The Clocks completed their project two hours and 56 minutes ahead of deadline today at 5:04 p.m.. They could not be more happy with their work and nor could I! They are tough on themselves and wanted everything to be perfect and it shows. They worked so hard and I can’t express how proud I am of them. Congrats, team!
Friday, January 6, 2012:
Chris Whitman, the tech guy for our trip and senior at Marquette, requested to see one of Louis Khan’s architectural wonders here in Ahmedabad, India. Louis Khan designed one of the top management institutes in all of India, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA). The students in the program at Xavier’s explain that for every person that gets in, there are approximately 600 applications. I couldn’t believe this so I asked a few Jesuits and they said it is true. To fulfill Chris’ wish we left the confining, gloomy lab and went for an adventure while the students continued to be diligent and pound away on the keyboards.
Chris, Carole and Dr. Byers tried going to IIMA the day before but were denied entrance because they didn’t have their passports. To this I said, “Now, who said we should carry our passports at all times?” and then we all chuckled, except for Chris who was really sad. We made it up to him the next day though when we went back and had all of the papers necessary. At the front gate we had to leave our passports, something that scared the daylights out of me. Everyone knows you don’t leave your identity unprotected, but it is common practice here. Dr. Byers gave the security men, who had stern faces and never smiled, received a slip to collect our passports at the end of our visit and we were off to explore. Chris’ face was beaming with excitement, it was a little cute to see him "geek out" as he says.
As we walked throughout the campus we saw students playing cricket, one ball almost hit me…. Shocking considering my other adventures at this point. The atmosphere was extremely soothing, with the green space and trees all around, pots with vibrant flowers on stairways and roundabout, everything was peaceful and welcoming. It was a nice getaway from the loud lab. Khan made the most of natural light in his architecture (Chris’ shared knowledge has stuck with me) as the large circles in the sides of the buildings shed light on the hallways and staircases. Everything is naturally lit and would be stunning in the evening.
We wandered around the campus, taking pictures of the architecture, Chris holding the school up with his mighty strength and used Khan’s architectural style to our advantage for a family photo. Here, three boys came up and wanted to be in the picture. How can you say no to such beautiful and innocent smiles?
When we left we received our passports, all pages intact and identities not stolen. On our walk back things that reminded us of home greeted us. A school bus, a barbershop, stacks of books. The walk reiterated the fact that our time was coming to an end faster than we predicted and that I am not ready to go home, but at the same time I am. I’m in a limbo stage right now, but seeing these things made me chuckle and be at peace for the time being.
I am several events, tales and adventures behind on my blogs so from now on I will be dating them at the beginning for easy reading pleasure. The work here has really picked up and with all the sight seeing that we are doing in addition to teaching things are piling up and we are all exhausted by the end of the day. My apologies for being on India time! It will get better!
“When I say 6:00 I mean 6:00 American time, not 6:00 Indian time.”
Jennifer Solorio said it perfectly in her blog,
“‘If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.’ An American expression that I myself have lived by, or have at least tried to. It is rude to waste the time of those who expect you, because you must always remember, time is of the essence. Time is money.”
Since the first day of classes we have struggled with the students, and even faculty about the idea of time, a key difference between the cultures of the U.S. and India. Here, in India, it is perfectly acceptable to be 30 minutes “late” for a meeting because that is considered on time, in the U.S. it would be considered rude and disrespectful. At the request of the faculty and principle the Marquette faculty was asked to be strict regarding time. Classes start at 9:00 a.m. and the students are to be there before the class starts. At this point in time we are in the lab doing work so it is difficult to see if the students are exactly on time, but when we were in the classroom those who weren’t on time had to wait at the door until Carole or Dr. B said they could come in.
Now, there are times where the students, guests etc. can do the reverse. India time can mean 30 minutes early. My philosophy while in India is to be ready a reasonable amount of time before the designated time, but also bring something to entertain myself during the time I may be waiting.
There is also another aspect to India time and that is the duration of time a certain event or travel may take. Fr. Vinayak may say, “Oh yes, it is a short travel,” and that short travel can be the equivalent of an hour. It is all seemingly relative here because the culture is extremely relaxed. Coming from the United States’ culture where everything is go-go-go and time is of the essence it’s an adjustment, but it is also a cultural exchange as the students need to understand that a deadline is a deadline and when we say come to class at 9:00 a.m. we mean it.
After class on Thursday we went out with some students again to see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows at a new mall Ahmedabad has constructed. It reminded me a lot of the Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wisc. It was a little too American for me – going to a mall, seeing an English movie – but nonetheless it was still enjoyable. There were differences though, security screenings at the entrance to a movie, and an intermission during the movie? I have never experienced that before, it was a movie screening done India’s way.
At the entrance of the movie theatre complex there were two men and a woman standing behind two metal detectors. Kajri, Sneha and I walked through them and a woman signaled us to the side where there was a separate booth with a curtain where the woman patted us down and bags were searched. She said something about my camera and I started replying in Spanish…. WRONG COUNTRY, ANDREA. Sneha came in and explained what it was and that I was not going to take photos. She had some girls keep their bags outside in lockers because they thought they would steal things, I was able to keep mine. I must look innocent, an accurate statement in my opinion.
