On Saturday, I went to National Museum, New Delhi. This was my second trip into Delhi and it was just as nice as the first trip! I went with Fine Arts students from my school and there were about 20 of us including the 2 teachers. It was about 30-45 minutes away from the school and the entire drive was a little annoying because my bus driver has an obsession with honking his horn at every small little thing...like I realize that people honk here for communication but there is definitely a point where you can go overboard and he has reached that point haha. Anyways, once we got there, we waited until 10am which is opening time and walked in. To my surprise and disappointment, there was NO AC!!!!! I would think that a museum as nice as that one would at least have some ceiling fans or something but nope. It was not a huge issue, just caught me off guard. We started our tour with a tour guide who was definitely not impressed with the lack of knowledge we possessed about Indian artwork. Everyone I talked to agreed with me in saying that she was not a great tour guide. I understand it was an educational trip but there is only so much we could have known before coming and it is kind of in her job description to give us information about the art. Despite that, we ended up having a lot of fun and I learned a lot. The museum is enormous and if you ever go I would definitely limit yourself to 3 or 4 galleries maximum because it gets really tiring if you are not an art fanatic. I saw art from the Harappan civilization all the way up to maritime artwork. It is so interesting to me to learn about Indian culture because it is soooooo much older than that of the US. It is way more than you can even begin to understand in one day. In that sense, I was definitely overwhelmed, but I enjoyed the artwork especially after the tour guide left and I could just walk around and read the notecards by the exhibits. The tour guide was a nice enough person but she talked mostly in hindi so I did not understand most of what she said and she, like I mentioned earlier, was not too fond of our group and our apparent lack of knowledge haha. One interesting fact I will share with you is that if you ever see Buddhist art, if it came before the reign of Kanishka, he will only be shown in the form of symbols and not human because it was prohibited to show him as a human before Kanishka. Before we left, we stopped in the canteen (for future reference canteen is sort of like a cafeteria) and I bought a soda for 10 rupees (64 rupees in 1 USD). Before getting on the bus I splurged and got an ice cream for 40 rupees haha. I love ice cream and it is so readily available here I cannot help but buy some. It tastes even nicer because it is so hot and humid here. Once I got back to the school, I sat in class for about 45 minutes and had a nice conversation with everyone in that class. I showed them pictures of my life in the US and then they started talking in hindi but that was fine because I could still laugh along with their gestures and enactments. I expected to go home after school but when my host dad picked us up we went straight to the mall! I dont really know how anyone ever knows what plans we have in my host family but it is kinda nice to live not knowing what you are doing next! It is something I am slowly getting used to. At the mall I bought 2 outfits. I will have to find a less pricy place because I spent $75 USD on those 2 outfits and from what I have heard you can get clothes (or anything really) for MUCH cheaper in India. I, of course, do not regret spending the money because I would never get these clothes in the US, but my wallet will be empty ¼ the way through my exchange if I shop like that all the time. Just when I thought my day could not get any more eventful, I came home and found that I was invited to go to a birthday party the next day at McKenna’s host family’s house. I will be wearing the dress I bought to the part because the dress code is black and white. Even though I would never wear a dress to a b-day party in the US, it is the only black and white outfit I have that would look nice. Plus, it’s nice and airy so it will feel good in the heat. Tomorrow marks 275 days left before my end of stay orientation and I have no idea where the time is going. I swear it was JUST at 300 days. I think that the timing in India is definitely going to constantly shock me because I know my time here is always getting smaller. To be clear, I do not have a countdown in celebration of reaching the end and getting to come home but more so I am reminded that I should make the most of every single day here. Next weekend is Raksha Bandhan and the weekend after that I will have a party to celebrate independence day and Janmashtami. I am sure I will have a lot to share from those experiences and like always, they will go by too fast. As for now, I am off to make more lasting memories
SUNDAY (16.7.17) Today marks 290 days left in India before my end of stay orientation. I slept in until 8am and then got ready for the day. My host father taught me some about Indian politics but I doubt I will remember any names because I am horrible with names especially when they are not American. Then I went to feed the cows again. One of them was not a gentle eater and her huge tongue came out across my entire hand. It was quite the experience. Right before I left, one of the cows pushed me out of the way because I guess it wanted me to leave haha! I also visited the temple which was right across the street from the cows. I just visited for a few minutes, but whenever I get the opportunity to do anything here, I always say yes because even if I do not enjoy it, my time in India is limited. Looking back to my time here, I know I will regret any opportunity I say no to.
