“Where are you from?” “How long are you here for?” “Are you traveling, working?” “Where else are you going on your trip?” These are the questions in a hostel that are usually asked at the beginning of every interaction. It’s not until 20 minutes later that we realize we never even asked eachothers’ names. Living in a house with 40 other people around my age has been equally hectic as it has been fun. It’s the perfect environment to share stories, travel advice and make connections with people around the world. Whatever the conversation, my favorite will always be “Next time your in [insert country here], you have a place to stay”. It definitely makes the world feel a bit smaller.
I’ve met a lot of amazing people from the UK and I can’t help but ask them how they feel about Brexit. Most of them reply something to the extent of “Probably how you feel about Donald Trump”. Fair enough. Travelers from around the world (especially Europe) have also been floored with the lack of legislation regarding gun control in the US. The rest of the world is laughing at our idleness I couldn’t agree more! Though I don’t want to use this blog as a political agenda, I think it’s important to acknowledge and learn from our country’s recent events and how we might work to alleviate them. “Do you own a gun?” I’ve gotten that question a few times. I usually just say no and laugh it off.
In my hostel, people are usually only passing through for a few days on their way to see the rest of India. Being here for 12 days, I’ve been able to meet a lot of amazing friends but it’s always sad to see them leave! That’s the beauty of social media.
My hostel organizes a lot of great events and cultural activities. One day, we had an Indian makeover complete with henna, bindis, and dupattas. Here are some pictures from that day!
They also have a “Food Walk” where we walk around the city and sample Indian food from all regions of India. To be honest, I don’t remember the names of most of the food but it’s all delicious albeit my low tolerance for spicy foods.
Traffic and Transport
HONK HONK….HONK……..HONK. Walking down the street anywhere in Delhi, this is what you will hear. Every single second. When I hear a horn, I’m used to feeling tense and agitated because usually it means someone isn’t driving very well or I’m not driving very well. In Delhi, it kind of just means “Hey, I’m coming up behind you, don’t hit me”. There are seldom any traffic lines on the road to separate lanes and when there are, people usually just ignore them anyway. Traffic lights are also a pretty rare sighting. But what is REALLY rare is any concept of pedestrian traffic. Sure, in some areas, there are crosswalks drawn on the road but they are completely ignored. Eventually, you just have to learn to stick your hand out, put your shoulders back, speed walk and hope you don’t get hit. Absolutely zero part of me would ever want to drive in Delhi.
Delhi is the 2nd most populated city in the world and the traffic definitely shows it. During rush hour in Old Delhi, you’re lucky to move 20 feet in 5 minutes. Just as in Guatemala, New Delhi has Tuks Tuks (commonly called “autos”) as a budget transportation option. They look exactly like the ones in Guatemala but these are green and yellow in color. Usually, they try to rip of tourists who don’t know the rates but a reasonable price to drive 5km is about 60 rupees (about $0.90). Another good option for locals and tourists alike is Uber! Yup, Uber has a huge presence in India and was a great way to get around. And of course, the metro! I’m really loving all of this public transportation. Though nothing else around the city seems to work just right or be on time, the metro is FANTASTIC. It’s fast and it’s so cheap. Usually for a one way trip, it would cost around 16 rupees ($0.24) where as in Amsterdam, I was paying about $3.00!
On the metro trains, the first cart is always reserved for women. This is apparently to keep women safe and comfortable. One of the most interesting things I saw regarding gender separation in India was when a cab had the words “This cab is safe for women” or “This cab respects women” plastered across the back of it. I saw several of these. It kind of irked me that distinction even had to be made. There is a strong sense of a male-dominated society.
For my work in India, I was given help and resources through the Public Health Foundation of India. I met some amazing people that gave me all sorts of advice for navigating India and a quiet, air-conditioned office space if I needed it. The head of the show is pretty much the king of the world when it comes to antibiotic resistance. Though I didn’t get to meet him during my trip to India, I was very lucky and privileged to have his help.
