The India Archive [4]

In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun. On a bi-weekly-Monday basis I will share my trip here.

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Like I said last time, I don’t want this to be a boring day-by-day retelling. Instead of talking about school or stray dogs or waterfalls (coming soon!) I’m going to list a few things that I learned while in India/tips to survive your trip to India!

  1. Pack intelligently…
    I. This tip covers two subtopics. First of all, India is a modest county. Saris show off a woman’s stomach, but that’s not a sensual part of the body there. It’s important to cover you chest area and your legs. Leggings + kurtas (or tunics) are the way to go. Similar to the American rule, cover your butt & front- tight clothes are uncomfortable and inappropriate. **
    II. Pack inexpensive items that you can leave in India. This trip has ruined me. Now when I pack for trips I think, ‘Oh, my suitcase will be much lighter when I come back because I’ll just leave XYZ there!’ That’s not really normal… Before we left we were able to donate belonging that we didn’t need. (Gently used, of course.) I donated multiple clothing items, a pillow, and tennis shoes. Since we were a part of a study abroad program we were also able to leave sunscreen & bug spray behind for the next set of students that needed it.
    ** I am 100% Ms. Feminist-hear-me-roar but when you’re in another country and you’re the only Caucasian (woman) for miles and miles it’s fairly important to blend in as best you can and wear the clothing of the country.

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    Alicia is so cute & colorful in her kurta
  2. Take your medicine/Get your shots…
    You have to be up to date on all your shots when traveling to India, but you’ll also need to bring malaria medication. You can take pills or get a shot- but both have potential downsides so pick the less of two evils. (I am not a doctor, this is my personal assessment.) I’ve heard that the shot can potentially give you night terrors, but I believe that’s a one time thing. The twice-daily pill made me SUPER sick to my stomach. In the mornings I had to take it with food and at night I took it RIGHT before falling asleep.
  3. Utilize a scarf…
    A scarf will save your life. I bought mine on day one and wore it every. single. day. You can protect your nose & mouth from smells and dust. You can cover up in religious temples. You can shield yourself from the sun. Seriously- invest in a good scarf.

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    This brown scarf was my best friend
  4. Watch what you eat…
    Honestly, chances are your body will hate what you put in it once or twice. “Delhi Belly” is a real thing, guys. I will skip the gross repercussions and go right to the rules I followed. No ice. No unfiltered water. (Check the seal of your water bottles!) No fruit with an edible exterior (e.g. apples, cherries, grapes). No raw veggies. I know that sounds tough, but in India you eat a lot of rice & sauces & naan. Which is all safe. Essentially you want to avoid things that were washed in unfiltered water. Also, I mostly avoided meat while I was there. Of course, there were moments I broke these rules (like at the Subway in the mall). Just be smart.

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    The typical Indian meal (red = hot, yellow = safe)
  5. Learn the cultural norms…
    Obviously you can’t learn everything… but here are some American oddities/Indian norms to get you started:
    – To shake your head “yes” you tilt it side to side (ear to shoulder movement). When they do it quickly it looks like our version of “no”, but it’s not. A tilt to the side is a shortened version of this movement & still means “yes.”
    – For the most part, this culture doesn’t like to say “no.” If you ask an auto rickshaw driver if he knows where your desired destination is and he says yes (or more likely tilts his head “yes”) then it’s not a guarantee he knows…
    – Haggle for everything. Don’t be afraid to walk away if the price is too high. The price will always be too high at first.
    – People will probably stare at you. Don’t stare back.
    Obviously I’m generalizing. This is just based on my experience.

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    Alex, me, Elizabeth, & Amanda crammed into an auto rickshaw

That’s my best India advice! Next I will recap specific adventures we took. More about that in two weeks, though!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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The India Archive [3]

In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun. On a bi-weekly-Monday basis I will share my trip here.

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Our first “night” in Bangalore was one of my lowest lows. I’m not proud of my attitude or my mind set, but that’s culture shock for ya. Anyway, as I mentioned, it got better. A huge aid to the initial shock was the company I kept while I was across the world. There were 6 of us from my university and another 10 students from all over the United States. We also had two teachers (both from my school) and a study abroad advisor from Maryland who was checking out the program.

Alicia, Kinsey, and Sydney were my Ohio-native roommates and my main travel companions. Our fifth roommate was a lovely girl from Tennessee named Elizabeth. There were only two guys in our group of 16, but I think everyone got along really well. In addition to Ohio, there were students from Texas, California, New York, N. Caroline and more. Honestly, our group of 16 was a great mix and I felt comfortable adventuring with any and all of them.

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My roommate & travel buddy, Kinsey (OH)

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Alex (NY) & Blair (TN)

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Dr. Capuzza & Dr. Lyons (OH)

Our first full day in Bangalore was a whirlwind. I won’t bore you with an hour by hour retelling of my trip, but we covered a lot of ground in a little bit of time. Visitors that stay longer than 3 weeks are required to get a visa in India so we spent time at the photo shop to get the right photo and then at the police station to get our visa approved. It was a little scary- no visa means you go back on a plane and travel another +36 hours back to where you came from. Fortunately, with a little “bribing” (I’m not kidding… it’s pretty customary), it all went smoothly.

