First Day (part 1)

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September 3, 2012 by Louis Ritzinger

I’m currently sitting in the lobby of the Ibis Hotel in Gurgaon – a city which, while formally distinct from Delhi, appears more to be an extension of its vast urban sprawl. Large high-rise apartment buildings and corporate offices (many of which appear vacant) contrast sharply with chaotic dusty roads crammed with an assortment of vehicles, ranging from Mercedes’ to horse carts. Cows and pigs roam freely. Small shanties dot the sidewalk. Smog fills the air.

The most useful advice I’ve received about India thus far, and would pass on to others who would ever plan to make the trip, is that things rarely go according to plan – if in fact there ever was one in the first place. The best one can do is to be flexible. The most vital skill is the ability to roll with the punches and have faith in the knowledge that, eventually, things will work out.

Case in point: upon my arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport I was greeted by a friendly mustached man in a grey uniform holding a sign that bore my name. I smiled and announced that I was Louis. He returned my greeting and promptly asked, in broken English: “where are the other two?”

“What other two?” I replied, confused and suddenly very concerned that I had made some sort of horrible error.

“The others on the plane,” my liason answered, clearly a bit befuddled. “You don’t know them?”

“No…” I trailed off. “Do you know their names?”

The man shrugged. I stood with him as he continued to hold a sign with my name on it which, for the life of me I could not determine the use of. After some time he told me to sit in one of the lobby seats behind him, which I promptly did, still in a daze from the flight. Somehow, after about 20 minutes a girl around my age walked up to me, introduced herself as Krypa, and asked if I was in the AIIS program. I told her that I was, grateful that at least one of the students on my flight had somehow located us. Krypa would be flying to the South early the next morning, as she would taking the Tamil class, based in Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost state.

We continued to wait for our third classmate, our guide standing patiently by the gate with his sign. After about an hour he walked over to us and beckoned for us to follow him to the car. Krypa and I exchanged looks of concern for our classmate, but at this point people had long since stopped emerging from the gate. I haven’t heard anything about him/her since – but apparently there were many students who had not confirmed their intent to attend the program. Like I said – sometimes there is no plan to begin with.

Sometimes, however, there is. Now is such a time, as I have to eat breakfast and prepare for our orientation. More to come when I have the chance…

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The view of Gurgaon from our hotel

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