Who turned the heat on?

Weather wise and work wise, everything has just been super intense lately.

First, we shall address the weather in India: It is hot, humid, and full of insects. The winter would be described as the best season ever. I now know why birds migrate. To those of you on the east coast of the US questioning the very existence of a spring and praying to see spring: I am sorry.

The weather has been consistently above 85 for the past two weeks. Why does this matter? Sonipat, has no spring; there are two seasons winter and summer. Accept it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. The winter for me was great- highs of 67 degrees and lows of 50s. Perfect weather that still prolonged the hibernation of the many insects of rural India.

Well, Old Man Winter has died and his angry son has come in and beats down upon you. He has sent in his demons and mongrels, in the form of mosquitoes, wasps, bees, and garden lizards upon the local population.

Many of my personal acquaintances acknowledge my disdain for heat. I do prefer the cold weather. I also hate insects flying around me. Sonipat knows this, and seeks to test my sanity. I am in a bitter fight to the end with nature. Modern technology can only do so much. My weapon of choice, the air conditioner, has become my best friend. The power goes out, yet the generators come to life as the Titans of the Earth and empower the campus. The AC is my lifeline. I am winning (for now) the war on heat! Hoorah!

The insects however are Sonipats’ Special Forces unit and they have found a way to evade my attempts to smash them. The insects are defending the homeland and I am the occupying force. They recognize this and seek to attack me at my home base – my room. There recently was a wasps’ nest, built on my bathroom window. After the installation of this forward base, I would encounter wasps crawling in through the windows and ceilings. The worst was when I woke up from a deep slumber, and went to relieve myself. As I opened the door, a giant wasp, hovering at about eyelevel was waiting for me. Thank God for instincts! I immediately closed the door and waited. My bladder beckoned and I armed myself with two size 11 Nike running shoes. I entered the bathroom with one shoe in each hand. After a short tussle, I smacked the wasp to the floor, and finished him off with a crunch.

It is not over- Ants!! This infantry of insects is always present, constantly pushing forward with no understanding of pain, or rejection. Ants are everywhere in the bathroom coming from the base of the toilet, they clamber up in search of sugar and food. The second occupying force resides in the crack of the walls, in the bathroom. At night, they launch a routine raiding party, seeking to take my resources. Nevertheless, they are unfulfilled and often end up dying after being stuck in soap.

The insects even took to attacking in class. To the dismay of other students and myself, wasps are often found bouncing off of the windows with such a large thump and a distinctive hum that it makes the hairs on your neck cringe. I am not alone in this war on the yellow monstrosities. Many people swat and dodge the six-legged dragons and ultimately they fly away erratically.

The university recognizes the war, and sends in a specialist. The specialist, is an exterminator who uses insecticide, as if it were holy water and he is the Pope. He will bless any spot that even looks as if would be a threat. He kills indiscriminately – wasps, flies, mosquitoes, bees, and anything else. Mercy is not in his repertoire. He is the walking death. Insects flee in his path and die in his wake. He will come and create a nuclear desert in your room. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line, verifying his presence.

Then, just like that, the war is over, and the insects have been slaughtered at least for a short time period.

OR SO I THOUGHT.

I went to sleep one night, excited to wake up and attend classes. During the night, the bugs launched one last offensive tactic in an attempt to force me to surrender. I woke up and went to breakfast, returned to my room and showered. As I was bathing, I noticed that my foot felt very abrasive. A quick inspection revealed that I had been bitten multiple times on my leg and foot?.

Unsure of the exact cause and assuming it was the result of mosquitoes, I ignored the bumps.  But they started to spread over my body. I thought to myself, “Is it a new form of chicken pox? Could it be some farm disease?” At last I realized that it was the last insurgency of the insect horde – bedbugs. Seeking a final blow, I promptly went to the medical center, to get some anti-itch cream. I returned and informed the warden of the problem.

My warden had a concerned look after seeing the vicious and deceitful attack on my limb while I slept. The insects had violated the last code of honor in this war. The warden immediately picked up the phone, and made a call. He informed me that within the hour the problem would be solved. The exterminator has been called in for a special mission.

Thirty minutes later a knock on the door produced a new mattress. There is still one problem: We have destroyed the last insect base, but the guerrillas remain. The exterminator arrives, and applies the most liberal application of pesticide I have ever witnessed throughout the room. I know nothing will survive. After the first visit, there were dozens of dead mosquitoes and a few wasps. Now I know there will be no future for these insects.

