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.
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.