Learning Curves

“Dad, guess what? It was so nice today—only about 103 degrees!”

Yes, that’s me. And no, that is not sarcastic whatsoever. Oh, how far I have come in the last couple weeks.

Rewinding a little bit…

After I landed in Delhi with my mom, we spent a week and a half exploring Old & New Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal!), and Jaipur. When we landed, it was 114 degrees. Needless to say, I spent my entire time traveling with a very touristy and slightly embarrassing handheld fan that sprayed water aimed squarely at my nose, while very large beads of sweat ungracefully seemed to drip from every pore in my body.

I’ve never experiences heat like this before, and I’m not quite sure I ever want to again. But, it does make 103 degrees feel like heaven.

After I finished traveling with my mom, I met up with my fellow CASI buddies in Delhi to spend the weekend together before we all went off to our respective sites. We had a great weekend, visiting Humayun’s Tomb, the India Gate, the Red Fort, and then spending Sunday evening at a Penn Club of Delhi ice cream party!

Sadly, our time as a full group was short, and it was the moment for Alexa and I to plunge into all things rural! Monday morning, we dragged our sleepy bodies out of bed and to the airport (with a stop at Pizza Hut… no shame) and boarded our Indigo flight to Indore. All seemed to be going pretty well on the flight until we got close to landing, and then the turbulence really started to kick in.

When we landed in Indore, we stepped out onto the stairs to deplane, and there were fields in every direction. Alexa, I think we are in Kansas (ironically, Alexa is from Kansas).

Then, we spent the next three hours traveling by four-wheel drive SUV to SPS. Dirt roads, rocky roads, gravel roads, no roads, forests, hills, switchbacks, cows, goats, people, wedding parties… you name it, we saw it! After settling in, we met a couple of the SPS employees—our supervisor Rajesh, his friend/roommate Raghav, head of women’s groups Aakarti, and various others.

The thing that has surprised Alexa and I most about being here is the difference in time mentality. Quite honestly, we have spent the last two and a half weeks here doing very little. We have made a couple journeys into the field (filming for a movie, attending a women’s self help group, and watching the producer company aggregate crops), but most of the time has been spent reading novels or catching up on large doses of Netflix that were missed during the busy time at Penn. Why, you may ask? Well, things run a lot slower here. At Penn, every moment is go-go-go, where you barely have any time to think. Here, it’s all about connecting with others, spending time adjusting, and getting used to a setting very different than home.

I’ve had a bit of difficulty getting used to this pace. I’m happiest when I am busy (no wonder I go to Penn…) so adjusting to having hours upon hours of free time has been challenging. After two and a half weeks, I am finally getting used to being in my own head a lot, and have found wonderful novels and ethnographies/documentaries/articles about India to learn more about its current state of affairs.

We have done two small projects so far (a couple hours each): one on child marriage in the tribal areas around SPS and another on watershed development in India as a whole. Each project consisted of Alexa and I doing research online and then writing up a couple pages about it.

Speaking of online… what a luxury! Power outages are frequent here, and when the power goes out, the wifi is soon to follow. Normally, it takes about 3 hours for the wifi to come back on (another time adjustment). We’ve gotten really good and pulling up a bunch of windows when the wifi is down, so when it comes back up, we can do a mad dash of downloading anything and everything we could want (songs, videos, kindle books, articles, text messages) for the next couple days. (As if on cue, the power just went out and… oh! there goes the wifi.)

So, weather (heat and storms), time, power, what’s left? Food and bugs of course!!

The food at SPS is quite good, although we’ve been adjusting to what it’s like to eat Indian food 3 meals a day, every day. Our meals consist dal (lentils), white rice, a potato or green bean dish, chapatti (like a tortilla), and sometimes cucumbers (my favorite!!). We’ve been snacking a lot… oreos, kit kats, granola bars, peanut butter, but have had a couple pesky things get in the way of that… BUGS!

Yup, they are everywhere. They’ve eaten into my suitcase, my granola, my almonds… you name it, they love it. I’m on the soap warpath, but am about 68.31% confident that I may be able to beat it.

Anyways, that’s about all that’s up for now in our neck of the woods! Our supervisor said that we should start working sometime this week, so next time I should have a slightly more exciting blog post. Cheers and stay cool!

-Kameron Fisher

Samaj Pragati Sahayog, India


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