MONDAY-FRIDAY (17.7.17-21.7.17): This week, I started my third week of school. I hope to get my uniform and textbooks soon! Monday marked 25 days from my home town of Corning! I cannot believe it’s already been that long! This post will talk all about my school life. I will describe an average day because my schedule differs slightly day to day. On schooldays which are the typical Monday-Friday, I wake up at 5:30am and get ready by 6am. Then, I help with chores like putting away the dishes and filling waterbottles to chill (I took the filtered tap water in the US for granted looking back) and then I fill 2 waterbottles, one for me and one for Monisha, my host sister, to take to school. I usually have a banana or apple along with some rusk (a dry bread) for breakfast along with a glass of water. We are supposed to leave for school by 7:15 but we rarely get out of the house before 7:20. I have been late to school 3 times already because either my host siblings are running late or the driver is. To get to school, my host siblings and I go in a van with a driver who my host family hires. I enjoy looking out the window and watching the already super busy Gurgaon in the morning. I am jostled fully awake by the many, many speed breakers on the road and the potholes that accompany some of them. I am supposed to get to school by 7:40 for a 7:45 assembly but I usually get there at 7:45-7:50. I then join the rest of the crowd at morning assembly which is in a courtyard type area in the middle of the school but still outdoors. There is a stage in the front where people go to make announcements and performances. I have already had the pleasure of making a statement to the school just about who I am and why I am in India for a year etc. Every morning, we sing the national anthem which I cannot sing because I do not know the language or the lyrics haha. Hopefully by the end of the year, I will be able to know the words and their meaning. After the anthem, a few students beat very big drums (dont know their technical names) to a beat much like I would imagine the army beat is for marching (left, left, left right left). We file out in a “line” and go to our classes. My class is XI-H. In India, the teachers move classes and the studetns generally do not. Since my schedule is slightly different everyday, I will just go over the classes I am taking. There are 9 periods, periods 0-8 with a break between 3 and 4. The first class I will talk about is Hindi. This is one of my required classes, and for good reason. Most of the people speak in Hindi unless being asked a question in English or participating in class which is talk largely in English. In Hindi, I am currently learning the alphabet and how to join letters to make simple words and then how to read the words. In my other spoken hindi course, I have learned how to introduce myself and respond to “how are you” or “aap kaise hai?”. The next class is English. English is pretty easy since it’s my native tongue but the setup for education is still different here. You really have to know every little detail of the text. For example, what happened on such and such a date in this story? It just requires deeper reading than what I am used to. In my classroom, I have been designated as the English monitor or the person who reminds my classmates to speak in English haha. In Economics, I have some catching up to do with Indian history of economic systems before and after independence. After Economics, the last of my required classes, or classes which I need to graduate in the US, is Physical Education. To be completely honest, I definitely took PE for granted in the US. Everyone always complains how you have to go to class and change into different clothes, but I prefer that to the in-class sessions in India where you actually go into depth in each unit. For example, I just recently took a PE UT (Unit Test) on Monday, and I scored a 18.5/20 on it. That was after studying the most I had ever studied in my life for PE! But, not to worry, I just need to pass in order to get credit back in the US and my grades will transfer as pass/fail so I am not going to spend my entire time in India studying and worrying about grades. The other half of gym is outdoors but I have not participated in one of those classes yet because the grounds were occupied by a football (soccer) match. I am also being tested in one other class which is Fine Arts which is basically regular art class with drawing and painting. I am currently finishing up a still life drawing of a vase and a pot which turned out well in my opinion. I have a UT for this class on July 31 which I am not excited for because as per the Indian way of knowing every little detail, I have to know the who, what, when, where, why and hows of 6 different sculptures and be prepared to answer any question about them. It is definitely more challenging than art in the US. Aside from these 5 classes which I must take tests for, I also have a few periods a week of dance, piano, and sculpture. I am learning traditional dance and I am not very good but if I can learn one dance through to the end, I will be pleased with myself. In piano, I am learning the Indian style of playing which is all played with the right hand and no sheet music. To add to that, the notes are not even labeled as “A,B,C...G” but with other letters which is a little confusing. I have really enjoyed learning a new way of piano that I had no idea existed before. In sculpture, I am sculpting a human head which is super advanced for the amount of experience I have with clay. My teacher says I am a natural, but my human head looks more like an alien right now! It is very enjoyable though, and I like having a hands on activity rather than lecture classes all day. I want my experience in school to be as fun as possible because even though I came to India on a scholarship, I am here to study culture and form relationships more than I am here to ace the tests (which is actually impossible here). In between 3rd and 4th period, we have a small break for “lunch” (I am actually not sure what meal this is because then I eat “lunch” when I get home from school). I really enjoy the break because I always meet so many new and interesting people. School ends at 2pm and I usually get home by 3pm. Sometimes, I get ice cream after school because it is very hot outside and ice cream is a nice way to cool off and it is sold by street vendors everywhere for really cheap. I am currently knee deep in work I have to catch up on for school but once that is finished, I will be very happy.