The exterminator applies insecticide directly to the bedframe.  Then does the room once more, as if to find any stragglers and put them out of their misery. The fallout is so strong that he advises me to leave my room for a couple of hours then return. I come back and see no more signs of the living, just the carcasses of the 6-legged damned.

This was just the first phase. My classmates have informed me that the weather in Sonipat can rise to be 120 degrees. I am not pleased with the forecast of the future. I realize that this heat will be a struggle; I accept this challenge and wait silently as the days get longer and hotter.

My classmates have also informed me that the insects by the end of May will be huge. Huge as in mosquitoes the size of quarters! This genuinely worries me. I fear the future. I know an arms race is imminent. As such, I have to seek funds to purchase a flamethrower to suppress the future insect insurrection.  Donations are kindly accepted. Please use PayPal. Just kidding!

Without all the exaggeration, the last few weeks weather wise have been a big change, concerning the heat and humidity. The university however, is prepared with air conditioners on stand-by and merciless exterminators. The best part of the weather is the sky. At least the sky is usually clear with a few clouds and a beaming sun.

No Country for Old (Wo)Men

A few Sundays back I decided to go to Delhi. I decided I had enough of being pampered and taking a taxi everywhere, and I was anxious to explore.  I talked to one of my friends here, Karthik, (more about him later) he cautioned against it. But he knew that I wanted to explore and understand the metro system. So after some persistence and convincing, he relented.

A little background: because I am a creature of habit, I wanted peanut butter and a few things for my dorm. Sonipat is a small town by Indian standards, and they don’t have the international delights that a foreigner (Hindi :vi-day-sheee) such as myself would need so a trip to Delhi was warranted. A list was made and the time was planned.

The car that we hired dropped us off at the nearest metro station: Jahangirpuri. The Delhi metro was intense due to a few factors: the extremely large population, the complication of the metro routes, the bureaucracy that exists to enter and exit the metro, and finally the fact that I was completely unfamiliar with the system. So it began!

First, we got out of the car, walked to the elevator. Unlike the DC metro system where people move to the right to stand on the escalator?, everybody stands in the middle of the steps. After this we arrived at the top entrance to the platforms.

The platform entrance has an x-ray machine for baggage and metal detectors so the police can make sure you are not carrying any weapons. After passing through the weapons check, we got our metro card, similar to a Smartrip card.

I need to get a Delhi smart trip card no problem, let us wait inline. As we are waiting in line, the metro station is packed, and people are going all around. Karthik tells me that Sunday is the day where most people don’t travel. I make a mental note not to travel the metro during rush hour. A woman tries to cut the line and walks to the front. A middle-aged man taps her on the arm and asks her what she is doing. An argument ensues. The man basically asks if just because she is a woman she doesn’t have to wait in line? She gives a look of contempt, shakes her head, and then concedes and submitting defeat, and proceeds to the back of the line.  This little verbal altercation does not even surprise or stir the heads of anyone else; it’s too crowded for anyone to care.

Karthik and I are two customers away from getting to the counter. I lean forward using Karthik’s back as a shield,, I open my wallet to get the 300 rupees required for the metro card.  The man whose constant pushing I’ve ignored for the past 8 minutes has now made a inexcusable intrusion into my personal space.

The man has come from behind me and stuck his head between Karthik’s shoulder and my body. He was practically laying his head on my chest. My personal alarms go off, I believe he is preparing to grab my wallet and run. I realize that I’d have to give chase and the scenario flashes before my eyes. I yell in English, What the $$$&! (Get creative)” He realizes that he has made an error and stares at me in shock. I roll my eyes and turn to get the required amount from my wallet. Karthik inquires as to what happened. I explain it to him, and he says that was definitely not excusable even for Indian standards, but it’s likely that he was just curious. Good. Crisis averted, and I didn’t overreact.

We go up to the platform, and allowed the train to arrive before we moved into the middle of the car and secured two seats. The Metro cars are really wide compared to the D.C. and Baltimore subway. The metro was also very clean. There were designated seats for women, elderly, and physically challenged persons. The first car of every metro train is designated for women.  This is due to sexual harassment on the metro train. Indian Society is very much a patriarchal society and this presents a variety of challenges for the modern Indian woman. (More about this later).

The train gets progressively more crowded, at one point, people are leaning over top of each other, and sometimes people sit on each other’s laps just to make space for others. It’s actually very interesting to witness.  The entire trip is planned to take about 45 minutes of riding on the metro.

