Thursday, December 23, 2010

Update: Leatherman Returned

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head…
Went outside to find my Leatherman multi-tool on the floor of my front porch.
All is well. No questions asked.
Every person, all events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you. ~ Illusions, by Richard Bach

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of Language and Personality

I was asked to give a one hour talk at the local boys college on language and personality. Ok, you can stop laughing.  The boys, and three girls were 19 years old, in a intensive one month course to develop their English skills and their personality. The purpose for both of these aspirations was so that they could get a good job. At least that is what the course description said and what they told me when I asked. Needless to say I tried to inspire an additional message: that being they were doing this also for their own personal edification, to be able to expand their communications, networking, and knowledge skills etc..  They had never heard of Mr. Shakespeare and I mentioned that learning English would give them a window on literature in the rest of the world that rarely happens to students here.

But I arrived and the professor gave a little speech and then asked Jarrina (a girl from our office, and alumni from the school who came along with me) was asked to introduce me. She didn’t know this was going to happen but got up and introduced herself and then me and I was very impressed with her, she who normally is a shy quiet young woman who sits and does her work at the office, to speak so easily and calmly.  Then the professor got up and flower lays were given out, the school principal came in, two photographers and it began to feel like the circus was in town. The introductions and ceremony took twenty minutes off my scheduled talk, but that turned out to be just fine.  I figured if I could get the kids to talk we could easily spend an hour in discussion.  But as much as I tried and jokingly threatened them with poor grades for the course, I only got 3 of the 20 or so to speak up. But they were very respectful and attentive. I tried to make as much eye contact as possible and one young man responded at the end telling me my talk was wonderful, beautiful and grateful. That’s a lot of “fullness”.  I’ve been asked back.

“In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom.

It is not always an easy sacrifice.” ~ Illusions, by Richard Bach




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Saturday, December 11, 2010


Sure has a vacuum cleaner. A simple canister type. But it wasn’t working, the plug needed to be rewired.  So I fixed it and brought it home. The neighbours saw me with it on the back of my motorcycle and gathered round to inspect this device. They had never seen one. They didn’t know what it did. So being the great vacuum salesman that I am I proceeded to demonstrate how it worked to my neighbours. I wonder what they think of me.

A street wedding for a local boy happened over the period of a week. Lights were strung on the buildings for the festive occasion.  So I bought some LED coloured lights and put them over my doorway too. I was invited, of course, and spent brief periods of time walking the streets with the crowds, getting food and standing around just watching. I could only do short walks as every time I went out my entourage of kids followed me around and forced my attention on them.  Even though I got to eat at the wedding buffet, it still costs 100 rupees as a gift to attend. Standard fare.

I was invited to the one year birthday of Khartik, son of Ganesh from work.  At the event I was told that a woman wanted to meet me. Oh good I thought, someone to talk to who hopefully speaks English. This was the case and Bernice John, a 26 year old young woman was interested in me going to meet her father the local priest of a church just outside of Barmer.  I went to the church, met and talked with Mr. John, while enjoying an omelette his wife made for me.  The whole family speaks English. I was invited to mass on Sunday.  I’ll report on that later.

On the way to the church I had just turned the corner of my street when some local boys stopped me. I don’t usually stop for these kids and I don’t know why I did so then. But they tried to get on the bike and started pawing me and it took a while to get them away so I could safely drive off. Cutting to the chase, when I got home that evening I discovered my Leatherman multi-tool was not in my belt holder. I suspect, strongly, one of the boys lifted it from me then. I have put up a poster offering a 100 rupee reward, but so far no luck.

Still waiting for a reply for my application to do a year with VSO in China.  In any case I will return to Canada in March 2011.

I bought a book at the airport when I went to Kerala to meet with Cindy and Melissa. It’s by one of my favourite authors Arundhati Roy who some of you know wrote The God of Small Things.  This book is called Listening to Grasshoppers, Field Notes on Democracy. Wish I could recommend it, but it is just too depressing to do so.  Nevertheless, I read on.

Kerala was a lot of fun. In the short week there I got to know Cindy and her daughter Melissa as we travelled around the tea plantations and waterways.  Arundhati Roy says India is a place of many centuries and Kerala had a good mixture of the 20th century.  Much more so than Barmer has. Actually, I’m not sure the 20th century has made it to Barmer.

