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!
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.