109 Days at Sea

India -Experience, Culture, and Education…

by Alyssa | November 4, 2009

First off, I want to let everyone know that as I wrote this blog in my word document first- it took 7 pages!

India, oh India! It has been 8 days since we departed India and I still cannot wrap my finger around my thoughts and feelings of the country and my experience. India was an experience – cultural, educational, and unbelievable! But overall, Two words- CULTURE SHOCK!!-

Day 1 in India- Now today, my first day in India was a great experience, but it was a lot to take in at once. Right now, as I am writing about my first day, I am writing at 35,000 plus feet in the air, flying on Indigo airlines from Chennai to New Delhi! So here’s how my fabulous day went! – so we arrived in India in this morning around 0800. At about 0930 the ship was cleared, but we could not get off the ship until we received our customs forms and shore passes. So while waiting we were able to exchange money on board and also watch a Yoga Demonstration lead by an Indian, a former SAS guest lecturer, and a yoga teacher. So first I exchanged money… now I exchanged about $200 USD and I came out getting 10,850 rupees! Holy cowww they handed me a wad of 100 dollar bills (or 100dollar rupees) it was craazzzzzyy!! But hey whatver works is cooool with me! I liked getting a wad of cash! Hahah … so then I went to the yoga demonstration- This lady has been practicing yoga since she was 13-years-old she was probably at least in her late 60’s at this point, as she was instructing two of her students on yoga. It was AMAZING. They were crazy good at yoga. They would stretch onto their heads, they would put there legs behind there backs on top of their heads. It was just crazy. So after the demonstration I finally got my forms, but it was crazy hectic to get off the ship so we ate lunch before heading out. At 12:30 or so, Amanda, Nate and myself headed off the ship into the city of Chennai. We were told that India was a very busy place, but I was hit with more then expected. We walked off the ship and you could just see dust EVERYWHERE, covering the ground, covering your body, it was gross! (The crew covered the carpets of the ship with cardboard boxes and plastic wrap, at first I did not understand why but not I 100% get it!) There was just so much pollution all over the place it was gross! So we got off the ship and had to show our shore pass to the guards monitoring the gate to the ship. And then we grabbed a taxi to the port entrance because we were told it was like a 25 minute walk (so wrong!!) At the port entrance, which was a customs building, we had to show our shore passes to get out. Goodness! So much just to get out of the port itself! So after this we headed walking down the street. We got 100% ambushed by rickshaw drivers (a rickshaw is a 3wheeled automobile that the Indians use as taxis it was crazy scary! We could not move without someone up our butts, it was crazy! And very intense! It honestly made us want to get back on the ship, but of course we didn’t. we just slowly… but quickly took it all in. We just kept walking, trying to discuss our plan.. we finally just jumped into a rickshaw that was ahead of us! Phew, we thought the craziness was over! But ohh not it wasn’t – we headed out to the streets – can I just say you have never experienced any type of driving or seen any type until you have been to India! Oh wow I have never been so nervous on a road it was REDIC!!! Cars just come at every angle! No one stops- it is a constant jam of automobiles shooting through! – Cars, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, and COWS!!!! So crazy!! (Cows are sacred in India so they are free to roam wherever, there meet is not eaten, they are treated with a great amount of respect!-pretty interesting.) So during this crazy driving, our driver, Johnny, took us to three different shops before heading back to the ship before we headed out to the airport. We were on the ship for legit, 20minutes, if that. I showered mighty quick because I felt absolutely disgusting!! And we were only out for three hours!! We then headed out on our journey to the airport, we got to the airport around 17:00 for our 20:10 flight! And here I am writing this, from Indigo airlines!! —— SO first off… can I tell you our experience with the bathrooms? … so we walk into the bathrooms a little while before our flight was ready to board… I walked in and just stared… the toilets aren’t westernized toilets, meaning they aren’t exactly toilets to sit down on and to go the bathroom in. The toilets are actually squat toilets or Indian style toilets→ they are legit little holes in the ground→ with a bucket to the side for you to wash off with→ and no toilet paper in site (at least we brought like two rolls with us from the ship) …. Well anyways, I SO was not going to be using this toilet, I straight up looked at Erica and Amanda and said “I’m set, I’ll hold it…” -→ I knew from there I was in for a treat trying to find bathrooms that I would be comfortable using… I just honestly could not really work with the squatting in a nasty bathroom where you weren’t squatting not to tough the toilet but you were squatting so you could almost reach the ground.. uhhh yea no not for me! It was really the craziest thing!! But that is usual here and it is pretty much cultural so I found it interesting but not for me… So anyways the plane was very interesting, the airlines was just very different! They called your flight, you go to that specific gate that your flight is at (like usual, but they are all lined out right next to each other at a mini booth,) you then walk through the gate number, security checks your bags again to make sure you have a carry-on baggage ticket, someone takes your boarding pass, and then you walk outside to a bus. The bus then takes you to the plane that is literally just chilling in the middle of the runway! It was verrrry different! It was a pretty simple process… everyone just gets on the plane→ sits down→ and we were off! So the plane ride was about 2.5 hours… I didn’t sleep at all, I did some work at this point rather then sleeping! We arrived in New Delhi around 22:40 or so. We couldn’t find our driver and none of our phones would work. We waiting and finally were able to go back in the arrivals section of the airlines to use a payphone. We got in touch with the hotel and after about 35-40minutes later he showed up → he was on his way the whole time, just mucho slow! So it took us about an hour to get to the hotel/hostel. –The Hotel Tara Palace- We pulled into this very sketch area around 00:45 or so; it was soo creepy! It was legit in like a back alley! We were just a tab bit weirded out! So this place, being in the back alley, people were hanging out on the streets, and it was just really like eerie1 haha.. so wutev, we walked in and it was actually a pretty nice place. We got our rooms and headed upstairs→ now I was thinking this was a regular hostel where we had to share one room with like 15people! I wasn’t looking forward to that at all→ but when we got there realized that the hostel had more of the hotel set up, where the rooms were just 1bed but 2people per room. Not bad, we were all content. Erica and I shared a room→ we got upstairs and explored this little room—the bathroom was just crazy interesting… there was two buckets under a faucet, and that was how you showered!! It was just so different! At least the toilets were westernized tho! Nate and Amanda came by a few minutes later for a little so we could figure out our plans for the next day. – we headed off to bed around 0200. – We were planning on getting up at 0800 to go see the Taj! – it was a very long and interesting day!

