Posts Tagged ‘patna’

so i have been moved from my quarters within this guest house 3 times now…there was some painting going on and somehow i kept getting caught in the room that needed to be painted next.  there were also about 6 false alarms when i was told i needed to pack up all my belongings and move the next day, which turned out to just be fire drills, so i’ve become very adept at packing my life up into suitcases in a matter of minutes.

so the latest move happened the morning of my birthday.  of course just minutes before my ride to work arrived, i was informed by a stout man that i needed to vacate, and it had to be now.  i had gotten fairly used to this latest room, tucked towards the back of the guest house, even though it was considerably crappier than the previous one (no hot water, lots of rickety broken things, hole-y mosquito net).  so i huffed and hawed about having to pack up again and moved quickly before heading to work.  the new room looked fine, the floor was a bit uglier than the last, but the balcony has a bit nicer view. whateva, i thought.  then i came home that evening, and entered the bathroom for the first time.  my eyes were confronted by this:

where is the red bow?

i stopped in my tracks as i thought there were zero western toilets in this whole building.  now after 2 months you would think that i had grown accustomed to the squatter toilets and would have some annoying expat indignation towards “ppl who need a seat” or some other phrase that deserves italics.   wrong.  i will never, ever believe that.  walking in and seeing this sight was the hand (or many hands) of some divine birthday bathroom goddess.  if they try and move me again, they’re gonna have to pry me from this room toilet.  i’ll even paint the room myself if i need to.  i will probably paint it with repeating patterns of western toilets.

anyway, that was the odd little its-the-small-things joy-of-today, which happened to fall on my birthday.


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Everywhere I go there are snacks.  which is a wonderful motif that I highly appreciate.  I’ve been traipsing around villages and the city of Patna, getting to meet all kinds of people, sitting in lots of meetings, been to a couple workshops and info sessions, etc. etc. and everywhere i go there are copius snacking options.  little crackers, biscuits, samosas, these dry cakey tasty things (see below), this little mix that sorta tastes like rice krispies….always brought with tea.  or rather milk and sugar with a teabag added so we can call it ‘tea.’

we definitely need to bring this back to america, because the availability of little treats back home during meetings and such is definitely snlacking (yep, just did that).

this is most likely because i’m a visitor and clearly from very far away lands, so people are trying to be as hospitable as possible.  but the point is, they are already extremely hospitable and this is just habit for any sort of meeting/gathering.  and i dig it.  call me count snackula but this should be a requirement world wide in my humble and correct opinion.

Here are a few snacks i’ve encountered…

the aforementioned cakey thing, with some flat rice (i think?) below

A piece of foreign fruit, but still a snack

The aforementioned sugarmilk tea

a fun new sugary snack from just today

Ok not a snack i've found in india, but this looks really really good right now and would be an acceptable snack to receive at meetings back home

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So there are all these little experiences that I had quickly forgotten about after returning to the states. and they are quickly creeping (or blitzing) back into my consciousness.  One of these is the incessant honking here in India (and what appears to be just about everywhere in the developing world from what I can tell).  the streets here in patna are madness.  the city is not a “planned city,” or thats at least what a local told me, so its all just one big cluster f.  at any every given time, there are hundreds of bikes, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, cars, SUVs, tractors, and huge multi-colored steel death trap trucks all trying to share something I would probably call a “back country road.”  the whole ‘rules of the road’ thing has been overlooked, so driving is basically this darwinian auto brawl where only the most aggressive survive.

and the patna motorist’s primary tool of aggression is the horn.  invented by the germans, this awful device is used sparingly in the states, and when it is, chances are you will strongly offend someone or elicit a middle finger.  here, the opposite.  its actually unsafe if you dont use your horn because, as the logic goes, “people wont know you’re there.”  it never ceases to amaze me how indians can just tune them out.  i’m nearly certain that i will lose my hearing at least 5 years earlier than i otherwise would have, and i’ve only been here 2 weeks. i’m even contemplating wearing those earphones that are usually reserved for people who hang out on airport tarmacs.

