Carrie, or as the others here know her as, Sarah left on Saturday and I’ve had to play the foreigner all by myself without her here. Since only a handful of people still read my blog, namely those who were here at one point I decided that I would write for them.

I just wanted to recount a Carrie moment. There are tin roofs on the places we are staying in here and there is always banging on the roof at night The first or second day Carrie says, “I can’t believe that people let their kids play on the roof at night.” Pause.

Honestly I thought that it was the dogs that roam around. If this were the Price is Right I would be the closest without going over. It was the monkeys that seem to be everywhere, and they are NOT cute. Yesterday one was trying to get into the water tank, I attempted to shoo it out and was going to throw something at it till one of the caretakers came along and in broken English told me that they are dangerous. Now I don’t feel so bad about the rubber bullets that someone was shooting at them last night.

I finally went into the gym yesterday, instead of kind of looking at it from the outside and what was the first thing I heard on my ipod, “What’s the big idea…!”

Also the post about the wedding as well as one from the Himalayas are waiting on the photos… I forgot my camera cord in Delhi.

I miss the trio!

Being over in India I find that I pay less attention to events in the US and more to events happening in the Middle East, Africa and of course India. Just like when I was in school in school in Belgium and we studied European history, or in Texas and I got my fill of Texas history, or in South America where, if I had actually attended class, I might have seen only Ecuadorian history taught. So is the situation here.

Right now with my dad in Nigeria I am nervous about the situation there, and not the availability of oil but the civil unrest. In the past 48 hours two sets of foreigners have been kidnapped. In the first set there were 10 and in the second 8 foreigners. There was even an article this past week about how oil companies are now factoring in the cost of ransom for their employees in the cost of oil production. Yes, they actually sell kidnap and ransom insurance for firms abroad. Am I the only one who finds this ridiculous? Is our thirst for oil so great that we quench it at the price of human trafficking and life?

I was happy that my dad will be here in exactly a week and obviously out of Nigeria. Unfortunately in the past three days there have been numerous bombings. There were eight in Bangalore (a 9th did not detonate), there were from the last report 17 seperate blasts in Ahmedabad a few hours ago. Why? It is projected that these bombings are in retaliation to the growth that these cities have experienced in the past few years. The bombings have been targeted at market places and much to my personal dismay at public transportation in each respective city. As if public transit in this country needs another hurdle to overcome in the form of fear of attack. Just about an hour ago a third was reported in Udapor.

One of the state reps here at LBS says that this is a pattern, that it is very likely that other large cities will be targeted as well. The transit systems as well as crowded places in Delhi, Mumbai and other large cities are under surveillance. The tricky aspect is that the blasts were low intensity and many were concealed on the back of bikes, or rather motorcycles which makes these bombs much harder to detect in a country where the majority of private transit occurs by way of two wheeler over car. The worst part was that in Ahmedabad the bombings followed the injured to the hospital and to add insult to injury 4 more bombs were detonated in the hospital. The number of deaths continues to rise, as does the possibility of reoccurance. Honestly I think that India can take a page from Israels book on disaster management and moreover preventative measures.

This makes my job of planning a trip for my dad and I very difficult. Even the papers and news agencies can’t agree on the number killed or even the exact number of bombs. And here I thought that India would be safe and peaceful. I’m therefore up for suggestions for smaller cities to visit. Anyone?

I am back at Lal Badhur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, this time as a visiting scholar after only about three months of memos, numerous meetings and a visit to the minister of personnel in Delhi. All this so that I can reside here uninterrupted and work for a mere two weeks. This plan has turned out to be one even more flawed than many of the others I have had. When I mention where I am staying to governmental and higher ranking corporate officials I usually get something along the line of “WTF, how did you manage that?” Honestly I still don’t know.

This place reminds me of summer camp for big kids and has managed to bring me back mentally about 10 years. First of all the place is gorgeous and is a former hill station of Queen Victoria during British rule. The hotel she used to stay in has now been renovated and is used as administrative offices. In the main building there is an extensive library and the officers dining hall that I eat all meals. The dining hall has a beautiful chandelier that pulls the view in and makes the room feel spacious and yet very regal. If that were it I think that I would be able to write a novel while here. Unfortunately (and fortunately) they have extracurriculars that give the place the feel of summer camp. There is a gym down the hill and sports fields, but then there are horses at my disposal for riding. The movies that they screen after dinner are actually good and I now crave the masala popcorn I’ve started buying on the street in the town. Speaking of the town of Mussorie is quaint and looks like it is still trapped in the 1950’s with the little shops and winding roads that are not quite large enough for one lane of traffic in both directions. Luckily most of the road traffic here is pedestrian traffic and Carrie (who has become my favorite traveling buddy and has managed to overlap one of her weeks here with me) and I found that the walk is only about 2-3 km into the heart of town. The high is only 70ish and in the evenings is around 60F, which is why we went to town to buy up sweaters and other warm gear.

Oh and the rooms, I am in a guest house that looks like it used to be a hotel at the turn of the century. The rooms are oddly shaped but work with the mountain and landscapes. Down the hall are a group of people whose sole job is to wait on us staying here. There are maybe 10 rooms and at least 4-5 guys who bring anything I ask for. This is ridiculous, it makes me want to keep being a scholar worldwide. Maybe a PhD is in my future if this is what post graduate research looks like.

