Thursday, January 18, 2007

India - An Interactive Petting Zoo!

I keep waking up at like 4 AM every morning wide-awake and ready to start my day! Dang jetlag! I've noticed that it's worse on return trip than on the departing trip for some reason. I went to bed last night at 7 PM and attempted to sleep straight through 7 AM this morning with moderate success (try waking up at 3 AM with massive hunger pangs and sleep through it ). Today I attempt to stay awake all day and all night and go to bed at a decently moderate time like a little after midnight to hopefully wake up at a regular time like 9 AM (even when I am at work, this is my ususal schedule).

While I was in India, I didn't honestly get to see a whole lot. The work needing to be done was on a short timeframe and I was on a mission to end it all early so I could return early to make my commitments backs home. I wasn't really interested in sightseeing or getting to know the country but rather get the heck out and make it to the first day of musical improv.

The Sunny Skies
After a 15 hour direct flight to New Delhi from Chicago, we landed and got ready for our adventure. The second we walk off the plane, it smells like something caught fire, and the entire airport was smoky. Little did I know that the entire city was this way! Apparently Delhi has quite a problem with smog. Due to the massive growth in both population and industry (8.4% GDP growth last year) and little emissions regulation, smog is an ever present problem there. In fact, I kept seeing articles in their newspapers about how Pakistan and India blame each other for the smog in their countries . I've been to L.A. and have seen smog, but they took it to a new extreme! I had coworkers tell me that it used to be worse a few years ago and they've just started combating the problem so it's gotten better. However, when you can see the car in front of you while driving a mere 5 mph, that's not smog - that's mobile environmental cataractic vision impairment (MECVI)!

Hotel Motel Holiday Inn - Say What?!
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Delhi which is considered a 5 star hotel, and by the looks of the massive amount of humanity around, it truly was. Our hotel was in a complex of other buildings and was really impressive...if we could actually see the upper parts of it. Smog had claimed the majestic beauty of the peaks of the Hyatt!

We mostly ate at the hotel. It had 4-5 restaurants in there with mostly good food. Apparently Indians choose their restaurants by their location and the amount of people eating in there because we saw a lot of Indians as well as Americans/Europeans chowing down.

Here's a picture of me chillin' prior to heading out to start our business day:


Solid Man...Solid!
Another daily activity I engaged in while I was in India was playing the part of the Paranoid American #2 regarding everything I ate and drank. India's water refinement, therefore, food preparation, is hit or miss regarding health standards. So, one must be extremely judicious in watching what they eat or drink. I was pretty good initially. I drank loads of bottled water (we got complimentary bottled water in our rooms every day), brushed my teeth with bottled water, made sure I kept my mouth shut to avoid swallowing any tap water while taking a shower (I tend to sing a lot in the shower amongst other things ), avoided foods with a lot of curry sauce which would have more water content in them, and ate at restaurants I trusted or that the locals trusted. Even with all of that, I still got a massive case of the dreaded Delhi Belly .

I'll spare you precise details but have you ever strained so hard that you saw Jesus? Or went deaf? That's what my second morning consisted of . I luckily had packed Pepto Bismol pills with me to combat an upset stomach so I was popped a few. My boss luckily had some Immodium A-D, which if you've never taken it, will dry you out internally like a desert so you can continue your day. It's also a great way to dehydrate your body to the point you could be in some real trouble! I took a couple of Immodium since the Pepto wasn't strong enough to curb the pain, bloating, and water works. By the end of the day, I had it "under control" but was dehydrated like a mugg even though I was drinking quarts of water.

I popped Pepto every day but in less and less amounts as the days went on. The final two days there I felt I didn't required taking anything more for the DB. Perhaps my body was finally adjusting to the new food acumen...or that there wasn't any water left in my digestive tract to make perform a green apple quick step!

So, due to the DB, I had to become even more selective about what I ate because I would just look at some stuff and it would make me queasy . I avoided anything that could've been boiled in water like pasta, any real deserts becuase I didn't know what water content was in there to make them, and any fruits and vegetables. As a result of the water and food reduction in my body, I ended up losing 10+ lbs in the experience.

I drank as much water as I could but could never get rehydrated to an acceptable level. I still don't feel quite hydrated even today. The DB made a slight return a la a voodoo chile once I returned starting with the food change on the plane. For two days after I got back, I really didn't want to be anywhere not close to a bathroom. However, I chose this time to let it run it's course and whatever happened, happened. This morning I feel pretty good! Solid my man! Solid!

I Get Around
The car industry must also be outsourcing certain parts of their industry to India, because by the way they drive, safety testing there must be the best in the world. It's a country where the lines painted on the road and the lights at the intersections are more like suggestions than laws . Traffic is bumper-to-bumper, people don't stick to their lanes, horns are more of a courtesy call than a warning message, and people are everywhere; they try to cross the street in the middle of the road in masses or are walking in the middle of the road trying to get somewhere. In fact, I saw people driving their vehicles down the wrong way of the street at times. The distance between people is inches, not feet. Check it out:



Accidents are common there but I was only involved in one. My driver's driver's side mirror got clipped off in a fender-bender (we rented a car but they only come with a driver so we had to use him!). We stopped in the middle of traffic and sat in the back while he argued with the other driver. Apparently, car insurance policies in India are nonexistent (Oh...how I wish that could be the truth here) because every car on the street is dinged up a bit or just has parts ripped off in certain areas (I should begin selling duct tape there and showing folks how to make their hoopties stylish!). So, the drivers argued for quite some time over fault and each demanded money on the spot for the repairs. I believe 1500 rupies (about $30) were up for grabs between them. After some time, our driver returns and gets in the car. The other driver is attempting to get him to give something back - his car keys! My driver got his keys to ensure the dude wouldn't drive off and not pay. My driver ended up giving the keys to another guy acting as a mediator between them. We drove off to another area close by where he got out and continued to argue with the other driver. Eventually, both drivers returned to our car to settle their dispute. We got dropped off at work and then they proceeded to go get car fixed. Talk about taking the law into your own hands!

Squaters and Hawkers
India has 1.3 billion people in it. Of course, not everyone has the same level of wealth there. In fact, there is a lot of poverty. A lot of people set up their homes in make-shift shacks/tents on the side of the road. It reminded me a lot of Brazil with their favelas in Rio and Sao Paolo and illustrated the gap between rich and poor. There were a lot of children begging on the streets and were definitely in bad shape . I must be a magnet for these children becasue they seemed to always to come up to my window asking me for money or trying to sell me free newspaper/magazines. It was heartbreaking at times.

It seems that everyone is in the business of selling something. I would see shacks lined up selling chips and sodas along with clothes, shoes, and household items. Some sold food (of course I avoided trying any of it) and some I had no idea what they were doing.

Lions and Tigers and Bears...and Monkeys...and Elephants...and Camels...
One thing I loved about India was how animals were everywhere. I saw the beloved cows hanging out on the side of the road or home just chillin'. Elephants were used to haul people and pull heavy items along the road. Camels were used to get around as well. It was surreal! There were lots of stray dogs everywhere also (it made me miss my Lola Rose who tried to make the trek with me by packing herself into a box):



Summary
Overall, it was an experience. I learned a few words of Hindi, hung out with Indians all day and learned more about their culture (I even celebrated Lohri with them) , and got a buttload of frequent flyer miles

I am incredibly glad to be home. I'll be posting up more pics as comments soon. Stay tuned.

Currently watching :
Disco Dancer

Note This was originally posted on MySpace with comments at:
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=16074757&blogID=219383901&Mytoken=CF6C30D1-8B9D-465D-BFB4A7DCEFE1A87859240226

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