How Can I say Goodbye?

I leave the ICRISAT campus in a few hours. I get on a plane, and fly to Germany, Chicago, and then Des Moines. It doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t seem like that place exists anymore. It doesn’t seem like two months have passed so quickly. It doesn’t seem possible that I am this sad about leaving. It doesn’t seem possible that I am this excited to come home.

I can say “adios!” to the mosquito bites, the mosquito net, the leaking bathroom, the traffic that (miraculously) hasn’t killed me. There are some things that I don’t feel ready to leave. India has taught me so much, but there’s so much more to learn and so much more to do.

How can I say goodbye (maybe forever) to the people that have become my India family? Being thrown into a foreign country has a way of making people open up and become a lot closer a lot faster. Leaving my friends from around the world is hard. It’s not like leaving home. I can always go home. But here, we are all from different countries. Will we ever be together again?

There are so many people that have made this experience so amazing. The people at my office have been so sweet. They answered ridiculous questions, told me the good sights to see, taught me about India (and this was all in addition to teaching me about home gardens, poverty, and malnutrition!). They have taken a genuine interest, and showed genuine kindness, and I can never say thank you enough.

My India family–Leah, Christen, Sarah, Charlie, and Sol. These are the people that I have shared the minute details of my days with, the people that fearlessly explore Hyderabad with me, the people that share my each and every evening. I will miss them more than I can say.

I have this good feeling though, despite my sadness. I did what I came here to do. I came for an experience, to become more enlightened about poverty and world hunger. I have had something beyond an experience, I’ve had an adventure. I have been inspired. I have made myself a family, learned to navigate myself through a foreign country, and done things I NEVER thought I had in me.

I can easily say that this was the best summer of my young life. Even though I spent the summer away from home, I still have people there to thank. Mom and Dad stayed in touch with me, took care of things and home that I needed done, and were constantly supporting me, helping me with my research, and listening to my joys and problems. My siblings managed to give me a hard time, and I will be glad to see them again too. My group of friends at home have been incredibly supportive. Those of you that stayed in touch and told me about your days and weeks, I loved hearing that. I wish I could better describe my experience to you.

As I leave, I don’t know how I feel, I am a literal roller coaster of emotions, and maybe the plane ride can knock some sense into me. Infinite thanks to everyone, and love to all of my faithful blog readers, I’m glad I could share this.

Once I’m home, I’ll post again and draw this blog to a close. Farewell, India. I hope to meet again!

Final Full Day!

Today had a few new adventures, as well as some built in tradition. I woke up early after a very small amount of sleep, and made a snap decision to go to the Catholic mass with Christen and Leah and the head of HR at ICRISAT. Mass was fascinating.

This is the church. The men sit on one side, the women on the other. It was all in English. Most of the seating was on the floor, and shoes were left outside the church. It was very crowded and the floor was not extremely comfortable, but it was worth the amazing experience. For communion, the women all went up first, and it was not neatly organized like back home. People randomly stood up and hopped into the crowd of people. There was also no wine (mabye because of the income of the church?)

After church, I packed. I barely managed to squeeze everything, but it worked out in the end thanks to Leah’s help! I had a table full of things that I wasn’t bringing home and had my friends raid the table.

I think Charlie was pleased with his haul! After this, we regrouped and played volleyball. The net had disappeared, so Christen and I built one out of my leftover string.

We learned that we are all awful at volleyball, but it was great fun anyway. After that, we had a relaxing swim in the pool. We showered and regrouped and Sol, Christen and I journeyed to Miyapur to get the traditional farewell pizza. I am a pro at navigating the city by now and we made it with no events. The people at Domino’s now know me by name-it’s because I’m American! We got the pizza and it appears that that every single autorickshaw in the city of Hyderabad was out of service. We saw a bus that said “Patancheru” and said ‘what the heck’ and hopped on. After a detour through the BHEL district, another Bonalu festival, asking about 5 Indians if we would actually end up in the proper place and squeezing with less than 6 inches on either side through the traffic, we ended up at ICRISAT.

We ate, played a final game of Scrabble, did the traditional back and head massages and said our good nights. I’m really sad. I will share my final thoughts tomorrow, and keep everyone posted on my travels home (well at least let you know that I got there!)

Saturday Adventures!

This Saturday ended up being just about perfect! There are so many days like that here though! The morning was lazy and included organizing my room (let’s just say that entropy is having its way with my things), and talking to Leah! After a quick early lunch, we headed back to Shilparamam (I had to do some last minute souveneir shopping). We had an ICRISAT driver for the afternoon, and Leah, Christen and I headed out (me with the all important list clutched in my hand).

Leah and Christen check out one of the first stalls. We all got some good finds and used our newly acquired mad bargaining skills. Funny to think about how scared I was to bargain at first!

Christen had the brilliant idea to get henna tattoos, which was an awesome idea to do right before I leave! More proof that I was there, in India! It simultaneously made me feel very Indian and very touristy. We did so much shopping, and the famed list was finally fully crossed off. Christen and I went to hang in City Center for a bit before we were going to meet up with Sol, Sarah, and Charlie who went to see Avatar on the giant 3D IMAX screen that we saw Inception on.