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At the college (Christ University) we had a nice little welcome ceremony, took a tour, and were given our schedules for the term. I was signed up for Intercultural Communication (the class I needed for graduation) and yoga. I feel a teensy tiny bit of pride that I studied yoga while in India 🙂

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The entrance to our little area of class

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Entrance to our building on campus

We also went shopping for some groceries and clothing. Students from the university acted as our guides. I’d brought things from the US that I thought would be appropriate, but I purchased three tops and a scarf (THANK GOODNESS- I’ll explain why later) while we were shopping. During our time abroad a few girls purchased Saris, but it was impractical for me to get one.

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Breakfast on Day 1 from the cafeteria

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School courtyard

So we settled in and found some comfort foods (spaghetti! pb&j! cereal!) and got some clothes and used the school computers to email and check our Facebooks. Around this time we decided that we could probably survive for 4 weeks.

Did you miss part 1 and part 2? Be sure to check them out!

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The India Archive [2]

In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun. On a bi-weekly-Monday basis I will share my trip here.

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If you missed it, last time I talked about the 36 hours of travel to reach Bangalore, India…

When we landed at the airport & met the rest of the group we learned that we had a two hour bus ride to the hotel. It was evening in Bangalore & it made total sense to sleep on the bus. But I couldn’t sleep.. and so began my first taste of culture shock.

Just being in a moving vehicle on an Indian roadway was enough to shock my American system. On top of that, the streets and sidewalks are littered with other cars, buses, trucks,motorcycle, auto-rickshaws, cows, goats, camels, dogs, people, and carts. It’s incredible.

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I remember the first stray dog I saw. He was sitting near our bus at the airport. I saw another as we drove out of the lot. I was so shocked (and horrified). I had no idea those two would be the first of hundreds.

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He’s just sleeping, I promise.

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We reached the National Games Village very late in the night. When the trip had been presented to us we were told we’d be staying in a gated community. Well… technically it was gated and had walls… but the gates weren’t shut and we could move in and out of the apartment complex just like everyone else could. Also, one of the biggest slums in Bangalore was adjacent to our complex. Like I said, it was an adventure…

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Alicia opening the outer gate of our apartment.

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Door to our apartment.

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(When we booked the trip we had the option to live on campus or in the NGV apartments. The campus living arrangement wasn’t any more luxurious AND they locked the gates at 10pm every night. So if we weren’t home, we were on our own for the night. That did NOT sound appealing. Every student on the trip opted for the NGV apartments. It was a 2 mile walk from campus.)

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View of apartments across the way.

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This family lived outside the gates, below our balcony.

Our apartment was a nice size. It had three bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a kitchen, dining room, living room, and two balconies. Five girls lived in this apartment (4 from my university, one from TN). I’ll talk more about my travelmates next time.

The apartment didn’t have a/c (hahahaha) but it did have fans. We could leave the windows and doors open because there were bars on them. Of course, mosquitoes and malaria were real things, so we had to be wary of that. But we all had our pills and shots.

Our first night was rough. We were totally freaked out because we were expecting…. more. We didn’t sleep at all that night. We didn’t even try. We contemplated booking a hotel. We talked about going home. I cried. I don’t want to look weak or whiny, but we were very uncomfortable at first. Fortunately, it got a little better.

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ICYMI: Part 1

The India Archive [1]

In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun. On a bi-weekly-Monday basis I will share my trip here.

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The four-week study abroad program I applied to was presented to me/us in an “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of way. In reality, we saw a lot more “Slumdog Millionaire” action. Honestly, the two movies that sum up the real India are “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Million Dollar Arm.” All of that to say Bangalore is a real city in a real foreign country and it was real culture shock.

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I am so glad that I traveled to Bangalore, but I really wish I would have had the right knowledge to mentally prepare; I think it would’ve made a world of difference. But what’s done is done.

My mom encouraged me to study abroad in my final year of school, but I believe she had a westernized European county in mind. When I came home with India brochures my parents’ jaws dropped and it took a little convincing to get them to agree. K was also a little wary, but like I said on Friday, he was nothing but supportive.

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They even got me a cake!

There were 6 girls that signed up for the program from my university. Additionally, there were 10 other students from the US that met up with us at our layover in Hong Kong or in Bangalore. (Plus 3 American adults on the trip.) The flights from Pittsburgh to NY to Hong Kong were fairly uneventful (and loooong) but our trip from Hong Kong to Bangalore scared the living sh*t out of me. I’m still a little nervous when it comes to flying.

Never in my life has a plane shook so hard or dropped altitude so fast. Even the flight attendants had fear in their voices. One of my travelmates was across the aisle and two rows behind me and I swear we just locked eyes and knew we were going to die in the damn Bay of Bengal. Everyone else on the plane (read: Asian business men and women) were peacefully sleeping. It was so surreal.

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Obviously we were fine and landed in Bangalore after roughly 36 hours of travel. #dead

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** If you fly in from the right direction in HK it looks like you’re landing in the ocean! **

So that’s enough for now. I could go on for hours; it was seriously the biggest adventure of my life!

More India craziness in two weeks!

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