At a major transfer point: Kashmere Gate. Two Nigerian men get on, they immediately notice, that I’m not Indian, and ask where I’m from. I tell them that I’m an American, we make small talk and then return to our respective conversations.  10 minutes later one of the men get off the train, with a large majority of the crowd. The Nigerian guy sits down and starts probing for information, at this point I recognize it, and start creating a false story about being in town only for the week and sightseeing. I inquire as to which stop he is making sure to have him commit to a plan. Then say we are going to a different stop. Next, the man invites us to church with him, stating it’s Sunday and other reasons for us to go with him, even saying he could be our tour guide. I laughingly tell him I don’t want to go to church. That I didn’t come all the way to India to spend my day in church.  He relents his campaign of persuasion and we get off two stops later. Karthik and I loop back so that we are not followed and get off at our appropriate destination.

We have lunch in a mall food court. KFC is an idolized fast food place here. Then Karthik goes to run errands, and I decided to explore the area a little bit, and go to a market and get a few things such as a second power converter.

Next stop Khan Market. We take the metro again, this time uneventfully to Khan Market. Khan market is the richest part of Delhi. After coming out of the metro and walk about a quarter of a mile you arrive at a shopping center filled with western stores. Adidas stores, Nike stores, and a variety of small food markets that have western brands.

Khan Market was super westernized. The area was completely westernized; I saw a variety of luxury cars, Mercedes-Benz, Land-Rover, and even a jaguar.  The area was so westernized, a woman of European descent, I have no idea where from where, even clutched her purse as I walked by. I was surprised and instantly felt like I was home in the states. How nostalgic, the smell of old school prejudice, that pervades even across continents, oceans and borders.

We walk upon a shop that looks rather clean, so we enter. I look around and gather what I need: peanut butter, bread, honey and what I don’t need: candy.  The entire time one of the shopkeepers is following me around, this store, which is no bigger than the aisle, of the cereal section in Safeway. My initial reaction was one of annoyance. I thought this must be a thing like in the states when store employees follow a person of color around the store. But then I realized that here in India this is just good customer service. He was waiting on me, ready to answer my questions and have the items I selected brought to the register. I was relieved and in a better mood.

The next goal was to get protein powder. I walked into a small health shop and selected a small box of whey protein powder for about 12 USD. The service was quick and efficient. Naturally, the shop attendant tried to sell me the largest box of protein powder available, but I made it clear I wasn’t spending 80 USD for that.

Karthik and I wandered towards the metro station, we then stopped at a bookstore where Karthik obtained a cookbook, and I bought a men’s health magazine for about 1.50. The magazines in India or very reasonably priced. (Reasonable prices is code for cheap).

Finally, we get on the metro, the ride back is peaceful as we watch the sun setting over the city. Delhi is huge.  During a few crowded areas, we witness a race from the doors to the seats of the metro cars. The excitement isn’t over yet.

Two old men with Islamic head coverings, have come to an impasse, about who is going to occupy a single seat that is two seats to my left. One of them points to the seat and say something I obviously can’t understand. The shorter man replies, tersely. The taller man raises his left hand and says something in response. The shorter man then opens his palm and smacks the taller man’s hand out of the way and takes the seat, with a smirk on his face. The taller man looks with contempt but gives up and concedes to stand for the remainder of the ride.

Finally we are off of the metro station and are back at Jahangirpuri. The amount of people trying to the exit the train is unreal. We literally wait in a crowd to exit the station through the gates for minutes. People are yelling and some young men who are tired of waiting then begin running and jumping the gates, police officers stop and grab who they can, but there are simply too many.  The crowd gets increasingly restless.  I speculate a riot is near with all the excitement in the air. The noise gets louder and so more people yell. Little old ladies are pushing and jostling for position.  Then it happens.

The gates start working. The people are quiet and the pressure subsides. No riot is going to happen today. I am severely disappointed.  As I walk out of the gate, an old lady who has wedged herself between Karthik and I pushes past me.  I think nothing of it. Karthik later tells me that this is a place where chivalry isn’t dead it just doesn’t count on the metro.

The driver of the taxi picks us up and takes us back to campus, I arrive safely with my treasures from today’s adventure.

 

Food at Jindal

The first question that anybody on campus here at Jindal will ask you: “How is the food? It’s terrible isn’t it?”

The company that provides the food service is called Sodexo. Sodexo is a French owned company. The dining hall provides 3 meals a day and 1 snack. The food is completely vegetarian and typical cafeteria food. If you haven’t had Indian food before, one may find it hard to adjust. However Sodexo has worked hard to make sure the food isn’t too spicy, giving special care to non-Indians regarding the level of spice.