Anyone can carry on a conversation but it’s rare to find someone who can carry on a silence.
 - Jeff Moss

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paul & Mark's October 2010 Quick Trip Specs

    Time Period: August 27th to September 19th (Mark) and 24th (Paul)

    Overall distance traveled: approximately 3,500 kilometres

    Domains encountered: smoggy city, high altitude desert, valleys, forests

    Weather Conditions: Mostly clear and sunny, cold mornings in the high altitudes, rain for a few days towards the end of the period.

    Passes passed over: Rothang La (3,980 metres/13,057 feet), Baralacha La (4,892 metres/16,050 feet),  Lachulung La, (5,065 metres/16,613 feet) Kunzam Pass (4,551 metres/14,931 feet), Jalori Pass (3,134 metres/10,282 feet), Namshang Pass (4,850 metres/15,908 feet )

    Highest Altitude reached: 5,065 metres/16,613 feet  (by comparison Mount Everest Base camp is: 5,380 metres high)

    Valleys Traveled: Kullu Valley, Lahaul Valley, Spiti Valley, Satluj Valley, Baspa Valley, Parbhati Valley, Indus River Valley, Bangor Valley

    Monasteries Meditated in: 5

    Cheapest lodging (per night): 50 rupees per bed (about $1.15 CDN)

    Most expensive lodging (per night): 600 rupees for one room (about $13.82 CDN)

    Israeli’s met: several dozen plus a few more

    Mechanical Breakdowns: 1, Paul’s clutch cable broke

    Illness and Injuries: Altitude sickness, a cold, bleeding lips, burnt nose, cut arms and legs

    Bike drops: Paul =  5 plus knocked over once by a irresponsible rampaging cow,  Mark =  1 (but the stone on the road jumped up at me!)

    Best place for a Cappuccino: any CafĂ© Coffee Day

    Animals encountered on the road (other than the human type): cows, horses, goats, sheep, quails, and ferrets, and some brown animal called a Loopku that eats the legs off of sheep (according to Paul) plus camels and peafowl (in Rajasthan on Mark’s way back)

    Landslides encountered: 10 plus (including one active one that occurred minutes before we went around the freshly fallen rock debris)

    Road Rivers driven through: 10 plus

    Hot Springs:  3     Went in:  2,   Vashisht and Kiriganga


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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Long and Slow Road

November 15, 2010

I’m back in Barmer, Rajasthan. Asked by SURE to complete the work I was not able to continue six months ago of getting a new executive director for them, I came back to my same old house, same crazy kids on the street and same rat infested office.

I picked up the pieces from where I left off and had Chanchal do some telephone interviews while I convalesced in Delhi from Dengue Fever.  Three candidates were still available after all this time and I invited them to Barmer for in-person interviews.  The first one came this past weekend.

The process seemed to go well and I got to spend some good time with the person as did SURE’s leadership. I was pleased with how well it was going even though I was not prepared to comment on the suitability of this candidate at that time. In any case SURE needed this experience, they never had to replace their charismatic founder Mag Raj Jain since he began the organization over 20 years ago.

Sunday was wrap-up time and I left the candidate to himself a couple of hours before his return train ride home to Delhi feeling job well done and now for a cold beer.

I bought the beer, smuggled it past the neighbours and children and closed my windows and doors, opened the bottle, was about to pour a glass when…… my cell phone rang.   It was the general manager of the hotel, where my candidate had stayed, asking me to quickly come to the hotel as my guy was crying on the floor and there was a broken bottle around him.  It was 6:15 pm.  The train was leaving at 6:30 pm. I rushed off on my motorcycle in shorts and flip-flops at a rate I normally don’t travel at, but I don’t want to further incriminate myself in case my insurance company is reading.

At the hotel I found my gentleman passed out on the floor outside his the room in which he last stayed at. About 10 of the hotel staff was all around looking down at him. They had swept his broken whisky bottle to a corner. I woke him up and got him to his feet telling him we’re going to the train. He cold hardly walk so two of us held him up. One of the staff got his two bags and fortunately the SURE jeep was outside and we drove the short distance to the station. I put him into his sleeper-class coach with his bags and waited for the train to leave the station. Yes I wanted to make sure he was on his way. I figured it would be better for him to sleep off his inebriation on the train.

