The Wheels on the Bus…

…don’t have rims. And they don’t run directly to the places you need them to. Surprise! It’s India. But it’s always an adventure. This past weekend, the three American Musketeers (James, John, and Austin) and Rahmat (our Afghani friend who lives in the Foreign Students Hostel) and I escaped Pondy for bigger & better things, including buses. Here is a list of where we went, how many buses it took to get there, and the precarious timing of it all:

Thursday night:
Kalapet, where the university is, to Pondy’s New Bus Stand: 9.10pm departure, arrived at 9.55pm. Our difficult-to-find bus was supposed to depart at 10PM.

Pondy to Trichy: 10.05pm to 3am. We stumbled off the bus only to have a random conductor approach us, saying Kodaikanal? Kodaikanal? Yes, yes, we said, forking over 250 rupees.

Trichy to Kodaikanal: 3.05am to 8am. We arrive, cold and slightly confused that it is cold.

Kodaikanal to Dindigal, because of course you can’t go directly to Trichy: 2.30pm to 5pm. (The bus was supposed to leave at 1.30).

Dindigal to Trichy: 6pm to 8pm.

And here is where the madness begins!
Trichy to Kumbokanam, as we try to get to Thanjavur, where there is yet another big temple to see: 1pm to 2.45pm.

An intercity bus from the bus stand to the temple in Thanjavur, which takes 15 minutes each way.

Thanjavur to Chidambaram: 6ish to 8ish.

Chidambaram to Cuddalore: 8ish to 10pm

Cuddalore to Pondy: 10.15pm to 11pm.

Exhaustion ensues.


English, Tamil, French, Hindi, English, English, Tamil, Tamil.

Each day can be a blur of different languages; but most things are repeated 2, 3, and 4 times. Here is a list of some of the phrases I hear the most, or that I’ve picked up on, or that I have started using.

No problem, no problem (said it relation to literally any situation of large or small magnitude)

It is not possible.

Amma, amma, amma, amma, amma (yes in Tamil)

You are coming from? or, From which country you are? (Frequent, and from any auto driver, student, stranger in the bathroom)

Hi! Hi! (Strangers, children, creepy men to us, especially the girls)

You look dull/You look tired/You look sick. (Often used as we arrive somewhere after a sweaty 30 minute bus ride or 15 minute walk in the 100 degree heat and humidity)

Did you eat? (Variations on a theme: When did you eat? What did you eat? And no matter what the answer, they insist that you must eat again!)

Sunbathing, Swimming & Salwar.

Me: Is the weather getting good in Pittsburgh?
Molly, a good friend from Florida, who goes to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) with me: Was…but all cold this week. Highs like 40
Me: Ahh
Molly: Not terrible. But we had a tease week of 60s.
Molly: It got up to like 72 and the whole campus stripped down. It was hilarious.
Molly: How hot is it there?
Me: Haha I love CMU sunbathers.
Me: About 100. All the time.
Molly: Oh man. That’s crazy.
Molly: Hating it or loving it?
Me: Hating the heat. It was great for the first few weeks, when I knew it was freezing at home.
Me: But it’s just really hard to take. Like, imagine living in Florida with no AC.
Molly: I can only imagine. Sounds awful.
Me: Ha, yeah right.
That’s a good one.
I wade into the ocean up to my knees, with my clothes on.
But like, I would not wear a bathing suit here.
Molly: Hmm you need one of those like swim dresses
Me: Haha yeah
A lot of them wear their salwar kameez into the water.
Molly: Man. you’re so cultured now
Me: Ha, you don’t even know
I’ve been wearing the bindi a bit as well

Molly: Really? cool
Ps. i had to look that up
Me: Ps. i tried to find a google image to send you
But the internet was too slow.

Note: All temperatures listed in Fahrenheit.

Travel Wish List.

In case you haven’t caught on, I make a lot of lists. One that I’ve constantly been writing and rewriting has been of all the places I want to go in India. But now, after finding out that I’ll be spending the summer in Warsaw, working as the Goldman Fellow at The Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, my travel wish list is quickly expanding. So, here are all of my travel desires for the next few continents I’ll be inhabiting:


Grand Rapids (Michigan)
San Franisco
New York

Berlin (again)

You Know You’re in India When…

You Know You’re In India When…

You Google “picking mosquito bites.”

You count your mosquito bites, wondering when to start worrying about how many there are.

You crave paratha instead of chocolate.

You would rather eat (fried) food off the street that has probably been swarming with flies than food from the hostel, which has probably been covered in ants.

All of your washing revolves around a bucket: taking a shower, hand washing your clothes, rinsing your blackened feet.

You get excited about a “texting plan” that gives you 4,000 texts a month for 26 rupees.

You are not surprised when a goat emerges from behind a trash truck as you walk to class.

You are surprised that there is a trash truck that oddly resembles the green sanitation service ones that you see in the States.

You can’t go to another city without an Indian guy asking you to take a picture with him.

Exposing your ankles or shoulders feels indecent.

Wearing your hair down feels indecent.

You carry contact solution, toilet paper, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, bug spray, and a scarf with you, no matter where you are going.

You bobble your head instead of saying “thank you.”

This is nothing for you.

Rishi (of India) says to Tsering (of Nepal), upon reaching Doddabetta, the highest mountain in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu at 8652 feet

a list, a letter, pretty pleeze!

M-B, this list is for you, because you taught me how to see in new ways. Here’s a bit about this country through the lens of pop culture.

India Is Not Like…

The Darjeeling Limited. Yes, the colors are just as brilliant, but the trains are a thousand times less clean and less comfortable.

Eat Pray Love. Yes, there is spirituality. But there is also corruption and craziness.

Sponsor a Child commercials. Well, perhaps at first glance it is, when you see the poverty and the malnourished children. But there’s not a weepy Sarah Mclachlan soundtrack playing in the background.

Outsourced. Although I haven’t actually seen an episode in its entirety, the IT sector is only a miniscule part of India (see Bangalore).

Slumdog Millionaire. Yes, there is a lot of trash. And they do burn it here. But there’s more to the country than that.

A Bollywood movie. Yes, the clothing is vibrantly colored, but people aren’t always singing and dancing and having love affairs.