21 July 2007
I’m four days in and I still have no idea what is going on around me. I thought that 7 months in China would offer some semblance of clarity here in India, but I could not have been more wrong. Minus the whole billion people and booming economy thing, these two nations are worlds apart. That said, I do have some advice and insights for future visitors:
• Cross the street whenever you feel like it. Sometimes, if you raise your hand, cars will stop. Also, don’t be totally shocked if cars are driving on the wrong side of the road. They probably really need to get to where they’re going.
• Stand your ground in lines, as they’re not “official.”
• Remember that 10 Rupees in only 25 cents, so don’t waste too much time bickering with rickshaw drivers who want to charge you 50 rupees instead of 40 to drive you 25 miles across town. At 40 rupees to the dollar, we’re talking about a buck!”
• If someone offers you a “great guesthouse with A/C” make sure you see it before you buy it. Windows, running water, sheets, towels, electrical outlets and A/C may not actually be included. This can result in restless nights of 45 minutes sleep.
• English is not widely spoken, so bring a friend or just be prepared to have no idea what is happening, ever.
• Embrace the cold-water bucket shower. It is an art form. Fill the big bucket then use the little bucket to trickle water over your head, working your way down the body while massaging the water into the skin. Soap, rinse and repeat.
• If someone offers to let you sleep in the office, say yes. Internet works 24 hours and they’ll bring in a cot. Plus, there is no commute!
• In the summer, it’s ungodly hot. Be ready for 128 degrees and 100% humidity. Shave your head. It feels great, and they’ll charge you 75 cents for the whole operation.
• Be prepared to fall in love with the people and the culture, knowing that you’ll probably “go native” within a few days. I’m sitting here typing in my cotton “fabIndia” shirt and linen pants listening to Bollywood music while eating Naan and I couldn’t be happier.