Tag Archives: india

Terrific Turbulence

13 Oct

India was great.

After many challenging yet enlightening months in India, I returned home to a new project, new residence, and new mindset. I am very grateful for the experiences I have had whilst overseas, and for the many new friends made – come visit me soon, okay!*

I don’t wish to cheapen the experience by summarising what the best, worst or most challenging moments were. I think I shared just enough in previous blog posts to provide at least a little insight to my strange life over there.

Nor do I want to undervalue the worth of those experiences. Instead, all I feel I might safely say is: please see it for yourself. But make a note not to see only the “tourist” side of India. Go experience real life. The good life, and the not so good. Talk to people. Really, really see India for yourself.

*Please note: that was not a question.

But being home is better.

Going back on my word a little, I will say that one of the best things about spending a longer time in India is that it has given me an interestingly different perspective on the things that surround me back home. Seemingly simple things like the quiet traffic or the drinkable tap water have become a source of comfort. The personal space is relieving. But the price of groceries… a damn shame.

Reenergised through all of this, I’ve started on a new project – a really exciting campaign – that you will hopefully hear more of soon. For now, trust that jumping between lives and projects is a little turbulent, but mostly great fun.

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Vroom, beep beep, screeeeeech

31 Aug

I’m finding it harder and harder to get to sleep. Not only is it noisy in my head, but it’s noisy in an Indian city.

For someone who grew up listening to the melody of leaves rustling in the wind, rain on a tin roof, and assorted birdsong, the noises of Indian city have been challenging to live with. The traffic never ceases, and I guess that’s to be expected, but the stop-start method of driving, prevalent even in the night times, means I hear squeaky brakes, horns beeping and engines revving far too often for my liking. It’s an odd symphony: vroom, beep beep, screeeeeech, beep, vroom vroom squeak beep, vroom beep screech. Is that a siren I just heard? Oh man. It’s getting worse.

What really amazes me though, are the construction noises that  commence at 11pm. I honestly have no idea if it’s common to have a nightshift on building sites, but it sure has been consistent. Especially on weekends. “Bang, Bang, Bang…” It sort of sounds like someone hammering into metal sheets. “…Bang, Bang, Bang.” (Yes, this is my lame excuse for sleeping in and missing another chance to Skype.)

So in the meantime, finding it far too hard to obey the voice in my head saying “just sleep”, the other voice starts whispering as it sifts through the jumble in my mind. In the time that I should have been sleeping, I’ve drafted three half written blog posts, a map for my next photography walk, and a response to that work email I think I read recently – it’s a pity they’re already lost in the depths of my mind again.

One thing has managed to escape into the “real” world though, and you may have noticed it already. In a strange spark of what might be termed “creativity”, I’ve renamed this blog: Olivia’s Oddventures.

There, now it’s done.

Please world, let me sleep now.

