Friday, September 29, 2006

You call this normal?

I just rode a camel.

I was in the Maratha caste neighborhood filming episodes three and four simultaneously in the middle of the festival of nine nights, and a group of kids ran up to me and asked if I wanted to see a camel. I'd never seen a camel up close before.

So they led me behind the float of Shiva, back through some alleyways between market stalls selling fruit and yards of cloth, right by some parked auto rickshaws, and straight to a two-humped painted beast chewing calmly on some grass.

Next thing I know; I'm on its back, and catcalls are flying in all directions, and I'm hanging onto the saddle for dear life.

...and this is now my idea of a normal day.

Riding camels.


Speaking of a normal day, my day-to-day schedule here in Pune now looks something like this:

-Wake up, shower, get dressed
-Eat breakfast at hotel restaurant with the rest of the group from Chicago. Breakfast usually entails idli, coconut chutney, sambar, veggie parkors, parotha, fresh pineapple and papaya, and a rotation of other dishes (the hotel is strictly vegetarian, which is pretty common in India). There's also cereal. If you choose to only eat cereal here, you have my sympathy.
-Walk over to class up Ferguson College Road.
-10:00- Beginning Hindi class.
-11:00- Chai (tea) break. I'm not kidding. We have tea time. Saucers and biscuits included.
-11:15- South Asian Civ class. Usually lasts two hours. Right now we're working our way through (relatively) recent Indian history through the Mughal Empire and British East India Company Raj.
-1:15 Classes over, we're set loose. Dinner is at 7:30 at the hotel and if we're not going to be there we're supposed to let the program know in advance.

So in the free time, I've been exploring. Thus the dancing in street parades, shopping in old town bazaars, seeing elephants in the streets, nearly getting myself killed by buses while riding an auto rickshaw, filming bhakti drummers, visiting 8th century cave temples, and of course, riding a friggen camel.

Granted, I'm also working; I have homework. I had a presentation on the caste system Wednesday, a response paper due Thursday, and two quizzes today. Monday I have a proposal for a seven-plus page final research paper due, the paper itself being due the week after that. Also every day we're assigned a good chunk of reading for civ and an hour of practice with Devanagari (Hindi) script. Luckily I spent enough time at my job at the zoo this summer sitting behind a cash register flipping through Devanagari flash cards that the “hour” boils down to about twenty-five minutes or less.

Any U(c) student will tell you this is nothing compared to a normal workload in Chicago. If there's one thing we can do well, it's complain about how much work we have. We practice that skill every day, every chance we get. We're proud of it too. That and telling anybody who will listen that this winter isn't nearly as cold as the winter was our freshman year, regardless of when said freshman year occurred.

I digress.

India is fantastic, and I've been here barely more than a week. Tomorrow I go hiking in the morning, then more of the festival at night. More pics to come. I believe my first episode from India has arrived in the NBC offices by now so with any luck you will be able to see a bit for yourself soon!


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