The only downside is that I spent the good deal of the first two days trying to get my internet to work. The IT guys who rotated coming to “help” had never used a mac in their life. Needless to say I got annoyed at them erasing all my settings and finally did what I should have done from the start, I fixed the problem myself. I still don’t have reliable internet and have to go to Carries room to use hers. This actually works out since her laptop died today and she has no use anymore for the Internet.
Overall, even with the Internet frustration I wish that I was here long term rather than Delhi.

I do have to say a huge Thank you to the government of India for sending me to summer camp on their dime!

In another life I worked for the liquor companies doing marketing and promos. In order to promote a product you had to try it, and with liquor that was hardly an arduous task. This was an incredibly fun job as can be imagined. When looking at and studying ‘developing mass transit systems’ the task of trying the product becomes substantially less fun.

Starting with day one in India I took taxis and within the first week was riding the rickshaws like I was trying to prove just how much I liked them. The hurdle for making the transition from micro to macro transit was far greater. The taxis and rickshaws are the low hanging fruit in transportation systems. Easy to master and very common; still public without the burden or cost of personal car (or bike) ownership.

The publication that pushed me to come to India was a report by a guy named Suman Kumar on cutting carbon across various sectors of developing countries. During my first meeting with him when I went to leave and hail a rickshaw he instead hailed one for me and gave the driver money and instructions in Hindi. Turns out that he told the driver to take me to the nearest metro station and I was instructed to take the Metro home. My thought was its 30 rupees that I may be saving but I am losing 30 minutes of work time. False assumption. The metro was similar to the one in Beijing and is clean, well lit, marked well and very fast. I think that I got back to where I was staying faster than if the driver had made one continuous journey. I was that kid at the swimming pool standing on the diving board but unable to jump, I just needed a strong push. I now work with Suman and he suggests public transit every time I ask where something is. Recently I tried moving from micro to macro public transit. I started riding the city bus on days that I work in central Delhi (there are no buses to the south office as it is in a different state as Delhi). The most amazing thing about riding the bus (besides the low price) is the response that I get from people I am friends with here but moreover from policy makers in the transportation sector.

When it comes up, which it usually does when I have to apologize and explain why I am late, there are a range of shocked responses I receive. Most commonly is the, ‘why would you want to do that’ to the ‘omg, I’ve never been on a bus, what’s it like.’ Fortunately the second response is usually not from policy makers, but the first is one that I commonly get.

Like working with liquor I don’t understand how someone can effectively set policy and talk about improving transportation in this country without actually experiencing the system and how it currently works. I commonly am crammed like sardines into non-AC buses that don’t seem like they would hold up till even the end of the route. Do I enjoy getting crammed into buses without AC and pushed up against a sea of people from which there emits a stench unlike anyone in the US can imagine? Not particularly. In fact I can come up with more reasons NOT to ride the buses then to ride them. The metro has managed to attract working professionals and is changing the face of transit. This however is a private firm building the system and the government is not part of this project. Nonetheless I feel that it is irresponsible for those who are in charge of implementing change in a system that they seem to be far removed from. I guess that is the driver in this project and the reason that I put up with the difficulties of living here. Nothing is easy in this country. Everyday is a struggle, but how will the system get better unless someone tackles it…eh?

Saturday 7/19/08 (the next couple of posts were written off-line)
Since the conference last week it has been an incredibly busy week of work, interviews, house guests and FOOD. Yes, the most amazing food that I have had almost since arriving.

This past Thursday after a very long week I got in to speak to the Delhi Metro who has taken on the task of building the public transit infrastructure in Delhi and has managed to do this both under budget and ahead of schedule. How you might ask…. because they are a private company and are not constrained by the red tape and bureaucratic inefficiencies that plague every action taken by the government here. Just as an anecdote, I had to get permission in Delhi from the minister of personnel to stay in the accommodations that I am now in. That is like going to the secretary of education in DC to get permission to stay at an academy located in say Oregon. They are on opposite sides of the country and the secretary in DC has no idea of the day to day functioning of this institution.

Anyway the folks at the Delhi Metro were nicer than I thought that they would be. They are very busy and if the placement of the office on the east side of Delhi in an area far from the road was any indication of their inclination for visitors I would not have come. Fortunately I was able to wave the magic CII flag and got in for what was only the second interview in two years. They warmed up quickly and it was a very pleasant interview.

I had to run from there and grab a rickshaw to the next meeting on the opposite side of town with one half of the only current working group on technology transfer (TT) in CDM based projects (barriers to the transfer of low carbon technologies) and he was willing to shoot the shit with me on speculative theories for the low TT rate that India has. Basically its all about the money….and IPRs (intellectual property rights).

Ran from there to see George Verghese, the former editor of the main paper in India and an expert on what seems like everything. The guy is in his 80s and more active than I am. He has had a front row seat for most of the major events that India has been through since its independence and gave me an amazingly historical view on how transportation has grown over the last 60 years (essentially how old the country is). His views were invaluable and was able to tell me what the city looked like in the years leading up to independence.

Exhausted and still wearing the now tattered salwar kamise I had been wearing all day I rushed over to the wedding I had been looking forward to since I heard about it a month before. It was being held at the Taj Palace Hotel and it didn’t really click that if the guests were all being put up at one of three 5 star hotels, the wedding was probably a fancy affair as well. I wish I had changed as soon as I walked in and realized that I had just walked into a five star Bollywood production of a wedding in which no expense was spared. (btw, word does not recognize the word Bollywood….I think that in subsequent versions of the program that will change)

I figured out that it was possible to get even more attention then we previously had received. Thursday and Friday of this week was a conference that I was looking forward to for quite some time. This forum was sponsored by the company I work with, CII and they sent me for free. Thursday morning I got up early to set out by 8am, since travel time in Delhi is quite extensive and the city is more spread out than many large US cities (minus highways that accelerate traffic flows in large US cities).