Welcome to Delhi

16 Jul

It’s 6am, and it’s already 30 degrees outside. You’re in the backseat of a car, and the driver’s idea of “air conditioning” is ensuring all the windows are rolled down. You’re not wearing a seatbelt – not because you’re rebellious, or even because seatbelt wearing is not mandated by Indian law, but because the seatbelt is missing. As your driver takes you down the highway, on the way to the Agra bus stop, he pulls over suddenly, hops out, and walks down the road. You wonder to yourself, is he going to help out the truck driver who’s clearly stranded on the side of the road? How nice of him! …no, he keeps walking. He’s in the middle of the road now, staring at something, picking it up. He returns to the car, doing a quick check of the underside. As he hops back in, he casually places that “something” in the passenger seat, removes a wrapping of gaffa tape from the hand brake, then continues driving down the road. After a while, he calmly announces “the brakes failed…”.
Yep, Welcome to Delhi.
Lesson #1: Keep Calm.
On my “backpacking adventure” in India a month ago, I was faced with a number of life’s important lessons. The first of which is too keep calm, because there’s just too much that’s beyond my control.
In truth, the lesson started about 18 hours earlier. Whilst still in Pune, on the day of our departure, I had learned that the plans to travel right up into the Himalayas had fallen through, and I had to cancel over half of the bookings. I was upset with myself, not too happy with the travel agents, and in the middle of an emotional breakdown. With the support of my wonderful partner, we were able to redesign the trip in a last minute rush, and even make it to the airport on time.
I had almost calmed down, when we discovered that the cab to pick us up from Delhi airport had been and gone, on account of our delayed flight. We were left waiting late into the night for the driver’s return – after all, they expected us to pay for his earlier visit – whilst I closely clutched our belongings and warily eyed everyone and anyone with suspicion.
The arrival at the hotel didn’t do much to calm me down. I was tired and cranky, the air too hot and too thick, and yet we had to wait for our passports to be scanned, amongst other dull proceedings. Finally, we were led to a somewhat-air-conditioned-room for a dreary 4 hours of sleep.
Things were not off to a good start, and I was definitely stressed. Yet the car ride that morning triggered a change. We had no seat belts, were relying on faulty brakes, and I was okay. The realisation that my stressors had all been quite out of my control left me without the ability to panic. I kept calm and, suddenly, the adventure was enjoyable.
Lesson #2: Go Your Own Way
One of the most irritating things about being a tourist in India is being targeted by touts. They might hustle you into their rickshaw, or personally walk you into a shop, mysteriously steer you into pricey souvenir stores (though sometimes not a bad thing), and away from the more interesting experiences of walking through the markets or pretending to be an ordinary citizen.
The store keepers of the touts’ shops are politely worse. Short of actually demanding that you buy things, they turn sales into an art form. Leaving a store empty handed requires a lot of determination, patience and tact. If I ever want to study sales tricks, I plan to watch these guys at work for a day or two.
The lesson learned is to pave your own way, which sometimes leads to doing the opposite of what the touts suggest. When aiming directly for the main bazaar in Delhi, we actually had one such tout tell us not to go there because of a “fight” that had broken out there a day before. It was “unsafe” and we would apparently do better to follow him to the store of his choice. Another tout followed alongside us, offering handy tips to scare us away from the market such as “wear your backpack across your chest”. Sure, this might have seemed like reasonable advice, but I assure you that the safety of our beings, as well of our belongings (particularly our wallets!), was much more secure amongst the confining backstreets and alleyways of the market, than amongst the touts and tourist shops *Phew*. Had we followed their advice, we would’ve missed out on the sights and sounds of a real market, the much better prices, and the quaint experience of meeting with a lost backpacker looking for a last minute budget hotel – what a character!
Lesson #3: Resorts in-the-middle-of-nowhere Are Probably A Bad Idea
Particularly for more than one night.
This part of our adventure was hastily patched together after our cancelled Himalayan expedition. It featured two nights near the Jim Corbett reserve, in the hopes of arranging an elephant safari. The resort was so out of the way that we’d driven past it by about a half hour before realising we had little idea where it was. Once getting there, we also realised we were so isolated from anything of interest, that beyond the 2 hour safari, we would have nothing else to do.
Whilst it was a delight to escape the noises and crowds of everwhere-else-that-is-India, the lack of real adventures left something to be desired.
Lesson #4: Have Fun
Originally titled “It’s Okay to Fail”, thanks to my stressful experience, but already covered in this post, accepting failure is also about having fun. Although the “adventure” had many failures and underwent many late changes, it was still successful, in the sense that it really was an adventure. Particularly the part where we got engaged at the Taj Mahal *swoon*.
So go on, have fun, I dare you.

Girl Geek Spotted in India…

11 Jul

I went for a walk after work, and wound up at the nearest “supermarket”. There, whilst dawdling through the aisles, I spotted an old friend, and invited her back home with me. Here she is enjoying the fine “monsoon” weather on the balcony:

Computer Engineer Barbie

Say what you will about the appropriateness of Barbie as an icon or role model, it’s still pretty cool that she (finally) ventured into the IT industry.

Are you a Girl Geek?

25 Jun

Are you a girl geek, or a supportive male?
Do you study or work in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Technology, Multimedia, Computer Games, Science, Engineering, Mathematics or other related disciplines.

Then you’ll want to be part of Girl Geek Coffees:

Better still, if you are a Girl Geek in India, or know any Girl Geeks in India, please get in touch. We are attempting to open some Indian chapters, and need your help!

About Girl Geek Coffees:

Girl Geek Coffees (GGC) is a meet and greet open discussion group, for women in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Technology, Multimedia, Computer Games and related disciplines (e.g. Science, Engineering, and Mathematics). Supportive males can attend if they are accompanied by a female. Chapters of GGC can be found at Universities around the World. Students and early career graduates proudly independently run the GGC. Proactive support is generously provided by Academic and Industry Ambassadors, including supportive males to incorporate rich and varied perspectives.

