you might have heard of it.
11.14.2011 - 11.20.2011
In other news, I am growing accustomed to India more and more. I am getting used to being stared at. Not just stared at, but like eyes penetrating you from many different directions and not looking away for looong periods of time and lots of double and triple takes. And I'm getting used to people wanting to take photos with/of us, people saying hello to us everywhere or wanting to introduce themselves, the animals, the loud music from religious celebrations and weddings basically everyday, the men peeing in public every 50 feet, the flies (MY GOD THE FLIES!), the lack of understanding what it means to stand in line, the hectic streets, the recklessly controlled driving, constant dirty feet, bucket cold showers and having to squeegie the bathroom floor after a shower because the shower is not separate from the toilet area, packing my own toilet paper in my purse as well as soap (though so far India has done better than China in providing soap in bathrooms). But all those things aside, it is growing on me. The food, the old lady in a sari smiling at you with her hands together saying, "Namaste," which means hello in Hindi, the fact that he let us crash his daughter's wedding (see below), the bright colors, the liveliness and the craziness are all things that you just start to embrace.
Our host mother Mamta took me and another volunteer, named Hannah who's from England, to get henna, or mehndi, done on our hands. Apparently the girl who did it is well known in these parts, though I swear she was only 15. She was our neighbor, which was convenient and only charged 50 rupees a hand (front and back). So basically all this for a dollar:
And she was quick too. We were both done in an hour. Several Indian women have asked where I got it done and complimented it, so I assume it must be good. Or they're just being polite and it really looks like caca:p
On Thursday, the couple from England and I joined 2 Australian girl volunteers with a driver to take us to several Delhi sites for the day. First we went to the Lotus Temple, which is a nice quiet respite from India's activity. It's a Baha'i temple and inside you have to be completely silent. Next we visited Humayun's Tomb, which was nice, though after the Taj it wasn't breathtaking. Though it apparently is pre-Taj, and is the gift of a woman for her dead husband whom she obviously loved a lot. So in the same vein, an impressive monument of love like the Taj <3 We made a trip to an indoor crafts market called Delhi Haat, where I bought a Punjabi suit and a cool hanging lantern for a small candle. Our driver took us to a really expensive restaurant (by expensive I mean same prices as back home), which was good but annoying cause it's like he had some deal with the owners to bring traffic to their restaurant - it's in a nowhere location, so otherwise they'd never get business. Lastly, our driver took us to Qutab Minar which has a big tower, and lots of cool ruins. We took some fun photos there as the sun was starting to set and made for good shots.
I moved to a new host house with Isabel on Thursday night. We're staying with the volunteer coordinators now and working in the (wee hours of the) mornings at a nearby orphanage, then at a new slum school for 3 hours and then in the late afternoons at the orphanage again helping with homework and such. One of the kids in the orphanage has a bone deformity and can't walk, so either he scoots himself along or I pick him up. He's a cutie. There were 4 other girl volunteers here when we came, though all but one is done with their placement and are leaving. Before they left, we heard all this music nearby, so we decided to explore. It was from a big wedding, thus and so we basically just crashed the wedding The guard let us in to have a look. People were offering us drinks and food and asked us if we were enjoying ourselves. After about 20 minutes, the bride's father approached us with an entourage looking pretty stern. We were pretty sure he would kick us out, but when we explained we were volunteers living here and just wanting to see an Indian wedding, he softened and offered us food and let us dance! People were staring at us a lot though and I felt a little weird being there, though it was interesting to see all the pretty saris and sparkles for some women, and then jeans for some men, and how the bride and groom just sat and took photos the entire time we were there with everyone and their dog. We also heard music from a house nearby with tons of lights up that seemed to be celebrating a wedding as well. We kind of hovered outside the house, and these old ladies saw us and let us in the front courtyard. They did some dances and songs for us with their hands in a blanket. Then they made obscene gestures at us, as I am guessing the song was about the wedding night? It was like walking into an alter-universe and rather entertaining. I'm quite sure these old ladies were d-r-u-n-k. Good times in Faridabad. And then walking home in the dark we were followed by some punk group of maybe 12 year old boys. One of them was smoking, one slapped this girl Mylie's butt, and one threw a rock that hit my back. Luckily they didn't follow us the whole way. Hooligans!
This weekend, I have the house to myself as the others took weekend trips. I did some volunteering Saturday (they have school on Saturdays!!!) and then had a nice afternoon of trying [bthreading [/b](yes, it does hurt, but not as bad as waxing) and a pedicure (they were commenting on my see through skin and veins in Hindi...hmmm) at the local salon both for about $5.50 USD total, and finally trying some interesting Indian flavors of ice cream.
Today, Sunday, I ventured into Delhi on my own. This was quite the journey, involving my host dad calling a rickshaw to pick me up and take me to the nearest metro about 20 minutes away. Then after about 2 hours, switching metro lines a mere 3 times, and some 19 year old kid starting a conversation with me about how he hates his country and dreams of moving to NYC, I finally reached this modern Hindu temple called Akshardham. The security there was stricter than any TSA screening I've ever encountered: You can basically bring only money, passport, water, and yourself inside. You have to check everything else in the cloakroom. There were 3 different bag checks, they checked everyone's cell phones (they're very careful b/c the temple was attacked in 2002 by terrorists), and they even patted me down in a ladies only line...but the woman got a bit handy...They also had 2 different metal detectors. After entering this fortress, I was not allowed to take any pictures, so you'll have to check out the website on your own. It was a nice reflective trip for me. The temple is over-the-top ornate, the grounds are impeccable, and there is a nice garden with thought-provoking quotes about God and the world. Otherwise, there are 3 attractions you pay for. The first is a boat ride like Pirates of the Caribbean only less cool, which tells about Vedic culture in India from the beginning. At the end of the boat ride, the narrator says, "Let us create a future world full of flowers...flowers of love, flowers of peace..." to give you some reference on what we're dealing with here. The second show was an animatronics show that told about the history of India or something, though I skipped this cause I didn't feel like going to Epcot Center circa 1988 again. Lastly, there's an IMAX movie about this Swami guy who traveled all over India barefoot for 7 years in the 1800's. Apparently, he came face to face with a lion in the Himalayas. Interesting, since there are no lions in the Himalayas. Anyway, I'm a sucker for IMAX movies so I was super stoked for this, only to be disappointed cause there were no English subtitles and there was a disproportionate amount of talking compared to the pretty scenery, plus this whole lion debacle. Either way, the temple was nice not having people fighting to take photos everywhere, so I was able to just walk and reflect.