Monday, August 2, 2010

Dying My Hair Blond

About 2-3 weeks ago, I had my hair dyed blond at the Evergreen Salon in Jaipur. "What, Jessica?! Why would you want to dye your hair blond again?" Well, my dear Americans, in India my natural color (medium brunette) is considered light blond. I was sick of standing on the bus and having women and girls snicker at my blond/pink/orange-and-brunette-roots mess that was my hair. I may not be able to understand what they were saying in Hindi, but a girl can tell when someone is insulting her hair.

So I asked for my hair to be dyed blond, and then they placed me in a chair and began to color my hair with over the counter Loreal brand dye. The head hair dresser put on gloves that appeared already used, and then began applying the dye. Her assistant held section of my hair out of the way. He was basically acting like a human hair clip. I'm pretty sure it would be cheaper to buy some hair clips than to pay this man to hold my hair.

After they were finished applying all the dye, the hairdresser wrapped my head in plastic wrap because they couldn't find a shower cap.

After my hair was finished cooking, the hairdresser rinsed out the dye feverishly. I'm used to being pampered and treated delicately at a salon. Not here! This lady was trying to rub off my scalp. Then they (hairdresser and assistant) proceeded to blow dry my hair together. Really?! I mean I could certainly use an assistant to blow dry my hair, for sure, but she's supposed to be a professional. It was very funny to watch her correct him.

I must say it looked good when everything was said and done until I paid 1800 rupees (~$40). I realized later as my color began to fade and blond and pink strands began showing through that I had been gypped once again. But for a week or two, I was happy to be blond again.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Commute to Work

Below is a short video I made of my commute to/from work on Bus #5. Amber Amber Amber!

The Trainee House: Babylon House

Want to see where I live in Jaipur?

I live like an Indian princess. I didn't show the roof upstairs though. Many people sleep on the roof because it is cooler. Our house had a party there last night. It was very relaxed, but no one wanted to listen to my American music:( For some reason everyone really likes Bob Marley. I'm sick of listening to reggae music and crappy Euro-techno. Give me some hip-hop and rock anytime!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Agra: Day 2

Our plan was to go to Agra early in the morning before the crowds and the heat could affect us. Unfortunately, I was feeling very ill in the morning and had to go back to bed. I figured out my antibiotic (doxycycline) that I take as an anti-malarial precaution makes me nauseous if I don't first have a full stomach and sit for 30 minutes. So, we ended leaving for the Taj Mahal at noon (which is exactly what we were trying to avoid on Saturday) after a delicious lunch of roti stuffed with potatoes, I think.

During that weekend, there was some sort of Muslim festival or holiday so it was packed, but free to get in! Usually, it is 750 rupees to get in for foreigners. But it was so damn hot! You have to remove your shoes when standing at the Taj Mahal. Himanshu stashed his shoes in a corner, and I put my shoes in my purse. As we were waiting in line, it started pouring. It must have rained for at least 45 minutes. I was squeezed between Himanshu and the guy in front of me. If you leave a gap, people will cut in front of you. I must have pushed so many people out of the way who tried to skip in line. Even worse, mothers with babies and children would use them as a wedge to cut in line. You don't use your baby as a tool to cut in line! There were police men with giant sticks patrolling the queues. When people tried to cut, I would start yelling in English and the hooligans in front of me would start shouting too. They became very affectionate towards me. They would invite other Indians to cut in line behind them and then say 'Don't skip! There are plenty of foreigners in the back of the line!' I love Indian humor.

We finally arrived at the level with the tomb after 2 hours, and there was another line! We waited there for probably another 2 hours. When we finally got in line to see the actually tomb underground (only open for this festival), people were shoving and pushing. It was quite humid, and with my bum knee, I was getting nervous going down the stairs. Himanshu said that we could see the grave from above so we turned around. However, they blocked off the section that allowed you to normally view the grave. We tried to go back down the stairs, but the police stopped us. So we waited in line for 4-5 hours, and we didn't even get to see the grave!!!

I can't be too upset though because I actually enjoyed yelling at people in line and staying with Bhavna's family. The Taj Mahal was beautiful, yes, but honestly, this one woman (and her husband) has the best grave site in the world. I don't even know her personally.

After our disappointing waste of time, we traveled back to Bhavna's house for my computer bag. It was late, and the family insisted we stay the night and not drive back in the dark. I was more than happy to oblige. So what if I skipped another day of work? I'm not getting paid, and no one is productive at GBS. Cultural experience or Facebooking on the job...ummmm, the first one, please. So I spent the night again and had of a delicious meal of who knows what with mangoes (my favorite).

I would like to take this opportunity again to thank the family who so graciously took Himanshu and me into their home. Bhavna, I appreciate that you trusted me enough to confide in me after only just meeting me, and I hope I gave you advice that will help you in your future. I'd also like to thank my mom for allowing me to be open and honest with her. I value our relationship and my ability to express my thoughts and feelings to you.