Stephanie usually goes out to run in the morning, so soon after she left we tried to open the door to drop the trash. For some reason though the door would not open. Figuring that it was just stuck we left it alone. When Stephanie came back from her run once again we could not open the door. It was only then that we realized that we were locked in our apartment. We called TERI, who manages the flat and their response was, well get a neighbor to help you. They see us as loony and think that we are absolutely crazy. I am sure that they think, ‘oy, those crazy white girls again’, and so they sweep al of our concerns under the rug till they usually blow up in their face. Finally about 30 min AFTER I was supposto have left they announced that they would send a locksmith….in about an hour. Good grief! At this point the three of us who were locked in the flat were getting restless but poor Steph was still locked out sweaty, thirsty and exhausted. We were able to open the window in the bathroom and through the cage covering the window and by attaching plastic bags to items used this mechanism to propel items over to her. The items that missed fell 4 stories and I think that seeing hands out the window throwing items got the attention of the neighbors to see the white girl freak show for that day. After about another 30-40 minutes we had decided that this was ridiculous and a neighbor found of a screwdriver that we used to unscrew the lock from inside the flat. One of the neighbors who we call all the time for help came up to help Steph out. After we took the lock off the two of them kicked the door in from the outside. So now we had a useless door, but at least we got out and I got going.

I had decided as a sign of respect, since my personal agenda for the conference was to hunt down the Minister of Environment and Forest, that I would dress in traditional grab and so I wore a sari. I already felt like a kid playing dress up. I was a little confused about how to wrap the sari so I started knocking on neighbors doors to get help….no one opened their door I wonder why.

When I got to the hotel where the conference was I asked a woman near the entrance if I had done the sari right. She lied, that is the last time that I ask some one at a 5 star hotel for their opinion because they tell you what they think you want to hear. Luckily the woman manning the bathroom who didn’t speak any English was much more helpful. While she was helping me fix the sari a few Indian girls who were in the bathroom said to me, “wow, you’re so brave to wear a sari” or “I’ve never worn one of those what’s it like?” Seriously??? When looking around I realized that I was one of only 2 woman wearing a sari in the entire conference. The other was around 60 years old. Where is your cultural background and tradition India? Throughout the day several woman came up to me and complimented my dress and asked where I was from and how long I had been here. Most were shocked when I told them that I had been here only two months. Just 2 months and you are already wearing a sari? I guess I beat the girls who had lived here their whole lives and had never worn one.

The conference was very economics based and the purpose was to act a platform to connect international investors with clean energy. Basically CEOs from some of the worlds biggest firms were there to announce that they are growing their renewable portfolios and the clean companies were there to pitch their companies. The talks were not in millions of dollars, but billions. Absurd amounts of money and figures were tossed around all day, it was slightly numbing.

There were also talks from calPERs, one of the largest pension funds who has changed their portfolio recently to reflect cleaner investments and as a separate fund manager stated, “when calPERs sneezes, everyone catches a cold” and that had certainly occurred. Some of this was exciting and yet on the same accord this rapid deployment of money into developing countries I thought was slightly irresponsible. It infuriated me that during one talk with some investors the subject of infrastructure was raised and the response from these firms working to put in clean energy was, “not my problem.” Really? In a country where you can combine the population of the US and EU and that is the number of people in India who have no access to electricity. Who do they see as their consumer base, those who already have electricity? Stabilizing the flows in the grid is a great thing to do but expansion in a sustainable fashion would be better.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the guy who was sitting next to me most of the day. This kid was a little twitchy and just plain odd in his reactions to what was going on. A little later in the conference during a Q&A session he got up to ask a question and I swear this is what he said, “hi, I’m 20 years old and I’ve just acquired a solar plant that is 20 years old.” At this point the audience was laughing and he went on to ask a question that would be considered naïve and gave the entire audience, one riddled with potentional future investors, information that was completely irrelevant and should not be given out with such ease. I later spoke to this kid and he told me that this was his second business that he has and that the first was in international films. I think that he was starting to crack because he was starting to get even kookier by the second day of the conference.

Every break during the conference had the adjective ‘networking’ added to it. Networking tea, networking lunch, networking cocktails, and networking co-ed jello wrestling. Ok so the last one was not on the official agenda but it seemed a little excessive to keep seeing it. This whole experience just reiterated my decision not to go to B-school. The networking cocktails was great and the whole open bar idea sounded really good till the second glass of wine when I realized that I was drunk, still sick with a decent fever, and expected to be able to speak in a somewhat intellectual fashion on world energy commodity economics. There is a good chance that I seemed a little off. The idea was to get other people to talk as long as possible to avoid answering questions.

Getting home was not uneventful and I almost got to add another notch to our running tally of rickshaw accidents that collectively we have been in as a flat. The driver took a way home that I did not recognize and at night with no real streetlights I had no idea where we were. It is really embarrassing not knowing where you live, it’s always a fun one to try and explain. Luckily I finally stumbled in the door, in one piece, with all belongings intact. That is how I now define a successful day.

So before I finish the Rajasthan story I must interject with yet another post, this one is about what we dubbed, “I love America day”. Alyssa, the roommate from NYC and Jenn, another Yale student who GASP, does not live with us (at one point we had 7 people living in three rooms) celebrated the now historic day with me. We decided that everything that we did had to do with America based on the fact that we were going to a 4th of July party at the embassy on the 5th. That alone would have made it America day but we decided to live it up.

