the wonderful world of veena.

23 January 2015

hello hyderabad: initial observations.

I arrived in Hyderabad early on Monday morning for work and will be spending the next 7ish weeks here helping to set up our new schools. I obviously still have many areas of the city - nearly all of them, really - to explore, which I hope to do in the coming weeks, but I thought that today I would share some initial thoughts and observations from my first few days here.

[schools in india celebrate every possible holiday]
1. This city is HUGE. I knew it was larger than Bangalore, area-wise, but I never knew just how much bigger. It's so spread out, and it would take me ages to learn my way around the entire place. For now I am sticking with figuring out how to get back-and-forth between home and the schools.

[a nice quote, but perhaps a little dark for a school?]
2. It's hillier than I expected. Sure, having localities called Jubilee Hills and Banjara Hills are kind of a giveaway, but I didn't realize quite how flat Bangalore and Bombay are until riding around Hyderabad. I'm used to the hills being outside the city, not in the middle of it. It's kind of cool.

[all lined up for after-lunch assembly. indian schoolchildren are adorable]
3. I don't like it when auto drivers don't use the meter. Hyderabad is a lot like Delhi in that most of the auto drivers will quote you a fare rather than use the meter. And when you have an American accent and are clearly not from here, those quotes tend to be quite a lot higher than what the fare should actually be. And because I had a nice driver who used his meter on my way to one of the schools, I now know how much it should cost, but no auto driver will actually take me for that price. Cue the arguing and stamping of feet and the walking 8km in the heat just to prove a point.

[i wish my school had had carrom tournaments. maybe i would be better at it today if we had]
4. My language skills are going for a toss. Although the local language in Andhra Pradesh is Telugu - of which I speak none - Hindi is very prevalent in Hyderabad. That being said, however, my instinct for communicating with auto drivers is still to go with Kannada, as it is the language I am most comfortable giving directions in. So all that is to say, my languages are getting all kinds of mixed up. My ability to understand basic Telugu is slowly improving, but only if people are speaking really slowly. Otherwise I get lost and tune it out. So these few months in Hyderabad are either going to straighten out my language skills a little bit, or else they're going to be even more confused than they already were.

[exterior decorations at one of the schools. further down were mickey and minnie and then pooh and friends. obviously]
5. The infrastructure here is pretty great. Because Hyderabad grew a lot slower than the other big cities in India, leaders had a lot of time to plan for its expansion. As a result, the roads I have been on are all in pretty good condition, and traffic flows fairly well on the main roads, something I am not accustomed to in Bangalore. I also like how in Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills the roads have numbers rather than names. I've not been around long enough to know if they are numbered in any particular order, but I thought it was a good idea. And on the road to Attapur, all of the pillars are numbered, so even if you don't know exactly where you are going, all you have to do is find the closest pillar and go from there. It's great for newbies like me who don't yet know particular landmarks.

[because in india it is totally acceptable to shut down a road for a celebration at your house]
6. I would be lost without my uncles. I am currently staying with Saranya's uncles and grandmum on her mother's side, and they have been amazing. Grandmum makes sure I am eating properly, and uncles make sure I know how to get to and from work safely. One uncle has arranged an auto pick me up each morning and take me to the schools, and both have provided suggestions for things to see and do in the city. It's been great having them to introduce me to the city, and I am beyond grateful for their help.

[every evening i get snacks delivered to my room while i finish up my work. one day it was pieces of papaya; yesterday it was an orange. i could get used to this life]
Those are the main overarching things I have learned during my first week. I am going to explore a few places this weekend and continue to get my bearings. I'm missing having friends in town, but in a ways it's good because it will help me save up some money -- I'll need it when I return to Bangalore and have to put down a deposit for a house.

[just a small snippet of what my morning commute looks like]
More adventures to be forthcoming soon!

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