One of the most interesting aspects of India is the diversity in the languages spoken here. There are 22 major languages in India, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects. During my exchange year I am learning how to speak, read and write Hindi, which is one of the official languages of India in addition to English. I only know the basics of the language as most people here are comfortable speaking English or 'hinglish' with me. After living here for almost 3 months, I am starting to settle in and really explore the culture that surrounds me more in depth. In addition, (as always) I am constantly encountering new situations and meeting new people. Some of the most meaningful relationships I have created have the unlikeliest of foundations.
For example, since moving in with my third host family almost 2 weeks ago, I have met two young girls who really brighten my day whenever I see them. In India, it is very common for middle class and upper class families to have maids in the house to do everyday chores like sweeping the floor and doing dishes. In my previous host families, these maids have always been friendly to me but they are always busy working of course. Therefore, I never really formed a relationship apart from just being friendly with them. In my current host family however, a deeper connection was formed almost immediately after we greeted each other with "namaste". I now know these girls to be some of my closest friends and their names are Ruksana and Simran.
We face a language barrier as they only speak Hindi and my level of knowledge is limited. However, I can honestly say that the experiences we have shared whether it be greeting each other with smiles and hugs, sharing dance moves and music with each other, describing our families to one another or teaching one another how to write our names in two different scripts, have been so meaningful and have generated a bond beyond what words are capable of describing.
I have come to realize that language barriers are not always communication barriers. I was able to use pictures and the few hindi words I know to describe my family and lifestyle back in the US to the intrigued onlookers. They were eager to use my camera and to point out my blue eyes, light skin and brown hair. Besides this reminder, I often forget that I am the 'foreign' person because I feel so at home with them. More than that though, we laugh at every little thing and that is what makes our friendship so unique.For example, we all giggle and smile and rush to make it appear that work is being done around the house when my host mom comes to check on their progress. I am sure we don't fool anyone but it still makes for a lot of fun! They have showed me that the most genuine relationships can come from the most simple means of communication. Moreover, they have reminded me of the importance of being yourself and expressing yourself through the way you act.
You never have to look too far to find someone worth getting to know. Anywhere you go in the world, people have the same human qualities. Everyone has something to offer and it is the best feeling in the world to be surrounded by people who love you for who you are. Laugh and be happy, and the world will smile with you!
Somehow, one month has past since I last posted to my blog. The saying really is true, time does fly when you're having fun! So much has happened in the last month that if I were to detail every event this post would be 12 pages long (anyone who knows me in real life can attest to how much I am able to write). That being said, I will try to summarize the major events without leaving out important details.
I guess I should start all the way back in August which has been over for more than 2 weeks at this point. August 28 marked 2 months from landing in New Delhi. Three days before that was one of the most memorable days for me. For those of you who don't know, in Delhi, the monsoon season is roughly from August through September. Usually the heavy rains are in the evening, but I got lucky enough to experience a downpour with Monisha during the day. When the rain started, the power quickly went out and my host mom asked me if I wanted to enjoy the rain to which my reply was "yes, of course!". I think enjoying the rain is something people in the US should adapt because it is really so much fun. The heavy monsoon rains made it so that the flat terraces and rooftops flooded at my house. This made it all the more fun because then I initiated a splash war with Monisha. I took one of the squeegees (wow did not think that was an actual word) from the terrace and pushed all the water I could towards her. Needless to say by the end of the storm we were completely sopping wet. Even once we were exhausted from splashing, just standing at the edge of the terrace looking at the flooded streets was nice.
Also in August, I spent more time with the kids in my host mom's daycare because a new 2-year-old kid, Utkarsh joined. Usually, kids are not the biggest fan of me for whatever reason. But for some reason, Utkarsh really took a liking to me. Whenever he would start crying, my host mom or Sita auntie would call me to come get him and as soon as he was in my arms, he stopped crying. It only got annoying when I realized that it was only in my arms he would not be crying. When I put him down, he started crying. Luckily for me, it was soon discovered that he has a passion for watching cartoons, so at least for a short while, I could put my phone in front of him with cartoons playing and he would calm down. I really love Utkarsh despite his perpetual desire for me to take him to his mom. One of my favorite memories with him is standing on the terrace and spotting some boys walking goats (yes you read that correctly) on leashes down the street! He was not the only one completely intrigued by that! Aside from him, I also enjoyed paying with the two little girls at the preschool. Their favorite thing to do was dancing so I also joined in despite my atrocious dance moves.
If it is beginning to sound like I am reminiscing about the daycare, it is because I am. September 1 marked a significant day in my exchange because it was the day I left my first host family. It was not a planned shift which is what makes it harder for me since I was not able to say goodbye to all the younger kids (hopefully I can go back to visit them). I am sure the question you all have now is why did I have to switch host families so suddenly? This will take some background information as follows. So wayyyy back in June when I got my host family placement information my mom and I noticed that the application said I would share a room with my host brother and sister. Since we were told it is against their policy for me to share a room with a male, my mom contacted AFS just to see whether the situation was different in real life than it was on paper. Before I left for India, we were told the problem was solved, so all was fine for me. They did not specify whether solved meant it was ok for me to share a room with Gatik or solved meant I would not share a room with Gatik but starting on my first day with my host family, I shared a room with him. It was not really a problem for me because Gatik is nice and I view him as my brother but I brought up the fact to my local coordinator during the August meeting we had. He did not seem that concerned about it but said that I should not be sharing a room with Gatik because it is, in fact, against their policy. It was arranged that I would sleep in a different room but before that could happen, a couple days after the meeting my host mom came home and told me that my coordinator had called and told me to pack all my bags and be prepared to shift host families. This definitely shocked everyone in my host family. I did end up leaving that night, but since that point I try to view it in a more positive light in that I have gained many new experiences that I would not have gained had I stayed where I was.
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.