Day 2 in India! So yea, about getting up at 0800, nah that didn’t work! All four of us ended up sleeping till noon!!! Woops! We finally got up and went downstairs to the mini travel section of the hostel to see about getting train tix for the next day→ Sunday→ to Agra! – The guy legit like laughed at us! Clearly that was something that could not be done! He said it was impossible to get tickets at that short notice (apparently trains are hard to get in India.) He suggested getting a driver for the day to drive us to and from→ we decided on doing this (for 6200 rupees or $130 USD!–> not to bad for a four hour carried there and a four hour carried back!) We also decided on getting a driver for the rest of the day to take us around Delhi, rather then us trying to figure everything out on our own… made much more sense. — so we weren’t getting the driver till 14:30, so we decided to run out and look around for a little bit and grab lunch. Yep we hit up McDonald’s for lunch!! Yum it was pretty good, but very interesting because of course they don’t have like hamburgers or anything→ they have chicken sandwiches, pizza wraps, and some veggi things. Pretty different! As good as Mcdonald’s was- let me just tell you about the experience we had in crossing the street! OMGGGGOSHHHHH!!!!! I have never been so scared crossing a street before! In my life!!!! There are streetlights, there are lanes to follow, there is stop signs, there is everything that you would normally see while driving… The only thing is, the locals drive like wild ones!! They don’t follow the lanes- they swerve in and out and around and gosh its crazy!! They cut in and out of lanes non stop. The stop signs are sort of just there… and if there is a red light, they say hey we can go it’s not red!! A major thing is horns! Indians use horns not just as a little beep like we do… there horns say move over!! Get our of my way I need to get through, etc! it is just crazy!! Now they do not care if there is anything in there way, they are going through! – when it comes to crossing the streets, oh that’s another story!! The first day it took us like legit 15minutes to cross the street!! so if you are crossing the street you better run!! They do not care who you are or anything! They WILL hit you!! I really have never been so scared as we were dodging cars and bikes and quickly get out of their way!! It was one of the most difficult takes that I have ever done! They just don’t stop→ even in a crosswalk! It isn’t the fact that the pedestrian has the right of way –it is the “get our of my way NOW I am coming through and I am not stopping!!” I definitely videotaped it on my camera as we crossed cause it was that intense, it has to be seen!! Well anyways- later on in the day after McDonald’s—Our driver (Toy was his name) was ready to go. We first went to go see Humayun’s Tomb- it is a big tourism site in Delhi and is also a world heritage monument- but I actually have never heard of it before! But it was a pretty cool place to visit, it was bigg! After the tomb we went to the Lotus Temple, which is a huge sacred temple made out of pretty much marble. It was beautiful and it looked just like the Sydeny Opera House! It was so pretty! That was the first place we went to where we had to take our shoes off to enter! Interesting! After the Lotus Temple we headed to this place to go shopping! We were there for THREE hours! Three hours in this little place that legit was like 4rooms and could’ve taken 30minutes!! We enjoyed ourselves though! Our poor driver… After shopping Toy took us to go see the ‘Gates of India.’ That was an experience since that evening was some sort of celebration and it just ended and there was TONS of people there—so legit we were just like stared a, circled around, and followed by a crazy amount of people. So we pretty much just took our pictures and left. Afterwards Toy took us to a restaurant called ‘Splash’ I had some delicious chicken fried rice! (Chinese food is big in India) – So while reading the menu though we read a spot on the bottom that says the drinking age is 25! How amazing is that!! So anyways after dinner we just headed back to the hotel. it was around 22:00 or so and we were exhausted! I attempted showering with the bucket, now that was a process and a half! Totally flooded the bathroom floor! Hahaha We went to bed around 23:30 or so, we were going to be getting up at 05:30 to leave for the Taj at 06:00 AHHH!!!!

