May 5th, 2013
Bikes Fixed: 115
Bikes/Day Avg: 1.30
Wow, has it really been 5 days since my last post? I have been busyyyyyy… anyways, assuming I have some free time while home, that means I also have some updates to write.
For now though, a very bittersweet post. It’s my last day in India!
If you read the headers you’re probably all like, “Wait, what? It’s only day 88! Why are you leaving today?”
Okay, actually, I’m leaving tomorrow, but my flight is at 3:20 AM, so… I’m not sure if that counts or not (in an effort to start combating jet lag early, I will be awake, via some strategic napping/staying up late I’ve been doing these past few days). Anyways, tomorrow would still only be day 89, so what’s up with that?
Basically, I could have stayed the extra day, but it would have cost an additional $200 in airfare. That’s what’s up with that.
So anyways… I’ve already decided how I want to format this post. Enough with the intro and on to business!
(side note: This is the non-technical wrap-up of India. A more technical wrap-up (project thoughts instead of personal thoughts) will follow early this week).
– – –
Bullet points! Whoa! *ahem.* I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Okay, not a lot, because I’m excited to be coming home, but there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be missing a few things. Most of them have to do with people, because I mean, that’s what life is about, right? Meeting and interacting with other people.
I can’t choose one person or interaction I’m going to miss the most, but I do have a few favorites. In no particular order…
– Anand (store manager) telling me “No problem” in a sweet and sultry Indian accent every time I notice something is wrong with a bike (I will probably pass this on to the future shops I work at. “Kyle, have you noticed…?” “It’s okay. No problem, no problem…”)
– Joking around with the kids at the shop, even though we don’t speak the same language
– Playing with the housekeeping’s kids. It’s a shame we only recently invented their new favorite game, “drag this chair around the yard while we hold on and get dragged behind.”
– Talking about, well, everything, with Nishith, Ambika, or Kailash, from food, to books, to culture, to… well, everything.
– Traveling India with Viju. Love you, bud.
– Getting invited to dinner everywhere and being well fed every time. The conversations are great too — there are a lot of really smart people here. Last Wednesday I was invited to dinner by an English teacher I’ve been volunteering for, and as the night went on more and more members of his family trickled in. By the end of the night we had covered education policy, the global economy, monopoly tactics, and much more. Also, I swear his son had a college degree, but he denies it.
– Kingfisher beer.
– Seeing the ingenious (or sometimes less ingenious) ways people carry things on bicycles. My favorite so far: A full size refrigerator on a standard bicycle (eg not a tricycle, no trailer, etc. Just lying sideways on the rear rack). Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough with the camera, and it’s not like with his inertia he could stop and wait…
– Seeing the ingenious and persistent ways the Indian people manage to solve some of their problems. This ranges the gamut from knowing how to fix their own bicycles (while less than 1% of Americans know how to do this, more than 50% of Indians know), to knowing the best way to escape murderous monkeys (get in the car and drive away — yes, I witnessed this), to ingenious ways to carry things (see above)… you really are a creative bunch.
– Practicing accordion in the yard while little kids dance around me.
I’m sure there are many other things I could put here that I won’t think of until I get on the plane, but, well… I’m not on the plane.
– – –
I don’t want to give anyone the impression I didn’t like India. But there are some things I could have lived without. For the record, I consider this more “travel advice” than “here, let me complain about my experience.” The things I’ll miss vastly outweigh the things I’ll miss less. But for the people who have never been to India before, you may want to prepare for…
– The honking.
– The pigeon couple going at it around 5 AM every morning on top of my A/C unit.
– Getting between 10 and 20 spam calls and texts on my phone every day. Since I use it only for emergency purposes, this means I keep it on silent most of the time. If someone actually has to reach me, it means they can’t do it by phone. Sad.
– People telling me what stuff is over and over again.
*holds up a screwdriver* “Petchkas.”
“Yes, I know.”
(five minutes later)
“Petchkas, Kyle baya.”
“Yup. Got it.”
– – –
- Things I Didn’t Get to Do But Want to Come Back For
I don’t want to put “things I regret” because honestly, there’s not much I regret. I did what I came here to do, had some fun on the side, and made friends along the way. I can’t say I regret any of it.
That being said, there are some things I didn’t get to do that I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back for (keep in mind, Indian friends, that this might not be for years. I do have a pretty awesome job waiting for me…).
– Explore Delhi for a day (or two)
– Have dinner at Kailash’s house
– See the Taj Mahal
– Volunteer for Bums on The Saddle (“BOTS”), a bike shop in Bangalore with a very cool philosophy on bicycle culture
– (two-sided) Get an apartment in a village. However, even in the suburb where I stayed with a host, I had trouble getting enough sleep. Living in a village would bring me much closer to the people and I might have a much richer experience. I say “might” because if you don’t get enough sleep it’s hard to really experience anything fully. So, this one might need some experimentation, or might be good to do for a shorter period of time.
– Have a picnic at the farm my host runs. Milk a cow.