So went the day. My open bottle of beer still had some fizz and I finally drank it but feeling very emotionally drained. I slept in to 10am the next morning.

Next: candidate’s 2 and 3 in the weeks to come.

But first a short vacation to visit Kerala with some friends. Ahhhhhh….


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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 26, 2010, Last day in Barmer

I had already packed up my first four bags and left Barmer last June 15.  But I left behind another 5 bags that I returned to collect and say my goodbyes.  Where did I get all this stuff?

Well some of it is not coming back to Canada, like kitchen stuff and other household items.  Some of the bulk is also for the camel, and that too will stay behind when I leave. Still, I will have to ship some stuff off, like my very large custom made quilt, before I exit stage left.

I was lucky when I arrived at Barmer, it had been raining for a few days before I arrived and it rained the next day as well.  So I got a break from dogging raindrops, but not from large puddles, mud and other collections of water and street waste.

From the train, which arrived at 10am, I bought some fresh batteries for my camera and then headed off by foot to my house.  Camera batteries always die just as you need them the most.  As soon as I was just a few blocks away from my house I was welcomed back by the kids on the street. On my street a large group of all my little friends gathered around me and walked me to the front gate. As usually I negotiated (squeezed) myself past them and locked the front door with them yelling on the patio.

The house was a mess inside with all the rain and sand that did manage to get in and onto the floors. I didn’t clean. My purpose was in another direction. I just started packing the rest of what I needed to take and made a pile of stuff I wanted to give away.  At one point I started letting kids in to take some of stuff I was leaving, like empty jars, some food, forks and spoons, plates and bowls and so on.  I also put some stuff aside that I was going to give to the Sharma family.  Good thing too, for soon as the neighbours got hold of the fact that was giving things away a mob of all ages barged in and began taking things.  They asked first, which was nice, but often didn’t wait for an answer.  I just let them take things and tried to make sure there was some sort of even dispersion, but I don’t think that worked out.  It seemed like mayhem for a while.  The kids did come back after storing their items (like squirrels) asking for anything else that might have been left, but I told them no but I would buy them all a Pepsi (which is a 1 rupee frozen flavoured ice treat, not the soda drink) then walked them all to Lalit’s corner store. Cost me 14 rupees to make everyone happy.

I went back and the house was quiet and I finished my final pack.  Vishal had brought his father’s car from Balotra and we stuffed everything inside. I locked up the house and said my last farewell to my neighbours.  I don’t think the kids understood I was leaving for good, which was good as I got to see their smiling faces as I left.

We drove to the Sharma’s and Vishal stayed there a bit with me but soon left to go to the office (I still had the Honda Splendor motorcycle to get around)  All except the father, Satish, were there and they did not conceal their sadness at my departure.  I stayed for some coffee and small talk and then said good-bye. I got a picture of them with their sad faces as they watched me leave.  Pawan (the mother) told me I had to come back to India for Suprya’s wedding.  Suprya did not like the sound of this notification of her future engagement.

I took one side trip to see Mag Raj Jain.  He was still in poor health, as he has been for many months now and we spoke little but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to thank him and say good bye.

Then off to the office for another series of good-byes. This was fairly quick and only Lata admitted that she was sad to see me go.  I told her I would continue to support and work for SURE, but via the internet.  If I was needed to return for a workshop or something similar, I would also arrange for that.  So I’m still officially volunteering for SURE, just from a distance.

I took a walk around town to try to meet up with some of the various merchants I had befriended to say good by to them. I was lucky to meet quite a few of them along with the General Manager of the Kalinga Hotel, Shahul Hammed, who had been very kind and helpful to me during all my stay there.

Vishal, who was also saying goodbye, as he had left his job with SURE to seek out a new adventure, was noticeably glad to get away as well as we headed out towards Balotra, his hometown.  The first few kilometres out of town were under construction and very muddy due to the rains.  That’s were we got the flat tire.  The spare was bald and had the internal wires sticking out the minimal tread. But it got us to the next town and the puncture repair guy.  45 minutes later we were on our way with no incidence.

