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.

A little stomach bug

Well, I have been out of commission the past two days due to a little stomach bug and a pretty bad headache. Don’t worry, I called my mom the first thing in the morning to let her know that everything was all right and that there is no need to buy a ticket to India and bring me some Chicken Noodle Soup. Ok, so maybe I didn’t say that last part, but I assured her I was ok.

Today, I woke up feeling much better, but not really wanting to do much, since it’s roughly 1000 degrees outside (yes I counted the zeros). So, AnneMarie and Ram left for Hyderabad two days ago, so I am all by my lonesome, just when I got sick (Karma? I hope not). Thankfully, my friends down the street, our helpers at the office, and Uncle and Auntie (landlords) all came to check up on me to make sure everything was all right. I was given fruits and water, and for dinner I had some Curd Meal, which is basically Curd (yogurt) with Rice, and it turns out that I am growing to like it. The even better news, I think I am getting over my whole “lactose intolerance” thing because of all the milk products I have had, such as the curd, well only curd, but I have had a good amount (for a self proclaimed lactose intolerant).

Also, MIchael and Jenneli came back from their three weeks of travel today at 6 a.m. It was kind of funny because I am a hard sleeper and I cannot hear the doorbell in my room, so it took them about 10 minutes to try and wake me up. But they brought back some fun stuff, such as a bunch of DC Comics that I have thoroughly enjoyed today, turns out that they only cost 15 Rs. per issue (less than 50 cents).

Oh, so the other day we installed some handpumps for one of the villages and I was able to get my biosand filter installed in the school. I just love those kids, they are really funny. For some reason they all started copying everything I was doing and saying, so I made it into a lesson by pointing to objects and saying the English word which they usually were able to repeat.

It’s sad that I only have just a few more days left in Ongole because of all the people I have met and the friends I have made. But, I do miss my family and friends back home in the States. I’m also ready to hit the ground running with all of my activities this next year… don’t worry Ali, I will still have time to hang out. Maybe I will be able to come back soon to check on the status of other projects, maybe not, but I do not think this will be the last I have seen of Ongole … or even India for that matter. Remember, the parrot said I would be back.

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Success

You know that feeling you get when you complete something … the feeling of success? Well, I had that feeling yesterday as I watched water pour out of the tube from the open well, using the rope pump that AnneMarie and I put together.

It was a very nice feeling, since over the past month(ish) we have not been able to break ground on the water stations due to money setbacks. Well, thankfully that problem is over and we will have the money next week so we can start construction. Unfortunately, I only have just under two weeks before I leave, and I will not be able to see the completed water facility … maybe I’ll come back just so I can see it in action ;)

Regardless, I had one of those little victories yesterday in combating the open well problem. The rope pump will help protect the well from accumulation of trash and other airborne ailments. As soon as I can post the pictures, I will. Also, through the help of some newfound friends, I was able to acquire everything I need for my biosand-filter. Which, if any future EWB participants are interested, is a very logical and resourceful way to bring clean water to homes, just an fyi.

I would like to take this time to thank my new friends on helping me with the biosand-filter, Kiran, Krishna, and Teja, if you ever read this blog, thank you. They were even nice to invite me over and we played cards (Gin) and talked about India and America. Then, Krishna gave me a ‘spiritual bracelet,’ which is a very nice addition to my right wrist.

Oh yea, almost forgot to tell you, I had the General Meal for lunch today, basically it is a large dish with a banana leaf and mounds of rice. You are also given a dish with 12 little bowls, each filled with a different sauce/curry/curd/something. It was pretty darn amazing! I can’t wait for my Indian friends back home to teach me the ways of Indian cuisine. Well, I’m sure I will be able to wait a little bit, I really want some of my mom’s Belgian Waffles with pure Maple syrup, baked almonds, homemade whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, sauteed apples, and eggs … mmmmm! Fyi mom, can we have waffles Sunday morning when I get back? Please? Sorry to all those readers out there who have no idea about my mom’s cooking, it’s unbelievable. Hah, can you tell I miss American food? Anyways, I’m just blabbering, oh, I could also so for some of Aunt Carol’s cookies! Ahh, sorry, that just slipped out…or typed out, one of the two.

