Celia in India- Showering in the Dark, Scavengering Through the City, and Ice Cream Every Night. Oh and the Mall

July 25th

We were out all day today (ALL day, left Tagore [the international student dorm where I live] at 8am and came back at 6:45pm) and I ate dinner and was just taking off my clothes in the shower stall, looking forward to being CLEAN after a long day of constant drizzle and mud and dirt and another barefoot temple walk and sweat sweat sweat. And the power goes off. And I showered in the dark. Well, until halfway through conditioning my hair and then it came back on again! And then a few minutes later it went off again. And then a few seconds later it came back on again!

The power goes off here at least three a day, more like 6 or 7 some days. There is not enough electricity in India and supposedly they turn it off for a few hours at night to ration it (though it’s at an hour when I am NOT awake and have not noticed (the fan going off being the factor I would notice), but it just goes off by itself all the time. During class. While in the mall. In the shower.

Yesterday it went off while we were eating dinner at the mall. Yesterday was a long and capitalistic day. Our program coordinators took us shopping! They gave us each 3500 Rupees, 70 dollars, and took us to the mall. I’m not sure anyone has ever handed me money and taken me to the mall before. But I guess it IS my money after all since we paid a lot to be here… But we’ve been here for two weeks now, and they have given us time to be observing what everyone is wearing and then set us loose to buy our own clothes.

[NOTE: When I say “my program” I am not referring to EAP. I am not an EAP student while here, I am a CIEE student. CIEE is an independent study abroad organization that EAP outsources their Hyderabad students to, there are 7 of us from EAP in CIEE. Also, CIEE is awesome awesome awesome.]

The mall we went to is called Inorbit is pretty close to campus, ten fifteen minute drive (in our personal bus, 35 min in a rikshaw!). It looks just like any mall I’ve ever seen, in the US or South America. Three stories and with a food court and movie theater, some American shops (Puma, Nike etc) and some European (Marks and Spencer!), and lots of Indian stores. 70 dollars for clothes goes was enough for about 4 new outfits. We did not buy saris, which are hard to wear and not the popular clothing for our age, the Salwar Kameez (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salwar_kameez) is what’s up, leggings or loose pants with a long tunic-y shirt. And a scarf across the chest with the ends hanging down over the shoulders to the back. And there are PLENTY of cute variations at the mall. We don’t have to wear Indian clothes, but they suggest it because it’s respectful, more comfortable (YES) and we stand out less. But mostly it is respectful. The men here mostly don’t wear typical Indian clothing, they wear jeans and t-shirts. But you see very few women in jeans and t-shirts. And most of those that have jeans on then have the long tunic Indian shirt on over it.

After 3 hours of shopping (oh and we were accompanied by our peer tutors on the shopping expedition, they’d also given us a power point presentation on Indian clothing before we left for the mall), and they took us around the mall. Although Aimee accurately said “I’m not sure we really need help, we were American teen agers, set us loose in a mall I’m pretty sure we can figure out what to do…” But the peer tutors are fun and nice and we will be seeing them all semester. Anyways, after that we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant in the mall, next to the Chili’s. Buffet style, amazing food. (The more we eat out here, the more the dining hall that was so delicious the first night is becoming mediocre…) And in the middle of dinner, the power went out! It wasn’t out for more than 60 seconds, but I was glad I was sitting down in a restaurant and not in some crowded store.

And then… after dinner they took us to a Hindi movie! We even got vouchers for a free popcorn and drink! Which we redeemed at the intermission. Yes the intermission. It was a 2.5 hour movie. And when they said it was a Hindi movie, we didn’t realize that they meant a HINDI movie. 2.5 hours of Hindi. Well I don’t speak Hindi. But it was good anyways! The intermission helped so that we could sort out plot confusions with the peer tutors. And we could also get our popcorn and cokes. The popcorn had some interesting bright orange powdery cheesy stuff on it, but with the usual Indian flare, not really spicy, just with spices, ie lots of flavour. It was interesting. I think I’ll get the regular next time. And the coke, well soda is a lot better and a LOT less sweet outside the US. This stuff actually tasted like something, other than sugar that it. Sort of a vaguely molasses-y flavour.

But overall the movie was enjoyable and would have been actually really good if we had understood it! The only parts in English, were these funny lines that one of the main characters threw out every so often. He didn’t know how to speak English. He tells the other main character, Asam, “You will make one night stand with me tonight!” And the whole theater bursts out laughing. Only we had no idea what he MEANT to say, which would probably make it even funnier.