My Indian Family

Agra: Day 1

Last weekend, July 10th-11th, I went to Agra, Uttar Pradesh, home of the Taj Mahal. Himanshu drove me on Saturday morning, and it took us about 3.5 hours to get there. By American standards, he's a crazy driver, but I'm getting more accustomed to how aggressively people drive here. Maybe it will encourage me to not be such a pansy when I'm driving in the States.

When we arrived to Agra in the afternoon, we visited Himanshu's friend, Bhavna, and her family. It was suggested that we save the Taj Mahal until Saturday since it was so hot, and the sites close at 5 PM. Instead, we visited Sikandra, the tomb of Akbar the Great.

Me at the front entrance, as is Muslim architectural custom preceding the tomb, at Sikandra.

Bhavna, Himanshu, and Me in front of the tomb.

As we were leaving, we saw some monkeys and a bunch of bananas lying around. So I took a banana to feed the monkeys (below).

The gray monkeys (I think they may be another kind of primate) are supposed to be well trained, but the orange-brown one that approached me are apparently wilder and more dangerous.

That evening Bhavna's parents invited us to dinner and to spend the night. The food was so delicious, and they were always concerned that it would be too spicy to me. Every time I finished something, they would put more on my plate. When I would motion that I didn't want anymore, they would ask if it was too spicy or if I didn't like it. I loved it, but I don't have an endless stomach.

Their house was beautiful with marble floors, modern kitchen, and two stories. They were very well off. Her father owned a shoe manufacturing and distribution company, I believe. I slept with Bhavna, and I was actually cold at night because she had an air conditioner in her room.

Her family was great company and very friendly. They were very interested in what I majored in and how much Hindi I had learned. They were extremely generous to Himanshu and me, feeding us and trying to keep us comfortable. It was nice to be with a family again. I felt very welcomed, and it took the edge off my homesickness.


Sorry! I know I'm behind in my updates. Marathon blogging starting right now.

One of the projects at my NGO involves reforestation of the rural country side. GBS has purchased a plot of land from the government and initiated the wasteland development on World Environment Day, June 5th, in 1991. It has created access to water resources through its check dam, protected against soil erosion through gully plugging, continued to reclaim the semi-arid land through plantations and sapling nurseries, and the employ and encourage the participation of handicapped and local people.

Typical wasteland with lack of beneficial vegetation.

Rehabiliated land. Locals are allowed to collect and consume the fruit that is produced in Gandhivan (Gandhi's Forest). In exchange, they help care for the forest.

Since our crew arrived during a thunderstorm. There were all these tiny, velvety mites. Oil from the mite can increase sexual libido and is referred to as the Indian Viagra according to Wikipedia. No wonder I had such a weird sensation in my pants. I just thought it was my diaper rash (What?! It is hot here, and I sweat a lot).

Also called Scarlet Fly or Lady Fly.

While I was there, many women were working on preparing the soil for saplings. They were very interested in having me around and talking to me. Of course, I couldn't understand anything they were saying. They would just keep repeating themselves as if I would understand the second or third time. These women did not speak Hindi but their village language. There are hundreds of languages and dialects in India so even if I learn Hindi it won't help in the villages. I have been practicing Hindi, however. My accent is terrible, and most native Indians have no idea what I'm trying to say. It usually helps when I speak louder. Indians are always yelling at each other. At first I thought they were mad, but I would notice them laughing and smiling. They don't seem to laugh loudly though. Americans have large guffaws and chuckles. Here, people giggle or just smile, but loud laughter is often considered rude. People have made fun of my laughing here.

The women are dancing, and you can hear my stupid laughter. I was very shy, and my dancing style is a bit raunchier. They dance when they are harvesting and also I believe during their wedding. They told me I should learn this dance to impress my husband.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pink City Bazaar Shopping

Saturday I woke up and did my laundry for the first time. There is no washing machine. It is all done in a bucket with powder detergent. Then you hang dry the clothes. There is a lady who will wash your clothes for 7 rupees a piece, but I haven't been able to do that yet.

At noon, Anna, Alena (another Russian woman), Martin, and I went to the Pink City to shop. I planned to buy some scarves to cover my shoulders. We were bombarded by gawkers, beggar children, and store owners. Learning how to saw "no" is something I had to learn quickly. In the first store we entered, I was easily swindled into paying 180 rupees for a 50 rupee scarf. It is a beautiful scarf, however, but I guess it is the principle that bothers me more.

Lining the streets were jewelry, spice, shoe, fabric and clothes, and appliance stores. We spent about 7 hours in the markets. In that time, I bought two pairs of shoes and two scarfs. Each time, I paid way too much. Initially they would quote 850 rupees, and I would try to bargain down from there. In the end, I still ended up paying too much. The store keepers would say, "How can I do that? It is impossible," to any reasonable price I asked for. I visited so many different shops to find what I wanted. The salesmen would try to sell me their crappiest designs or materials for the most amount of money. Smart for them. Bad for me. I spent about 1000 rupees (~$20). I was ripped off, yes, but it was a small loss for me and a great learning experience.