Regardless, I got to see some more monkeys yesterday, which, along with the successful rope pump, made my day. Until next time, eat something without rice or curry and think of me.

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Dosa overload

So, I just dodged a bullet! Mom, not a real bullet, don’t worry.

So in my quest to find sustenance of a different variety, Auntie (our landlord) offered me some food for the second time today. In my efforts to stretch the remaining few rupees I have left before I have to go back to the ATM, I decided it would not hurt to eat some more of Auntie’s food, and heck, it’s free!

The food served hot out of the pan was dosa with some kind of vegetable soup. To try to explain dosa, it is similar to a thinner pancake, but fried and about the diameter of a basketball. I gratefully ate three until my stomach started waking up and fighting with me (Yes, those who know me, know that I can eat a lot; but here in Ongole, it’s hard). Anyways, after I try many attempts to not have her make anymore, attempts of waving my hands in a crisscross motion and saying “No thank you, I’m full (not that she could understand my English anyways),” she brought out two more. I begrudgingly ate the fourth dosa, with my head and eyelids drooping ever so slightly from the large amounts of food I have eaten throughout the day.

As uncle sat there flipping though the channels, while he was secretly making sure I eat every piece, he stopped on the channel with American music. Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ was playing, and to the amusement of Uncle he stated “He’s from your country!” almost as if he were mocking me. Thankfully, just before I thought I was going to pass out from the food, Auntie and Uncle went out front to converse with the neighbor. That’s when I had an idea!

Now don’t get me wrong, Uncle and Auntie are great people, but I feel bad if I don’t finish every piece of food, so what do I do?!? You guess it, I took the greasy, fried, half-eaten dosa, rolled and folded it and placed it nicely in the left pocket of my linen trousers. Why the left pocket? Well, the right pocket had my cell phone and the left had money, money which has most likely been through some rough times, and I figured some grease wouldn’t do any harm.

I did it, Auntie walked in 2 minutes later, very happy I finished the meal, and took the plates to wash. I was home free, I have never felt so liberated (or diabolical) this entire trip, and believe me, I know my stomach was thankful. So, upstairs I walked, and once I got to the balcony, I discarded the frisbee-size flapjack into the swamp/trash/cesspool next to our apartment (which turns out to be the only thing between us and a graveyard **we just found that one out**). I was home free and felt like I could conquer any task, which leads me to the next couple of entries, because they are going to be long.

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The first day in the city

It started with a massage, which makes sense due to this weekend being about R&R. The massage was nice, I’m more of a deep tissue massage kind of person, and this was just oily and awkward, but at 14$ (700 Rupees) it is hard to say “No!” But that’s not the point of what we experienced during our first day in the city. I would like to take this time for all my readers out there that have no clue what life is like in India to sit down, because this might be shocking.

So, it turns out, the city I have been living in the past 3 weeks, Ongole, is roughly the way about 50% of Indians live, give or take some points of error because these were numbers thrown out by Ram. About 30% live like the villagers and the rest in the big city life. I have explained the villages with the very limited resources, and I have explained the “City life” of Ongole. Now it is time to explain how the wealthier people live in India, wealth of course referring to monetary value.

Driving up and down any feeder street, you will see small shops and buildings from anything to a barbershop (more to come on that) to a fruit stand. There is construction everywhere, which is pretty cool because the beams used to hold most of the walls up are just long poles cut from trees. Then, on the main streets there are sections with end-to-end department stores from Adidas to Lees. These stores have the large signs and big open-walled windows for the average window shopper. The sights from the big city can only be described as being on Broadway in NYC with the main difference being the color of one’s skin.

