Oh, there are pet-phrases and pat-answers you can give like "You need to have a lot of patience" - - or, "Things take forever to get completed...everything runs late..." or..."The traffic is just insane!!" But unless you are here to experience it for yourself...you really can't get a taste of what it's like!
One of the things we have attempted to do with this blog is to be as accurate (and hopefully, entertaining!) as we can about life here "At Home In Hyderabad"....and sometimes a tale just needs telling as soon as it happens so the memory is fresh in our minds. Here is one such story.
Today, Amy Suzanne and I went into the city to get our vaccinations and certificates for yellow fever for our upcoming trip to Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). Although we had been human-pin-cushions when we came to India..."yellow fever" vaccinations are not required or even recommended - the outbreaks of the disease seem to be limited to central and eastern Africa and now...South America as well.
It seems that there is only one government-approved vaccination clinic here in town...even the nicer, larger hospitals like Apollo tell you to go to them. You find out online that yellow fever vaccinations are only given on Tuesdays and Fridays at this clinic. Booking online is "available" - but neither Google Chrome or Internet Explorer liked the system very much, so I ended up composing an e-mail. I must say that they were very quick to respond...asking us for the pertinent information like our passport numbers and where/when we would be traveling.
We got an appointment for today, Friday 9 December 2011 - and our time was sort-of flexible - anywhere from 10:45 A.M. until 11:15 A.M. Obviously everybody at the clinic is aware of the traffic problems in the area...especially in the more Muslim areas of town on a Friday morning (the Muslim "sabbath" for lack of a better term...I'm sure there's a more proper one!)
Now - one of the things that you really need to experience for yourself is the fact that - here in Hyderabad - and just about every city or town in India - there are street names...but no street SIGNS!! There are addresses (called "plot numbers") - but nobody uses them and they are not displayed on buildings. Instead - there are neighborhood names (like Ameerpet, Begumpet, Madhapur, Somaji Guda...) - today's appointment was south of the main landmark in town - the Hussain Sagar Lake (which many of the locals still call "Tank Bund" - so it helps to know both names!) - - in a neighborhood called Narayan Guda.
There are no real "stay right-turn left-go straight" directions used in telling somebody how to get to some place or another...they use "landmarks" here - like for us...we say we live "in Banjara Hills, near the Q-Mart". Exact addresses are never given - because - as I said - they are not painted or listed on the buildings, so what would be the use?? Instead...you would say that a certain place is "next to" or (my favorite because it has so many meanings) "adjacent to"...or "opposite" - what we in the U.S. would call "across from" - but again - "opposite" has a wide-ranging set of meanings - it could actually mean a block-or-so away in either direction...
Today's location had been given to us as: "In Narayan Guda, near YMCA, next to Madapati Hanumantha Rao Girls High School" Actually - by most standards...that's a pretty good set of "directions" right there. Our regular caretaker/driver Radha Krishna has had the week off to enjoy a festival in his home village - - so we had our backup driver - our security man - Sangamesh - take us to the clinic.
Things could have gotten off the rails quickly, because we got to the place and - it was not to be found. The contact number we were given in case we got lost just rang and rang and rang with no answer. Sangamesh gets out of the car and asks a few people on the street if they knew the place...and they did, thank God!!
Now - pulling into the place...both my reaction and Amy Suzanne's were the same...although unspoken. "What the hell is this place...?? I'm not even going in the door...much less let them give me a shot!! A M*A*S*H unit would have looked more stable! An old dilapidated building with peeling paint an falling plaster. The signage didn't exactly say what the place was...but when Sangamesh asked the guy standing in front, we got the full-on Indian head-bob which indicated we were at least close to being in the right place.
Below are some photos so you can see what we mean!!
Anyway - - thank God we ran into a man who spoke perfect English who took pity on "the big white couple" who must have looked like a couple of deers in the headlights. It turns out that you go and pay your fees at one place (around the corner) - then come back with your receipt - and get in line for the vaccinations. Thanks to this kind man, the process actually went very smoothly. Once we paid, we got seen immediately. Suzanne went first...and - after making double-sure that the syringes were new in the wrapper and that alcohol was being liberally used...she got her vaccination and I did likewise. They processed our passports in almost no time at all...gave us our stamped and signed certificates (good for 10 years, thank God!)
Overall - it was a good experience that went smoothly...