January 31st, 2013
Today is the last day that all donations up to $1000 are matched by an anonymous donor, so if you haven’t donated yet, get on that.
I’ve been getting a lot of the same questions over and over, so I decided a blog post was in order. The questions center around, “You’ll be in India soon. What then?” I mean, it’s a good question.
The really short answer is, “Well, you’ll have to read my blog to find out!”
The less short answer is that while I have a rough outline, few things are set in stone. I don’t use quotes often, but this one, I feel, is appropriate here: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
Basically, I’ve never been to India before, and India has had few guests like me before. Between the two of us, we’re sure something good will come of the situation. We just won’t be sure how exactly to make the most of it until it happens. So what is set in stone? Me being proactive. You can bet I didn’t put in all this work just to get there and sit on my ass all day.
To answer some more specific questions:
Will you still blog while abroad?
Yes. I’m going to try for once a week.
What exactly will you be doing?
My goal of fixing a bike a day still stands. This will be an average, meaning if I take a week to get settled then for some future week I’ll do at least two a day.
India is unique in that there is no bicycle shop hosting me. Instead, my host works with bicycle shops. So he will introduce me to them and I will ask if I can volunteer for them. It could be they know more than me, it could be I know more than them. Likely, we will have things to teach each other. I plan to teach about professional-quality bicycle repair. I also want to teach the shops to teach their customers (or potential customers) about the economic impact bicycles can have, and how they can help break people from the bonds of poverty. I think that the potential economic impact bicycles can have is vastly underestimated and underused — the ultimate goal is to remedy that as much as possible.
Ideally, I’ll be able to train at least one mechanic from the ground up and help him open his own shop. It’s a long shot, but there’s nothing wrong with thinking big.
Those things being said, I don’t pretend like it’s going to be easy, and I don’t pretend to know everything. I’m smart and I know how to fix bikes, but I’m also humble. One of the biggest and easiest mistakes to make would be to not listen and adapt to the needs of the people. I have good ideas, but good ideas only lead the way to good answers — they aren’t the answers themselves.
What parts of India will you visit?
I fly into New Delhi. My contact is in a suburb southwest of there called Gurgaon. I plan to stay with him for about two weeks, while figuring out where exactly my efforts will be most impactful, and finding a more permanent housing situation there.
If I work there for a month and someone from another city says, “Hey, come over here for a bit,” I probably will. Like I said, I plan to be flexible.
While I plan on working for the majority of the time, I also want to take at least one weekend and explore a little bit. This could mean walking around town or it could mean taking the train (on my own money) to Bangalore.
How is housing going to work?
For the first two weeks or so I will stay with my host in Gurgaon. While staying with him and finding work I will be apartment and hotel hunting. I plan to find a permanent home in either an apartment or a hotel at about $300/month (Rs 15000). And yes, there are “hotels” at that price — the India travel guide I got from the library lists a few “hotels” that cost $2/night (Rs 100).
How long is the flight, and where exactly do you fly to/from?
I travel for 22 hours total — a 14 hour flight to Amsterdam, a one hour layover, and then twelve hours to New Dehli, India. Minus time change.
What else are you bringing?
I’m bringing as many tools as I can afford and fit in my suitcase, a bicycle helmet, my accordion, copies of my favorite accordion songs, a computer for blogging, a notebook for journaling and writing insightful things (bicycle repair tricks, recipes I learn, songs I’m taught), and clothes.