Sunday, July 31, 2011

Robbed and Married in the Same Week.... Almost : Part One

This week has had its fair share of ups and downs….actually there have been more downs than ups to be honest. Since arriving to Hyderabad I’ve battled not having a mattress, water, a toilet, a wardrobe for clothes, a phone, and last but almost most important in our world today… internet! Settling   in has been a nightmare but I’m slowly but surely building my perfect room that will provide calm from the chaos. In the meantime I will continue to share my chaos with you all.
So back to the part about no wardrobe for my clothes. This was one of my many to do’s that needed to be accomplished since I’ve been living out of a suitcase. My program manager gave me 2500 rupees ($ 56.00 USD which was shady because you can’t even find a dresser for 50.00 at IKEA) and tells me I can find something in an area called Nampally.  Quick background on Nampally. The area is known as a suburb of Hyderabad and in my opinion is Muslim as hell with little to no foreign visitors.  So here I am with two other male IDEX fellows’ one black and one clearly foreign with white skin and ginger red hair. We fit right in with the women in black burkas and men with long beards with our jeans and my braids (the real give-away). We decide to split for five minutes so the guys could get keys made and I could find a wardrobe. Somehow we didn’t find each other in five minutes so I searched for them at every key story with no sign. I finally decided to continue looking for the wardrobe because I had already invested in the auto ride and refused to come this far to leave empty handed.
I go to store after store and find the same in each one…steal lockers! Some look like wood on the outside but it was just for decoration because on the inside it was also steel!  Now, just in case anyone is wondering why this means so much to me to have a wooden wardrobe let me help you understand.
1.       As Oprah says “your home is your salvation” and who wants their salvation to be tacky?!
2.       My roommates who pay 2,000 rupees less than me have huge Mahogany wood wardrobes with cute little shelves to organize and a mirror! So I felt like I deserved the same .Does this make me a brat, maybe a little, but so what?
Now back to the story….As I wander from store to store it becomes darker and I’m walking deeper into Nampally. Men are beginning to direct me to dark alleyways to find my treasured wardrobe and this is when I start to feel uncomfortable. As I walk down a small dark street I start to think “what if this man told me to come down here and he paged his friend to meet me and rob me!” now this may sound crazy but after looking back and seeing the man on the phone while yelling for me to keep going it didn’t sound too far off to me. I turn around because I didn’t want to be the dumb person in the horror movie that goes towards danger when it’s so obvious you should turn around!
At this point I’m almost about to freak out because more men are looking at me and pointing and speaking in Hindi. Some start to follow me but not for long, so I calm down and decide it’s time to go home. I began to walk around to find an auto when I hear someone say “Hey”.   I don’t stop walking, because it’s normal for Indians to say “hey” or “hello” to someone they think is American.  However something makes me look back, and that’s when I see what was THE most comforting thing in 3 hours. Little locks and dark skin.  A BLACK MAN!
To make this long story short, he saved me and made sure I got home safely. He happened to be a Nigerian named Jango and even introduced me to a Nigerian church in my community! I haven’t visited yet but of course you all will get all the details. So I made it home without being robbed but I also went home empty handed, and of course that means my journey was not over….. read part two for more on the madness!

African Diaspora in India!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

F**K You !!!!!

So I've arrived in Hyderabad, India and I have been trying to remember, why did I decide to do this again? I arrived with feelings of indifference. Of course I had my moment at the airport telling my mom goodbye but other than that I felt like my overall feelings about this “new exciting adventure in life”  was really blah blah. Well of course, actually being here changes that. 
I get off the plane that was supposed to arrive at 8:00pm at 8:15pm. Not a big deal but definitely my first introduction to India. Here in India the concept of time is pretty much non-existent.  The 15 minute delay in my arrival is nothing compared to ordering furniture for next day delivery and literally waiting a week or paying for Internet service for three months then not hearing from the Internet guy in two days. The saying that begins “to be on time is to be early….”  In India begins “to be on time is to be a damn fool”. If you are supposed to meet someone for coffee at noon you shouldn’t get worried until after 1:00pm if they haven’t arrived.  But hey what’s the rush, right? 
So I spend almost two hours between customs which isn’t bad until I spend another thirty minutes trying to find my driver who should have a big sign that says MARTICE.  As I’m walking around trying to look like I’m ok while the entire airport stares at me, a young boy comes up to me asking if I need a taxi. I try to tell him that I’m ok but he continues to introduce himself anyway and persists on staying around to say that he will take me where I need to go for 400 rupees. So this is when I tell him again that I have a driver and I tell him my name. He responds by saying “you are Martice?” I say “yes”, and then he honestly saves me another thirty minutes and says “Your driver is upstairs looking for you”. I thank him politely and begin trudging my baggage back up to the elevator and he follows me, so this is when I get a little nervous because although he is a young boy, I am in a dim lit corner in India with a boy who has already made it clear he wants my money.  I say to him again, in a more convincing tone that “I am ok” so he walks away.
 I start to feel a little better until I get off the elevator and the boy is there again screaming my name, “Martice, Martice”.  I felt like I had no choice so I walk over to him giving him a shy smile and say “hey, thanks again”.  But he insists on showing me where my driver is, I follow because of course at this point I’m so ready to get home.  I find the driver and another fellow and was off to the taxi. As I’m walking I see the boy near but I’m assuming he’s just headed outside in our direction until I see him walk to our taxi and patiently wait while my baggage is loaded in the trunk. I get in and close the door and look to my left and see the young boy no older than 14 with his middle finger on the window pointed directly at me! He had a stern look on his face that matched his finger with a F**k You!  I couldn’t believe it! I knew that I would have to deal with children begging but not children flipping me off.  All I could think was… Welcome to India. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

