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3 posts from October 2011

10/20/2011

"No way to avoid being one with India"

This was on a billboard today that we drove past in a rickshaw in Secunderabad, and it could not have come at a better time. India played England today in cricket at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Uppal, and I had secured tickets for myself and ten friends. The tickets had been purchased online for 15oo Rs. and the printout said “tickets to be picked up at venue ticket counter.” Any normal person would assume that means the ticket counter is actually at the venue. False. In India, the venue ticket counter can be as many as 20 km away from the actual venue. We discovered this when our attempts to enter the stadium were thwarted by angry policemen, despite the valiant efforts of a new friend and his wife to get us into the stadium. We then bought NEW 500 Rs. tickets because we assumed the old ones had simply been resold (this IS India, after all), but a mob sort of formed at our gate for those seats around the time that Miriam got a call saying the tickets were at the counter in Secunderabad, and would we come pick them up?

So after an hour long taxi ride to get to the stadium, Dane, Miriam, and I took another 30 minute rickshaw ride to get the tickets. We returned to the stadium, tickets in hand, slightly concerned about being a little over an hour late. We needn’t have worried. There were like a bajillion overs, and the India team was batting on the field from 2:30pm until nearly 7pm. Dhoni himself took up quite a substantial portion of that time. He is #7, and the one kneeling in the picture below.

Cameras were prohibited in the stadium, but phones are not. So everyone who had phones that were made post 1999 (aka not us) was just using those. I managed to successfully sneak it in by hiding the battery on a different part of my body, and then claiming I didn’t have it. This was actually a huge accomplishment – we went through probably 4 security checks including pat-downs to get into the stadium, and they confiscated my water and my Lay’s potato chips, but let me keep my orange. So all the pictures I took are slightly covert (hence the sort of poor shots). In any case, here are some pictures of the game:

These guys were HILARIOUS – they danced every time something happened, and often with the moves from the new movie Bodyguard. They are quite a bit smaller than Salman Khan, though :)

The game was incredible, though. We had so much fun, and I am so supremely happy that I got to see a cricket match while I was here, and especially an international one! Thanks friends from home for making me watch the World Cup last year – I sort of knew what was going on, and I was familiar with some of the players’ names, which was cool :) The game, once we got there, was great. And I am glad it went so long :) I feel like I got the full experience that way – cricket isn’t cricket unless you’re there for 6 hours. Also, they played “Lollipop” at one point. I love India. And we won :)

ALSO parents arrive in an hour and a half!!!!! I am so excited! Little do they know, I am going to the airport to surprise them, so hopefully they’re happy to see me! SO HAPPY!!!!!

10/12/2011

The Goa Experience!

Hey Team! I’m back! Goa was amazing, and this should hopefully be a fun post because Goa was so crazy! I am going to start with a couple pictures…

The Portuguese colonized Goa, and left very late, so the influence is still very obvious, especially architecturally. There are many villas with Portuguese names, and churches EVERYWHERE! It’s beautiful, and reminded me a lot of Miami – being by the beach, with gorgeous Western architecture.

The bus ride to Goa was an overnight trip, about 13 hours. We left Hyderabad about 30 minutes behind schedule, and we made some friends here and on the bus who helped us figure out how to do everything. The guy I sat next to on the way there talked to me for a long time about politics in India before I fell asleep, and helped us negotiate cab fare once we got to Goa so that we’d pay more of the Indian price.

We took a cab straight to the beach because our hotel wasn’t open for check-in yet. We stood on the beach for a couple minutes, and then went to lunch. This is what we saw on the beach. The fact that I captured a picture without ANYONE in their tightey-whities is a miracle. In India, women swim in their sarees and other clothes, and men swim in their tiny underwear. Swimsuits are unheard of, even though they are for sale all along the beach. I’m guessing tourists buy them. Goa has like a zillion tourists, but we went in the off season, so it was a little quieter.