We found a box of pancake mix in one of the little stores downstairs. The box of mix was obviously not from the US though because when we attempted to make the pancake batter we were stumped at the directions. How much milk is 350 mL? After making the batter we realized that the directions on the back were for only HALF the mix in the box. This was another indication that this was not a box from the US, because if it was the directions would assume that our fat asses would be eating the entire box, not this half business. I made both banana chocolate pancakes as well as mango pancakes. I wasn’t sure about the latter but I think that they were by far the better of the two (take note Kerby Lane).

I love America day also required a trip to the salon. I showed Alyssa and Jenn the best kept secret in Vasant Kunj (our hood) the salon that I found two weeks ago. We all got our nails did as well as the bowl of oil on the head scalp massages. Somehow I thought that it was ok to walk out of there with metallic maroon nails. I picked up some nail polish remover.

We were all excited about the 4th/5th of July party at the embassy so we did things we don’t normally do here, like wear nice clothes, or make-up or really anything that might make us the least bit attractive for that matter. Tonight though we would have the walls of the US embassy to shield us from the outside world…so we got a little crazy and dressed up.

Initially arriving at the embassy was a reverse culture shock. I had become so accustomed to interacting solely with Indians that I almost panicked. So much white skin, I can see why the Indians would stare and gawk so much, we were an odd looking bunch. We were asked to register in advance with our passport numbers, which I assumed was a safety precaution. Once inside I caught a glimpse of how diplomacy really works. We ran into another guy from Yale who is from Mauritius. He walked up to this US citizen only event and showed his Yale id, with which he was immediately let in, no questions asked. I doubt if my UT id would have garnered the same response.

In order to enter the embassy campus (it was HUGE, one of the largest embassies I have ever seen) we went through an initial screening and metal detector and then a second set of detectors. In the second my bag went through and the guy said to me “ummm, do you have a knife in here?” CRAP! I had completely forgotten that I was carrying a 7inch switchblade in my bag (I swear it was to cut fruit while traveling). At this point I thought, they are going to interrogate me, I just want to go in with my friends, etc. “you can confiscate the knife, I don’t care” I said. The security guard got his boss who said, “no problem, we’ll hold it for you till you get out.” Really? Were they serious? I guess they did catch the knife in the first place but that’s it?

Once in it was slightly surreal. The embassy has a baseball diamond as well as a lap pool and a clubhouse with a gym and bowling alley inside. I was also told that the American school is within the premises of the embassy campus. My International/American school in Belgium was nowhere near the embassy, this was so rad and defiantly convenient for the state dept folks who had kids in school.

The party was really cute and they had a bouncy castle for the kids and carnival esq games. As far as making my 4th of July wishes come true they had Carlsberg there promoting the launch of their beer in India and giving out FREE samples. I had a few samples and that was all I needed, my tolerance has obviously gone from very low, to that of a 12 year old trying alcohol for the first time, this is so awesome! Luckily they chose Muslims to cater the event because they had the first beef I have seen in India. I wanted to eat everything I saw. Although I really like Indian food, I didn’t realize that I missed American food as much as I have. The Marines were there selling beer, kind of like a quasi bake sale for them. I didn’t really get it since I am pretty sure that our government gives them a good sum of money and they don’t need to raise money at family BBQ to support themselves, its not like they will go out of business anytime soon. Also there was a booth getting Americans to register to vote from abroad. This is something that is totally new. Last two times that I lived abroad I don’t remember this, probably because when I lived in South America it was not a presidential election year and in Europe the internet had not reached the critical masses that it has today to make online voting possible or probable. Needless to say there were a plethora of Obama shirts being sported and it felt like being back at UT.

I guess I hadn’t realized how acclimated I had become to life here and to me potable water is such a valuable resource that I hate wasting it. While sitting and eating the light next to the table, such as one that might be used during an outdoors event in the US, blew and a light bulb exploded causing a small fire. Jevin, the other non-Yaleie grabbed my water to throw it on the fire. I immediately grabbed it from her and said, not with potable water. I grabbed it back from her figuring that there were other ways to put out a fire. Luckily someone came by and proved me right by grabbing their shoe and stomping it out. Honestly, I foresee water as the next crisis that the world will grapple with as soon as we settle into our changing roles in the energy sector. I am not crazy, promise. Just wait another 10 years as the few water resources we have continue to dissipate and we start to take water resource management seriously. India for example has serious water issues because they so heavily subsidize water that people here pay approximately one rupee for water, all the water that they can use. Some states that are infamously poor don’t pay anything, while still others evade the one rupee charge and just steal water. One rupee doesn’t even cover the cost of collecting payment. Its like oil, when it was cheap we used it without thought. Only when the cost rises is any attention paid to resource management and best practices. (end of rant)

There were of course fireworks, which were slightly anticlimactic. In the US they have usually a big finale. Here it was monotonous throughout the show and we were slightly puzzled as to whether it was the end of or not. Jenn randomly ran into a guy she went to Berkley with and they pulled us out on the dance floor. Being outside dancing in the middle of Delhi surrounded by a ton of both Americans and other foreign nationals was slightly surreal. This best part of the evening was meeting the other young expats I had no idea existed. I assumed that all the other expats were families. There is an amazing group I met all in their mid 20s to mid 30’s and the best part was I met not one but THREE other Texans One from Dallas, one from Beaumont and the third a girl also from Houston who just clicked. She is one of my new favorite people here. Claire is also here doing thesis work and we have parallel lives… I like it.

