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Saturday, July 19, 2014

India, What Did I Get Myself Into?

I left Seattle, Thursday evening, and finally arrived in New Delhi 28 hours later on Saturday morning.  Walking off the plane I was grateful to find that the airport was actually pretty quiet, so I could find my bearings and leisurely go through my tasks ahead; picking up my bag, finding my power adapter, that I should have carried in my carry on so I could have used it in London, where I should have also used the internet to get the latest currency exchange rates as I had to pull out cash at the ATM and didn't know exactly what I wanted to get.  I finally just went with the maximum amount of 10,000 Indian rupees (rs.) about 160 US dollars.

After getting situated it was off to find a taxi, as I had decided not to use P.E.T.E's welcome service so I could find my travel legs and, lets be honest here, because I am cheap.  Being this way can cause some anxiety and today was no different. My mind was running with the words of my friends telling me that Dehli was unsafe, and that I had also read that the local cab companies, including the prepaid service ran by the Indian Police, will try and scam you, which I'm not completely sure if they tried on me or not. I'll let you decide.

I had learned online that the fares usually cost about 350 rs. and that when you give them a 500 rs. note they distract you and then tell you that you only gave then a 100 rs. note.  They told me my fare would be 400 rs. and I was okay with it as I figure the prices might have risen since what was posted online, and if they had not they were only scamming me out of the equivalent of a US dollar.  So I handed the booth attendant 500 rs. note and then he asked me the exact address where I was going, somewhere in the shuffle a 100 rs. note appeared. It was then I said I had given him 500 rs. note and he quickly said in his Indian accent, balance, I repeated, that I had given him 500 rs. and he showed me my 500 rs. note and said the 100 rs. was the remaining balance.  I laughed realizing he meant balanced owed not balance due, and I told him where I come from we tend to use the word change.  I believe I am the one that truly screwed up, but who knows.

That uneasy feeling stayed with me as I got in the taxi.  I had no idea where I was really going, I could read some of the signs but it felt more like maze, and this awful thought that they could take me anywhere and say I had arrived or worse...damn why was I cheap?  Signs, finally, started showing up for Patel Nagar the part of the city where I wanted to go, and then we turned in one of many bustling neighbors off the main road, where my cap driver asked again for the exact address, and I wondered how he could now in this entire city where I needed to go, but it turned out he didn't.  He knew what area but not the exact location, so he asked some police men who gave them a general direction, then he asked a rickshaw driver who gave him more directions, and soon we were driving in some sort of circle trying to figure out this areas address system.  It was then I realized if he was going to this much trouble, I must be safe and worse come to worse if we couldn't find it, I would just have him drive me back to the safety of the airport where I could figure out a plan B.

Instead he asked me if I had the number for the place I was going.  It took three calls, but finally a volunteer at P.E.T.E decided to meet us at a "main" intersection (they basically all looked the same to me) and we would go from there.  Finally a western looking man walked by, and I hoped it would be the person that could make this part of my journey finally end, but he walked on by just thinking my driver was just trying to offer his services.  After a little commotion and him finally seeing the driver's cab with a western, aka white, girl sitting inside it did turn out he was my literally my "white" knight for the day.  He helped me gather my things and I decided to give my driver an extra 100 rupees for going, to what seemed to me, the extra mile for getting me to the correct place.  So with all that I saved about 10 usd.  However, my travel legs felt a bit better, and I quietly reminded myself people are inherently good, not angelic good aka they might hustle you, but good none the less.

Extra information: I found out, after the fact, that the driver was complaining to the PETE manager, that we called for help, that I would not get out of his taxi. He was right I was not going to get out until I knew if I would be safe, lol. I gave foreigners a bad name in his book while he gave locals a good name in mine. LOL

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