Saturday, August 11, 2012

I would like to buy a hamburger.

So, I’ve come to realize that updating my blog every day is an extremely unrealistic goal… no matter how much I enjoy it.  I’ll do it as often as I can, but at least once a week.
Want to know another unrealistic goal?  Learning Hindi. 
In assembly on Wednesday and Friday, we practiced singing the Indian national anthem in preparation for Independence Day on the 15th.  On Wednesday, before we sang it through for the first time, we just worked on basic pronunciation.  Basic, my butt.  I found it impossible to repeat the lines after they were read to me.  My tongue was tripping over itself as it tried to tie together the various syllables, skipping some sounds altogether that just could not be reproduced.  Imagine trying to say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” backwards.  Three times.  While rubbing your tummy and patting your head.  If you can do that, then maybe you’re superhuman enough to sing this:
A friend posted this video on Facebook a few days ago, and it perfectly demonstrates the frustration I feel when trying to say just about anything in Hindi:
Cracks me up every time, especially his expression at 1:14.  Although, I think their time would have been better spent on another phrase… you can always just point at the menu item :)  I bought a veggie burger last night, with fries and a milkshake.  Sabrina, Melanie, Chris, and I ate dinner at Rokeby… a super-nice restaurant that, surprisingly, wasn’t super-expensive.  We met at the front gate of the school before getting a taxi up.  It’s not a very far walk, but it was really monsoony. 
And, as suggested by myriad scary movies, rain brings the creepers out of hiding.
When I was walking to the gate (about a 20-minute trip), a car with four men inside pulled up beside me and offered to give me a ride.  I thought it was a nice gesture, but also a sketchy one, so I politely declined.  They drove off, only to pull over further down the road and make the same offer.  I gave the same response and continued to walk up ahead of them.  A few seconds later, the car swerved in front of me and completely cut me off. They had given up on the ride; now they were offering me a cigarette.  This back-and-forth, drive-a-little-then-stop-and-pester pattern continued for a while. 
“It’s okay, we aren’t bad boys!”
That made me laugh. 
“You are quick, you are very smart not to ride with us.” (?!)
That made me scared.
Then, one of the guys physically got out of the car and walked beside me while the car followed us.  At first I was nervous, but then I realized that his head didn’t even reach my shoulders; my umbrella fit comfortably over his.  I could totally push him over the guard rail if adequately provoked.  Plus, I didn’t know what his ultimate goal was… sleep with the white girl, or just get under her skin?  I tried to remain civilly distant. 
“Where are you from?”
“The U.S.”
“Oh, so Paris?  London?”
So he was either really dumb, or really drunk.
“What hotel are you staying at?”
“I live here.”
Confused look.
So he wasn’t a local.
When I finally got to the front gate, the car pulled over a bit further down the road.  I told Sabrina what was happening and she told the school guard.  (Apparently, there have been issues on that main road with female staff members before; when walking home after dark, the guards will accompany you if they are asked.)  The guard took care of business.  I watched him jump into action and run over to the car in seemingly slow motion, like an Indian Terminator.  The theme song to Rocky was playing in my head.  (FYI:  I have never seen either of those two movies.  The references could make absolutely no sense.)  Point is:  he’s my hero, because they drove away.  He reported back and confirmed both of my suspicions.  They were drinking, and therefore dumb.  The driving here is insane even for the sober.
I wasn’t until later that I thought about how a similar scenario would play out in the United States.  We would take down the license plate number and arrest that shit!  Things are different here.
Things like ordering food, for example.
On Friday night, I realized I didn’t have any food in my house.  Being unable to just hop in the car and pick up some ingredients at Wal-Mart, I was forced to order takeout.  I had a few takeout menus from orientation and was going to go with good ol’ pizza, but then I remembered a second problem:
No refrigerator/freezer.
That morning, I had woken up to a soggy peas and spoiled soy milk.  I knew if I ordered a whole pizza, I was either going to be wasteful or sick to my stomach.  So instead, I decided to go the soup/salad route.  Crisp veggies sounded fantastic, but the place I was ordering from had a 250 rupee minimum requirement for delivery, unless I wanted an extra 50 rupees tacked on to a lesser order.  I figured that a salad, sweet corn soup, and garlic naan would come to 270 rupees.  Expensive, but perfect for my needs.
Then came the arduous task of calling in the order.  Again, for those of you who don’t know me well, I absolutely hate talking on the phone.  I inevitably can’t hear what the other person is saying, I miss facial cues, and I just find it to be an all-around awkward experience.  The first time I tried calling, I got a whole lot of static.  I got through the second time, but the static was still there.  I gave him my name, my house name (not an actual address), and my order.  He repeated it back to me and, though it was really difficult to hear, I heard the names of the three main items.  Then he was gone… no order total, no estimated delivery time.
Then I played the waiting game.
Food came about an hour later, which was not beyond my expectations.  What was beyond my expectations was the price: 465 rupees!  (still only $8-9, but to put it into perspective, this is about what it costs to eat lunch at school for an entire month.) I looked at the receipt and saw that I had supposedly called in 3 orders of sweet corn soup.  At first I figured that I’d just save some for lunch the next day.  But, oh wait, I didn’t have a refrigerator.
So I ate a lot of soup.
The soup was just okay.  The “salad” was a bowl full of dressing.  The naan tasted stale.  Last night’s dinner was so much better, for so much less.
But why do all of my blog posts inevitably turn to the topic of food?  Le sigh…
Here was the real highlight of my weekend:

Lainey is blowing me a kiss in this picture : )  Later, I got to Skype with mom, dad, Jaclyn, and Lainey simultaneously!  It worked surprisingly well.  Technology is awesome.  I do not think I would have been able to leave home for two years without the ability to Skype.
Another reason technology is awesome?
I was reviewing the elements of plot on Friday with my 7th graders, and I introduced the lesson by showing them this YouTube video of my favorite rollercoaster:
Their reactions were hilarious… they were freaking out as the car made its first big ascent and there was one big collective gasp when it finally got to the top.  One kid actually stood up and started jumping and clapping as it went down the hill… he (and many others) had never been on a rollercoaster!  Priceless.
Here is a picture of my 7th grade classroom:

Along with the grading scale for the whole school:

An 80 is an A?!  And a C is actually expected to be the class average?  This is going to take some getting used to…

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