29 November, 2011

Helpful Expectations

"For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
~Jeri Smith-Ready, Shade

"If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise."
~Robert Fritz

Sometimes I like to go up to the roof of the hostel for some fresh air, and just look. At night, I see the stars, and I recognize the constellation Orien's Belt that I learned many years ago from Star Lab in Elementary School. Halfway around the world in India, I still see the same stars, it's just that I see them from a different vantage point. No matter where you are in the world, you can look up at the same sky and see the same stars, and no one argues whether they are stars or not, there aren't battles over who the stars belong to. And it makes me wonder, how many things is the world convinced are different when we're looking at the same thing from a different spot on the globe? How many problems could be solved and peace reached if people took the time to understand each other, maybe realize they're just calling a star a star in another language, rather than waging war on each other over ignorance and misunderstandings and ill founded hatred. The more I get to know the people and the culture here, the more I realize, no matter where you go, people are always people. And once you learn more about the culture, and understand the people, the more you realize you have more in common than you might think. It can be frustrating encountering the numerous problems that arise in this process of understanding, but the reward is so valuable it's worth all of the language barriers and cultural differences that must be worked through to get there. Seeing a different part of the world has made me more openminded, more ready to accept new ideas, more willing to give people that are different from me a chance.

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
~Maya Angelou

Last week I went to Shilpa Ramam with a friend for help with bargain shopping. It is necessary to bargain on everything in the open market, but you can get great deals on some beautiful items, cheaper than in the malls. Bargaining in a place like this is an art form. Plus they see a foreigner and they hike up their prices, so good to go with someone who knows the market. Handmade goods abound, such as clothing, shoes, jewelry, woodcarvings, artwork, and stoles.

I also got Henna/Mehindi done, which is quite beautiful.

 Henna at Shilpa Ramam. Henna is like a temporary tattoo that is applied freehand in a paste. It lasts for about a week, and is a brown color. Brides will apply henna to hands and feet for weddings, or it's applied just for fun.

After the paste dries (be very careful not to smear the henna), within a few hours it will start to flake off. Then you can start scratching the rest of the excess off, and underneath the design will be a stain on your skin. The longer you leave the paste on, the darker the color when you scrape it off. 

Handmade and dyed kurtie and Henna 

Hindi me, ye harlem pants hai. (In Hindi, this is Harlem Pants) 

Eating some sort of mithai (sweet), I don't remember the name. First you squeeze out all the juice, then you eat it whole.

Below I have compiled a helpful list of things that I believe make living here easier when they are an expectation rather than a surprise.

What to Expect:
1. Expect that, as a foreigner, you will not look Indian, therefore, you will never, no matter how long you live here or adopt the clothing or the language, be treated as a native.

2. Expect to draw stares and attention wherever you go, most people are very curious to see a foreigner, or "videshi" as it's called in Hindi. More people will remember you than you will them.

3. Expect that you should always have lots of small bills on you, unless you are shopping in a mall, it's hard to get change when paying for things such as autos, parking, and street food.

4. Expect to constantly face language barriers, both verbal accent and slang as well as nonverbal body language, this is one of the reasons I have tried to learn as much Hindi as I can while living here. Even Indians face language barriers fairly frequently because of how many different tongues are spoken in the country, and each state has its own native language. In Hyderabad, and in India, there is no one language that every person speaks. The most common three in Andhra Pradesh are Telugu, English, and Hindi. The new cook in my hostel, unlike the previous who spoke Hindi, speaks only Telugu, no English or Hindi. At least before I could speak a minimal amount of Hindi to get my point across about what food I wanted, but now I can hardly communicate at all, I only know a few words in Telugu, so I mostly resort to hand signals and yes and no responses. Many other people living at the hostel that don't speak Telugu, who only speak English and Hindi or others, are having the same problem with communication. The other night one guy was attempting to speak to the cook in Hindi, she was responding in Telugu, and they kept getting louder and louder, neither of them able to get their point across, and I just had to laugh.

5. Expect to face insane traffic any time of the day or night. Take extreme caution walking on the side of the road and especially crossing streets. Crossing streets is more like "weaving" streets around traffic.

6. Expect to walk past garbage on the side of the road frequently, and expect the smell of the air to be polluted. Expect roads to be bumpy and the sides unmaintained.

7. Expect that sometimes you will find genuine people that are perfect strangers to help you out in case of communication problems, as well as people trying to rob tourists blind (such as auto drivers).

8. Expect to need to prod people often to remind them to do things. It's not annoying here, it's necessary. A day is like a week, and a week like a month.

9. Expect to feel very homesick at times, it's natural during an extended stay in a foreign country, surrounded by unfamiliar territory.

10. Expect stomach upset upon arrival when adjusting to new climate conditions and food, or if you eat something that doesn't agree with you. Always drink bottled water.

11. Expect to wear pants in 100 degree F weather.

12. Expect paperwork to be a hassle and never go smoothly, and to get a different answer depending on who you talk to.

13. Expect to see beggars on the street whenever you go outside.

14. Expect to see a juxtaposition of very rich and very poor right next to each other.

15. Expect to see wild dogs roaming the streets constantly. They're fairly harmless and inactive during the day, but just be careful around them, especially at night. I often also see cows and chickens near garbage sites.

And now, as I have begun listening to Christmas music (being post-Thanksgiving I immediately started up the holiday tunes), I'm looking forward to the holidays, to be being with friends and family. Yet I am also sad to be leaving India, leaving my home of the past 2 and a half months, leaving wonderful people and the chaos of Hyderabad, just as I'm really getting the hang of things here. I think that going to another place, observing a new culture, and meeting new people makes you reevaluate your own culture, your own home, your own beliefs. It makes you more open minded, more understanding, and I'm not really sure if I will fully realize how I've changed as a person until I go home and am surrounded by familiarity once again.

"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."
~Edward Everett Hale

"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."
~Tallulah Bankhead

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."
~Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul


  1. Shruti Mantri29 November, 2011

    It's always nice to read your blog. Their is something to learn all the time. And I so agree with the fact that no matter where you go, people are always people. All of us are first HUMAN BEINGS; before any religion, culture, traditions or the language that we hold.

  2. I believe, the mithai you ate is Rasgulla. Isn't it?

  3. Nice blog lot of information.

  4. Really interesting a great idea to scrrible your thought on blog journey, i have read one article ill surely make time to go through others anyway wish u good carrer in usa. Regards-http://www.onlinedada.com

  5. You must have had a wonderful time in exploring Hyderabad, the city is also famous for its cuisines. Also, check some of the romantic places in the city to celebrate this year Valentines day in Hyderabad.

  6. interestingly interesting post. i really admire.

  7. I really didn’t know all these things before which you

    have informed us through your best writing.

    designers in Hyderabad

  8. Nice Post.Thanks for Sharing this in your blog.Book your tickets for Hyderabad in Patel Travels