Day 9 – 21Jul2012
Didn’t wake up until 7:00AM today :) I’m getting better at this whole sleeping in thing. I had Fruit Loops for breakfast, but the milk was warm. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. We had morning conclave earlier than normal today because we went to Pondicherry for a shopping day. We get the weekends off.
Pondicherry is a beach town about two hours from Rising Star. All of the volunteers got to go together in the three Rising Star vans. I was hoping to get Anan as the driver, but I was in a different van. I wore my turquoise buff today with an orange chudidar. While we were stopped at a light, a man in the bus next to us (which was altogether way too close to us) was making googly eyes at me. He was mouthing something at me and smiling. I smiled back and waved. He smiled even more and made some hand gestures that I didn’t understand. I don’t care what he was saying, I just felt pretty special that out of a bus full of really attractive young women, he picked me out ;) Unfortunately, I lost that buff in Pondicherry :(
We arrived right on the coast of the Indian Ocean. We were dropped off at a statue of Gandhi. As soon as we got out of the bus, the street vendors attacked us - jewelry, key chains, fans, bindi powder, and flowers. It was funny to have the natives take pictures of us like we were the sight to see. But I guess having 30 plus white people all in one place is a sight to see here in India. I climbed to the statue of Gandhi to have my picture taken. An Indian man was lying at Gandhi’s feet and would not leave for the picture. We were told that there was a temple in which we could receive an elephant blessing. We headed there first.
As we walked into the city, the street vendors followed us. When we reached the temple, the street vendors there mauled us again. In America, we say, “yes” by nodding our head and “no” by shaking it. Well in India, “yes” is kind of a combination of the two. Nodding your head from side to side is “yes” and from what I can tell, “no” doesn’t have a head gesture. You just say “no.” Because of this, when I shook my head without verbally saying “no,” I was in danger of being misunderstood. I found myself having different souvenirs already in my hands before I had time to think. I didn’t want to buy anything here because I thought I could get a cheaper price if I went further into the city.
When we reached the elephant temple, I had street vendor trying to sell me bindi dust. A bindi is the dot that you often see in between the eyes on the forehead. He wanted me to buy that dust so badly that he demonstrated it on my forehead. But once he did that, I didn’t need to buy the dust anymore. The elephant temple did not open for another 20 minutes so we decided to walk around the little shops for a few minutes. While in Pondicherry, we had to stay with at least one other person, but I was in a group of four (Cassie, Sarah, Amy, and myself). We found a little shop that sold pants and scarves and trinkets. We were soon out of time, though, and didn’t left without buying anything. We told the man we’d be back, but we didn’t come back.
When the temple opened we checked our shoes at the door in order to walk inside. All of the signs were in Tamil so we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into and the other volunteers were not there. We figured out that we were supposed to get into this line. When we moved forward we inside some kind of shrine. The workers yelled at us to put our cameras away though so I didn’t get any pictures. When we got the shrine, holy workers in loincloth things were passing out white chalk, flower petals, and grass. They just shoved it into my hands. And then they said, “You pay. You pay.” over and over again until I handed them 10 rupees each. I still don’t really know how much those items were supposed cost. I’m pretty sure I overpaid by quite a bit. Once we were out of the shrine, we walked around the temple to find the elephant, but there was no elephant to be found. We asked a worker and he took us a golden elephant chariot and a silver elephant chariot. Had we really just paid 20 rupees for this? We left the temple and went back to get our shoes. Amy sneakily got hers back without paying, but once I asked for mine, he wouldn’t give them to me unless I paid him. I only had large bills and there was no way I was going to pay 100 rupees to get my shoes back. The man was quite angry with Amy and kept yelling at her. We didn’t know we had to pay to check our shoes! Sarah had a 10 rupee note so she gave that to him in exchange for all of our shoes. We left the elephant temple and tried to find out if we were even in the right place. We asked one of the street vendors, but he didn’t speak very good English. A nice tourist translated for us and said that we were in the right place, but that the elephant wasn’t feeling well and that she was not going to be blessing people today. :( An elephant blessing consists of getting a tap on the head by the elephant’s trunk. I really wanted to experience that, but the elephant was sick. :( I didn’t know what do to with my “gifts” (if that is even what they were). I was afraid if I threw them away I would be offending the culture. I asked a beggar if he wanted them and he took them from me.