After having been here for about a month in Delhi I had yet to go out to the bars or clubs based on the horror stories I have heard. On a whim we decided to join all the new expats, most of whom had just met that night at the party to go out to keep dancing at a bar. Turns out that all the hot bars and clubs are located in the hotels and are absurdly expensive. A domestic Indian beer there is more than I spend on a weeks worth of groceries, and that was the low point on the drink menu. Obviously the prices of the drinks are set at a point where only a certain crowd is attracted and the rest are discouraged from frequenting such bars. Additionally, even though I was gross and had sweat it out for 5 hours at a picnic we skipped the line while there were Indians waiting to get in. That was probably the first and last time that I will get that type of treatment since I am not the anomaly in Austin I am here. Not going to lie though, I really like it and I can see why some of the people here stay for years, its tempting me as well.

I have the pleasure of reading countless documents at work, one of which were some UN stats that show what is already obvious by looking around. The huge disparity between men and women glares out at me with each set of stats that I read every single day, over and over. It amazes me that these women wake up at about 4 /5 in the morning, take care of the house and kids, cook and then many labor manually, often digging ditches in a sari in temperatures that I as a native Texan find more than sweltering. While the woman are out in the fields or the side of the road working harder than I have ever seen anyone work, I see the men sitting in cafes, shielded from the sun and sipping chai while they socialize. At the same time the latest UN stats report that women earn less than a third of what men make and to throw a little more salt in this wound, only 60% of females are educated, a figure that is far lower in rural areas.

On multiple occasions my supervising professor has made the comment that it is the woman in the world who do the real work. I would have to agree that unfortunately this seems to be the case. There was a forum in the 70s to discuss the growing population and to try and find a solution for overpopulation. The best and most simple response that came from this was the suggestion that educating woman would help to alleviate many of the problems faced by the developing world. As a former teacher in a developing country I have seen that this still has not come to fruition and that even when girls are sent to school, there is no support or encouragement given to them. They often fall behind and drop out at a young age to start families at 14 or 15 years, not realizing how close they were to helping to close the education gap and hence earning disparities.

One of my flat mates (Trisha) wrote a great post on her observations after being in the country for about two weeks on the topic. Her blog on gender disparity is posted below:

Riding in a car through the hills and plains of Rajasthan, I had a unique vantage point to observe rural Indian life. The vibrant green fields were filled with crops, palm trees, goats, and flashes of fuscia, neon orange, and the brightest yellows. These were the saris of the women of Rajasthan working the farms. On the roadside I saw women carrying enormous loads on their heads, loads that would have been hard work with a wheel barrel but was unbelievable with the tools they had—nothing but their hands, body, and a large piece of burlap overstuffed with grass clippings or string tying together sugarcane.

From the same vantage, I also observed many men. Most often, they were sitting around cafes or shops, chatting with one another and just hanging out.

I watched this over and over again for miles and miles. Women working, men lounging. Women working, men drinking tea. Men sitting in chairs, women squatting or sitting on the ground. And as I watched these scenes float past, my anger and frustration and resentment and pure sadness grew stronger and stronger.

It seems that if you are a woman born poor in India, you are born into slavery.

The injustice of this made my blood boil and engendered the most venomous thoughts towards North Indian men. It’s not just the inequality of daily work. It is so much more. Traveling here for two weeks has shown me some truly repulsive aspects of human character gone unchecked. It seems that men believe they are kings. Any river, fountain, waterfall, even just a running spigot in a city is an opportunity for men to strip down to their underwear (or less) and splash about and play and just appear to have a ball. And when white women walk by they do everything they can to get you to look over at them. Instead, we have to shuffle quickly onwards, eyes on anything but, and keep sweating in our clothes that must cover our legs and shoulders to keep out of the category of harlots. It is inconceivable to swim in any of the gorgeous and otherwise extremely tempting swimming holes. When women do bathe in the rivers, they remain fully dressed.

Men also feel it is their right to pee anywhere. Rarely do you see a wall on the side of the road that does not have a man watering it. I have spent some time wondering where women do their business, as public bathrooms are hard to come by.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of motorcycles, cars, and bicycles I’ve seen, I’ve seen three women on motorcycles, two on bikes, and two driving cars. But I’ve seen thousands riding sidesaddle on the back, never wearing a helmet and often carrying babies and children.

Men completely reserve the right to gape and gawk and yell out to any white woman walking or riding by.

I realized I was blind to a lot of it at first. Like smoking. I wondered why I would get such strange looks when I smoked because I saw many other Indians smoking. Once I had a “conversation” with a woman in my neighborhood (with her speaking only Hindi, and me only English) when she approached me and gestured towards my cigarette, questioning. I offered her one, wondering if that was what she was getting at. It wasn’t. She just seemed completely perplexed that I was smoking a cigarette. Yesterday, as I was inhaling a smoke, a man passed me and mockingly noted, “How macho.” I was confused as to whether it was my dorky “travel wear” but then realized it was the smoking. It was only then that it occurred to me that I had only seen men smoking and it was taboo for a female to partake in such a habit.

If that were the worst of it, then it could be passed off partially as bad manners and unfortunate work allocation. But then you hear the stories of female infanticide and the bride-burnings (and the skewed male-female ratios to prove it). And the massive dowries that must be paid to send your daughter off to work her ass off for her husband’s family. And girls who never go to school. And more double standards than standards themselves.

