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Ali Kershner
Courtesy: Duke Photography
Ali Kershner
Kershner Checks in From India
Wednesday 05/07/2013  -  Duke Sports Information
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Namaste Blue Devil Fans!

I am writing to you from New Delhi, India - my home for the next month!

Upon arrival Saturday night, after two 7.5 hour flights, almost no sleep and several stupid chick flicks my adventure immediately began!

After struggling to fill out my immigration form, the first “issue” I encountered was the 11:30 p.m. heat! As soon as I walked off the plane I was sweating. I guess this should have come as no surprise given that I was warned hundreds of times before I arrived that May is THE WORST time to visit Delhi. But let me tell you, that was no joke, it is HOT here. Like 110 degrees every day hot. The only consolation: Durham summers will never hold a flame to what I am experiencing here.

In any case, I am staying with a wonderful host family in a suburb of Delhi called Gurgaon. It is a very modern and “techy” city with many of the Indian HQs for Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, etc. The host family has two daughters, one is 27, and one 16, so I fit very comfortably in the middle. After struggling through my first night of sleep, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday. Thankfully I had the day to just stay inside, get accustomed to the time difference and the heat. But I did manage to find the gym (don’t worry DWS, I’m staying in shape!). I even received a few critiques on my pushup form from the local gym rats.

Sunday afternoon I had my very first taste of Indian cuisine and eating habits, AKA eating with your hands! For anyone that knows me well, Indian food is one of my favorite types of food, and as an avid eater, I could not have been more excited for my first home cooked meal. As I have come to learn, around 2 p.m. every day, my family sits down to enjoy a full meal together. It consists of dal (a lentil based porridge), rice, curry, roti (like a tortilla but better), a yogurt based cucumber sauce, and two other dishes that I did not recognize but enjoyed all the same.

On Sunday night, my host family took me to not one but TWO Indian weddings. WOW is all I can say. They are polar opposites from American weddings. First of all, the party happens in the beginning and usually starts around 9 p.m. They dance and eat and play very loud music and wear the most beautiful Saris. This continues until about 2 a.m.  At 2 a.m., most of the friends have left and just the family remains. At this point they begin the ceremony, which can last until 5 or 6 AM. Although with my jet lag I would have been spry at that time, they kindly took me home to sleep.

After seeing my initial bewilderment, my host family probably thought they had completely scared me away from Indian parties, but they could not have been more wrong. Last night I fell in love with the eccentricity of their celebrations and even declared to the two daughters that someday I will be having one of my own.

Monday morning, I started work. Around 9 a.m., my driver (my mode of transportation for at least the first week until I get used to the Metro) picked me up and we embarked on the hour long commute into Delhi. You would not believe how people drive here. What would be two lanes in the U.S. is occupied by at least four lanes of cars, plus auto rickshaws, motorcycles, bikes, taxis, horses, cows, goats, you name it. The honking is incessant and it’s amazing that there are not more accidents; a few times I found myself closing my eyes because I couldn’t bear to watch how close my driver would come to being sandwiched between two cars.

Now you may be asking what I mean by work. For the next month I am interning for the Ford Foundation, in a division called “Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights.” Essentially the Ford Foundation is responsible for reading grant proposals from organizations around the world and then allotting money to carry out various initiatives. While they provide money to many different sectors, I chose to learn about and help with SRHR because of how it pertains to my own life. Here in India, one of the largest problems is the marriage of female adolescents before age 18. Through my internship I will be visiting many of the grantees of the Ford Foundation and learning about how they help in Delhi. The first one I will visit is particularly interested in using sports as a method of introducing life lessons – something I can definitely relate to!

Over the next few weeks I promise to write at least a few more times and I will try not to complain about the heat anymore, but seriously?!  110 degrees! That’s absurd.

By the way, did you know that Chai in Hindi means tea? So every time we go to Starbucks and order a Chai Tea we are ordering a tea tea. Believe me, I learned my lesson the hard way. My host family thought it was the most hilarious thing ever.

Until next time,

Lots of love,

Namaste

Ali Kershner


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