After the massage I took a nap, a much needed nap in an air conditioned room :) Ram, AnneMarie and I then went to the Mall to check and see if Die Hard 4.0 (different name because the American name would not make complete sense in this culture) but it was sold out. So, true to the American lifestyle, we went shopping in the 5-story mall. A little different than an American mall, this mall didn’t have stores with walls, it just had sections, some with security scanners and some without. I bought a couple of the sweet shirts (don’t worry, I’ll wear them around for everyone to see), and we ate at the ‘food court.’ This was a little different as everyone ordered at one line with just a huge menu to choose from, no Chick-fil-a or Sabarro’s Pizzeria, it probably didn’t even have a name, just a bunch of food to choose from. It is also interesting that the only size drink they had was the equivalent of a child’s size Pepsi (apparently Coca-Cola had some issues with what was put in their drinks in India, so it is near impossible to find an Original Coke). After the food court experience, and a slight wardrobe change, off we went back to the condo and watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith, since I had never seen it.

The next day

So as it turns out as I am writing this, I realized everything previously stated actually happened on the Saturday we were in Hyderabad and everything I will explain next happened on Friday, which does have some importance to the story. AnneMarie suggested we go to Charminar Market, which is the equivalent of China-town in NYC. So, once we get to the market and find a parking spot in the parking lot of one of Ram’s friends, we go shopping…er…we walk around and ended up shopping. It started off with freshly squeezed sugar cane. Btw, I’m going to start growing sugar cane, I hope my roommate doesn’t mind :) It was soo good we drank two glasses, which I think got my mind racing with the pure sugar I just drank and I went on a spending spree.

Well, first we had a little encounter with the law, as I will explain now. About a month ago, I think June 15th, some radical terrorist set off a bomb in a mosque in Hyderabad, India; however, I knew this coming on the trip but still felt safe. What I didn’t know was once we were in the Charminar Market, around 2 pm, which is about prayer time, there were Police Officers EVERYWHERE! No joke, there were probably about 100 or so just in plain view; the reason? Well, as we are taking pictures of the center building of Charminar Square, Ram points to the roof about a mile away where there was the roof of a mosque sticking up. “That’s where the explosion happened,” said Ram, “and it happened on a Friday, during this time.” That’s when I realized why all the police were out in full force, and once this was realized, it was 2 pm(ish), prayer time.

So we are all blocked by the newly stretched piece of barbed-wire coil and told to take an alternate route. Making sure Ram had AnneMarie and I close by his side, we walked over to a jewelry shop. One thing I forgot to tell you is that Hyderabad is nicknamed “The City of Pearls.” So this jewelry shop was not just jewels, but pearls, everywhere. After about an hour of decisions and help from Ram and AnneMarie, I bought sets of pearl earrings and one set of earrings with a matching necklace. I know, I went pearl crazy, and I don’t even have a girlfriend! It was just so tempting at those prices. What prices? How about the fact that I bought everything for, well, a VERY good price, and they are ALL REAL PEARLS!

By that time, we were…well, I was tired of shopping, so we met with a local non-profit agency and called it a day, at least for shopping. After our midday nap, which I can really get used to, Ram had friends come over for dinner and drinks. So, we spent the night discussing American Politics, Indian Politics, Bollywood movies (One of Ram’s friend’s family owns a movie company) and the fine products of a friend named Johnny Walker, namely Red and Gold (don’t worry, I’m of age). Then off it was to another great sleep in a 49 square foot bed with a fan and air conditioning.

The next, next day

Sunday was the day AnneMarie and I decided to leave and take a train back to Ongole for no more R&R. Thankfully, our train was not until 9 pm, so we got to enjoy some of the last few hours in the big city. As we were walking out to the garage, Ram saw a man walking by with a caged parrot and called him over. Ram said to us “You want your future read by a bird?” Now I know all I wanted to see on this trip was a monkey, and I did, but after Ram’s statement, this parrot fortune teller was definitely on the top of my to-do list.

