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. :)


  1. Your entries are always so interesting. I am sure the adjustment has been hard, but what an experience you are having. Thank you for sharing. Cold in Texas too!

  2. As an OCD chick this place screwed with me as well at first and to tell the truth still does from time to time. The cows eating plastic thing gets me as well and I was enraged at first but after finding out that there are plenty of Indians that this annoys as well helped me.

    For each of these things I try to think of something in the US that is similer and that helps. In US airports there are ALWAYS those people who crowd the entry point for the plane even though they know it is not their turn to get on, we speed when we think we won't get caught, our justice system is nearly as slow as theirs and our government almost as corrupt (although not as openly).

    The trash will be around so long as no trash services are offered, dogs and cats will run wild until they are seen as a valuable part of society (and some really are quite nice to them already).
    Honestly there are just some things that will never change. They will always lie about how long it will take to do ANYTHING since disappointing a person is considered rude. A shop keeper will never say that they don't have something and have no intention of ever having it, they will always say they will are getting some "in a few days". Tea breaks will always be there.

    The best part about India? It is so vast and each areas culture so different that just changing states can change a whole lot of things. Better roads, traffic, less trash, less staring (that is the best), more open minds about womens and animal rights. It all just depends on where you are and who you are.

    You will make it. Pick and choose your battles or you will always be at war. I say this after having to have my husband yell at the water delivery service for not delivering water even though they said they would be here three days ago. Plan for delays and be delighted when there are none. Go with the flow and when you see a chance to cross against the current where success is best, do it!

  3. Oh, and the rats and mice are there. You may not see them, but they are. Mostly in the poorer older areas of towns but good god they are there.