Day 3 in India! – Its 05:00AM! I wake up to Erica’s phone singing “Spice up your life – Slam it to the left if your having a good time, shake it to the right if you know that you feel fine… Spice up your life!” HAha it was hilarious! Good way to wake up! So yea we quickly got up and got ready to head out! I am so not a morning person so waking up at 0530 for a 4hr car ride to Agra is not my ideal thing to do! it didn’t seem very exciting to me… so I slept for the first 2hours, it was fab! We stopped at 0800 for breakfast at this random little touristy place on the road… it was very yummmyy! I actually just had toast and butter but it was delicious! But let me tell you, they had ‘jam toast, butter toast with jam, butter toast, plain toast, butter and jam toast, French toast, butter slice, and plain slice’ – it was very interesting how many different kinds of toast they had! I was semi perky at this point but it was still mucho early! After breakfast we were back in the car for two more hours, along with a little bit of sleep! wooo! Around 1000 or so our driver told us that a tour guide would be meeting us in about 5min! We were almost there! So we met our tour guy, hopped in a rickshaw with him, and we were at the entrance of the Taj! … We were there! So we got to the entrance and paid our 750 rupees! This 750 rupees got us entrance, a bottle of water, and like disposable socks to go over our shoes. As we walked through the main gate it just slowly started to appear, it just shined beautifully in the light. It was just unbelievable site to see. Directly in front of you stood this beautiful monument just towering. It just like shined in the distance. The marble was just gorgeous. This white shiny marble, oh just amazing…like seriously, words really cant describe this play at all. The marble was just so like smooth and soft. So at first we just took lots and lots of pictures and then we walked towards closer over to the Taj. We literally just stared! Ah just beautiful like that’s all I can say!!! – so we headed on to the Taj Mahal itself. We had to put our disposable socks over our shoes and we were there, good to go! So we headed in the Taj where we had to wait in a line that literally took only like 10minutes total, and then we were inside the Taj Mahal! Inside was beautiful too. You weren’t allowed to take pictures inside unfortunately but it really still amazing. The artwork, the texture, the site, the color of the marble→ gosh it was just remarkable. The actually tomb site inside the Taj itself was covered by a screen so you could not actually see down below. It was still just great. So we walked around for a while and then headed outside on to just sit and relax this astounding site. Sitting on the marble was just so weird, and it was so smooth and cold! I’m telling you I really cant find the words to describe this place. Literally it was just miraculous view. That’s really all that I can say about it. –AMAZING—BEAUTIFUL—one of the most amazing sites that I have ever seen. — so okay we left the Taj and our tour guide took us to a couple stores and then also to a store/business that makes stuff just out of marble- like tabletops, tables, chess boards, little figures, etc. → pretty much the same marble that was used on the Taj. It was pretty cool to see how they made some of these things. It is hard to scrape marble, they let us try to do it but it wasn’t easy! But it was a fun time! Around 14:30 or so we were back on the road… so weird, we drove 4hours for like a 1-2 hour visit to the Taj Mahal, but it was just totally worth seeing!! On the way home we stopped for a quick dinner and then we just kept it going. It actually took us legit like 6.5 hours to get home! It was such a LONG car ride. We played games most of the car ride and slept the rest→ we had to find some way to keep ourselves occupied in a little car for almost 7hours! Ahhh! We got back to the hotel around 21:30 or so, maybe even later. We ended up just going on the internet for a little bit then heading off to bed! It was a long but very enjoyable day! The Taj Mahal was BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!

