February 10-25, 2012

Day 1

Wow, the first day here felt incredibly long. We arrived at the airport at about 4:00 Sunday morning. Here we were greeted by our first car ride into Hyderabad; as expected, it was nuts. Swerving between lanes, honking horns, we sped towards the city while an automated voice repeatedly told the taxi driver to “Please slow down, you are breaking the speed limit.” With the windows down, we took in the distinct scents of the city, some sweet others pungent. The dirty streets got busier as the sun rose, now covered with auto-rickshaws and motorcycles. Once we arrived at our hostel, everyone ran inside to pick out a bunk and set their bags down. In a state of curiosity and culture-shock, the team went on a walk around the neighborhood—our eyes taking in the first elements of the Indian experience. Exhausted and jet-lagged, we shortly returned to the hostel, and all collapsed into our bunks for a mid-day nap.

Everyone awoke in a drowsy state and prepared for our first Indian meal. We sat down to let Barbara struggle with the task of ordering for 15 teenagers. Soon the waiters whisked out platters with buttered chicken, chickpeas, palaak paner, garlic naan, and biryani rice. The gratuitously spiced Indian cuisine was delicious, although we all felt that we could breathe fire after we were done.  After lunch we made a quick trip back to the hostel and got ready to go to the mall; so began our first ride in the auto-rickshaws. Squeezing between motorcycles, buses, and hundreds of other autos was at first stressful, then entertaining. Full to the brim with six people (or so we thought, we later saw autos carrying up to nine…) we weaved through crazy traffic, sometimes only inches away from other vehicles. The mall was a hit with the girls, many leaving with bags in each hand. The boys left empty-handed, but with stomachs full of McDonald's soft serve. Next we walked to see a bollywood film at a nearby theater. The film was interesting, but nobody understood the plot (it was all in Hindi with no subtitles) and our row, still very jet-lagged, quickly succumbed to exhaustion - we were all asleep within half an hour. We left the film early and went back to the hostel. Never had a cold bucket of water felt so good to wash with.  - Matthew (with a little editing by Erik)

The first things I noticed were the looks.  India is not nearly as diverse as Seattle, and almost every person who notices us will stop what they are doing and stare.  The strangeness is fed with the ridiculous amount of people.  I have never seen this many people or a city this crowded. I have been to New York, Boston, and Chicago, none compare to the mass of people who swarm this city on their motorcycles, cars, and in their street stands.  Now imagine all those eyes looking at you.  At first, I thought that it meant that we were unwelcome.  As it turns out, these looks are simply out of curiosity as Indians in Hyderabad do not meet many foreigners. -Jackson