Tuesday, August 25
I've been in India almost two days now, and am re-adjusting to several things that are familiar from my time in Nepal, as well as adjusting to many things that are new to me. I arrived late Monday night into the hot but beautiful Mumbai airport. After getting in to the airport and collecting my bag, I sat with Abhishek, the assistant director of the program and chatted while waiting for some other students. While waiting, a herd of photographers started running to take pictures of someone leaving the airport. Abhishek let me know that he was a Bollywood star, just back from his honeymoon.
We made it to our hotel and met Uttaraa, the Pune program director, and most of the other students. The group seems great and Uttaraa is one of the warmest and most dignified women I've ever met. From what I've heard and her first impression, I know she'll make me feel at home here.
One of the reverse culture shock re-entry moments that hit me coming home from Nepal was in a grocery store with Avery. He asked me to pick out a juice for us and I freaked out, seeing a huge aisle of dozens of options. In Nepal, we had one option and drank one brand: Real™ Fruit Juice. There's Real™ Apple Juice, Real™ Mango Juice, pretty much any kind of fruit. This morning before leaving Mumbai, I had Real™ Orange Juice and it made me so happy. I've noticed so many similarities in the culture to Kathmandu/Nepal, but this is a very different city. I'm readjusting to seeing cows, goats, pigs, and dogs roam free on the streets everywhere, to swastikas being a normal building decoration all over the city, to Hindu practices being built into the cultural and political life of the nation.
Nepal was easier in many ways; there was a smaller team with whom I had a lot in common so we got to know each other deeply very quickly, the area I was staying in was a very international area of a capital city, things were cheaper and closer together around town. This new city brings some familiarity; my senses recognize I am in South Asia. But it also brings a whole set of new challenges. Living with hosts instead of several fellow Americans in a tourist hotel with everything we needed at stores down the road is a huge learning opportunity. Uttaraa mentioned the other day that we cannot learn anything in our comfort zones, and each step brings me out and into new lessons.
When I was in middle school, I read Mitali Perkins’ novel Monsoon Summer, about half-Indian American teen Jasmine who travels to India for the summer to volunteer at an orphanage and wears salwar kameezes, rides rickshaws, and learns to dance Kathak with girls her age. This semester, I’m living my middle school dreams (including the end of the book where she returns to her boy love in America) and experiencing what India is really like.
This week, we have orientation to the culture and exploration of the city! Can't wait to see Pune with the group.
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.