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Friday, June 29, 2012

I still haven't posted on any of the things I said I was going to post on

But I will! I promise so hardcore that I will.

Today I would like to post on some sort of failurish attempts at working on my project. This isn't like, one of those things that is going to talk about failure and me failing and my resistance to failing before accepting it and having an epiphany that really failure, while painful can be good and I learned a bunch of stuff and blah blah blah.

No, nothing so tired as that. I mean failurish because it didn't quite work, but it has potential. So I have been discussing how I am having difficulties in finding a good population to work with. I tried something new, and you are probably going to say I am kind of dumb for thinking this would work, but it still could. I have started attending Hard Rock Cafe's live music nights. I know, Hard Rock Cafe. With all the loud music and not being able to hear yourself think. The thing is, the live music format creates this stage/dance area that breaks down the impenetrable fortresses of tables that usually exist in restaurants and creates this space where it is possible to approach people. The problem of course is my own introvertedness and the loud music. But it has so much potential. The alcohol and the friendly atmosphere provide the best meeting place I have yet discovered to get in contact with the more likely to read upper echelons of Indian society. If I were actually anything remotely close to outgoing I could make it work. But alas, I am not.

I am not sure exactly how to work with this experience in the context of my postcolonial studies and all that. What I attended last night was clearly an essentially western experience. The idea of the rock concert, the consumption of beers, the conspicuously western food, even the band. They were all Indians, but they sang in English. It was composed of a drummer, three lead singers, a guitarist, and two bassists (I think). They sang a couple covers in addition to their own songs and also did a downtempo mashup of Lady Gaga's Poker Face and Paparazzi. I'm not sure if they know what lg is singing about in poker face, but oh well. We will let them enjoy their west aping innocence.

There were some variations though. For instance, the band had three lead singers, which is almost unheard of in the standard American band. Also, one of the lead singers was a flautist...which was kind of random. The girls were dressed in modern Indian woman casual, which is basically western except with an Indian flare. It is mostly visible in the different cuts of shirts and dresses. I think the most interesting thing about it is that it doesn't look funny or out of place or anything. I actually looks surprisingly fashionable. It could easily pass as a trend in the U.S. The men dress more overtly western. A few wore t-shirts or dark colored or striped button up shirts. However a lot of them wore white button up shirts tucked into belted jeans. They look like they had just come from office and taken off their ties. It looked a little humorously geeky to me actually. The way the men dressed, more than the girls actually, seemed to represent how this concert idea has either been appropriated or poorly imitated in India. I don't really know which it is at this point, to be honest.

The weirdest moment of the night and actually one of the most surreal moments I have ever had in India happened just before the band went on. If you have been to a Hard Rock, you know that they blast music the whole time. It's not my favorite part. You guys can read sarcastic understatements, right? Anyhow, so I was txting someone and I suddenly hear someone yell "YMCA!!!!" and suddenly everyone gets really excited. Two people sitting on the couch nearest me start sort of doing the YMCA dances and I am just sitting there thinking "wait, what?" And suddenly the YMCA song comes blasting over the stereo and all the waiters get on stage and I am surrounded by Indians singing along robustly to the YMCA song and doing the dance. There were even a couple of people standing on the bar. Everyone was so excited. It was so bizarre. And then it ended and everyone went back to what they were doing like nothing had happened. I wish I had had a camera with me. It kind of has to be seen to be believed. So now I am trying to find a context to place this experience in. This Indian concert thing was so quintessentially western. The idea of Hard Rock Cafe and the live music in English in a very western style and format could have easily occurred anywhere in the U.S. But there were so many things about it that were so very, very undeniably Indian about it.

Now I am left puzzling over it. Is it a sign of continued western colonization through ideology and business? Is it a sign of India's cultural robustness that it is absorbing the culture of other  countries and making them its own? One summer is not enough time for this. Even after a few years here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Okay, I am posting about stuff I have been thinking about, namely bathing and toilet use in India and I see no reason to not be frank, but if you are a sissy lala and cannot handle conversation like normal adults, I have put everything after the jump. But if you skip this entry, stop for a minute and think about that.

