Friday, March 06, 2009

Trina's India Journal #1

Let me start by saying I am ok, even if I don't sound great.

We are here safely and things are...well, they're ok. We’d read a lot about how women get a lot of looks and it is best to wear really shapeless big clothes until you can buy Indian clothes. So, on the plane I wore some of my khakis with one of Ron's billowy button up shirts over top...I looked like I was wearing a parachute that came to my knees. We arrived and everything went surprisingly smoothly. The taxis and most cars are from 1940 (not exaggerating).

I definitely got a LOT of stares...of course, I looked hilarious in my parachute outfit, so that may have contributed. Our guesthouse was full (even though we had a reservation...that's how it works), so they sent us down the road to a place that was slightly more money and less nice...but it was fine. We ordered room service for $2.50 total...and this was a pretty fancy place. This is definitely the cheapest country so far.

Anyway, we went to the market and people were really loud and persistent in trying to sell things. There were two key problems. First, I was VERY hot because I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants and Ron was in shorts/t-shirt. Secondly, I don't actually know what a sari is...so it is hard to shop for one. Turns out it has three pieces. A "blouse" that looks like a bra, a "petticoat" that looks like a full-length skirt and a sari that is a REALLY long piece of material that you're supposed to magically whip around you and pouf it into Indian beauty. We only figured this out after buying the sari and then being told I needed the two other pieces that were sold at two different shops for inflated prices. But, I was determined to ditch the parachute before the next morning, so we bought it all, for a total of about $10. We went home and tried (in vain for a while) to wrap me up enough for me to walk outside. It is hard to walk when wrapped like a mummy.

The next day we went back to the market to try and find a salawar (alternative to sari for women that looks like a long tunic over pants with neck scarf - to keep your neck warm in this cold Indian climate). I had many women stop me in the street and say that my sari was beautiful and that they thought it was nice I wanted to wear a sari. That was neat. Ron says I got slightly less looks too. I am still not convinced people were not looking because I looked WEIRD rather than that I was attractive. The market was a total adventure again...but we had a little more fun with it and really got into the bargaining. Ron got one item that was quoted at 750 rupees for 250. So, we paid too much the night before! Turns out, after much looking, the way to get a salawar is to buy the fabric and then take it to a tailor who makes it for you for about $2.50.



We figured this out AFTER buying two that were made of cardboard and the equivalent of Wal-Mart jeans. Indian women apparently don't have the thunder thighs that I do...so the crotch of my cardboard pants hangs about a foot below my real one, since I can't pull them all the way up. But, this is still better than the sari that I can't quite get to stay on.

Ron said when I wore the salwar I got even less looks...so we'll stick with that. Which is funny because some of the Indian outfits I think are way sexier...they show their bellies and sometimes bare arms and most of their back. But, that's the traditional, so it is conservative.

My stomach is bugging me a bit which is to be expected. I haven't thrown up and don't think I will...in fact I'm not convinced it isn't a stress stomachache...but it is kind of a bummer. I don't know exactly why I am finding this stressful...but there are good reasons. First of all, I still don't really have anything to wear outside that I know will stay on or not hang at my knees. Next, I'm tired, and hot and there's new food. And, my stomach hurts which makes everything feel a little harder. There's also the personal space thing that I am just NOT used to. Ron isn't having much trouble...but he is very patient with me.

So, it’s an adjustment.

(standing in front of the AC).

1 comment:

erin said...

Go with the suits and the trick to the scarves is safety pins! Make sure you find some or you'll fight the scarves all the time. I think the goal of them is actually more draped fabric across the chest... Definitely don't go anywhere without the scarf -- learned that one the hard way.

If you find the right store you can usually buy suits already made that are decent and not have to wait. You will be way cooler and less stared at -- or at least stared at in appreciation of your efforts to fit in. Even though as you mentioned that doesn't really work. The personal space was rough on me as well. I wore sunglasses most of the time, which somehow made me feel a little better. Lonely Planet recommended that as a way to get around the Indian vs. western women appropriateness of looking at men directly.

Have fun!