Saturday, July 29, 2006

So, the whole "blogging the trip to India" thing didn't work out very well. It isn't that I don't have time to blog, and it isn't that I can't afford the R10/hour fee for internet access. It's that I just don't have anything to say. Some of the silence is due to the fact that every day life is just that...every day and pedestrian. I get up at 7:00, shower, study for 30 minutes, have breakfast at 8:00, walk to the Institute with Andy and Andrew at 8:45, spend the next five hours learning Hindi through various means and media, then go home, bathe (because by then I seriously need it, even if the water in the bath bucket is dirty), try to get out of eating dinner, study, sleep. There's a lot of variety in the afternoon, but not so much that I feel like writing about it.

Yesterday, for instance, I stayed in the Institute until 5:00 p.m. reading my book, after which I went to a coffee shop at Gaurav Tower and read some more. Took an autorickshaw home, and who's to say the driver wasn't intoxicated? Not me. The day before, Andy and I wandered around the marble-cutting area of the old city, watching men work on life-size sculptures of Krishna and Ram. We watched two different groups of women make bangles. Some kids threw rocks at us. Some kids asked us for money. I bought a marble turtle that reminded me of Saidji ("Yeh aapka face hey!").

I guess I could have written something about my trip to Himachal Pradesh. A group of us went up to Shimla for mid-term break. The nicest thing about Shimla (except, of course, for the cool, wet weather), was the shower. This is the first shower I have had since arriving in Jaipur. That is a big deal, given how much we sweat here. I also liked Shimla because no one hassled me. When people are complaining about how Indian men behave on the streets? Don't roll your eyes, because it's all true, except probably worse.

We went to Pushkar for "Hindi Camp." I followed Walterji and one of our teachers, Upmaji, around a lot, and tried to figure out what they were saying. Unfortunately, they were speaking Hindi, so that was a total loss. Not much connecting with my teachers. In class, they are the kindest, most patient "koi bat nahin" kind of people. Outside of class, I grope for things to say that a) I can say in Hindi and b) don't make me sound like a kindergarten student. This is always a failure.

The biggest challenge here has been living with a host family--or host person, since there is only one woman who owns our house. I feel constantly watched and monitored, because that's how it works here. Unfortunately, being just short of 39 years old, I am used to making my own decisions. I am becoming a master at deception, inventing friends with whom to eat at the drop of a hat, just so I can leave the house without hassle. There is no real privacy, and after awhile, that wears on you. Also, the upper classes of India eat a lot of food. People are constantly trying to shove food down my throat, and there is no protocol for refusing, you are always supposed to accept. I am often faced with the choice of being openly and confrontationally rude, or eating more and throwing up at the table. This is the big challenge for me. So, I guess the message there is that if I come back to do research, I need my own apartment.

I also need a scooter, washing machine and iron, but that is something to be covered in another post, another time.

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