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!
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.