Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Use Diper at Night"

I didn't get around to posting some of my last observations while there, but I'm still not fully in the United States. As I sit on the carpet of my room with my laptop, I am more in a state of limbo. It's a great place to be, because it almost feels like anything is possible. In some ways, it would be possible to slip back into my lifestyle before the trip. In other ways, I feel like I can completely turn into a different person (other than the growth that the trip automatically fertilized). It really hasn't been long enough to reflect though, and there are still specific experiences that are fun to talk about.
Possibly the most entertaining thing for me was the typos everywhere. To us who are used to the idea that the language our parents speak rules the world, it's hard to imagine having to learn a foreign one before ever planning on becoming successful in the world. Most of the Indians we came across served the example of intense focus and a strong work ethic, but there are bound to be mistakes sometimes. I am so used to being surrounded by English in everyday life and editing prose that the few chance mistakes stuck out everywhere. The menu of a restraunt in Varanasi had a section of snacks listed "Snakes." Our hotel room in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala had a laminated note about the water heater from the manager, signed "Manger."

All of the trucks here have decorative painting, with sayings in English and Hindi to "use dipper at night. This apparently refers to not using your brights when behind a truck, but I thought it was funny to see one truck painter had left out a "p." I wouldn't be suprised if another uneducated painter had actually added an "a" as well. Just by dropping a letter, he changed from making a polite request to giving blunt advice about how to deal with intestinal problems we've had with the food.

The bilingual artwork also says to "blow horn." Most of my experience with car horns has ingrained that honking, especially when close by, means either I or somebody else is about to die, or that I am doing something seriously wrong like driving on the wrong side of the road--both mean about the same thing. Here, just like how overpopulation changes everything else,
honking your horn is just a way of alerting people you are there. Honking on the road is as common as chatter in a crowded room. Every road, except a few parts of mountain roads, has only white dotted lines separating lanes, and overtaking is expected. In fact, speed limits are hardly ever posted and highways have different speeds listed for different types of vehicles. Some horns are piercing and irritating, used by people who like to hold it down for a long time. Others are dull and softer, more comforting to listen to but probably in that condition from overuse. Then alot of the trucks not only had colorful painting, but had multi-tone horns. A lot of them sounded like a little kid playing with a trumpet.
I didn't take pictures of any of them, but most things like that can be seen in a Google image search for photos taken by actual photographers. I mostly took pictures of large-scale views that were impressive, or shots of the cities from our hotel roofs. The one above is in Dharamsala. One of the first things I realized was that no picture will do justice to the actual experience. At best, it gives you a tenth of the idea of what it was like to be there. A still picture can only say so much, especially a digital one. It may have been different if I had an expensive camera to make a film documentary of our experiences, but even that suffers from the lack of scale. Anyway, I look forward to exchanging pictures online and seeing the different perspectives of everyone else, also for things I didn't take pictures of because I saw someone else staking the same one I would have. A Facebook group or something may be in order.

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