So, the man asked Ram for my name, since he could tell I didn’t speak Telugu, and the man started with his little song and dance of opening the cage, saying something I didn’t understand with my name thrown in there somewhere. Then, after packets of tarot cards were placed next to the cage, the parrot slowly walked out, looked all around him, put his beak on a packet of cards, and quickly walked back into the cage to be shut. The man pulled out four cards from the packet and talked about each one, then Ram interpreted for me.

Ram’s words were “The first card was the monkey god which shows strength, then he spoke about how you care about poor people and you want to help them. Also, this is your first time in India, but it will not be your last. You are also going to be a traveler, and you will not depend on money from your parents.” Wow! I immediately thought. That guy can read me like a book.

Of course there is a perfectly logical explanation for his ‘fortune-telling’ based on the style of my clothes, I could not understand a single word he said, I looked very happy to be in India, and that I look like I’m 30 years old which can explain why I would support myself. Or it turns out the parrot is all-knowing and all-powerful and still doing parlor tricks while trapped in a cage; but hey, it doesn’t hurt to believe that anything is possible.

After the “self revealing spiritual quest” we headed off to Pizza Hut, one of the finest Pizza Restaurants I have ever seen! We walked into the two story, extremely clean pizzeria, and to my surprise, the pizza was good. It was also served with garlic bread with special sauces and Chicken Ticka. A fine feast for a fine restaurant, all for about $15, which was not bad for being served everything by a waiter. Then we just went back to the apartment for some more relaxation and a nice meal to end the weekend. Nevertheless, Ram treated us with great hospitality, and I found out what a bird thinks of me!

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Weekend in the big city

Just what the doctor ordered! A weekend of R&R in the great city of Hyderabad. Ram, a very well-educated Indian businessman, came to Ongole for the day to help the villagers understand another non-profit was taking over – this is a very well known international organization (I don’t want to say the name because of rights issues). Anyways, after the meeting with the villagers, Ram invited AnneMarie and I to his abode in Hyderabad, the capitol of Andhra Pradesh (the state I am in here in India).

Before I talk about the city life, I want to tell you a little about highway driving from 10 pm to 4 am at night … it’s scary! Ghost and goblins scary? No, but I wish it were just that. It is more like two-lane highways, one lane per direction, with cars passing by on the left and right! Wait, did I say cars, I meant India’s version of the “18-wheeler.” This slow moving, fully packed, midsized semi-vehicle is probably the most travelled auto on the Indian highways. Not to mention that they only drive with brights on. A word of advice, don’t sit in the front seat while driving at night in India, unless you want gray hair and to be in a straightjacket the rest of your life. Yes it is that scary and I have the video to prove it. Imagine driving on a packed highway, only one lane each direction, and your driver passes the semi in front of you fully aware of the blaring headlights coming towards you. At least, you are hoping the driver is fully aware and not blind from the headlights. Regardless, I am typing this blog, which means I made it just fine.

So, once we got to Ram’s apartment/condo in the heart of Hyderabad, we all decide that it would be wise to catch some sleep, while I personally feel it will be nice for my bones to get back into my skin from the previous 6 hour car ride.

The apartment in Hyderabad

To describe the apartment as ‘nice’ would not do the carpenters’ work any justice. It was built just under a year ago and is extremely elegant and beautiful. I personally had not a clue of what Hyderabad and the apartment life would look like in India, but it is safe to say pretty similar to downtown Dallas/Houston. But I will talk about the city in a little bit; the apartment is where it’s at. Everything in the apartment, from the walk-in closet/bathroom/steam shower to the 7-by-7-foot beds were all masterfully designed by Ram, not built, but designed. The walls have inlaid stain glass, the rooms have air conditioning, and the showers have hot water. Needless to say, the apartment was very exquisite, and before he even moved in, there were offers to purchase his place. But, it was 4 am and I needed some sleep.

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Same Song, Different Verse

To start off, I felt much better this morning when I woke up (thanks for the phone call, mom, love you!). Sorry, I felt if anyone was worried about me, it would be my mom, as she said, “I will hold my breath until your plane lands.” Words of a great mom.

So, with that being said, I am physically and mentally drained of the day’s tasks (I’m really surprised I am even writing this email I’m so tired; but my fans need me, so I will push through it.) All right, last night it was decided that I will have another project added to my agenda, a bio-sand filter: www.biosandfilter.org

It really is quite an amazing piece of ingenuity, as well as very simple to make. So, with the finishing touches needed for my rope pump, and the new task of finding the easiest and most inexpensive way to build the sand filter (since the villagers might want to build their own); Amos and I went shopping. **I really don’t like shopping, fyi** But, alas, after four hours of driving around the city as a passenger on a motorcycle of which I got some really great first-person point-of-view video, I was exhausted. But that is not really the basis of today’s blog.

It turns out, roughly halfway around the world, the people here are the same as in my hometown of Richardson, the same as Texas, the same as America. Sure, they dress differently, and live in a dissimilar house (a second family living above the owners), and the whole defecating in public thing; but they are the same as you and me. I started to realize this when I was “working out” this morning. That’s a tale for another day, but basically I use two resistance bands, the iron bars on my windows and a lot of creativity.

Well, as I was doing tricep pull-downs, I saw out the window the family next door on their roof. Thankfully my windows have tinting, because I was in my boxers while working out, but you probably didn’t care to know that. So, in comfort of my air-circulated (note, I did not use air-conditioned) and the windows closed, I was able to watch a father cut down coconuts for his three daughters, all under the age of ten by my estimate. Without hearing a word, not that I would be able to understand what they actually said, I noticed that actions speak louder than words and realized that I could interpret what they were saying.

They said the same thing a mother says to her children at the grocery store when picking out the extra sugar cereal. The same thing a father tells his kid about his first baseball game. Or, the same thing a soldier asks his wife to marry him just before he is shipped off. That, this city, this country, this hemisphere or this world, all revolve around one main thing… love. Whether it is love for the family unit, love of a job, or love of greed, or love of only oneself, everyone loves. We are all human, we all have emotions, and a majority of US care for our loved ones, whatever that ‘ones’ being loved may be.

Sure you can tell me there is war, protests, greed, poverty, etc … but what are the reasons for these things? I don’t know, maybe I am getting too philosophical and I should talk more about my engineering, but, it’s hard. You know the song “Louis, Louis?” Well, apparently, someone telling me about the original version said that the words today are not the same as they were when it was first written. Well, with that in mind, we, the people of this world are all singing the same song, different verse …er …lyrics.

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Just a monkey and a smile…

So, today I woke up on the wrong side cot … metaphorically speaking, of course, because I only exit the cot on one side, since it is the opening of my mosquito net … but that’s not the point.

The reason for the unhappy awakening is probably due to numerous factors stemming from the sore throat, the restless sleep, the stuffing coming out of my pillow, maybe the Malaria drugs, and quite possibly the continuing feeling that there is so much in the world to “fix” with so little time.

Regardless of the aforementioned weights, I was able to rise with the sun, well, a few hours later, and start my day; even if I did get out of my cot on the wrong side.

Today was the first day that Joseph, the man in charge of the local NGO (basically a non-profit) and our continued interpreter did not join us on our travels to the villages. We needed to sample some water in one village and install a “town light” for another. So, off on our travels with our driver, Raul, blasting his favorite Indian pop music, and Amos, our interpreter and friend to Raul, in the front and AnneMarie and I in the back of an SUV to go and “save the world.”

We arrived at the first village, only after the fun rollercoaster ride of an SUV mixed with poor roads, with some problems. The head unit we were given to reinstall was, contrary to the person who said it was fixed, not working. So, after some tries to fix it with the limited tools I had, a Leatherman, we decided to bring it back to the city and fix it.