Supper at the Patwari’s and a casual next day with them smoothed over the rush of the day before. It rained almost all day and the streets were many inches deep. On the way to the train station we left a good wake behind the car.  I talked with Vishal on the platform waiting for the train about his idea to start a school in Balotra.  He’s still working on the idea.

A lot of train stations have lighted markers to tell you where you coach will stop so you can be waiting there when the train comes in. Unfortunately this is not the case at Balotra. The baggage carriers told us where the A2 coach would stop and we waited under a shelter until the train came.  Of course the coach was still a bit of a run to get to.  You only have two minutes to get to and on the train. Much too short with five heavy packs.

So once I was safely on board, I said my goodbye to Vishal, sorted out the sheets and blanket and lay down on my train bed as I transitioned into the next phase of this journey.

Delhi or bust!

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”  - Rumi


Monday, April 12, 2010


I’ve been writing a lot about driving in India. I’ve also read a few other very funny accounts all along the same kind of lines I have been describing. But I write for a reason, and that is to try to understand this seemingly crazy world.  The mind is always trying to put some cosmos into the chaos all around us and I have stretched my imagination in all sorts of directions trying to understand the patterns of behaviour that goes into the driving culture in India.  And finally I had a revelation. My educational background is based in developmental psychology, so I was thinking about the different developmental aspects of a 3rd world country as different to that of a 1st world one when I realized I could be very specific with my theories and apply the concepts directly to driving.  My mind zipped ahead and revealed what the basis’s were for the driving behaviours one sees in India. And it comes down to this question, I put to you dear reader:  What would happen if you took, say, 100 to a couple of million ten year old boys, gave them all motorcycles, cars and trucks and let them loose on the streets? And the answer is: you would witness the Indian driving mentality.
Western cultures were slowly introduced to using mechanical transportation over many decades and generations. The lessons of the physics of a vehicle, of courtesy, of laws and what we like to call common sense were embedded slowly into our consciousness.  The Indian culture did not have these lessons. Their country was seen as a market opportunity (and not just for cars) as many modern technologies were introduced, regardless of their ability to use these devices. Hey, we all drive, so certainly the Indians could do so as well.  Well, it just ain’t so and the proof is found driving around anywhere in the country.  And it’s not just the drivers, although they represent a large part of the driving environment, it’s also the pedestrians, the bicyclists, the cart drivers and so on.  None of them follow any sort of what we would call “sensible orderly rules”.  As a pedestrian, if you want to wear black and walk down the middle of a busy street at night, so be it. That’s the way it is, because you haven’t the foggiest idea about what it would mean to be hit even by a small motorcycle traveling at 50kpm.  Who, by the way, is also driving with no lights!
So let me review with you some of the basic behaviour characteristics we commonly associate with a ten year old mentality so you can get the idea of how the mentality of the road ways work around here. Ten year olds are:

Are not courteous (yes there are exceptions but these are general terms)
They are often oblivious and don’t look where they’re going
They’re focused only on their own selves
They take chances because they think they can live forever
They exceed their capacity because they don’t even know they have a capacity for anything
They know everything so they can do no wrong
And are competitive

You get the idea. The actual manifestations of these characteristics, as I’ve said, I and others have written all about, and with great amusement, I do confess. Now I await your comments.

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.  ~Albert Einstein


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Body Image

I only have a small, head size mirror at my home. So when I recently stayed at a hotel in Udaipur with Vincent, where there was a full length mirror, for the first time in many months I saw my whole body and ….. it was not me!  That was my first thought. My own body image was different from what I was seeing in the mirror. It was very strange to be looking at someone else yet also knowing it was me! I knew that I had lost a lot of weight but that skinny person in the mirror didn’t look like me at all. Yes, I’m trying to put the weight back on, but with summer now almost here, I am drinking more than eating. I guess I’ll have to wait until I get back to Canada and hope I don’t disappear altogether before then.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time...but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.  
Lilla Watson (Australian Aboriginal Woman)



Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mt. Abu, Udaipur and Birthdays

