Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Next Morning
So let’s state the facts: it has been over 3 months since I last posted; it’s been about a month and a half since I left India; I had the best four months of my life.
I understand that my posting has not been up to par. My journaling fell behind as well. But, in my defense, it was a very busy and sometimes rough last few months in India.
When we last left off I was preparing for Goa, the beach state in India. We went to the southern part of the state to find as little tourists as possible (even though they were still in abundance). We took an overnight bus Friday night and then one back Sunday evening/Monday morning, which made for a very short and sweet trip. After navigating the local bus system to Palolem Beach where the opening scene of one of the Bourne Trilogy movies was shot. Aka, it was stunningly gorgeous. The beach is lined with bars/restaurants and little huts that you can stay in. We waded across a river (never finding a supposed bridge our friends informed us of) then scrambled up some rocks to find our hotel. There we met TJ, who we later had to hide from because he told us we could kill him with a spoon. That event sent us straight to a bar on the other side of the beach. Saturday night I led us back to our hotel with my phone in mouth acting as a flashlight, my broken sandals in one hand, and my incoherent friends in the other. We had a great relaxing weekend and I came back with just enough sun that my host mom wasn’t mad at me for ruining my fair skin.
After Goa, my next big trip was going to Rajasthan. I don’t even think I can begin to give you a detailed recap of that week. I would need at least 3 blog posts to describe how utterly amazing every aspect of that trip was. One of the big reasons for that was that through some family connections of one of the girls on my trip, we ended up with free rooms, tours of each city, and 3 rajasthani meals courtesy of Taj hotels – basically the Hilton of India. Here is a list of some of the amazing things that happened that week:
1. Our first room was the presidential suite at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. Yes, it is a palace on a lake. And yes, we were greeted by rose petals. Our butler’s name was Shree. We cried in front of him when he showed us our room.
2. We watched a rajasthani dance performance with Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire and then had a private rajasthani thali on the roof of Taj Lake Palace.
3. In one day I saw camels, elephants, peacocks, and horses.
4. Our second hotel was the Umaid Bhagwan Palace in Jodhpur. That’s right, another palace. And this one was on a hilltop and so big we thought we were the only guests.
5. We explored the beautifully painted and ornate City Palace in Udaipur and two fascinating forts in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.
6. We rode camels through the Thar desert at sundown. I ate sand when I fell on my face after running down a sand dune. An Indian man told me I was a brave woman.
7. I saw turbans, mustaches, and colors like I’ve never seen them before.
When I got back from Rajasthan (which is now my number one place in India), it was Diwali – the festival of lights. I celebrated with my host family by trying to eat everything they put in front of me and the preceding to get sick. But it was totally worth it and delicious. I also hiked Sinhgad fort and then had my first hitchhiking experience. My host mom taught me rangoli, which is making designs with sand on the ground and a lot more difficult than it looks. I didn’t master it, but just one more thing that made me more Indian. I also listened to people set off firecrackers, which sounded more like bombs, for 2 days straight no matter where the sun was in the sky.
For the last month that I was in Pune I tried to spend as much time as possible with my friends, host family, and being a part of the culture and place that I had come to love and call home. Unfortunately, some circumstances at home with the health of a loved one distracted me from my time living in the present while I was in India and reflecting on that time while I was there. I realized just how hard it is to try to be in two places at once and how easily my emotions could become frustrating and overbearing. Looking back now I’m sad that I may have missed out on seeing something more while I was there, but life doesn’t stop for anything or anyone. You’ve just got to roll with it, no matter where you are in the world.
For the remaining last few weeks in Pune I was wrapping up classes and my internship at the Epiphany School. There I was able to meet staff, faculty, students, and parents in interview settings to look at factors affecting teacher motivation in a school catering to students from slum areas, such as this one. I also finally took a tour of my city, seeing a lot of things that I never even knew where there and at the same time being proud that for most places I knew where we were. The bus tour was done in Marathi and by a driver who really liked to blow his whistle at all of the sights, but we enjoyed it none the less. I also went with my program to see a kabaddi tournament, which is a unique game in India, Britain, Australia, and some other countries and has rules that I don’t fully understand but compare to tag. I spent Thanksgiving with the staff and students on my program and was thankful for all of them being with me and the turkey that I think we got through the black market.
My last trip that I took in India was to Hampi, in Karnataka. It’s a city of old ruins from an ancient Hindu empire. We did the overnight bus again and got our physical activity on by biking around the city on Saturday and then riding in a wicker boat, crossing fields, and climbing up a hill on Sunday. It was a great last trip with some very awesome people and beautiful sights.
During my last week in India I bought a saree and discovered how difficult Indian tailors can be to work with. But for our end of the semester program, I looked my most Indian best and received lots of compliments on my poise and grace (or the fact that I was afraid it would fall off).
BACK TO PRESENT DAY:
Thank you for bearing with me on that rather long recount of notable moments during my semester in India. And thank you to all of my friends who I made there, Americans and Indians alike, who brought out the best and most positive version of me. Most especially my parents – those in the US who I will be thanking for the rest of my life for making it possible for me to go to India and supporting me the whole way, and to my new parents in Pune who taught me more than any classroom ever could about where they come from and their culture.
Coming back to the US was a whirlwind as the situation there finally came to a climax with the passing of my grandmother, the day after I returned. I didn’t spend much time transitioning back to my past routines. Yet, being in India, even if it had been a matter of days, seemed a lifetime behind me. I found it hard to relate the true depth of my experiences, and am still processing how my time there has truly affected me.
Now I’ve already begun a new adventure. For the past two weeks I’ve been in Florence, Italy, where I will be studying at an art school for this semester. Being in a western country has proved harder than I thought and I feel like a fish out of water taking my drawing, illustration, photography, and book arts classes. I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold and where this year will take me. If you want to check out what exactly I’m doing there you can do so at my new blog: sippingcappuccinoinitaly.blogspot.com. Fingers crossed that this one goes a bit better. J