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Published: January 13th 2013
It rained last night, by which I mean, it got so foggy that it made surfaces wet. It was beautiful this morning but somewhat eerie. The fog deepened all the colors and everything was heavy. As the fog lifted, it was as if the colors woke up after sleeping in. The soil is rust orange, the foliage rich green, and the flowers electric purples and pinks.
It was a lazy morning as I watched the colors come to life. I finished some grading and planned for a class. After breakfast, a group of us when into Hosur, a nearby town, by which I mean a city larger than Bozeman. It was my first time off campus since driving at night from the airport. We rode into town in auto-rickshaws, bumping our way down dirt roads and slowly whipping our way through traffic. What a way to be introduced to the countryside and an India town. Along the road, I saw families with two-year-olds on motorcycles (no minivans here!), trucks of caged chickens, and a woman standing in front of her lean-to shack texting on her cell phone.
Hosur was unlike any town I have seen. On our way from the shopping district to lunch, when got caught in a traffic jam that would make anyone grateful for rush hour in the states. Cars against rickshaw against motorcycle against pedestrian. My roommate said that she could make friends with the person in the adjacent vehicle; they were as close to her as I was. As we lurched our way through the packed streets, the my senses were bombarded. The smell of exhaust gave way to the smell of curry, which was then replaced by the pungent flower garlands hanging from shop canopies.
We browsed the stands selling clothes and a few volunteers bought school supplies. The fabrics were as vibrant as the city was fragrant. Textiles of very color imaginable stacked and hanging in the open shops. Although I would like some more Indian tops, I didn’t buy any. I felt overwhelmed by the street-side setting. I don’t much like buying clothes in the first place; so having to choose without trying them on, and with motorcycles and rickshaws zooming behind me was a lot to process. I think next time I go into town I will be more prepared for the experience. And hopefully able to be decisive without holding up the whole group.
After shopping we went to lunch. Some of the volunteers have been here for quite a long time already; they have been craving anything that isn’t curry and rice. So, we went to Pizza Korner, the Indian version of Pizza Hut. In addition to the American style toppings, they also had paneer, corn, and…curry. The pizza was tasty but different—slightly spongy and very sweet. We also each ordered dessert. Although I have been content with the sweet tea and a piece of chocolate a brought from home on occasion, it was lovely to have ice cream.
Next stop was the grocery store. Almost as congested as the streets at times, the narrow aisles has held both the familiar and unknown. There was nutella, Coca-Cola, and cornflakes, but also brands and items unknown to me. In addition to lotion and a small flashlight, I bought ThumbsUp, the Indian cola, and an almond milk drink. (The cola was good, a bit stronger than the colas in the U.S., with a slight bitter taste. The almond drink was too sweet, but the flavor was nice). Across the street was a fruit market. I bought a few kokosan, which I had tried earlier that day. It looks like a small kiwi crossed with a potato on the outside. Inside it is brown and fibrous. It is quite juicy and very sweet. I also bought a few teparee, which look like large gooseberries and which I have yet to try. I am not sure how they will taste, but I am excited to try something new.
Then we returned to campus to grading and then dinner, which surprisingly was pasta. They of course served rice and curry for those not interested in the Italian culinary experience, not that the dish was terribly Italian to begin with. The red sauce was more of a sweet and sour sauce, and the pasta had coconut in it. I certainly prefer the curry, but it was fun to try. As one of the students I ate with played with his food, he told me gratefully that tomorrow night they serve chicken (the only night of the week the children eat meat).
It was hard for me to settle down at the end of the day. So much newness set my mind in a whirl. I wonder how long it will take before more of what I see feels familiar or recognizable than foreign. Can a person reach that place in four months?
An OSA who can tell me what a kokosan is
Bad Italian food
P.S. Pictures to come...
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