I’m here!

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It’s monsoon season here. It rains a bit everyday, sometimes light showers, sometimes a steady, soaking rain that lasts a half hour or more, and the other day a booming thunderstorm that lasted quite a while. I’m getting used to being damp. The temps here have been much more temperate than Maine was before I left. At Bapagrama it’s been less humid than Maine was, though it is both hotter and more humid in the city (not to mention dusty and dirty). Also, because we are at high altitude on a plateau, there is usually a breeze or a brisk wind. The other night I had to put on my fleece jacket and wool socks!

Bapagrama is located on the outskirts of Bangalore, the fifth largest city in India. It’s its own world behind gates (gee, I live in a gated community!). There are many trees, many which have gorgeous red, pink, or yellow flowers. Next trip to the city I plan to purchase a good tree identification book. There are lovely gardens here and the widest variety of butterflies I have ever seen–such colors as I would never have imagined. Hibiscus and bougainvillea grow here. The bougainvillea are stunning–they grow the size of lilac bushes and are covered with pink tissue paper-like flowers, thousands of miniature Japanese lanterns.

Most of the buildings are built with cinder blocks and concrete as the ants and termites destroy wood, bamboo, thatch, and plasters. Amma’s house and the Stone House (which I think is the guest house) are built around a center courtyard. Amma’s living room is open to the courtyard and has bamboo shades which can be let down to close it off. It also has another wall that has decorative cutouts making it open to the outside. Along that wall is an indoor pool with goldfish. I can’t help wonder how one keeps warm in the winter in such a house. I think winter temps here are around 40 degrees F and I’ve been told that sometimes there are snow flurries.

I am currently staying in a dorm room over the school, which I share with Wanda, another SIT student. It’s a bit primitive by US standards: the bed is a thin (very thin) futon on a raised concrete foundation (my back will never be the same), the shower/bath a bucket of tepid water and a plastic cup (the water is heated in what looks like a large ceramic vessel over a wood fire), laundry is done in same said bucket and on the wash stone–one can really get into the rhythm of scrubbing clothes on a rock–it’s a great stain remover. 😉 There’s no toilet paper in India and most toilets are in the floor–squat. A sit down toilet and a hot shower are truly luxuries. In another three weeks or so when everyone but Maeve, a very wonderful Keene State student, and me has left, I think she and I will be moved to the Stone House where we will be very appreciative of our blessings–privacy, showers, sit down toilets…

My usual wake up time here has been about 4 am, mostly because my body is aching from the bed (it is getting better though, I am slowly adjusting) and partly because of the cacophony created by the birds. I thought the birds were loud in Bath in the predawn. Ha! Everything in India is louder than one would imagine. Owls, parakeets, crows, doves, mynas, starlings…

I arrived in Bangalore (Bengaluru) around 6 am India time a week ago Sunday. I spent a lot of Sunday and Monday sleeping and reading. On Tuesday I left with a small group of Keene State students for a whirlwind tour of Karnataka, the state I am living in.

Traveling in India is a hair-raising experience at first–it appears to be total pandemonium. But once one lets go one’s fear (as in, “I’m sure I’m going to die before we get out of the airport. So be it.), one comes to see that there is a frenetic order. Everyone goes. Everyone drives on both the correct side of the road and the wrong side. There are no stop signs, or if there are, no one pays attention.Traffic is always coming at one from every direction. Head-on collisions seem imminent. The streets and highways are full of trucks, buses, auto rickshaws, scooters, bicycles, and people. Oh, and did I mention cows, oxen, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, street dogs, cats, vendors, ponies, pony and ox drawn carts…? It is usual even while driving on a divided highway to have vehicles moving in the wrong direction, to be dodging people, animals, bicycles, etc., to see cows lying on the divider or in the road next to it, or cows, goats, sheep grazing on the divider sometimes attended other times not. Everyone passes everywhere–hills, blind curves, in the middle of town.

And horns! EVERYONE blows his horn ALL the time! All the trucks, which are often very gaily painted, have “Sound Horn” painted on the tailgate. Horn-blowing is not an act of aggression here as it often is in the US. It’s a friendly warning that one is passing or that it is ok to pull back in. Haven’t seen any signs of road rage here either–everyone remains polite while trying to get ahead and even in the case of near misses.

2 Responses to “I’m here!”
  1. OK, now I need to know the time frame. when did you go to India – 2010? I haven’t read the other posts, but may I suggest dating them? I’m fascinated. India is the one country I may still visit – for the rest, I’m traveled out, I think – maybe Turkey. Who knows – never say never!!

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