On Inhabiting India
Hello everyone! Sorry it took so long to start this whole journal thing. The pace is much slower here. Patience has been the first lesson India has begun to teach me. Trust me, I'm still working on it. There is never any rush in this country. Enough excuses! Now, onto my story so far, and apologies for any incorrect grammar, ramblings, and/or misspellings you may encounter. I plan to make this whole writing extravaganza as flowing and natural as possible. I met the whole group of 18 students at the airport and we all instantly clicked. I still can't believe I've only known everyone for 4 days, it has felt like a lifetime with some. Well, at least more than 5 days. After a ridiculously long plane ride, we arrived in Mumbai. As I traveled through the city on a bus towards Pune, I discovered that, really, I wasn't prepared for this slum capital. Just the vastness of the scene made me contemplate whether or not it was necessary to eat the snack given to me. Eventually, I was convinced not to chuck my mango juice, banana, muffin, and candy bar out the window. In the rainy weather, our bus traveled through the mountains. I couldn't decide if I would have rather been taking this bus ride in the daytime so I could see more than just the faint silhouette of the mountains surrounding us, but then again the heat would be unbearable there. Although there wasn't much to see, my later roommate described the experience as a "journey of smells" every 30 seconds or so there was a abrupt change of the air aroma-sometimes good, sometimes bad-but i suppose it was a rough compensation for what we couldn't view. Arriving in Pune, I noticed that the car beeps (which were numerous indeed) were much more melodious and interesting to listen to than the ones heard back home, but that perspective has definitely changed now. The beeping never stops. Ever. After settling in our hotel room, which I am now finding rather nice as I have just recently discovered that being on the fourth floor of the hotel means that my roommate, Sarah Lee, and I can enjoy the balcony and the windows open most of the time without seeing one mosquito), I went in search for a phone to call my terrified mother. It turns out it is just around the corner and everywhere else in the city. Funny enough, the phone booths are called STDs. I can't remember what they think it's stands for, but they are obviously oblivious to our translation. The chaha, or chai, and meals were wonderful throughout the first days (and currently). We once even received potato chips for breakfast. I think the hotel cooks think that's what Americans eat in the morning. Some of the ACM staff would come eat with us to discuss our independent study projects. When we weren't eating, we had orientation, which was bearable most of the time. I'm starting to get used to waiting around the ACM office for an hour with the rest of the students not exactly knowing why we aren't doing anything in particular. Every time this happens-which is a lot of the time-I soon discovered that, really, the staff has it all under control. During the week, we had a little tour of some landmarks in Pune (check my photo album for details), and we also walked around Camp (where the British settlement once was) for an afternoon. All the activities we have done so far have truly helped me feel a lot more at home in this foreign place. I have also enjoyed roaming the city with a small group. It's wonderful to have absolutely no idea where we are and be able to hail down a rickshaw and end up right back at the hotel. Yesterday, I met my mentor for my independent study project. She teaches music theory at Pune University and is also a performing Indian classical violinist. After our meeting, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal with her Tabla player. Her skill level was incredible and the second raga she played was so beautiful, it made me weep. I was very lucky to really connect with her and she also happens to live across the street from the Iyengar Yoga Institute where I can take classes after my tutoring! As for ACM classes, we are taking Marathi (the language spoken here in the Maharashtra state). I can say a few a things like "mala doan chaha pahije?" (can i have 2 chais please?) or "mango manje kay?" (how do you say mango in Marathi?), but that's about all I know as of now. We also just started our foundations course to acquire a general knowledge of India as a whole. I'll have to let the world know how I like it once I've had more than one class. Well, there you have it. Here I am, sitting in my hotel room, sipping chaha, hearing the usual beeping, wearing my new deep green salwar kameez, and having a wonderful time in India. Thanks for reading. The best is yet to come.