Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Crossing the Street in an Indian City

... is not for the faint of heart.  And today, my friends, I learned that I am faint of heart.

The best way I can describe it is like a real-life version of Frogger.  I really wanted to record a video of my adventure, but I decided that would be putting my life at extra risk.  

You know how in the US, drivers generally try to stay around 4-6 feet away from pedestrians?  Well, here, it's not feet, it's inches.  And it's not 4-6, it's 0.  It's like they calculate exactly where they need to be to just barely not run you over.  So you better hope you don't trip or hesitate for a second.

Also, in the US, I always assumed that if I wasn't doing anything wrong, I could safely ignore people honking their horn.  So, suffice it to say, I ignored it pretty much all of the time.  Well, here, literally anything can happen at any time.  You can have people going the wrong way down the road, pulling U-turns in the middle of the "lane," cutting across boundaries, driving on the shoulder, jumping onto and off of buses, etc.  So horns are basically constantly blowing.  You just have to determine how close they are being blown to you.  And if it is close, you better see what's going on.

This also makes it very difficult if you are looking for something because you need to be so aware of your immediate surroundings.  In fact, I was looking for something during my walk tonight.  And I didn't find it.

"But aren't there crosswalks?" you ask.  Crosswalks?  Crosswalks?!  Oh, sweet child.  So naive.

But really, this is why I'm here: to experience.  And this is part of it.  If crossing the street was not an adventure, I would have had nothing to write about tonight.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

India Begins

I've been in Hyderabad for over a week now.  Even in that little span of time, the experience has been amazing.  I have been spending the bulk of my time in the office, but I did get to tour the city a bit.

My first observation upon arriving at the airport was this:

I don't know why, but I love this picture.  I think it's because it represents the dichotomy of cultures here.

My first day in the office, the majority of the engineers in my department stopped by my office to introduce themselves with a big smile.  I really wasn't expecting that.  I've never had that happen in any other job.  But I thought it was really nice.

I met up with a friend of a friend and quickly became friends with her family.  The first day I met them, they invited me to be a groomsman in the eldest daughter's wedding!

I've always liked Indian food - both at home and in restaurants.  But eating the food here is just a whole new experience.  The tastes are different and everyone eats with their hands.  I have to say I really enjoy it, even though I'm very much a novice.  I'm always a little worried that I'm getting too much food on my hands.  Or that somehow my technique is offensive to the others at the table and they don't want to say anything about it.

This latter concern actually arises in a number of situations.  I don't know if I should take my shoes off upon entering a home.  I don't know if I'm addressing people in the proper manner.  This list goes on and on.  The problem is that views on these things vary by age group, religion, and probably a bunch of other factors.

I went to one day of the Telugu assembly this past weekend.  Here is a photo of lunch:

The brothers were super friendly.  I got to meet so many, even many who didn't speak much English.

Now we come to autorickshaws.  These things are simultaneously great and crazy.  Here is what they look like:

They are basically mopeds with three wheels and an outer shell.  They have one bench seat in the back and one seat for the driver.  Today I saw one with 8 adults.  I am not joking.  Here is a short clip of my ride in one going the wrong way on the street.  Just when it looks like he is going to turn and go in the proper lane, he turns and then goes the wrong way down that lane too:

Well, there is a lot more to say about India so far, but I'll stop here for now.