Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday, March 15

We worked from the dining room of the hotel in the morning, researching contacts & sending e-mails requesting meetings. Internet connection is much better than it has been, so maybe the IT guy really fixed it.

Jim & I took a walk on the main road that the hotel is on. One of the pictures is from the walk – the boy selling vegetables on the street (many vendors sell fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and snacks on the street). Another picture is of a cow next to a rickshaw. Cows have the right of way in the roads, and they seem to know it.

We met a young man named Sanjay Kumar who was here to interview with some pharmaceutical companies that are recruiting here at the hotel. Sanjay is graduating in a couple of months; his school in Lucknow is near a slum area where he works with the children, teaching them to read, among other things. Inspired by one of his teachers, he is trying to get the local government agencies and NGOs to help the people in the slum areas, but is discouraged at the lack of response, and was hoping that we could bring some exposure to the residents’ plight. Sanjay offered to take us to the slums to see the living conditions for ourselves. After talking to our hotel security, we hired a driver who followed Sanjay to the slum area, where we saw firsthand how the residents live. They have one water area (see picture of the man bathing and the little boy), and one pump (see slightly blurry picture of the child with the mother & father) for an area of about 400-500 people. The water is turned on for about 2 hours twice a day, when the residents fill up their water containers, bathe, and clean clothes. Sanitation facilities are non-existent – people go out in the open, with different areas for the men & women. Their houses, if you can call them that, are bricks loosely piled on top of each other, no mortar or cement.

All the children gathered around Sanjay, who had them say their ABC’s and numbers (in English) & sing some songs in Hindi for us. See the picture with the children (I’m in back holding a little girl – my eyes are closed unfortunately). The young man with the tie on the right is Sanjay.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped off at the boys’ hostel (dormitory) where Sanjay stays, and we met his friends who are also pharmacy students. See the picture with Jim & I in one of the rooms. Their rooms are Spartan, and small. The young men were very friendly, and got us some snacks – potato chips, Thums Up (Indian version of Pepsi or Coke), and a mango drink. While we were there, the electricity went out, which the boys say happens often. Jim & I are going to meet with Sanjay’s professor on Wednesday so maybe we’ll get some other contacts then.

Dinner was at the hotel restaurant again. The waiter always seems confused when we order something, and looks closely at the item we ordered, after we point it out to him, and studies it for a while. About half the things we try to order, he shakes his head like we’re crazy & says they don’t have it. The menu is on wood boards, where the carved letters are fading – but at least he put it in front of me this time!

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