When we entered the theater we were ushered to a designated area and we all sat down. I was between Jen and Shiamak. Jen bought popcorn that had a great combination of caramel and cheese popcorn, the cost? One U.S. dollar and it was the equivalent of what the American movie theaters designate as a large. Was it a deal? Heck yes. Shiamak, Jen and I all shared the popcorn and needless to say, Jen was full and didn’t want dinner because she ate the majority of it. She was hungry!
At the very beginning Sushmita, Kajri and the other girls screamed, hooted and hollered at the sight of Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, and his dreamy face. They could not get enough of him. I personally prefer Jude Law who plays Dr. Watson….
Halfway through the movie during an intense action scene between and Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. the screen goes black and the lights come on. I was very confused. The first thought that came into my head was, Did we only pay for half of the movie…? I moved around in my seat seeing people getting up, including the students we were with and I could not understand what was going on. Shiamak finally said that this is normal in India, especially when viewing Hindi movies because they are generally three hours long. I was thrown through a loop but it makes sense. People don’t want to miss part of the movie for a refill on their drink or popcorn or a bathroom break. The intermission is perfectly logical and I think the U.S. should adopt it ASAP because this way I’m sure to not miss anything because I need to use the ladies room. When the show resumed all was back to normal with a few more screams and then silence. If I were a film critic I would say what was good and what was bad and how well the acting was in great detail but for now while I’m not a film critic I’ll just say it was a good movie in a mall that reminds me of being at home, but was fun because I was with friends enjoying great group of people.
This is another shout out to my dear professor, advisor and two-time travel companion, Dr. Stephen Byers. Today we celebrated his birthday, the number of years will remain unknown for you readers, but let me say he has a lot of spunk for his age and does not look it either! The students and Jesuits brought him a cake, chocolate of course, flowers and Diet Coke (his favorite drink - straws included). The whole day he had students and faculty wishing him happy birthday and he couldn’t help but smile.
If you are lucky enough to know Dr. Byers you know that he is a very modest man that does not like the spot light to be on him, but today we all felt he deserved it. His lack of acknowledgement of his birthday in the previous days made him an easy target but also his dedication and focus on the students and the program made it impossible to not show our appreciation for him. His day consisted of getting out of the class room and visiting the Old City, the oldest part of Ahmedabad, visiting the Rev. Cedric Prakash who was a student at Marquette and has close ties with St. Xavier’s, and then a three hour nap or so until we went back to the Old City for a nighttime heritage tour of the historic sites. He loves history and walking around so this was a perfect match for him. We all hope he had a great day and enjoys his time tomorrow while it is his birthday U.S. Central Time.
Happy Birthday Dr. B, you’re an inspiration.
Is this real life? Am I in India, riding on Vespas and motorbikes with my students who are now virtually all my Facebook friends? Did I actually visit a citywide “it” place called the Zen Café at another university? Did this university actually have a student built gallery called “The Cave?”
Answer: Yes to all of the above.
After our second day of working hard and teaching the students photography they graciously asked the TAs if we would like to hangout for a bit. Spending the last three days cooped up at the college, besides our wonderful New Years adventures and escapades, we were all itching to have some fun. Little to our knowledge did we know this meant riding on Vespas with our students, squeezing our way through rush hour traffic, going to the local hot spot named the Zen Café at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) and then going to the Law Garden where a market opens up at night fall and closes at 11:30 p.m.. I know that was a lot to read in one breath but trust me it was a lot to do and comprehend because never in my life did I imagine that I would be riding on a motorbike with Arpita Vadgama to CEPT and then bargaining prices down to the bare minimum with Rajsi Kaul over three necklaces. Read on if you can bear with the longwinded descriptions and paragraphs, there is just so much to share with you all.
Everyone inside "The Cave"
CEPT is an elite academic institute in all of Ahmedabad and India. Students from all over the country come here in hopes of receiving a powerful and high paying job after college. Here they have the Zen Café where we sat and drank coffee, all 13 or so of us, and then we explored “The Cave,” outside the school and near the café. We went inside and explored for a while, it reminded me of the crystalized salt caves near Mount Rushmore. After relaxing for a bit on the steps of the café and learning more about the students on a personal level we went for a tour around the campus. It was a really fabulous campus. Every campus here has a green area and I love that about this country and state. No matter how urban and highly populated it becomes, they don’t sacrifice the need for grass and a spot to relax in the sun. Udit loved the pink polka doted chairs made of cement and Jen loved the statues where she pretended to be a damsel in distress. I personally was a fan of taking everything in and watching different students!
