Once again I’m in the Frankfurt airport, only this time – I’m on the way home. Frankfurt is one of the largest, if not the largest airports I’ve ever been in and I didn’t have my traveling co-workers this time to navigate me through. Rebecca is staying in Germany on vacation with her boyfriend and my boss decided to stay an extra day in Bangalore. My only mishap however, was walking into a linen closet in the bathroom as opposed to the exit. Apparently verboten means ‘No’. ;-) I have made my way to my gate now though and I’m in the ‘Gummy Bear’ Lounge again.
It was with mixed feelings that I left Bangalore last night. The airport leaving was worse coming in. You had to run your own bags through the scanner, fight to pick them out amongst everyone else (Indians, I’m convinced, have no concept of standing in line, as evidenced by their complete ignoring of traffic ‘laws’) and then make your way to a counter. There was no business lounge but, here ma’am, have some coffee instead, the man at the counter assured us. There are, literally, two gates where every plane takes off from and we were all packed into the waiting room there. It was, much like the rest of my journey here, quite an experience.
There are some things about India that I want to remember so I’m going to write them here in case I don’t return:
First, if you ever go, pack plenty of chewable pepto-bismol and drink lots of water your first three days. It takes a bit for your body to get acclimated to its new home. Best advice my immunization nurse ever gave me.
Travel during the monsoon season. Yes, it rained here and there but the weather was quite beautiful otherwise. Bangalore, I was told, was renowned for its weather and I believe it. Much more seasonable at 65 to 70 degrees than the humid Virginia weather 85+ than I’m used to. July and August are quite pleasant in Bangalore.
Apparently, if you pick up a few words, they are quite impressed with it. Their faces broke out in the most wide grins when we would greet them with ‘How are you?” or “Thank you” in Kanada.
It was so interesting to exchange ideas and cultures with our hosts. I feel as if I’ve lived in a box most of my life up until this point. The simple act of showing them quarters and how we have states on each quarter, they loved. So we gave them what we had in our pockets. Virginia, North Dakota, and New York.
They have different ideas of cleanliness than we do. Even at fast food places (McDonalds and KFC are prominent here) there are public sinks where everyone washes their hands and faces afterwards. It is custom. Further, they only eat with one hand. It is considered cleaner.
I want to remember the woman in the market who waved me off when I tried to hand her rupees over her husband’s back as I was paying for an item (he was bending down digging for an item for another custom). Apparently, it was her superstition that I was trying to buy her husband too if I handed her money ‘over’ him. I apologized profusely and all was well again.
One of the women happened to name her dog Bingo. When I asked her if she named it after the song or game she had no idea what I was talking about. Rebecca and I began singing the song ‘Bingo’ and they were absolutely delighted. “We did not know, we did not know!’ they exclaimed to us. It was a very funny moment.
The stores there are very big on feedback. After many of our shopping excursions or dining experiences, we were asked to provide feedback and fill out feedback cards. When I commented on this, someone asked me if we did not do this in the states. Well, there are cards on the tables in some places, I told him, but noone ever fills them out and, even if we do I doubt any action is taken upon them.
Finally, I really want to remember what the team and people's attitudes were like. How friendly and unassuming they were and so open to us. Americans are like that but we are so much more stressed on the whole than the Indians are it seems. At least in a lot of areas. The simple act of driving, for example. Road rage is a problem in America whereas Indians just go about their combination Nascar/bumper car commute everyday and seem to take it in stride. When I mentioned I liked chocolate, when I was about to leave, one of the teams presented me with a box of it, one of them having taken time off work to go and get me a sample of Indian chocolate. This is not to say that Americans are not good hosts. :-) I think we are. I just suspect that a lot of this goodwill and attitude carries forth into Indians' everyday lives as well. I think Americans deal with a lot less stress and the Indians, while having so much less on the whole than we do yet many work just as hard, also seem to have less stress than we do.
There were so many things there that I’m sure I’ll remember more later as it was such a big culture change for me. And, despite all the hand washing, I came back with a summer cold. But I would not change the experience for anything and am now encouraged to travel more and I see my perspective on what I once thought of the Indian culture is entirely changed now that I’ve seen it first hand. Thanks to all of you who have read and written to me at TLButcher@cox.net. I’ll be putting all my pictures up that I did not post here (several) up at Flickr.
Until next time…