As a foreigner, this is great because the food tastes fine (and especially if you like Indian cuisine)! So, it really boils down to the fact that you are dealing with cafeteria food. The food is mass produced for the entire student body, but the good news is that the food is local. Literally local, I am sure you can see the same vegetables being grown from when you drive past the roads.

Sodexo is run by a man named: Bhupendar, a family man with two kids. He works really hard to make sure that the foreign students are adjusting well and has checked in on me multiple times. If asked, he will give you special food items and often fruit when it isn’t being served. The perks of being a foreigner!

As a vegetarian, I had no problem adjusting. I had stomach pains for the first 10 days after arriving, but this is likely to happen when adjusting. If you are carnivorous, never fear!  There is a café and a sandwich shop on campus where one can get chicken (the most available meat available on campus). Don’t expect a hamburger while here!

A Hectic First Week at Jindal

My first week on campus was extremely hectic. After arrival, I had to get settled into campus life. The academic semester had started.

I was given checklist with about nine items that needed to be completed. This sheet told me who to see, who to meet, what to get ,and where to get it. The first item on the list was a campus ID card, a true necessity. Commonly referred to as an I-card, one must show this to get on and off the campus grounds. This process took the longest amount of time, despite the fact that there were no lines. There was a section of cubicles in the IT department and I had to fight for position just to be seen.

The IT staff is made up of about seven twenty-somethings, who don’t look up from the computer. The IT staff members I spoke with asked my essentials in an English-Hindi hybrid. After some confusion, they were able to fill out the fields on the necessary form. When I was finished with IT, I moved across to yet another section of cubicles, the accounting department.

The accounting department is made up of four people, who look to be in their 30s. The language barrier wasn’t as strong and so I was able to pay my bill using a bank card. At first, my bank declined the transfer. During a later conversation, I informed them that I was in India studying abroad. The payment was completed the following day.

Here at Jindal, the first week is shopping week. Students can attend as many classes as they want. Each classes involved you listening to professors describe their classes in an attempt to entice you to enroll. The registrar system, contrary to the University of Baltimore, is a single man named Jitender Upadhay. I honestly would pray to him if I ever needed a God of productivity. This single man alone reserves rooms, elaborates class rosters, monitors attendance, confirms credits, and coordinates with the foreign students. Also, the enrollment requests are done in person without any paper work. Meaning, he basically enrolls all the students from memory. You can image how the first week is hell week as everyone is trying to enroll in their classes.

The attention he was able to pay me in directing me around the school was unprecedented. He would respond to an email within 30 minutes of me sending it. He also arranged for me to meet with various professors to discuss their classes, and connected me to important and distinguished faculty at the University.

The first few days were busy! But, by the end of the week I had all of the credentials I needed, my classes were assigned, and the weekend was in front of me.

Welcome to J’s Blog – En route to India for a Semester

Meters upon meters of people, the longest line I’ve seen in a while. This was just the TSA line. Airport security was a breeze. Once inside, I waited for the small passenger jet to ferry me to the Newark Airport. The plane ride from Baltimore to New Jersey was only about 40 minutes. The Newark airport is ridiculously big. Once in Newark, I took a shuttle to Terminal C. The shuttle was less than 50 feet away from the airplane that we arrived on. It would have been easier to walk from plane to shuttle, instead of navigating through the airport.

The Airport Shuttle quickly arrived at Terminal C. Once I arrived, I quickly walked down the airport ramp to the gate my flight’s departure gate. I saw the wings of the plane peeking out from the window before I saw the gate. The boarding ramp reminded me of an IV drip, connecting the various life supports necessary for the metal behemoth.

The demographic make-up of the boarding group of the passengers varies in relation to the destination. It’s quite intriguing. The Denver departure gate had a group of families and students that looked as if they were REI models, sporting hiking boots and extremely colorful backpacks. The Delhi departure gate was also easily identifiable. The passenger wait area had many men wearing Sikh turbans and lots of women with Sari’s. Once I spotted my departure gate, I turned around and walked back down to the overpriced 1950’s style airport diner. I ordered the Oreo fantasy malt- well worth the $7.50 it cost me. I then ordered an Italian Panini from an airport Bistro. The mozzarella and pesto melted together with the tomato to create a red white and green sandwich of chewy delight.

