It’s shopping day! Today our goal is to find all the stuff we need to decorate our rickshaw and add to the functionality. The only real solid idea we have is getting cushions made. The ride is bumpy and the seats are fairly hard. They are padded but not very comfortable. Beyond that it is wide open.
First, we need to recharge our SIM cards – back to the most Western-looking store we’ve seen here. We still only had the minimal juice supplied to activate the phones and we used that up in no time. Since we arrived a day or two ahead of most of the other runners, we already stumbled our way through this stuff and were happy to save new comers some time by imparting our newly learned knowledge. We saw 3 or 4 different runner teams in the Airtel store while we were there. Now, with 12 gigs of data prepaid on each phone, we are good to go. Together 24 GB of data cost 1680 Rs or US $24. Pretty cheap.
It took us 2-3 hours to find a place that would custom make cushions for us. The other textile shops either only made clothes, didn’t understand our request, or sent us looking for some other shop we may or may not ever find. We did finally stumble across a guy in a dark basement shop who seemed to get the idea and agreed to make the cushions. I gave measurements and explained and explained what we needed and he quoted us a price 5380 Rs or US $77. It seemed pricy for something that is likely to be thrown away in a couple weeks, but we definitely want cushions, so we agreed to it and were told to pick them up around 6PM. Cool! We’ll see what we end up with.
With the most important item hopefully taken care of, we strolled the streets looking for gods, decorations, and utility items such as towels and bungee cords. Up and down the streets peeking in every shop that even looked like a possibility, we walked our breakfast off in no time! It was funny when we entered this back alley and climbed the steps to the top street. People looked shocked! Wow! Foreigners! Here! But we did find some pretty fabric ribbon (that Dave picked out, by the way) and a sewing kit. Can you make out the absolute mess of tangled telephone and/or electrical wires? I need to get a better picture of that!
We continued up and down the streets and ducked into entryways that looked like they led to more shopping. One led to an indoor shopping area that looked so much like the fake market in Shanghai, China. Dave and I shared a secret smile and kept shopping. We picked up various things here and there, but not a whole lot.
We noticed the very unique way Indian people carry big loads. When moving a table or something flat, they balance it on their head. Otherwise, they place their load in a burlap bag, strap it to their head, and carry it on their back. Even the women did this. Their necks must be extremely strong!
All this walking made us hungry and I was dying for a cold drink. This may sound stupid to you, but I haven’t had a single chilled drink since we left Alaska. Even the airplanes didn’t offer me ice for my drinks. I went through cold drink withdrawals in Thailand, too. After about a week of hot and humid, I would crave something cold. Anything. We ordered lunch at a Chinese restaurant and I asked the waiter for a cold drink, really cold… Anything cold, just please make sure it’s cold. He got the idea and brought me an ice cold Coke. Yes!!! He just made my day! The noodles were okay, the vegetarian fried wontons with hot garlic sauce were really good, but the cold Coke was awesome! If you don’t understand, try this if you are used having cold drinks all the time: Go for a week drinking only warm or room temperature drinks during the summer. Trust me, you’ll crave cold!
We passed so many tailor shops. Most of them make suits or at least men’s slacks. Dave decided he wanted to get some custom made baggy pants. It’s not as easy to find a tailor for those, but eventually someone pointed us to the right place. We think.
We picked out fabrics and had our measurements taken. So far so good.
We wanted them to tie at the waist and ankles and that was harder to get across. “Elastic?” the tailor asked. “No, no, ties like strings.” We think they understood. We’ll see what we get when we pick them up tomorrow morning.
Just before 6PM, we returned to the textile place making our cushions. There were cushions everywhere. We asked who all those were for. Their jaws dropped and they said, “They are yours.” Ummm, we only wanted 4 total. Somewhere our instructions got lost in the translation and we ended up with 10! Dave had gotten a call from them and they asked for twice as much money. Dave returned to the shop to find out why, but the issue was still not communicated. Dave explained that we would only pay the agreed upon price. But now we know why they wanted more. We told them the cushions were for a rickshaw. Where would we put 10 cushions?!!! They did a great job on them, though, and insisted we take them all even though we would not pay more. They said no one else would buy them. So Dave and I resolved to try to sell the extra cushions to another rickshaw runner in need and pay them the money. They agreed this would be fair… if we could sell them. But they looked doubtful. Returning to our room carrying all these cushions, we ran into some ladies from a couple other rickshaws. We told them what happened and the team leader said, “We’ll take them!” We all had to hurry to make the Q&A session for the Rickshaw Run, so we agreed to discuss it further later. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
The meeting room was packed with overheated bodies and the air temperature inside the room was 10 degrees or so higher than outside. It made it hard to concentrate on the presentation, but the hosts try not to take things too seriously and we’d heard most everything anyway. Some funny tidbits included the breakdown tally, which we think is a good idea. Someone actually painted it on the back of their rickshaw. They’d had 8 or so. He mentioned that one team really had problems (probably due to user errors) and broke down 117 times! WOW! During our brief test drive session, our rickshaw seemed to be in good order, unlike some others we saw. One was smoking terribly. Our only problem so far was that two of the lights in the front were not working. We were put on a work request list. We didn’t make it to the rickshaw today, so we’ll check on it tomorrow when we decorate our new baby.
During the Q&A session, everyone was drinking beer, so Dave and I joined in. We bought two large bottles each of Haywards’ 5000 strong beer. It tasted like Budweiser but more bitter. Blech! We gave away our other two beers and didn’t even finish our first. Disgusting. It’s easy to go dry if that’s all they have cold. The Kingfisher, which is a decent beer, was sold warm.
Walking back to our hotel, Dave was hungry and scoped out the street food. It all smells very enticing. He found skewers of marinated chicken cooking over a grill. It looked and smelled mouthwatering. It must have been good, because I blinked and they were gone!
- Patience – Indian people are eternally patient when it comes to waiting in line to pay at a store or to make some transaction at the bank, but put them behind the wheel of an automobile and Mr. Wheeler pops out. If you don’t remember Mr. Wheeler, try googling Mr. Wheeler Goofy. We all had to watch that video in driver’s education class. It’s not that they have road rage so much as they just have no patience and observe no rules. If you are not honking your horn, you’re not doing it right.
- Caribbean Tans – Dave and I are losing our Caribbean tans quickly. We first noticed it in Alaska, but it is becoming more apparent every day. We arrived during the monsoon, so it has been raining a lot, not to mention that you just don’t go around showing a lot of skin in India. And here I was thinking we might blend in! Nope, we are well on our way to returning to pasty white. Ugh!
- Head Wobble – What the heck is this head wobble they do? My first run in with the head wobble was at customs at the airport in New Delhi. The guy is checking my paperwork, flipping pages in my passport, stamping like crazy and hands it back to me. “Am I good to go?” I ask. Head wobble. Huh? “I can leave now?” Head wobble. Okaaay… Dave says let’s go. I figured he’d stop us if we weren’t done. So what’s the head wobble look like? Closest I can describe it is a side ways twitch. If we accompanied it with a shoulder shrug, it would mean I don’t know or maybe. But there’s no shrug and sometimes the head wobbles back and forth a few times. Sometimes fast and sometimes slow. Maybe that is more emphatic and more sure, whatever. It looks like they are nodding yes and shaking their head no at the same time, coming out like a wobble.
- This must mean something else here in India, because I don’t know any Americans or Europeans that would be caught dead here: