sarah vs the world

Not a video game, not a comic, not a band, but an amazing adventure continues...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

3 weeks here and I have learned a lot

So I have been here just over 3 weeks now. It is still hot and dusty, but I have learned a number of things:

1. There are 545 million mobile phones actively in use in India. 2nd only to China.
2. Bargaining with the rickshaw drivers is required as they will instantly double the fee just because you are white.
3. Apparently the capacity of standing passengers on the metro is 327. I think we have got closer to 600 on several occasions.
4. Do not wave to any children who wave at you on the street. They will end up chasing you down for money until you leave the section they patrol. You know, like Hollywood Blvd in Pretty Woman.
5. The locals will stare at you no matter how you are dressed. Being white is enough. In fact, there are so many beauty products here promising to make you white. Ironic that all we want to do is get a bit tan in summer.
6. I have found a place that at Happy Hour (until 830pm daily) serves bottles of Kingfisher for 99IRP or approx $2.50AUD/$2.15US. I had their mojito the other day which was a whopping 199IRP! We have been going back there quite a bit.
7. Subway made me a sandwich with exactly what I wanted on it the other day. That was exciting.
8. Learning to cross the street is an art. If you wave your hand around like you are turning a dial, it seems to slow them down a bit. But watch out for the buses.
9. I climb over 100 stairs (each way mind you) each day just going from my house to the train station to work. Hopefully that will keep me fit.
10. Living in a place with no bacon is hard. I don't really eat that much, but I suppose it's like anything. Once you can't have it, you miss it. I watched a travel and living show this morning and they were eating pancakes with syrup!
11. The streets mostly look an earthquake hit here like last week. Dug up street corners, guys with chisels chipping away at columns, women with plywood boards on their heads carrying bricks down the street. I actually should be wearing my steel toes just for walking down the street.
I am sure I have learned other things, but I can't remember much now. We don't know much Hindi except things like "Doors will open on the right", "Please stand clear of the doors" and "mind the gap". Am hoping to learn a bit more soon.
I spent last weekend walking from Parliament House to India Gate and then onto Lodi Gardens. India Gate is a war memorial set out on lawns like the Mall in Washington DC. However, even though there is a giant pool like structure throughout the lawn, only one section has water in it. Although that could be a good thing considering how green it was.

India's Parliament House

Me at India Gate

It was a very hot walk down the mall, then on towards the gardens. Just when I couldn't handle the heat (after drinking litres of water and having an icy pole to cool down), the sky went all gray and dusty and within about 10 minutes it was raining. Pretty much exactly when we finally found a way into the gardens.
There are 2 separate tombs in Lodi Gardens: The Tombs of Mohammed Shah from 1444 and Sikander Lodi from 1517. In true British styling, they built the gardens in 1936. There were 2 villages of people living around the tombs at that time. They just pushed them out and built the gardens. They are lovely however. It really was like a getaway from Delhi. We found the Lodi Gardens restaurant and it happened to be Happy Hour so we sat there for quite some time.

Me inside one of the structures near Lodi's Tomb

Mosque at Lodi's Tomb

This weekend we decided to go the Indian Cultural Centre, but as it turns out there wasn't much culture there. So after a bit of discussion, we ended up at Humayun's Tomb. His tomb was built in 1562. He was an emperor. And believe it or not, just near Humayun's tomb was more tombs of other people: Isa Khan, Halima and Afsarwala (literally meaning "Officer's Tomb"). We have sufficiently covered tombs so we will have to find something else to see next weekend.

Afsarwala's Tomb

The Wall Around A's Tomb. Apparently there was a village full of people living behind this wall until the 19th Century!

Full shot of Humayun's Tomb

The Water feature at Humayun's Tomb - they used the nearby river and ran it through the entire site.

The top layer of the Tomb

The Sun just behind Humayun's Tomb

Beautiful Details

A near by Sikh Temple

We did manage to get in to the Oberoi Maidens where ESS is crashing for a bit of a catch up and a swim. This was literally the highlight of my time here so far. 45 degrees C and no clean water insight anywhere has been a serious struggle for me. But next weekend their challenge is to work out how to also organise a BBQ, so I imagine the last few hours of my day will be spent there anyway. The pool open from 730am - 7pm, so I will probably try to sneak across at least 1 or 2 mornings as week for a while as well. Need to stay fit somehow! The stairs alone can't do it.
One additional funny anecdote for you all. In order to gain access to the Organising Committee headquarters, like any normal OC we have worked for, you need to have an OC issued ID card (which in this case is a laminated photo of me with my name on it). I only received this ID on Friday the 18th June, on my 25th day of work. Everyday, like clockwork the security guard ladies ask me if I have my ID. I say no. They refer me to reception. I ignore reception and keep walking to the lifts and up to my office. This has become a comical thing now for myself and the lady security guard. Each morning we share our routine laugh at the failure of what should be a relatively normal process. But this Monday the 21st, it was a monumental occasion - I HAD AN ID! I was very excited to show them. Even the men security guards rejoiced. I think it made their week - finally this Organising Committee has managed to ORGANISE something, thought the security guards (and myself mind you!). I can't imagine what will happen with my actual accreditation. They only have 6 passport photos of me now.

A couple of funny signs to close the blog for the week:

Can't wait to go here

Wouldn't you hate to pay for left turns?

Keep me posted on what all of you are up to. The Monsoon will be upon me soon enough they say! Should make things even more interesting....