I didn’t leave early in the morning to Mt. Abu to catch the cooler air. But that was ok, the temperatures are getting hotter but on the motorcycle you constantly have an airflow.  Of course in the middle of summer this airflow is often over 45C degrees but these days it’s tolerable.
I was the only large bike on the road and one of the few guys with a helmet and only one with a white helmet.  Maybe that’s why the highway police stopped me. I pulled over and took off my helmet and the officer recognizing he had a foreigner to deal with, asked me where I was going.  “Mt. Abu” I said and he signalled me on. That was it. But I pulled out my handmade map and asked him if my route was ok to which he agreed.
My route through flat desert terrain was now familiar to me, so when I started to see mountains off in the distance getting closer I was eager to get into their midst. Mt. Abu is called a hill station and is situated in the Aravalli Range, one of the oldest in the world, at about 1723 metres (5,653 feet) above sea level. Not that high but high enough to be a bit cooler. In the past winter the temps dropped to 0C while it was still 10C in Barmer.
I stopped at a petrol station along the way(I still have to consciously think the word “petrol” instead of “gas”) to ask directions.  Some older men sitting in the shade ordered one of the boys to go get me water and told me that Mt. Abu was 50kilometers away by highway and 25kilometers by hill.  I wanted to do the hill of course, but never found the turn-off. But the route in was still quite marvellous.  (a link to the pics will soon be posted on this BLOG) A narrow twisty road rising through an open forest of naked trees. Traveling at 50 kph allowed me to enjoy the ride and the scenery at the same time.
Mt. Abu is a tourist destination, and at this time of year it was almost 100% Indian tourists.  There were very expensive to very cheap hotels available all around a lake that has lost more than half its water volume.  Still, boat rentals were popular so long as you packed at least 5 into a rowboat that was rowed by a guide.  They wouldn’t allow me to row my own boat and go off by myself, so I passed on that marine adventure. 
I found a 200 rupee a night hotel, basic and clean, and spent two nights there.  The next day was my birthday and I got up and went to Coffee Day, where they have real brewed coffee, and had a cappuccino and a veg sandwich for breakfast.  I was surprised to see that they were selling a French coffee press (Bodum) and for 250 rupees I bought myself a birthday present. I bought the only one they had.
From the map I had of the town, I decided to go find this place called Toad Rock, but on the way got side tracked by an interesting road through a poor part of town and ended up at the base of a nearby mountain which called to me.  So up I trekked in my flip-flops of course.  It didn’t take me more than half an hour to get to the twin peaks and I hung out there in the cool breeze looking down at the lake and boats and mobs of tourists below.  My water bottle was spiked with rehydration solution, an essential ingredient for me these days, so I was feeling well and peaceful as the man on the mountain.

The highway to Udaipur was recently built and was close to North American standards. Signage was not great but then there was only one road to travel on so you couldn’t really get lost.  Well I could as there was no sign for the Udaipur turnoff, so I kept going when I shouldn’t have. One of the design problems with the four-lane divided highway was that for over 80 kilometres was that there were few opportunities for vehicles to cross over the median.  This meant that there was often two way traffic on each side of the highway, so the assumption that just because you’re on the “correct” side of the road means you have the right of way, is dust in the wind.  And of course as I have written before, there are all those other challenges on the road to be cautious about, even a multi-lane highway.
Udaipur is a fairly large city and not laid out in a way that navigation is easy.  But my traveling experiences have taught me to stop often and ask directions and in this way I was able to find, without too much trouble, the hotel that Vincent had booked.
Vincent had just finished his two year VSOI volunteer posting in Pune and was doing some touring around India before he went back to the UK.  He was going to go to the Mt. Everest base camp as well in the weeks ahead.  So he had wanted to see Udaipur and booked an expensive hotel room with a view of the lake.  He allowed me to stay with him and pay him what I could afford, which was very generous of him. I arrived before him and checked in to a marvellous hotel, squeezed in at the end of a narrow street, right on the lake.  It was very cute and comfortable and I headed straight for the shower.  Vincent arrived later in the afternoon and by chance he saw me in the streets from his taxi from the airport was taking him in.  So I hopped into his cab and went to the hotel.  I spent the next two days sightseeing with him and drinking beer.  One of the sights we visited was the Monsoon Temple, some 7 kilometres out of town on top of a mountain (where else?).  We took an auto-rickshaw to the base and walked up the road to the top, getting there just in time to see the sunset, as was our plan.
I spent an afternoon with Bruce, a Canadian who has been living in India on and off for ten years working as a consultant for Seva Mandir, one of Rajasthan’s largest NGOs.  I had contacted him because Ann had met him on one of her trips here and suggested I get together with him. He has been working on water conservation and sanitation issues and had some interesting stories to tell. Like the one about the eco-toilets that were installed that no one uses because a) no one asked the locals if they wanted them and b) no one trained them on how to use these devices.
I also spent time with Chanchal’s brother, Himachu  who lives in Udaipur.  He came to the hotel and picked Vincent and me up and took us out for dinner and a visit to his mother. As we drove through Udaipur in the dark he pointed out the many sight along the way. He was very generous with his time and it was nice to get to know him.

