Getting Re-acquainted

 

So it’s Sunday, and my first weekend here. I’m feeling a bit ‘blah’ today, despite having had my first good sleep since arriving.  I think now that I’m human again (rather than a jet-lagged robot), the reality is setting in: “Ack – what have I done?!”. It’s quite a thing to be so far from friends and family. Not that there isn’t great people here, who are turning into close friends and companions.  But the environment here is a bit jarring, to say the least.  And it’s been a year since I was here last, so I don’t have my “sea legs” quite yet. Here is what I have to work on getting used to so I can again find the zen attitude I had when I left Delhi last November:

  • Traffic! Bad enough to be in a car, but walking is positively scary. There are really sidewalks to speak of, and cars make no effort to accomodate you to cross or even walk along the road. Instead, they honk. And speed up.
  • Smells!  This won’t surprise anyone about India. But they might be interested to know that there is a completely open sewage system right near my apartment. Referred to by my roomate as “the disgusting canal”.  A useful landmark to help find one’s way around the neighbourhood, but surprising given that this is one of the more swank neighbourhoods in Delhi.
  • Groceries… Where the heck do I find the food that they actually eat here?  This is surely just a product of living near a market that specializes in imports, so I can find a lot of things I recognize but pay exorbitant amounts of money for them. We currently have a maid who we can pay to cook for us, but she’ll be away for a while so I want to take the chance to become a bit more independent.  I’ll have to stumble on some better places to find food before then!

Anyway, had a nice day yesterday. Me and my roomate (a man from the UK also working here as a consultant for about 3 weeks at a time) went shopping. He wanted a blouse for his wife, I just wanted to look around and maybe find some more clothes for work.  We had a few interesting happenings, including him getting felt up by a Hijra (a he-she, or member of the third gender – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijra_%28South_Asia%29), and taking the slowest auto rickshaw in Delhi and worrying we wouldn’t make it up any hill we came across. We successfully found some nice shirts for his wife, and a beautiful rust-coloured pashmina for me.  Which I wore out to dinner, despite the fact that it was 30 degrees.

Before the shopping trip, I met my landlady and landlord for the first time. They are a couple both in their 80’s and originally from Pakistan. They fled during the partition, because they are Hindu and it was becoming a Moslem country. He was a soldier who fought in a few wars, including 2 years in Italy during World War II.  They are a lovely and welcoming couple, and I feel quite lucky to get the chance to meet them and see their home. I am planning to return to their house sometime this week, so I can play guitar and sing for them, and she can play her synthesizer!  Should be quite the concert.

I’ve attached some pictures of my apartment – enjoy!

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Day 4 in Delhi

Okay, it’s early Thursday morning. I’ve been struggling quite a bit with jet lag since arriving, more so than last time. Part of it is that I’m prone to early morning-wake-up-and-overthink sessions as it is, so the new environment and 12 hour time difference isn’t helping.

I took off from Calgary Sunday morning, was in transit for about 24 hours, and arrived here Monday evening Delhi time. I had good flights, including the luck of having 3 seats to myself to lay down. Thanks Jeff for suggesting to pick a seat with that potential.

Spent all day Tuesday going back and forth between sleeping and trying not to sleep, so yesterday was my first day at work. It was really nice to be there, since I have worked here before for about 2 months and knew many of the people. Of course, I felt like I was swimming through molasses since I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  This morning, I think I made it until 4, so hopefully by next week I’ll be able to sleep in like a normal person.

Some more background about the work: I am here to help build the capacity of a department to carry out evaluations in the primary/elementary school system.  In terms of actual tasks, this means:

1. Learn about and describe the programs

2. Design an evaluation to assess whether and why they “worked” (i.e. whether the programs did what they were intended).  This means working with those involved with or interested in the program to identify questions of interest, and designing data collection tools to answer those questions.

3. Collect data, for example questionnaires and interviews with children, teachers, school administration, community members, etc., and achievement tests with children.

4. Analyse data, summarise and report to those who are interested (i.e. those delivering the program, those making decisions, those funding, etc)

When I came last year, I was brought in with 4 other Canadian evaluators to help work on data analysis and reports.  This year, I’ll be here from the beginning.  I am quite excited about this, because a well-designed evaluation can be extremely helpful to programmers and decision makers…  Not to mention that the subject matter is fascinating – education is such a powerful tool for social change, and there is a huge movement here to improve it.  It’s a fairly new content area for me, so I can’t wait to learn more about it.

Lots more to follow!