Wednesday, December 15, 2010

last days in india.

So I haven't been the most wonderful updater of our India experiences, and now our time here is coming to a close, but if you want to hear of all the frustrating, laughable, adorable, inconsiderate, sincere, unbelievable, etc., things we have experienced, then you'll just have to wait until we talk about it face to face.
In the meantime, we will be on a train for the next forty hours, we will do a whirlwind downtown tour of Mumbai, then we will be on our way home to our wonderful mother country of the United States of America. For those of you who think little of America and complain about it, live in a third world country for five months, then you'll see how fortunate we really are.
But enough preachy stuff. I have things to pack.
Much love, and I look forward to a washer and dryer, multivitamins, and hot showers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

mind the doctor.

Today was my second experience with the university doctor, and it definitely shook my faith in him much more than the first time.
So I've had a terribly sore throat for the past two weeks, and today it became very painful to even swallow. So I took my handy flashlight and shone it down my throat and looked at the mirrored image of my inflamed tonsils and saw large white spots dotting the reddened surfaces. I showed Collin, and we both agreed I needed some good old antibiotics. 
I tried telling Krishnayya, our father figure here in India, that all I needed was to have the doctor tell us the kind of antibiotics to get. I was very adamant about not wanting to go, and we have in several instances just called the doctor to tell him what we know should be done so I thought nothing of my request to just call him this time. But Krishnayya wouldn't have this. He told me to not be a baby and to go to the doctor. I was mad and just knew something would be askew by going. But there's no saying "no" to Krishnayya. 
So we hopped on Krishnayya's scooter and headed to Andhra University's campus to visit the doc.
We wait for a few minutes for the other patients in the room to finish up and for the doctor to finish his daily paperwork of signing sheets of paper that were held in front of him by his assistants. Finally I took the chair beside him. 
"What is your problem?" he asks.
"I just have a sore throat. It's very infected with white spots on my tonsils, and it's very painful to swallow."
"Ah. Have you been eating cold ice cream? Cold drinks, water?"
"Well, why do you have a sore throat then?"
I stared at him dumbfounded for what felt like minutes, then I blinked, shook my thoughts free from being so astounded by his logic and told him,
 "It's an a virus, or infection."
"No, no. It's because you're in India."
"They do have these infections in America too, sir."
"No. It's because you are here in India. India is hot, America is cold."
I had nothing more to say on the matter because he was obviously right, and I was silly for thinking the infection in my throat was caused by bacteria or viruses.
Well, despite his logic in thinking my throat infection was instigated by cold ice cream and being in India, I was impressed that he did end up prescribing me with antibiotics, along with antacids. When I asked about the antacids, I was told that they were for digestion. "But that wasn't part of my symptoms," I said,  and Krishnayya told me simply that it is common. So I had to quickly put two and two together and figured that these pills for digestion were to aid my body in handling the antibiotics. 
In any case, after the first time of going to the doctor knowing I had swollen lymph nodes under my armpits and knowing antibiotics would do the trick, and him telling me that wasn't the problem and that I had ingrown hairs from shaving and that I shouldn't be shaving my armpits, and after today's remarkable visit, I will just have to self prescribe if any further illnesses occur. 
But now I know where to go if I want a supplementary opinion to my own diagnoses. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

brought to you by...

It's been a long time, but...
Last weekend we spent our time in Rajamundry, which is a smaller, not as crowded version, of Vizag. It has all the same features of any Indian city, I suppose: the blaring horns, men and children relieving themselves on the sides of the roads, cows and buffalo roaming freely and innocently getting in the way of everyone and everything, and the steep foreigner tax.

On Sunday the 10th of October we spent fifteen hours on a boat cruising the Godavari River.

After all those long hours of trying to sleep on the filthy carpet of the deck of the boat, and then idly watching the murky, brown water pass beneath us with foamy feces floating along, we went back to our hotel room to relax and watch some much needed television.
After much channel flipping, we settled for half an hour of The Ghost and the Darkness and we questioned each other, what ever happened to Val? Then a very moving public service announcement flickered on.

Crowded bus moving violently along a busy street. Men, women, and children desperately grabbing at the bars to steady themselves.
A businessman wearing a sharp suit and tie, standing, hovering over his seated, unknown companions. Slow motion panel of his face as he inhales to relieve a deliciously loud sneeze.
Slow motion panel of the other bus riders, all freezing in fear from what could happen, then desperately the camera pans back to our businessman.
He managed to grab a handkerchief from his suit pocket, and in the next moment was able to cover his illness-ridden sneeze.
Everyone on the bus applauded and smiled at him for his good deed.

But I wonder...aren't there bigger health concerns the government should be focusing on? Sneezing seems so innocent compared to all sorts of deeds we have witnessed on a five minute walk around our neighborhood. Handwashing? Toilet using? So many options... I can only hope that people will see that it's not much harder to walk an extra ten to fifteen feet to the nearest toilet stall. But I guess there is a certain appeal...?
No. No, I don't get it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

love like marriage.

