The MV Explorer arrived in Chennai, India at 8:00AM local time on Wednesday October 19th.
Here is an update from one of Summer’s shipmates…
Wow…what an absolutely crazy day. The day began with the usual diplomatic briefing followed by a yoga presentation and class.
Then what started with a seemingly easy trip to the “market” ended up being an overwhelmingly full afternoon auto-rickshaw tour. Cait, Liz, and I left the ship around 1 to find a bank about 2 blocks away to exchange our money to rupees. We met up with 3 other girls (one of which was Summer) and went on our way. The sights and smells we were warned about, hit me immediately…pollution, fumes, curry, humidness and hotness, people everywhere, fast traffic, rickshaws, mopeds, cars, beggars, streetchildren, businesspeople, fruitstands, everything one could imagine.
The first challenge came with crossing the street, as no vehicles stop for pedestrians…but oddly (and I guess fortunately) enough, some street-children wearing saris and bindis and no shoes came and led us across when it was “safe”…they even escorted us to the bank and waited until we were done. We knew they’d ask for money and sure enough, they asked for money, food, and even shoes and movie tickets. Overwhelmed, we jokingly told them we had no food with us (and they really just wanted money) and tried to leave. Ha. Then came the herd of rickshaw drivers waiting at the curb… they wouldn’t leave until we took up their deal even when we tried to walk away to find a cab. So we climbed into these three-wheel, bright yellow auto-bike things with the driver in front and a seat/bench in the back. Three to each one. It was quite funny but so scary at first! These rickshaws drive with no remorse, powering through the traffic just like every other vehicle. The sides are open so you can feel the wind through your hair while feeling extremely vulnerable at the same time. All in all, we made it about 10 minutes (weaving in and out of other vehicles) until we strangely pulled aside for our 2 drivers to insist they drive us the whole day for a larger fee…after about 10 minutes of bickering and trying to understand each other, they finally got back in the rickshaw for a deal of 60 rupees/rickshaw for a ride to and from (40 rupees=$1). We got to the “market” which consisted of a few streets with cheap looking souvenirs and walked around while the rickshaw drivers followed us. It was crazy! We were laughing so much just because of the ridiculousness of it all. After reaching the end of the one street, we realized we had to cross a busy intersection to get to the other side…since we were so scared of getting run over, we just ended up getting back in the rickshaws after the drivers pulled them up to us and persuaded us to go to another “cheap store” to find handicrafts. In reality, they wanted the free t-shirts they got by taking us to these stores as commission…how ridiculous!! The first store was not cheap and too formal for us, so we walked around and finally left…the drivers herded us to the second store which was basically the same. We looked around and ended up waiting for the 2 girls in our group to finish up, so being delirious and bored, we went upstairs to the jewelry section and asked the guys if there was anything free or if we could get a “special deal”. Haha.
One of the guys told Liz to sit down and he sat down next to her…we were laughing at her. She then claimed she and him were “Santa friends” since he was trying to make her buy a Santa ornament downstairs… it was hilarious and we took a picture of them. One of the guys told me I had pretty hair and it sketched me out. The whole experience was quite funny and we told them it was a party. Since Liz and I have a joke about not being allowed to wear pink underwear in India, we tried to ask them about it (just being stupid) and they laughed.
After that, we went to one more storem and finally made it back to the ship after another long and out-of-control ride, with lots of people staring into the rickshaw at us, and children continuing to beg for money as we walked from the rickshaw to the ship. Wow… how’s that for a first day?
I’m so glad I am leaving for an SAS trip tonight so I don’t have to do everything independently (and unreliably)…everything will be paid for and scheduled…a load off my shoulders! I have no clue what I am about to experience but I’ll tell you one thing…it’s been one heck of a first day!!
Summer went to a performance that night by members of Theru Koothy, a professional street theater group, based on episodes from the Mahabarata, one the the great Indian epics. Before the performance, the students were touring the venue and had the opportunity to watch the actors doing their make-up. Then from the morning of the 20th to the 23rd, Summer is taking 4-day Cultural Exploration Tour of South India, with a varied and interesting itinerary that again includes yoga instruction. is touring Southern India from the 20th to the 23rd…
India October 19 – 23
- Port City: Chennai (Madras)
- Population: 1.065 billion
- Capital: New Delhi
- Languages: Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit
- Loacl Currency: rupee (INR)
- Exchange Rate: 1 USD = 43.48 Indian Rupee
- Weather: Avg High = 89, Avg Low = 75
Half Way Through … Already 😦
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