Kitne kaa hay (pronounced key-tih-nay kaa hey) means “how much is it?” in Hindi. I have yet to use this phrase since most vendors or other people that are trying to sell you something at least know what this means in English. It is pretty much the phrase that begins a bargaining session.
We have been getting oriented the past couple of days before we start classes. This has comprised of sitting in a classroom with a powerpoint while Jacob, our Resident Advisor, explains cultural things, academic expectations, rules, tell stories (lots of stories), etc. Jacob has also taken us on small excursions in the city and taught us how the bus system works. Half the group went to register with the police yesterday while the rest of us went today to get our residential permits (slip of paper equivalent to a green card).
Since we are only taking classes with the people in our group, we have the opportunity to regularly attend a class for the regular Christ University students. Yesterday we spoke with the department heads to find out which class we wanted to sit in on (I went with the political science instead of the business). After this we took at bus to the oldest and best restaurants in Bangalore (recommended by many) and had a very traditional Indian meal. We were served out of silver buckets, the food kept coming, and I learned how to eat rice and curry with my hands. Everything about Indian seems to be extreme, which on the day-to-day is awesome. The spicy food is spicier, the sweets are sweeter, the streets are noisier, the colors are brighter, and the people are more beautiful (Unfortunately the flip side is the rich are richer and the poor are poorer).
The meal was amazing and we followed it by walking around the botanical gardens. At times I wish I could just blend in with the crowd and experience India without being treated like a foreigner (being charged more and taken advantage of), but being a white American has its perks. Sometimes you are just stared at, which gets awkward, but sometimes you are treated like you’re famous (big ego boost). A couple of us were followed around by some kids to the gardens, who we thought just wanted money at first but then realized that they were just interested in us. When we told them we were from the US they responded with “USA! Wow!” And the proceeded to ask for pictures to be taken of and with them. They walked away saying that we were really nice and were just really excited.
Although Indian boast about their democratic government, it is better known for the corruption and lack of timely paperwork processing. (I am not making any negative judgments since I think the country’s level of democracy is pretty impressive considering it has only been independent since 1947 and is home to 1.2 billion people versus the US population of 307 million) After experiencing the streets of an Indian city, you realize how crowded the country is and it is very hard to offer a reasonable alternative to the corruption if you want anything to get done. That being said, we were each required to pay 1,500 rupees before going to police registration. It took us a little while to realize that this was for the bribe our group was paying the government office to ensure what we got our legal residency in just one day (11 am to 6 pm) instead of having to continue to return to the office over the next few weeks.
Classes start tomorrow and I am looking forward to getting into a bit more a routine, meeting local students, and having more time to see the city in smaller groups. I am definitely feeling more and more comfortable here, which I measure by how willing I am to get within inches of cars when crossing the street. Don’t worry mom and dad, I don’t mess with the buses!