The surveys in India were conducted primarily in Hindi. Because of this, I had the help of a wonderful PhD student at JNU (a local university) named Deep Jyoti. The research in India would have been absolutely impossible and a complete disaster without her. She took me to a different market/park every day to do the surveys, showed me around Delhi and even her university. I can’t even begin to describe how helpful she was.
In India, when we approached possible research participants, about half of the people we asked didn’t even know what antibiotics were. Only 2/40 people surveyed in India had even heard the term “Antibiotic Resistance”. Even they could not answer what it was. They could only say that it means antibiotics don’t work. There is very little public education on the topic in India and most people rely on their doctors and pharmacists to provide that.. Unfortunately, 3/6 pharmacists we interviewed had never even heard of antibiotic resistance. This is problematic as India has some of the highest rates of drug-resistant infections such as Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. Without awareness as the first step, it would be hard to implement lasting change regarding prescribing behaviors.
The heat and humidity made it tough to get the surveys done without feeling miserable. I was constantly soaked in a layer of sweat and drank water almost constantly. Aside from that, the people that we were able to interview were very generous and kind. I think most people were just really curious about me and the questionnaire. During every interview, a group of 8-10 men would form around us, peaking at the survey and and give me suspicious glares. After a while, it really got old. One of the last surveys we did was with a 26 year old woman in the street selling her handicrafts. A young man had been hovering over us, watching us for the entirety of the interview. Finally, the woman said “If you’re so interested, why don’t you just come sit down?” He was taken aback, shocked that she had said anything. He was embarrassed and walked away but I was quite pleased that finally someone had said something.
Another issue we ran into when interviewing women were their accompanying husbands or sons. After giving our little introduction about why we were there and why we were doing the survey, many women would be interested and agree. But many times, her husband/son/other male would say no, she wasn’t allowed to participate. Frustrating as it was, I knew it was a part of their culture and eventually adjusted and learned not to be annoyed when that happened.
I’m gonna be honest when I say that I don’t have too much to say about my trip to the Taj Mahal. It is about a 3.5-4 hour drive from New Delhi to Agra, depending on the traffic. Since we left at 5am, I slept nearly the whole way. We drove through Agra and saw a lot of livestock roaming the streets–cows, chickens, goats. And there were monkeys everywhere! The Taj Mahal itself was absolutely breathtaking. The first time I saw it, it looked fake. It looked like a green screen or something I was just watching on TV. But there it was! One of the 7 wonders of the world. I touched it a few times just to make sure it wasn’t just a cardboard replica 😉 Here are some of my favorite pictures!
After I finished all of my surveys, I had a chance to visit some other places around New Delhi with some of the girls from my hostel including Lotus Temple! The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship and is beautiful! Like the Taj Mahal and many other tourist destinations, many families asked me and the 4 other girls to take pictures with their children, take selfies with them, etc. We took a picture of the 5 of us in front of a pool at the Lotus Temple and within 1 minute, there was child after child jumping in so their parents could take a picture.
Here’s some misc. food pics
Bye Delhi, hello Cape Town!
I’m currently almost done with my 14 hour layover in Doha, Qatar. At 2:45am local time (4:45pm AZ time), I’ll be leaving on my 10 hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa. I paid $55 USD to relax in the Oryx Lounge in the Hamad International Airport in Doha and it was the best $55 I’ve spent in my life. With that price comes unlimited food, drink, a TV, plenty of outlets, a quiet room for sleeping (definitely took a 5 hour nap) and a shower! The weather in Delhi has been pretty unbearable to me. When I land in Cape Town, it will be 70 degrees and sunny so I cannot wait. I have lots of fun adventures planned for Cape Town outside of my research and I hope I will be able to accomplish them all. Only 4 more weeks of research and then I get to enjoy a 1 week vacation with my mom and sister in New Zealand. I can’t believe I’ve already checked off 4/6 of my destinations. Another day, another continent. Excuse any probably typos that occurred during this blog post. I’m a tad sleepy 🙂
Lots of love!