Ok, so maybe this didn’t help with me not feeling so well, and neither did the sun. But, we kept “trucking” and drove to the next village, again, another ride that should be added to Six Flags arsenal. At the village, we took a sample of the water because there is a good possibility of high levels of nitrate. These high levels of nitrate are mostly due to the hoards of fertilizer dumped on the peanut farms. High nitrate levels can cause blue baby syndrome, which affects the baby’s ability to carry oxygen to the lungs, and it is not good for pregnant women.

Well, we collected the water for tests, and while we were waiting by the car, three little girls walked up and kept saying “Hi.” Actually, if you remember the movie Finding Nemo, with the birds chasing Nemo saying “Mine! Mine!” repeatedly, these girls did the same thing, but with “Hi,” and not as annoying.

So, I pulled out my camera and asked to take a picture, they were all standing there smiling and having fun. Then, I walked toward them to show them their picture I just took and they ran away about 15 feet screaming. It was like there was a huge monster behind me, but it was only visible to children; but, AnneMarie said, “Maybe they thought you were going to kidnap them?” Nonchalantly making this statement, she made me think of what these people really think of “white people.”

But, I was able to show one girl their pictures, and I gave them some packaged crackers, and off they went. Then the girls came back at the same time a group of boys stopped by, and I pulled out my camera again and
starting taking pictures. Seeing the children’s smiles just makes me happy; it gives me the feeling that, even though our world has its ups and downs, there is always going to be the smile of a child.

Then, off we went back to Ongole, with some random villagers who asked for a ride on the way; it made part of the drive kind of cramped, but it is a common gesture to give rides. On the drive back I had my eyes closed most of the time; however, I opened them to see where we were, and on the side of the highway, a group of small gray monkeys were ‘just chillin.’

And, as I have stated before, my trip would be complete once I saw a kid climb a tree for a coconut, and I get to see a monkey, much less five. It made me happy once again, and now I am writing to tell that no matter what side of the bed I wake up on, I got to see a wild monkey…

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Fried and Double-Fried…

To stifle any chance of me contracting “Delhi Belly” again, my flatmate and
I have gone to one restaurant in town every day for the last week. The
restaurant ‘KB’ has been recommended by everyone we have spoken to in the
city of Ongole; so, naturally we took the locals’ recommendation.

However, much like good old Umphrey Lee (SMU’s main cafeteria), I have
become sick of this place … not physically, but mentally. I need a change,
anything would do, just as long as there aren’t flies hovering in every
room. Unfortunately, there are no other restaurants with this constraint;
even KB has its fair share of resident flies.

Oddly enough, I don’t know why, after only two weeks of being here that I
would like a change of venue for eating out … I mean, it took me about 3
years to finally tired of eating at U. Lee, and then they changed it around
and I love the place. Maybe it is because it is all the same food, which
happens to be all the same food in the entire city … fried, or fried
twice.

When preparing for my travels, I was told that it would be rare to encounter
any meat, and I will be mostly eating vegetarian, which I was content with.
It turns out that 95% of the food, if cooked at all, is fried. This food
taste pretty darn good, from dosa to naan and rice to the assortments of
chicken and spices – the food is good, actually, great! But only for a shot
while. It is hard to work up that appetite for fried food 24/7.

**Don’t worry mom, I also eat fruits, like mango and supota (sp)**

Regardless of the food choices, I can make do … for those of you who know
me, I am not a picky eater. However, maybe my desire to find another
restaurant is due to the fact that, because of my flatmate being a girl, we
continually are given the “run-around” while walking into KB. Our first time
walking into the restaurant, we were told to go into a private room with
about 5 tables and air conditioning (thankfully) even though there were more
than enough tables in the main hall.

We figured, “Hey, quiet place where no one stares at us, and air
conditioning … sweet.” However, yesterday we entered KB and were quickly
removed to the “Family room.” Apparently, this is where women are allowed
to eat, and just so happens to be the room with the largest “family” of
flies.