This won't be long, just there are two things I have been meaning to talk about.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Postmodern Research in a Prepostmodern Country

Honestly, I think this has been one of the most draining aspects of my research project so far. Having done a lot of the upper level theory courses for my degree in addition to growing up in the to varying degrees obsessed with political correctness American society, I have been repeatedly grilled on being open minded and tolerant. In the prep course and in studying postmodernism, again and again I have worked with topics of understand difference and otherness and how that impacts everyday life. I find my thought process annoyingly reflexive. I can't encounter anything anymore without subconsciously beginning to take it apart and examining its context. I am in a perpetual search for the source of meaning and the purpose of everything that happens and its relation to everything else.

I'm not trying to blow my own horn here, this is just what I have observed about how I have operated here. I suppose I have been thinking like this for a while, I just never realized the degree to which I have been doing it until I came to India where honestly, no one else does it. I am sure it is the same in the same in the U.S., I have just been sheltered in college, so I have not had to face the daily reality of people who do not tend to think about the role of religion and personal mythology in the formulation of self identity and stupid stuff like that.

Anyhow, thinking like that is fine because it is just thought. You do not need anyone else to engage in it or agree with you. Just after about a month or two now, it just feels weird feeling like the only person who thinks this way. It has kind of begun to become mentally painful not being able to share these thoughts. It is just a complete failure of communication. It is not even a language gap. To everyone I have talked to so far, they just do not really care.

To a degree Indians are not capable of thinking in this mode. Now to clarify such a potentially controversial statement, I do not mean that genetically Indians cannot do this or that they are stupid or lazy or culturally inferior or anything, I just mean from what I have observed where they are culturally and developmentally, the role that religion plays in society is not really an important or meaningful question. With so many people just struggling to get by, it makes sense. There is no cultural impetus for them to approach things from a postmodern perspective.

It is just a bizarre experience to be so focused on being understanding and accommodating with people who have no training or education on cultural difference and so seem incapable of really understanding difference. This ranges from the humorous (like trying to explain what Americans eat to someone who cannot imagine anything other than rice and roti due to life experience) to the almost belligerent (such as people who cannot understand why Americans might have a problem with the local water).

I think it is so startling to me because I have never really experienced India consciously looking at cultural difference specifically.

What am I even trying to say here? I guess I am just starved for intellectual engagement. I feel like I have so many observations and things I want to share and stuff, but there is no one around me capable of interacting with me on that level. I know I can post here and e-mail people and even phone call, but it is not quite the same as being able to talk to whoever I am with when the thought strikes me about the fascinating way Hinduism interacts with faith and miracles. I want to be able to discuss with people what it means that people just accept miracles like the idea that there is still a floating rock bridge to Sri Lanka because Lord Ram built it and the Ramayan is absolutely true or that there is a field that is red with dried blood from the battle fought in the Mahabharat. These are both definitely false, but even if I meet someone who also agrees that they are false, they still do not really see the value in discussing what the cultural implications of this is in the everyday life of Indians and reality as perceived by many Hindus.

This is such a surreal experience in essence. This is all very rough. I am not expressing myself properly. I do not know why I feel like I am at the very edge of my language trying to put these ideas into words. I will continue to work on this idea and hopefully come to a more firm/rational conclusion. I will work on coming to some sort of final encapsulation of these ideas towards the end to see if I can actually logically and clearly state what I mean/feel.

I feel like it has to be a language thing. I bet in Hindi there is a lot of this stuff that goes on. I just wish everything I have seen thus far did not confirm my feeling like no one thinks about these things.

Kamru Nag and Shikari Devi

These two temples are the reason I returned to Himchal Pradesh. Well, I mean, it is more complicated than that, but for clarity, simplicity, and length, I will leave this post at that.

Anyhow, so after much begging and pleading by a few different people, I agreed to return to Himachal Pradesh for a local yearly festival that occurs at the Kamru Nag temple there. Who is Kamru Nag? Honestly I am not quite sure. My friend from Himachal Pradesh places him in the Mahabharat or something. There was some story about him destroying leaves but being outwitted by Krishna. Other things I have read online suggest he is a local rain god. Some place him as a local representation of a different god. So I am not exactly sure. Either way leaves and snakes seem to be important to him. I can't really find much on him, to be honest. And I am not even certain it is a him. The other temple is also relatively obscure. The Shikari Devi temple is more famous than the Kamru Nag temple, it seems, but there is almost no information on it either. I do know that it is dedicated to a local version of Durga and that local tradition holds that it was founded by the Pandavs when they were in exile. (The Pandavs are the main characters of the Mahabharat)

Anyhow, so what went down? Well first our trip was delayed because someone in the local village died. It was not like a funeral observance thing where Indians sometimes do not cook or travel or something. Just, some people were out of town and were going to be late that we were supposed to go with and then the person died, so the trip got pushed back a few days. A little late we set off. The group that went was myself and my friend and his cousin, his friends, and some local village boys. We went in three or four rented cars and started around nine or ten at night. I forgot to check the actual time leaving.