Friday back to Barmer and I meandered through the desert, deviating from my planned route as I got different directions along the way. About 25 kilometres from Barmer the bike died.  It seemed like the same electrical problem I had on my last trip.  I called Vishal and he set out to come get me.  But even though I was in the middle of an empty desert, before long about ten Indian men were around me trying to help me get the bike going again. They didn’t really do anything but they got it started somehow and I continued my journey until I met Vishal along the road.  My whole journey was about 832 kilometres (516 miles), start to finish and I think that my biking time is now curtailed until the after the summer heat.

The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom. - H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Codes of Conduct in the West as Different from those in India

By Mark L. Takefman With thanks to Margaret R. Campbell, Louse Creber and Michael Rosenkrantz for their contributions

This guide is intended for those Indians who will one day visit a western country and need to be aware of certain cultural behaviours that are different from those in their own county.  I’m not including every difference such as driving codes and attitudes, just some of the basic differences a newbie to Canada or America might need to know when they get off the plane. These include, but are not limited to:

General Public Behaviour

·       No spitting.
·       No blowing your nose in public without using a tissue.
·       No picking your nose in public.
·       No scratching your groin or rear end in public.
·       No urinating in public, use a public washroom.
·       No littering.
·       It is not polite to stare at people, some people will even get mad and begin a fight with you.
·        No “J” walking, that is crossing a road in the middle of a block instead of at a corner. (this is not enforced everywhere)

·       Form lines and no line or “Q” jumping.
·       Don’t push and shove anyone.
·       When getting onto a train, metro, trolley or bus etc. always wait outside until disembarking passengers are off first.
·       It’s ok for a man to shake hands with a woman and visa versa.
·       Time: well let’s just say, it’s not the same in the West. It’s much faster in the West
·       Time: part two, being late is ill-considered unless some good reason is given. What is late, usually more than 10 to 15 minutes in most cases.
·       Don’t be surprised to find most things in USA and Canada are made in China.
·       Smoking is not permitted in many public and private places.
·       Woman’s clothing is often much more revealing.
·       Men can wear shorts (short pants) in public.
·       An individual’s personal space (around their own body) is larger than in India, stand back.
·       People don’t smile as much as they do in India, but it’s ok to smile.
·       Dogs and cats are common household pets.
·       Lotteries are legal and there are numerous ticket booths to purchase your luck. But be advised, lotteries are nothing more than a tax on those with poor mathematical skills. Still, it’s sometimes nice to dream.

·       You should have some emergency medical insurance when travelling.
·       If you have an emergency medical situation, the health care system in Canada is free upon entry.  You may have to pay a fee after your incident which you would claim back from your insurance company.
·       In the USA, you (generally) need to have insurance or show that you can pay for services on the spot.
·       Many of the drugs you can buy over the counter in India are prescription drugs in North America and you cannot purchase them from the Pharmacist (i.e. the chemist) with out a Doctors script.
·       You purchase medical drugs from a Pharmacy or Drug Store.

·       Bartering for goods is not the norm, it does happen, but very rarely.  Most items for sale are fixed prices. But many stores (shops) have ongoing SALES with lowered prices.
·       Most items in stores have electronic tags on them to protect against shoplifters. If your purchased items have not been de-commissioned at the cash register, when you leave the store your products will ring alarm bells, and if there is one, a guard will stop you.
·       While cash is always acceptable, many people use credit cards to pay for things.
·       Many public places and stores have video cameras to watch your every move.