SATURDAY (22.7.17): Saturday was the most eventful day I have had in India so far. It was the first time I left Gurgaon and went to New Delhi. I left the house at 8:10am and got to HUDA city center metro station at about 8:40. It took me a while to get situated because I had to meet two other people there, McKenna who is another exchange student, and Anuj who is a local volunteer. I bought my metro token for 40 rupees (64 rupees in 1 USD) and went through security to get to the platform where I met up with McKenna and Anuj. This station was not very crowded and neither was the metro. We sat down in the Lady only seats next to Anuj and rode the metro for about 30 minutes before it came to our stop. When we had to get off, the station was soooooooo crowded. It was shoulder to shoulder crowds. I luckily was able to follow Anuj and we went to platform 3 to get on the next train. This train was A LOT more crowded than the first. We were the last to get on and we were jam packed right next to the door. Luckily, we got off at the next station. When we walked up the exit, we were in New Delhi! We still had to walk about 10 minutes and then we got to the National AFS office of India. The national office is in the very heart of New Delhi where all the embassies and things are so it was very nicely built. Luckily, it has air conditioning. I would have died if it didn’t haha. McKenna and I were the last to come and we said hello to the other kids hosted in Delhi. It was the first time we had seen each other in 3 weeks! We listened to a somewhat boring but helpful presentation about Delhi and transportation options. No one had any questions so we took a group photo and left to go see an 800 year old well that is now a tourist attraction. We went because it was only like a 5 minute walk from the National Office. The view was amazing. Pictures do not do it justice. It amazes me that such an old structure can be right in the center of a bustling city. After visiting that, we went to eat at burger king because most of us were craving something “American” aka non-veg. I had a lot of food. Probably too much. But it was all very tasty. We walked the row of shops there which I hope I can return to because there are sooooo many nice stores there. Alex and Yutaka were picked up from this shopping center and then Colin, McKenna, Olivia and I all went to Olivia’s host home for her host sister’s birthday party. I really enjoyed driving through Delhi because it is much more modern than where I am hosted in Old Gurgaon and the sights were beautiful. I am sure I will be going there very often. The birthday party was really fun. I met a lot of people and enjoyed talking with them and playing card games. We then had ice-cream cake which was really nice. Anyone who wants to join me for the Indian style of eating cake is welcome anytime after I come back. People do not cut the cake into neat slices but rather cut off chunks and use their hand to first feed the birthday girl and then eat the piece themselves. Ice cream cake is a little messy to eat using hands but it was a great experience I hope to share when I come home. I went home from the party with McKenna and her host family which took about an hour and a half in the traffic. I pretty much immediately rinsed off and went to bed because the day definitely exhausted me! I hope to have many more days like this in the future!
I have decided to try and write my blog posts in a new way. I will be writing (and trying to post if the internet cooperates) weekly at first and then maybe every other week or for special occasions just because my life here in India is not always going to be jampacked with crazy adventures. It is rather the small moments I experience here that will shape who I become by the end of the year. With this being said, I will write highlights of the week/month and put them into one blog post instead of writing one per day or two per week which would really take away time from being with my host family.
SATURDAY (8.7.17): My favorite part of Saturday was when we went out to eat as a large family. The beginning of the day was spent preparing for the arrival of my host aunt, uncle, and cousin so it was a bit hectic. When we went out to eat, I had the largest meal I have eaten in India. My stomach did not agree with that decision the next day, but I enjoyed getting out of the house. It was also the first time I ate non-veg in over 2 weeks by trying tandoori and butter chicken. They were both very good. We went to get paan after dinner and admittedly, I did not care for this traditional Indian dish. But, there’s no way I would like every new thing I try here so I take the experiences as they come. We got home after midnight and it was about 1am by the time I closed my eyes. I hoped that was the latest I would stay up for a while because I wake up much earlier in India than I did in the US.
SUNDAY (9.7.17) : A simple, relaxing day. The guests went out with my host father to go visit other family out of town. I stayed home with my host mom and siblings and rested almost the entire day. I enjoyed just relaxing for once. However, I did not keep in mind my family’s schedule when it comes to meal times so I was ready for bed at 10pm but instead we headed out. We went to Cyberhub, and my host cousin got lost trying to get to parking, but I do not blame him, the place is HUGE. It reminded me of America because the place was very modern and many of the restaurants were also American. However, because we were so late, we did not get to eat dinner here because the food court closed at 10:30 and we did not go to another restaurant. I had a donut from Dunkin Donuts on the way out and it was delicious. I thought we were just going to go home, but instead we stopped at another food court by the highway called Mannat Dhaba. I was half asleep walking up to eat but as soon as I turned my head to the right I saw a man with a decorated camel walking towards us. I was definitely awake after that and I even got to ride the camel. It was a great experience and was probably the highlight of Sunday. I barely ate anything at the food court because it was already 1am by that point. We made it home and by 3am I was sleeping. But not for long because I had to wake up at 5:45am.
