A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: sierrak

Trash talk

So far classes have been good and the professors have been helpful and knowledgeable. I'm taking Sociology of Religion, Classical Indian philosophy, Cultural Perspectives of Goa, and Contemporary Western philosophy.We did orientation lectures all this week and begin regular classes on Monday. They even have class on Saturdays, which means I'm not sure how much travelling we will be able to do around India, perhaps mostly short trips around Goa.
The department buildings are very simple and there are open meaning they just have archways and it is open to the outside (which means stray dogs like to roam the halls) to keep air flowing and the classrooms are very simple with just a blackboard which a few benches and tables. The campus is drastically different from UND because they don't have student organizations or really any place where students can intereact and hang out. The two real social places are the library and no one can talk in there, and the canteen where people get lunch but you mainly just sit with your friends, if you can get a seat. There isn't like straight sidewalks or perfect flower beds or trimmed bushes, but instead naturally growing grasses and lots of rocks and red dirt. Unfortunately though people do not throw their trash in bins but rather chuck it out the window, I think it's because they know when a janitor takes it away they just throw in a heap anways. Even where I stay called the Guest House a maid comes everyday and splashes dirty water on the floor with a dirty mop and collects garbage in which she throws outside anyhow. But if we look at the way things are done back home, we also collect the garbage and throw it in a big confined pile. I would say at least there is recycling. The thing is though, people do not have much of a disposable income as they do in the US so they are not feeding into consumeristic values and wasting, but instead use more practical approaches in their spending mainly because they have no other choice. Another good thing is the food is not generally loaded with artificial chemicals so that cancer is a rarity here. At home, you know at least one or two people who have cancer or have gone through the process, but here it is a very big deal because it doesn't happen as often.

Austin and I explored Panjim by ourselves a little and it was quite the experience. We got on a very crowded bus, but it only costs 3 rupees each way so like 15 cents round trip, but the thing is that each bus is privately owned so they like to compete for passengers so they are always very packed and there are people hanging off. Once we got down by the beach we walked around and saw more of touristy Goa which is also nice because I was wondering what attracted people to Goa since most of the beaches I've found you cannot swim since the rip tides are so strong. But it felt like a carnival, there were street vendors everywhere, people making balloon animals, people selling crafts and clothes on the street, others just lying on the beach and just people and kids running around everywhere. It was really interesting to watch and we found a grocery store that had a lot of familar items so we stocked up on toliet paper, cereal, juices and whatnot so it felt reassuring. Then we found a nice restaurant to eat at that was family owned with really good food and cheap prices. As we were leaving 2 men sitting near us asked where we were from and we started talking and they told us they were from Calgary and they come every year for their medical needs because they have to wait too long in Canada. That seems crazy to come all that way once a year for medical attention! After we ate we found a motorized ricksaw and went home for the evening to find our director waiting for us. It was about 10:30pm and he wasn't too happy to have us coming home at that time and said we now should be home by 9! They seem to want to control us and they told the Japanese students they had to be home by 8:00, I can see the purpose but we are all adults now and if we can get ourselves to India I think we should be able to monitor when we want to come home at night.

Posted by sierrak 17:38

Spicy for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Oh India

Later that evening (Sunday) Austin and I met with Rahul and he told us we would have an orientation the next afternoon to meet our professors to set up times to attend missed lectures. Their classes began December 3rd so this week is dedicated to catching up on what we've missed. He seemed helpful and willing to work with us. So that night I hardly slept a wink maybe 3 hours at the most and I waited for the sun to rise so I could experiment with my new camera. When it turned 8:30 we (Austin and I) went down to the canteen for breakfast and yes it was spicy, spicy rice is what we had but not too spicy just not something my stomach wanted for breakfast.

After breakfast we decided to take a little journey to a village called Cacra and it seemed almost tribal it gave a feel they were their own little community with their own rules of governing, however since there is tourism and Goa Uni very close they are not completely isolated. They have a small shop where you can get snacks and maybe soap. We walked down by the sea and just talked for awhile what we were getting ourselves into. Then we walked back to the guest house. We ate lunch and eventually took naps and went to orientation. This consisted of sittiting in a room with our new professors trying to settle on a time schedule for the week to have individual briefings before we could attend regular class. I thought it was a big commotion since they were kind of arguing over time slots and it seemed kind of unorganized, but Rahul thought it went well apparently. That's the thing, people here have such a completely different view of Everything! Personal space, hygiene, relationships, spirituality and those are only ones I've come across in the last few days. It's interesting to know why people do it this way which is why it is so conveinent to have Jim around, but without knowing why it is difficult to justify some action or way of life. For example hygiene and manners are drastically different from what I am used to. We are taught to always wash our hands, to never eat with our hands or chew with our mouths open, and we as it is gross to have insects in our food. But here people eat with their hands and if there is a bug in their food they will eat it, and it is silly not to.

Anyways after orientation I was feeling good about the school aspect of things and I finally got my internet working so familiarity was key to make me more at ease. However, the connection is horrible but at least it is there. I ended up staying up until 1:30am talking to a couple of the Japanese boys and one Korean. It was very interesting since they are just learning English and I got to show them music on my computer and they really liked some of it. They also said they had been waiting for us to get here so they would have someone else to speak to. They are in their own separate class with just 11 of them and they study a different subject every week so they don't get to use much of the English skills. Again I got maybe four hours of sleep but I was feeling good in the morning so it was okay.