·       Do not interrupt conversations in progress unless it is urgent. Wait for a time to speak.
·       Do not speak in a loud voice.
·       It’s not ok to ask how old or any other personal questions or to remark how fat or make any other negative personal observation.  Positive comments are welcome like: “You look great in that dress.” (this would be to a woman of course)
·       On the other hand – how did you meet your wife/husband a good opener, unlike in India

·       Do not drop by uninvited.
·       Respect the privacy of others, especially around ATMs (ABMs as they are also called)
·       Do not investigate the drawers, closets, purses, luggage or any other item in someone’s household .
·       Not generally ok to ask where someone is going or what they are doing or to peer into their shopping bags.
·       Curiosity in general discouraged.
The Washroom

·       You won’t find squat toilets.
·       Toilet paper is used in the washrooms instead of water and hands, sometimes you can find a bidet, but not in public places.
·       Many public toilets and urinals have automatic flushing mechanisms so you don’t have to touch any handles. 
·       And many public sinks also have automatic water valves on sensors.
·       You still wash your hands after using the washroom.
·       Paper towels and/or electric blow drying units are available to dry your hands.  If not use your pants like in India.
·       Showers and baths replace the bucket bath.
·       Men should lift the toilet seat to the upright position when urinating, and return it to the down position when finished. Women can do the opposite.
Culinary Habits

·       Breakfast is often between 7am to 8am, lunch is at 12pm (noon) and dinner is often a 6pm.  These are general times, as family schedules can change these periods. Eating at 8pm often happens after one has gone out to a show or movie.
·       Children, men and women eat together, at the same time for meals, but not necessarily the same thing.
·       When eating, you generally use a fork and other types of cutlery.  Eating with the hands is allowed only for certain “finger foods” and for confectionary.
·       It is not taboo to use your left hand for eating.
·       Dessert comes at the end of a meal with tea and/or coffee.
·       Tipping waiters is between 15% to 20% (unless a gratuity charge is indicated on the bill).
·       Chinese vegetarian food is very different from Indian vegetarian, you have to try some.
·       Most people eat meat, so the term non-veg is not used. You are either a meat eater (carnivore) or a vegetarian, vegan, fruitarian or something else.
·       You can drink water right from the tap, but many people also use water filters, or purchase bottled water ( which is 90% the same as tap water but bottled).
·       When eating out, people generally sit for around 30 minutes to an hour after the meal having coffee and talking before asking for the bill, we consider this an important part of eating out.

·       An older courtesy requires men to allow women to enter a doorway first and the man will hold the door open for her, and will pull out a chair for a woman to sit on (that is if she wants to sit).
·       In addition, men will stand when a new arrival (male or female) to the table arrives. Your choice.
·       Many modern business women wear suits that look similar to men’s suits.
Legal Issues

·       Never attempt to bribe a police officer, it could land you in jail.
·       Police carry guns and often also have tasers (which is an electroshock incapacitant weapon used for subduing a person by administering electric shock aimed at disrupting superficial muscle functions).
Some Driving Issues

·       When driving and your car is approached by an emergency vehicle, such as a police car, ambulance or fire vehicle that has its lights flashing and sirens on, you must immediately pull over and let them pass. If you are on the opposite side of the road you must also slow down and even stop to make sure they have a clear and safe right of way.
·       Be advised, if you rent a car, traffic tickets are a major source of income for the police, don’t speed etc., and don’t park in non-parking zones or without putting money in the parking meter.
·       Don’t rent a car until you talk to me first, car rental companies will get you to take out all sorts of insurances and options you don’t need.
·       In some cities, you need to find this out when you visit different cities, when you are driving you are allowed to turn right at a red traffic light after you stop and the way is clear.  This is not allowed in Montreal and New York City. Right not left!
·       Driving while Under the Influence of any intoxicant, even of prescription drugs, is illegal.
 ·       Vehicles entering a main road do not have the right of way and must stop until the way is clear.
·       Drive in lanes only, you will be ticketed if you drive down the lines on the road.
·       In Canada, vehicles have daylight running head lights, which are on all the time. But you must turn on all the regular lights at night as well.
·       Horn honking is rarely used unless you’re a goose.
·       There is a difference between Yielding and Merging.  Of course, not all North American drivers know this either.
·       Drivng while using a cell phone or other device, such as an iPod is not allowed in most places. Pull over to talk. No text messaging while driving either.
  • Re Bicycles: In some cities like Toronto, children are required by law to wear a bicycle helmet. Most adults wear them too.