I guess I should first clarify that in all these exploits, my friend from Himachal Pradesh never really explains very well what we are going to be doing and what is going to be involved. I had it in my mind that we were going to some sort of midnight vigil thing or something. We would leave at eight, get there, do our thing and be back by midnight or one. Not so. Oh not so at all.

We left at around nine or ten and did not arrive at the temple mountain until about two in the morning. This whole five hour ish drive was winding around mountain slopes the entire time on what would have barely been one lane highways in the U.S. Except this was used as a two lane high way for big buses and lorries. (the Indian version of a semi, except they are much smaller) So at the temple everyone just parked on the highway. The hiking (yes, hiking) started on the main road far from the starting point because everyone parked wherever and so the road was clogged with cars and bikes and buses and lories. (apparently the less affluent pilgrims just hire trucks to ride in the back of) After some careful navigating and a standoff with a flock of men on motorcycles willing to sit in traffic for forever to drive as absolutely close to the starting point as possible rather than walk for a few minutes we reached the base.

This is where one of the most madcap hikes I have ever been on began. There was no trail. It was a free-for-all. Anything goes, just get up the mountain. And this isn't just the boy scouts and the young men leaders doing this. Everyone and their mom was there. I am dead serious. It was literally everyone and the mom. We were hiking in the pitch dark climbing up the side of a mountain, often very steep, often involving climbing up small cliff faces with grandmothers and small children and fat middle aged women and men and old men and basically anyone you can imagine. It was kind of surreal. I was using the flashlight on the end of my mobile to light my way, but many people, including a lot of old people were attempting the climb in the dark.

Now I have a small confession to make. On this hike I sort of left my FS student hair down and asserted my individuality a little bit. The people here in Himachal Pradesh, at least my friends, call themselves "Pahari's." In the local languages, Pahari means mountain. So they are mountain people, very basic essentially. Which means they assume, rightly so, that they are super good at climbing mountains and walking long distances. True Pahari's really are incredible in this sense. They can literally cross entire mountains with tough hiking in a day like it was nothing.

But now that I think about it, let me take a step back. In India hospitality, many times the comparison is drawn that guests should be treated like gods, which is actually kind of true. When you live with an Indian family they basically won't let you do anything. They want to buy everything for you. They bring you random snacks. They give you their beds. They save the best for you. It drives me freaking crazy! I cannot stand it. You can not even pee without them holding your hand it feels like. So at the point of this hike I was starting to get to the end of my tolerance for Indian hospitality. Which is so great, except when you live through it for a while and get tired of being forced to drink soda after soda after soda and eat so much food you feel sick for the sake of hospitality.

Anyhow, so we reach the foot of the mountain and as I step up onto the first rock my friend puts his hand around my waste and his other hand on my right wrist to help me climb up onto the mountain. Not that this was very academic to begin with, but pardon me for letting my tousled academic hair down, I was like "oh hell no." I mean, I did not say that, but that is what I was thinking. Almost verbatim. I was not going to be helped up a mountain like a little boy. I have been hiking since forever. I can accept that I would be the slowest hiker, maybe even with the least experience, but I was not going to be treated like I was six on my first father and sons camping trip.

...So I did the slightly culturally insensitive thing of pushing on ahead, taking difficult shortcuts, jumping/running up difficult portions unnecessarily. And I found that actually I was much better at hiking than my Pahari companions. They were huffing and puffing and sweating and needed a break and I was rearing to go. Seeing this I opted to drive the point home that I could be independent and pushed my leash further and further until I finally broke away from the group and just met them at the temple site.

I am a little embarrassed to say how much I enjoyed essentially skipping up that mountain while my friends and companions struggled up the mountain behind me. I probably should not have enjoyed the experience of these people having their Pahari cred handed to them by a white boy. Oh snap!

Anyhow, so I got the temple site about four thirty or five in the morning. Everyone else started arriving twenty or thirty minutes later. I have no idea how far the hike was. It was almost entirely up hill over difficult terrain. I have to imagine that it would take some of those families a long time to get up the mountain.