As this other world whirled past, I sat in the car fighting back tears first for the women who had such hard, unjust lives. Then I had a new surge of emotion for the women who fought to bring the rights that I enjoy in my own culture. I’ve felt appreciation for these amazing women before. But I don’t think it has ever continually brought tears to my eyes when I’ve thought of it. I want to build monuments in their honor. I want to kiss their feet. I want to thank them with every thing I have. Because here, I realize, that I owe everything to the people who came before me and changed so much of our culture to allow women to thrive. I see how life could be if I were born in the wrong country, in the wrong class, in the wrong gender, and it kills me.

My own culture has come a long way towards equality and allowing both genders to simply live their full humanity, and we still have a long way to go. But if you think that the women’s movement has won its major battles, just look around and you’ll find a billion or so women to show you how mistaken you are.
Posted by Trisha Shrum at 10:36 AM

PS- This was an intermission in the Raj post which will resume soon. I just wanted to post a few thoughts, both mine and those of the roommates.

Visual description of our little adventure a few days late:

Tuesday (June 24th) night we set out from Delhi at about 11pm and after our driver fell asleep at the wheel (I am still not sure why we are all still alive since he did that a few more times during the trip) Alex took the wheel and drove till about sunrise. It was neat seeing the scenery change as we drove from Delhi, which is a huge metropolis, to the deserts of Rajasthan. Around 6am we stopped the car and the driver slept some more before we got back on the road. Little did we know that this pulling over to stop randomly would become a habit. Also within 5 minutes of us getting in the car, our driver Jai pulls out a bottle of vodka and the case of beer in the back and says “lets party”. Ummmm, not while you’re driving Jai. This was probably the start of where our paths started to diverge.

It turns out though that he reads palms (in addition to his other professions that include tailor, musician, spiritual leader, aurviadeic, driver, etc) it was a little bizarre. He read my palm and was basically right. He said things that were so eriey that it was a little shocking and completely threw me off. After that no more palm reading, I didn’t want to know at what age I would die (ok, I cheated….I’m going to kick it till I’m 86, YES).

We stopped outside the city of Bickner and went into a Hindu temple. I use the word temple loosely, because this was more like the Hindu’s response to Disneyland. It looked like a weird version of space mountain from the outside or front, but if you looked at the back of the place it was where those who manned the area lived and the entire mountainous looking structure was actually a facade. The back was hallow and you could see the scaffolding.

You enter through this big Tigers mouth, but you have to leave your shoes there which makes this very uncomfortable if it is the middle of the day and you are walking on hot sharp rocks (I think that palm reading said that there would be another pedicure in my near future for my poor feet). Once into the temple(esque) area you see several other large cartoonish characters from traditional Hindu stories. The stories are really neat if you ever get a chance to hear some traditional Hindi stories. One of my favorites has a god who meets his son, but doesn’t know that it is his and ends up cutting off his head. When the mother of the child sees what happened she demands that he get the head of the first animal he sees to replace the one that he cut off. Needless to say the kid ends up with an elephant head.

There was a tunnel there as well that we crawled through as well that was reminiscent of a playground I used to go to.

After we got to Bickner. There really was not that much to say about the town. There was a large and beautiful fort, but it was so hot (def over 110F) that all we could think about was getting out of the heat. We did go to a Jain temple and it was beautiful. The Jain temples are known for the paintings inside and this one was no expection.

Below are pictures of the inside of the temple and the view from the top of the temple looking at the city, which really was quite quaint.

At lunch I saw a mouse jumping from table to table (somehow I was the only one who reacted to the rodent running around) and after I screamed a few times the guy who seemed to be running the joint came to shoo the mouse out. Alex and Sarah went to the rat temple later in the day, which I refused to go to. After the episode at lunch it seemed like a really bad idea. This is a temple dedicated to rats and they are not only allowed to live there, but they are fed and cared for. There are hundreds of rats running around and if a white one crosses your path it is auspicious….I took my chances and opted for a rodent free evening. In retrospect, after sarah and Alex came back with stars in their eyes gushing about the experience I almost wish that I had gone, but I don’t think that I am ready to face that fear yet.

The next day we set out early for Jaislamer. We decided, or rather the driver coerced us, into going to a small town that was more like 20 or so small mud huts a a handful of “desert resorts” about 40km outside Jaislamer called Kuri. When I say desert resort I am referring to a group of mud huts, each with a straw thatch roof, with no electricity and a small sink and squat pot in the center of all the huts. This proved to be the best part of the trip. This was where we did our mini camel safari. We set out just before sunset and rode to the sand dunes that were fairly close. The place is pretty close to the border of Pakistan and would explain all the air force bases we saw while driving.

The pictures don’t exactly capture how beautiful it was, but try to imagine. While on the camels on the way to the sand dunes we stopped at a watering hole where I fell in love with the kids who were filling up water bags loaded on the camel to take back to their village. None of the three kids filling bags could be older than 7 or 8 and yet I couldn’t at that age imagine not having water just come out of the tap. The villages did have electricity though, even if they didn’t have running water. India has the fourth largest wind farm in the world and throughout this area of India are a lot of the turbines.


We watched the sun set from the sand dunes and then went back to the resort for dinner outside (not that there was an inside). After which we loaded up a cart hooked to a camel and hulled beds out to the dunes to sleep.

The sky was better than any I had ever seen, but sadly there was no way that I could get a photo of it, ‘yammar’ as the dutch say. It was so cold sleeping in the middle of the desert that I was up way before sunrise. This was a mixed blessing as it was neat to see the sun rise, but miserable later in the day when I was walking around tired, hot and annoyed.