We aim to foster relationships, networking and mentoring over a relaxed cup of coffee (tea, chai, chocolate etc). The GGC observes a flat open structure, enabling women from all different walks of life and experience levels to chat casually and ‘be themselves’. The group may engage in forum discussions, industry insights, and faculty advice. The greatest emphasis is on forming ‘connection’ and ‘support’ amongst females in a relaxed and comfortable personal environment.

Shopping Girly; Shopping Geeky

30 Apr

I adore shopping in India, where the fashion tends towards the colourful and the shiny, and these shoes are certainly no exception:

Not only that, but I found a place offering fish pedicures. This is a novelty not just to me, but to the locals as well – so whilst it is not really an Indian experience, I simply could not pass up an opportunity for my feet to be swarmed by carnivorous fish,  all whilst I sat reading my Kindle. Ah, if only I had brought a camera!

I have to admit, at first dipping my feet into the fish tank was quite unnerving. As my feet neared the water, the fish swarmed with greater eagerness. As my feet drew away, they too drew away, as if confused by the lost presence. After satisfying my initial childish intrigue, I plunged my feet in the water, only to be shocked by the tickling sensation – having fish eat your feet is a remarkable experience (disclaimer: both the fish and my feet survived the encounter).

And finally, to share something from the Australian market, and further promote futile consumerism, check out these classy USB Cufflinks.

The Doctor’s Office

15 Apr

Disclaimer: I went to see a local doctor recently, but don’t worry, it wasn’t overly serious and I’m okay now 🙂

The directions to the doctor’s office were a teensy bit obscure, but only as obscure as every other location in India:
“it’s on this lane, which is opposite this lane, just off of this road”
“Ah yes, let me just find that on google maps. I see the lane, but where on the lane is it?”
“Oh… it’ll be there. Try finding this landmark, or this shop, and remember to look out for the this particular complex”.

This is how locations are commonly defined, in terms of intersections and landmarks. No street numbers, that would make it too easy. The business card for my current accommodation literally says it’s on “x road, 1km ahead of y bridge” (and yes the streets and landmarks have real, non algebraic names, but I don’t want to be stalked, mmk?).

So I may have overlooked the doctor’s office the first time around. Instead of departing the rickshaw at one end of the lane and walking its entirety to find the office, I rode in the rickshaw through the entire lane (just over 1km) in the hope that I would spot the aforementioned “landmarks”. As a result, I ended up on the far end of the lane, only to walk the whole way back. My bad.

Ah, at last I reached the doctor’s office – a small building that looked somewhat hazardous upon entry, but was immaculate and lovely within. Upon arrival I was advised that the doctor would be back shortly, and I was asked to wait outside. Outside! Sure, it makes sense to loose sick people unto “fresh” air rather than group us into a tight space and incubate our germs, but … outside?

At first, that was definitely a bizarre notion. Until that holiday feeling started sinking in. You know, that feeling you get when you’re doing nothing at all, outside, away from the fluorescent lights, sound systems and ventilated air; when you’re not tempted to think about emails or deadlines or dishes. It was calming, and definitely reduced the anxiety that might at times be felt in an ordinary waiting room. For once I wasn’t rehearsing what I’d say to the doctor, or wondering what vile, contagious diseases the other patients might have. Personally, I think this doctor is onto something.

Then I made the faux pas of not taking my shoes off once I went inside. I understand how this is common when entering a home, but to go barefoot in a doctor’s office? If my lovely friends from India can please tell me (a) if this is common and (b) why it happens, then please, please do!

Aside from that, I can mention that the doctor-patient confidentiality is not so prevalent here. Again, I am not sure if this is common or was just for doctor, and I don’t particularly want to visit more doctors to find out. What I do know is that two or three patients would see the doctor at the same time. They’d each have their own turn in consultation, but they’d be in the room together, listening to each others’ symptoms and prescriptions. I was fascinated to watch a baby being treated – she was simply adorable! Once again, this was a bizarre concept to me at first, but it was far better than being isolated with a stranger, and putting all my trust in them. *Phew* So in reality, this practice built up my confidence in the doctor, which I think is what any foreigner might need. And as a final note, the doctor was brilliant, and I am quite well again.

So yay! for another update to prove that I’m still alive.