Saturday, August 29, 2009

Trip to India - Entry 2

Only six days to go! Next week, we have to be at the airport at 5am. That... is severely lame. We go from Seattle to Newark, NJ, then from there directly to New Delhi.

Today we discussed our final readings and started our preparations for the actual trip. Highlights:

Discussion points:
  • What is the future of IT outsourcing in India? In a country surrounded by conflict zones, with seriously lacking infrastructure development, how efficient is it, in reality, to outsource?
  • Will India continue to be a low cost center for inexpensive service support, or will those jobs migrate to even more low cost areas such as Vietnam or the Philippines?
  • How should India's economy diversify from such a service based economy to one more conducive to manufacturing and general labor jobs? Can India's economic boom be sustained if there is no large working class population to sustain it as in the Western model of development?
Packing points:
  • Wet wipes are a must. When you are sweating for hours in a hot, dusty place - being able to wipe your face and hands can be all the difference between misery and tolerable conditions
  • Thieves will grab the necklace off your neck! Carry a moneybelt or something similar
  • Bring only one check in bag so that you can buy lots of stuff on the trip and carry two bags back to the States at the end
Okay, so the last one isn't actually a packing tip... but it's definitely a good idea!

Only one paper remaining to be written, and then it's time to spend hours on a plane, crammed into tiny seats and watching movies that somehow, everyone has already seen.

Trip to India - Entry 1

There are many different reasons to travel to a foreign country. You could be going because you have a love for adventure, or because you are interested in other cultures and peoples. You could be needing to travel for a job, or to visit family. You could also travel to spend time with loved ones or to meet study abroad requirements for school. All of us have our own reasons for taking the India study abroad tour outside of those school requirements.

My impression of India is of a vast country with a long history of foreign domination which is just coming into its own. My knowledge of Indian people comes from various sources, both good and bad. The Indians I’ve met at work have been uniformly intelligent capable people, who speak English with varying levels of intelligibility. Personally, the only Indian I knew growing up was a Dalit orphan who had been adopted as a baby and retained none of her Indian heritage. The last I heard from her, she was planning a trip to India to visit the land of her birth, about which she knew nothing. My impressions of Indian abroad while traveling in other parts of Southeast Asia have been very negative. Coming from a culture in which it is not only rude to stare, but also in which people are given space and respect, being constantly stared at by Indian laborers while traveling made me feel like a slab of meat at a butcher shop, if the slab of meat could feel. One of my primary reasons to travel to India is to understand Indian culture at its source, and to try to understand not only where my colleagues are coming from, but maybe where those laborers are coming from too.

Our group seems like a well-rounded, well-traveled group of educated Americans. That is to say, we’re not precisely your “average” group of Americans. We have been told to expect frequent delays, constant heat, and that our adherence to a schedule isn’t likely to be a regular occurrence. I am personally excited to be traveling with a group of Americans like ours. On an English speaking tour through Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, I overheard a rather heavy set American woman complained loudly about the stairs and lack of and elevator … in the castle.

I think what is most exciting about our preparations thus far has been the extra lecturers invited to come and speak to us about Bollywood and Hindi. Somehow, discussing immersion in Indian culture is making our imminent departure much more tangible. Also… thinking about waking up at 4am next Saturday is helping to solidify the “real-ness” of our preparations. Only a week, and we’ll all be on a plane for nearly a full day. At least there is the Taj Mahal to see immediately upon arrival to make up for the insanely long flight.

Our group's song and dance number: