Hey friends, this is Sarah Mulligan (more commonly known as Smulligan) guest blogging today. It’s about 12:30 pm here in beautiful Chennai and while normally if we were at home we would be sitting down for lunch, it is not the case here in India. Most Indians take a later lunch, therefore we do as well. So instead of eating lunch, most of us are shopping and will take lunch a little later. Eating a late lunch is one of the few things we’ve become accustomed to as we have adapted to daily life here in India.
As our time in India sadly comes to an end, I’d like to reflect on the things we will never forget about this experience of a lifetime. Sometimes when people go on trips the things they remember the most are monuments, or very tourist things. For example, going to Paris and having the Eiffel Tower as a stand out memory. Although we will never forget the amazing sites we’ve gotten to visit such as the beautiful stone carvings in Mammalapuram and the lazy life of Kerela’s backwaters, what will stick out most for us are the little things. For us, the little things are the things we do on a daily basis that have made us professionals at India. We have gotten so good at India now, that it might be hard to re-adjust when we get home.
One of the most memorable parts of this experience has been the auto rickshaw. These little yellow cars zip in and out of traffic like nobody’s business. They have become a main form of transportation for us in India, especially in Chennai. I can confidently say that everyone in our group knows how to hail a rickshaw like a champion by now. We’ve had countless funny times in rickshaw rides. We’ve become friends with the drivers who, most of the time, love talking to us. They even let us honk their horn for them sometimes (horn honking is an essential part of Indian driving). One time Jay was leaning out of the side of a rickshaw and someone on a scooter zipped by, causing Jay and someone on the scooter to collide heads. After learning the hard way, Jay and the rest of us now know to keep all body parts inside the rickshaws. We’ve even mastered the art of squeezing four people in the back of a rickshaw. Shout out to the Ric Clique on this one, Liz, Ling Ling, Charlie and I, who have spent many cramped rides together.
Water has played an essential role on this trip. It’s gotten to the point where most of us will probably associate water bottles with India when we get back home. Every day we make sure to start the morning off with a fresh bottle of water. If you’re safe, you’ll have an extra bottle in your bag. A one liter bottle of water at the General Store next to our hotel is 20 rupees. But, we have done something that our parents will be proud of. Being the frugal college students that we are (really we just want to spend more money on souvenirs) we have found a money saving technique! Miles discovered that Nilgiris, our local grocery store has two liter water bottles for 30 rupees. We’ve made countless trips to Nilgiris stocking up on large two liters and then using those to refill our smaller one liter day water bottles.
The one thing that may have taken the most time to adjust to has been squatty potties. But 3 weeks later, we are all seasoned professionals. We have used all sorts of squatty potties, from ones in gas stations, to restaurants, to homes. The most impressive of all though, is that we have successfully used Indian style restrooms on the moving train! That takes skill. We also learned to carry around a pack of tissues with us. Or if you’re Allison, Liz and Abbey, you just take toilet paper rolls from the hotel and stock them in your purse.
Last but not least, we will always remember bargaining in the streets of India. This is a skill that we’ll be thankful for for the rest of our lives. We’ve picked up many techniques for bargaining and shopping along our journey. I have started to perfect the walk away technique. If the store owner offers me a price that I’m not satisfied with, all I have to do is take a few steps away from the store and he’s back with a new and improved offer. Sarah Wells discovered some shopping techniques. For example, feeling thirsty? If you’re browsing for awhile in a nice shop they will sometimes offer you free coffee or tea.
All of these tricks we’ve picked up along the way have not only made our journey easier, but it has made us feel so comfortable in this incredible country. We aren’t just visiting India- we know how to communicate, we can get rides, bargain with stubborn shop owners, comfortably use any bathroom that we stumble into, and even know where to find the cheapest safe water. These little things show how well we’ve acclimated to a new lifestyle and culture completely different from our own. Although it’s only been three weeks, it feels like we know the ins and the outs of India, and that is a pretty awesome feeling.
We’ve adopted a saying for this experience. Unless you’re Amy Allocco or Brian Pennington, You Only India Once, or “YOIO.” Since YOIO, we’re enjoying every second of it!
See you so soon, family and friends! And pets 🙂
Side note: Quick power outages go on the list of things we’ll never forget. There have been two in the time it’s taken me to write this.