Random cultural observation: Indians are the only people I have ever seen who will stop in the middle of a hike to have a cigarette break. I am mystified by this practice.

At the temple site there were a bunch of people lying around and tents for people to rest in as well as to serve food. We ate breakfast of dal and some sort of curry over rice at one of these tent things. Then we went to go see the temple. The temple is very small. It doesn't even have walls. It was mostly just a roof actually. It sits on a small lake. You can approach the temple from either side, although you have to walk around the pond/lake thing either way. We took our shoes off and went to go see the deity. Seeing the idol was not very enlightening as to what the god actually was, to be honest, but it was a cool experience non the less.

The special thing about this temple is the pond thing actually. At the temple site, people make wishes or requests to the god and then throw money and other things into the lake. This could be anything from a few rupees to thousand rupee bills to even gold jewelry and statutes. I do not know if the temple cleans out the lake and uses it for something or if it just builds up there. All i do know is that there was a lot of money in that pond.

From the temple after spending some time visiting it and wandering around we were going to go to the Shikari Devi temple. There are two options to accomplish this. You can drive there, or you can hike there. We opted to hike since it seemed more exciting. Although to be honest I did not sleep at all the previous night so I was a little apprehensive. I did not take any naps the day before because I thought it was going to be a short trip and sleeping in the car was impossible because it was overstuffed and they spent the entire five hours, yes, the entire five hours in the middle of the night with the stereo blasting at full volume singing along to Indian and Western songs, especially rap and pop.

I'm not exactly sure how long the hike was. Everyone gave me a different number. I cannot find anything online that lists a difference. From Google maps I kind of measured out the distance, but I am still not really sure. All I know is that it was somewhere between twenty-five and forty miles. It was all up and down mountains.

It was pretty amazing. The landscape was so beautiful. It was kind of a cross between the opening scene of The Sound of Music and the traveling scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring. I don't know if that helps. I have pictures. I will work on trying to get them posted somehow. Anyhow, so we are hiking along. I kept switching groups because everyone wanted to stop and rest and I wanted to just get there, so whenever a group would push ahead I would jump ship and tag along with the new lead group.

That worked well until the last group I was on took a wrong turn and we kind of got lost in the backwoods of the Shikari Devi mountains. I think they are called that. Anyhow, so we were wandering through these tiny trails occasionally running into these small cabin things in the middle of the woods where true Pahari's live. It is weird to see true Pahari's because they are often very fair and often have light colored eyes. In many cases they look eerily European. Which is not bad, just it is odd to see the juxtaposition of these people stuck back in time with basic technology, no running water, no electricity, no cars, no roads, just completely living in the woods, living off the land kind of a deal who look so much like South Europeans who are so metropolitan.

Generally everything was okay. I almost slipped off the mountains because we accidentally got split when a trail diverged radically up and down unexpectedly so some of us were climbing up the side of the mountain to get on the correct higher trail. I reached the trail almost when I stood up and ran into a giant spider web with a spider in it so while I was freaking out trying not to get a spider on me while also trying not to harm the spider...I ran into the giant spider web with a spider in it that was next door to the spider house I had just demolished. So while I was overwhelmed with this double spider dilemma I understandably was no longer paying attention to where I was stepping and kind of slipped off the trail and down the really steep mountain side. Luckily I had my camera strapped to my right hand and I kind of used it as a grip to stop myself from going very far. So when I mentally justified to myself spending more money on a camera to get the partially weatherproofed, more durable model a year or two ago, I made the correct decision apparently, because my camera was fine and I did not fall off the mountain.

The other slightly bad thing was when we ran into some junglee cows. (read: wild cows) Which you would think would not be that big a deal because they are cows and cows are docile and friendly. Not junglee cows. They are belligerent and very fast. There was a slightly tense show down where we had to climb up a part of the mountain that the cows almost certainly could not climb on, although to be honest they can practically climb like mountain goats it felt like. Anyhow, we got away and were on our exhausted way.

Eventually we reached the temple which was an open temple. It was just open to the sky. It sits on top of a big mountain with some pretty good views all around. It was a cool experience.

