Things Are Looking Up!
by Anna Ferguson (JD '08),
Now that it is over, I can say that my first week here was horrible.
The first few days were ok. During the first 2 days here I took it pretty easy, just trying to adjust to the time and temperature and general feel of the city. I went shopping in a fairly upscale market. The closest thing I can compare it to is shopping in downtown L.A. There were shops of all sorts, from food, and books to jewellery and electronics. I was very good and only bought a few necessities. I will be here long enough that I shouldn't buy anything until I have been able to see more. On my third day I asked to take the tour of the city offered by the hotel. However, in this case a tour just means a car with a driver whom they told to take me to a few of the famous sights. Bupinder Singh was my driver's name and he spoke almost no English at all. He would tell me the name of the place and then quickly walk around or through it. I didn't mind too much because it was too hot to want to stay anywhere for long and I thought of it more as a preliminary getting-to-see-things-so-I-know-if-I-want-to-come-back tour. We went to the Red Fort, Akshardahm, the Lotus Temple, and India Gate. The Red Fort was very impressive and imposing. Akshardahm was perfection. Lotus Temple was gorgeous. India Gate was...tall. I will post detailed stories of each soon.
I had had enough by early afternoon and asked Bupinder to take me back to the hotel. He first took me to a tourist store where I'm certain he gets paid per tourist he brings in. I gave in to the pressure and ended up buying the most absolutely gorgeous handmade rug. I'm sure I overpaid by Indian standards but it was still a deal compared to if I bought it at home. It was that evening that I got sick and as I wrote before, I missed Monday of work and only went for 2 hours on Tuesday. I made it for 6 hours on Wednesday but Thursday morning knew it would be a really bad idea to go. Friday I felt much better and actually completed my first full day of work! It was also that day that I found out I have to work Saturdays too.
Let me tell you about the place I stayed in after leaving the hotel. It was a nice house and a big room. It is run similarly to a hotel but food and laundry are included. The food was not good. I love Indian food but they only offered me white bread and American cheese slices when I asked for food that wasn't too spicy. Since I already wasn't feeling well I figured it was better to be safe with white bread than to try to eat the fiery hot Indian food they served. I have since found out that most places offer a wide variety of Indian dishes that either aren't supposed to be spicy or can be made that way. The second strike against staying there was the commute. On a map it seems very close to work and it really only took about half an hour. The problem was that I don't know the area at all. All I can give the rickshaw driver is an address, I am unable to direct him how to get there. The first time or two it wasn't a problem, we found it eventually. But after that it seemed to all go wrong. Every driver would go a different way so I wasn't sure if he understood where I had asked to go or maybe he was abducting me...I really had no way of knowing. Friday after my first full day of work was the breaking point. I had a migraine from the heat and had forgotten my medicine. I had to walk for 10 minutes before I found an auto rickshaw. (It was 104 degrees and very humid). The auto I found said he couldn't take me that far but could take me to another auto. Fine. The next auto then got a flat tire. Another auto pulled over and I got in it. Again the driver approached the area from a completely unfamiliar direction and all I could do is keep saying E 11, E block, number 11. He had to ask for directions from pedestrians at least 10 times. When we finally got there I had to run into the house before I got sick so I just gave him a 100 rupee note and said "Keep the change". Half an hour later I got a knock on my door asking if I had wanted the auto to wait, he was still outside. I thought that was awfully nice of him. He had assumed my tip was payment for him to wait. After that evening I knew something had to change. I am a brave and adventurous person but I have my limits. Being absolutely alone in a completely unfamiliar and unsafe environment was too much to handle. Saturday I met with the internship coordinator and explained how difficult things were and asked for help. (They have a policy here to not help the interns with any of their needs outside of the office. I suggested they adjust that a bit for foreigners if possible.) That very day we went looking for a new paying guest room, found one within walking distance of the office, and negotiated a deal for about one third of what I was paying at the other place!
During my first full week at work I started to really get to know my coworkers. In addition to Manmeet, the girl from New York, are Rosie from London, Marie from France, and Anandita from Delhi. It is amazing how having friends to do things with can make everything a thousand times better! I've been going out to dinner a great deal and we are making plans to see the sights. Rosie and Marie have lived here for several months and have traveled a great deal in India and Anandita has been in Delhi her whole life so they make for pretty great tour guides. Rosie and I are going on a major shopping expedition tomorrow. I'm told Delhi has some of the best shopping in the world! (and at only 10-20% of what things sell for in the west, how could I possibly refuse?)
We went to a nightclub last night. Except for nearly everyone being Indian, it could have been a club in LA, including the price of drinks! I had a glass of Indian wine and realized why India is not known for its fine wine.
The contrasts in this city are unbelievable. There are HUNDREDS of people living on the streets and the sanitation of the city in general is atrocious. But there are expensive nightclubs and fancy shops and huge estates. It would be possible for a person to lead a very posh life in Delhi and it seems that many people do. Seeing the extreme poverty right across the street is such a stark contrast. It really puts things in perspective.
So now I am having a nice time and am worried about having enough time here to do everything! The jury is still out on what I think of my internship. I have loads of work and almost no guidance, which is both good and bad. I'll write something another time going into the details of what I do.
I hope you find my ramblings interesting. There is no way to put into words all the new and different experiences I want to share with everyone. Bear with me, I'm trying to be a lawyer, not a writer!