– – –
- Things I Learned or Had Reaffirmed
This is one of those lists that could go off in any direction and could go on forever. I learned a lot about myself, a lot about fixing bicycles, other cultures, and the world in general. Where do I even begin? (note: if it seems obvious, it was probably reaffirmed, not learned, and vice versa)
– The bash it into place method, among other more “brutal” styles of bicycle maintenance. While no doubt unacceptable at a professional shop, for the next six months and for any future volunteering (which I will not doubt do) this should come in handy.
– I am not ready for children yet (whatever doubts I had, anyways, have been allayed).
– It is possible to be too persistent when offering someone something, yet impossible to be too persistent when answering such an offer. In this light, I learned to be more sure of myself and many of the things I want, and faster to walk away from people who just don’t shut up (I don’t feel about about saying this because every Indian, too, has had to walk away from that one cab driver…).
– How to talk loudly and slowly. I was already a good presenter, but presenting to American audiences and ESL Indian audiences are just different ball games. My presentation skills now run the gamut from fast and hard to slow and simple, and I’m experienced at everything in between.
– It’s not that hard to become surprisingly self-sustaining (this is as much something I noticed about India as a suggestion for America… *ahem*).
-It’s possible to be happy living off of less than $0.50/day.
– As a general rule, the more you want, the less happy you are. In addition, it’s hard to want something you don’t know exists (which I need to ponder, I think, because in some ways that runs contradictory to the “Travel makes us richer” maxim).
– People are often ignorant about what’s really going on in their society (like what the average income is).
– Education makes a difference (again, whatever doubts I had have been allayed. Seeing it in action — talking to English speakers who get paid more than non-English speakers, for instance — ratified this over and over).
– Just because someone says “Yes” or “Okay” doesn’t mean they understand (…).
– There are a surprising number of other people out there trying to make a positive difference, and (dare I say it?) succeeding. I had heard about many organizations and people, obviously, but meeting them in person, working with them, and seeing their conviction face-to-face is completely different than just hearing about them. It’s inspiring and ratifying to come face-to-face with positive action. Looking at it on a website or reading about it in a newspaper just can’t compare.
– On the other side, people do pointlessly harmful things. Here, I’m talking specifically about honking, but there might be some other examples.
– – –
Best for last, right? There are tons of people I met, interacted with, befriended, etc. I can’t possibly name them all, but I will say that even if you aren’t listed here, you still made the experience what it was. I’m glad I met each and every one of you, and I hope we can meet again someday. In the mean time, if you ever find yourself in the midwestern US, let me buy you a beer.
– Prabhat & Co: My host family was beyond wonderful. Not only was I provided a house, but I was provided a home — complete with dog and little children that I could play with but didn’t have to take care of. Okay, on a more serious note, I think I really lucked out by meeting Prabhat. He’s an all-around good guy that is serious about making a difference in the world. He’s got solid advice and was an exceptional guide during my time here, providing direction or a good ear whenever I needed it, but otherwise letting me off the leash.
I could go on, but let’s talk about his family. Ambika is a school teacher who is just as spirited as Prabhat… but talks on the phone less (you know it’s true P). She’s a great mom and housekeeper and is as intellectual as she is creative. Having always had “be a teacher” in the back of my mind, it’s inspiring for me to meet someone who can maintain their passion in the face of the sometimes harsh realities of teaching and child-rearing.
Then there’s Nishith. Ah, Nishith. You’re a pretty cool guy. Nishith plays guitar, reads books, does math, and (like every good pre-teen) still manages to piss off his mom every now and then. I’m excited to see what you’ll do with your life, and I’m glad I got to spend some time getting to know you. You’ve got a good sense of humor and a good head on your shoulders. Keep it up.
– The shop staff. This includes Anand (the manager), and the kids, who rotate out sometimes but at their latest were named Vinod, Rocky, and Krishna. A lively bunch that can fix most any bicycle (with me there to do shifters or wheel trues, of course) and joke around while doing it. While we didn’t get to know each other with words, it was interesting and exciting getting to know each other with actions. Rather than talking philosophy, we played catch, hid tools from each other, and raced bicycles in the back room when nobody was watching. I didn’t just fix bikes, I had fun doing it.
– Viju! Where would I be without you? Nowhere. You showed me the other side of cycling in India, and got me sponsored in the process! That’s pretty impressive. Aside from being a noble travel companion you’ve got a great sense of humor, you’ve found your passion, and you’re good at it. What more is there to say? I’m glad we met.
– Shiv and everyone else at Firefox. Hand-in-hand with Viju, you showed me there’s more passion about high-end cycling here than sometimes meets the eye, and proved it with action. Just what I needed.
– Manas, Arvind, Paul, and countless others who invited me to dinners, get-togethers, bike rides, or just took my info and kept in touch (for bonus points, Arvind sent me a PZT-2. Legendary!). I had a great time getting to know you, and in some cases your families, too. You spiced up the routine of bike-fixing with conversation, philosophy, food, and in some cases (Manas) more bike fixing. Keep in touch.
– – –
Wow, that post got really long really fast (he says… then he goes back and adds “Things I Learned”). Anyways, I could have made it longer, so be glad (or sad) I didn’t. Either way, time for stage 8 of the NJLP (No Jet Lag Program): Take a really long nap at an absurd hour in the middle of the day. And then I pack. And then I head home!
Thanks for everything, India.
(if you’re just catching up, then don’t fear, Guatemala is next!)