I got a pretty bad sunburn because I did not wear my sunscreen. If I had been told there was going to be a day long hike I might have brought it along. But oh well. Trying to explain a sunburn to Indians is nearly impossible. They just do not understand. My friends kept thinking I was just being prissy about my skin becoming dark. After several attempts at explaining how a sunburn and melanin works, and after they observed me spasming every time they slapped or grabbed me on the arm or neck I think they began to sort of understand.

Oh, other fun fact: we kind of ran out of food and we did not bring water with us. Basically we drank water wherever we found it: mountain streams, random taps, the hospitality of people living in random cabins we found in the middle of the forest. It seemed to work out okay. But please do not take this as evidence to support your own water drinking. If you ask me, my general advice is still do not ever drink the water if you can avoid it. Do I drink the water? Yes, all the time. Especially in Himachal Pradesh where there really is no other option. At my friends house there is electricity, but no running water and no refrigeration. You just take the water when you can get it, and generally they are careful about where their drinking water comes from and keeping it separate from other water. But do not, do not, do not drink the water.

It was a pretty awesome adventure. The temples were not really all that amazing. They were not really national geographic material. But the cultural aspect of it was so awesome. It was my favorite part. I would be lying if I said I was kind of hoping we would stumble across some massive super awesome monastery or fort or something, but then the whole place would probably be lousy with tourists and everything that made the hike so great probably would have been ruined.

Okay, for serious this time

Alright, sorry, I am back in Delhi for good, I think. I was off in Himachal Pradesh doing some cultural activity stuff. I made some promises to go to some festivals and see some temples, so I was sort of obligated to return. Plus I have a sort of adoptive family there and it is like cultural experience city out there, so I figured in the long run it would actually be more productive for my FS work. I have basically all the cultural experience stuff done. Not that I won't continue to do cultural experience stuff, but the official ones that I have to tick off the course list are mostly done now thanks to Himachal Pradesh.

Worry not about my blogging skills. I have regular access to internet and have been seriously pondering some blog entries, so I hope going forward I will be actually posting regularly for once.

As far as my project project goes, things are proving to be a little more difficult than I initially anticipated. My project in and of itself is not really the difficult part. Honestly it is almost too easy in what I am trying to do. All I need to do is talk to people and observe society here so I can analyze literature in a cultural context. Sounds super easy, right? I mean, it is, the difficulty I did not anticipate is that contrary to being an advantage, not having some specific community I am trying to access or a job to do, really interfacing with people is kind of difficult. Also, filling the days is also difficult. Honestly I haven't spent a day where I have really tried missionary style, walking around and talking to people, but from the limited random approaches I have done...that is not very effective at all. And I am not terribly surprised. Even though my topic is really not all that intimate or anything, I don't blame anyone from not really wanting to talk to the random foreigner who is only talking to them because they happen to be nearby.

The other problem with randomly approaching people besides the fact that it lacks even the possibility for establishing rapport, is the people who really speak English, who are more likely to read at all, whether in English or otherwise, don't really wander around the streets of Delhi. They are all at home in the posh, harder to access neighborhoods or in malls/recreation areas or at work. Basically, the people I need to work with are all cloistered away behind a wall of money. I don't know if I should just go out on a limb and start frequenting malls or bars or restaurants or something. I suppose I could afford buying some appetizer or cheap drink a few times each week, but that would be cutting it close. And I don't know how kosher that is really for BYU research. The problem is that still does not solve the rapport problem.

By explaining this I do not really mean to complain. Things are going well. Through the few friends I have, my random room mates here, and my Himachal Pradesh contacts, I have actually made some pretty interesting observations and had some admittedly brief, but informative conversations about reading. I just feel like my project would be much more successful if instead of giving myself the freedom to explore randomly, I had some organization I was volunteering with or a school I was taking classes at or anything like that. I mean, honestly, with what I am doing, I can do it even if I was just going out to tourist sites everyday. All I need is some people to talk to, and actually Indian tourists are some of the easiest to approach because they also exist in the foreigner space. (I need to post about that, actually) But it would be much easier if I was going to some boring office everyday so I could get to know coworkers or fellow commuters or just having a routine where I could become friendly with people just through repeated daily collisions. I have a few book clubs I am trying to meet with. That is my latest project. I am not really sure how that is going to go, but we will see.

This has been a great learning experience though. In trying to find housing, in formulating how to work with people, in rethinking my project and having to redefine it based on the reality that faces me in the field, this has been a great experience. What I worry about now is translating that into some worthy end product.