The Delhi departure gate was indicative of what was to come. I quickly got in line and waited to have my passport and visa validated before departure. This wasn’t my first rodeo. As I waited in line the elite and business class boarding groups were being called. Very few of them however actually had previously validated their passports. The passport validation line was now at least 100 feet long. Naturally, they two primary boarding groups did not want to lose the advantage of boarding first. So the chaos began.

Similar to the roads of India, a few people followed the rules, while the majority of people fought and jockeyed for position, as passive-aggressively as possible. Avoiding actual confrontation, but pushing each other just enough for both of the people to be aware of the presence of one another.

The non-premium boarding groups were finally permitted to board the plane. Luckily, I was 4th in line for the 3 priority boarding group. But shortly after ,it seemed as if all structure in regards to the line had broken down. Once on the plane, I promptly located my seat. I chose behind the wing of the plain right next to the window. The benefits of the window seat far outweigh the negatives. The windows seat offers a view and control of the lighting for the aisle. The window seat also entitles the owner to one of the few undisputed arm rests on the plane. The premier window seat also has the extra room that allows one to position their body slightly against the plane for a more comfortable riding position. The ugly side of the window seat is that it is slightly colder, because it is up against the cold exterior of the plane. The noise of the engine is a little bit louder, but on international flights they provide headphones. (Although, I rarely leave the house without my own headphones.)

The biggest downfall of the window seat is the social easement (legal term from property) that is required to use the restroom. While no person will really stop you from using the bathroom, due to the possibility of a most offensive olfactory oppression. The occupant of the window seat possesses great responsibility. They must not abuse the request that is to use the restroom, and relieve oneself. The window holder is often limited in what items can be consumed and the amount of liquids consumed. No coffee and limited liquids. The situation can be less than ideal, for the energy challenged or the hung over.

Introducing Jerome Linkins!

Introducing Jerome Linkins! Jerome will be studying at O.P. JinJeromedal Global University for the Spring Semester (one of our partner schools).

Jerome is a graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in Government & Politics with a focus on International Affairs. Mr. Linkins is currently a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  Jerome studied Hindi for 3 months in Jaipur India, at the American Institute for Indian Studies.

He chose to study abroad at Jindal  to gain expertise in the International Business Arena. He aspires to work as an in-house counsel for a multi-national corporation and knows that by getting experience in India will help him in this quest, especially since many companies have ties to India. He is very excited to get first-hand knowledge of the Indian legal system and expand his worldview as an attorney.

Academic pace has picked up in Ghent!

On the academic side of life, the pace has certainly picked up. Classes will end in about 2 or 3 weeks. Exams will continue into February for most students, but I have everything set for the most part to take my exams early so I can get back to UB for the Spring Semester.  Looking at everything realistically now, I may have to be a week late for UB classes when I finally make it back.

One thing I have noticed in the development of EU law over the past 40 years is how important a role America has played. Many of the agreements (or disagreements!) between the European community and America, whether it be trade, military, or in general external relations are often challenged in the EU Court of Justice or in the WTO. Besides that, much of the controversies arise over whether the member states of the EU can act in a certain manner, or create treaties in certain areas with other countries. Much like the US federalism disputes that continue to this day!

For example, a huge treaty between the EU and the USA over energy standards in the early 2000′s was thrown out because the proper legal procedures weren’t followed when it was being negotiated. This was because differing types of treaties in the EU have different legal bases, and, thus, different procedures. There was an argument amongst the EU bodies (Parliament, Commission, and Council,) about whether the treaty was created under the Common Commercial Policy of the EU, where the Commission reigns the sole body in charge, or whether it was based on environmental protection, where the Council of Ministers is the supreme body. Without getting too much into the weeds of EU law, both bodies of the EU generally have far different goals (i.e. taking or giving power to the individual member state), different legal mechanisms, and treaty provisions.

If you want more details, read this: Case 281/01, Energy Star Agreement, ECR (2002) I-12049

This case has become part of the core case law of the EU’s capacity and legal procedures to enact international agreements. Let’s just say the US was none too happy when months of negotiations and diplomacy were thrown out the window by the EU Court.

Myself and a few others are really excited for Thanksgiving. We are going to attempt to make a proper dinner, but I foresee the results being mixed. Wish me luck cooking! Also, wish me luck staying up until 2:30 AM for the START of the Ravens-Steelers game!

Finally, here are some (of other peoples’!) pictures!

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Here is me at the Menin Gate in Ypres. I am staring at it in the bottom right corner with the blue hoodie.

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An American, a Pole, and a German walk into a bar….TO DO THE DISHES!

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The “special relationship” of the Americans and the British.