“Here,” the driver said to us, tipping his head to his shoulder in the Indian version of a nod.
The three of us looked out from beneath the black top of the tiny vehicle and quickly searched for the “Pantaloons” sign. Not seeing it immediately, we got out of the rickshaw, paid the fare and started to walk down the street looking for the green logo we were told to find.
Only a few minutes before, one of the program employees, Kelsey, had hailed it for us. She dipped her head down to talk to the driver and told him which store to take us to before waving him off with the three of us in tow.
Inside our first rickshaw we had held our breath and tried not to squeal each time we had a close call with a car or pedestrian. With the dirt and smoke blowing in our faces it was surprisingly easy to keep our eyes open in the face of terrifying oncoming traffic.
Now, frantically searching for the store in an entirely unfamiliar part of town we started to get a little panicked.
It was only our first day in Pune and we didn’t even have the name of our hotel to get back to if it turned out we couldn’t find the store. We kept walking along the block–hoping the store might come into view at any moment. As the only white people and the only women on the street we attracted the eyes of every single person we passed. Keeping our eyes locked ahead, trying our best to look like we knew where we were going, we reached the end of the street and had to turn around.
Clearly the driver could tell when he picked us up that we didn’t know where we were going. And he thought to himself, Hey, these girls don’t know where the heck they’re going. I can drive them as far as I want and they’ll pay for it and get out. They won’t even know the difference.
And he was right. We were those stupid American girls.
Spotting two Indian women in the sea of men, I dove for them and asked if they knew where “Pantaloons” was.
“Oh, it’s just a ten minute auto ride back that way,” they pointed back in the direction we came.
“Thank you,” I replied, overjoyed to finally have an idea of where to head next.
Standing in the same place we had left the rickshaw 15 minutes before, I stuck my hand out to hail one on my own for the first time. This time, telling the driver where I wanted to go and looking like I knew where it actually was.
Ten minutes back in the other direction we overpayed the driver in our haste to finally get into the store and meet up with the other students.
“O my god! I’m so glad you all made it!” Kelsey yelled when we got into the store.
Us too, and now with the newly acquired ability to hail and direct a rickshaw on our own.
Today we got to test out our skills again and arrived back at “Pantaloons” on the first try. Even though I’ll never look like I fit in here, the new clothes and rickshaw-hailing ability certainly make me feel more at home.
gorgeous salwaar khameez you girls are wearing! I’ve always wanted to travel to India but the traffic alone scares me! But the food, history, culture, art, colors…
The traffic is scary! But if you follow the locals it all turns out alright =)
a great adventure and a wild ride! love it!
It certainly was wild! Yesterday I water bottle flew right out of my backpack on the rickshaw!
You are looking good and very much at home!
Yes! We’re having lots of fun already and will meet our host families tonight for the first time!
Great storytelling–I felt like I was there with you.
Thanks, it’s such a vibrant experience it wasn’t hard to describe in great detail!
That’s why I hate any kind of taxi.
It’s definitely something to get used to. It’s weird because, unlike a taxi, rickshaws refuse to take you places all of the time. We had to ask like 10 people before anyone agreed to drive us!
Well, you got the requisite getting taken by the locals and being lost in a foreign city part out of the way. Now you can just settle in for a good time!! 🙂
Exactly! Relearning to cross the street was the first step and catching the rickshaw was the second!
Re-learning how to do the simplest things in a foreign country is a great feeling! I remember a first successful shopping trip in Poland – I was a bit miffed there wasn’t a parade in my honour afterwards! I’m sure everyone was impressed, really, just didn’t want to embarrass me 😉
It really is like learning to walk again. I think other people are proud of me too because it’s pretty clear that I’m a dumb American haha
Good on you for learning some new skills and for taking the adventure in stride!
I feel like I’m learning quickly you have to take everything in stride while abroad =)
What an adventure! Must admit, I’m a little jealous…:)
So far, I would definitely recommend coming to India! I’d love to hear about your first successful rickshaw hailing someday =)
It certainly is a challenge to know how to get around a new city, and especially cities that seem to have no travel rules. That experience in itself is an adventure!
Just relearning the basics so far has been pretty exciting!
What an adventure! And great pic at the end!
Thanks, I keep forgetting to take pictures here because I don’t want to stand out, so when I manage to remember them it’s been a good day.