to prayers at 5am. One of these mornings I will get it recorded, it is kind of weird - but mostly very cool ... huge population so diligent about prayer and coming together 5 times a day to do it together. A lot of things to think about with regard to Islam, actually. Why do the women continue to choose to wear burqas while the men wear pretty western clothing? What is their culture around giving back - I don't think the Indians on a whole here put much emphasis on volunteer work. They don't ask for any extra - curricular activities on college applications, for instance. But- that will be exhausted later as we explore these affordable private schools. 
And we have been to India's Walmart - Big Bazaar - twice and have started decorating! Culture difference - cutting in India is rampant. Where I once stood totally aghast at the 4 ladies who jumped right in front of me after waiting 20+ minutes to check out, I am now finding out what a gentle elbow feels like and to stand strategically to ensure my "fair" place in line. 

Laundry... all of our applicances are at least 30 years old! I now do small loads of laundry all of the time due. There is something a little therapeutic about having to manually rinse and ring your clothes.

Nice to have two weeks of training here while we get used to India!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

long 4 days...

traveling to India is not for the faint of heart... Packing Monday was miserable (ask Jake or Lisa who had to deal with most of the ridiculousness). Jenna and I met at the airport at about 8am Tuesday. We took a flight to Chicago where we were supposed to have a 1.5 hr layover before flying to Newark. For some reason, our flight to Newark was canceled. We got to spend close to 9 hours in the Newark airport. I know, you are all so jealous!

Flight out to Newark around 8, got to the Fairfield Inn (thanks to Jenna's dad letting us use his points!) and were asleep around 12. Long morning Wednesday (good news, bad news when you have a lot of time to fret about moving to India) we ate breakfast, lounged, watched the US Women's soccer match... Checked out and got to the airport at 3ish where we met up with lovely Kim Campbell.

 Flew from Newark to Brussels (7 hrs) where two bottles (smallish) of water were 7.20 euros. And then an 8 hr flight to Mumbai where we had an 8 hr layover until our 7:35 am fight to Hyderabad. WAY to much time to over analyze this a strange place in the middle of the night on VERY little sleep. Very thankful to have had travel buddies who helped remind me of why we were doing this.

Landed in HYDERABAD 9am Friday morning. Both bags made it, although one is now missing a wheel...Picked up at the airport in a small car. Quite hysterical watching this guy try to fit 3 women's suitcases packed with 10 months worth of stuff in a little hatchback... Our apartment still isn't ready for us, so we went to another apartment and hung out where the weight of no sleep and being somewhere so different hit.

BUT then we got out and explored and it was totally insane. Loved it- got cell phones, ate some Subway, and then took a nap on a friend's doorstoop, woken up by little girls from across the way. And Friday night the IDEX group got together for dinner and drinks in one group's house in Secunderabad - Rooftop drinking in India. Crazy surreal! Then it started to rain because it is monsoon season, so we hopped an auto rickshaw to a hotel for the night. Don't even get my started on communicating with them and trying to give directions in a city that we don't know, that doesn't have any street signs... My lungs are going to hate me from breathing all of the dirt, dust, and fumes. Lots of fumes.

Conclusions: I will always pay an extra couple hundred dollars to ensure it doesn't take 5 planes and 40 hours. Having a way to communicate with loved ones makes being in India WAY more fun. Hoping to FINALLY get settled and unpack in our apartment sometime today (Saturday) and have time to figure out renting a stove and getting wireless internet...

About Me

working to understand how to use social enterprise to improve affordable private schools who serve the underprivileged youth