I think that has been my biggest concern lately. I know that over the next month and a half or so that I have left, I will be able to talk to plenty of people to accomplish my purpose of getting a rough sketch of the state or reading in India. But due to limitations in my experience, my resources, and just the amount of time I have, I will not be able to produce some iron clad, scholarly report with copious data and charts. Which isn't necessarily a problem, except I don't want to write some stupid personal reflection on reading in India or something that makes it look like I am just on vacation and as an after thought threw together a ten page paper for some credit.

In my discussions before I left with Professor Eastley, he brought up the excellent idea of relating the things I found with either an analysis of India's literary past or a commentary of sorts of India's current self perception. These ideas really helped the initial definition of my project and have been great for this sort of in-field identity crisis I have been having with my project.

From where I am now, I have been thinking about putting together some sort of essay (along the lines of essayists, not like, just writing an essay like a paper or something) or some sort of literary/cultural criticism piece. I just still struggle with how to present what I have observed. I do not doubt the veracity of what I have observed and concluded so far, but, how do you present such subjective information in a scholarly way? I could record some official interviews and have direct quotes of Raj Whoever saying he does not have time for books in his busy life. I could actually make detailed specific collections of data of everyone I meet and categorize their responses. But none of this is at all representative. I just happened to run into so and so and any collection of who I talk to is going to be small. I do not feel comfortable saying something about India in general and then backing it up with what I observed from a small handful of contacts that I slowly gained over one short summer. I feel like the result would be either disingenuous or juvenile.

But I do not want to pull back and rely too much on my course reading. I have a lot of great reading. It has helped me in rethinking my project and deciding how to go forward, but I worry about the analysis of the literature becoming the center of my project and displacing my experiences and findings in India, which is the whole point of going through the expense of coming here. I am sure I will find a happy balance in the end. They are not mutually exclusive, I just need to find the best way to blend them together.

I just wish filling the days with identifiable productivity wasn't proving so difficult.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blah, okay, I am here

I finally got settled. After a month.  A little longer than I was anticipating, but it all worked out in the end. So now I should update at least somewhat regularly. At least weekly. I am hoping to do more than that, time and ideas permitting. I need to get a book to write down thoughts. I am always bursting with ideas when I am walking about or riding the bus or an auto or something and then I get back to wherever I am staying or the internet cafe and sit down to write a blog entry and...I can't think of anything I feel like writing. I think the problem is I talk throughout these awesome ideas and entries and stuff and it takes a long time and then when I have computer access I can just remember thinking awesome thoughts about something like "comparative food presentation in Indian families in the village and the city" and I just get exhausted thinking about going over it all again and putting it into writing. I am just too lazy, probably.

Anyhow, I have "wifi" here. I mean it works, but it seems like everyone who has a computer here, if they have internet access, they are downloading movies and music from bit torrent. It kind of crowds the network a lot. Indian Roomies, not that I have told any of you about this blog yet, but if you ever read this, I love you and your constant downloads.

I also took a Vodafone internet thingy, so I have back up internet, which is actually faster than any wifi I have used yet in India, which is kind depressing because it is not even 3G. Or maybe it is "3G." The terms get confused here. Remind me to update about buying an internet dongle in India sometime.

So what have I been up to...in a small nutshell...it is kind of difficult to process through all of it. I guess shortly, I got to India about a month ago at 12:30 am with no one expecting me, which actually was not as bad as I was afraid it would be. I chatted with a nice Indian couple from Punjab for an hour or two and then read until the metro opened. I took that to the New Delhi Railway station metro station and got lost and then shafted by an auto driver. That is okay, I knew I was getting shafted and I did not have the energy to fight for a decent price.

This is where I made my mistake. I listened to the dag blasted guide book. I am never using a guide book again. They lie horribly. Okay, I will use a guidebook if I happen to be a millionaire and can afford to stay at all the expensive places. But on a budget? Heck no. They don't even recommend good places. All the places they recommended were these overpriced tourist trap things. Anyhow, because of the stupid guide book (yes I am blaming it, because it is the stupid guidebooks fault) I found a hotel in Pahar Ganj (travel tip: if you ever go to India, never, never stay in Pahar Ganj. I would sleep on the streets first. It is safe, but if you want the worst part of the Indian tourist experience, go there. Everyone is trying to get your attention and your money and it is full of the worst kind of foreign tourist. They all have their dreadlocks and their hippie clothes and think they understand India and are having this "adventure" or this "spiritual" experience. Idiots all. Anyhow, Pahar Ganj is grasping, fake, and incredibly stressful. The real India is so much better than Pahar Ganj.) (Remind me to post an entry just on Pahar Ganj.)