We went for lunch, to the hotel, and then back to the beach. The hike to the hotel, though, was a HIKE. We had all our stuff, and it turned out the cab driver had dropped us at the other end of the beach, so we walked a couple of kilometers with our bags, sweat dripping off of us, and we got lost in the back roads leading to our hotel. About 45 minutes later, we arrived at the hotel. Val, Jess, and Karen checked in while I hid out back – we hadn’t told them I’d be there. This is the road behind our hotel, with the girls walking:

Finally, they came to rescue me, and we went up to the room. It was BEAUTIFUL and clean and huge, and had 4 beds. We put our stuff down and headed out again. Before the beach though, we went to grab a late lunch. This place, Eclipse Bar and Grill, was our lunch spot of choice all 5 days we were there.

Onion rings, chicken sandwiches, and fruity drinks – DELICIOUS! The moped in the back belongs to some of our other friends in Goa who rented it while they were there to get around. I wouldn’t have dared to do it – driving in India is NOT something we mess with :)

The beach that we found, and subsequently returned to every day, was mostly empty, and we only had to deal with the occasional passing stare. We took some pictures that night of the beach (and us).

I may or may not be the one in the tie dye. This picture also brings me to my next point. Men in Goa are the most aggressive that I have encountered. Constant catcalling on the street, and countless covert and not so covert photos taken of us. I’ve already made it clear in previous posts that I am tired of feeling like an animal in a zoo, and tired of feeling like a stranger here (especially in Hyderabad – although a girl in class from India yesterday said that everyone in India feels like a stranger because there is so much diversity everywhere. I thought that was interesting).

Anyway, a staring Indian man (or pack of them) was a constant fixture this weekend. Sometimes people asked to take our pictures – sometimes they didn’t. When they did ask, I said no. When they didn’t ask, and I noticed them do it, all hell broke loose. One man kept returning to take pictures on his phone after I had asked him to go away, and finally, I stood up and yelled at him on the beach in front of everyone. All the people around, Indian and tourist, came up to say they thought that I should keep doing that, and they told Jess, Val, and Karen that they were lucky to have such a fierce bodyguard :) But seriously – what is so different about us? We wore swimsuits, but usually had either shorts or a t-shirt on as well. We stayed pretty conservatively dressed, so it was frustrating that there isn’t anything we can do to blend in a little more.

That night, as we were walking to dinner, a couple of guys walked up to us and introduced themselves, asking where we were from. We started talking to them, and finally we made a group decision to go to the nearby restaurant so we could eat and the guys would join us for a drink. We sat there for about two hours just talking and eating our seafood pasta. They were really cool and we talked about everything from the Beatles to politics. They asked where they could watch the rugby world cup, and we told them about our favorite lunch spot that had it on. Matt, Ben, and Joe (good English names) were great company, and we exchanged numbers to maybe meet up again.

The next day, Jess and I woke up and decided it would be a good idea to go parasailing. 800 Rupees and an argument later (after some vendors that Jess had befriended helped us find the best deal), we had a slip of paper in our hands, and were told to come back in one hour. We waited, and then walked back, turning down picture requests right and left. After elbowing our way into the line in true Indian form, we were ushered onto a boat and given a life jacket. We were on this first boat, just sitting in the Indian Ocean, unsure of the next step. After about 20 minutes, another boat came, and we switched places with the passengers on that boat. We sat for another half hour while the crew ate their lunch, and then we started getting ready to parasail! The woman next to me had been in Mauritius before and said it was a lot of fun, so Jess and I harnessed up. Here’s the result:

So this, friends, is parasailing! It was awesome. I am so happy I got to do it. Flying over the water in the Indian Ocean attached to a parachute is a pretty once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I took full advantage of my short air time. Looking out over the shore was really cool, and once I stopped screaming, I really got to look around. Basically, they put you in a harness, attach you to some ropes, and then a mechanical thing starts and slowly lets you out over the water. There were probably a dozen boats out, and it was definitely the best $16 I spent in Goa.