MONDAY (10.7.17): I did not have fun waking up on Monday. I had too little sleep. However, like always, I was still ready for school before my host brother was even out of bed. He ended up staying home from school anyways. After school, I started studying economics because it is one of the subjects I need to graduate in the US and am therefore taking in India. I got my formal schedule or time-table on Monday. There are only 3 solid subjects of Economics, English, and PE. This is because those are the only classes in India that will count towards my graduation requirements in the US. The rest of my days are filled with dancing, keyboard, hindi lessons, etc. I established with my host family that I need to get to bed earlier and even though I was aiming for 10pm, I was sleeping by 11pm which I will accept any day over 3am. The schedule here is the hardest for me to adjust to because I wake up so early and stay up so late. The highlight of Monday was in the evening when my host family and I were relaxing and watching a soap opera in hindi in the bedroom and my host dad scooped up all the children for a hug. I just continued to lay on my host father’s chest and relax as he stroked me. Then my host mom wanted me to shift so she could do the same thing which I of course obliged. This moment was when I really felt like family and that I belonged here even if just for the year.
TUESDAY (11.7.17): I slept in a little bit on Tuesday because I had plans to go to the FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) to register myself as a foreigner living in India. You have to register yourself within 2 weeks of landing which would be on Wednesday, July 12. To my surprise, I did not end up going because it turns out I needed a Bonafide Certificate from the host school in order to register. I ended up not doing too much on Tuesday because my plans were mixed up. I continued to read my book and do some studying because during these first and last couple months I am in India, the temperature during the day is too hot to enjoy being outside. At about 1:15 I left to go to the school and I picked up my bonafide certificate as well as bought myself an ice cream. I will definitely miss the availability and cheapness of ice cream when I go back to the US. My ice cream in India costs about 40 rupees being one of the more expensive options at the roadside ice cream stands and there are currently about 64 rupees in 1 USD.
WEDNESDAY (12.7.17): I slept in the longest I had in India at this point on Wednesday. I woke up at about 7:30. This may seem early to the Anna of a month ago in the US, but now, it’s heaven to wake up at 7:30 versus the 5:30am I wake up every other day of the week. As per usual Indian fluid timing, I was supposed to be picked up at 9am but it was closer to 10:30 when the AFS volunteer Anuj, and my friend (who is also hosted in Gurgaon) McKenna, showed up. I said goodbye only to find myself back at her house at 11am because my host mom did not give me some paperwork I needed to submit at the registry. We stayed at my host house for about an hour and sorted out/made sure we had all of the paperwork we needed. Since McKenna also needed some other document from her host family, we drove to her host dad’s workplace (I think), and picked up the document we needed. By this point it was about 1pm and we finally drove to the Police Commissioner Office of Gurgaon which is actually not far from my host family’s house (I pass it everyday on the way to school). With our amazing luck, we got there as soon as it was lunch break for those at the FRO. So we sat and waited and eventually got checked in with little number badges which showed that McKenna and I were numbers 65 and 64 in line respectively At that point the number being called up was 27. It moved very slowly upwards most of the time and we were getting hungry. Luckily, there was a canteen only 2 doors down from the waiting room. We went there and I bought some CocaCola and some crackers called 50/50. My Coke was the most expensive thing and that still was only about 40 rupees and my crackers were only 5 rupees. The crackers were actually quite good. McKenna bought some “Happy Happy” cake. The package of course said freshly baked, but anything in that sort of package is bound to be factory made and preserved. She opened it and we all gave it a try. It was a sad, sad cake, quite the opposite of what the name implied. We went back to the waiting room and it was at number 50 or so. It took about 15 more minutes (it felt much longer) to be served and the actual process of handing in paperwork took about 5-10 minutes. When we left the office, it was about 4:30. Anuj called my host mom to tell her we were going out to eat lunch and politely declined her offer for us to all eat at her house because, to be frank, we all wanted something unhealthy and non-veg. So...we ended up going to KFC. It was my first time having “American food” in over 2 weeks and it tasted very good. McKenna and I bought ice cream which tasted fine but the cones were dilapidated from melting and then going back in the freezer. Finally, it was time for us to part ways and I was dropped off at my host family. If everything goes according to plan though, this Saturday I will be travelling by metro (!) to New Delhi to meet up with all the kids (5 others) hosted in the Delhi region for our chapter orientation. The orientation itself is only supposed to be about an hour long and then we are allowed to look around New Delhi for a little before taking the metro home. I am really looking forward to seeing all my friends again as it will have been 2 weeks since we have been together. Time is already flying by. My concept of time here is really strange. I don’t know if I can put it into words. On the one hand, it feels like I just landed in Delhi yesterday. On the other hand, it feels like I have never lived anywhere else. To end the day, I went with my host parents to visit their guru ji which is basically a teacher of God. This man also kept about a dozen cows with him which they milk and, of course, worship. I stroked the back of one cow. My host father tells me that this will lower your blood pressure. The cow stopped liking my presence after about 30 seconds because she did not recognize me and so she tried to headbutt me away but she was tied up so I was able to keep a distance. I tried chai also when I was there which is tea. However, in India it is made with milk. I thought I hated tea, but made this way, it tasted fine. When I got home, I ate dinner and went to bed following the normal routine.
