Last week had to be the craziest of my life. It was definitely also the most sleep-deprived…perhaps a factor in the first statement. Part of this craziness was saying goodbye to my life in North America, moving out and packing, preparing for Indian culture with Bollywood movies, getting ready for India with insurance, emails, contacts and not to forget building an autonomous block-stacking robot to be ready for the finale of a 3-month competition. Oh ya, and that farewell party on the last night. As much as it was very sad to leave everyone, including family, behind in Canada and the West, getting on that plane meant that I was leaving for a 5-month adventure on the other side of the world!
I made great friends with this Indian guy on the plane and when we landed in Delhi he was more than helpful in finding my baggage and navigating my way through the airport. When I realized after 45 minutes that my promised ride had failed to show up, I decided to just venture out on my own and find the IIT campus with the help of a taxi driver. As soon as I left the airport A/C the heat and sounds of New Delhi hit me and I just stood there for a minute before an angry guard with a large automatic weapon told me to stop blocking the doorway. This was it; I couldn’t believe that I was finally here! I got in a taxi in which I probably paid three times as much as I should have paid for and made it to the campus without any other problems. Luckily my friend from UBC, Dominic, was on the scene after a phone call to verify that I could be trusted and they let me onto the campus grounds. That first night I stayed in a guest room in Kumaon House where I am staying for the four months here.
In the morning I got settled into my new, empty room and met a number of the other exchange students from France, Sweden, Canada and Germany. As Dominic and I both needed to get a whole bunch of supplies for our rooms, we went to a local market to try our hand at some real bargaining. Just like the rest of India, the market was really, really loud! People and motorbikes everywhere, it was a very organized mess and contained everything I would ever need to buy.
An Indian friend helped us keep the prices to a reasonable level (we think) and I ended up walking out of the market 5 hours later with a bucket, cell phone, mattress, bike, bike lock, pillow, bedding, water, power bar, adapter, lamp, Hindi phrase book, rope, cabinet lock, sandals, shampoo, soap, and a few other things. It was a tremendous success in my book and cost me a fraction of what it would have set me back in Canada! Dominic had bought a similar amount of stuff and so don’t ask about how we got all this stuff back to campus through the crowded streets…
While mostly everyone else complains about the food in the mess here at the residence, I’ve found it to be pretty great. It’s not too spicy, and while it’s a little oily, there are usually a number of different items that can be combined to form a good meal. With big pots of mush and rice, it reminds me of one of those classic movie scenes about disgusting, residence-type food.
Today I spent a long time trying to figure out where everything is on campus. It’s a large campus and my new bike is a big plus for getting around. Finally, after talking to about 10 different people I got a student card, a registration form, a course book for this term and a username and password for the internet here.
General observations at this point:
- India is super-hot and humid!
- Bureaucracy here is incredibly complex and slow
- There is food everywhere
- Things are just very dirty and cannot be clean for more than 10 minutes
- People don’t use toilet paper here…
This afternoon I’m getting some pants tailored for something like $5 CAD and then going to Old Delhi to meet up with a great friend from UBC who’s also studying here in Delhi! More stories to follow, stay tuned 🙂