We Made It A Month // The India Diaries



October sweeps in and as September take its final breaths I think of myself at this time last month. Already I feel worlds apart from that girl. Little did I know then how well I would settle into this place, into standing in front of a class and teaching, into the absolute chaos that is India. With our friend Queen’s guidance we've started learning Hindi, while some of my other students have started teaching me Telugu as we do our handwashing together. We made friends with a sweet little girl (she came over to Alex & I in the hospital and started stroking us, fascinated) and I hugged a chocolate bar, so ecstatic was I to find my favourite german chocolate in the heart of India. Bharavi and Sugathi, our India hosts, came to visit us at LVPEI as Sugathi had an appointment, and it was really lovely to see them. Afterwards they even came to the snack bar with us.


The snack bar on the ground floor is quickly becoming our go to hangout for its happy staff and perfectly positioned outdoor seating. I can’t, in good faith, recommend their chilli crisps, but everything else about that place is honestly AMAZING. Veg rolls, samosas, hot chocolate, muffins, the lot. I think I've said this before, but LV Prasad is my food heaven. Everything is vegetarian and although Alex & I are guilty of popping over to McDonalds so she can get her chicken fix, having curry three times a day is something I'm actually getting used too. My favourite breakfast is something called puri, and so far we've only had a few food mishaps- ordering two lunches thinking one was a drink, not realising the five-second rule wasn't a thing in India and nearly giving some of the staff a heart attack; as well as spilling rice everywhere while sitting under a sign declaring the importance of keeping the canteen clean. Okay, so maybe all those things were my fault and not Alex's, but because we usually eat together she suffers too. Sorry partner. I'm afraid no one warned her before we arrived of my tendency to drop things and fall up every staircase in sight.



Things are done differently here, which is quite easy to forget because our project is in the city, so there are a lot of things that are similar. Despite that, every so often you're suddenly reminded that this is India. Whether it's being asked our opinions on love marriages or my eating two massive portions of rice at lunch not being seen as nearly enough -the ladies will scold me for "not eating" when I've eaten what feels like a kilo of rice! It's because rice in the south is seen as "the ingredient to becoming strong and handsome" as one of the doctors told us at lunch the other day. Anyway, despite the fact that I might return to Scotland having turned into rice, I really do enjoy the food here.



Slowly but surely, I am starting to really feel at home here. When we first arrived, all the confusion surrounding our hosts and the resultant loneliness we felt on those first few nights, coupled with the sheer amount of new faces made me question if I would be happy here. Yet, having now been here for a month, I can say that the opposite is true. I am so happy here, it's actually taken me surprise. Those new faces haven't just become familiar, but many of those people have already become friends, students, neighbours, co-workers. The hostel at Kismatpur is it's own little community and even on the days when our bathroom is infested with insects and the language barrier makes explaining why that is a problem rather difficult to say the least, I really do like it here.



It hasn't all been fun and games, the insect infestation was a real genuine problem: we had 18 moths , loads of other insects and about ten zillion mosquitoes in the bathroom, and  we arrived home one night to find our beds absolutely covered in little insects. Insects are such a common thing here that our being freaked out by them is a form of amusement to most people. The night with the infestation the maintenance guy came up to our room and his solution was to flick them all (individually) off the bed. I was trying to be serious but it took everything in me not to burst out laughing watching him despite freaking out internally. Thankfully the next morning they cleaned our room and finally covered the window with cardboard. Obviously it's not the most ideal solution but it works for now. 



Every day someone writes a thought of the day on a whiteboard just outside the library in Kitsmatpur.  Today, as we celebrate a month in India, the quote was a well known one, and one that seemed especially relevant.



"It doesn't matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop" - Confucius.




It seems relevant now, because there are some days in India where I wish with everything in me that I was home again. It's not very often, hardly ever in fact, but sometimes I feel that way. It's not so much homesickness as it is a longing for normality.  India isn't always beautiful. It doesn't always feel like home. Sometimes it feels like I've upped sticks and found myself on Mars instead of just another country in the world. When opinions are so, so vastly different from those I've grown up around and it's hard to comprehend. When I really just can't face even the smell of curry. When there are child beggars at the car windows and it really hits home that it's 9.30am on a Monday morning and those children should be at school. 


India is overwhelming at the best of times, and sometimes it's in a wonderful way - like right now the streets are lined with fairy lights and flowers and bright colour because there's a festival on Tuesday. On those days India is overwhelming in a magical, I-can't-believe-I'm-really-here way.



But then there are days when I'm sitting on our toilet in the dark because the power has gone out for the third time in half an hour and there are mosquitoes buzzing around and I'm getting far to well acquainted with our little bathroom than I would like. I'll sit in the computer suite that night and I'll scroll through Instagram and Facebook. I shouldn't really, because all I see are photos of my friends back home, dressed to the nines and looking incredibly glamorous as they're about to go out and I look at my greasy hair and the cracked bucket I wash it in and feel so icky that if someone offered me a plane ticket and spa day it would take everything in me not to jump at it.



