Monday, June 28, 2010

Concerning Paani

Paani means water. Water has been a bit of an issue lately. Monsoon has started. It's not raining every day or anything. A few hours before the rain hits, we get a violet windstorm. That's interesting. Then the rain comes an drenches everything. Of course, this post is not really about monsoon.

It's about faucets. At this point, I'm pretty used to the electricity going out randomly. I'm used to one part of the house having power and not another. I'm used to one wall in my room having power and not another. I'm used to classes held in the dark. I am NOT used to the water deciding to go on strike in the middle of toothbrushing. I am NOT used to my bathwater being cloudy. I really don't know how I feel about this. My host father made a joke about it yesterday. Sort-of. He just said, regarding the water, Well, that's India.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Concerning Breakfast and Bargaining.

Bargaining starts first thing in the morning around here. When Aunti-ji rings the bell for breakfast, you have to put your game face on. She is a serious roti-pusher. That woman will have you eating 4 normal-sized helpings and then 2 full desserts. And she's so crafty at it. She will ask you the same question 4 or 5 times, hoping to catch you off guard and get you to agree to more food. She will make a deal with you: take half. Only half. She will pout and make silly faces. She will guilt you into eating her out of house and home.

She rather reminds me of the rickshaw drivers, actually. 150 rupees. Absolutely not! I NEVER pay that much to be driven across town (about 3 dollars). No more than 60. Okay, he says: 100 rupees. No, I say. Did you not hear me? I won't pay that high a cost. I could maybe go up to 70, but you're really pushing me here.

And so it goes until you end up somewhere in the middle. This is very similar to every meal in my house. Lunches are served at the institute where I take my classes and is self-serve, for which I am grateful.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A note on shopping.

Shopping stresses me out in the best of times. Now picture me, anxiety disorder and all, in a crowded (CROWDED) market filled with staring people speaking loudly in a foreign language all trying to get my attention and sell me their crap. Oh my. Can't. Handle. I tried buying clothes at 3 different markets before I gave up on the crazy haggle-bazaar and finally went to a fixed-price market with 7 other girls in my program, who were also all shopping. Less attention on me.

Shopping here is crazy. You just walk up to a dukkandar (shopkeeper), and he will immediately start unfolding stuff and laying it all out in front of you. It can be intimidated. The colors are all very bright, for some reason I can't fathom, they really want me to wear pink, and they will really just keep pulling out stuff until you run away from them. It's intense. With the assistance of the other girls, I am now the proud owner of two custom-tailored suits, which I purchased (fabric and tailoring) for 1500 rupees, or about $30 total. One is dark turquoise with brushed gold embroidery, and the other is a lovely light green with tan embroidery. They are beautiful. Unfortunately, I can't really wear them yet, as the tailoring does not include this crazy belt-thing. For that, I must go back to the bazaar. Which really just means 'market.' Bummer.

A note about school.

It. Is. Hard. Seriously. Half of the teachers don't speak English. Almost at all. The orthography is totally foreign (no pun intended), but really, it isn't similar to anything I've done before. We are trying to learn reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the same time. This is not easy. The reading I can do pretty well, but the writing is very difficult. This is because there are 4 Ns, 4 Ds, 4 Ts, 4 Ps, 3 Ks, 2 Rs... And the list goes on. Many times each day, I hear "No, no, you are saying it 'K. It is not 'K.' It is 'K.'" Sure. That makes sense. The many duplicate sounds are particularly difficult for me. When I make an American T or D (alveolar), one of my teachers will tell me that I'm making it retroflex. Not exactly, Ravni-ji. You're correct in pointing out that I made an error, but allow me to explain HOW it was wrong....because you're not right.
Sigh. This same teacher took a class on English linguistics, but his IPA is a bit off. He asked me earlier in the week to explain to him how we make our Ts and Ds. Yeah. He has as much trouble with those as I have with this crazy Punjabi thing.

