This is a little waltz for you. Sound it out… and then you will hear some of what I’ve been hearing in the office all day. Don’t worry, it’s a tune you all know. And here’s a hint: it’s not on my iPod.
I’m getting used to the traffic noise, but the office noise is something I’m really struggling with. We’re in pretty close quarters, so it feels like all the conversations are just on top of each other. People compensate by talking louder, and when the water system kicks in they have to talk really loud. And cell phones are set loud too, probably so people can hear them over the traffic noise in an open air rickshaw. I really need to find a way to deal with this or I’m going to go a little nutty. For someone who lives alone in a quiet residential neighbourhood, being surrounded on all sides by sound is really difficult. I hope I can overcome it soon!
And here’s my little piece of the action:
You can’t tell but drawerspace is effectively zero and my chair has 4 out of 5 wheels so I’m a little slanty most of the time 😀
I went on Wednesday to get registered as a Foreign Resident. The office was about what you would probably expect of a Bureau of Immigration in a tropical country: chaotic, tons of people, disorganized, lots of fans blowing “all paperwork in triplicate!” around. There was a whole room dedicated to Afghans, most other people were Southeast Asian or black with the occasional white or East Asian person looking rather dazed. I had a CARE staffer with me who’s done this several times before. She had us in and out in record time, I was shocked. I’d been warned this would be the first of many visits (just like my visa experience) but they seemed to accept the reams of paperwork I handed over and stamped me in. We booked it out of there quick as we could before they could change their minds.
Here are some pictures of my daily commute to work (sorry, these were taken from inside the car. I haven’t been on the right side of the car when passing cows).
I seem to have gotten over my travel sickness. And just in time: on Sunday night I’ll be heading off on a field visit to Andhra Pradesh. Wish me luck in not picking up any new bugs. There are two projects ongoing in this state: SAKSHAM II (which I’ve already written about) and Balasahyoga, which is a livelihood project in partnership with a few other NGOs. CARE is looking at the food security aspect, while the other NGO partners are working on community based HIV care and support services and clinical services. While HIV/AIDS prevalence is overall quite low in India, the state of Andhra Pradesh has the highest numbers in the country (22% of the population living with HIV/AIDS is located in AP; an estimated 16% of the female sex worker population is infected). Consequently, AP has been identified as a high priority area for intervention. The SAKSHAM II project is a part of the Avahan: India AIDS Initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This program is huge. I was basically doing internet research all week to try to get myself up to speed, and the most important thing I’ve learned so far is just how extensive – in terms of breadth and depth – the development network really is. Have a look here when you have a chance http://www.gatesfoundation.org/avahan/Pages/overview.aspx. As a big international NGO with a solid reputation and known name, CARE’s role is principally capacity building. What this means is that CARE partners with smaller local NGOs who typically run the “on the ground” aspect of the program while CARE manages the logistics, funding, training, and overall management. In the case of SAKSHAM II, CARE actually had local mentors instead of NGOs and these individuals were responsible for organizing CBOs (community based organizations) of sex workers. The main advantage to this is that the locals (NGOs and individuals) are much more attuned to the needs of the community. They know the local language, culture, and have their own networks so the groundwork is more easily accomplished. Plus, when it’s locally led, building trust in the community of interest and getting local buy-in can happen more quickly. Projects have a deadline too: when the project is completed and the NGOs pull out, the change that has occurred, be it in people, resources, or structures, has to be sustainable. This is much more achievable when the project ownership has been transferred to the community itself. So even though SAKSHAM is going to end this year, the idea is that the community based organizations – which are essentially community associations of sex workers – will continue to function autonomously, advocating for their own rights, educating each other, and promoting safe sex within their own communities.
On a lighter and completely unrelated note, here are some other random India things I’ve noticed:
The sirens are pitched differently, they go higher, like from the bottom to the top of the siren range the interval is wider. There’s also one that sounds like a trumpet trill, I haven’t figured out what it is yet.
Moustaches are popular. Not fancy MoBro ones, just regular trimmed ones.
Mothballs are also popular; you can smell camphor as soon as you walk into bathrooms and in the food markets. They put them in the drains because I think insects will come up through the pipes. Eww.
Only men wear helmets on motorcycles, women sit behind, sidesaddle, and don’t wear helmets. Neither do the kids held on their laps.
Pigeons roost in the vent holes for exhaust fans. So in the bathroom, it’s not surprising to find feathers, bits of nest, and occasionally droppings on your floor.
All water coming out of all taps is pretty warm. Considering I think my hot water heater is broken, this actually makes showers pretty comfortable!
Milk tastes funny. Not off, just different. Still haven’t gotten used to it yet. Also, whole milk is not exactly homogenized; I’ve been skimming myself since I’m grossed out by the fat floating on top. And there’s something called “toned” milk which I haven’t totally figured out, I think it’s the addition of water and skim milk powder to whole milk to decrease the overall fat content. I think I’m just not going to be drinking much milk here.
Indians complain about the heat too. I’m glad it’s not just me thinking it’s a little warm – it’s over 40C these days and “smoky.”
Up north, we take for granted the fact that summers are not only warm, but have really long days. Closer to the equator, the days aren’t that long, it gets dark around 7:00 or so. According to the worldclock astronomy calculators, Montreal days are 14.75hrs long right now while in New Delhi they are 13.5hrs (approximately).
Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’m off to make a dosa dinner! Have a good weekend!