“We love it here.” This is our general response to the frequented question of if we like India. And we do. Every time I say, “we love it,” I feel genuine and not at all like I’m hiding my true feelings. I find this odd though. What exactly do we love about India?
 I brought my concern about what is it we do love about India to Collin, and we couldn’t really come up with anything. I could list off in my mind many, many things that drive me utterly crazy about living in India, but that is all. I could think of the excruciatingly general loudness of this country: the horn blows of traffic, the unnecessarily booming speakers of the movie theaters, the bells, the chimes, the shouts, the yells, the dogs. Everything is so bloody loud here that I wouldn’t be surprised if I have partial hearing loss upon arriving back home in the states. I could think of the nauseating smells of animal urine, people urine, animal defecation, people defecation, trash heaps, rotten food, rotten animals. I could think of seeing men along any road creating those smells by urinating and defecating. I could think of being grabbed by beggars and begging children. I could think of being stared at, of getting cameras not-so-discretely pointed in our direction to get “snaps” of us. I could think of being ripped off everywhere, and not being able to do a thing about it because we are foreigners. I could think of the near-death daily traffic, the rats, the heat, the humidity, plumbing, toilets (or lack of), cold showers, smelly clothes (even after being washed), cockroaches, frizzy hair, prickly heat. I could just go on and on.
But despite all these things, despite feeling utterly helpless about improving our situation to even a degree of what living is like at home in America, we truly love it here.
One of the girls had asked me and Collin what it is we love about being married. We couldn’t think of a thing and just shrugged and smiled. She asked us again sometime later, and all we still had nothing of substance to tell her.  So Collin’s answer to why we love India was that it’s the same thing when we were asked what we liked about marriage; we couldn’t think of anything exactly or precisely, and maybe some of the things we were thinking in our heads were entirely negative and would have rather not shared, but honestly and truly we love being married unconditionally. Just like how we love India. 

how to wear a sari.

In India, all over India, there are certain outwardly symbols worn by a woman to express to the world that she is married. The sari just so happens to be one of the more recognizable representations of marriage.
From the very first day we arrived in India (no exaggeration, an hour after arriving at our apartment from the airport), I have asked the women who work with us on a daily basis as translators if they could assist me in purchasing some saris. For weeks it just wasn’t happening; they were busy, I was busy, I was tired, they were busy, etc.
Finally an occasion arose in which I would need a sari. We were invited to a Hindu wedding. We only had four days until the wedding, and the blouse for the sari would still need to be made by the tailor, so in a desperate attempt to finish the task of shopping for an outfit suitable for a Hindu wedding, Collin and I went to the local super-mall, CMR Central. We surveyed the stores, compared prices, and finally settled on two beautiful saris. They were inexpensive compared to the other store, but still expensive by local standards. The total for both came to roughly 30 USD.
Excited about my purchases, I showed the women at the program house as we waited for the tailor to come by to take my measurements for the blouse. I pulled out the first one: rich mahogany red and saffron yellow trimmed with gold brocade. There were ooo’s and aaa’s and of course, how much? Then I pulled out the second sari, which I was most proud of, and even more excited gasps and inhalations were heard. The sari was stark white with the same mahogany as the first one, but with blue threads and tassels dangling off the edge of the gold trimmed fabric. The women talked among themselves in elevated, excited Telugu. Then they turned to me and said, “Yes, very nice, very beautiful.” I was happy to hear their approval but then my ears heard a most uncomfortable sentence, “This is a bride’s sari.” Immediate embarrassment filled me and I hurriedly asked questions such as, “I thought white wasn’t associated with marriage here?” “Are you sure this is a bride’s sari?” “Would it be bad if I wore this to the wedding?” Questions flooded out, and answers followed, which almost all but calmed my nerves until one of the women said, “Yes, this is nice, you can wear it, but…it is the first night sari.” She whispered this last bit to me, and my embarrassment came back full force. Nervously I told them that I will just return it, no big deal, it will only be humiliating wearing it now that I know what it represents.
They just as quickly tried to calm me down once more promising and pleading with me to listen to them that I can wear this, but had I worn such a thing to a Hindu wedding five years ago, it would be utterly humiliating. I took their promises, and the next day the blouse was ready, and so was I. I was going to wear a beautiful white sari to a Hindu wedding.
The day of the wedding came, and all the girls in the program were being helped by the women in getting their saris wrapped. Then it was my turn. Lakshmi and Rama were my sari wrapping assistants, and they were so enthused that all of us were wearing saris. They turned me this way, and shifted me that way to get the folds of the fabric just right. I told them that I am glad they are helping me out, otherwise I could never do this on my own. Rama looks up at me from her kneeled position on the floor and with safety pins in her hands and asks, “Your mother does not teach you to wear sari?!” I smile, shake my head and tell her no. “And your sister? She does not wear sari?” Again my answer is no. Poor Rama seemed so confused by my mother’s and sister’s lack of teaching me such a vital thing that she asked once more to make sure I understood her correctly. “So, your mother and sister do not wear sari, and they do not teach you? How will you learn to wear sari if they do not teach you?” I couldn’t help it, my smile turned to laughter and they joined in. I told them through my smiling lips that we do not wear saris in America, but I will try to learn how to wrap my own while I am still in India. This answer seemed to satisfy them.
Another indicator of marriage is a toe ring. I’m not sure if this is the same for all of India, but it certainly is the case in south India.  Only a ring on the left second toe is required, but I have seen women with all their toes adorned. I picked out a set of toe rings thinking this would satiate the curiosity of locals as to whether I was married or not. In one case it just brought about further confusion and a lot of questions.
Collin and I stopped by at a deaf school that is just down the street from us. We went to get acquainted with the administrators so we would be recognized when we go to play with the children. After a very welcoming tour of all the classes, we sat in one of the offices were many of the teachers were. They talked with us for quite some time, nearly two hours, and the base of the conversation was how I lacked the proper adornment to indicate being married. There were three women present and they all talked over each other to tell me what I need to get after seeing I only had the toe rings on. “You need bhutu,” which is the red dot, or bhindi on the forehead. “Where are your bangles? Gold?” I had to assure them I had bought some, but they were at home. “Your braids? You need only one.” This was slightly more embarrassing because for some reason or another I had done my hair in two braids that day, something I haven’t done for years. “Your necklaces? You need one like this, and this one. See? There are two for husband family and for wife family.” When she talked of the husband’s and wife’s families, these were indicated on the same necklace with two medallions. The other necklace had black beads. They were very adamant that Collin promise them he would buy me these proper necklaces, after all, it is his responsibility to show I am married.  And of course, the issue with the sari came up again.
So many things to do and to remember that I’ll be quite glad when all it will take again to indicate I am married is my diamond ring on my left hand.
Luckily for men in India, there is no show about whether he is married or not.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

