Published: March 1st 2007March 1st 2007
The heat here today reminded me of the cold back home. Women walking to and from class huddle against the sun under dupattas and shawls like we do against bitter wind, and umbrellas are a common sight on campus as shelter from the intense heat. When there's a breeze and you're in the shade, it's pleasant. In dead air with the heat beating down on you it's something else. And imagine, summer hasn't even really begun. This is spring!
Leslie is on a Bhangra team back home at her college, and she's teaching me some of the coolest moves I've ever seen. Stuff that I've always wanted to learn after watching Hindi movies and dance performances at Indian events. Totally Punjabi style, it's awesome. She's been on the team for two years (I can't believe her tiny little college has a Bhangra team!). I really really really
want to find something like that back at home. If I could dance like she does, my life would be very close to being complete. Who woulda thought--I come all the way to India and discover that this girl from quaint-east-coast-small-town Virginia can teach me how to Bhangara. So cool. I want to take her home to my family and show them how cool she is.
Today was a good day. Started out ok, and slowly got better until it was officially a good day. Got my first paper back. Grading scales are so weird here. 7.5 out of 10 is an A+, 6.5 out of 10 is an A, etc. I think you have to get to a 4 out of 10 before you can actually fail. I got a 6.5, which didn't feel great from the number, but obviously I'm happy with the letter. It was also what the other 6 students in the class got. Apparently my article was the most provocative because it was the only one he criticized when talking about them in class. Well, he criticized certain aspects of it, but congratulated me for writing something provocative. I tried to go for something different--probably went a little too far, but it was interesting to write about. Wrote about Gandhi and his policy of non-violence, and tried to question some of the aspects of the policy. So I came out of that class feeling a bit thrown off after being put in the spotlight in a light that wasn't necessarily positive, but not terrible. At least I knew he read it--some of the other students didn't think he read their papers.
After class we went to the student canteen (or the stu-can) for lunch. Been eating there instead of the guest house on Mondays and Thursdays b/c this Modern India course is held during lunch on those days. I almost always get the egg noodles and a fruit juice cocktail. I love juice here because any and every fruit is used to make a juice, whether it's blended up or squeezed. The fruit cocktail mixes all the fruits that the juice guy has, so it tastes like a smoothie and it's delicious. I was a bit nervous about it at first because he uses ice sometimes that is most definitely not made out of mineral water, but haven't been sick yet. In fact, my stomach generally feels more stable after eating at the canteen than some nights after the guest house dinner.
After lunch I walked over to the kids' school that's on campus. A group of us have been tutoring over there for an after-school English program. Some of the students in classes who need extra help learning English come every day after school, and we do various activities with them like reading, writing, playing games like 20 questions or Simon Says--anything really, as long as they get practice speaking English. It's a lot of fun most days. When we arrive, school is just letting out, so we are usually swarmed by kids who are simultaneously saying "hi," "what is your name," and "where are you from" in that exact order everytime. They smile and laugh at us, sometimes whispering amongst themselves in Telugu (regional language) while laughing at us. It's cute. I've become rather attached to a kid in the program whose name is Dikiran. He was really quiet at first, and he needs a lot of work in his reading skills compared to some others in the class. He started to get more talkative though, especially once we did some activities that involved art, such as making Valentine's day cards. After a few days he showed me his notebook from art class, and I was amazed at how good at drawing he is. Especially just looking at images and copying them, his drawings were beautiful. He had some Hindu designs of gods and goddesses, and had colored them with paint, and they looked so cool. Most who know me well know that I have a soft spot in my heart for art of any kind, so I was delighted to see his artwork. Unfortunately, he wasn't in class today, but maybe next week.
After tutoring I had Hindi class. One day a week we watch a Hindi movie (with subtitles, at least for now). Today was "Black" and it's been really good so far. I'm looking forward to watching the rest of it when I get the chance. It's about a girl who is born blind and deaf, and how she deals with that throughout her life. The other main character is Mr. Sahai, who is her teacher. He's a very eccentric character--played by Amita Baccan, a very very popular and famous Bollywood actor. Apparently he was a heart-breaker back in the day (just mention "Shole" to my mom or my masijis and they'll tell you all about him), and he is still considered to be an excellent actor today, though his son, Abhisheik, has sort of taken over the role of the young talent. Anyway, out of the few movies that I've seen Amita Baccan in, I like him in this the best. He plays the eccentric character very well.
After Hindi, Leslie and I went to Lingampally (nearby district) to see a tailor. She was picking up clothes and I was dropping off my new sari. Every sari needs a matching blouse that is usually made out of the fabric that you initially buy for the sari. So I'm excited about getting that taken care of. When we got back, we had our Bhangra session, and I started learning those cool moves I was raving about, so that topped off my already good day.
For me, days are judged by gauging how I feel about being/living/functioning in India. If I go out into the city, get what I want to get done accomplished successfully without any mishaps, then my confidence and self-esteem both get a serious boost, and I am so happy to be here. Every time I go out I feel a little bit more like I live here, and for me to feel that in India...can't even describe it. I feel as if, little by little, I am earning the right to walk around in the city as if I know what I'm doing, where I'm going, what I need, where to get it. I don't have anything to prove to anybody.
The thing is, anyone can have any kind of experience they want in any country. You can stay in the guest house all day long, never leave the campus, never eat anywhere else than the guest house etc. In many ways, that was the easiest way to deal with everything when we first arrived here. Until you're aware of your surroundings, figuring things out can be intimidating. My worst fear (and most likely every study abroad student's worst fear) when I got here was that I wouldn't allow myself to make the most of this experience because of being so out of my element. But on days like these, when I know that this is becoming "my element"....then I'm a happy person. Curiosity, boredom, and determination will take you far when you're studying abroad.