THURSDAY and FRIDAY (13.7.17 - 14.7.17): The last two days of the week went pretty well. On Thursday morning, I woke up at 5am and was outside biking by 6am. My bike ride went well but the tires are a little flat and the seat is too low on the bike I am using so it was a little challenging. My day was made when I ran into 5 puppies on my bike ride. I know, I know, I am not supposed to touch strays in India, but I had to make an exception for these little guys. I biked home and got some bread to feed them and it was funny to watch them attack the slices of bread… I am sure they are not great at finding food on their own yet. I went back to school on Thursday and had my second lesson in written Hindi. I can’t really demonstrate how to write on a blog. I will try to upload pictures of my writing but it may not be in the near future because the Wi-Fi at my house does not even allow me to upload posts to my blog (I have my sister in the US, Katherine, upload my posts for me as of right now). Eventually, even if it comes much later in the year or even after I get back to the US, I will definitely share all the photos I have taken because I have them all saved in a dropbox folder waiting to post. One thing that I can compare from my experience Thursday to what I have experienced in the US is Physical Education class. In the US, all you have to do is show up, change clothes, and participate in order to get a 100 in the class. On Thursday, I had my first PE class and I was very surprised when I realized that the class took place in a classroom. There are some classes where you have to get up and be active, but it is partially an informational class. I could not keep up with what the teacher was talking about because the chapter we are doing, yoga, has so many words in sanskrit and hindi that even when they are translated, it is extremely hard for me to remember what they are and what they mean. I will definitely be relieved when I come back to the US my senior year and only have to show up to gym class. After school on Thursday I joined the dance class held at my host mom’s preschool and had fun with that even though I am no good at dancing. On Friday, I was late for school the second day in a row. It was not my fault, I am always ready an hour before it’s time to leave but my host siblings, my host brother especially, is NOT a morning person. I really hope that I do not continue to be late because it definitely does not look good for me as an exchange student. I learned that on Monday I will have a test in PE which is insane because I just joined the class on Thursday. I took pictures of the chapter on Yoga with my phone to study later, and it seems pretty intense to someone who does not speak sanskrit. The good news is that even if I do bad on the test, which I will most definitely will not be getting the same near-perfect grades as I do in the US, I only need to pass it because my credits from India will transfer as pass/fail onto my US transcript. I am also pretty sure a 33% is the passing grade here. Friday night was amazing because I again went biking and ran into the puppies who were passed out. It must have been a long day for them but they thoroughly enjoyed some belly rubs. I went home, washed off just in case the pups have any problems and then proceeded to name the pups with Katherine over whatsapp. Oscar is a light colored little boy who was sleeping next to Bella, a darker tan pup. Then came the names Sam and Max for the two other boys who look very similar to the first two I described so I will likely mix up their names. And the mom is Rosa. She was the sweetest dog out of all which makes me happy because she seems to trust me not to hurt the pups. Also, important fact of Friday, it marked 3 weeks away from my home town of Corning, NY!
