So, I boarded a train in Delhi at 5:20pm on Monday and I arrived in Bhunbaneswar on Wednesday at 1am. The train was only supposed to be 24-26 hours but it was about 7 hours behind schedule. The ride was interesting. I was booked in class 3A which is a sleeper class with no privacy whatsoever... for the night I was in a top bunk stuffed beside my guitar case and I could not really move much. Although there were four volunteers on the train we were seated separately. So in the morning I went to find Jen and to my surprise she had 6 bunks to herself. So I quickly grabbed my stuff and spent the rest of the time with her. We were tired and getting antsy around 4:30pm thinking that the train would be arriving soon. We pulled into the station at 1:30am and had to organize cars and get to our respective apartments. My wonderful roommate Jen was up and helped me settle in. She is really sweet, she made me a welcome sign and had made me tea!
I spent the first half of my trip up on the top bed above the seats...squeezed beside my guitar case.
The day after arriving I spent some time with my landlord's wife, Guyatri, who insisted on cooking me breakfast! That was pretty sweet. She has since cooked for me a number of times, taken me shopping, introduced me to shop owners near by and is always checking in. She wants us to feel like family and told me that I can talk to her for any reason. I feel very lucky to be living in her house. (Her and her husband Sarada have the upper floor) I am so grateful for my accommodations.
FYI: I dropped my laptop and had to get it repaired... which explains the long gap between posts! Anyhow, I called a laptop repair company and the man came to my house, tried to fix the problem, took the computer away and dropped it off a few days later all for 2000rps (approx 45.00CA).... I'm still waiting on a new hard-drive (another 3000rps) but at least my computer is usable. Home service is big here. I opened a bank account from the comfort of my living room!
Orissa Association for the Blind, Day 1
I left my first day at the office at 12:30pm, after arriving for 10am. I was shown around the building a little and told that my secretary (the big cheese) is in Delhi until Friday. I had some nice chit chat time with some of my future colleagues in Hinglish... everyone's English is so much better than my Hindi. I am also trying to pick up Oryia which is the language of Orissa. I was told that there are over 800 languages (dialects on top of that) spoken in India... someone help me!
Some of my colleagues were asking me what class/caste I am from in Canada and it was difficult for me to explain that those systems are not like they are in India. They wanted to know the professions of my parents and if I was married and had children. I was also asked how much money I make in Canada and how much I am making here...it is common to ask someone how much money they earn as well. I have been told these questions are not rude and not meant to invade my privacy. This is how people understand how to address me and act towards me, they need to know where I fit into their social strata. Plus, I suspect there is some plain old curiosity mixed in.
I walked into the office with one goal in mind, a goal that I could not accomplish in one day. I wanted to leave the office with a letter to finalize the opening of my bank account. The letter is to state that I am working for the OAB for one year. I needed this printed on company letter head. I asked if I could write the letter to get the ball rolling, so I did. Then, there were many phone calls trying to get a piece of paper to print it on... they could not get one. That didn't matter so much because a woman (apparently my subordinate) did not show up for work and she has the key to the computer lab where I would have printed said letter, if I had paper. I did however have lots of time to chat and meet different people, including some of the children that attend classes at the organization... they were reading braille and were excited to meet me.
On a side note, I really enjoyed being in the office. Being around so many blind people made me feel normal. This is because I am stared at all the time, everywhere I go. People are always interested in the foreigner and I can feel eyes on me constantly. I suppose I am quite the site as I am white and tower over most men here. At the office I am not noticed, people walk by me without a glance and it's great.
Samad, the computer instructor, teaching the keys on keyboard
On last thing. I really enjoy the auto-rickshaws here because they are shared... they pull over at major intersections and you tell the driver where you want to go and cram in with the other passengers. For me to get to work I have to take two of them and it 5 rps for each leg of the journey. So round trip to work everyday is 20 rps (just below .50CAD). I like that I ride to work with others and some will try and speak English and want to know where I am from. I enjoy meeting people along the way and get a chance to practice some of my Oryia and Hindi... they can hardly understand what I am saying... I guess I'm that bad. I do also have trouble understanding their English with the heavy accents.. .so I suppose it is the same for them. It's fun nonetheless.
Song from title: Operation by Jamie T