So they say time flies when you’re having fun or something like that, and let me tell you, they weren’t lying. It’s unbelievable that we have been here for almost two and a half weeks already. I will say that the experiences that I have had in these past weeks on the other side of the world have been absolutely amazing. Nothing back home could ever compare to the things that we have seen here.
To start, the life style here is completely different. It really has to do with the mass crowds of people that flock the streets from every direction. The roads don’t really have rules for vehicles to follow except to stay left, yeah left; it took a while to get used to at first. There are no street signs, minimal traffic lights, and no speed limits. In the city, there really isn’t a need for a speed limit because of the sheer volume of traffic that is never ending. Bikes and cars intertwine themselves in between any vehicles they can to get past. It’s like they don’t care about anybody on the road except for themselves and where they have to go. It is quite surprising that we have yet to see more accidents. Once out of campus our main use of transportation has been the rickshaws. They are very goofy looking compared to anything back home. They are little 3 wheeled carts with a driver in front who speaks little to no English and will most definitely over charge you at any chance he gets. Seat belts? Yeah right. But they get us where we need to go around the city for probably half the cost we would pay anywhere in Michigan.
The life of the city is also extremely different; I mean it really has to be when you cram almost 70,000 people per square mile in. Compare that to Detroit where there are just over 5,000 people per square mile. I would say there’s a bit of a difference there. But I guess that’s what you get in a large city in India. We are fortunate to be staying on the IIT campus here because it is quite beautiful. The campus is intertwined with the jungle atmosphere and it is obvious from the amount of wildlife we see. There are red spotted deer here that do not mind if you walk right by them. I would say they are the IIT’s version of the MSU squirrels. They also have an over infestation of monkeys here, we had a few run-ins with them early in the trip but learned that it is probably better to leave them alone. The last thing we need is for somebody to get in a fight with a furry little monkey. The weather here is hot to say the least. It hovers around 100 degrees everyday and the humidity doesn’t really let up. We have had a few storms roll through, but not for more than a couple hours at a time. Most days the sun comes out and shines all day long. At first the heat was pretty brutal, but we have all started to get pretty used to it.
As you see from the previous post, we all have found research projects that we are interested in. It started out slow, finding work and getting some proper direction, but now that we have, everybody has been working hard. The students in the lab have all been helpful in showing us the equipment and how to use it. Over the short course of our research here, we have already learned quite a bit. I am excited to present what we have learned over these weeks to Professor Krishnan when the time comes.
For the past few weeks, there has been little time to sit around and relax. With only a short period of time in this city on the other side of the world, we have the mentality to go out and do as much as possible. It would be a shame to come home and say “I wish I could have done more”. It’s like the same mentality you’d have in a big soccer game: leave everything you have on the field. Most days we eat our breakfast and lunch at the guest house. The food is decent, actually pretty good, but after 2 weeks of the same meals day after day, it gets too repetitive. They also strictly serve vegetarian meals. I was actually a bit surprised to see how many people are vegetarians; we don’t see that too much at home. This being the case, most evenings we will go off campus to find a non-veg restaurant to satisfy our hunger. To be honest the food here was strange at first, different than most things I’ve had in my lifetime, but very tasty at the same time. It is very interesting to travel like this and indulge in another cultures food. Apparently when we travel north, we will experience a completely different style of food as well.
The tickets are booked and were quite a bargain. To fly from Bangalore to Delhi and then from Delhi to Chennai cost us merely $170 each. That’s practically unheard of when traveling in the states. The trip starts in Bangalore on July 2nd and commences in Delhi on July 16th before we travel back to Chennai for a few days. It would be a shame to travel all the way to India and not get to see the beautiful Taj Mahal, so that is at the top of our list of things to do up north. It should be a great experience being able to see one of the 7 wonders of the world. We also plan to hike through some of the Himalayans while we are up there. The experience should be both invigorating and unforgettable. Needless to say we are pretty excited to make the journey.
We have met the students from Auburn University here as well. Most of them are working outside of campus on various projects, so we don’t see them too often in the day time. However last weekend, our group and a few of them traveled south of Chennai to Pondicherry. The trip was absolutely phenomenal. The first night we spent in a dirty little hostel. The bed I had to sleep on consisted of about 2.5 inches of foam covered in about six various stains. It wasn’t pretty, but I’m still alive and kickin’. That night, instead of sleeping in the hostel room, we went upstairs to their large patio deck and pitched our mattresses outside. We slept to the sounds of the ocean crashing on the shore under the stars of the south Indian sky. It was pretty amazing. The next day we stepped up our budget slightly and stayed in a much nicer guest house. The city of Pondicherry is much quieter than Chennai which was a nice change of pace. The overwhelming crowds of people can start to wear you out after a little while. During the day we finally found a beach that permitted swimming. The beaches in the city here are too dirty for swimming; they don’t have any EPA’s telling them not to dump sewage into the oceans. So they pretty much just dump their sewage into the oceans. Luckily Pondicherry had a clean enough beach for us. The beach was nice, not crowded, with comfortable water to splash around in. All in all the trip was a complete success, everybody made it there and back in one piece and we had a great time together.
The experiences we have accumulated thus far have been mind boggling. two weeks have flown by and I am sure the next few will as well. All we can do is make the most out of this fantastic opportunity and develop some memories that we will never forget.