Charlie bought Sarah and I disco balls (it was the best day of our lives–disco balls have been a joke of ours for a while). The universe was smiling on us. We all miraculously ended up at Thai Express at the same time, with zero autorickshaws/taxis that knew where it was and a driver that wanted to overcharge us big time.

After a delicous meal, we piled into the taxi and headed back to ICRISAT and had a dance party to the rocking Telugu music with the disco ball in the back seat.

Field Trip!

Today, Christen, Leah and I had a trip arranged to visit with Pioneer/DuPont for the day. A driver picked us up a bit before nine and we headed out to a cotton field. There were many varieties from all over the world growing there, as well as the new hybrids for testing. We were given hats, umbrellas, and boots to wear (it was really rainy!)

They day was fascinating, I learned a lot and was left with a lot to think about. The next two places we went did not allow cameras, so no pictures to share. Stop number two was Pioneer’s only seed processing plant in India. We got to see the whole process (which was mostly mechanized). We were fed Domino’s pizza for lunch, which was funny. Next, we went to DuPont, which is the largest DuPont office outside the U.S. Everyone here knows Iowa! They kept saying Johnston, and it took me a while to realize that they meant in Iowa!

This is back from the cotton field. I hadn’t realized how diverse cotton was. The flowers were beautiful, and there were so many different colors! Today was very…intriguing.

Houston, we Have a Problem

Yesterday, my computer decided that it would no longer allow me to type. ANYTHING. So I am on a borrowed computer, so my blog posts about my favorite things will be postponed until I retrieve them from the word document on my computer (I wrote them up ahead of time to copy and past when appropriate). Luckily, this problem struck toward the end of my internship, and I can manage to survive just fine.

Favorite Things #2

There are a few things that I have encountered in India that I have never encountered in the United States. I know that they are not uniquely Indian, but they were a very unique part of my Indian experience. The first is the price of things. The exchange rate has hovered between 46 and 47 Rupees to the Dollar for the two months I’ve been here. That being said, everything is INCREDIBLY cheap. I could get nice shirts for 6 bucks. My usual breakfast costs about 20 cents. Total for the day, I can eat on three dollars. And that’s eating a good amount of food! Along with these prices has come the art of bargaining. The first time I was encountered with it, I was slightly terrified. Now I’m an old pro and have no problem trying to work down the price of an autorickshaw ride or a purse. I know that as a white foreigner, they charge me at least double what they would an Indian, so I have to do my best to come out even (to be honest, even the doubled price is cheap). I am going to come home and not be able to buy anything. It will all be too expensive! Sad but true fact—the cost of my retainer is more than most Indians live on per month.

The cheapest form of transportation for short distance is the autorickshaw. I have come to love these little guys even though I was also scared of them at first. With no seat belts, no doors, oftentimes no working headlights these small machines seem like an accident waiting to happen (and oftentimes that is what happens). There is a sort of thrill riding along in a little autorickshaw (especially if the driver has some good Telugu music! It feels like a movie!). They are pretty quick in the busy traffic since they are small and you can always find one (no guarantee that they will ask a reasonable price or know the place you want to go). One of my proudest moments in India was when I managed to get the autorickshaw down to the price that Indians pay (8 Rupees!).

Communication here is quite interesting for the foreigner. Most people speak at least a little English, but it depends on several factors how much they know. The biggest communication block for me had nothing to do with spoken language, but everything to do with head shaking. Indians shake their heads “yes” in a way that would be perceived as “no” in America. Sort of sideways, not up and down. At first, this was very confusing. I’d ask someone in the cafeteria if the food was spicy (shake shake shake). I’d ask the autorickshaw driver if he could take me to Chandanagar (shake shake shake). I would ask a question in one of my lectures about if brinjal was the same as eggplant (shake shake shake). By now, I’ve mostly gotten used to it. I’ve even tried it out a few times, and it’s kind of fun!

Vegetable Market!

As an avid participant in Farmer’s Markets back at home, both as a seller and a buyer, I was very excited to visit an Indian vegetable market. Before going to the market, I developed a questionnaire to conduct a survey of those selling vegetables (as part of my research).

Unfortunately, the sellers were not English speaking, so Triveni translated the questionnaire and gave me the gist of what was going on. I am beginning to understand what conversations are about, and what is sort of going on, so I could figure out some of it.

This is Yadamna. She’s approximately 35 and has been selling vegetables somewhere between 10 and 15 years. She sells vegetables from her farm and from another source. This year, because of heavy rains she wasn’t able to get any cultivation on her farm, and is only selling vegetables that she bought elsewhere.

Overall, there were 7 females and 13 males. 17 of those interviewed grew their own vegetables. All but one used chemicals to raise their vegetables. The most common problems were the rain, and the price of transportation. In addition, at times they are unable to sell enough and lose money.

This is Narasimha who is about 60 years old (a lot of these people don’t know their exact ages). He’s been selling vegetables for about 2 years. He grows his vegetables on 2 acres and this is his sole source of income. The biggest obstacle he faces with vegetable selling and growing is the cost to sell in this market. It costs 20 Rupees every time you come to market to set up and sell.

This market was fascinating. There were no tables, no signs, no neat baskets or aesthetics considered at all (like American farmer’s markets). It was a very interesting experience, and tomorrow I will analyze the results and add it to my rapidly increasing report!