The pride and joy of Jaislmer is the fort that the entire town lives around and acts as the heart and lifeblood of this oddly placed town. Although this fort is what the entire town essentially thrives off of, it is on the list of the worlds most endangered historical sites and is crumbling due to overuse. Actually the problem is the old water system and pipes that were built hundreds of years ago and are still pumping water at ten times the rate it was set up for to those who still inhabit the oldest fort still inhabited. Needless to say we never made it in the fort or any other sites because our driver got huffy when we wouldn’t purchase an overpriced shit and stormed off saying that he would see us in the morning.

So we went through the small winding streets that more often than not looked like a zoo with the various animals running around to the old market. The cow was much more photogenic than the boars that run wild in the streets and the other unmentionable animals.

We did a fair amount of shopping and when we were done and trying to figure out how to get back to the hotel we were standing in the street when someone yelled out “your hotel is that way”. At first I thought, no way are they talking to us, or that they are probably trying to get us to go to their store. Nope, the creepy thing is during the low season everyone knows the handful of tourists in the town.

The next day we set off to Jodhpur, to what was my favorite and what I think was the most beautiful of the cities we went to.

*** The photos in their entirety have been uploaded to the picasa page

The last day of the Rajhasthan adventure and I would have to say that sarah and Alex’s blogs describe the trip better than I could. I was told that there wasn’t much in Jodhpur and that it was not worth the time visiting, so when do I listen to anyone? Of course I went and I would have to say that it is the most beautiful of the cities that we have visited here. The city is set up like an old european town (for obvious reasons) with a main street that is lively and busteling with merchats. There is a clock tower in the center of town and spice markets surrounding that area in every way that one could possibly wander. We stayed off a small street about 4 blocks from the clock tower and from the roof of the hostel, which both the drivers and Dutch girls followed us to. We scored a an awesome room with a balcony and for all three of us it was just 150 rupees (just over $3). There was no AC but Sarah and Alex have been dragging the mattresses up to the roof to sleep.

The thing about Jodhpur is that they have the most persistant beggars I have encountered thus far in India, and they cleaned me out like a trip to Vegas. At one point I wanted to buy a woman wirth a baby (probably not hers, they rent out babies to the beggers for the effect) lunch but Alex pulled me away and reminded me that I need to feed myself first with the last 100 rupees I had to my name.

I have grown to love Rajhasthan but I think that before I travel again in India I need to be almost done with the work here so that I don’t have it hanging over my head the whole time. I get back into Delhi at 6:30am Monday morning and have to be ready to catch my share taxi to work at 8:20am. This will be a mad rush to see if I can get to the office in time since if I miss the taxi I have no other way of going directly to the main office. Really, what was I thinking?

I promise I will upload pictures when I finally get back to Delhi where I might finally get clean for the first time in days.

so after a few days I have fallen behind on the blogging. Luckily I am traveling with alex and sarah who have been better at it than me. Sarah’s blog entry has a fairly accurate version of what the two of us have been through traveling through the western desert of india near the border of pakaistan as a western female. She is as great a story teller as she is a travel buddy. Unfortunatly the first two entries which were much longer both got erased so there are random snippets of moments.

Alex has been our saviour while here and gives a chronological and objective view of the trip thus far. His blog gives our geographical whereabouts and hence a visual of where we have been.

As for me the best part so far had to be the the tiny town of kuri on the edge (40km outside) of jalsaimer, which itself is a historical old fort. Kuri is where we stayed in what the sign outside called, “the best resort …yet”, i think that it was supposto be a compliment. This is the kind of resort without electricity in rooms, no real shower and one common sink…. it was perfect! For slightly more than we should have paid we got an amazing camel trek through the desert, we played in the sand dunes, ate amazing food outside and slept under some of the brightest stars I have ever seen.(pics to come)

Oh and we miss carrie who trekked back up north and is getting some of our absurd research legwork done. I want to say a huge thank you to for her for dealing with Ram and LBSNAA.

Every internet cafe has has sticky keys that sometimes work, more often not, and poor connections that crash often. This makes blogging difficult and frusterating. It will resume once again when i get back to Delhi.

Its a good thing that my friends are spontaneous, because I’m not. Spontaneity can sometimes be confused with stupidity, especially when locals tell you that it is way too hot be be going to the desert when it is 45 degrees C there. That being said, last night Alex and Sarah decided that we are going to Rajasthan which is a state in the western part of India. I wasn’t convinced till they said camels and camping in the desert. SOLD! Luckily the three birthright trips (nope, not a typo) I’ve been on now make me an expert at riding camels. Will be gone about a week, unless the heat kills me first.

And so begins the very expensive self abuse.

last night one of my flatmates celebrated her one year wedding anniversary….with four girls. Both her and her husband are Australian but are spending the next 2 years at Yale. They exchanged the obligatory paper gifts for the first anniversary and we got her the flowers and cake. We went to the nicest and most overpriced restaurant in Delhi which looked like paradise. It was right in the middle of Lodhi gardens which itself is surrounded by all the embassies and the area looks like it is straight out of the San Felipe section of Houston (all the H-towners just picture the area tucked away a few exits up from the galleria). It is easy to forget that you are in a city that smells of piss and cows get the right of way…not people. Steph, the bride, threw down for the wine, which in this country is so ridiculously expensive. A bottle starts at about 1500 rupees and from there really, there is no limit.

It was fun and since none of us will be celebrating a birthday while here we needed an excuse to celebrate something…anything would have done. I’ll be back in the Lodhi garden area again in about 2 weeks to celebrate the 4th of July at the US embassy.

The above pic is the only one of all five of us. It was taken after dinner when we went to these canopy beds/tables in the garden. In the pic below we made Steph pose and she is the one on the right in the white shirt, as well as a picture of the gardens.

(Note- some of the pictures require turning the computer to see the picture, I have no idea why they did that but I’ll take new ones soon.)

Below are long overdue pics of the three bedroom apartment that I share with four other girls. Five of us in three bedrooms. The fifth girl showed up at our door one of the first mornings I was here. I am glad that she did because she is the one who is least mature and therefore so much fun, she partakes in being silly with me. The four girls I live with are all doing their masters degrees at Yale, so they knew each other before the summer started. We are an international crowd indeed; 3 Americans (Kansas, NY and Texas), an Australian and a Mexican. We are a motley crew and the flat reflects this.

We are the only Westerners in this area of town, which is nice because the fruit and vegetable vendors don’t think to rip us off or quote obviously inflated prices for us based on the color of our skin like other areas of town that are known for having expats. Honestly if we ran a pricing system in the US where the price of food depended entirely on the color of your skin there would be uproar, but here it is somehow ok to charge foreigners double or triple the price.

So let me show you around the flat. There is the living room, and I love it because it is the only room with AC so I bask in the coolness for as long as possible.

The kitchen includes a few interesting contraptions. There is no stove but there is an above the counter gas range, not that we really cook all that much. It really is too hot to cook most of the time so about 75% of my meals consist of cereal and fruit. The lychees here are amazing as well as the mangos. On the wall of the kitchen are a series of switches and that is how we get water for the day. We flick a series of four switches on between 7:30am and 8am to fill up the tank that sits on the roof. If you forget to flick the switches or oversleep, then no water that day. We have a few friends who live in the kitchen as well. It is almost inevitable and we haven’t figured out how to get rid of them, so all food goes in the fridge, from the crackers and cereal to the fruit (which sometimes explodes if you leave it out…I have no idea how that happens but there was melon all over the kitchen this morning, literally everywhere).

There are two bathrooms in the flat. One is the traditional squat pot which you will have to turn the computer to see. It is literally a hole in the ground that you squat over and traditionally they don’t use toilet paper here. There is a small pitcher that you wash all the crucial parts with. The buckets in the background is how we wash clothes and how most Indians bathe. They call them bucket baths for obvious reasons and it uses a whole lot less water than a shower. If everyone in this country were to take 10-15 minute American type showers there would be serious water shortage issues. As is you can’t drink the water but at least it is clean enough to bathe with.

The second bathroom has a western toilet and I would give up AC any day to have it. It is probably the nicest part of the flat and I thank my lucky stars every time I get sick. It still has an Indian shower and no hot water but I don’t mind at all at this point.

My room is the only of the three bedrooms without AC although I have gotten used to it. It seems like a minimalists lifestyle and because I have no AC I have no need for a top sheet on the bed or a blanket, saves me from having to wash more stuff! It is the largest room so the clothes lines are in my room as well. Additionally the pile of bags are those that everyone I know in India who is traveling has left at my place. I have become a storage depot for those who are traveling.

There is only one internet connection for all five of us and it is in the dining room. The problem is that there is no AC in this room so after a short period of time it gets really hot from the computers and it really limits the time that you can spend online. We don’t really eat here, it is more a dumping ground for all of our stuff but the central room in the flat.

The complex is an upper middle class complex but doesn’t look it from the outside, the courtyard is a little … interesting but I really like it now

So after this past week I felt the need to treat myself to a lazy spa day. I haven’t seen much in the way of salons so I asked a co-worker for recommendations. She told me that close to my house (two enclaves over) there was an “aunty” who had a place in her house. I just wanted a manicure, pedicure and massage, easy enough.

Saturday morning I made an “appointment” which really doesn’t exist here and was totally unnecessary. Apparently everyone else just calls up and says that they are coming but most of the clientèle gets home visits (which they do here at no extra cost). Upon arrival I found myself in a converted room of this woman’s house and she had not one but five girls all kind of huddled together obviously waiting for me. The girls were rather young, maybe 17-20 max. They didn’t really speak English and waited for instructions from the ‘aunty.’ It was rather unnerving to have essentially 6 people at my beck and call. The Mani and pedi were great but I had them thread my eyebrows (like waxing but they use a piece of string to do the same thing). Needless to say I really didn’t have a say in anything that they did and my first reaction was, “where the hell did my eyebrows go”! I was assured that they had to go… still not sure how I feel about it; I have now small thin arches.

The massage was more pain than pleasure and was incredibly awkward. There were three girls who took turns and involved moving around a lot since I was on a small cot with nothing covering me. I wanted them to do my head and pressure points for a headache but something was lost in translation. I was given my clothes and told to sit in the chair. The girls working on me kept saying, “Oil, yes”. What I got was essentially a head massage with a little bonus; they poured an entire bowl of oil on my head. I was told when the aunty came back that all the girls here do it (the oil on the scalp that is). I don’t know if she noticed that I am blonde and all the other girls had course dark hair. Either way I’m up for trying almost anything once, although I think that I prefer my conditioner to the oil. I had to leave there oil and cream soaked, but I for see myself going back even with everything taken into account.

All in all for everything the cost was 330 rupees (just under $8, which is less than I pay for a mani back home). I think that I will make this a habit, especially since they do house calls I can work while I get my nails ‘did’, how sweet is that!