Monday, July 31, 2006

More Pictures

I had a slight issue with the computer giving me some attitude, so the pictures are out of order. But you're all intelligent people - I know you'll be able to figure it out!

This took forever.....

Finally figured out how to connect my camera to the computer, so here you go. First off, the famous uniform. Sorry it's such a bad picture, but the power was out at the time...Speaking of school, I am currently taking Hindi lessons twice a week, dance classes three times a week (on a random note, everybody here says "thrice" instead of "three times", I feel like I'm in Victorian England or something), art classes with 6th-8th graders twice a week (should be fun), and history lessons twice a week as well. Also I can go down to the library whenever the other classes get too boring. They basically let me do anything I want. School is finally looking up! Ok, next we have the lovely toilet that I thought was worth a picture, just so you all get a feel for what I'm talking about. To the right is the "personal shower". Now for the family. I couldn't get a picture of all of them - they're quite camera-shy - but I did manage to get one of Seema (my host mom), Ba (which means grandmother), and Rutvik, who is my Peter substitute for the year. He's doing a good job of it, too. There's also a picture of my favorite room in the house - the little movie theater where we go at least three times a week to lounge in air-conditioned comfort and watch Bollywood movies. The last picture is the view from outside the house. There. Now you all can stop bugging me.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Colleen Has Finally Learned How to Title Her Posts

So I'm pretty sure that it has rained more in the last 5 minutes here than it does in a year in Yakima. I like rain, but this stuff is best enjoyed inside. It's not so appealing when the streets are flooded with muddy brown water and you have to ride around on a motorbike with raindrops stinging your face. I prefer a more mellow Seattle rain.
Hm, not too much to report here...can it be that I'm already getting used to life in India? School is improving. I've started dance classes, Hindi lessons, and Indian history lessons. (I never thought I'd willingly submit to a history class ever again, but these past few weeks have been full of surprises.) I learned a Rajasthani folk dance today! It's all about this woman whose husband has just returned from war and she's primping herself for his arrival. We mime putting on earrings and the dot on the forehead. However, whenever I'm tired or something, my host dad is surprisingly willing to let me skip a day. He agrees with me that school is the worst part of the exchange, bless his heart.
Oh! I forgot to mention that Surat is hosting the 3rd annual Asian Gymnastics Championship, starting tomorrow! It's quite a big deal for this (relatively) small Indian city, and our teachers have been encouraging us to skip (or "bunk" as they call it) school to watch. I'm looking forward to it.
For those of you with Netflix - I highly recommend a movie called Sarkar. It's like the Bollywood version of the Godfather, starring The Indian Actor. His name is Amitabh Bachchan, or something like that, but people around here call him "Big B". I find this much easier to say.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A word on Indian toilets. This is not the nicest or most appetizing topic, but when you consider how important toilets are to our daily lives, it is something that must be addressed. There are 3 main types of Indian toilets:
1) The squatter (some of you travelers may know of these, for those of you who don't, it's basically a little trough in the ground). I am still profoundly terrified of these, and haven't attempted to use one yet.
2) The normal toilet, with a "personal shower" hose thing in lieu of toilet paper. This is what can be found in my house, and I didn't realize how lucky I was until I was faced with:
3) The toilet with no shower, no toilet paper, but instead a little water tap low down on the wall with a grubby cup underneath it. You work it out.
I have not seen a square of toilet paper since the Mumbai airport bathroom.
Enough of that. I had another bizarre encounter with the club president a couple of days ago. It went something like this:
Him: So how are you liking India?
Me: I like it a lot! I'm having a lot of fun.
Him (sagely): Yes, it always gets better after the first week.
Me (uncertainly): Well, yes, but I've been doing well since I got here.
Him (persistently): The first week is always the hardest. Things will be better for you from now on.
Am I breaking some unwritten law that says exchange students are not allowed to have fun until the second week of their exchange?
School boring as usual. I have not heard a word about the alleged Hindi, dance and music classes that I'm supposed to start soon. I had to introduce myself to the class and was immediately requested to sing a song in English. I obliged them with a terribly off-key, octave-jumping version of the Star-Spangled Banner. Indian girls sure are giggly.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

So I met the president of the local Rotary was kind of an unsettling experience. First off we talk about how he was an exchange student to NY back in the day, and then he starts on the question that EVERYBODY asks me, "How are you liking India?" (the second one is, without fail, "How are you liking the food?" Gujaratis are very particular about their food). I tell him I'm having a great time, and he says comfortingly, "The first week is always the hardest, I know." To which I reply "No, I'm really enjoying myself here!" He looks at me wisely, then says, "Don't worry, things will get better after this week." Okay. Apparently I should be crying my eyes out on his shoulder at this point.
Anyway. Started school....sooooo boring. For those of you who don't know, Indian students have to make a choice in 11th grade whether they want to go into Science or Commerce. Science is Chemistry, Physics, Bio, the works. It's the harder of the 2. Commerce on the other hand is Economics, Accounting, Business Studies, Statistics, Computer Programming. That's it. I got put in commerce. Elective classes are few and far between - all they get is "Games", which is 40 minutes which we spend playing an Indian version of duck duck goose. Being approximately a foot taller than all the girls (and most of the boys), I did well at this game. Unlike most Indian schools, my school (Essar) gets out at 2:35 - normally it's noon for other schools. And I have each class 2 times a day. I've mostly been sleeping, except for the afternoon, when it's so hot and humid that sitting upright seems preferable to laying my head down on my sticky arm. But they said that tomorrow or the next day I can start some interesting classes, like Hindi lessons, India music and dance...yay.
I have to wear a uniform as well. The best way I can describe it is to say that I look like a milkmaid. A very unattractive milkmaid, wearing a tie.

Friday, July 14, 2006

correction. I don't live in an apartment - the ENTIRE BUILDING is their house. Wow.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I made it! After the longest day of my lifetime and a harrowing drive from Bombay to Surat (Indian driving consists mainly of swerving around madly in the streets - which have no lanes marked - honking at everything that moves), I have been installed in my room in an incredibly posh apartment. Life is family's great, they're a jolly bunch. Pooja (the sister I'm rooming with) is really sweet and everyone's friendly in general. I have seen so much new, unfamiliar, amazing stuff today that I'm kind of at a loss to describe it all. I saw my first holy cow! Also a camel. The highways are lined with cheery signs such as "Speeding thrills but kills". I start gujarati lessons tomorrow! It's incredibly hot and sticky here. There is so much poverty. People like to stare at me. The food is amazing, and I'm being fed a seemingly endless amount. I'm totally messed up as far as time. The toilets........well lets just say that apparently toilet paper is a new phenomenon still regarded with suspicion by the general population. Well I'm a little dazed right now, so I'll write more later. I love you all!
Oh yeah...I changed my settings so that (I think) anybody can comment, not just other bloggers. Somebody give it a try and let me know if it works.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

ok, so the rotary people are officially toying with me. 1st I was leaving on the 18th, then they changed it to the 4th. So I had to fast-forward all my plans and I was doing all my last-minute preparations when they informed me today that - just kidding! - I'm actually leaving on the 11th. Goodness. I was so ready to go, too. Oh, well. So (unless they decide it would be cute to change it again) I will be leaving in 10, not 3 days.