We continued on our way through the shopping district. While we were walking we saw Anan. I was so excited. He is a driver, an interpreter, a protector, and a friend. He had led some of the other girls to a chudidar shop (he knew a guy). I looked through the chudidars, but didn’t find any I absolutely loved so I didn’t buy any there. We asked Anan to point us in the direction of good food. He led the way. Every once in a while he would stop and tell us to be careful. We had to walk single file along the road or we’d be hit by the traffic. Pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right of way. He took us to a French café, but we decided that we wanted Italian food instead. We heard that Don Giovanni’s was a good place to eat so headed there. Don Giovanni’s is on the roof a hotel in the middle of Pondicherry. We arrived there with a few of the other girls, but they decided to wait for the elevator and we took the stairs. We walked up to the top floor to find a door. We were not sure if we were in the right place or not, but we opened the door anyway to find the restaurant. We sat ourselves down. The waiters looked a bit confused. They told us “12:30.” And it was only 11:50 so we figured that they were not quite open yet. We asked if we could wait and he said that was ok. We took pictures from the rooftop. The city is so busy! It is much busier than Salt Lake. The horns never stop honking. It sounds a bit like New York. We waited for only a few minutes and the waiter returned for our order. He didn’t make us wait until 12:30. I had bruschetta, a four-cheese pizza, and a coke. I don’t normally drink soda, but when you can’t drink the water, soda is really the only safe option. The food was delicious. Again, I don’t know if that is just because I’m here and I’m sick of curry or if it really was good in comparison to American standards. Either way, it was a much-needed break from the curry! Some of the other volunteers finally made there way up to the roof when it actually opened, but we were finished. They had gone shopping for a few more minutes. They showed us their goodies. Some had bought some really cool and genuine items. Others had been scammed. One girl bought a “real silver” and “real turquoise” ring for 1600 rupees or about $30. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the likelihood of her buying “real” jewelry here was slim. She made some street vendor very happy though!
The girls had tried to give us directions to the store, but the directions were flawed. We spent about 40 minutes trying to find it. We walked back and forth, but never found it. But guess who we ran into? Anan! He showed us a few streets that had good shopping and told us the “we go.” He said he couldn’t come with us because it was his lunchtime. We made our way to the Grand Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar is a giant fish market, fruit and vegetable stand, and all around flea market. The smell made me gag at first. The flies were everywhere. It was a maze of different stands. Spices and pasta were everywhere. We didn’t stay in there very long.
We started heading back to the statue for pickup. On the way, we found a store that sold pants, bed sheets, table clothes, scarves, and trinkets. I bought about $40 worth of goodies in this store. I’ve been able to talk down all of the vendors to prices I like. I saved about $10 at this store. My favorite purchase has been my genie pants. We continued walking back to the beach. A man selling elephant paintings on silk stopped us. I noticed that his hands were missing fingers. No doubt a lucky one that had been cured of his leprosy by organizations such as Rising Star. I asked him if made these paintings himself and he said that he had. I had to buy one…so I did. :) He followed us on his bicycle back to the beach.
We took jumping pictures on the beach of the Indian Ocean! Afterward, Sarah thought it would be good idea to get our feet wet in the water. As we climbed down the water, a swell came and the ocean sprayed us. We were soaking wet! It felt so wonderful though in the heat. We bought some ice cream along the beach and a couple of young men asked to take their picture with us. We waited at the Gandhi statue and I made a few more purchases of things that I wanted earlier, but didn’t want to carry around all day. The man with the elephant paintings held shook my hand with both of his and gave me the sweetest smile. The people here are amazing. The van was nice and cool and within a few minutes of leaving, the entire van was asleep. It had been a very long, hot, and sweaty day!
We had dinner on our own tonight. It was movie night with the kids. I headed over and found Jayanthi. The kids were watching an older movie I had never seen before about an air race. A girl I had never met before (her name was Navida) sat in my lap. Jayanthi held my hand. Mymonisha had gotten in trouble earlier in the day and was not able to come to movie night. Jayanthi told me that Mymonisha was my friend again though. That was good news! All of the girls got haircuts today. Some of them were quite interesting, but they are still adorable.
We lost our internet connection tonight so I haven’t been able to get online. I’ll have to post this tomorrow.
It was great day today! I loved being immersed in the culture of the city.
Day 9 Complete
Firsts: I saw a monkey today. I had only heard them before.