India Calling

So it’s finally starting to hit me. I'm going to India. It's not a dream about visiting landmarks; it’s a reality of finding an apartment, going to travel clinics, and applying for visas.  I have always wanted to come to India. I'm not exactly sure why I became so fascinated with the country or when exactly, I just know that I can think as far back as being in middle school and thinking about what it would be like to be there. I'm sure me falling in love with the motion picture Slumdog Millionaire also had something to do with it.
I became serious about my passion for India once I was in college. It seemed to be a place that encompassed all that I wanted to do.  The international studies major in me wanted to go there to fight for women's and children's rights but the marketing concentration side of me wanted to research business development. So now I'm finally going and I was able to mix a little of both in my profession. I will be a part of the IDEX fellowship for social enterprise. As an IDEX fellow I will be consulting Affordable Private Schools of India on ways to improve education for the poor.
Despite my intense fascination. I realized. I knew nothing about Indian culture outside of curry, Bollywood, and caste. I decided to read as much as I could before leaving which is how I landed on the book India Calling by Anand Giridharadas. In the book he provides insight on the "new India" that has emerged and his experiences within this new place. He describes the "new India" to be a place filled with dreams, ambition, pride, anger, love, and freedom. What I found to be most important in the book was that the change was not so much in the "new India" but in the new emerging generation. It is the generation of young millenials that dream beyond the reaches of their ancestors, that have ambition to overcome obstacles that stopped others, that have pride in their hard work and ideas of change. The new generation has taken anger and fostered it into action that encourages love throughout the world and freedom for all. I am a part of the new generation that strives for change and my first stop is Hyderabad, India.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dreams of Adventure

Last night I dreamed that I was running up stairs in India. I don't know where I was in India or what exactly I was running to. All I can remember is talking to my conscious and saying "keep going". I remember seeing small glimpses of what I was dying to see, but in those glimpses I could only tell that it was an Indian landmark. It was similar to the Taj Mahal but smaller and more secluded. It wasn't the grand wonder of the world that the Taj is and it didn't have the swarms of tourist that the Taj has. Although it was only a glimpse it was a sight of a peaceful beauty. A place that created a peace so quiet and tranquil that it could only be described as a divine, radiant, beauty.

I chose to write about this dream because in exactly 24 days I will be traveling to Hyderabad, India. I also chose to write about this dream because my birthday is June 26th and according to a book of birthdays one of the words that should describe me is adventurous. Now, I am the girl who is afraid of rollercoasters, most times needs to have a plan before going out, and usually the last person to follow anything but the yellow brick road. So imagine my surprise when one of my words in adventurous. Outside of this inexplicable choice to go to India I didn't feel that I could identify at all.

But after reflecting for some time I realized that adventure doesn't just describe crazy ski diving and treasure hunting. Adventure can come in so many forms. When you really think about it there is adventure in almost everything. Books, religion, food, languages, literally everything. I find the adventure in these things. Eating paella in Barcelona, sitting in a tomb in Marrakesh, reading about a young girls life in Nepal; these are the adventures I have experienced.

So will I climb the highest point in the Himalaya's while I'm in India?....I'm not sure, and since I'm afraid of heights probably not, but I will have my share of adventure; from learning Hindi, to working in a Muslim school, and even the simple pleasure of tasting chicken masala.  So the birthday book was right all along, I can be described as adventurous and my dream was only a foreshadowing of all that I am about to experience.