Bryan in India

Bryan, a senior engineering student, is traveling to India for a tsunami reconstruction project on the southeast coast. He is working with Engineers Without Borders-USA on building sanitary water facilities for a village of about 35 families for six weeks.

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Something new

So, as it turns out, I have learned something new every day about the life and times of Ongole, India. Today was not any different, but the things I learned were quite interesting and I would like to share them with you … the reader of my adventures.

Lesson 1
First, I have stated how crazy the traffic is with the modes of transportation being a rickshaw, 1950s mob-like car, walking, an oxen, and the most common, the cycle, either motorized or pedaled. Well, I have only experienced transportation with three or more wheels … until today (mom, you probably won’t want to read this section).

While acquiring parts for my side project, the rope-pump ( www.ropepump.com ), I was “fortunate” enough to travel by motorcycle, a Honda to be more specific. Just to remind you, traffic here is insane, with everyone minding their own agenda, and the traffic laws are probably not even known by a majority of the motorists. Therefore, a motorcycle is quite interesting, especially when sitting on the back, putting your life in the hands of someone I just met yesterday, as he is our “test drive” interpreter. Needless to say, he was able to understand most of what I said, except when I asked him to drive slow because I don’t have a helmet. It turns out they do wear helmets here, or at least one guy does.

Anyway, a motorcycle ride in the States to most people is probably thrilling because you can get on an open road and let go. Here in the packed streets of Ongole, I think thrill can easily be disguised as pure fright. However, I was much more calm once we came to a stop. It is very difficult holding onto a man, whom I don’t really know, with my right hand and holding 6 feet of pvc pipe vertically in my left hand. Don’t believe me, give it a try, then throw in a few thousand people who only care about their vehicle and don’t bother with care of laws.

Fortunately, I have not seen an accident in Ongole to date; unfortunately, when traveling about in the city, I have either been in control of my body with the use of my feet, or I can trust a rickshaw with partial coverage of my body in a cage of some sort. The unfortunate part of that little info, is that while sitting on the tail end of a motorcycle, riding higher than the driver, and being one of two white people in the entire city, people tend to stare … while driving. Have you ever walked down a slightly narrow hallway and, when seeing someone in your line of path, you both did the little hat dance to see who goes left and who goes right? Well, thankfully, every driver here never hat-dances; in fact, once a path is chosen, the opposing traffic knows exactly where you are going and they compensate … unless something distracts them. Cows? No. Men urinating in sewers on the side of the street? No. Little Caucasian boy with a funny hat on? Of course! Thankfully, I believe my driver took this into consideration and paid extra caution, especially when he was going 45 km/hr on less than 100 m of road. Regardless, I am fine and the interpreter is a good guy.

Lesson 2

Another thing I have learned, also pertaining to traffic, is that cows, oxen, water buffalo and any living object bigger then a rickshaw don’t care if they are in the middle of a major road or in a trance sleeping in a pile of trash. However, it turns out that, as I experienced tonight, if there is oncoming traffic and the bigger animal is standing still perpendicular to you, they will turn their head ever so slightly to let you pass. Well, maybe not every large animal, maybe it was just this one because he experienced the pain of an oncoming bright light? Nevertheless, it was a very entertaining experience.

Lesson 3
The last thing learned today (of major importance), is that people here pick their nose … from the cab driver to the store clerk, people will pick their nose. Thankfully, I have not, nor will I ever partake in this little commonality in India, I just thought it was interesting. I am not saying everyone does it; however, it is not taboo in any way. Just like peeing on the side of the street. Thankfully, every nose picker I have seen uses their left hand, which is the dirty hand, for those of you who did not know. Why a dirty hand? Well, you need one hand to eat and shake with, why not have one hand to do the ‘other’ stuff with? I am sorry if that offends anyone, but these are just my observations … until next time …

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