patna gridlock

patna gridlock

in fact, i think it would make more sense and just be easier on everyone if steering wheels just had a button that stops the horn from making a loud and blaring noise when you press it.  this would definitely save some effort for the driver.

and dont even get me started on those big colorful steel-clad truck horns.  whoever was the engineer that designed those things should be sentenced to an eternal life of vuvuzelas.  they let out this shrill jingle that is supposed to sound musical i guess, but mostly resembles a 20-ton steel pterodactyl swooping down to eat you, only he’s using a megaphone.  and they are EVERYWHERE.  i still jump everytime one starts blaring behind me.

the primary offenders

the primary offenders

but despite my horn sensitivities, i am pretty sure i have a million-dollar idea.  write this down:  i think it would be a really good idea to create a new breed of horns for indian drivers.  i would call it a for-realsies horn, and it would be used how a horn is used back in the states.  but for it to work, it will need to be powered by a jet engine and operate at unprecedented sonic frequencies.  like the type of stuff that gets invented in switzerland 300 feet below the ground in concrete tunnels.  anyway, the for-realsies horn will probably make things worse and create a nation of 1 billion deaf people, but by that time i’ll be gone. and rich.

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similar to my alter-ego that seemed to be of interest to people before, times square brian, i think i’ve discovered a new self in the last year or so.  his name is south asian brain.

after spending aroundish 5 months in Sri Lanka and now arriving to the Indian state of Bihar, i’m racking up my south asian experience.  and an alter-ego is emerging.

the letter combination i-a doesn’t seem to really exist in the languages across this region, whereas a-i is very popular.  upon following up on the matter, i was told in hindi, there IS no sound for i-a, its simply a-y, or something….

so basically this grammar lesson is the reason that nearly everyone here calls me “Brain” instead of brian.  it has always happened when people type it and mix up the keys, but i started noticing it more than a few times in sri lanka when it was “brain, brain, brain.” so i’ve come to embrace it.

south asian brain has a few idiosyncracies not shared with north american brian.  for one he wakes up much earlier than normal.  I’m always awake by 6:30 or 7:00 here and have trouble falling back asleep if I try.  and those who know me can attest, I enjoy sleeping, and have never been what the pundits like to call a “morning person.”

burping: burping is totally acceptable and almost expected here.  its not impolite, rude, or offensive.  its simply not noticed.  to burp mid-sentence in a meeting would be completely acceptable.  so in the spirit of cultural learning, i’m trying to burp in public as much as possible.

hand eating…as mentioned in the SL days, cutlery is pretty absent round these parts.  i made the cultural mistake the first time around of eating with my left hand (lefties are persecuted in many parts of the world and forbidden to let their true awesomeness shine – its a cause i’m passionate about), which is viewed as very odd and slightly gross (think of the hand you use to wipe with)……so i’m starting anew here and learning to do it with the right hand.  its not pretty, but its my life.  whenever i’m eating with my hands, all eyes immediately start watching the spectacle with great entertainment.

I’m sure there are other little aspects to my south asian brain existence i’m not even noticing at this point. i’ll continue to keep updates coming as i notice them.



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well hello there reader (thats singular), its been a little while.  but i thought maybe perhaps we should get reacquainted, for formality’s sake.  i’ll go first – i’m brianfellows and i used to write some stuff over the last year when i was abroad in armenia and sri lanka working as a Kiva Fellow in the realm of microfinance.  then i returned to the states and brianfellows pretty much just died (he euthanized his’ self).  but it turns out he was just cryogenically frozen, awaiting his return, which I believe is going to start happening………now

well its at least rebegun with this post so far.  and i’m really going to try and be better about updating, instead of thinking about updating, maybe writing a few sentences in a draft, then waiting and never doing so.  so, reader (that would be you), i’m back abroad again, this time in the great big large & crazy india.  not unlike indiana, my new home for 2 months enjoys watching cricket matches for hours on end and being confused with ohio for where it stands on a map.  i’ll actually be doing more microfinance work in patna, bihar (northeast of india — near nepal), totally unrelated to kiva, and am here on the ground for 2 monfs – til march – or at least thats the plan as of now.

so yes, INDIA – now this is happening!

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