Friday, July 29, 2011

48 Hours

Unbeknownst to several travel books, the phrase "culture shock" often has two connotations: the "Oh, well didn't that just make my day?" and the "WHAT THE EFF WAS THAT A COW/GOAT IN THE STREET?" varieties.  Most books attempt to prepare the traveler for the latter.  Fortunately, the world is a just enough place to provide both, at least to those who seek it.


The first twenty one hours of my trip to Bangalore, India consisted of next to no leg space in the airplane cabin (a negative), friendly rowmates who will help you through customs/navigate India/talk about So You Think You Can Dance (a plus), crying children (a negative), and free/limitless alcoholic beverages that did not require identification or extra payment (a HUGE plus).  See below.

Europe knows how to compensate for flight anxiety:
complimentary German beer and heart shaped pretzels.

Note: this is real brie [go Europe!], not fake cheddar [let's work on this, American Airlines].


Once through customs - yes, it was that easy - and a seven hour wait for daylight in the airport, I decided to get a taxi.  On the ride there, I realized several rules about driving in Bangalore:
  • Get them ten minutes into the road, far from the airport, THEN charge them an absurd amount for the ride.
  • Honk when approaching/crossing/passing an intersection.
  • Honk when approaching/crossing/passing pedestrian.
  • Those lines that divide the road in two directions don't actually mean anything.
  • Stoplights, if they exist, don't mean anything.
  • If you don't make your passengers use their core muscles to brace themselves, you're not doing a very good job.
  • Pass by the cows with goat horn to make Americans wide eyed with wonder at such majestic road beasts.
  • If there's a pedestrian or motorcyclist on the road, you MUST pass within five inches of it.
  • Akon and Convict must play on loop for the entire trip.

After an hour and several pit stops to ask passersby for directions, I arrived at the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, only to be blocked by - gasp! - a sixty year old security guard.  The interaction occurred as follows:

Me:  Hi!  I'm here to volunteer-
Security: -[shakes his head "No"]
Me:  -with Samartham-
S: -[shakes his head]
Me: But-
S: -[shakes his head]
Me:  See, I emailed Mahantesh-
S: -[looks off into the distance]
Me: -and he said I could-
S: -[continues to look off into the distance]
Enter Janitor, stage right.
Janitor:  No English.
Security and Janitor exchange glances and maybe less than three words.  Exit Janitor, stage left.
Me:  So there's no one I can talk to?
S:  [looks off into the distance]

A long discussion with one of the Samarthanam teachers, a bowl of lemon rice with chai tea, and awkward answers to "Why are you here?" later, I'm successfully considered a volunteer.  Unfortunately, I find out that the main dance group that inspired me to come to India is on a three month show tour... In America.


Remember when I was able to navigate Bangalore and its bus system, but not the roads in my home neighborhood, resulting in me wandering through the dark for two hours?  And then I had to explain to two non-English-speaking officers that they had to call my homestay?  And then I had to explain it to a nearby family of three, who asked their uncle to drive me to the nearest McDonald's on his moped/scooter/motorcycle just so my homestay manager could pick me up?


Thus ends the first 48 hours of my year abroad!  What kinds of crazy hijinks will ensue on the following days of Josh's trip around the world?  Find out next time on:


p.s.  Oh, and I was invited to the wedding of a sister of one of my rowmates right after I got off the plane.  Chances are, there's going to be a ton of dancing there, so I'm more than likely to go to that.

p.p.s.  In case you're wondering, in the time I WOULD be dancing, I'm actually learning kannada, which is the primary language spoken in Karnataka.  I'm not taking classes; some nearby folks are kind enough to put up with me as I jab at the sun and say, "AMERICA.  SUN."  and they say, "KANNADA.  SURIYA."



  1. Josh, I've never been to India, but I have experienced the terror of foreign taxis. You should be so proud you didn't wet your pants. Oh, and I've always wanted to go to an Indian wedding. Send me pictures!! Big hugs from America. xoxo ~Devlin

  2. nice post Josh! I hope you have sweeter memories to share from my city, check ur gmail:)

  3. Too bad no one told you about the dance troop's show tour in America, but with your resourcefulness you will probably find dance/music/arts in a variety of places (or at least I hope so). <3 RMA (Ruth Mazorana Anderson)

  4. Josh, what are you going to do now that the dance troupe is here in the U.S.?

  5. joshua! i love your blog! looks like you're having quite the adventure in india! next stop AUSTRIA?! JA!

  6. I've been talking with my host, who is probably one of the most chill and interesting people I've met so far. He's jumping through hoops trying to find me dance companies in the neighboring state, Kerala, and is sure that they'd be happy to take me. If I play my cards right, I'll spend some more time volunteering here and learning what Samarthanam is all about, and then balance it off with a ton of dancing later. At least, that's the idea of the plan so far.

    Exciting things!

  7. Helping Samarthanam is a very good idea. Good luck!

  8. josh, my love!

    you're handling yourself splendidly! also, learn to love Akon ;)