SATURDAY (15.7.17) Saturday marked 2 weeks with my host family! It was a pretty boring day. I hope as the year goes on, our weekends get more exciting because right now I do nothing except study because the heat outside is too much. Later in the day, around 4pm, I went with my host sister and her friend to a gurdwara which is the place of worship for Sikh people. We had to take off our shoes and put on a head cover which they had available to borrow. Then we walked into a large room which had a man sitting and reciting from, what I assume, the text of the Sikh religion. We knelt down in front of and behind this man who was sitting in an enclosed platform type thing. It is hard to describe in words. Then we left that room and went to the side where we received two types of sweet foods. One was an orange colored ball. I am still not sure if I like it. It’s sweet but the texture is funny. The other was a brown mushy substance. It looked worse than the orange thing but tasted quite nice. We then returned our headcovers and went to my host sister’s friend’s house. When you visit the house of an Indian, it is customary that they will not let you leave until they give you something. Usually they just give some water which is always really nice but this time I got some deep fried potatoes (?) and “lemon soda”. Lemon soda is not something I really enjoy because in the US, lemonade is lemon juice, sugar, and water. Here, lemon soda is water, lemon juice (their lemons somehow taste different like more bitter), and SALT. The salt is what really bothers me. I guess if you grow up with salted lemonade then that’s a normal flavor but to me, it is just sooo strange. I will make some when I come back to the US for anyone who wants a taste. We left there when my host sister had to go to tutions (like a tutor in the US but almost everyone goes). My host sister, Monisha, rode on the scooter (the ones that are like a motorcycle not like the ones that kids ride in the US) and my I rode on the back of my host father’s motorcycle. I really enjoyed riding because the wind feels so good in the heat. There was some traffic surrounding an event that was about Lord Krishna, a main god in the Hindu religion. During my sister’s tutions, I was expecting to ride back home but my host father decided to drive me around another neighborhood to get a feel of India and we stopped to chat with one man who had a German Shepherd (people here only keep dogs as pets if they are a German Shepherd or Lab basically) and then stopped at the house of his friend from Bengal. We got water and talked a little bit before leaving. My host father then showed me the process of building a house here which uses a metal frame and a concrete-like mixture instead of the wooden houses that are so common in the US. We also passed a lot that had about 15 cows in it. After leaving the neighborhood, we went back to pick up my host sister and then went home. My host sister and I joined a Taekwondo class that was happening downstairs and that was definitely an intense workout. I am not sure how the 6 year olds in the class can do that everyday. It ended with my attempting a drop-kick and when I raised my leg to kick, my other leg slipped on some sweat or water or something and I fell on my butt! The floors here, I should mention, are almost always granite or marble so they get slippery easily. I was fine but it was kind of embarrassing haha. Monisha has a habit of laughing whenever I experience some sort of difficulty so she will be laughing about me falling over for the next week I am sure. I went upstairs, had some water, took a shower because my clothes were drenched with sweat, and went to bed. In case anyone is wondering, I have completed 2 weeks with my host family and have 41 more to go! Seems like a lot but if they go as quickly as the 3 weeks I have been away from the US went, I will be back in the US in the blink of an eye!
Written on 7.7.17
As of tomorrow, it will be officially a week since I met my host family and came to live with them. It has been a weeks of ups and downs as I faced homesickness, physical sickness, but also laughter and bonding.
On Saturday, July 1, I finished up the arrival orientation as I talked about in my previous post, but I also waited for my host family. I was really nervous to meet them because I wanted to create a good first impression. Our host families were allowed to come pick us up at 4pm. Unlike the usual Indian perception of time as fluid, the families pretty much came on time. The first to leave was Yutaka who is the only one in Delhi who is not from the US, but from Japan. Hopefully we will have lots to talk about when we meet up next. Two more families came before mine. Everyone was so happy to meet their host daughter/son/brother/sister. This made me more excited and nervous. My host family finally arrived and I immediately recognized them from their application photo. We said hello to each other and then took my bags and fit into the car. It was a little cramped because most cars in India fit 5 people. This being said, we filled it right to the brim with 5 adult-sized people. My host family is a 4 person family as you may have figured out by now. There is my host mom, host dad, host brother Gatik who is 14 years old and host sister Monisha who is 16 years old. They were all very welcoming to me and made sure I knew that I was their family and not a guest.
The car ride home in itself was an adventure because I had only otherwise been on the streets of Delhi at 3am going from the airport to the resort. The traffic at 4-5pm is a lot worse. People in India have lane lines but they are not respected as much as they are in the US. If you ever think traffic is bad in the US, just remember India. I thought we would hit a car more than once, but since the people driving here have only lived with these conditions, they are good at knowing where their car is and how to control it. For those of you wondering, yes there were beings on the road besides humans in cars. There are regular people and street vendors walking, cows, dogs, and even pigs/hogs. On the way to my host family’s house, we stopped for food on the street and I had a roasted corn on the cob. It was pretty good but I was not expecting the corn to taste how it did because we usually eat sweet corn in the US which I guess I never really thought about.
It took about 30-45 minutes to get to the house. It really isn’t a house that you may picture in your mind because people are more crammed next to each other here in India. The building I live in is only my family’s which is pretty uncommon but the lower level and part of the upper is a preschool/daycare center. The house has a dining room, living room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a balcony where laundry is hung and a rooftop terrace. Most people here have a rooftop terrace because the roofs are flat. What is taking the longest for me to get used to is the heat because there is only AC in the bedrooms but it is usually turned off unless many people are in the room because it is expensive. The ceiling fans do help.
The first day home I put my suitcases in my room and rested until we were ready to go out. To be honest, I was really tired and just wanted to sleep, but my host family took me out to the mall to eat that night and to temple. We worshipped Lord Shani (lord of Saturday) there. There was a pandit there who is the equivalent of a priest in the US. We will go to temple every Saturday and Tuesday and my family prays morning and night. Some of those times I join in with them. After the temple we went to the mall food court to eat. I had Indian Subway for the first time. I was playing my food choices safe because my stomach was still adjusting. I got an all veggie sub because my host family is vegetarian in the house and strict vegetarian anywhere on Saturdays and Tuesdays. I have been vegetarian for a week now and it is very easy to be vegetarian in India because all the food is very good. We even ran into the principal of my school in India at the food court. She had just finished watching a movie. I have a picture of her with me I will try to add as soon as I can. (I am writing these on a Google Docs page because my blog will not load and then I copy them into a blog post when I have better internet). When I got home from the mall, I pretty much went straight to bed after a cool shower (fun fact: it is so hot here that I have had to take 3 cold showers per day!).
