Culture Shock

April 20th, 2010 by INMED

I am going to try to document my impressions on this trip. I first noted the “culture shock” as I stood in line at Eithad Airways in Chicago. In fact you felt it when you entered the international terminal… the sense of being different from everyone else, in the color of my skin and hair; the language that I spoke, even the amount of luggage that I had with me. Many of the families and couples had 5, 6, 7 huge hard sided bags piled on trolleys. I had two small bags to last for a month, and most of those were filled with books and crayons for the school that I planned to visit.

 

On the plane I sat next to a couple, older couple from Chicago of Indian descent, that were travelling to Mecca. They were interested in where I was going, what I was going to do and why I was travelling alone. They twice told me about the poverty in Chennai, my destination. After about 13 hours of travel we arrived in Abu Dhabi…a beautiful airport, mosaic ceilings in blues and greens. I am looking more out of place here. I feel very self conscious…a little like wearing shorts to a formal banquet. Very out of place in my western slacks, and pink flowered top. There is quite an exotic feel to the airport…sheiks in flowing white robes with white head dresses. I haven’t seen this before. Of course, lots of women in salwar suits and sarees, and children, especially very young children everywhere.

 

Made it through India customs without event. When you exit customs into the world beyond, it appears like a gauntlet, a long line of faces, all eagerly looking for someone and curious about someone who looks like me. A young man holding a “Beth Grubbs” sign was easily located and we made through the crowd to the cab. Left the airport at 4:45 am and arrived in Vellore at 7 am. The first part in the dark, lots of people sitting on curbs waiting for buses. Interesting small closet like “snack shacks” that had bags and bottles of hanging snack and it looked as if they were selling chai. All had a few men lingering around, some reading papers and others talking. It was an interesting ride…lots of horn blowing and fast traffic. There was a small delay with my room when I arrived so I went to have coffee in the mess downstairs. Met Jason Kimm, another INMED public health student from Kansas City.