Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I just don't understand!

I've recently been trying really hard to accept the way things are here. Instead of getting mad every time things are delayed, cancelled, or just taking twenty times longer than it should, I've attempted to be calm and understanding.  My intention in this is to also change the unflattering habit I've acquired of being extremely cynical.

However, most things I just can't wrap my brain around, and it just brings up a hundred questions because I just don't understand! I don't get so many things I encounter every day. So, to help myself work out these confusions, as well as entertain you, I'm going to write out all these curiosities I have. In case you have insight, please feel free to comment!

Things that make absolutely no sense:

1. Hurry up and wait

I don't understand this juxtaposing concept of rushing vs. taking your sweet a$$ time. It takes days and days to get some things done, and no one seems in a rush to complete a task. But then there are times when everyone must shove each other in line, race through red lights, or never let a single person through in traffic (causing intense traffic snarls).  At the airport a man budged in front of me to check in...knowing very well the flight was delayed four hours. Thank God he did... he found a real nice seat on the floor with the 3,000 other people waiting for their flight!  Also, Matt has a story where he watched a group of people (presumably late for a flight) sprint through the airport, arrive at an escalator and stairs, take the escalator, stand on the escalator - not climb, then sprint as soon as they reached the top.  It was the perfect visual of hurry up and wait.  Then there's the chai breaks.  Several per day.  Matt has even had a driver stop for a chai break while commuting for work (not our usual driver). And as you know from my previous ranting, everything just takes longer. I honestly take a day off of going to school just so I can run errands! I miss my one-stop-shopping at Target so much!

2. There are no rules, and yet a hundred rules. 

For many things, there are absolutely no rules. There are few enforced speed limits. There's no punishment for driving through red lights or hitting someone with your car. There's also such a lax of punishing crimes that it enables more hateful acts. Just turn on CNN, and I can guarantee you'll see something about harassment towards women.  Oh, and you want to go 30 mph faster than traffic? No problem....just pay off the cops $1.50.  But don't even think about showing up to the airport without already having a copy of your itinerary printed out. And make sure you don't throw out your boarding pass on the plane because it will get checked AFTER you get off your flight. And have your receipt in your hand while exiting a store, because the guard who just watched you purchase your groceries will then look over it and "sign off". Ugh.

3. Where are all the rats??

Despite heaping piles of trash strewn all over this country, I have never seen a rat. Now, I am not complaining, I am happily surprised I've never seen one. When I brought this up to Matt, he told me about a rat temple and perhaps that's where they all hang out.  This temple has developed some sort of historical religious significance, and they are fed and worshiped within the temple! Sadly though, there are so many rats living in the temple and being fed by tourists, there are severe disease problems among them, causing epidemics which wipe out their population. You can see and read more here:



But this brings me to the next thing I don't understand...

4. Why is there such a lack of respect for living things (although locals believe they have an immense appreciation for living things)?

Cows, which are supposed to be sacred, are literally eating plastic bags. I have seen an unusual amount of dead cows and puppies on the street lately, and no one ever clears them off the road, just causing more of a gross mess. I feel the saddest when I witness a dead dog being eaten by his friends. You would think that with all these people standing around doing nothing, someone could employ them to clear the animals.  And when someone gets hit on their motorcycle, the concern usually lies in how to get around them, not aiding the rider.

5. Pushing dirt

I can't help but chuckle when I see someone dusting the street. They use this broom-like thing to sweep all the sand/dirt/dust into big clouds. First, don't they realize the dirt is just landing in a new place? Secondly, who the hell cares if the street is swept?! Let's start with some more basic things that would help this country out, such as a garbage can or hopping on board with the invention of the dust pan! I saw a woman sweep crap into a pile and then pick up the dirt with her fingers because she had no dust pan. I've also seen people use buckets as dust pans. There are better ways! I know it costs money to buy a dust pan, but a folded piece of cardboard will work fine too.  Did I ever tell you that Matt and I have never actually found a garbage can here, so we use a bucket in our home? Yeah...

6. Electricity

Two problems.  First, most wall sockets are three prong, but many electronics chords are two prong.  To plug in a two prong chord into a three prong wall socket, you must force the third prong in the wall (ground) open to insert the two prong.  It's a ground, so one should be safe.  But no!  Always use a non-metal item when you stick things in there!  Second, even when you get a two prong chord installed, half the time it's loose and can easily fall out.  

Ok, so those six things just blow my mind. I don't get it, but I suppose I'll just have to accept them.  Some people I met at the grocery store who have been living here for 16 years (crazy) from Prior Lake, MN, told me to never fight things, or I will sink fast. I need to sit back and just flow with the current. There are days I really want to kick and splash, but I guess going with the flow is the only way I will survive. I've got to give up trying to change this place.

After realizing how cynical I now am, I honestly am making an effort to notice good things happening around me. On my way to school the other day, a car stopped abruptly on the highway, and a man got out to rescue a puppy! Does Bob Barker know about the stray dog problem in this country? He needs to take those efforts over here and get these animals spayed or neutered.

We went to Mumbai last week and also saw a few positive things. They have public garbage cans and people actually use them!!!  I even had a hard time finding garbage on the ground in south Mumbai.

Drivers also obey traffic lights there, and use the horn less frequently (unless you're the driver we had, your hand may as well be taped to the horn). We also noticed a taxi system where cabs all look the same, as if they are legitimate cabs, and they are waiting in an orderly fashion at the airport.

I was wondering if systems like that would work in Delhi or Jaipur, and I really have a hard time imagining it. How do you teach millions and millions of people to throw trash in a can, or to stop at a red light when for so many years they've done these things with no consequence? Did I mention we only saw two cows in Mumbai, and one of them was being fed something green? Mind blowing.

Ok, I need to end this blog because I can hear myself getting snarky again. I hope all you Chicago and Minnesota folks are staying frost-bite free! I'm enjoying warmer, slightly less polluted weather here on your behalf. I promise some pictures in the near future. :)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

India Stinks...Literally

Back to reality.

After six glorious weeks in the United States, I am back in all the chaos that is India.
I spent most of my time home with my family just doing the things that make me and baking, shopping, celebrating my sister's 21st birthday, and all things Christmas.

Christmas was wonderful, as usual.  We had our 2nd Gingerbread House Contest, and I have to say I was not impressed with the judging! Annie, Mark and I worked really hard on ours, but I apparently had points deducted for having a similar roof as last year, resulting in third place. (Thanks to Mark for giving us tools not outlined in the gingerbread contest rules - an exacto knife for cutting trees out of fondant, and a credit card to smooth the frosting.)

After my time in Chicago with my family, I met Matt in Minneapolis for a few days with our friends. After forty-something days apart from each other, it was so good to have time together in a familiar city.  We were able to see many of our friends for a night out on the town, and New Years Eve.

On January 2nd we left Minneapolis for India. It was hard for me to leave our family and friends, but I am grateful for all the time I had home.

As I was sulking in line, waiting to have our tickets scanned to get on the plane, something miraculous happened! A woman scanned our tickets, then printed off two new ones and whispered "These are better seats." When I realized the seats were now row 6 it was a feeling of pure bliss! We were upgraded for free to business class (or first? I don't even think there's a difference). It was amazing! 

Awesome Things about First Class: (in no particular order)
1. You can't even touch the seat in front of you, they're so far apart!
2. You get a plush down comforter
3. The seat fully reclines like a lazy boy
4. Champaign
5. Ice Cream Sundaes
6. No bathroom line
7. Four course meal

I couldn't decide if I wanted a brownie or a I had both!

Unfortunately, this flight only got us to Paris. When I had to fly coach the second flight, you can bet I was pretty miserable and crabby. It really is like the Seinfeld episode...I can't go back!

Now onto what I really wanted to talk about...
India stinks! I mean it.
The pollution here has really taken a toll for the worst! From what I can gather, this problem is a combination of three things:
1. It is very chilly here now....into the 40s and 50s at night. Apparently the cold air causes shifts in the air layers, pushing the smoggy air lower.
2. FIRES! Heat here is non-existant, so just imagine millions of people making fires every single night to keep warm. I'll leave it up to your imagination to guess what they burn.
3. The everyday emissions generated by unregulated factories and extremely dense traffic.

I am in Delhi right now, and this is the view from our hotel room----->

Beautiful, right? The smells outside just smell like burning cow dung/garbage/mystery materials. Really makes me crave some fresh, Minnesota air! 

To put this whole thing in perpective, here's some numbers I found.

Today, Jan. 9, the air qualiy index in New York CIty was 58, just above moderate.
In New Delhi it is...drumroll please...422!!!! That is some seriously hazardous breathing air.

I am going to find Matt and I some masks to start wearing. If you think I am overreacting, check out this article:

I'm sorry I have to end this on such a sad note.

Everything has quickly gone back to our routine. Matt has hit the ground running at work.  I went into school to see the kids, but they are on winter break for a week. Next week I will be back to teaching.
Matt and I will hopefully be seeing the Taj Mahal on Sunday, so I should have more plesant things to share soon!

I'm also going to take a minute to put in a plug for the Anachal Project:

This is run by the same folks who organize the orphanage and school I work at.
This project helps "commercial sex workers....gain social and financial empowerment."

They have two shops here in Jaipur, and even have a new contract with Urban Outfitters!  Their blog is very inspiring...I encourage you to check it out.