After the beach, we met up with the Englishmen again for a really late dinner (around 9:30pm) and then we ended up going to a sports bar and chatting until 4 in the morning. One of the reasons I love India, and particularly Goa, is that it is full of people from all over the world. Everyone has a different story, and these three guys all went to college together, had just graduated, and were touring India together for 6 weeks. Matt had been sick most of the trip so far, Pete met a German girl he liked the week before Goa (who Matt called the Happy Dinosaur because of her size), and Joe was subtly hilarious. It is so much fun to be able to meet new people everywhere we go, and these three have definitely made the list of favorites so far. Pete and Joe are going into the military in Britain, and Matt is going on to find a job as an engineer. We also met a Swedish girl who couldn’t stay because she was going to meet some Australians she had just met. In the market earlier that day, as Jess was making another impulse purchase, I heard someone behind me say “que piensas?” (“what do you think” in Spanish). I turned around and had a nice conversation in Spanish with two girls from Mexico City. In India. I love meeting people from all over, and I think that’s why I like languages so much. The more you know, the more you can talk to people. And how cool is it to come home with new friends not just in India, but all over the world?

Val and Karen left the next day, to the dismay of the many beach vendors we had met and bought things from. Ankle bracelets, toe rings, manicures with diamond studs (only in India do you get a great manicure, except they forget to cut your nails first), necklaces, earrings… Everything under the sun. Jess makes friends with vendors, but also gets the best prices, so she is really fun just to watch in action. On the last day, the boys who Jess had bought earrings and necklaces from and who had hooked us up with a discount on the parasailing, gave Jess a whole box of earrings because they liked her so much. What a party, yeah?

 

Our last morning, all we wanted to do was sit on the beach. So that’s what we did. Goa was BEAUTIFUL, and I highly recommend parasailing :)

10/05/2011

Go... Go... Go... Goa!

Hey team! The almost-not-sick Zoe is back in action, and way more cheerful.

I am leaving for Goa tomorrow night, and I am pumped! I've basically been in bed for the better part of a week, recovering from the mystery flu that took me over. All things considered, being sick is the worst, BUT I spent the whole time thanking God that he gave me the flu, and not something that makes me throw up. Touch wood.

I am still pretty sniffly, and I'm coughing a lot (my poor roommate hasn't complained, and has been very sympathetic, especially considering I have probably robbed her of several hours of sleep over the last week). Besides my health, I have a few more updates.

The first is that it's Dusshera! I haven't yet received a good explanation of what it is, but my Hindi teacher Bhavani told us that people take the day off work and dedicate all their tools of work (a carpenter his hammers, nails, etc.) to a deity. Apparently it used to be for Ram, but now it's sort of celebrated willy-nilly. In Gujarat, it's called Navratri and is somehow connected with garba and raas and dandiya (obviously still fuzzy on this one). Apparently there is a puja at Northwestern hosted by SASA on Dusshera - I will have to go next year when I am back home! In any case, it means no school tomorrow! This means that I have the day to rest and pack before going to Goa!

Secondly, GOAAAAAAAAA!!!!! So excited. Basically, I shall be laying on the beach for a week. People keep talking about the seafood, and maybe it's just me, but seafood in India makes me nervous. I might have to give it a try though :) I am going on the bus with Jess, Val, and Karen - it's like a 13 hour bus ride, or something, and it's overnight. It should be fun!

Thirdly, I watched the movie Hindi movie Dostana last night. It's set in Miami, and it was so good, but it made me pretty homesick - it was all the places I've been when I was growing up in South Beach. It was hilarious. I might have to buy it before I go - I borrowed Jess's to watch it. I need to find a movie store in Hyderabad so I can go shopping before I go back to the US! Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na or Taare Zameen Par are fighting for next movie to be watched :)

Fourth, we talked about language in my politics class today. It made me sad to think about how people are so opposed to learning other languages. I understand that language and identity can be tied together, and that's a huge struggle in India. But learning Gujarati doesn't make one any less Marathi, and learning Telugu doesn't make one less of a Hindi-speaker. It's frustrating that so many opportunities can come through speaking several languages, and people are denying themselves and their children the right to learn about the world as other people talk about it. Learning Hindi has had a huge impact on my experience in India, and I am so happy I picked it. I'm also lucky that friends at home speak Hindi, and that I'll come back and be able to practice with the people around me!

I think that's it for now. Later, skaters. Next time, pictures from Goa!!!