Sep. 20th, 2009

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Late Thursday afternoon, we zoomed off for a Western grocery run to Ahmedahbad (the relatively large city near here). This was our first time there since arriving at the airport.

Traffic in Ahmedabad is very dense, but it's the most well-behaved we've seen in India. Reason is, Ahmedabad stations traffic cops at all of the congested intersections in the major highways.  There were enough traffic police around that our driver actually put on his seat belt and latched it, and made our faculty host, Padneet, wear his belt too.  One other note - in India, there are huge speed bumps right before all the railroad crossings. So traffic is forced to slow down to a crawl, so it will miss an oncoming train.

We went to the big international shopping mall INDCON - or more specifically, to the "Reliance Mart" store there. Reliance Mart is like a US Super Wal-Mart, with groceries and housewares and furniture, but without the discount prices. The prices at Reliance Mart are about three times more expensive for comparable items we've seen elsewhere in India.  That's still usually cheaper than US prices, except when they're ludicrously expensive.

They're also very concerned about security and theft. The guards at the door at first thought my little black purse was a camera and they didn't want to let me in with it. I opened it up and showed them I didn't have any camera (I'd left the actual camera in the car).  They settled for putting a security sticker on my umbrella to show that I'd purchased it elsewhere.  When we checked out, they used electric zip-ties on each bag, and every clerk counted our bags. They counted the bags again and stamped our receipt several times when we left the building.

Reliance Mart sells Toilet Paper. Amazing! Can't get it elsewhere. So we stocked up.

We also bought groceries.  Michael purchased a couple dozen boxes of Tropicana fruit juice (no refrigeration necessary until after opening) for about 70 to 80 rupees each. We also picked up a few bags of international flavors of Lay's potato chips: indian Masaala, "American [sour] Cream and Onion", and Spanish "Tomato Tango".  And breakfast cereal. We have easy access to pasteurized milk here; there's an Amun dairy store on campus next to the canteen. So we have Kellogg's corn flakes ("The best Vegetarian source of Iron!") and some off-brand Fruit and Fibre cereal that proudly declares it is a "Member of the Snack Food Association, Virginia (USA)".  And Masala flavor Ramen noodles.

Besides toilet paper, our shopping list also included:
- Paper cups, plates, napkins, paper towels
- Bowls and teaspoons. Tea is good. I also splurged 60 cents for silver tongs for sugar cubes, just because.
- Several pots and pans. Our host is maybe arranging a stove or burner for us. I'm hoping to cook.
- A sewing kit. Michael had 2 buttons fall off his shirts in the last week.
- Scissors. We think we left our scissors in Paris?
- Dish soap. The housekeeper has been rinsing off our dishes in the bathroom sink, without any soap.

Our faculty companion this time was Padneet, a quiet engineering lecturer.  On the way back, we stopped by Padneet's relatives house. He introduced us to his brother's family and his parents. His mother offered us water and Pepsi.  The walls had a calendar with several Hindu gods; I recognized Ganesh.
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We arrived back a little late for the Pharmacy College's fall welcome event/dance.  This was the same idea as the MBA school's event, welcoming alumni to mix with students and dance the gerba. They had a booming live band but, curiously, only a handful of people were dancing (though most were in gerba clothes). The food was much better. The pharmacy college's director/dean, Dr. J.K. Patel, welcomed us heartily.  He had shown Michael around his pharmacy the day before, including their greenhouse of plants used for drugs and drug research.

Michael joined in the gerba circle and danced for two rounds, arms waving, and surprising everyone including himself. As for me, I think I did a little better trying to dance this time, joining the line of women and mimicking their steps: turn clockwise and clap, turn counterclockwise and clap, then turn around and move forward and clap again. Maybe I'm learning this thing.

Pharmacy is a growing field in India; many drugs are manufactured here. Language note: in the US, a pharmacist is a highly trained dispenser of prescription drugs--those people are called "chemists" in India (and here, they normally don't ask for prescriptions).  In India, a Pharmacy degree prepares you for biochemistry and drug research.  They have several different concentrations at this pharmacy school, including animal research and ayurvedic (traditional plant-based medicine). It's not quite NIH, but they're doing real research here.

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