Not my most creative title, but hey, sometimes it’s better to get straight to the point. If you were with us yesterday, you’ll remember that: 1. It’s India week and 2. our story started with a going away box for a girl named Jess. Playing catch up? You can read all about it here. And you might also remember that the next part of the story features a surprise even bigger than the box itself. Well, here goes…
Jess stayed in India until late May, when her mom (Sarah, who grew up there) would fly out to meet her and they would travel back together. Little did she know… I was sneaking along for the ride 🙂 Needless to say, I don’t think I’ve ever pulled a bigger prank (and I’m not sure I could ever top the suddenly-popping-into-another-country-unannounced bit), but boy was it fun:
And the fun didn’t stop there! Let’s just say… when you travel almost 20 hours to a destination, you don’t turn around and leave the next day. We spent the next two-ish weeks exploring, learning, shopping, and taking in the beauty of a new (to me) country. So with that, I bring you:
Please note: The following (most of it, word-for-word) comes straight from the journal I kept during the trip. These are things I saw or observed and thought were interesting. Some may seem silly or touristy or “how could she not have known that”, but the neat part about traveling is that your eyes are opened to a lifestyle that is different than your own. Not better, not worse, just different. Let’s just say- I was LOVING that I got to learn so much. Also, these observations were of a specific part of India- this is not to say that things are the same throughout the entire country.
Let’s do this.
1. The rules of the road are crazy and strange in that there are no rules. You drive on the left side of the road here. Well, actually, you drive on whichever side you want. When we got picked up from the airport, I went to get in the driver’s side by accident and they laughed at me. 🙂 There are no street signs or markings, but there are TONS of motorcycles, bikes, and people walking and there is no order to it. Everyone just pushes their way through. Also, honking is not reserved for emergencies or anger- people use their horns constantly. It’s almost as if to say, “I’m here!” or “I’m coming through!”. Eventually, the honking just becomes background noise to the people living here. Sidenote: It is not uncommon to see an entire family atop one motorcycle… I could not believe how good they were at balancing!
2. No drinking the water here. We only drink water from a sealed water bottle (although, I think that once your body got used to things, you could get away with drinking from other sources). That’s what I’ve been brushing my teeth with. Our host family boils and strains water everyday to fill up big water bottles. In terms of bathing, we just use tap water. Another common thing here is a “pour bucket bath”. Essentially, you use a bucket and pour the water over you… and that’s about as theological as it gets. 🙂
3. There are a lot of carbohydrates in the food! Rice, bread, etc. However, everything tastes SO GOOD! So far, I have tried: dosai (a fried, crepe-like thing), chopati, and parota, all with various dipping sides. Many of the breakfast dishes are the same things that are eaten throughout the day. Where we have specific breakfast foods at home, there are not specific meals that are meant for just breakfast here… at least from what I can tell. Something I’m noticing- the food comes out very fast here! I think it’s probably pre-made and then heated or cooked to order. Another popular item is mango, lime juice and soda.
4. All (or most) of the dinnerware here is tin. Tin cups, plates, everything! (You can see this in the picture above.)
5. The laundry system is different. Everyone takes their laundry to the “dobe” (I might have made that spelling up)- who I assume is the one who washes all of the clothes. Then, everything is hung outside to dry all together. There is a big field in the valley filled with sheets! I don’t think everyone does this because some houses have washing machines. However, the kids on the school campus (where Jess goes) send all of their dirty clothes to the dobe once each week and the dobe washes, folds, and delivers them back! Man, I could get used to that…
6. It is customary for families to hire a cook and a maid. The maid is called an “ina” and does all of the wash, cleaning, and looks over the kids. Our host family’s ina is named Mary and she is very sweet. Generally, the ina and cook stay with a family for many years, unless something goes wrong (ex. stealing, etc.).
7. The light switches here are opposite from home. Here, you flick the switch up to turn off and down to turn on.
8. One of the coolest things about walking around town is all of the street vendors! There are so many people selling their goods to make a living (which we don’t see as often at home) and it is neat to see (and taste!) a bit of everything. Below is a man selling cut mangoes with a hot seasoning sprinkled on top… such vibrant colors everywhere!
9. SQUAT POT. It is exactly what it sounds like. In the airport and at one of the restaurants we went to, they had these in addition to regular toilets. I had to use one a the restaurant- a personal first for me! 🙂 Essentially, it is a hole in the ground that you… no surprise here- squat over. Also, it is not uncommon for there to be no toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms. BYOTP!
10. The dress style here is very conservative. No one wears shorts (which I couldn’t believe because it was so warm!) and all of the women have their shoulders covered. Some of the men wear skirts made of light material. I wore longer shorts, skirts, or capris and shirts with sleeves while in Kodai.
11. Money! The currency and difference in value was the hardest (but most fun!) thing to get used to. Currently (I just Googled it), 1 USD is worth 59 rupees. Compared to the US, everything is much cheaper to purchase in India. For example, a lot of the jewelry I bought was between 70-150 rupees, which comes to about $1.50-3.00. Needless to say, we did A LOT of shopping… and I really enjoyed putting my negotiating tendencies to the test- in another language!
12. The water faucets are different. You turn them front to back instead of side to side.
13. When speaking English, some people substitute the letter “g” for “z”. I am told that this is more common for Southern Indian folk. For example, when were buying a purse for Jess, the man asked to check the “gip” (sounded like a soft “g” and he meant “zipper”) instead of “zip”. Jess said she’s also heard people say “gero” instead of “zero”.
14. Instead of saying, “It is 8:05”, people say “It is 8-5”. No “oh” sound.
15. There is such beauty in the expression of color here. Everywhere you look, there are beautiful colors, patterns, jewelry, beads- it is truly something to behold! This is my kind of place! I just love looking at the beautiful saris that all of the women wear. The coolest part is that everything and anything goes. There is no such thing as “that’s tacky” or “that clashes”. People wear color on top of color and pattern on top of pattern and it is simply lovely.So there you have it- 15 things I learned/observed in India. Would I go back? Heck yes. Actually, all of this talk of travel has me itching to start planning the next adventure! To round out our week in India, tomorrow’s Thrill of the Week features my favorite treasure that we stumbled upon while shopping… to be continued.