I had a wonderful conversation with Rajsi and Shreya Vyas about arranged marriages in the middle of an art gallery. This does NOT happen in the U.S. in my life, but in my two weeklong India life it does. Rajsi has a family line solely comprised of arranged marriages and they have all been successful and turned into loving relationships, but she and her sister don’t want that. Her sister is around the age of 22 and is looking for a man to marry and be approved by her family ASAP so she does not have to have an arranged marriage, which traditionally occur in her family at the age of 24 or 25. Shreya has a family of love matches, where each has found their partner on their own; her family has also had successful, happy relationships. We spoke for about ten minutes about the pros and cons about each and then we had to leave the gallery and began speaking about henna. How we jump from such serious, stimulating conversation to henna is beyond me, but it all has a fluid flow that makes it seem absolutely normal. (A separate post on arranged marriages is to come.)
After the arranged marriage and henna conversation we hung around for a bit more on the campus and then left for the market in the Law Gardens where we all bought things for our family and friends. Scarves, saris, traditional tops and bottoms, jewelry, bags, bed and pillow covers, sandals, anything and everything. The thing that was the most tempting was the street food. Oh, did I want to eat it so bad as the aroma drifted towards my nose but I knew that I couldn’t and so I kept on walking and bargaining with Arpita and Rajsiand the other girls. The boys walked around with us too, it was all a collective adventure and the students just seemed happy that we were happy.
The best bargain was for three necklaces. The man wanted to charge me 800 rupees; the equivalent of 14 dollars, and Rajsi brought the price down to 425 rupees. That is a great bargain seeing as I am a foreigner, a blonde one at that, and was ready to settle at a higher price because they were such different and gorgeous pieces of jewelry. Rajsitold me to hide my approving expression when he said 500 after ten minutes of bargaining and soon enough, 425 hit and Rajsi said that was the best we were going to get and it was still a good deal. The market was full of color, with the coins and jewels dangling from colorful saris and little gems sewed onto bags. The light from the streets reflected off the silver bracelets stored in bins and the walking vendors with little orange and pink cloth elephants, which I hope to see again to get for my soon to be nephew, all added to the eclectic atmosphere of the market that I had never expected nor experienced.
On the ride home with Arpita on her scooter I still pinched myself and had to ask if what I just experienced was real. I couldn’t comprehend the fact that I had just done what normal college students in India do after school and that it entailed riding scooters in the dark, drinking coffee and tea while looking at art galleries with conversations about arranged marriages. Not in a million years did I expect to have this adventure. Holy moly it was a night I will never forget and I’m 100 percent positive more surprises will come. Stay tuned for more if you can handle all the reading, hopefully the pictures help!
I am currently sitting in the grass with Carole, Jen, Zubin, a student in the program, and three others and all Carole can speak about is the grass in India. She says it is different here than in good old Wisconsin. She holds it up in her hand and stares at it attentively. Carole describes some like shrubs or little bushes. “It’s like they are their own little colony,” Carole said. “In Wisconsin they are like shrubs!” I think we have been working too hard, if Carole is hallucinating its a bad sign.
We were paid a nice visit by Malti the rat tonight at the Spyhouse and it was early this time, 12:00 a.m.. Both Jen and I were up working on blog posts and internship applications and all of a sudden a brown ball of fur with a gross skinny tail speeds across the boarder of our room and behind our T.V. armoire. We scream and he runs back to where he came from.
Here is the “Ah-ha!” moment: He comes from outside through a hole in the window and cement walls and his fat body widens the already loose trim on the wood of the windows, making it easier and easier for him and his amigos to come in more often.
Solution: Since there is no rattrap, as was promised, we have stuffed a pink towel in the hole and taped the wooden trim of the window to the cement wall. How long this will last? We have no idea. We do know that smacking our shoes together and blaring music keeps him away while we create temporary fixes, but since I know you all are so worried I will have you know that we WILL be updating the Jesuits and let them know the other window is starting to look like Malti’s current entrance to our luxury bachelorette pad.
Malti must go. I said it once and I’ll say it again, he is not welcome as a third roommate, we are content with the current number of occupants. Hopefully Malti won’t hate us forever.
To finish this post I will add the modified lyrics of “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel:
“Cecilia, you're breaking my heart
You're shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I'm down on my knees
I'm begging you please LEAVE OUR HOME.”
The Layer, The Spy House, Cecilia, call Jen and my apartment what you would like, but this place has something against us. First we have a squirrel in the spare bathroom, then we have Malti the rat, and just now I flooded the bathroom and the bedrooms while taking a shower that I kid you not, was two minutes long before I realized what was happening. I swear this has to be a trend of mine. It happens at home when it drips down to the floor below the shower and it happens in India where our bathroom is always wet for some reason. BUT don’t worry, by some fate the water didn’t touch our belongings, it just made a nice two or three inch puddle around it all.
Unfortunately we have no photos to prove this as I was freaking out and trying to get ahold of my fellow team with a phone that I realized is broken which we all just received yesterday. Oh jeepers do I have luck. Jim came after exchanging phone calls in which I could not hear anything from his end and he ran off to tell the rest of the gang. Soon the Rev. Daniel and Jim arrived back with mops, brooms, plungers and towels to clean up the room. The drain had been clogged, according to the Rev. Daniel, and no more floods should occur. Cross your fingers that this is the last flood this spy house sees, maybe Cecilia will have a change of heart too.