The start of the week was not bad, but it was a low for me during the week. On Sunday I walked around the neighborhood and met with nearby family members. It was nice to meet people but there was a definite language barrier. All I can say in Hindi so far is “hello”, “thank you”, “My name is Anna”, “good”, “OK” and a few other words which are mostly the names of various foods here. These words are useful but they don’t help me understand a full-on conversation. One of my goals for this year is to be able to have a meaningful conversation (short or long) with a native speaker of Hindi with minimal errors. Sunday night is when physical illness hit me. I had not been feeling great since I arrived on Saturday, I was mostly just nauseas. My host family did everything they could to prevent it getting worse by using traditional natural remedies, but nonetheless, I ended up being sick. On the bright side, it only happened once (*knock on wood*). I have had other issues with digestion but it has gotten better as time goes on and it’s not too bad because I expected to get “Delhi Belly” when I came here.
On Monday, I started school. I was welcomed traditionally with two garlands, a bindi, and we lit a candle/lamp. I got a provisional tour of the school. We did not finish the tour because the school is very big and it is hot because only the classrooms have fans/AC running. I met with my counselor and we set out a provisional schedule (or Time-Table as it is known in India) for me. I am not taking any science or math classes until I get back to the US because those classes are very intense in India and I want my experience to be more than studying. After school, I relaxed for a while and then joined a taekwondo class that is held at my host mom’s preschool. It was my first time so I was not very good at all but it was still fun.
The rest of the week has gone by very fast looking back and I can now understand that the year will fly by. Tuesday morning was a low point for me because I felt very homesick. I started crying and my host mom hugged me to calm me down. I really missed my mom. I was still just coming into my host family and I felt alone even when surrounded by people who loved me. Taking a cool shower really helped and I again relaxed that day because my host sister was studying for an exam so I did not go to school. I got some much needed rest and felt much better. I even joined the taekwondo class again. Wednesday was a nice day back at school. We arrived to school late because my host siblings, namely my brother, is VERY slow in the morning. People in India are just like people in the US in some instances such as this one. I am usually not a morning person, but in India I make myself wake up at 5:30am (I usually wake up at 7am in the US during the school year). It is not fun but I am usually ready before my host brother is even out of bed at 6am. I am quick but my siblings are not so I leave them an hour to do everything since there are only 2 bathrooms. In the mornings, I enjoy going on the balcony and watching the morning life. I also enjoy it at that time because it’s a tolerable temperature outside. In school during the rest of the week I am on my 3rd book because I have spent a lot of time in the library while exams are going on. I also have participated in art classes like drawing, painting, and sculpting and have done yoga as well. I had my second Hindi lesson today. I really like my teacher and I am very excited to see how I progress.
On Thursday I woke up and felt like something clicked with me and my host family. I really am starting to feel comfortable here. I know there will be more ups and downs even within my family, but those are all expected.
This is where my week ends, but another one is just starting and I cannot wait to see where it takes me.
The final orientation of this beginning series of orientations was the arrival orientation in India. There will be others throughout the year but this was the last continuous one from departure to arrival.
The arrival orientation took place at the resort that was booked for us in India, where I left off in my last post. After sleeping for about 5 or 6 hours from 3am until 8-9am, the day continued with the start of the arrival orientation. We ate breakfast which was my first taste of Indian food made in India. It was pretty good, but for most of the dishes, I had no idea what I was eating. After we ate, all the AFS India kids stood in two lines, one for the boys and one for the girls. At this point, we had no idea what was going on and the humidity was really bothering me but we soon started moving up and then realized we were taking part in a traditional Indian welcoming ceremony. This made me feel like I was truly in India. They placed a garland of Indian Marigolds around each of our necks and placed a bindi on our foreheads which is the dot in between the eyebrows. In this case it was done with a vermilion colored paste and rice was pressed in. My bindi did not last the entire day but it made me realize that I touch my face more than I thought (I rubbed it off before I thought to take a picture). The rest of the orientation was made up of sessions just like the National PDO and Gateway orientations, but the timing was nicer because the sessions usually started at 11am and ended no later than 6pm except on the last evening. This gave the people from the US more time to adjust to the time difference. My favorite part of this orientation was the cultural stalls and cultural show which took place on Friday evening, the day before the orientation ended. The cultural stalls were a bunch of tables set up around a room, each representing a city in India where students would be hosted. Here I had the opportunity to try on a saree (the traditional women's clothing in India) and I got another bindi, this time a jeweled one. I also tasted many foods which were very interesting and nothing like what is available in the US. I will try to get a photo of me in the saree uploaded on here once I get the photo sent to my phone. After the cultural stalls, we went downstairs to do the cultural/talent show. During this, groups of students from different countries would put on a performance relating to their culture. The American group of about 10 people really struggled to come up with a performance. It seemed like every other country had a really well thought out performance. For example, the students from Thailand and Japan both had brought traditional outfits and performed traditional dances. In the US, the culture is very diverse and there is not one outfit to define the entire country. We ended up being the final performance and sang our national anthem and had everyone join us for the Cha Cha slide. The final day of the orientation, Saturday July 1, was also nice. We heard from a speaker who has lived in India for 3 years now and she was very helpful. We started our FRRO form, which is the registration for foreigners in India. It is due 2 weeks after arrival. In the next post, I will talk about meeting my host family and the first week in India.
