Pocket Change(s)

As I was writing my first blog post, way back when my journey was just beginning, I felt exhilarated by all of the incredible experiences and changes in perspective that came to mind as I thought about what had made my short time in India so special. At the same time, however I felt saddened by the reality that I wouldn’t be able to fit all of these moments into a (coherent) blog post. To remedy this I made a list of these condensed experiences, realizations, and altered perceptions in hopes of capturing some of the overflowing memories. When it came time to post my entry though, I realized I didn’t want to put a lid on this repository. Instead, I set out to continue capturing my most intense thoughts within this list over the entirely of my trip.

Although my adherence to this project wavered over the course of my three months abroad, I feel as though the list is a neat representation of how my perceptions evolved over the course of the trip. To preserve this organic evolution, I tried to kept all the entries in order with little to no editing. My hope its that as you read through my bouts of awe, exasperation, humor, and confusion you can share a piece of my adventure.


Road lines, when available, are merely a suggestion


Car horns are to be used like bicycle horn


In the bustling city of Mumbai you can find someone sleeping on any given surface at any time of day


“Good Morning” is applicable anytime after dusk


115 degrees is “pretty mild” for early Delhi summer


It always smells like something; whether that be chai, BO, Incense, cows, Dog urine, motorcycle/bus/car exhaust, or frypan oil


An picturesque cow presenting us with a smelly offering


Addresses are non-uniform and often imprecise


Street food is a must-try, but should be taken with a bottled water and 500mg azithromicin


Cricket can be played just about anywhere 


There’s a reason it’s customary to only eat with the right hand (hint: there’s often no soap in the bathrooms)


There’s no such thing as a bad time for chai


Selfies have unfortunately caught on globally


There is an art to eating with ones hands


One should yield only to vehicles larger than your own


Sidewalks are a luxury


Motorcycles can also serve as family minivans (limited to five family members, or so I’ve seen)


Local Cricket match taking place on the Ghats of Varanasi


Boys spend their bachelorhood playing cricket, holding hands and frolicking through the city streets


Update: motorcycles can also double as pickup trucks


More Indian women are beaten by their husbands than are in work. (The economist)


Monkeys get thristy too – and they are not too shy to snag your water bottle to satisfy themselves (They’ve learned how to unscrew the lids too)


One can get used to anything, even cold showers


The auto-rickshaws in each city and each state have their own unique colors and styles


What to us is just pocket change can sustain a small family for days


The other names for a Auto-rickshaw are ‘Auto’ or ‘Tuk-Tuk’— rickshaws are completely man-powered transports that were driven to extinction by their motorized counterparts.


Slapping laundry against hard objects is the best way to get the soap out


Early Morning Laundry


Living in a foreign country where most people you interact with speak some English does not incentivize learning a new language 


Theres a marked difference in social interactions in the North in the South, not all that dissimilar to the U.S.


Despite never having been to the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore or Niagra falls, I still foolishly assume that most Indian people have been to the Taj Mahal


Chai is another word for tea so asking for chai tea is quite redundant


Tamil movies are a interesting combination of romantic comedy, fight-sequence-heavy action film, sporting event, rock concert and theater. Romance and slow-mo fighting dominate the marathon (3+ hours) screenplay that is fortunately-and necessarily broken up by an intermission; Cheers arise and popcorn is thrown when famed actors grace the screen; volume levels will leave your ears ringing for hours; resale black markets command steep prices for newly released films. 


Indian sweets, like their use of spice, push the limits of the human body.


Riding a motorcycle without the constraints of traffic law is exhilarating (sorry mom)


Upscale restaurants are commonly “multi-cuisine” meaning the menus are several pages long and offer pretty much any food you can Imagine. While this may sound like a blessing the immense optionality is a quite overwhelming.


Do not plan for a quick layover when traveling through Mumbai— I learned this the hard way. Terminals 1 and 2 of the are over 20 min apart and requires negotiating a cab ride though traffic choked street

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About Oliver Priebe

Class of 2021 ~ Pursuing degrees in Biophysics and Economics. Intern at Aravind Eye Care Systems in Madurai Tamil Nadu for summer 2018.