Food at last in the fridge. But, I start at the wrong point. I’m normally picked up anytime between 9:00 and 9:30 for work. 9:30 no sign. 10:00, still no sign. I start to text and phone but although I have a signal nothing will connect. I check the numbers and they are OK. I am also aware that reception at the office is dodgy at best , non existent for the rest of the time. But, I keep trying. At 11:00 my lift turns up. Apparently there is a conference all this week at SOVA and they were ferrying delegates to the complex 6 at a time. Speaking to the Director later in the day he explained all this and also told me he had had to ride a motorbike in for the same reason. Clarity at last.
Food. When all you have in the fridge is 2 slices of stale bread and a pot of Marmite (from the UK) food becomes somewhat important. OK during the day, I use the canteen for lunch but for an evening meal problems strike. So far the two lovely volunteer ladies that arrived a week before me have been very hospitable and I’ve eaten with them on two occasions, a take way on another evening and ate most of the aforementioned bread another night. But as they say, a man cannot survive on bread alone. Today, at 3:30 I arranged with an Indian consultant to ride me into town and to do the business with me. Joy. Pots and pans, drinking cups and other sundry food implements are acquired along with a pile of food. Prakesh negotiated prices for me and apart from the food a discount was granted on every occasion. On the way back to the flat he was constantly concerned that I was comfortable on the back of the bike. Well, with 3 bags swung from a hook under where one leg wanted to be, a larger bag containing cooking metalwork pushing me out of the rear of the saddle and another 4 bags with food and flip flops dangling precariously over to one side threatening to be wrenched from my grip by passing cows (yes, there really are that many holy cows), overloaded tractors and pedestrians gaily wandering all over the road, what was I to say. I’m fine I replied through slightly gritted teeth.
Prices for non-food items are very cheap here. A pair of bog standard flip flops (for use in the flat and the loo) and an up market pair for walking outside, £2.30p the lot. Now you may ask why didn’t I bring ff’s with me. I did, paid a small fortune at M&S and they started to part company a day after I arrived in Delhi. So all week I’ve been careful where, when and how I walked as I had no wish to walk barefoot. As in most of Asia, drainage is not a top priority so when it rains the roads(?) flood and mixes with holy cow dung (bit polite but I have to keep up appearances) and other physical rejects of an unmentionable nature. Not a pleasant experience but hey, I’m no tourist as I constantly remind people, so you will understand my need for at least some footwear to isolate me from the worst of the underfoot ambiance.
Most of the locals, and all of those coming in from the forests and foothills are barefoot. It’s the custom here to remove footwear when entering most premises. The conference delegates were not conscious of the custom and entered the canteen, boots and all. That meant of course that those of us more native aware were somewhat upset at their insensitivity. When in Rome and all that! Last night, visiting a mobile phone shop, shoes removal was expected. Normally fine, but it was raining and I was wearing a poncho I had purchased in Indonesia. Try removing shoes when you are being swamped in flapping waterproofs; not an easy action. I noticed on the train from BB to Koraput locals stomping over what looked like razor sharp railway ballast along the permanent way. Their soles must be as hard as nails.