But then they are days when I couldn't be more thankful that I am here in India. The days when it's sunny yet bearable and I'm wearing my favourite Indian top and my class goes super well and I'm really proud of myself. When I see something that takes my breath away or makes me laugh hysterically because I would never see it at home. Those are the days I snapchat to my friends while they're sitting inside because they've got to study for the exam they have the next week. They snap back a photo of the pouring rain and grey clouds and I smile and look around me and know how lucky I am.



What I'm saying is I love it every time someone messages me to say how proud they are or how it looks like I'm having an amazing time. It's true- I am having an amazing time. But it's not always pretty. Sometimes India takes everything out of me and I wonder what I'm doing here. Other days I feel like I'm standing on top of the world and I could do anything. I know how hard I worked to get here, how much I pestered everyone for help and I think knowing that combined with knowing how happy this first month has been overall, is what will inspire me through all the hard times October will inevitably bring.



I'm writing this as we sit on the bus waiting to go home. It's 7:30pm and the rest of the bus roars with conversation. There are traces of new colour in the sky above the horizon and I make the decision that the odd minute from blue to black sky is my favourite time of the night. I look up and see my friends’ faces and think about how connected I can feel to someone in a moment without saying a word. Sometimes the night can speak for itself, sometimes there’s nothing left to say past what has passed. After accidentally falling asleep on random people on the shuttle into the hospital most mornings, I've become the person people sit next to and fall asleep on on the way home. Alex and RK (one of our hostel friends) laugh at me because I can't bring myself to move them off my shoulder and so end up just leaning against the bus window and going to sleep myself.




One can feel summer tiptoeing across the dusty roads now, almost ready to seize the day. Today was a bright, blue-skied morning but the notorious monsoon rain returned in the afternoon. My proudest moment this month has got to have been when Alex & I went to Q-Mart, the supermarket down the road from the hospital. It should cost 20 rupees for us both to get an auto, but all the drivers constantly try to overcharge us and always name prices between 50-100 rupees. The last time we went the security men helped us but this time we bargained with them all by ourselves and we were successful in getting it for the right price both ways. It sounds silly when you remember that you're arguing about the equivalent of 20p, but it's mostly the principle of being overcharged that we object too.


I wish I could share this experience with everyone but for now, these words will have to suffice. Basically, everything is really wonderful. I feel as though my Hindi & Telugu, albeit still far from perfect (or even competent -let's be real), is improving leaps and bounds every day and am beginning to feel like a true Indian! We technically are now, as we finally had our appointment at the Bureau of Immigration in Hyderabad to get our residency permits. We got them and so we're now officially allowed to stay in India! Yay!



Despite this, I have come to the conclusion that there must be something suspicious about my face that makes immigration people want to question me endlessly. We were told to expect three questions you see: who our host was, where we were staying and who was funding it. We were told to expect to be in and out in ten minutes tops after our number was called. 25 minutes later, after seeing Alex (who had been called after me) come and go, and having been questioned by two extremely sarcastic immigration men about why I was in India not Sudan or Somalia ("we have perfect English" I suppose that's why I'm not teaching you isn't it?), what my parents thought of me being here, about Indian food and how much I liked it,  about the NHS and free education, whether I had passed my high school exams and my lack of qualifications to be teaching - I made the mistake of saying well I've been speaking English for 18 years and was told "a boy learns his mother tongue aged five - it does not make him a teacher." After all that I was finally told "I'm sure you'll make a fine teacher, welcome to India." Like everything in India so far, it was an experience.


P.S. According to my Aunt Mairi, she keeps telling everyone we know to read my blog. So if you are, hi! I miss you!


us making sandwiches caused great amusement in the canteen and they all took photos of us


one of the women in the hospital made us a food package and it's one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for us








Our VT/ DOT class












everyone looks like they're deep in thought/ listening intently but I'm pretty sure they were talking about chicken....

Comments

  1. Congrats on your first month Anne, I'm so proud of you! :) I'm so glad to hear you're all settled in & feeling happy about where you are and what you're doing. I totally understand that things aren't always easy though - I can imagine that being thrown into a completely new situation, in an environment & culture that is so different from everything you're used to can be extremely overwhelming. It sounds like despite some difficulties from time to time you're doing great. I really admire you for that cause I honestly don't think I could be as fearless as you & go live in India for a year. Also, I'm glad you're having your friend Alex by your side to share your experiences with. I loved the little video you put together, it's cool to see some of your impressions in video/picture form x (p.s. sorry for not having replied to your email yet, I'll do that today I promise)

    Sara’sChapters

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    1. *smiles to the moon and back* awweee you beautiful human, I love you. Thank you so much, this means the absolute world to me :D And I'm so glad to have alex with me on these adventures, it really helps. I'm so glad you liked the video, I'll need to get better at making them ahah. Can't wait for your reply my dear! xx

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