Day 4 in India! – so today we woke around 0900 or so. We packed up and then headed out to walk around for a little bit… we crossed the busy busy scary streets!! Omggoshh I am never going to get used to that!!! We first headed to lunch… McDonalds again wooo! After lunch we just sort of walked around, site-seeing I guess you could say… We headed over to the Red Fort (which was located like 2minutes from our hostel) to go look at that monument… unfortunately at this time it was closed because it is closed on Mondays! So we just stuck our heads through the gate to take some pictures! After we went to the Red Fort we went to this little market that was actually a Tibetan Refugee, where they just sold a lot of amazing things! It was interesting and they were all very nice! … we headed back to the hostel around 1300 or so and waited for our driver to the airport. We just sat around, used the internet (of course) for a little bit, and then were off to Delhi airport! Now the ride to the airport just seemed sooo long! Like an hour ugh, so over being in a car!! So this airport was actually a very nice airport, we really didn’t get to see it when we arrived… but it was relevantly big and very nice. They had a few shops and a good sized food court→ its just a whole different set up within the terminals though, since you board your flight not at the gate exactly but at the bus, I feel it just takes a huge amount of congestion of the airport away because you don’t have people just piling to get out! and it also was set up in 3 levels… check in, stores and security= 2nd floor or ground level, gates=1st floor, and food=3rd floor… I though that was nice… so once we arrived at the airport we just checked in and headed through security→ we ended up after just sitting in the food court because we had nothing better to do. our flight was called to board around 16:10 or so. So I decided to quickly head to the rest rooms before getting on the plane → more to just check it out and see the looks (thank goodness it was a westernized bathroom!) and then we boarded the bus to take us to the plane! We got on the plane and we were up in the air around 16:55! We were off and back to Chennai! The ride was relevantly quick I guess you could say… about 2-2½ hrs or so… the sun set from the plane view was BEAUTIFUL. It was like a multitude of rainbow colors, just so pretty! Most of the flight though I just did some homework, totally not fun but its okay. We landed around 19:30ish… we grabbed a cab and were off to the ship… so this cab ride was a FAB experience! We totally almost got into about 3 accidents… I think my heart stopped beating once or twice because I was so nervous! Our driver was crazy! And we were driving behind a bus, and he decided he did not feel like braking—yea no not cool at all… the first time it happened he decided to put his foot on the brake when we were less than an inch away from the bus’s back bumper!! This happened one or more times after this and it was just soooo scary! We all just like looked at one other and held our breaths. We also almost hit a motorcyclist… craziness!!! We finally… and most importantly SAFELY made it back to the ship around 20:15. We headed to our rooms to take a nice AMAZING much needed shower (saying none of us have not taken a real shower in three days and we were all disgusting gross with dirt and sweat caked on us haha.) After my awesomely amazing shower i headed to grab a quick bite at dinner and I was in bed pretty much by like 23:00 at the latest! What a long day but what a fabulous past few days in Delhi!!