The worst class is Dictation. In this class, the teacher will read off a list of words, and we are supposed to spell them correctly. Riiiight. I don't think so. With so many duplicate sounds to choose from, how on earth can I possibly? If it's a word I already know, then my spelling is pretty good, but most of the time, it's words I've never heard before. I can really only tell the difference between the dental and retroflex stops by watching the mouth of the speaker. And between the aspirated and unaspirated of these same stops? Ha! Nothing but guessing, I swear. I'm not entirely convinced that it isn't a total waste of time. Maybe I'm meant to be learning how to tell the difference between the sounds, but so far, I just feel like a MR. F. Not to be confused with Mr. F, which is entirely different.

I like reading class. I can't understand most of what I read, and my brain keeps mixing languages and confused kona with iota...which is super fun. Otherwise, though, I'm quite good at the reading thing. Speaking makes me want to hyperventilate, but reading is almost like fun. Almost.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A note on the Bucket Bath.

So, in my house, there are 2 bedrooms let out to students, each with 2 inhabitants, and each with its own bathroom. One bedroom is small, but airy, with a shower. The other is large and sunny, and has what LOOKS like a shower. Guess which room I'm in?

I thought that we were just missing a shower curtain, but I soon learned that the shower head didn't work. Also, there isn't really a full wall, so it's clearly not a tub. So what could it be?

I started looking around, and as I did so, a picture began to form. In the bathing area was a plastic tub, a bucket, a pitcher, and a stool. Oh yeah. YOU put the pieces together.

Also, the temperature is the same no matter which faucet you turn on. There is also no predicting what the temperature will be. Sometimes it's quite warm. Sometimes it is almost cool. ALMOST. It is in general so hot in the bathroom that my shampoo is warm when it comes out of my pump bottle. I'm not sure yet if I like it. Right now, it kinda creeps me out.

Anyway, these are the joys of the bucket bath. Well, AND dodging the lizards that like to frolic in the bathroom.

A note on Electricity.

My posts from India may turn out to be a series of notes. Concerning electricity: around here, it seems to be pretty unpredictable. When I got to school this morning, it was out. It goes out regularly, but also randomly. Last night, when India Roommate was trying to do homework, it went out. Of course. The other night, in the middle of my bucket bath (separate posting), the lights went out. Sigh. They weren't kidding when they told us to bring flashlights. In fact, a transformer exploded while I was going by it the other day. No kidding.

The worst of it is when the AC goes out. Interestingly, there are 3 different power sources to the house, so it's likely that one part of my room will have electricity and another part will not. It took me a full week to figure out how to charge the battery on my computer AND time it properly with the electricity being on. I have also spent a few sleepless nights shvitzing away because the AC can't handle working at night. Luckily, though, monsoon seems to be upon us. Not sure what that'll do to the electricity, but it sure cuts the heat. It's amazing how much more comfortable the 90s are than the 110s. :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Note on Rickshaws.

The rickshaw is an interesting thing. It is a small, 3-wheeled, motorized vehicle with no doors, no windows exactly, and no seat belts. It has open sides and the steering wheel is more of a steering stick. It's about the size of a smart car, with one driver sitting on a bench in the front and three people (or more) on a bench in the back. It has a top speed of approximately 50 miles per hour.

This is how I get to school every day. Oh yeah. I'm living dangerously.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ever closer.

I'm in DC, and we've just finished our pre-departure orientation. We were reminded that if we were going to be blogging about our experiences, we should be sure to mention that THIS BLOG WILL EXPRESS MY PERSONAL VIEWS ONLY AND DOES NOT REFLECT ANY POSITIONS HELD BY THE US DEPARTMENT OF STATE OR THE CRITICAL LANGUAGE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM. That said, it was apparently tough going this year - only about 10% of applicants were accepted to the program. As you all know, I was an alternate. Either way, I'm here now, and am flying to India tomorrow afternoon. Well, first I'm flying to Chicago (horror of horrors), and THEN to India. We'll get there at 8:30p local time on Saturday, after a 15 hour flight. EEeeee! We'll stay in Delhi on Sunday and have more orientation. Monday (I think) we're bussing/flying to our respective cities, taking intake exams, etc. I think Wednesday we're moving in with our host families and starting classes. Not all of that has been explained yet, so we'll see.

My stomach ulcers are acting up again. Stress and all that. It'll be fine, though, right? I worry too much and I overthink everything. At least, that's what they all tell me. I'm suspending my cell phone service while I'm there. I'll have a local phone, but I'm not giving any of you the number because I don't want to pay international rates. I'm sure you don't, either.