Posted by sierrak 05:08

Acclimation and all that

Crazy Jim

When I saw the room and the place I would be staying for the next four months I immediately wanted to go home only because I was used to more luxury than the appearance of my new home, plus I hadn't slept or eaten in a ridiculous amount of time by my standards. I had to compare experiences with Austin and see how he was doing too because after all he had never even been on a plane so I was hoping he was alright. We talked and he said that he tried to stay a night in Bombay and catch a flight the next morning but he ended up staying in a slum and wasn't comfortable so he got a rickshaw back to the airport but the driver took him all over the place and demanded to be paid for the tour. Luckily he only gave the man 20 rupees and sent him away but it felt like we were both same place ready to embark on an unforgetable journey.

So to describe my room is that is has two beds, the most uncomfortable things I had ever seen and it made my bed in Wales feel like clouds. The walls are dirty and the bathroom is pretty gross but luckily equipped with Western toilets. I may sound like a snob at this point but already my views have changed, and this was my initial reaction. After unpacking what little I had brought, I went into this common room where there were 2 white picnic tables set up with chairs around it, and tv, microwave, and refrigerator in it and some Japanese students. There were 11 students and they all appeared very quiet and shy so I didn't know how much interaction there would be plus they were leaving at the end of February.

Austin had told me Rahul (our program director in India) said he planned on picking me up at the airport so I was confused as to why he didn't and figured I should get in touch with him so he wouldn't be waiting, but the people at the front said he would be coming in 30minutes. I waited up for a bit but Austin informed me that the Indians don't stress punctuality as much as we do so I decided to take a nap and that turned into a 5 hour nap. I was awoken to a knock at my door and a strange Italian/Jewish looking guy wearing a kurta was standing at the door with Austin. He introduced myself as Jim and told me he was from Connecticut and had been studying philosophy at Goa for 2 years now. He proceeded to tell Austin and I the in's-and-out's about Goa and Indian life. I found it interesting and also scary. He said relationships between men and women were drastically different from the US, and he compared it to living in the 1950's. He said most of the girls had never held hands with a boy or had any boyfriends and many would live at home until they were married, or if they were lucky they would live in a women's hostel (like a dorm) where the curfew was 8pm and there is barbed wire and a stone wall around it. That is his words, not mine I have yet to witness it. There were many other things we spoke about that night but overall it was very helpful and he seemed excited because he had been the only American for the last two years. Goa University is a graduate school of 500 students and Jim told us the Arts & Humanities was not really a flourishing scene because it is highly stressed to get a high paying job and you certainly wouldn't with a degree like English, Philosophy, Sociology or Religion so he says many of the students are very apathetic and are not passionate about the subjects and just want to make the grades. He said everything is about a test and grades and not about the actual learning process, but that the teachers are dying for real philosophy but when a good discussion gets going that someone always wants to get back to what is on the exam, so we shall see.

Posted by sierrak 04:15

Goa, India

Finally I had arrived!

Well so far it has been a crazy experience, which is what I've expected but it is still India is not what I thought it was, however, I have not been here long enough to judge whether or not I am correct in those predictions. The journey began a little sour in that the engine wouldn't begin in Fargo so all the passengers had to get off the plane and rebook their flight, and as I approached the front of the line, they announced they had fixed the plane and we could go as scheduled. By this time I was nervous to catch my connecting flight and my stomach was grumbling. When I got to Minneapolis I found that my flight had been delayed so I had an hour to eat. The rides were pleasant from there, including the fact that my longest flight was only 14 hours and not 19 like I had thought. Surprisingly it went by fast although I wasn't able to sleep much of it. When I arrived in Bombay or Mumbai which is the new name, there wasn't as many people as I expected basically just the ones from our flight but the mannerisms were different in the sense that Indians aren't used to a queue system so everyone was budging and running around. However things seemed more relaxed than the US because they didn't interrogate you at customs and rip every article of clothing off you if you look "mildly suspicious."

My next flight wasn't until the next morning at 5am and I got in around 10 so I had some waiting to do, so I just waited in Mumbai airport and took a domestic flight to Goa and it was strange because on the plane they had these items you could bid on during the flight, strange concept. So when I got to Goa I was getting a bit exhausted and I was told someone would be waiting for me so I looked around but saw no one. I took it upon myself to get a prepaid taxi to Goa University, but the girl at the counter must have misunderstood because I certainly did not arrive at the right place. The taxi ride was pretty crazy and I had no idea where he was taking me, but we got to a place called The International Centre and it seemed very nice and like it could be the right place but I soon found out it wasn't. The taxi driver left and I was stuck at this place because it was 6:30am and also a Sunday. Luckily the man at the front desk was very helpful and arranged his friend to take me to the University for a small fee. Finally I arrived at the Guest House and I think they were expecting me, but no one spoke any English. They led me to a room and I found Austin in a room across the hall so finally I had arrived!

Posted by sierrak 22:41

Varsity Match

It snowed here today! Well it wasn't actual snow but probably as close to real as it will get, since it melted before it landed. Last night there was a varsity rugby game between Cardiff University and Swansea University, and sad to say that Swansea lost 5-15. It was a pretty interesting game since in the first 10 seconds one of the best players broke his wrist. It was a chilly night, but the fans didn't care. Cardiff in the red and black and Swansea in green and white, cheering wildly to show loyalty to their team. Each Swansea fan bought a ticket for 13.50 which included the bus to Brigend, ticket to the game, and the after party at Time & Envy. The highlight of the game was the group of streakers at half time. There were probably seven guys and two girls who decided to streak across the field and play in the mud a bit. It was hilarious. Tonight is battle of the bands, and I think I will be one of the judges, don't worry I'll be harsh.

Posted by sierrak 07:16

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