taste the thunder...

That's the slogan for the soda Thumbs Up, but it has a whole different meaning when you are awoken at night by the sounds of Indian thunder.
It's unlike anything I have experienced before; the thunder rattles your insides and takes your breath away from the fierce vibrations. Last night wasn't any different. The thunder lashed out and it confused my brain so greatly that for a whole minute I believed the noise somehow jolted me upside-down on our bed. In the same instant I awoke, I grabbed Collin and gasped aloud in my startled state. He barely flinched.
Looking back at last night's stormy episode, the explanation our Telugu teacher gave us during a rainstorm last week on Telugu words for lightning, thunder, rain, and hail all makes sense, though at the time it did not.
When we came across the word for lightning, murupu, she told us that this is the sound that accompanies the thunder. This seemed a bit backwards, so we continued to reach for clarification on the matter. We told her, no, lightning is the flash of light across the sky and thunder is the sound that accompanies it. She wouldn't accept this, and further explained to us that thunder is when the fire falls from the sky, and urumu is the sound that comes with the sound of the lightning (?). We could do nothing more than just nod our heads at her explanation, let her teach us how to make paper boats for an hour, then float them on down the road in the streaming rain.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

where we find paradise.

Dinners here in India are very sparse, not at all like our multi-course dinners back home. Lunch is the time when the quantity of food is highest, and oftentimes dinner will only consist of chapati and one other item. Because of this, Collin and I have had to go out and find more substantial dinners. One such place for sustenance is Arun's Paradise. It's right around the corner from us, so there is no need for a rickshaw, which greatly improves my opinion of this restaurant.
We went to Arun's for dinner last Saturday night, and to our delight we find that the place mats are word searches. After a brief glance at the word search, we find that there is a very unpleasant theme; all the words are associated with sickness and disease, not something that would really whet your appetite. Nonetheless, we find all the words in the amount of time it takes the waiter to come and take our order.

A short man awkwardly approaches our table and looking at me inquires, "Yes ma'am?" to which we respond by placing our order. He doesn't speak English, even though the menu is in English. So we point to an item and read exactly as the menu says, then the waiter bobbles his head in agreement in that endearing Indian way, and tries to repeat back to us what we had just ordered. After several rounds of this ordering and bobbling, we finally come to an agreement with the waiter that we are all talking about the same items. One more bobble, and the waiter starts off to the back of the restaurant. He suddenly stops, hurriedly swirls about looking for something, finds what he was looking for on the table that is behind him and next to us, then grabs an empty salad plate, and on it he places a napkin. Then once more he asks us what we would like to order, then quickly jots down our request.
The dinner, as usual, was great, and we had artwork to entertain our eyes while our palates were busy with the tikka masala. Although the waiter wasn't a bad entertainer either.