Exploring Thanjavur.

We needed to buy some stuff for the games pilot on Friday – mostly stationery and Rs5 coins. I tagged along with one of our surveyors to market in town for this. With an excuse to make sure he got the right things, I was just excited to get out and explore Thanjavur.

Getting to town on an auto(rickshaw).

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What on earth am I doing in here?

My task this month is to help set up a lab-like experiment in the field which will be added to the ongoing microfinance project in Tamil Nadu. Basically,we’re trying to measure something abstract like trust or altruism of people in the study. We want to learn about how people make decisions so we could use this information to help with policy design. An experiment would involve us going to people in villages and let them make decisions that involve real money. These decision exercises are called “games” as in game theory. If you’ve done some game theory, you may have heard of trust game, dictator game, and so on.

An easy example would be the dictator game. We give a person Rs50. He/she then can divide this money and give to someone with whom they are paired from a nearby village (he won’t know the identity of the other person). We ask how much he would give out of this Rs50. The decision would be completely private so the subject won’t feel judged  by us. Under a well controlled experiment, the amount given should reflect norms, altruism of that person and that’s how we measure “altruism.”

Our main focus is actually about trust rather than altruism. I’m just too lazy to explain the trust game here haha. Just google it if you’re interested. My job is to help figure out how we go about implementing these “games” whether it should be in a workshop or as a survey going from household to household. There will be a lot of issues to solve. If I have time, I’ll write about them later.

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I live here in India.

I’ll be spending one month in Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. The town used to be the capital of the Chola empire which ruled Southern India for over a millennium (pretty impressive, huh). The main attraction here is the Brihadeeswarar temple which represents the Dravidian art and culture at its peak. I’ll post pictures later when I actually visit the place. Now I have to focus on work first.

Here is the place I’ll be staying for a month from now.

It’s difficult to explain what exactly this building is for. The first floor is some kind of government agency. Then, on the second floor, there is a private clinic. Then the third floor is tadaaa where I’ll be staying. My first impression was like soooo this is what my professor has been calling a “research center” – one floor in a building that stands in the middle of nowhere. Continue reading

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When in Rome, Do as Romans do.

We went out for lunch at a nice restaurant the other day. I had a South Indian Thali (Rs125). I didn’t take a picture, but it looked exactly like this (pic from this cool blog).

You’re supposed to eat it with your right hand. Pour those little bowls of sauce over rice, then use all five fingers to mix it. There is a correct order of things to put on rice. I only remember that it started with Sambar (the lowest bowl). There are 4 different types of sauce and the rest are vegetables and desserts.

To eat, you use four fingers as a spoon to scoop up rice, then push it in your mouth with your thumb. It was pretty awkward. Probably takes some practice to get used to. Afterwards, my nails still smelled like spices after multiple washes.

About the taste…hmm.. most of the soups are sour (tamarind-based), spicy, and salty. Unfortunately these are not favorite.

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Streets of India.

Someone told me once before that there were a LOT of stuff on streets in India. Here are some. I’ll update this more when I have a chance to get around.

On the way from Trichy to Thanjavur.
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Rough start.

My trip from North Carolina to India was super tiring. 36 hours door to door. I was a little disappointed too because I was supposed to fly Etihad through the Arabian desert to Abu Dhabi. But, something happened in New York so all flights going there got cancelled and I was put on the next day British Airways flight to London instead.

London Heathrow, in my memory, was the worst airport ever (well, at least, among the big int’l airports). The first time I arrived in London in 2007, they held me for 5 hours in the airport for a lung x-ray. Everything was so slow, so inefficient. This time around, however, I felt different. It was actually not too bad. It could be that this time Heathrow made me feel nostalgia about what I missed in London (I spent a year here in 2007-8). Ah, the British accent. Yummy Matcha latte from EAT. Hot Wagamama’s noodle. And many more.

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An Itinerary for 5 Days 4 Nights in Bangkok

Follows from this post: My friend is Going to Thailand!

A good video introduction to Thailand: “Hearing the Sunshine”
And a soundtrack for this page: One night in Bangkok :)

A few tips before getting started:
1. Get a small guidebook with good maps.
*When you’re looking for a name in the map, remember that we try to rewrite Thai in English, so just find something with similar pronunciation, not necessarily exact match. (“Ph” = “p” not “f”, “Th”=”t”)
2. Try to break down your bills to B20 or B100 or coins. Things are cheap. Don’t flash around your B1000 bills. The current exchange rate is around B31 = $1.
3. For any English name, the Thai way of pronouncing it is always trying to break down all syllables and say them with no stress on any particular one.  Go all American accent and the cab driver won’t understand you.

Day 1: Welcome to Krung Tep! (Do learn how to say its full name.)

11AM: Airport – Hotel – Robinson Lad Ya (lunch at MK restaurant) – Museum Siam – 5PM Yaowarat (dinner in China town) – 9PM Khao San Road

1. First destination is of course to check in your hotel. This is a good opportunity to learn how to get around in Bangkok. Means of transportation here include BTS, MRT, Airport Link, and taxi. For your reference, this map is all you need to know:

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