Monday, August 19, 2013

Life in New Delhi

Looking back through my posts, I realized that I've devoted a lot of space to my field visits and, more recently, pictured from my weekend travels - but very little to day-to-day life here in Delhi.

I've now been here for more than half of my Fellowship, over two and a half months. While I've been doing a lot of weekend traveling, I've settled into a routine during the work week.

Home-away-from-home: my
apartment is the third floor

Breakfast - curry eggs, toast with butter and jam, mango lassi
A typical day starts with waking up a couple of hours before work. After a walk in the local park or a little stretching, I make breakfast, usually the same sort of stuff I have at home - cereal or eggs and toast, plus juice or coffee. I don't have an electric coffee maker (miss my Keurig!), so I use the simple Vietnamese drip coffee-maker that I brought from home - who knew that a $4 investment 10 years ago would pay off so well? Cereal and ground coffee are available in stores here, though they can get expensive if you go for imported brands.

After video-chatting with the family using Google Hangouts (an absolutely necessary part of the day - the only thing that really keeps me going), and showering/dressing, I catch up on the news or do a little reading until the car comes to pick me up. I use a local car company, arranged by CARE - it's affordable and my program covers the costs. I am not allowed to drive while I am here (not that I would want to!), and it's a bit far, and hot -and a bit dangerous with the crazy traffic - to walk, so it is worth the cost. Clara (the GSK PULSE Volunteer that I'm partnered with here) and I commute together, as we live in adjoining neighborhoods.

Typical view during the commute
It's about a 15-20 minute commute to work, though occasionally the rain or special events stretch the drive to closer to 30 minutes. And, of course, there's Ram. Ram is our regular driver, a genuinely nice and sweet Nepali guy, who has been driving here in Delhi for over 20 years, even though his family is back in Nepal. He seems to have taken a special liking to me, which results in him driving exceedingly slowly as he looks back in the mirror to talk with angry Delhi drivers angrily honk and swerve to get around him! The best part is his stories - his English isn't so great, so I understand maybe half of what he says, so it's always an adventure trying to piece together what he means.
Crowded streets during the morning commute
The street where CARE's office is located
The office
Morning cuppa
We usually get to the office between 9:30 and 10, which is when most people arrive here. I have a cup of masala tea (provided by the office), and start work - which, while here in the office, consists of sifting through research about Kala Azar online, preparing materials for our research study on rural private medical providers, chatting with colleagues, and learning about CARE's other programs.
My little cubicle
Lunch here is later than in the US, usually starting a 1, though some people wait until 2 or so. Clara and I try to go around 12:45 to beat the lunchroom rush - there's limited seating in the small breakroom upstairs, which is a sort of permanently-covered-and-enclosed patio with a couple of tables and some couches. It adjoins an outdoor terrace space, though really it's been too hot and humid (or rainy) to eat outside - though it serves nicely for a little coffee break in the afternoon.
The terrace on a rainy day
Funny sign on the terrace

Plants on the outside terrace at work
Special event at work - a visit by the CARE
International leadership team
After a half-hour lunch, it's back to work. Most actual meetings with team members or leadership tend to occur in the afternoon between 3 and 5, though I really haven't had too many thus far.

I have some great co-workers - along with Clara, I often chat with my cubicle-neighbor,  Sheetal, who gives me lots of great tips about travel and Indian culture, and with MS, the HR director who sits directly in fornt of me, who imparts wisdom gathered from a long career at CARE as well as great info about foods to try and places to see (along with, of course, helping me with all manners of logistical challenges).

We usually head home at 5, wending through the rush-hour traffic. Ram doesn't always pick us up, so sometimes it's a quieter - and speedier - trip home.

I often go to the market before going to home - there is a larger market square about half a mile from the apartment, which has a small grocery store along with lots of clothes shops, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Sometimes I go to the smaller market at the end of my street, where I can get some of the basics (there's even a small organic-foods store there). At the stores, I usually stock up on milk, water, juice (if I can find 100% juice, as a lot of what you find here is "juice drinks" which are full of added sugar), dry goods like flour and rice, eggs and cereals, cooking oil, and spices.
You can get pretty much anything you might
miss from home in the grocery stores here - for a price!
I prefer to get fruits and veg from the man who walks the neighborhood with his cart - his wares tend to be much fresher than what you can get at the brick-and-mortar stores, and the prices are similar.
From the fruit-wallah who walks through the neighborhood
To buy meat, I go to a place called "Green Chick Chop" in nearby Kailash Colony, which has fresh chicken and lamb in a clean, refrigerated space. The only other place I've found meat is in a shop off the big market square...but that one is, um, a bit questionable regarding hygiene. There is a particular butchering expertise here where a man sits on a raised platform, holds the knife with his foot, and holds the meat in both hands to get nice, precise cuts. But...he is holding the knife with his foot. After one visit there, the novelty wore off. The flies everywhere did not help.

Once home, my evenings usually consists of:

1) Turn on the air conditioner!
2) Start cooking dinner (or order it - there's a good variety of restaurants around, and some online-ordering websites keep me from having to communicate by phone, which can be an adventure!)
3) Catch up on Facebook, Twitter, news
4) Eat dinner
5) Read or watch a movie or TV (I brought a lot of DVDs with me, though I can watch movies in English on many of the cable channels here - and shows like Big Bang Theory, Lost, and many others are popular here!)
6) Plan weekend travel
7) Videochat with my family (once it's sufficiently late enough)
8) Hit the sack
The kitchen in the apartment works well - it's small, and doesn't have an oven, but has a two-burner propane range, a water filter, an electric kettle, toaster, and microwave.Good enough to experiment with cooking here!
Thai-style red curry chicken and sauteed karela (bitter gourd)
Okra and potato curry
I even get to make some of my
 favorites from home, like Jambalaya

Sometimes I go out to eat - usually with my friends Clara and Samantha (though Samantha has just returned home to the US). We've been exploring different cuisines - North Indian (what most people in the US are used to - curries and tandoori specialties), South Indian (dosas, utthapams, idlis - usually vegetarian), and Bengali (lots of fish, coconut, banana) from here in India, plus Thai and Chinese, and my new favorite, Tibetan food.
With Samantha and Clara at Oh Calcutta, a great Bengali restaurant
Delicious Tibetan thali, at Yeti
I've been traveling enough (both for work and for fun) that it hasn't gotten too monotonous!

My neighborhood in the evening

1 comment:

  1. This brings back so many good memories and also opens my eyes to much that is new. Thank you!