Monday, June 07, 2010

Arrived in Delhi

I have got here. Not without a few minor mishaps along the way. First, I was checking in at the airport and the ticketing agent informed me that there wasn't a ticket for me. Yikes. I was worried that this could possibly be the Organising Committee's (OC) way of telling that they no longer required my services. However, after a quick email lookup, my ticket was actually booked as Ms Grubb Sarahjane. Luckily they let me on the plane since it was technically still spelled correctly. Then there was mishap with my amount of allowed luggage. Apparently I was only allowed 20kg. I had approx 38 kilos! So it was open up the smaller piece of my second luggage and put what I had in there into the larger one. Luckily, Anne-Marie was with me, helping me to remain calm through the bulk of all of this. The guy at the ticket counter let me get away with 1 bag @ 30kgs. Whew. Disaster averted.
Then it was off to wait to board the Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore. When I landed in Singapore, my Air India flight was canceled. So it was off to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysian Airlines and then 6 hours in the airport until I would be off again to Delhi. Luckily you can hire hotel rooms in KL airport by the hour and the hotel was just next to my gate....initially mind you. So I checked in, grabbed some food, had a sleep and shower and headed to the gate. At about 40 minutes to go, I worked out that the gate had actually changed to another terminal. Temporary panic, but eventually I got there. 5 hours on a plane to Delhi. 1 big movie screen with a Bollywood feature. Some average food. Then around 9pm I landed in Delhi. To my amazement, my 1x30kg bag did in fact arrive on the carousel. My driver arrived and we started off to my guest house. The drive there was hilarious. I think the lines are painted on the road just for a mere suggestion.
The guesthouse that we are all staying in is lovely. The hostess of the house, Shalini, greeted me upon arrival and offered me food and a beer. I accepted the beer and just sat for a moment with AG and a few other invited guests. The other boys had already gone to bed by the time I got there. This is the website of our guesthouse:
The owners of the house are descendants of the first Mayor of Delhi, Mr Sham Nath. There are photos of him in the house with the Queen when she visited a long while ago. And there even is an actual signed photo of Gandhi because Mr Sham Nath was actually involved in the revolution with him. The area we live in is called Civil Lines. The name Civil Lines is a relic of British times, when the city of Delhi was organised into separate areas where the British Military and Civilian buildings were located. Areas where civilians lived were demarcated as Civil Lines.
The Outside of the House

My Room:

Where we eat breakfast and dinner

I have been to and from work for a quite a bit now. We go into work each day on the Delhi metro train. The station is very close to our guesthouse. It's actually not nearly as crowded as I would have anticipated, but then again we do leave a bit after 9am to avoid the rush.
Here we are on the train:

Our office is a pretty standard looking office building. Although it kind of resembles the Atari logo. But the other day I did have quite a shock when I came out of the toilets. A monkey jumped down from the ceiling and blocked my way back into the office! Then I looked closer and there was about 3 more monkeys in the hallway. I didn't really know what to do, but luckily a man came along and shewed them along. Whew.
This the rendering of what our building looks like.
(Note the silouette of an armed guard. They are pretty much everywhere here.)

This is what it actually looks like:

The Countdown clock - today it is actually 118! Yikes.

I also have already been on my first tuk tuk ride. These are the motorised rickshaws and they are seriously everywhere. AG and I went out to a shopping mall which was at least 40 min away. It cost $4 each way. Excellent. Hilarious and terrifying all in the same moment.
The Tuk Tuk - but actually called an Auto-rickshaw (apparently Tuk Tuk means prostitute!)

I have also been out to the stadium already. It was an existing stadium that is being renovated for the games. It was very cool to have a look. Here is what it should look like when it is all finished. The stadium is named after the first Prime Minister after Independence - Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

So yesterday was the second Sunday I have been in Delhi. Since it is our only day off, Baldy and I decided to head to the Red Fort or Lal Qil'ah. It was a very educational experience. The fort itself was much bigger than I imagined. We paid 250IRS (or about $5US), but I think the locals paid about 5IRS (which is like 10 cents). Oh well. We must have walked around for about 3 hours or so. The Indian history is very interesting. The fort itself historically was for the Emperors up until the British Raj took over from 1858 - 1947. 1947 marked the official partition between India and the new Pakistan. The British Raj ironically jailed Indians in this fort during their reign. Strange that a palace built for Emperors ends up being a jail for its own people. Surprisingly on the whole Indians are enthralled by white people - you wouldn't think so considering their history with the Anglos. I think I was asked to have my photo taken with people about 10 times, not to count the sneaky photos people were just randomly taking. I am assuming that eventually all of that will wear off, but at the moment it really does feel like being either an alien or a superstar, I am not sure which. I can't decide if they want my photo because they assume I am famous or just because I am different to them.
We also went past a market where we were quite bombarded with the usual buy this, you know you want this kind of demands. I will have to learn how to do a bit of haggling I think. There is a much more posh market in town which I have to be sure to hit at some point I am sure.
Street on the way to the Red Fort

A Passenger Train that pretty much runs through the Fort

Mosque Ruins at the Fort

Power Pole at the Fort - and pretty much typical

A lock on one of the jail cells at the Fort

Pretty much just inside the Fort

The fountain was popular with the locals

More Fort stuff

Market Street

Overall it is going to be a very interesting time here. Will make sure that I get to the Taj, but it will probably not be closer till the end of my contract. I probably could write for ages about what I have seen so far, but I am pretty keen to get this posted. More to come I am sure.
Collection of signage photos

Lots of love,