This post is part of a fifteen-day series covering my trip to Kolkata, India in May 2013. Some entries have been slightly edited for length or content, but they are mostly copied directly from my journal.

4:56am
Hotel Circular, Kolkata
Room 44

When Tom first saw the Hotel Circular website, he remarked that they must have a pretty tricky photographer to make it look so nice. I’ll admit that the photos swindled me a little bit: I expected something nicer than the reality of this hotel. But it’s really not bad. In most ways, I’d rank it just a few steps up from the YMCA, and maybe a few steps down from the YWCA here in Kolkata. The fact that it has air conditioning in the rooms, though, bumps it up about a million steps from either. Sweet, lovely A/C.

The hotel rooms are very small–my single room is barely more than a bed, a bureau, and a few feet of floor space. The bed is really just a foam mattress about four inches thick laid on a wooden slab. It’s not lumpy, but my back is a bit sore.

Room 44

Room 44

The bathroom is a standard Indian-style wash room with an open shower, several buckets for what I’m sure are specific uses, and a toilet that goes soaked during every shower. There is hot water, but I don’t know that I’ll use it–cold showers feel so good after a day in the heat here.

The restaurant downstairs is small with a pretty varied menu. we ate there last night, and the meal was satisfying. There were, of course, some misunderstandings between ourselves and the waiter. Nothing makes you question your assumptions and habits more than someone responding to every request as if it is the strangest thing he’s ever heard.

  • You all want a bottle of water?
  • You want naan and rice but no gravy? Are you sure?
  • You want the whole meal on one room tab?
  • Hotel Circular's Restaurant

    Hotel Circular’s Restaurant

The students have a lot of questions. Already the differences between India and home are a little overwhelming for them–they are noticing the lack of regard for lines, the starting, the in-your-face poverty, the absurdity of the driving culture/lack of traffic laws/constant risk of traffic accidents, and the complicated nature of paying for anything. Almost 24 hours of traveling will do that to a person.

Last night after everyone was asleep, I wrote little notes to each team member and slipped them under their hotel doors. I wanted everyone to know ho glad I am that they are here with us. I think we got really lucky and have a phenomenal group. The personalities , so far, jive well. I feel bad that I can’t answer a lot of their questions with certainty, but only because there is so little certainty in India. They just haven’t learned that for themselves y, but they will.

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