Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two months in

Although it doesn't feel like it, I've now been in Bhawanipatna for eight weeks. I still regularly ride side-saddle on the back of motorbikes but am now far less scared and this evening I barely flinched as the bike, driven by the 14-year old Drubo, squeezed between an on-coming tractor and the open drain with only millimetres to spare. It is also interesting to note that what I saw as exiting and different when I first arrived here is now almost every-day. On my 15-minute walk to work (along roads that have seen tarmac at some point but have now reverted to dirt tracks), I pass by people washing themselves, their clothes and their crockery at the local water pump without a second glance; and I amble un-seeing through traffic jams that comprise seven bullock-carts meeting a throng of children going to school – three or four to a bike. It's still quite beautiful – romantic even – but at the same time feels quite normal.
The work front has picked up a bit although there are still hours, sometimes whole days, of inactivity due to the power cuts. I have spent my time trying to learn a bit more Oriyan vocabulary and can now understand about 1 in 100 words spoken by the average 3-year old which is a start at least. I can also count to 100 - no mean feat in Oriya. Unlike European languages, where once you get to 20 you're kind of on the home straight, each number, if not unique, certainly doesn't' follow a consistent pattern so you have to learn each and every one. However, it comes in useful in the market when I can now look horrified when the vendor tries to charge me 26 rupees (chhabisi) for a kilo of tomatoes when I know they should only cost 16 (sohola) rather than blindly handing over some cash and then counting the change to see how much I've been charged.
Additions to my flat include a large wall painting/poster – my landlord had bought so many for his house he got one free and said I could choose a picture for my room. It's about seven feet wide and three feet high and features a group of women collecting water – the least chocolate-boxy one in the catalogue which I've grown to rather like. I've also bought a blender and am becoming and expert at making lassi (a yoghurt based drink) and concocting fruit-juice combinations – there's a glut of custard apples at the moment which go rather nicely with bananas. I'm still being fed by my neighbours - sometimes I eat in their homes (a small teaspoon is now provided probably to minimise the mess I create if left to eat with my hand alone) or sometimes a tiffin box is delivered to my door. I prefer the tiffin box - not because I'm unsociable but because the portions you get given at someone's house are so enormous my stomach seizes up at the thought of all that food going into it. At least when the food is delivered to me at home, I can eat it over two or three days and don't run the risk of offending my hosts because, having struggled through the first portion, I refuse seconds.
So, "Yes", I'm still really enjoying myself and have no desire to return to recession-hit Britain at the moment even for the opportunity to use a sit-down loo – probably the Western "luxury" I miss the most.

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