Crazy Roommate has created a "Kalliope's in India" FB support group. Seriously. What a person.

I was planning on taking sleeping pills on the airplane, but know that I know we're getting there in the evening, that may be a bad idea. Hmmmm.

I am looking forward to my new, Indian wardrobe. That'll be fun, I think. The language learning will be intense, but I tend to do best when I'm pushed to my breaking point. Of course, I always hope it doesn't come to that, but it generally does. I will miss so many people. 10 weeks isn't a lifetime, though, and I'll be back soon enough. Contact will need to be through email, FB message, or you can post here. I'll be online, but not everyday, as India has an electricity shortage (rolling blackouts, etc). Just be patient about my speed in getting back to you. Pictures will be posted on FB, as I don't actually know how to post pics here. I'm sure I could figure it out if I gave it 5 minutes, but I just never have. Meh. Maybe I'll give it a go if I have nothing better to do.

Tomorrow it is, then. You may not hear from me for a few days, but I'm sure you'll not die of suspense. Wish me luck and pray for my continued sanity. ;)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On the way....

At the SLC airport waiting to board my flight to DC. Am having dinner with a sister tonight, orientating all day tomorrow, and flying to India on Friday. Blaaargh. I'm pretty anxious about the whole thing, and not so much in the good way. I mean, I'm excited, of course, but I'm also fairly terrified. I've never shied away from new people or strange places. I mean, I'm in Utah. Still, this is all-new, and all by myself. My flight is boarding, so I should probably sign off. But just so you all know, I'm on my way. :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Back for 2 short days.

I'm back in Utah, but only until early Wednesday morning. My flight to DC is at 6am, which I think is particularly cruel. I have a lot to do between now and then and haven't slept in a week. Of course.
Anyway, Germany was great - very European and picturesque. I visited Wetzlar, Marburg and Frankfurt. Spain was hot and typically Mediterranean. We had day trips to Rota, Cadiz, Granada, and Gibraltar. I'm posting photo albums on FB. Well, trying to, at any rate. An error keeps occurring, so I'll have to futz with that later on. I also have to redo my medical information form, as the a-hole who filled it out failed to mention one important detail: he was not actually qualified to fill it out. Awesome.
My niece is so stinkin cute! She smiles and giggles all day. I already miss her so much.
Also - I have a tan. How very unexpected. Four days in Spain and I've taken on a golden hue. Here's the thing: I do not tan. I burn. Boy, do I burn. If they gave awards for burn-ability, I would be right at the top of that list. I'm really not sure how it happened - I wore sunscreen, a hat, a scarf and sunglasses - seriously. Still, better than being a lobster, I suppose. Maybe I won't burn so badly when I get to India. Which will be Saturday. Yeesh!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So behind.

I can't even begin to catch up here. I've been in Europe for 1 week. I attended a conference on corpus linguistics, toured Wetzlar, Marburg, and took a sunset boat tour down the Rhine. I searched in vain for tacky memorabilia. Now I'm in Spain. Yesterday I went to the gypsy market in Rota and bought several souvenirs and an embarrassing amount of garlic stuffed olives.
Today we are taking the ferry to Cadiz, where Roman ruins were recently discovered beneath the current city. I'm excited. Tomorrow we are going to tour Alhambra, Saturday we're driving down to Gibraltar, and then early Sunday morning, I fly home. EARLY Wednesday morning, I'm off to DC. Friday morning, I'm off to India. I will be in 4 different time zones within a week.
I haven't slept in a few days, which doesn't really help me appreciate all of the loveliness around me. I just sleep better when I have a schedule and my own space. Exhausting myself with sight-seeing doesn't seem to do the trick. Oh well. I'm enjoying what I'm getting to see in any case. I don't need sleep. Sleep is for the weak. Not really. I'd love to sleep. I'm just not very good at it.
On a sad, girly note, things were progressing so nicely with MR. F, and now I'm out of the country for 3 months. Boo. When I come back, he'll probably be dating Bland. If you don't watch Arrested Development, these two jokes are lost on you. Quelle dommage.