During my senior semester at Marquette, I participated in an independent study in addition to my regular classes. The independent study, called the Global Technology Experience (GTE), focused on international technology business and its impacts on Indian culture, legal systems, and family. There was an immersion component as well—our group of graduate and undergraduate students traveled to India in January of 2010 to visit various corporations with business process outsourcing (BPO) offerings and experience the cultural and social elements of life in India.
As part of the independent study, we each kept a blog, which was then reviewed by our professor. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (you’re welcome Jimmy Buffett) was the blog I turned in at the conclusion of the independent study. Here are some excerpts from my dusty old blog to help explain how I unwittingly* accomplished another item on the bucket list: Marvel at the Taj Mahal.
* I say unwittingly, since I hadn’t yet found the bucket list I had written when I was 17. I found the bucket list not long after I returned from India and–lo and behold–“Marvel at the Taj Mahal” was on it. Funny how things end up sometimes.
January 4, 2010
On the plane and can’t sleep. Part of me is uncomfortable (I was lucky enough to be sandwiched in the middle seat for 15 hours), but a bigger part of me is awake in anticipation. I’m sitting next to someone from Punjab, India, and from our conversation earlier I have some pre-trip advice:
- Seriously…Don’t drink the water.
- Even if you don’t drink the water, you will most likely get sick once during your trip.
- Be open and receptive, your travel norms from Europe will not apply here.
- The American poor have coach bags, and attitude of entitlement, and use welfare to pay bills. The Indian poor scavenge for food and have meager shelter.
- Because of this, it is a social faux-pas not to finish food.
- Your host/esse will try offering you food after you have finished. If you refuse, they will offer you half. Be firm, but polite when you are full.
- Try a samosa. Better yet, eat plenty of samosas.
January 5, 2010
The past couple of hours have been a sensory overload. India is colorful and loud, the air smells different, my taste buds are burning, and I feel like the girl who dropped out of the sky with “TOURIST” stamped across her forehead.
Our plane took off yesterday at 7:15 PM, and by the time we landed and passed through customs, it was 11:30 PM the next day. Our professor’s parents greeted us at the airport, and a bus was waiting to take us to the YMCA, where we’d be staying for the night.Before boarding the bus, our drivers gave us leis and welcomed us to India.
I thought we’d arrive pretty quickly at the YMCA and that I’d be able to crash soon, but it took the bus a few hours to bob and weave through the fabled traffic. By fabled I mean epic, and by epic I mean insane—there are no speed limits, and even if there are, no one follows them. Semis share the road with rickshaws, and most taxis look like glorified go-carts. In the US, your horn is the audio equivalent of flipping the bird, or like saying “I’m about to hit you”. In India, it’s more of a language. Honking a horn is a hello, an alert, a request for you to move, a “ha ha sucker…eat my dust”. I’m convinced some people lay on it just to make sure it still works.
By the time we reached the YMCA, and checked in, it was late. While packing, I was a fool to have made light of the fact that India is also the northern hemisphere and has its winter when we do. After a freezing shower and discovering that the space heater was out of commission, I went to bed with cold wet hair, and shivered to sleep.
I dreamt I was stuck in India.