Unfortunately, my laptop decided that restarting itself was the best thing to do right as I was finishing what would have been this post and it did not save what I wrote.
Having finally settled in a little bit, I have time to write a post about my travels, orientations, host family and more. I will divide up the posts into each category or else this post would be too long.
My last week in the United States went by more quickly than I could have imagined. I finished school and exams, and spent the weekend at the lake. I visited my horse, Milo, for the last time until next year and said many goodbyes. On Friday, June 23, I woke up, took my dog Luka around the block with my mom for the last time for a year and was picked up by my Pop Pop and Uncle John who brought with them my dad and siblings ( I was spending Thursday night with my mom because she would not go with me to the airport). When they arrived, I said goodbye to my mom and took my bags. Luka jumped in the car to go with me but unfortunately he could not come with me. (He would not care for this heat and humidity in India anyways). I already miss everyone, but I try to think about them the least amount possible because it just makes me more homesick. My two suitcases and backpack fit nicely in the trunk but during the orientation I realized that I forgot my brush and a few other things at home, but I could get by without them. Once we got to the airport which was about an hour and a half away from my house, I checked my bag and said goodbye and took pictures with my family before heading through security. I went through security and found out I had TSA Pre-check, but with my luck I was stopped after the scanner for a random check. Nonetheless, I made it to my gate and realized I had come way too early. I sat there for two hours before boarding at 12:15. I was at my gate so early that there was another flight at that gate before mine. The plane for that flight was very small and I was relieved when I realized it was not for my flight. The relief only lasted for about an hour however, because when my plane rolled in, I realized it was even smaller! I did not believe that was possible, especially for a flight to DC which I figured would carry more people than it did. The small plane ended up being a blessing in disguise because when I found my seat, I saw that it was in the row that had only one seat (the plane had 3 seats to a row, 1 seat then an aisle then 2 more seats). My seat was both an aisle seat and a window seat which was great! I enjoyed watching the plane leave the ground, go above the clouds, and come back down again. When we descended to the airport, there was a moment when the national monuments lined up that I wish I had captured on a camera, but the view was amazing and I will not forget it. When I arrived at Washington-Reagan airport, I went to the baggage carousel, and when I found the right one I grabbed my bag and turned around to see YES Abroad India alum Adrianne and two other India Yes Abroaders for this year, Alexander and Colin. I had talked with Colin in our group chat on snapchat beforehand and he was just as nice as I imagined even though it was a bit strange to suddenly switch from online to real life. I had not yet met Alex, but over the course of the orientation, he quickly became part of the group and it was like we had known each other forever. We left the airport and waited for an Uber to pick us up. This was the first time most of us had used an Uber, so that was a new experience on its own. We chose Uber XL and it luckily fit all of our suitcases. It was about a 30 minute ride to the National 4H Youth Conference center where the National Pre Departure Orientation (PDO for short) and we did not talk much during the car ride, Alex even fell asleep. I later learned that Alex will sleep almost anywhere, especially if it is in a moving car or bus. We got to the 4H center and met Linnea, Parker, and Allen who I had previously only interacted with through email, calling, or webinars. It was nice to see them in real life and they are all awesome people who made the orientation a great experience. When we walked into the dorm room building we also met McKenna and Olivia, who again I had talked with before but never met in real life. It was amazing to finally be all together in real life. I got my room key and moved into the room that McKenna and Olivia had moved into earlier in the day and the boys shared the room across the hall. We settled in and at 3:15, we started our first orientation, the gateway orientation. I will talk about the many, many, MANY days of orientations in the next post.
Hi! My name is Anna McKane. I am 16 years old and have had a pretty ordinary life up to this point. I believe this experience will change me for the better and I will try everything I can while I am abroad.