It may or may not surprise you to learn that I am obsessed with lists - list reading, list making, list following. Now, almost half way through my time in India, I am starting to think about cheeseburgers and going for bike rides outside. However, nothing gets me more excited to return to DC than this exhibit that opened at the Smithsonian this month: Lists: To-Dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations. In the words of my friend Jackson (who was an impetus behind Alibytes) “like whoa!”
In case you think I must be joking (who could seriously get that excited about lists?), read below for a list that has been developing over the last few weeks.
- Ceiling fans: Though it’s not the most southern city, Hyderabad is said to one of the hottest cities in India and I’ve only gotten a flavor of it so far. In about a month when “summer” starts - it’s been an 80+ degree winter so far for sake of comparison - it will regularly be above 100 degrees. I definitely love ceiling fans in the U.S. but I really celebrate them here. I am not sure how I’d get through the day without them.
- Raisins: I have never realized what a universal, nutritious and pretty safe food raisins are. I have them in my muesli and yogurt in the morning, mixed with nuts with my lunch and with my vegetables for dinner. They can be eaten sweet or salty, alone or mixed with a wide variety of foods and taken anywhere requiring no special care or refrigeration.
- A good driver: Some people say that Indians are terrible drivers. On the contrary, I think they are amazing. A friend pointed out that driving here is like being in a real life video game - with objects and people jumping in the way, cars swerving following no lines on the road and optionally following traffic laws. Yet, there are relatively few accidents given these circumstances. Though I can barely cross the street alone (when I go in the field with my colleague who is about 5′0″ and 90 pounds, I have to hold her hand), when I get into an auto in the middle of rush hour, I feel quite safe.
- Pooping: I’m sorry to be crude, but in the spirit of honesty it must be shared - and if you’ve spent time in a developing country I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. Western immune systems are not typically prepared to handle the bacteria which is so prevalent here, including in water. Getting through another day without a case of traveler’s diarrhea (TD) or food poisoning is something to celebrate in a small way.
- Stationary bikes: Each morning I get up at 7:15 to go to the gym so that I can enjoy delicious biryani and roti with slightly less guilt (and impact on the way my clothes fit). There’s a great walking park about 25 minutes from my house but it’s open only from 5am-8am and then 5pm-9pm, even on the weekends. This, combined with the 1980s era toe touching “fitness” routines that go on at the gym each morning, suggest to me that exercise is for people who can’t afford to ride in a vehicle to get where they are going.
- Shade: On Saturday, GreenMango celebrated its 2nd anniversary at a Wildlife Sanctuary about 2.5 hours from Hyderabad. The experience is a another story (there was literally one diseased looking dear that we could pet) but one tid bit is that after 4km of walking with absolutely no trees big enough to shade even a bit of the trail, my colleague Ananth looks at my arms making a face as if he smelled something bad and said “you have a rash.” “Ahh, no that’s just a sun burn. It’s normal.” I’ve learned in these 7 weeks that sitting in the shade is in fact cooler than being in the sun.
- A good vegetable peeler: I didn’t realize the clear trend here until I’m now at the last one - staying cool and staying healthy. When I traveled to India in 2008, the mantra was “as long as it’s well cooked” but living here for longer than a few weeks, it’s not sustainable to avoid raw fruits and vegetables, even with going to a gym each morning. A good peeler (which my roommate brought back from a trip to Australia actually) saves much time peeling carrots and apples - two of my staple foods here.