I’m sorry about that bit of complaining, but it is just so hot, and when you
wake up every morning sweating, you can understand why I might seem a bit
cranky. Nevertheless, I am a fighter and I really don’t mind the whole
situation. Because I know by the end of the trip, I will have grown
immensely mentally and personally. I already know that I can occupy my time
without TV, movies, work, friends, family, a car, a nice bed, an assortment
of food, good smells, quiet times, fast internet, etc. It’s not ideal, but
it is very ‘do-able.”

In the meantime I will write, read, help some villages with their water
situation, and sweat; and I’ll have a good time doing it! Until next time
… to all my friends, family, and readers out there … take care!

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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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The Village

So, I guess it would be a good time to actually start blogging about the work I am supposedly doing … but there are just so many other things to talk about, such as people just randomly defecating in the streets, the whining of baby water buffalo waking me up at the crack-of-dawn because it can’t find its parents, or even the fact that everywhere I go, people stare at me as if I am wearing a Tuxedo in a McDonald’s on a Wednesday morning … and I don’t even like McDonald’s!

But alas, it is time to get serious and talk about my work experiences so far; unfortunately, it is not as exciting (sorry for any disappointment to all of my enthralled readers).

To start off, it is always awkward while arriving at the village. Why? Other than the people staring, we are given the “royal” treatment. The finest golden plastic lawn chairs are placed underneath the largest shaded area, and we are given either a stomach altering “Limca” (Mountain Dew) or, like today, we were given coconut milk from coconuts a kid climbed 30 feet to the top of a palm tree to get, while being viciously attacked by the owners of the top of the tree … crows.

As I sat in my golden-coated, shaded relaxation chair, starting a new distaste for coconut milk, I realized that we only have a month left to build something, anything, just to show that the trip, and the money, were not in vain. Things move slow around here, with good reason. Who would want to work during the day when you are only 6.5 kilometers from the sun? Monsoon season … that term is a myth as far as I’m concerned. Now, Monsoon season in Texas during the summer … that also seemed like a myth, but I guess I was wrong.

Regardless, we have decided that building 3 wash stations for a village of 35 families seems a bit overpronounced; therefore, we are going to start with one, complete the facility and get feedback from the villagers, which is a task all it own. Actually, getting feedback from 99.99% of this area is pretty much useless, since only .01% speak English, and I’m including my teammates.

Nevertheless, we took water samples today that will, hopefully, show low nitrate and microbial levels. How low … how should I know? I am an electrical engineer! Actually, I did get a little side project today fixing some solar lights, or finding out the problem. But, I guess you could say I am doing “Field Engineering,” where nothing goes as planned. But I believe that our facility will be of great use to the community.

But on a more serious note, before the village I just spoke about, we visited another village in the vicinity. It had more people, and fewer working pumps. I took many pictures of the entire site, and as soon as my internet stops moving at tortoise speed, I will upload them. In this village, there were many hand pumps, which are used for drinking water because they are closed to outside elements and come directly from the ground aquifer, but all but one were broken. Thankfully, in the villagers’ minds, almost every home has an open well; unfortunately, in an engineer’s mind, these are less than safe for any drinking usage.

So, AnneMarie and I, she the Professional Engineer, decided that we would spend some of the money that was going toward one of the wash stations to replace and fix all broken pumps in this village. On the plus side, the villagers like the rope pump that I brought (see google search: rope pump), but again, these can only be used on open wells. However, if we fix the hand pumps for drinking water, and use a rope pump for all other uses, we will be able to put the village back into a safe environment.

Heh, I woke up this morning hoping the maid would finally do my laundry, and here I am trying to give a village safe drinking water. The villages are a different world, even when compared to the small city of Ongole, which is also a different world from most parts of the U.S. Wow, sorry about that bit of news, but you should all know about it … and that thing about our maid, it was an adamant request of our landlords to hire her; and at 300 Rs. a month (less than 8$), she is more than worth it.

Anyways, as I stated before, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from everyone who reads this and let me know what you think. I will add some pics as soon as possible, which might take a while, but have taken over 300, so I’m at least trying to show them to you. In the meantime, peace … and for those in North Texas, good luck finding an boat.

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