Then we piled back onto the bus, all our shopping bags already taken on board earlier before dinner, and headed home to Tagore. To awake 7 hours later and eat an early breakfast and head out on our Khojo!

A Khojo is a “search” and our wonderful Kate, our American coordinator working here, designed with the help of the great CIEE team, a fantastic, 9 hour scavenger hunt all around Hyderabad in order to familiarize ourselves with the transport and the city and to get used to asking twelve people for directions to the same thing…

We started by getting a lift to the Main Gate of campus (about a mile from Tagore) in the CIEE car, and then we hopped n a “Private auto” (AKA a tuk-tuk as they are known in Peru and Indonesia, and which are different here than the “shared autos” which look almost the same but are bigger and fit more people and have a set route like a bus).

We took the tuk tuk to the Ligampalli Train station and bought tickets to the Nampally station, each ticket was, 4 rupees each!! (7 US cents, for a 50 minute train ride…).

Sammi, me and Aimee, my Khojo team, plus Jenna who took the picture. We are on the train on our first leg of the adventure!

Oh yea and we are in groups of 4 and they gave us a transportation allowance and part of the challenge was to see which group could use the least amount of money, to try and not get ripped off by the auto drivers… -_- And we got snack bags and 100 rupees for a “surprise mission” later on.

So we made it to the other end of the line, and got off and had to fill out some questions on our form about trains in the station, and then turn our paper into the CIEE person waiting for us and get our next clue!

We headed off in another tuk tuk to a Bazaar. And spent far too long tromping around in the rain amongst small little shops. The clues led us all around looking for different specific shops: a beauty supply shop to inquire about the price of henna per kilo, a crystal and jewelry shop to ask where their crystals come from (china. The pearls are real and are from Hyderabad. HOW do they get pearls from a town three hours from the OCEAN?! [Edit: the pearls do indeed come from the ocean, Hyderabad is just famous for a historic pearl market where the pearls were sold.]), and we had to find out what a tiffin is (a breakfast food served by street vendors, costs 5 rupees each), and take a pictures of three different spices in a Masala (spice) shop.. and on and on.. we finally finished all those questions and tuk tuk-ed it to the next spot, a bakery, to inquire about typical sweets, then we went to the hotel where we were having lunch. Well they call restaurants hotels here (yea WHAT?!) so there were no beds, but good food!

Oh and we completed our “surprise mission” before lunch too. We had to use the 100 rupees to buy children’s toys, and we’ll save these for when we go and visit the children’s shelter in a few weeks. My group combined our 100 rupees and bought two dozen little squishy balls for 400, half are little globes and the other half have random western things on them, Spiderman, angry birds.

And then off for the last leg of the challenge, to find the state theater and take a picture in front of it, extra credit for finding out what was going on there that night) and then to make it to this temple up on a hill. The temple was magnificent. Reached by walking through a narrow steep alley of vendors selling loads of cheap plastic things, and little Ganesh statues. The temple was all marble, and up up up on the hill.

From there we could see the lake. The Lake divides the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, meaning that we were FAR from the University, all the way on the other side of the city!

We finally filled out the last few questions about the temple, turned out papers in and then waited for everyone to get there (we were not the first group, but at least we weren’t the last!) And then we took the bus to the lake and went on a short cruise out to this small little island just off shore, with the 2nd biggest Buddha statue in… the  whole of India I think? We looked at it. Then we went back to shore… It was cool to see it up close, but we didn’t spend much time there. And then we all fell asleep on the bus home… over an hour back to campus.

The Buddha statue in the middle of the lake. The lake seperates the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad.

We got back just in time for dinner, which we didn’t eat much of, not me at least as I’m still digesting lunch, but we always have to go to dinner at the very least for the ice cream. Every single day we get a small bowl of ice cream after dinner. One little scoop of vanilla and a small scoop of another flavour, which changes every day but there are only three, chocolate, mango and a butterscotch-esq one (which is the best, and which is very rare). Ice cream every day? I think that’s all I need in life. This place was meant for me…

Also, have you ever wondered what the difference is between a water buffalo and a cow? Well probably not, but we have been wondering a lot. And I finally wikipedia-ed it, and not only are they different species (as I hypothesized) they are actually in different genuses too. Not sure what all the physical characteristic differences are but I know that water buffalo are slightly smaller and have crazier curly horns. And they roam around campus in… packs? Herds. Herds of water buffalo.

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