Anyhow, hotel in Pahar Ganj. There are two hotels in Pahar Ganj with very similar names. One is very expensive, the other is very cheap. The guidebook, despite being updated, supposedly, only a few months ago rates everything by this code from LL to G. (Because that makes sense) Because of a quirk in how they laid out the maps in this book I thought I was at the cheap one, but I ended up at the expensive hotel. I just went with it because I was still kind of stressed out about being alone and having all my stupid luggage (two bags: worst idea ever. It is the first time in my life I even entertained the desire for an e-reader. It was short lived, but that is how stressful being in India on your own with two freaking bags, a limited budget, and no where planned to stay.) (For clarification, I have two bags because I have one for my books, essentially, and one for everything else. (yes, I have that many books to read (English major, duh))) I was really tired and stressed and was not really thinking straight and so I completely misconverted the nightly rate in my mind because I still thought I was at the cheaper hotel (that makes it sound like I was crazy delirious or something, what I mean is I was tired and had a minor brain slip) and so I ended up staying at a hotel that was forty dollars a night, instead of five or ten like I had planned. Also, because I checked in at like seven or eight, when I left at eleven the next day, an hour before the noon check out time posted at the desk, they charged me an extra half day at twenty dollars. So yeah, sixty dollars for the first night. In India. It sucked. But oh well, live and learn, book your hotel, or at least have a game plan next time. The next hotel I stayed in was only like eight dollars a night, so I repented.

I spent the first week in hotels while I was trying to find housing, which while you are in the field is actually way more difficult than I was expecting. Basically I could not find anything. Even among the members of the church, I came up empty for a place to stay permanently. Anyhow, after a week and having spent a significant portion of my budget and having waking nightmares of running out of money in a month and a half if I got stuck in hotels the whole time looking for housing, I decided to just go all in. I checked out of my hotel (which charged me a whole ton of extra fees they neglected to mention at the outset and tried to charge me three times the going rate for a taxi) and went to the Vasant Vihar church. That afternoon a friend of my begged me to go visit his family and village in Himachal Pradesh...so I went.

If you have a problem with that, office, I love you, but you can suck it. I was breaking my back, stressed out of my mind looking for housing and someone offered me a week of free housing and meals and the most awesome, immerse-yourself cultural experience available in India, so I took it. If you have any suggestions for housing, I'm all ears.

Anyhow, so Himachal Pradesh was amazing. I stayed in his village for four or five days. I slept with at least one other person in my bed at all times. Clean was a relative term. I showered outside with cold water in my underwear. Sometimes while chatting with whomever happened to be nearby. I hung out with the local youth/young adults in the village centers like they seem to do. I will just have to post a series of entries about the whole experience. It was awesome. I got by with hinglish, essentially. My friend essentially speaks English as long as we talk about basic things and I know a little Hindi, so with that I got by for the week. At the end we went up to visit Shimla. (which is cold. I was so surprised. It was actually really cold. In summer. While Delhi was over a hundred degrees. It was bizarre) Shimla is incredible. If you ever happen to be in India, it is one of the most relaxing places I have been in India.

I came back to Delhi, tried to find housing for an afternoon. I had something that I set up while I was in Himachal Pradesh, but that fell through so I went to Hyderabad for the YSA conference. That was great and covered another week or so of housing, although more than half of that was on a train.

When I got back to Delhi again I used the Vasant Vihar church as a base of operations while I searched for a paying guest accommodation, essentially what students/single working people in India use. After three or four days I found one that was generally honest and met my basic requirements, so I took it and here I am. I have two room mates and there are two other people on the floor, although I think another three will be moving in. I have no A/C, but that is not really an issue. I do not mind the heat all that much and it will be monsoon before long. A/C was an extra sixty or so dollars a month. Not worth it.

Anyhow, I will update specifically about my accommodations. Oh, and my project. I should probably talk about my project, since it is kind of the whole reason I am even here and the reason for having this blog. But I tire of this exercise. Also I am tired. Also also, I should find a scale. I definitely have lost weight. I should figure out how much to see if it is kosher or if I should take steps.