Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Dummies' Guide for a Culture Shock

This is Amy, my sister in law, she has lyme disease. This infection has made herself and the family to start a hard to win fight not only against her condition, but also against the lousy health care American system.

After a few years of going from one diagnosis to another, she finally was expected to be put in the right track to get the "right treatment" that could help her defeat the lyme bacteria. Many doctors, medicines, and lots of pain later, she found out about a place far far away that could give her and the family hope once again. The Stem Cell transplant being a more sensible, yet unusual procedure for the Western World, was to be held in New Delhi, India.

In this city, where poverty is a huge issue and where the air quality has caused many of its inhabitants to suffer from various lung, liver, genetic, and lung abnormalities, Amy is now receiving the treatment that will save her life way faster than in her home country. For more information regarding lyme disease and the procedure, please visit:

So, from moving out of NYC, flying into Florida, and right before starting a long journey around the world with David, I came all the way to the other side of the world to see the miracle. After 2 airplanes, 2 dramamines, and 14 hours, I landed in New Delhi, and I wish I knew...

Lesson # 1 Before any move, always look behind...
And to the front, also left and right, ah! don't forget behind again.
Everything starts at the immigration line. If you see somebody walking so close to you that it seems they might be trying to go ahead of you, I assure you it is because they are not aware of you being there. My advice is to start gagging, coughing, or simply let them go first (you might have to let the whole line go ahead if you go for this option though).

For some reason everybody was waiting for their luggage cramped at the same spot along a 300 ft carrusel, making no sense at all I walked past the crowd and waited at a clear area. Finally I got my bag, but I hadn't learned my lesson and walked without looking right behind me; a very smily looking lady decided it was the best for her cart to be parked 1 inch behind my feet.

Lesson # 2 Run after your Luggage...
If you want to see it again, apparently (according to rumors) it is common that if you let somebody take your luggage you won't see it again. My parents in law seemed to have no problem with the driver they hired to grab my bag, and waited until the driver was out of sight to let me know about this urban myth, it was quite a workout!

Lesson # 3 Welcome to the land of Senseless Actions
Do not expect anybody to have common sense, from my experience this is how I reached to this conclusion:

No lanes in traffic, no side mirrors in cars, cars going in all directions on one way streets, bicycles pulling broken motorcycles with a little cart, 5 persons in one tiny motorcycle, people mopping the floor with black water and sweeping it afterwards, they also empty the garbage can with their bare hands instead of taking the whole bag, a yoga instructor teaching parapelegic patients saying "now stand up and separate your legs", guys wearing women's jeans, and men trying to hit on girls while two of them grab hands...I'll stop there or my hands will be sore after I am done typing.

Lesson # 4 Cover your mouth, nose, and be ready to chill.
When you take a taxi or a rick-shaw don't only bring your camera, also someone to talk with or a book, the reason is the amazingly long lasting red lights combined with dense traffic and I promise that I might be underestimating the time when I say red lights can last as long as 15 min. To complete the experience is the "fog", which is actually hard core polluted air, but still makes it difficult to see far away.

Lesson # 5 Get loose and Cooperate
Going to a temple or anywhere where they charge to access means you'll be thoroughly searched twice and when I say thoroughly, I mean it. This added to the fact that Indian culture has no sense of privacy at all gives your life a new purpose. Just close your eyes and imagine it is not happening, especially if you decide to go for a full body massage and you are totally against parts of your body slamming, they'll try to help you get undress and to even shower you if you let them. Therefore, if you are a bit too shy just get herbal teas for relaxation instead of an appointment at a spa for an ayurvedic treatment.

Lesson # 5 Take pictures of Cows Instead of Beggars
Some people will be thrill if you take their picture, they'll even pose for you, but some others will try to charge you, that's why I kind of started worshiping cows as well. In India, cows crowd the streets just like any other person, they won't charge for their picture being taken because they are just happy eating garbage.

If you still want to people watch you better memorize this: naheen for beggers, and bargain only 1/3 of the price.

Lesson # 6 Use Body Language
If people can't understand you when you speak English, I assure you they won't understand if you yell English. Let's be fair, even though English is the universal language, it doesn't mean everybody should understand you, so you better start practicing your charades skills and have fun with it.

Lesson # 7 Smoker? then you'll save money
Being from Mexico City means that I breathed the equivalent to 2 packs of cigarettes a day up until I moved away. I am afraid of finding out what is the equivalent in Delhi, but if I was a smoker I would definitely save money on the nicotine patch and quit for good, i don't think withdrawal symptoms would be an issue.

Once you have heartened these recommendations, be ready to enjoy one of the most mystical places in the world, from the beauty and magic on most people's smiles to the unexplainable overall improvement you'll feel in you mind and body once you get off the airplane. I am certain good vibes are constant in every part of India and you'll have an opportunity to love who you are, where you come from, and will find beauty in little things we commonly forget about in our regular lives. To see more of Delhi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tachora/

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