Day 5 in India- so today is my last day in India! I awoke around 0700 for my trip to an Indian film production studio, Bollywood!! called →Prasad Film Studio<– which is one of the main film production companies in India. This trip was sort of an ‘optional’ requirement for one of my classes if that makes sense. It was pretty cool though, we first learned a little bit about the company itself and then we saw around the different areas of the studio. We saw a film and a video lab where we saw how they piece parts of movies together within just using film recording not digital recording. It was very interesting how all of it worked where as they can literally just cut the piece of film in half and reattach it to another piece of film and then we also got to see how and where the picture films and the voice films come together. It is crazy how they just roll and fit right together! it was pretty amazing to see… we also went into a recording studio where we saw how the sound was made and checked to make sure it fits correctly! It was crazy!! We got to see an actual set being built to→ now to see how in these films they literally use just pieces and scraps of whatever to make a set, now that was great… like to make a table, rather then use a regular table they used stumps from trees and blocks of wood, and it looked great! The set we saw looked more like a stage set but we did not know what they were going to be filming… I just found everything there very interesting. There wasn’t much more to the day, it was nice to learn and see how “Bollywood” works and films. It was a nice trip to end our time in India. We got back to the ship around 13:35 and most of us just headed upstairs to the dining hall to eat lunch. After lunch I pretty much just went back to my room and did some work… it was a long couple of days and I was ready to come in and relax.

So India… hmm… it has been an absolutely AMAZING experience. It is dirty, it is busy, it is congested, it was cultural, it was different, a change. I saw poverty and beggars, I saw wealth, I saw many people peeing on the side of the road, I saw crap (literally, it was gross and it smelled!) I saw more baby butts then can be imagined (just on the side of the road in their mothers arms, I don’t know if diapers aren’t used or aren’t affordable but I found that sad and interesting… I saw beggars→ both adults and children and it was so sad! I saw people without limbs, I saw people just trying to make a living off whatever, I saw people pulling and pushing these HUGE wagons, it was just crazy… I saw the area where the 2nd longest beach in the world is→ where the terrible and unfortunately 2004 tsunami hit, I saw very friendly people. I saw a whole different style of how to use a bathroom, how to shower, and how to live! I saw a whole different concept of the horn of a car, and of how to maneuver a car!!! Just driving in the car you get a whole sense of culture – you just are able to see SO much! I was scared, I was confused, I was lost, I was nervous, I was excited, I was READY! It was just an overall intense unbelievable amazing time! The only thing I am disappointed that I didn’t do was to try authentic Indian food, but I was nervous but I still got to have an unbelievable experience… I personally don’t think that India is a place that I’d go on vacation –not anytime soon at least- but it is a great place just to see overall… (and of course the Taj Mahal!) It has culture, it has life, it has just so much that I can’t really describe. I have tons and tons of pictures and videos and just looking at them it just like … wow! I am so glad that I had the chance to visit India→ even for just 5days! It was perfect though. I will say it was a hassle trying to book my tickets to fly to Delhi to see the Taj Mahal but it was just Totally Worth It! I was in one of the most populated placed in the world and it was a total eye opener… I saw another part of the world in a whole different way.. and like I said before, I just can’t wrap my finger around how it made feel. — I just know it was an experience to remember.

3 Comments

Auntie Ellen 11/4/09 2:44 pm

Hi Alyssa,
WOW is all I can say. What an experience,Can’t wait to see the pictures!!!!See, now when Auntie tells you stories of camping, and peeing in the woods, you can relate!!LOL
LOVE YOU/MISS YOU
Auntie Ellen

Auntie Nikki 11/4/09 3:51 pm

Soooo we like the word “legit” now, huh? ;-) ~
Glad you had such an amazing time in India, can’t wait to see your pictures. xoxo

Lois 11/17/09 7:09 pm

Hi Alyssa
I am on the phone with ma who is bored…of course she is thats why she called me.
She is in the parking lot waiting for Georgia
She says HI…
i have started reading your blog i am very impressed you are having a great experience….enjoy
reality will return…
love lois