First impressions of India? There are literally too many to mention. The day was filled with new experiences. Three things that stuck out the most were: 1. the friendliness of the people involved with the CSC program, 2. the traffic and 3. chai tea ; )
Matilde, Jocelyn and I arrived on the same plane and were promptly met at the airport by people from Jocelyn’s CSC project and also by our coordinator Sanjay. Everyone was truly friendly, warm and CALM! We were really lucky to have Kabi our CSC representative and Sanjay “to ourselves”. for the day. They spent almost 5 hours showing us Kolkata.- the ATM location, the good stores, restaurants, historical areas and even the subway! And they told us wonderful stories of the history of the different buildings and people who infulenced the area. Truly an enjoyable day.
So the traffic…. what can I say, it is as bad and as different as everyone says. The main road has 2 marked lanes for traffic.. but 4 columns of cars use it There is constant honking of the horns.. but its more a beep, beep sound than loud blaring like you hear in American cites.. so its not as loud as I had feared. The traffic is a mix of cars, trucks, buses, hand drawn rickshaws and people! The cars are much smaller, so more are packed into the same area compared to the US and they move a bit more nimbly when they weave in and out. People walk in parallel to the traffic down the sides of the road. I literally thought the people were crazy as there is almost no road space for them to walk in. But, by the end of the day, I was doing it as well! (tip: You NEED to walk parallel to the cars so that when there is a small break you can make it across the street. If you are on the sidewalk, you will never make it across in time. ). I am not sure I am ready for street crossing on my own yet.. that will take few more days.
My favorite moment of the day was when Kabi ordered chai tea from a street vendor. They make it on a small stove and pour it into tiny ceramic cups. The cups do not have handles and my cup was so hot that it was hard to keep my hands from burning.. I had to keep changing my hand position waiting for it to cool. But, the tea itself was WONDERFUL- so rich and creamy. And the price was 5 rupees (or about 2 cents US)! I have a feeling I will be enjoying a lot of chai in the upcoming month.
Kolkata was not as crowded as New York City. Kabi and Sanjay assure me that this is only because we were not in any areas during the high crowd times and that I will see a noticeable difference at others times. In fact Kabi says that when she goes to NYC, she always wonders “where are all the people?”
Today the rest of the CSC participants arrive. I cannot wait to meet them in a few hours!